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30 Minute Seated / Non-Weight Bearing Strength Workout

You may or may not know that I broke my foot almost 2 weeks ago…. It’s not major, a twisted ankle that ended up in the stretched ligaments pulling off some bone fragments on the top of my foot. I was hiking on a local trail here in Lansing, MI with some friends and family, tripped on a stick and bam! Broken foot! (at least it happened while I was doing something fun!) I’m improving every day and it’s not nearly as bad as I thought it would be, but I’m still in a walking boot and trying not to put too much strain/weight on it as it heals for the next 4-6 weeks.

So, needless to say movement over here has been minimal since I can’t walk or run, but I have been trying to do at least some sort of physical activity every other day or so.

Here’s a strength training workout I created:

This will definitely be on my workout rotation over the next few weeks as my foot heals.

And thank goodness for the internet, because I have also found some quick YouTube videos that incorporate Pilates moves, bodyweight training, and non-weight bearing strength training into some workouts.

If you’re interested in some quick, no/low-impact workouts that you can do at home check these out:
Non-Weight Bearing Workout (15 min)
HIIT Workout (with foot/ankle injury – 20 min)

Remember that movement is essential to our physical and mental health!

Move Your Body to Improve Your Mood (and Brain Health!)

Tell me:

Have you ever broken a bone?

Have you had an injury that sidelined you from activity? How did you cope?

Want even more tips, tricks, and ideas for living well through nature, nourishment, movement and mindset? You know you do!

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Easy & Delicious 3-Seed Overnight Oats

Have I told you how much I love overnight oats?!?

When I discovered them many years ago via the interwebs, I think maybe it was Julie at Peanut Butter Fingers and her tasty cookie dough recipethey were one of the foods that really changed my relationship with food. My intention around food. My thoughts around food. And they really do bring me so much joy.

These cold-soaked overnight oats are so filling, so satisfying, so sustaining that I know when I eat regular hot oatmeal it’s just not going to measure up.

Jump to Recipe…

These overnight oats will keep me full until lunch. I don’t need a morning snack. They are so versatile – you can really customize the flavors and add-ins however you like.

Oh! And another reason I like these so much – they are perfect for make-ahead, meal prep, whatever you want to call it. I regularly make 4-5 of these to keep in the cupboard (dry ingredients only, please) so I can easily mix them up before bed and then they’re basically ready in the morning.

This 3-Seed version has been my go-to for the last couple years. Why all the seeds? I love the texture they add and all the bonus nutrients!

So what benefits and nutrients do these little powerhouses provide us?

  • Chia seeds = fiber (gut & heart health, satiety); protein (satiety & strength); antioxidants (cancer fighting properties), vitamins/minerals – magnesium, calcium, manganese & phosphorous (bone health)
    • Additionally, chia seeds have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and insulin regulating properties
    • And fun fact! Chia is the ancient Mayan word for “strength” – and these tiny little nutrient powerhouses are strong on nutrient density!
  • Flax seeds = protein (satiety, immune function); healthy fats (Omega-3s); fiber (gut & heart health, cholesterol & blood sugar lowering); antioxidants (cancer fighting properties); and vitamins/minerals – magnesium, phosphorous, B Vitamins, potassium
    • Also – flax seeds have been shown to lower blood pressure – another heart health win!
  • Hemp seeds (hearts) = protein (a complete plant-based source!); fats (Omega-3s and -6s, great for immune and skin health, and – hormone health!); and vitamins/minerals – magnesium, Vitamin E, calcium, potassium, iron!
    • Also, hemp seeds have been show to have anti-inflammatory properties great for heart health
    • And bonus – these add the best texture to the oat mix!

These oats are like the most perfect, super-seed, nutrient packed hearty breakfast around!

3- Seed Overnight Oats Recipe

Download the recipe today, give ’em a try, and let me know how you like these awesome, nutrient-packed, overnight oats!

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Building Better Habits

A podcast…

I appeared on a recent episode of the Marketplace Ministry podcast, talking with Jason about Building Better Habits. This was so fun and I can’t wait to do some more podcasting and showing up “in person”/ via video (on Instagram – check me out there!) and maybe audio on Clubhouse.

Give this quick podcast episode a listen and let me know what you think! (Also available wherever you listen to podcasts!)

Thanks for listening!

And a blog series…

Have you read my 4-part blog series on Building Better Habits? If not here are all 4 articles linked in 1 place:

And now is a great time to re-focus on building better habits as many of us who have made New Year’s Resolutions or intentions may have gotten off track. Here are some additional resources to help you on your way to developing better habits, optimizing your life, and living more joyfully:

Want even more tips, tricks, and ideas for living well through nature, nourishment, movement and mindset? You know you do!

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20 of My Favorite Healthy Foods…

Stuck in a healthy eating rut? Here are some of my favorite “healthy” foods and meals. Hoping to provide you a little inspiration on your way to a more joyful, healthy way of eating and a healthier lifestyle.

(Recipes for many of these coming soon! Stay tuned!)

Breakfast

  • Overnight Oats
  • Baked Oatmeal
  • Super Hero Muffins
  • Energy Bites (also make a great sweet snack!)
  • Smoothies
  • Avocado Toast with an Egg
  • Veggie Hash with an Over-Medium Egg – any leftover roasted veggies work great for this application!
  • Breakfast Salad – Cobb Breakfast Salad is delicious! Trust me!

Snacks

  • Veggies and Hummus or Guacamole – carrots and broccoli are my favorite
  • Hardboiled Eggs
  • Cheese!
  • Nuts!
  • Trail Mix
  • Celery & Peanut Butter

Lunches & Dinners

Desserts

Check out these other Nourishment Resources for more healthy eating inspiration:

Want even more tips, tricks, and ideas for living well through nature, nourishment, movement and mindset? You know you do!

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So You Want to Eat “Clean”…

aka The Down & Dirty of Clean Eating

Just in case you made a New Year’s resolution (and ignored my advice to instead take a different approach) to “eat clean” here’s the quick and dirty on “clean eating”:

What is clean eating?

One way to think of clean eating is in terms of different levels of processing of foods:

  • Level 1 (More Processed):
    • Ingredient list can be covered with the width of your thumb (less than an inch)
    • You can pronounce all the ingredients and recognize them as foods (not chemicals)
  • Level 2: 5 *real food* ingredients or less
  • Level 3: Foods that are minimally processed and as close to the source as possible
  • Level 4 (“Cleanest” or Least Processed): No ingredient list – the item itself is the 1 and only ingredient (think fruits, veggies, whole grains like brown rice or oats, fresh lean proteins, nuts, seeds, beans)

Example:

Good (or sometimes just Okay)BetterBest
100% apple juiceUnsweetened, natural apple sauceApple
Kettle cooked potato chip (not ideal)Mashed potatoesBaked potato

What are some benefits of clean eating?

