The Link Between Success and Happiness

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How many times have you told yourself the “When I…” story?

When I get a better job I will be happy. When I meet the right person I will be happy. When I live in my dream home I will be happy. When I have more money in the bank I will be happy. 

We generally believe that happiness increases in direct correlation to the increase in our success, health, or material possessions. Perhaps it does to a certain extent, if you already have the right attitude and are fundamentally happy to begin with.

Things like success, health and material possessions are more prevalent now than in any other time in human history. We have the fewest numbers of people dying from disease and war, life expectancy is higher than ever before, technology allows us to learn and connect with people all over the globe, and we generally have more daily conveniences than other generations.

When I think of where we are in society, we should be happier than ever! So why is stress, burnout, anxiety and depression more prevalent than ever?

Believing that happiness follows success is a broken paradigm. Success is a moving target. Once we hit success, our idea of what success is moves up to the next level and it’s easy to feel like it’s not good enough because our own mental bar rises.

So when we experience any advancement in our lives (whether personally or culturally) our expectations change. Aside from the fact that our technological advancements also come with an assumption that we will be superhuman and achieve ten times more in our day than previous generations, we are faced with a new phenomenon I like to call comparison living.

Comparison living: Judging your life in comparison to people who have (or appear to have) more than you.

Recipe for disaster.

This unfortunately is easier now more than ever with things like Instagram, Facebook, celebrity magazines and tv shows glamorizing the lives of the rich and famous, and the internet in general. We are constantly bombarded with what I like to call “brag media.” Let’s face it, very few people are posting pictures or statuses about a major fuck-ups in their life. Which overall is a good thing, because I like to keep things on social media positive. But as a result, we see all of the great vacations and perfect life moments of others, and every time you see this there’s something in you that goes “I want that.”

Here’s the truth my friends: Happiness levels don’t rise with success or external stuff. 

There are many people who have a good home, a family, food on their table, clothes in their closet and yet they are not happy. It is your own choice to focus on the good, or focus on the bad. Nothing in your external life has to change to be a happier person, and that is what so many people unfortunately fail grasp.

There are people who have terminal diseases and are happier than people who have everything in the world. What’s the difference you ask? Gratitude. Being happy for what you do have. Unless you are dead I bet there’s something you can find to be grateful for. I’ve been to parts of the world that are devastating to see as a “first worlder.” Yet what I’ve noticed time and again is that there are many people who have very little and are still fundamentally happy.

 

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So let’s get practical. What can you do to increase your happiness in your life?

  • Every time you hear yourself go “When I have…” or “Why don’t I have…” STOP yourself right there and immediately list 3 things you’re grateful for right now.
  • Attach the practice of gratitude to something you already are in the habit of doing. The best one I can think of is brushing your teeth. If you think of all things you are grateful for when you brush your teeth, then you’ve practiced gratitude for a couple of minutes every day and it didn’t take you any extra time.
  • Other times you can do this are when you are waiting in line at the grocery store or at the doctor’s office- or any time you are waiting for something. It’s the universe giving you a couple of free minutes. Spend them mindfully.

When we get still we intuitively know that there is more to life than waking up, going to work every day and accumulating stuff. There is a deeper meaning in life and people feel a yearning to understand it and experience it. People are starving for something they think they don’t have; but we all have it in us to be happy.

 

Mindfulness: How to Improve Every Minute of Your Day

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I find it really interesting that 10 or 20 years ago this topic was rarely discussed publicly. Now, “mindful” is a buzzword being discussed by major publications and figures like The Huffington Post and Oprah. I feel like there is a shift happening with the collective consciousness of the population. Open-mindedness and acceptance have become more valued in our society as we are fighting against discrimination and intolerance openly on social media. While our new technologies have revolutionized how we socialize, work and live, it can also be burdensome when over-consumed. As we increase our connection with others on the outside we tend to lose connection with ourselves. Incorporating a mindful practice into your daily life, can get you back to yourself and feel connected to what’s real and what matters.

