How to Succeed at Any Goal You Set

Hello again Friends,

I want to switch gears today and talk about mindset. The greatest lesson I have learned over the years is that nothing is as important as teaching yourself discipline. On my Instagram stories Monday I shared something about how much I did not want to do my workout that day. I pointed out that I was going to do it anyway because I’ve learned that if I make excuses and allow myself to bail on my plan, I’m only going to allow myself to keep doing it again and again. I realize that in the past, this is why I have failed at any health or wellness routine that I’ve tried to establish.

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To Yourself Be True in 2022

We are in the season of fresh starts, new beginnings, resolutions and intentions. The commitments we make to ourselves at the start of a new year vary greatly from person-to-person, but they all have a common root – the desire to make our lives the best that we can. Before any goals are set or plans are made, we first feel that desire to grow and it drives us in the steps that follow. What influences that desire in us can make all the difference.

Continue reading “To Yourself Be True in 2022”

Out of Your Head, Into Your Body

Happy New Year! It’s already the 5th of January (the 6th by the time you’re reading this), and I feel like this year is off to a quick start. I took some time before the end of the year to reflect on 2021 and set some intentions for 2022. If you read my last post, then you know 2021 was a rough year. I spent a lot of time stressed and struggling, up until the last couple of months. As much as I hated the struggle at the time, I’m grateful for it now because it did what struggle always does – gave me perspective and taught me some things to take forward.

Continue reading “Out of Your Head, Into Your Body”

Getting Outdoors for Gut Health – How it Impacts Us Physically and Mentally

What absolutely beautiful weather we’ve been having here in the Midwest! After that deep freeze in mid-February, it’s been a dream to see sunshine and daytime highs in the 50’s and 60’s – even pushing 70 a couple of times! The return of warmer weather brings with it two of my favorite things – gardening season, and walking outdoors. This time of year does wonders for both physical and mental health.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been doing a lot for both! I decided to redo my garden this year to make an L-shaped raised bed and add a second greenhouse cover, so I’ve been hard at work setting that up. Concrete blocks, eight 42-lb-bags of garden soil, and shoveling lots of existing soil into its new home has proven quite the workout – my biceps are screaming as proof! When given the option between doing yard/garden work, and doing an “official” workout, I’m choosing the yard work every time!

However, I’ve also made a return to my outdoor lunchtime walks. At 12:30 on every sunny and warm day, I lace up my walking shoes and hit the pavement for a 20-minute one mile walk from my house, to a paved foot and bike trail a few blocks away. I’ve been doing my walks indoors since it’s been cold, but there is simply no comparison between indoors and out. Body movement is an undeniably important part of a healthy lifestyle, but exposure to the outdoors is significant for not only physical health, but mental health as well.

While reading Fiber Fueled by Gastroenterologist Dr. Will Bulsiewicz, I learned something new about the significance of getting outdoors. The book is all about gut health, and it turns out that our gut bugs absolutely thrive with exposure to nature. We have trillions of microorganisms in and on our bodies, the majority of those living in our gut microbiome. Each one of us has a unique makeup of these bugs. In fact, our gut microbiome is just as unique and individualized as our fingerprints. Even those of us living together in the same home, eating primarily the same meals and going to many of the same places, have vast differences in our microbiome.

The significance of the outdoors is that many of the gut bugs living in our microbiome come from nature. Just a simple walk outdoors can expose us to numerous bacteria that end up in our guts, which in turn contribute to our overall health in ways you’d never suspect. Now imagine what it would mean for our microbiome by doing something hands-on, like gardening, or kayaking, or rock climbing. The bacteria in our guts are among the oldest living organisms on the planet, and they’re living inside of us. The complexities of the microbiome are vast, and your gut is arguably the most important health factor deserving of your focus. These bacteria are involved in every function of our bodies from digestion, to detoxification, to our moods, and even cancer fighting! Each and every organ and system inside your body is affected by your gut, including (pretty significantly) your mental health.

The gut is actually known commonly as the second brain, because it is in constant communication with your brain. We think of the brain as the epicenter of emotions, hormones, stress…but each of these are actually triggered in the gut as well. In fact, over 90% of the body’s serotonin, the “happy hormone” that combats stress, is produced in the gut. A happy gut makes for a happy life – quite literally. So getting outdoors and exposing yourself to nature does so much more for your body than just keep you in physical shape.

Sun exposure is another important factor in mood and mental health. In parts of the world where it is often cloudy, rainy, snowy, or dark because of its proximity to the poles, Seasonal Affective Disorder can occur. This is a depressive state that is caused primarily by lack of exposure to sunlight, and is actually treated by use of artificial sun lamps. Even those of us who do not live in places where the sun is frequently hidden may feel some effects of SAD during the winter months when we are spending much of our time indoors.