  • More gut-friendly and digestion-boosting fiber – processed, stripped down foods give you all the sugar and none of the fiber to help with blood sugar absorption and promote gut health and good digestion. The same is true for whole grains as compared to refined grains. Think brown rice versus white rice or steel-cut oats or whole, rolled oats versus quick or instant oats.
  • Less sugar, salt, and saturated or trans fats – the amount of salt, sugar, and fat we add as flavorings to our food when we cook with whole, minimally processed real foods pales in comparison to the amounts added by food manufacturers to packaged, processed foods.
  • More energy – from better blood sugar regulation and more crucial vitamins and minerals
  • Lower risk for chronic diseases like hypertension, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes

How to get started:

  • Include more fresh fruits and veggies – and other “more clean” foods rather than packaged, processed foods or snacks. Canned or frozen fruits and veggies are good too, but watch out for sauces and seasonings that have lots of ingredients including fat, sodium, or sugar.
  • Look for cleaner versions of your favorite foods – maybe a granola bar you eat regularly and slowly make replacements – or better yet, make your own!
  • Slowly work your way to simple, fresh, whole foods – start from Level 1 working up to Level 4.
  • Don’t worry about perfection – think about the 80/20 rule. If you can work toward eating clean 80% of the time and the remaining 20% you don’t worry so much about it, you’ll be much more likely to adopt an overall cleaner way of eating that’s more sustainable.
  • And remember: this is not a diet but a healthy, balanced way of eating to include more whole, “real” foods for long-term, overall health.

Check out these other Nourishment and Habit Building Resources to help guide you on your way (and I’m always available as a coaching resource as well to help you achieve your nutrition, health, and wellness goals!) to cleaner, more joyful eating and a more joyful life:

Want even more tips, tricks, and ideas for living well through nature, nourishment, movement and mindset? You know you do!

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4 Keys to Building Better Habits (Part 4)

Just Get Started!

The 4th and final part of our series – The Keys to Building Better Habits is here! So far we’ve talked about:

Part 1 – Focus on Long-Term Sustainability, not short-term gratification

Part 2 – Focus on Systems, Processes, Environment, not outcomes or results

Part 3 – Focus on Who We Want to Become

So if you haven’t read those I encourage you to do so now before moving on to the start 😊

And now we are going to get clear on our goals and get started building some better habits. Let’s go!

Part 4 – Focus on Getting Clear Around Your Goals and Just Start!

Often the most difficult part of developing new habits is just getting started! So really this is a win-win because you can do the hardest part first and just start! We just need to get some momentum going. And celebrate the small wins – the first day of drinking 80 oz of water! Win! The first day of flossing your teeth after a long hiatus! Win!

It can be helpful to start at the beginning of a pre-established period of time – like the beginning of the year, month, week. So even though I asked you not to make New Year’s Resolutions this can be a good time to start developing a new habit. The reason to start at the beginning (other than the beginning being the only place you can start? 😉 ) – hope is higher at the beginning of the year, the month, the week. It’s a fresh start, it feels motivating. Hope is a reason to take action.

Once you’ve started, the next key is consistency. You must continue getting started over and over again. Think of it in 2-minute increments, 2 days, 2 weeks…breaking habits/actions/behaviors into these smaller chunks is important to avoid overwhelm. And remember you have to start and be consistent with the basics, before you can optimize, scale up, or “perfect” something (even though there really is no perfect anything).

When starting on a new habit building journey, many people get a little ways in – a few days, weeks, and think they lack motivation to keep going…but, what the real issue might be is lack of clarity around when and where to take action. Specificity is important here – you must be crystal clear on exactly what time a behavior will happen and where you will do the behavior. If you are looking to start flossing your teeth regularly – when and where will you do this? It can be helpful to say out loud – to yourself or someone else: I will floss my teeth right after I brush my teeth in the morning after I wake in the master bathroom at the sink.

Whether you’re looking to break an existing habit or establish a new habit, it can be helpful to trace your actions along a behavior chain and back up as far as possible to start making changes. Say you would like to develop a habit of cooking dinner at home more rather than getting takeout. You start with meal planning, then grocery shopping, then prep and cooking. But say you’ve done all of this and Tuesday night rolls around, you get done with work late, you’re tired, etc, etc…and before you know it the delivery guy is knocking at your door with your takeout order. Uh oh! What happened? Looking back in the chain:

  • You’re tired – could you have prepped some easy, re-heat options ahead? Or had a salad prepped ahead? Could you take a 15-minute power nap before cooking? Could you go for a walk to get re-energized before cooking or while dinner’s in the oven?
  • You got done with work late – do you need to set better boundaries with a hard-stop time? Is there someone else in the household who could’ve gotten started on dinner? Same for the previous link?
  • Prep & Cooking – could you do this on your lunch hour? Or prep ingredients the night before or on the weekends?
  • Grocery shopping – are there quick options you can pick up for those nights when “you just can’t even” ? Bagged salad kits, rotisserie chicken, pre-cooked rice/quinoa mixes, frozen veggies – all work great for a quick dinner.
  • Meal planning – can you plan a couple quick, easy re-heat style meals for nights when you don’t feel like cooking? Can you plan some batch meals so you’ll have “leftovers” at the ready?

So, if we go all the way back to the first step in the behavior chain – meal planning – we can avoid the pitfalls of some of the later steps should things go off the rails.

Along the way, short-term feedback (and especially rewards) helps you keep up with the development of a “good” habit, this is where a lifestyle or wellness coach can be helpful in supporting you with that feedback.

Another way a coach can be helpful – helping you determine what your values are (if you don’t already know) and develop a plan to build habits in line with those values. Are your habits in alignment with your desired future? Then you can work to make choices/decisions, and take actions that line up with those values, with that future. I like to think of behavior change as a values proposition – is my behavior in alignment with my values? If not, you either need to change your behavior or re-define your values.

In determining whether or not your behavior is in alignment with your values, you may want to look at what season of life you are in. Just because you may be more focused on work at the moment, does not mean you don’t value your relationships with family and friends. It just means you have the work burner turned up, which leads to other burners being turned down. Remember, you can’t do it all. Balance is a myth. And…you can do anything, but you can’t do everything.

You might also ask yourself – what am I optimizing for? Is it health? This may mean leaving work on time so you can get a workout in. This may mean prioritizing sleep so you can get up early to workout before work starts for the day. If you’re optimizing for relationships (with health a close 2nd) with family/friends, it may mean asking a friend to go on a walk with you. Or asking your partner to prep a healthy dinner with you so you can spend more time together.

In my humble opinion we should all be optimizing for freedom. Stick with me here…Discipline = Freedom (thank you, Jocko Willink). Habits are created with a portion of discipline (but remember willpower is not the be all end all). Habits also create discipline. They create routine, automation. Habits give us the freedom and mental space for free thinking, for creativity. Habits and discipline can reduce the cognitive load of decision making for us. They can reduce decision making fatigue for us. If you always go for a run after work, every day no matter what, there is no decision there. It is automatic, it is a habit. You can save that decision energy for something else – what to eat for dinner, work-related, family-related, fun-related decision-making.

This is really the power of habits – quality of life, giving us freedom. Allowing us to be the people we want to be. Allowing us space for intentional living, for more joyful living. For living well. James Clear says, “Often the quality of our lives depends on the quality of our habits.” We ought to opt for the highest quality lives we can. We ought to opt to live up to our fullest potential. To thrive, not merely survive.

What are you optimizing for right now?

What are you merely surviving at? What do you need to start doing to change this area of your life?

For more ideas on developing habits, optimizing your life, and living more joyfully, check these out:

Want even more tips, tricks, and ideas for living well through nature, nourishment, movement and mindset? You know you do!

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4 Keys to Building Better Habits (Part 3)

Who Do You Want to Become?

If you haven’t read Parts 1 and 2 of the series – go back and read those now so you get up to speed before we dive into developing habits around your identity.

Part 1 – Focus on Long-Term Sustainability, not short-term gratification

Part 2 – Focus on Systems, Processes, Environment, not outcomes or results

Now let’s dive in to see how developing habits can be done through changing your identity and vice versa – how developing new habits can change your identity.