Think back to the last time you were driving, folding laundry, or eating. Where was your mind during those times? The majority of the time you are, like me,  probably thinking about something that has already happened, maybe imagining a bad moment over and over again beating yourself up over it, or something in the future that you wish to happen, need to do, or are worrying about. In that moment your mind was not with your body, it was elsewhere. This is what happens to us too much, and it disconnects us from our present reality.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is being fully in the present, focusing on your awareness of sensations, feelings and experiences; observing and accepting what is happening at the present moment, without judgement. Mindfulness is used in many places as a therapeutic technique for relieving chronic pain, anxiety and depression.

How do we cultivate mindfulness?

For some, the idea of sitting down for 20 minutes a day and meditating is overwhelming, and puts on too much pressure. Your life can be one great big meditation practice if you are willing to be in the present moment.

Here are some steps toward living mindfully:

1). Pay attention to what you are doing right now, on purpose. Not because it’s a mindless activity, but because you are practicing awareness. It’s doing what you’re doing, and knowing you’re doing it. Take a walk without your headphones and listen to the sounds that are around you, look carefully at everything you see, feel the ground under your feet. When you find yourself thinking about the past or the future, don’t judge yourself, just bring it back to right now.

2). Observe your thoughts without judgement. When you realize that you are not your thoughts, you can separate yourself from them and they can’t get ahold of you anymore. Emotions and thoughts are always popping up at the worst times right? Part of the cycle is that we are too hard on ourselves for our bad thoughts. We like to punish ourselves. How many times have you said to yourself  “that was so stupid, why did you do that?”  If a feeling comes up, acknowledge that feeling but don’t judge yourself for it.

3). Observe your physical sensations. The the weight of your body on the ground. If you’re sitting in a chair, where do you feel the pressure of the chair on your body? The texture of the seat you’re in, the temperature of the room. The feeling of your shoes on your feet. Are you hungry, are you in pain, are you sleepy? If you are eating something, what is the taste and texture? Tune in to what your body is feeling everywhere.

While these steps are simple and do not take any extra time out of your day the way traditional meditation does, it’s not easy to remember to be mindful. The more you practice being mindful the more it becomes a habit. Start out by picking one or two activities throughout the day during which you will practice mindfulness. It could be cooking, cleaning, eating or anything that you can devote your full attention to that maybe you usualy don’t. In the comments section below, share how you practice mindfulness, or plan to begin a practice. I would love to hear all of your wonderful ideas!!!

Mindfulness quote

Beginning a Meditaiton Practice

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In our western culture we value to-do lists, productivity and outcomes. Our success is based on how much we have achieved, and how jam packed our days are. Pridefully leaving a trail of tasks checked off our list in a wake behind us like “look as all this shit I’ve done today!” The most common question that gets asked is “What do you do?” implying what we do with our time is more important than who we are.  For many, including yours truly, this existence leaves us tired, stressed, and yearning for more meaning in our lives.

I know for me when I feel bored, mentally craving something else, or the urge to fill some void, I jump onto pinterest or instagram or the many awesome blogs I follow, thinking I’ll see something that gives me that fix. But like sugar and alcohol, repeated use can become addictive yet still unsatisfying. Empty information like empty calories. I know there’s something better I can do with my time to feel less chaos in my brain.

So I’ve begun turning inward, yea I know it sounds hokey but go with me on this for a sec. I find that consistent practice even if it’s 5 minutes each day before making breakfast is a great way to start the day with positive intentions. My brain is still to much of a Chatty Cathy, so I like to use guided meditations so I can focus on someone else’s voice and know what I should be thinking about. Reciting matras are really great too. In another blog post I will go into more detail about different ways to meditate and how to incorporate a meditation practice into your routine, but for now here are some reasons to start thinking about it.