One of my favorite feelings is what Thumper described on Bambi as “twitterpated”. When the air warms and the birds return and start to sing their songs at dawn – I feel downright giddy and want to spend every second I can outside soaking it all in. Nature is the most natural mood lifter there is, and the benefits to our physical and mental health are indisputable. If you haven’t already, work in some time this weekend, or in your evenings after work, to get outside. Go for a walk, hit a hiking trail, clean up your yard, take your yoga mat to the patio, plant some bulbs or seeds – anything to get you outdoors.

Start working some outdoor time into your routine, just as you would healthy meals and workouts. Your body, your gut, and your mind will thank you!

Get Grounded by Being Present

I was out on my daily lunchtime walk, earbuds in listening to an episode of Gilmore Girls on Netflix for the 8729384th time, deep in thought about the things on my to-do list and my upcoming weekend plans. As I descended down the hill on Hopper Road, a Maple tree caught my eye.

The tips of its upper branches had given way to the brisk October air, relinquishing their summer green and revealing a beautiful shade of orange that only nature could produce. It pulled me from my thoughts just long enough to think, “I wish I had my Nikon to capture this.”

As the final weekend of September approached, I saw something online that brought a stark realization into focus – there were only three months left in 2020. This year is now 3/4 of the way over, and in my mind I was still stuck in March. In the middle of March, the whole world stopped. I began working from home, restaurants closed, stores restricted shoppers and put limits on items that people were hoarding. Panic ensued across the nation as everything stood still.

Six months later, I was still standing still. Half of a year had passed by, so many things had happened, but it felt like I was still in March. Life kept going, and was passing me by while I was busy waiting for things to be “normal” again. How was it possible that 2020 would be over in three short months? That it was already Autumn and my favorite month of the year was about to begin?

It was possible because I was doing what all of us are guilty of so much of the time – I was tying my happiness, my contentment, to the future. “I’ll be happy when _____ happens.” When Covid ends. When I can go to the store without a mask again. When my high schooler can have Homecoming dances again. When my junior high schooler can have live Robotics competitions again. I was waiting for things to be different than they are, and as a result I was not present in the moment and enjoying the wonderful things that were still happening.

We may be in the midst of a pandemic, but life has not stopped. It’s still going on right in front of us. And I was taking every moment for granted while I waited for things to be different. I’d lost half of a year, and I decided the moment I realized it that I wasn’t going to lose one more moment of 2020.

I had been dying to see the sunflower field at Rendleman Orchards, and the apples are in season so that meant their famous apple cider donuts would be a hot commodity once again. So that weekend I loaded up my boys, Michael and his son, and we took a 45-minute road trip to Southern Illinois to get lost in the sunflower field, surrounded by pumpkins and mums and photo props and apples for the Autumn-est vibes we could find.

Before we left, I took a personal vow to myself — I wasn’t waiting. I wasn’t just passing time until things got back to normal. I was living. I was going to be present, in that moment, and I was going to soak up every single moment of it. I was going to let time stand still for me, while I enjoyed my life with the people I loved.

So we went. I ignored everything going on around me and focused on my people. I snapped pictures at every cute spot the orchard had set up. I carried a sunflower from Michael’s son Gabriel, and donned another in a button-hole where my son Logan pinned it. I bought the kids apple cider and all of us apple donuts, and we sat on the porch to eat and I savored every last bite. I let my soul be completely happy, because life was happening right then and there, in that moment, not in some future moment down the road that would never seem to come.

The moment had arrived, and during that morning it felt like time was standing still just for me. That was a feeling I wanted to capture, and keep reliving as long as I could. I could do it, with one simple mindset shift — exist in the moment. Draw my attention back from my to-do lists — stop giving my focus to whatever comes next — and just be present.

The concept isn’t new. Deepak Chopra and Eckhart Tolle have become modern-day famous for this centuries-old Buddhist ideology. We don’t need to be monks, or deep spiritual leaders, to adopt this idea into our own lives. It’s simply a matter of perspective, and a mindset shift. To borrow an idea from Mel Robbins, it requires taking ourselves out of auto-pilot, and living deliberately. Being aware of ourselves and our surroundings, focusing in on it. And when we catch our minds wandering to a place outside of the present moment, bringing it back to the present.

So as I was walking towards Lacroix Trail, I let the rusty Maple leaves pull me in. Then I noticed the leaves scattered across the ground in front of me, and that familiar warmth that always overtakes me in the Fall began to fill my soul. I let it overtake me, and let go of thoughts of work, and the weekend, and even my desire to write this post.

I even let go of the desire to have my Nikon — social media has created a monster, because now we can never seem to just enjoy a moment, we feel the need to document and share it rather than experience it. I decided that it was a blessing to not have my camera, because that would be one more thing to distract me from the moment. I just walked, observed, and felt.

This is my favorite time of year, and I would happily bottle it up and keep it up on a shelf for my own enjoyment if I could. But since I can’t, I will settle for appreciating it while it is here. When you’ve finished reading this, maybe you can emerge from the screen and observe what is around you. Maybe you’ll appreciate your current moment, too. After all, not the future nor the past exist. The only moment we truly have, is the one happening right now. Reach out and take it.