Part 3 – Focus on Who You Want to Become

When we focus on who we want to become, and tie our habits to an identity, we are working on true behavior change.

When we first set out to develop a new habit, it can be useful to say to yourself – either out loud or in your head – “I am the type of person who…” This little mantra can help you focus on who you want to become and develop identity-based habits. Let’s take the goal of eating healthier, or even better (more specific 😊) of eating more fruits and vegetables. If you say to yourself – “I am the type of person who eats fruit for dessert” or “I am the type of person who eats vegetables for breakfast” (it’s not that hard/weird/gross – let’s talk if you want some more ideas!) you are tying the behavior of eating more fruits or vegetables to a specific time and saying that you are that person. Not “I should eat more vegetables” or “I should eat fruit for dessert,” but “I am that person {who does that thing}.”

What does it actually mean/look like to tie our identity to behavior change? It can be looked at as a cycle that starts with:

  1. Our Beliefs being our Identity – What we believe (about ourselves), and
  2. After we establish a belief (or a thought) about ourselves, we move to the Process/System – our Habits – What we do, and
  3. As a result of those 2 things – Identity/Belief and Process/Habits – we end up with our Outcomes/Results. Hopefully those are aligned with the goals you set out to achieve – if not, you were probably believing the wrong things, or doing the wrong things/developing the wrong habits. This is where a coach can be very helpful in supporting you to set clear goals and establish the right systems and habits to achieve those goals, to help you become the person you want to be.

In order to change old habits or past behaviors, we must change the underlying beliefs about who we are in order to develop new habits and take new action.  Let’s look at the dessert example again. If you tell yourself “I am the type of person who eats fruit for dessert” eventually your underlying beliefs that fruit is not for dessert or that only ice cream/cookies/cake/pie/candy are for dessert will need to change. After dinner you will want something sweet to eat, you will tell yourself “I am the type of person who eats fruit for dessert.” You will then look for fruit in the kitchen. You eat the fruit and continue telling yourself, “I am the type of person who eats fruit for dessert.” Over time – remember you must be patient and not expect a quick fix or an overnight identity change – you will believe that fruit is for “regular” dessert and that cakes/candies/cookies/pies/ice cream are for “special” dessert. Again, this, as with most habit change is better with support from a coach or friend or relative (but it should be someone who can be objective, not placate you, and not enable you to continue being the person you were, not the person you are working to become).

Habits are the “what we need to do” to get to who we want to become. These can be thought of as the embodiment of the new identity you are working to establish. Each habit, each action, is you casting a vote for “the type of person who…” The most practical way to change who you are is to change what you do.

  • Want to call yourself a reader? You must pick up a book or a magazine or an internet article, and repeat.
  • Want to be the type of person who lives until they are 95 and enjoys those extended years? You must take the actions (repeatedly) to get there (sleep, nutrition, physical activity, social connection, stress management).
  • Want to be the type of person who runs? You must start to run – 1 step, 1 block, 1 mile – you must start somewhere, you must take the action. Eventually, after some time, you will do the things runners do automatically – schedule their runs, lay out their running clothes – and will start to truly identify as being a runner because you’ve taken the actions runners take over and over and built the habits of runners.

Another way to look at this habit change work is to look at the outcome you are trying to achieve (but only as a starting point – remember this is not our main focus) and figure out what those people who have achieved that are doing. For example – if you want to lose weight (the outcome), you should ask yourself, “What does a healthy person do?”  Then the hard part – you have to do those things – eat more vegetables and fruits and less processed foods, move your body more, manage stress better, sleep more. Eventually you will become a healthy person (and presumably have lost the weight of your original outcome goal).

It can be a tricky proposition to change your identity or want to change your identity. Often the fear of losing something we already have is greater than the desire we have to gain the unknown. We are of often too afraid to question the life we have built for ourselves, question our identities, and question if it truly aligns with the values we have and the things we want in life. And subsequently are often too afraid to make the changes required to live in alignment with our values for fear of what our loved ones or society might think or say about us. My challenge to you is to question who you are and the life you are living. Is it in alignment with what you value? Do you know what your personal values are? If you are not in alignment, it might be time to believe something new about who you can become and start taking the first small steps to get there.

So many of us are asleep at the wheel in our own lives. Walking “through life in a cognitive slumber” as author, James Clear says. We are “blindly following the norms attached to [our] identit[ies].” The beautiful thing is we can decide who we want to be at any time. That’s the easy part (sometimes)! The real work comes in believing that decision and taking the action to become that person.  We need to really think about who we want to be and what we need to do to get there.

What type of person do you want to be?
What do you need to do to become that person?
What do you need to believe?
What small step do you need to take?

For more ideas on developing habits, optimizing your life, and living more joyfully, check these out:

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Instead of Making New Year’s Resolutions, Try This…

Sun bursting through the forest trees in the Pigeon River State Forest

Since only 8% of people who make New Year’s resolutions keep them, it could be a better strategy to take a different approach to changes you want to make in the year ahead. Think of the life you want to lead in the year ahead and how you will design each day, week, month to be that life. Here are a few ideas of things to do to optimize your life instead of making another New Year’s resolution you are not likely to keep:

  • Choose a word for the year ahead. This could be something that represents a change you want to make or the person you want to be. This will be your theme for the year. It will guide you in every decision you make and action you take. My word for 2021 is audacious. This is fairly broad for me, but that is intentional as it will allow me to apply it to many situations, both personal and professional.
  • Try making a bucket list for the year. A list of things you want to do, make, see, experience. These are probably things that will bring you joy and allow you to enjoy all the beautiful things life has to offer. A new park you want to play at with your kids, a new hiking trail, a new recipe you’ve been wanting to try, a new restaurant, you get the idea. Explore your world! (I’ve also taken a seasonal approach to bucket lists in the past – a winter bucket list, spring, summer, etc. to really get you to focus on the seasonality of this delightful world we live in.)
  • Try making monthly “to-do lists” or bucket lists. These are more focused than the yearly or seasonal bucket list and might be slightly less fun things to accomplish throughout the year. Even if these aren’t traditionally fun experiences, finishing projects around the house or at work will bring you a great feeling of satisfaction.
  • Focus on making changes that will impact your whole life wellness. What small changes you can work on related to spending more time outside, nourishing your body and spirit with delicious healthy food, how can you move your body more and enjoy it, where can you seek more rest and relaxation, and how can you work on improving relationships that are important to you? By taking this whole-life approach you are forced to more thoughtfully examine possible small changes that will have maximum impact rather than striving to achieve seemingly impossible goals-based resolutions.

And remember – if you are going to make a New Year’s Resolution, willpower may only help you in the beginning to get started. You will need to develop habits and systems to sustain the changes you are making, but you don’t have to do it alone – a coach can help you do just that! If you must make a resolution, try to check-in on your progress quarterly or monthly and readjust your goals and strategies if necessary.

If you’re looking for more thoughts and ideas from me on New Year’s Resolutions or changes you can make to improve your health and wellness and live well in 2021 and beyond, check out these previous posts:

Small Changes Can Mean Lasting Results

Cultivating Everyday Joy

Eat Your Veggies!

Mindful Eating 101

Get Outside – For Your Health!

Keep Working on Those New Year’s Resolutions!