Benefits of Meditation

  • reduces racing thoughts
  • reduces anxiety
  • reduces depression
  • reduces blood pressure
  • improves sleep
  • improves concentration, mental clarity and productivity
  • improves emotional balance
  • improves self-esteem, confidence and gratitude
  • improves the immune response for fighting off illness
  • improves energy
  • improves athletic performance
  • improves spiritual connection

I could go on. There are some fascinating studies on the power of meditation on the body as well as the mind and spirit. So if you are looking to enhance your productivity and focus at work, reduce negative thoughts resulting from anxiety/depression, or expand your spiritual practice, meditation is worth a try.

If there was a pill that contained all the benefits of meditation and no side effects, everybody would be on it immediately. But because it’s something that takes time and focus, it’s just not worth it to some people. Being too busy to meditate is like saying “I’m too hungry to eat.” It’s the reason you SHOULD!

One note of importance is that meditation is about letting go of outcomes, and releasing the need to be doing something. Which is not easy at first, that’s why it’s called a meditation practice. Don’t expect to be a new person in a few days. When you release the need to get something out of it, you will find that it gets easier, and you will crave the time you spend in silence.

“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day- unless you are too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.”

                           -Zen Proverb 

Health Benefits of Maca Powder

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I accidentally bought maca powder when I meant to buy matcha powder. Oops. Oh well! I know this mysterious maca is supposed to be a superfood so I decided to do a little research on it so it doesn’t go to waste. I am SO GLAD I accidentally bought this stuff because it’s benefits are pretty freakin’ awesome.

What is it?: Maca is a root vegetable grown in the Andes Mountains. Some say it’s close to a radish or a turnip. Who knew?

What does it do?

  • Increases and sustains energy.  And does so without stressing the adrenals like caffeine and sugar.
  • Regulates hormones 
  • Improves thyroid function. 
  • High in iodine (which has a load of health benefits in itself)
  • Reduces menopause symptoms
  • Reduces Depression and Anxiety
  • Improves memory
  • Improves muscle gain and development
  • Improves circulation

Maca contains nutritious vitamins such as B1, B2, C, D, and E as well as minerals such as calcium, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, iron, copper, iodine, manganese and zinc. It also contains essential fatty acids and ameno acids which means it’s a good source of plant protein.  Wikipedia has a much more in depth explanation than I can provide.

How do you incorporate it into your diet?

Since maca is usually found in powder form it can be easily incorporated into smoothies, which is probably the most common way to use it. However I find the rich nutty flavor to be a bit strong in a smoothie so I like to add it to oatmeal. Creative people out there are always coming up with ways to incorporate it into recipes such as puddings, brownies, protein bars, homemade ice cream, desserts, and so on.

So if you happen to be in the mood to try something new that you may not have heard of before, this versatile superfood may be fun to try out.

Food Freak-outs

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Everyone loves a plan to start off the new year right with energy and optimism. We tell ourselves that we are going to eat better and begin to make grand plans for a nutritional overhaul. There is so much to be learned about ourselves by exploring new territories, and taking on challenges, even when things don’t go as planned.

When we decide to change our diet habits in any way, whether it’s something small or very dramatic, we forget that beyond the physical act of preparing and eating new foods, there are unexpected psychological issues that come up as well. These are what I like to call “food freak-outs.” It’s not necessarily about the food, but it’s the mental challenge of changing our habits. Women especially have a very complicated interconnected relationship between food and our mental environment. We tend to use food as rewards, punishments, social lubricants, feeling suppressors and mind numbing agents.  Feelings of anxiety and conflict can arise when those voices start to say “It won’t kill me to have just one. What’s my quality of life if I say ‘no’ to everything?” versus “You made a commitment to stick to something so you must stick to it.” Balance is key and it’s best to decide what is going to work for you. I find that diet programs usually don’t work (for me at least) because it’s an external force, designed by somebody who is not you, influencing your internal system and thought process.

So how can we find harmony and success in this process of improving our health without hating ourselves like Louis C.K says?

Make up your own rules to follow, but still be smart. Decide where you can tiptoe across that line occasionally (a glass of wine with dinner or some dark chocolate), and where you will never step foot (multiple cocktails and a trip to the drive-through). You are more likely to stick to something that you have laid out for yourself than a preplanned rule based system made by a stranger. The difference is you have to want it, and you’re more likely to followthrough with something if you created it for yourself.