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Cultivating Everyday Joy

In a world full of hate, social injustice and unrest, and political divisiveness, we owe it to ourselves and our fellow humans to notice all the small things in the world to be joyful about – a neighbor’s pretty flowers, a good deed done by someone else, a delicious meal you cooked for yourself or someone else (or that someone cooked for you!), a favorite t-shirt….the list could and should be endless. Joyful, happy humans are kinder, more empathetic humans. And I for one, believe this wild world we live in could use some more joy, kindness, compassion, and empathy.

It is in noticing the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes we experience and encounter that we are better able to cultivate everyday joy.

Here are some of the small things that are bringing me joy lately:

Nature

Butterflies (Monarchs mostly!) at the end of summer getting ready for their long journey south to Mexico for the winter (some days I wish I was going with them! Ha!)

A sunrise polar plunge on our Labor Day vacation!

I just love seeing all the fall flowers and décor around – mums and pumpkins galore!

The trees here in mid-Michigan are starting to change color before all the leaves fall to the ground. I think we’ve officially entered “sweater weather” season here in the Midwest – though it seems that every year I struggle with dressing appropriately as the seasons change, I either overdress and sweat my patootie off or underdress and freeze all day!

Nourishment

Basically, all the pumpkin spice flavored things are bringing me joy these days. Energy bars, overnight oats, cereal, pancakes, coffee, even candles (though I would argue that’s a scent, not a flavor).

I love a good theme: we’ll call this one “Fall Floor Chili.” On Monday evening after demo-ing our dining room on Sunday which means we also did not have a dining room table available, we ate dinner on the living room floor for the 2nd night in a row. This time, in honor of fall it was chili. Noah says, “So we’re having ‘floor chili’ ” I immediately think of the episode of The Office where Kevin spills the chili. Literally “floor chili”…and this is why you don’t eat food from an office potluck… Do yourself a favor, go to Netflix and watch that episode (Season 5, Episode 26 “Casual Friday.”)

Movement

Yoga videos – thank goodness for internet streaming and YouTube! A couple channels I like for this: Yoga with Adriene and SarahBethYoga

We also got a new treadmill for our basement so we’ve gotten a little bit of use out of that as our local gyms are still operating on limited hours and it’s so dark early in the mornings now!

Mindset

A passage from a book (even if the entire book is not so notable):

“I forced myself to relax, to think about nothing. I remember what an old teammate had told me, that the secret to thinking about nothing is not trying to stop thoughts from coming into your head. Instead, you let them come and then slip right through you head. In one ear, across the slippery floor, and then right back out the other ear.” From Winter of the Wolf Moon by Alex McKnight

I’m pretty sure this is exactly what some forms of meditation are all about – I’m still working on this one.

And another category: Entertainment 😊

We have not been watching a ton of TV lately but here are some shows we’ve enjoyed recently: Get Organized with The Home Edit, The Great British Baking Show, The Chef Show (Apparently I need to say Thank you to Netflix!), Hanna (Amazon Prime), and Yellowstone (Paramount network – we purchased on Amazon Prime) and coming soon – This is Us, The Bachelorette, Grey’s Anatomy…

I’ve been reading more during the past 6 months thanks in no small part to the current global pandemic affecting us all. Some of the better books I’ve read recently are: American Wolf, Why We Can’t Sleep: Women’s New Midlife Crisis, Forest Bathing, Dance Away with Me, In the Flo, Wild at Heart, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Digital Minimalism, Atomic Habits, Ultramarathon Man.

My job has me driving all over town as we distribute food in the Lansing community and I love listening to podcasts as I drive around – here are some of my favorites: Couple Friends, The Growth Equation, Ali on the Run, Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations, Becoming Headstrong, Before Breakfast, Chasing Excellence with Ben Bergeron, Here to Make Friends, Rose Pricks, Outside Podcast, Cake doesn’t Count, The Adventureprenuer Podcast with Jeremy Jensen, The Consistency Project with EC Synkowski, The Life Coach School Podcast.

In order to notice and appreciate these little things that bring joy to our lives and hearts, we must be more mindful. It is in noticing the many little, joyful things that we can build a happier life.

As with most anything else in life, finding joy must be practiced day in and day out. When will you start practicing everyday joy and building a happier more contented life?

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Rebalancing the Equilibrium

Do we all just need to slow down? Am I psychic? Did I portend this epidemic? Did I jinx us?

Is the current COVID-19 public health crisis the world’s way of telling us to slow down? Is it the universe’s way of telling us we’re moving too fast? Forcing us to stay at home, use social media and technology for good (or better/more productively), re-evaluate what is necessary, what is essential.

Making us consider the real beauty of all that Mother Nature has to offer us. When the only activities outside your house are walking/hiking/biking maybe we’ll better appreciate the benefits Mother Nature bestows on us in these troubled times. Sunshine and Vitamin D, trees that are steady when the world seems so fragile, dirt trails that continue on even when we fear the world as we know it might not.

Credit: Noah Bradow, 2019

Forcing us to find more sustainable ways to live. Not travel to unnecessary places contributing to climate change with our carbon emissions. Not waste so much food. Maybe not use so many paper products. I am currently using less toilet paper – still on camping rations even though I was able to find TP in the stores a couple weeks ago.

Not take for granted all the privileges we do have – a car to get you where you need to go, food in your pantry, technology to connect you to the outside world, books to read, movies and TV shows to watch.

Maybe some of these new habits and ways of living will stick. What have you changed in your life for the better – since this all started? Better for your health and wellness, better for the planet?

What lessons can you learn in this difficult time? What positive changes can you make in your life now that you can carry forward into the new normal (whenever that might happen)?


There is an equilibrium to nature that must be maintained. Our Mother is the keeper of this equilibrium and will tell us in no uncertain terms that we have upset the balance. She will guide us to restore some of the balance. We may not like it, but she is a wise Mother and we should listen to what she is trying to tell us. Stop moving so fast. Stop consuming so much. Just stop. Listen. Watch. Taste. Smell. See. Know. Feel. She wants us to be happy, but she also wants her first child – Earth – to be happy. Are these 2 happinesses incongruent? Is it impossible for them to co-exist? Maybe it was possible 1000s of years ago before we forgot who we were. When we remembered whose children we actually are. We are children of our Mother. Of the one who created the Earth. Of the one who directs the wind and the water. The one who erodes the dunes and makes the flowers bloom.

Credit: Noah Bradow, 2017

We are her children and we too could be in balance again if we would just listen to our Mother and all that she is trying to tell us, show us, teach us. How can we possibly believe that we know more than She does? She who has existed long before us, and will exist long after we have destroyed ourselves. Mother Earth, Mother Nature. She will care for us if only we would let her. Let her embrace us in her cool breeze on a spring day. Let her wash away our troubles in her cool mountain lakes. Let her talk to us in the mornings when her bird children come to sing.

We are children of the Earth and if we disrespect our Mother Nature she will let us know. We must be more mindful in our approach to everyday living and listen to the cues we get from the natural world.

The natural world is constantly seeking equilibrium and balance. What you are you doing to live more sustainably and more balanced? More in tune with the needs of the natural world?


Author’s note: The first section above was written before this next 2nd section section which I wrote as a result of a writing prompt: “I remember.”

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Happiness is an Inside Job

(March 24)

“Becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end.” – Michelle Obama

How have you been dealing amidst the chaos of Coronavirus / COVID-19?

I have struggled off and on. Struggling mainly with a scarcity mindset. This sent me into a tizzy, somewhat of an emotional tailspin as it relates to shortages of toilet paper in stores. I admit I thought people were a little nutty when they were buying everything and hoarding things and then lo and behold I got down to three rolls of toilet paper in my house and just felt like it was a desperate time. I will say that my call out on social media for toilet paper was met with much grace and generosity. Many family and friends offered to give us toilet paper – which was great, I thought I was going to have to be cutting paper towel rolls in half and making my own baby wipes. But alas, the heavens opened up and I found a pack of Angel Soft at our local grocery store – truly a gift from the angels. I was very grateful for this small favor and I won’t have to start using leaves from my backyard when nature calls. All that to say that these crazy times are trying for all of us…I usually consider myself a pretty mentally and emotionally strong person but have really been struggling off and on.

I originally wrote the post below when things were first starting to get cancelled –  the NCAA tournaments got cancelled and I got to thinking about what we can control in life and so I do still think that the below is applicable but certainly now even a few weeks later we are in much different circumstances in the world than we were in the middle of March. It’s hard to know how to address the COVID crisis as a wellness professional but at least try your best to stay healthy, keep moving your body, and try to get some fresh air when you can.

(March 13)

In uncertain times it can be a struggle to remain joyful (even though there is still a lot to be grateful and joyful for) and happy.

Happiness has to come from within. From your own thoughts, your own feelings, your own actions. That is all you have control over. You don’t control the weather, the current state of the world, or the outcome of your efforts. All you control are your attitude, your effort, and your response to situations and events.

If you participate in any type of sport you know this to be true. You can practice for weeks, months, years but the outcome of your chosen event is ultimately out of your control. If you’re a runner and the weather is crappy on race day, you trip on a pothole, or your race is cancelled due to COVID-19 these things are all out of your control. What you do control is your effort and preparation for that event whether it happens or not. Did you show up every day to practice? Did you complete every run or workout you had planned? Did you stretch or foam roll consistently? These things are within your control. The fact that you put forth your best effort and show up consistently are what happiness and success are made of.

Sure, it’s disappointing if COVID-19 causes your vacation to get cancelled. But research shows that the anticipation of an event often causes greater happiness than the event itself. And know that there will be other vacations.

So, in these trying and troubling times what is there to be thankful for when school is cancelled, events are cancelled, and we have to wash our hands a thousand times more than we used to (even though we should’ve been hand-washing more frequently anyway)?

Gratitude is a powerful tool we have in our happiness toolboxes and can be called up no matter where we are or what is going on the world. Did the sun come out this morning? Did you get to eat at least 1 meal today? Do you have friends and family who care for you? What about a hot shower? Socks and shoes to put on your feet? How about a book to read or a show to binge watch? Are you breathing? Things don’t have be big, significant, or important to make us grateful for them or to bring us joy.

What are you doing in this crazy, mixed up, COVID-19-ridden world to cultivate more happiness and joy?

And more importantly –

What are you doing to share your joy and happiness with others and lift them up when they might need it the most?

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Kale & Quinoa Salad

This Kale & Quinoa Salad is a favorite in the Bradow household. Other than some chopping of veggies and cooking the quinoa it’s super easy and a great make ahead salad for lunches during the week. Could be served with some grilled or rotisserie chicken or in a wrap for a grab and go meal also.

I hope you’ll try it soon and let me know how you like it! Enjoy!

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Do We All Just Need to Slow Down?

Maybe we all just need to take a minute, sit back, and relax…

At my previous job the company took cyber security seriously and would send us test phishing emails from time to time. I got 2 in the year+ I was there and failed the first test. The email came in, I glanced at it – something to do with a new copier/scanner or something like that, telling me I had a document that had been scanned to me – and promptly clicked on the attachment. Cue sad, defeated music. I knew immediately that I should not have clicked on the attachment, then about 10 seconds later, I got a pop-up telling me that it was a test and I had failed. I knew better than to click on that weird looking attachment or open that email from a sender I didn’t really know. I was just in too much of a hurry to take the 3 seconds to actually review the information and take the appropriate actions. If I had just slowed down a bit I would’ve passed the test.

And really, I think this is a good lesson for life in today’s go, go, go, fast-paced, 80 miles per hour, information at our fingertips, instant gratification world. We all just need to slow down, to be more present, to play the long game – even if the “long game” is only 3 minutes from now.

Road in the Badlands. Credit: Noah Bradow

Plan ahead for less road rage…

I see the need for this so often when I am driving – and I myself and guilty of this as well at times. We are all in such a hurry, but why? What will happen if you’re 2 or even 5 minutes late to wherever you’re going? The world won’t end, most likely no one will die. So next time you’re confronted with someone cutting you off in traffic, take a deep breath, relax, and realize that it won’t matter in 5 minutes that they cut you off. Let go of the road rage. And likewise, the next time you’re in a rush and confronted with the option of cutting someone else off in traffic – don’t do it. Let them go ahead, you can slip in behind them and you’ll still get to where you’re going. And maybe think about leaving a couple minutes earlier next time. 😉

This elk in Rocky Mountain National Park is mindfully munching his morning snack. Credit: Noah Bradow

Slow down for more mindful munching.

I also see this in the way we eat. We are constantly trying to multi-task while eating (and working; and living). Watching TV, scrolling through our phones, eating at our desks at work while still trying to work. I myself am guilty of this as well, especially when I eat a meal alone. I mean, are my own thoughts so unbearable that I need to distract myself with some other form of information consumption? And we are in control of our thoughts so if they aren’t serving us we can work to change them, but that’s a whole other blog post for a different time.

I digress… The point is, eat more mindfully (more info coming soon on that!). And multi-task less. By eating more mindfully you’ll probably enjoy your food more and eat less – which would be a good thing for most of us, I assume. And really multi-tasking doesn’t work. We cannot do 2 things at once. If you’re scrolling through your phone, you’re not really tasting your food, not really cuing into your hunger or satiety. At your next meal, try turning off the TV, putting your phone in a different room and sitting with your thoughts about the meal, or actually having a meaningful conversation with your companions for that short time while you share some food.

Sunrise. Mountains. Coffee. Credit: Noah Bradow

Savor the special moments life gives us.

And what about holidays and other special events? Shouldn’t we all just slow down and savor that time with family and friends? I find that as I get older, time does seem to pass by more quickly. If we slow down, put our phones down, and make an effort to be truly present, these holidays, special events, and traditions will be even more meaningful. I recently saw a quote from Gretchen Rubin about not doing less or doing more, but doing what you VALUE. If you value time with family and friends then also make the effort to savor that time together.

Be the master of your emotions.

We can also apply this theory/method of slowing down to our emotions. Instead of always reacting to something slow down, take the time to recognize your emotion, acknowledge the feeling, and deal with it accordingly. Some emotions may not serve us in the moment and it might be beneficial to try to change how we respond to those emotions. Rage and anger rarely result in positive outcomes – either through our own destructive or self-sabotaging behaviors or in how we treat others. And what about emotional eating? Often, if we slowed down enough to recognize the feeling we are having – boredom, sadness, frustration, etc. – we could recognize it for what it is and utilize a different behavior to deal with that emotion. Journaling, talking it out with a friend/relative, going for a walk, meditation, exercise are all usually more helpful ways of dealing with these emotions rather than turning to food.

Another way to think about dealing with emotions in a slower, more thoughtful way, is to practice responding, rather than reacting. A response inherently requires a thoughtful approach to a situation, done after some time thinking and preparing; whereas a reaction generally comes immediately and without much thoughtfulness or rationality, and often, not always, but often enough comes with detrimental consequences that could’ve been avoided had we just slowed down to respond rather than react. This again, takes practice in mindfulness and being present in the current moment.