Allow yourself a momentary pass for certain situations. The hardest part about making the changes last is when you get that last minute call from a friend to go out to dinner, or when you forgot your lunch at home and have to find a fast replacement during your 15 minute lunch break. Then the guilt and hatred sets in when you “fall off the wagon.” It feels terrible to go to someone’s house and have to tell them that you don’t eat certain foods. That was something I decided I couldn’t do. So when I am in my home, doing my own cooking and food shopping I go as heathy as possible, that way I can relax a bit and not beat myself up during the times when I don’t have all the control. I found that when I’m in a situation I cannot control, the really unhealthy thing to do is work myself up into an anxious frenzy or a “food freakout.”

Be kind to yourself. Harsh words toward yourself are the opposite of health promoting. So if you find yourself on a diet where you are constantly depriving yourself or experiencing harsh thoughts toward yourself (“I can’t believe I just ate two chicken chalupas. I hate myself!”)  something is not working. That’s not to say allow yourself every indulgence and disguise it as self love. Taking good care of yourself is as much about food, as it is your thoughts.

Experiment. For short periods of time I have done every kind of nutritional plan including vegetarian, vegan, paleo, Whole-30, gluten free, and felt like a failure when I “cheated.” I found that the key wasn’t converting to one for the rest of my life because at some point I was bound to fail, or just change my mind. Try something out for as long as your willing to keep it up. It could be a month, a day, or just one meal. The benefit is you will learn to prepare new types of foods, and you can see what works best for your body. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Don’t ever set yourself up for a failure! Today I was a vegetarian, tomorrow I may be paleo. As long as what you are trying out is mostly whole unprocessed foods, play around!

For people who are natural worriers, adding another thing to life that you are going to worry about is a recipe for disaster. During the times that I experience conflicting thoughts and harsh feelings toward myself when it came to my food choices I ask myself what’s my bottom line? Is it keeping to a regimented program just for the sake of it and in the process beating my soul into submission with feelings of guilt and anxiety? Or is it being loving and kind toward myself and rolling with the flow of life as best I can, while making good choices? I’m sure you can figure out the answer to that one.

Sometimes life give you moments where it’s healthier to go with the flow and pick up again tomorrow. 

Inspiring Women: Kris Carr

Everyone who cares an ounce about their health should know about this major wellness mover-and-shaker: Kris Carr.

Her story begins with, but certainly is not defined by, a diagnosis of incurable cancer. She chronicled her journey to find health and vitality through various types of holistic treatments and nutrition in the documentary Crazy Sexy Cancer (which I highly recommend).  While not afraid to show the raw realities of a cancer diagnosis, she retains her strong sense of humor and optimistic attitude in the midst of breakdown and uncertainty. She shows that a “take matters into your own hands” approach to your health can be as emotionally liberating as it is physically healing. She refers to herself as a cancer thriver, which I love, because though her cancer may be incurable, she has been able to maintain her health and improve her wellbeing.

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Since her documentary, Kris has written 5 books about her healing journey, helping and inspiring others with and without cancer. Her website kriscarr.com is my regular go-to for information, recipes and tips on healthy living. She is the Green Juice Queen, and one of the reasons I got a juicer last year.

I recently had the privilege to see her at an event with Gabrielle Bernstein called Crazy Sexy Miracles. While the majority of her brand is focused on nutrition, she spoke primarily about living a joyful and extraordinary life. She gave great advice on understanding your purpose and passion, and how to live a life of balance and alignment. Along with a side busting sense of humor, her authenticity and empowering voice is as inspiring as it is down to earth.

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My new bff and I. JK, I wish.  Sorry for the horrific quality of this photo (*sigh* cell phone cameras).

She’s like the friend you wish you had that drags you to yoga with her, makes you try her new green juice recipe and gives great advice, but also drops f-bombs like a trucker and makes you laugh until it hurts. We all need a Kris Carr in our lives.