So, my challenge to you in this busy, busy modern world is to: BE LESS BUSY and DO MORE QUALITY THINGS IN LIFE and less quantity of things.

And remember: the only things you have control over in this crazy world are your effort and your attitude. The outcome and the outside world are out of your control so take a moment, breath, relax, and slow down ever so slightly to really enjoy the brief trip around the sun each of us has.

Want even more tips, tricks, and ideas for living well through nature, nourishment, movement and mindset? You know you do!

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A Love Letter

Ahhh, February, the month of Valentine’s Day. Maybe you’re thinking more about who you love right now. Regardless of how you feel about this holiday there is something to be said for expressing your love, gratitude, and appreciation for the people who mean the most in your life. Here’s my love letter to the people who have made my life better lately.

A love letter to…

Myself, to Outwild, to Noah, Emily, Joanne, Travis, and Aiden, to my parents, and the rest of the world –

I feel like I’ve changed a lot in the past several months. I mean not changed who I really am but changed how I view the world and gained clarity on my values and the direction I want my life to go.

I went to Outwild in September 2019. What an amazing retreat! A week after that event I felt like a changed person. I knew there was momentum I didn’t want to lose after that awesome experience. I re-learned and experienced first-hand that it’s okay to be vulnerable, that it’s okay to share yourself with the world, it’s okay to have dreams, and it’s okay to act on those dreams. I re-learned that we shouldn’t be afraid of our dreams and not acting on those dreams is worse than trying and failing. I re-learned that the only failure is not trying.

Thank you to all the inspiring Outwilders I met. I made some new friends which I was beginning to think was nearly impossible as an adult. I discovered that I can be brave again. I was brave, bold, and courageous in my teens and 20s. Frankly, at times, I didn’t give a shit about much of anything and just did whatever I wanted. Which, yes, did get me into some trouble, but it also got me so many amazing experiences.

I found in my 30s that I had settled into a routine and a life that I felt disconnected from. I slowly began to realize that it wasn’t the life I wanted. This means it wasn’t the life I wanted professionally. Ultimately, I should be doing something that is fulfilling, something that makes me happy. I know that helping other people is one way to do that. Training and development and wellness coaching are fulfilling to me. Facilitating workshops, public health work, and public speaking are fulfilling for me.

I’ve made great strides in recent months to get back to where I need to be professionally and taking action to move those dreams forward. Progress has come from moving outside my comfort zone, trying new things, asking for help, and being vulnerable. Again, thank you to Outwild for a life-changing event and allowing me the space to re-discover the best version of myself.

Thank you to Noah for being the best, most supportive husband a gal could ask for. You complement me in the best ways and I know that together we can conquer this crazy, wild world.

To Emily – we don’t see each other nearly enough (or ever really) but you’ll always be a best friend. We explored Mexico together, which was such a formative time in my life, and you were there for all of it and so much more that followed.

Joanne, Travis, and Aiden – you all are the best chosen-family anybody could ask for. Your encouragement, our traditions and adventures are one in a million.

To my parents – as an adult I now know that I have the best of both of you in me. My hope is to give the best of me to the world. I also hope you guys are proud of me. Know that I love life and am doing the best I can.

And to the world and all the humans, plants, and creatures in it – we have such a short time here and nothing’s promised so we may as well figure out what we want, what our dreams are, and go for it. It will take a lot of work and it won’t be easy, but it will all be worth it. Know that you can have the life you want and make an impact on this world.

Cheers to health, happiness, and love!

Love,

Alison

***Who do you love? Why do you love them?

***Tell them today how much you love them!

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Mindset Monday: Embracing Change, Chaos and Uncertainty

I like change and variety – it keeps me from getting bored and makes life interesting. Chaos, however, is a different story. I like order and knowing what to expect and being able to plan. I definitely feel that I’ve become more comfortable with uncertainty as I get older…which seems a bit counter intuitive. I’ve always been a bit of a risk taker and held the belief that everything will work out one way or another. After all, worry is a poor use of imagination, no?

One of my intentions for 2020 is to “Embrace the chaos, but control the controllables.” Most of the time we cannot control our circumstances, our situation, or what happens to us. All we can control is how we react and respond to our circumstances. We can only control our effort and our attitude. Both of these take work – some actual labor and some thought/mindset work.

Intellectually I know that overcoming challenges and obstacles are what makes us better and that all the “good stuff” is on the other side of failure and learning from it. But emotionally, the discomfort that comes from even thinking about doing something you might fail at, is a much harder beast to conquer. We’ve got to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. After all, the discomfort that comes with chasing our dreams and overcoming challenges should be much more enjoyable than the discomfort of stagnation and never striving for the next best version of yourself.

How do you key into the intellectual knowledge that uncertainty and failure are good for growth and will ultimately lead to power and greatness and overcome the discomfort and anxiety of fearing failure? Just do the thing? Just take action?

John Maxwell says, “Growth is the only guarantee that tomorrow will be better.” And we can only grow by learning. We can only learn by trying and failing. If you never take a chance to make a change and experience even a moment of uncertainty, you will never know how much you can achieve, how much success, power {internal/mental/emotional/personal}, and greatness you can have. Embrace a growth mindset, embrace change – don’t resist it, and just see what a master of your own life, of your own reality you can become.

Tell Me:

What are your tips and tricks for overcoming uncertainty, embracing chaos, and accepting change? 

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Home is…

Home is… an elusive place. Have I ever really felt “at home”? I grew up in Adrian, Michigan – did I ever really fit in? It surely never really felt like I did.

I lived and studied abroad in Mexico for a year, and what a year it was! That year was filled with some of the best adventures and now some of my most vivid memories. And yet, I came back to Michigan, back to “home,” back to what was comfortable. And here I am over 15 years later wondering where I belong.

Today, living in Lansing, Michigan, I wonder if this small-big city is my real home. Sure, it’s got everything I could ever need. And certainly, my husband is here which makes it more home to me than anywhere else at this current stage of life. But do I truly belong in Lansing?

Because isn’t that what home is? Or should be? A place to belong? A place to really rest your head, and not in the morbid sense, but in the sense of true peace, relaxation, and calm. A place to truly get a break from the hustle and bustle of this crazy, modern, fast-paced world. A place where your mind, your thoughts can be at rest, be at peace.

Maybe home for me is in the woods on a quiet morning or tranquil afternoon, hiking and connecting with nature. Maybe that’s my home…surely that’s where I feel most at peace. If home is where you can and do find peace, then I suppose that’s the answer. That’s where I truly belong.

Maybe the answer to feeling more at peace, to feeling more “at home” is spending more time walking outside, hiking on a trail, being in nature, soaking in the calm, wondrous woods. The scent of pine, the soft carpet of needles underfoot. The mysterious bird songs that someday I should probably learn to identify. The million and one types of flora. The wonder and marvel of re-discovering a place across the seasons throughout a year.

Home for me is being wrapped up in the embrace of Mother Nature. I’m a homebody and an introvert certainly, but being able to spend all my time at home, if home is nature, is the best way to be at home for me.

Tell me: What is home to you? Is it a place? A feeling? A person?

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Get Outside – For Your Health!

And for the fun of it!

Getting outside more can improve your health – and not just in the summertime! Find time to be outside during all four seasons to improve your physical, mental, and emotional health. Benefits of being outside include improved concentration, reduced stress levels, better blood pressure, increased energy, and better sleep. In Japan, the common practice of “forest bathing” encourages people to go outside and take in nature or the wonder of a forest to improve health and reduce stress. Being prepared and finding activities you enjoy will help you get outside more year-round!