Inspiring Women: Gabrielle Bernstein

I thought I’d write the first of the “Inspiring Women” series about someone who I think is the best role model of this generation.

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If you havent heard of Gabrielle Bernstein go to her website or google her right now. I stumbled upon her glorious message on New Years Day 2014 and have been a diligent follower ever since.  I was ready to deepen my spiritual practice, as well as jumpstart a lifestyle of positive thinking and creating miracles.

She is a teacher of A Course in Miracles, which is what ultimitely lead me to her. I had begun reading the course and wanted to understand it better. Gabby (we’re on a nickname basis now) breaks down the message from A Course in Miracles for everyone to understand. All boiled down it teaches transcending lower thoughts of hatred, judgement, and fear that come from the ego, and achieving a state of love, forgiveness and inner peace. But don’t assume that she’s some aging hippy dippy earth mother with gray hair down to her ankles, eating the bark off a tree (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). She fully lives in the real world, and does so in a fabulous wordrobe.

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Her following called “spirit junkies” (of which I consider myself a part) is a group of higher minded individuals, looking for deeper meaning, peace and beauty in everyday life. Her active and uplifting content on all social media outlets makes her followers feel like they have a life coach/spiritual guru/wise girlfriend in the palm of their hand. Along with her beautiful instagram pictures of health foods, scenes of nature and adorable boho inspired outfits, she posts quotes that seem to be just what you need to hear at that very moment, such as “My light illuminates the world” and “Life is far more fun when you have faith in the guidance that is around you.”

She is also a best selling author of 4 books aimed at helping you achieve your best and most fulfilling life. They are all significant and enlightened messages, told in an easy to understand way. Get ready for “aha” moments.

Each week she posts blogs and video content on subjects such as  meditation practices for manifesting abundance in our lives, how to mindfully handle difficult situations, and tips for growing your spiritual practice. The content is short, sweet and increadibly powerful.

Along with being a author, speaker and web entrepeneur, she is a Kundalini yoga and meditation teacher. She’s definitely up there on my “dream best friend list” right next to Jennerfer Lawrence and Emma Stone.

Finding Joy When the Seasons Change

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I love Autumn. There’s something so refreshing about fall colors, the smell of leaves, and getting out the sweaters and boots. I especially love fall inspired cooking; winter squash, pumpkin and apple flavors, and roasting everything! Despite all of its wonderful qualities, many people (myself included) find that for whatever reason, the change in season may at times bring on negative emotions. Feeling uprooted and lacking stability with all the change going on is very common. Sometimes for no reason at all I will feel blah, unmotivated, or lacking energy and my usual zest for life. It’s not the fall that I don’t like, it’s the change from summer to fall. This prompted me to look toward natural ways to combat this and make the most of this time of year.

Celebrate the good things the season has to offer. This may sound extremely “DUH!” but it’s easy to forget this when you’re in a rut. The sunlight can be incredible with its warm yellow golden hues, unlike any other time of year. Go for a walk in a park, a hike in the woods and view the foliage, or pumpkin/apple picking.  Even when it’s chilly outside, bundle up in a cute sweater and scarf and spend a little time in nature.IMG_2939

Make fall inspired foods. While in the summer we tend to eat more salads and raw veggies, this time of the year is great for roasting. Try some winter squash, they come in so many interesting colors and shapes, it’s hard not to be inspired to cook with them. One of my favorite dishes to make right now is roasted apple slices with some cinnamon. IMG_2955

Get cozy. It’s natural crave stillness and warmth this time of year. As nature is preparing for the long rest of winter, or bodies will want to sync with that energy and need to feel rested and grounded. With all the movement in the air, temperature changes and windy days, we must balance that by finding stillness and stability. Allow yourself some quality couch or bath time. Change up your usual power yoga workout for a more slow-flow/grounding practice. Whatver you choose, know that you’re not being lazy, sometimes it’s just what you need to feel balanced and restored.

What are some of your favorite ways to infuse a little happiness into the changing seasons? Share your ideas in the comment section.