Bundle up in the winter months to stay nice and warm while you enjoy outside winter activities like snowshoeing, cross country skiing, sledding, or ice skating. Beat the wintertime blues or seasonal affective disorder by getting outside, soaking up the sunshine and Vitamin D, and breathing in the fresh, crisp winter air. Vitamin D is a great mood and immunity booster!

Don’t let a little rain keep you shut inside – grab a rain jacket and some rain boots to stay dry on a wet and rainy springtime walk. Find a nearby park or nature trail to spot newly blooming flowers and sneak a peak at some wildlife emerging from their winter slumber.

Beat the heat in the summertime by finding a shady forest for a leisurely walk or a more intense hike. Another great way to stay cool in the summer is at a local pool, lake, or river swimming, kayaking, or canoeing. And don’t forget about opportunities to pick Michigan berries at a local farm.

Enjoy the cooler fall temperatures and go for a hike or walk to take in the beautiful fall colors or go apple picking or visit a pumpkin patch with the family. And don’t forget about the great workout you can get from raking leaves!

Take your workout outside any time of year – cardio and strength workouts can easily be adapted for the outdoors with minimal (or zero!) equipment. Great outdoor cardiovascular activities include walking, hiking, running, swimming, or biking. And don’t forget about plyometrics that can easily be done with no equipment or just a park bench – think bench jumps instead of box jumps, jump squats, and burpees. Utilize body weight exercises for easy strength training outside: push-ups, pull-ups on the monkey bars at a park, planks, squats, and lunges.

Go explore and enjoy all the outdoors has to offer, my friends!

Tell me:

What’s your favorite way to enjoy the outdoors in each season?


Originally published in the August 2018 issue of Healthy & Fit Magazine

Sources: Harvard Medical School and NY Dept. of Environmental Conservation


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Embrace the Wonder of Winter

Last February for my husband, Noah’s birthday we rented a small cabin in Northern Michigan for the weekend.

The timing in early February could not have been more perfect as we got up there and had 6 inches (or more!) of fresh snow to play in. Our dog, Jerome, is most definitely a cold-weather dog and LOVES tromping through the snow.

He also really loved the puffy vest I got him for that occasion. We had a great time Up North, hiking in the fresh snow, reading, and enjoying delicious food.

So far in 2020 now half-way through January, we’ve had a relatively mild winter here in Michigan. We had an ice storm over the weekend and Noah, Jerome and I enjoyed a relaxing and productive weekend at home. I worked a lot, but not too much, got some things done around the house, and Noah baked some fresh, oh so delicious, Challah bread.

Both of these weekends were wonderful – I love winter hiking and exploring, there is something about the stillness of the season that is very calming; but I also don’t mind staying indoors sometimes and using the winter weather as an excuse to get some things done around the house that I might not otherwise.

Now that we’re in to the most intense part of winter here in Michigan, I thought it might be useful to talk about ways we can fight the winter blues. After Christmas and New Year’s pass it can be difficult to maintain a positive mindset and focus on all the good winter has to offer when the thermometer dips into single or *gasp* even negative digits and it takes you longer to scrape off your car or shovel your sidewalk than it does to make dinner.

  • Make a Winter Bucket List and plan some fun things to do outside the house or outdoors
    • Don’t jampack your calendar with to-dos – save some space for down-time – but do plan some fun things to look forward to.
    • Try not to be a hibernating hermit in your house however tempting that may sound (we’ll talk about Hygge in a minute). Here some ideas for fun things to get you out of the house, get you moving, and get you socializing:
      • Go to a sporting event – basketball, hockey, volleyball
      • Go bowling, axe throwing, even high-speed indoor go-karting (sounds like my worst nightmare, but if it sounds fun to you, go do it!), or try an escape room outing
      • Plan a spa-day with friends
      • Try a new yoga or meditation class/workshop
      • Go on a winter hike, snowshoe adventure or cross-country skiing. Many locales even have snowshoes or cross-country skis you can rent if it’s your first time trying the activity.
      • Take the kids sledding and have a thermos of hot chocolate and some cups ready in the car for the ride home.
      • A craft (or craft beer tasting) night in with friends. Or a game night – whatever you’re into, but remember that quality social relationships are one of the keys to health and happiness.
    • Anything you think might be fun but you don’t get to this winter, save it for next year’s Winter Bucket List. Work on adding items to your Winter Bucket List all year so that when November/December/January/etc. rolls around you’ll already have some fun ideas ready to go!
  • If you don’t want to brave the elements for some fun outdoors or outside the house – here are some options for making the most of your time inside in winter:
    • The Danish concept of Hygge. Hygge is pronounced “HEW-guh” or “HOO-gah” and means comfort, coziness, or contentment.
      • The practice of hygge varies, but usually includes candles, hot tea or hot cocoa, a soft blanket, relaxing music, or a small gathering with friends. Other elements are being present (put down your phones!), togetherness, and relaxation.
      • Hygge is also viewed as the pursuit of everyday happiness. Reading a book by candlelight with some cozy socks on or outdoor activities like a winter beach walk or a winter bonfire can help you slow down and appreciate the little things.
      • It’s no wonder this practice is a favorite in Denmark as that country along with its Nordic neighbors of Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Iceland often rank as some of the happiest countries on the planet.
    • On the weekend – meal plan, grocery shop (you might actually have to leave your house unless you have a grocery delivery service), and meal prep for the week ahead.
      • Cook up a big batch of soup (loaded with veggies for the week ahead)
      • Bake some yummy muffins for breakfast
    • Don’t wait until spring to do some deep cleaning indoors – clean out a closet, clean under your stove, clean out your refrigerator, organize a drawer/cupboard
    • Have an at-home spa-day with a face mask, DIY mani/pedi, Epsom salt or bubble bath
    • Try a meditative activity like coloring and jigsaw puzzles as a great way to pass the time if you’re stuck inside.
  • Recognize that the “Winter Blues” might be more than a simple aversion to the colder weather, it could be the condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
    • SAD may be caused by a number of factors including: reduced sun exposure (Vitamin D), and genetic, biological, or evolutionary sensitivities.
      • Light therapy can help combat lack of sun exposure – talk to your healthcare provider about options for you.
      • Maintaining your regular physical activity (even if modified for the indoors), and social activities can also help.
      • If the options listed above don’t help, see your healthcare provider who can recommend more intensive therapies – your mood shouldn’t have to wait to improve until the weather does.
  • Another “secret” to battling the winter blues – the Norwegian mindset about winter. In Norway, people see winter as something to be enjoyed, not endured.  Try to see winter as a time to enjoy the peace, quiet, and calm the snow can bring; as a time to enjoy a hot mug of tea or cocoa.

Embrace the winter weather. You cannot control the weather, but you can prepare for it. Don’t fret over the snow and ice – control the controllables – dress warmly, have emergency supplies in your car, give yourself plenty of time for driving on the messy roads, and plan some fun activities to help you enjoy the wonder that winter has to offer. Don’t just survive the winter, thrive during it! Hopefully these tips will help you optimize your time and enjoyment of the winter season.

Tell me:

***What’s on your Winter Bucket List?***

***What fun things do you have planned before winter ends?***

  • I am looking forward to a winter weekend in South Haven Michigan, exploring the shores of Lake Michigan and the downtown shops with friends.

***What are you hoping to accomplish before spring?***

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Feeling the Fear

When was the first time you felt fear?

I remember being 6 years old, at my first swim meet at the Adrian College Natatorium. I don’t remember the race, but I think it was my first one for the Lenawee County YMCA Alligators. It was probably a 25-yard freestyle race – 1 length of the pool, that’s all. I’m sure I had practiced countless hours to prepare for this race. I don’t remember the gun or horn going off, but I do remember being ½ way or less down the pool and absolutely losing it. Did I cling to the side? I don’t remember what lane I was in. Did I cling to a lane marker? Did I tread water? I just remember being frozen. The fear had frozen me in place in the middle of this gigantic pool and I couldn’t take another stroke. I was crying – maybe hysterically.

What I do remember is my cousin, Elisia, jumping in the help me. I don’t remember if we swam the rest of the way to the end or if she helped me out of the pool and I never finished that race. Thirty one years later, it doesn’t really matter.

What does matter is that day she was my hero. She was only 11 years old at the time. Did she know she was being heroic? What prompted her to get in after me? Was it urging from Shirley Morley, the best swim coach on the planet? Was it prompting by the most supportive swim parents on the planet – either my parents or my Aunt Sharon and Uncle Roy, Elisia’s parents? Or was she just the bravest 11-year-old (and eventual state champ bad-ass swimmer) in the whole natatorium? It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that she would be there for me countless other times in my life growing up. And even now that we’re both adults. What matters is she’s the sister I never had. She’s the role model I always needed.

You know what else matters? I swam competitively for 12 years after that. I’m sure there were plenty more times I was afraid. But I did it anyway. (And still have an open-water swim to conquer some fears around…maybe 2020 is year for that – just need to make time for swimming!)

Feel the fear and do it anyway. That’s the saying, right? It’s easier said than done. I’m sure it’s easier when we’re kids. I’m sure it’s easier for some people than others. I’m sure it gets easier the more you do it, right? Flex the fear-confronting-muscles and go for the dreams, right?

It doesn’t matter what will happen in a year, in 10 years. It doesn’t matter what people will say to you or about you. What matters is that you take the action, do the thing, even if it’s scary, even if the outcome is unknown. Because what’s even scarier is not taking action and staying stuck where you are – in life, in your career, in the pool. Feel the fear and do it anyway – YOU ARE ENOUGH regardless of the outcome/success/failure. And if you’re lucky, there will be an Elisia there to help you finish the race if you need it.

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Editor’s notes:

For some context – I just “finished” an 8-week session of group wellness/life coaching and one of the activities we did was the Emotional Clearing Method (ECM). This was pretty powerful (I don’t believe it’s recommended to do on your own – have a professional to guide you) and what prompted this memory of the first time I felt fear. So shout out to Blake and Pivot Wellness for some awesome work – gained so many powerful insights from those 8 weeks and will continue to use the tools I gained in that time.

Also – these photos of Elisia and me are very old – possibly before camera phones were even a thing. I think we need some new photos together!

And finally – my current big fear is “putting myself out there” to get my own wellness coaching business to grow so that can be my main job. Always a work in progress. So know that you’re not alone in whatever fear you may have, we all have fear of something.

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Chronic Stress and What We Can Do About It

What Can We Do About Chronic Stress?

I watched a documentary by Dr. Sanjay Gupta on the plane to Northern CA on my way to an outdoor/wellness/life design retreat/festival las weekend. I’m grateful I had the opportunity to go to this event because I am hopeful it will help me get clarity around some life goals and crafting the life I want to live.

But I digress…the documentary, One Nation Under Stress, details the struggles many Americans are facing today related to chronic stress and the epidemic of “deaths of despair.” Deaths of despair are classified as: cirrhosis of the liver (related to alcohol use), drug overdose, and suicide. Prime causes of these types of death in the U.S. are: social isolation, the depersonalization of society, and the increased stress and pressure middle-class Americans are feeling to just make a living.

Let’s talk about different types of stress. Acute stress, as a result of an adverse event, is not the problem – it’s the chronic, constant, toxic stress that kills. This type of chronic stress results from:

  • lack of predictability, uncertainty, lack of control
  • lack of social support
  • wondering – “Am I valued?” “Do I have a meaningful place in community?” “Do I have a community to rely on?” and “Why am I here?”

Chronic stress changes the brain and impacts the ability to make rational decisions related to thought regulation, action, empathy, and impulse and craving control – making it more difficult to deal with more and more stress. These stress biomarkers affect health outcomes. Some ways we can combat this change in the brain are through mindfulness/meditation and exercise. Try spending time in nature, the box breathing method, or taking a walk outside. These simple actions practiced over time can bring some of your brain chemistry back to where it was before the chronic stress altered it.

Stress Reduction Challenge:

  • Find your community, your tribe – people who support you and know your value, people who allow you to feel your place in the world
  • Reach out to someone who seems isolated – this will most likely be good for both of you! If you feel isolated, don’t perpetuate that – reach out even though it’s hard – don’t let the hurt and isolation turn to despair
  • Cultivate quality social relationships – with your significant other, family, friends, co-workers – strangers who might become a new friend. Having quality social relationships is one of the greatest predictors of health, happiness and longevity.
  • Re-evaluate how you’re spending your time and money – do they reinforce your values and bring you meaning?
  • Focus on what you DO have, not what you don’t – cultivate an abundance mindset and you will long less and less for what you don’t have, and appreciate more and more what you do have. And remember that wealth doesn’t necessarily equal health.
  • Look for opportunities to cultivate compassion and empathy – radiate loving kindness near and far.

Photo credits: Noah Bradow

The *Best* Breakfast Potatoes Recipe

These potatoes are in permanent rotation in the Bradow household. We often times just use sweet potatoes since we always have those on hand. But the combo of sweet and white potatoes is super tasty! This big batch is great for veggie grain bowls later in the week as a meal prep option or great for a family weekend breakfast.

Note: The Montreal Steak Seasoning in this recipe is absolutely what makes these potatoes so delicious. So while you can replace this seasoning with other spices or your choice, know that they won’t be the same!

Let me know how you like this recipe if you try it!

What’s one of your favorite breakfast recipes?

Check out these other Nourishment resources to help you on your way to more joyful eating and a healthier lifestyle:

Want even more tips, tricks, and ideas for living well through nature, nourishment, movement and mindset? You know you do!

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4 Keys to Building Better Habits (Part 2)

Systems, Processes, Environment

Today we’re moving on to Part 2 – Focus on Systems, Processes, and Environment – of our 4 Keys to Building Better Habits series.

Whatever goal, dream, hope, New Year’s Resolution you are trying to achieve, habits are a great way to get you to success! A coach is also a great support to helping you achieve the success, the happiness, the joyful, optimized living you are seeking 😊

If you Haven’t read Part 1 of the series go and read it now to find out why focusing on long-term sustainability is 1 of the keys to building better habits.

Before we dive in, the 4 Keys to Building Better Habits are:

  1. Focus on Long-Term Sustainability, not short-term gain/instant gratification
  2. Focus on Systems, Processes, and Environment, not outcomes or results
  3. Focus on who you want to become
  4. Focus on getting clear around your goals and just start!

Parts 3 & 4 Coming Soon!

Focus on systems, processes, and environment, not outcomes or results

Why is building our environment for success so important? Because willpower only works in the short-term. If we have a system/process/environment in place we will not have to rely on willpower.

Geometric shot of building in MSU campus.

Another important reason setting our environment up to work for us, not against us – we may not always be aware of when a cue is triggering a habit. For example – if you are packing your food for the day and the chips/crackers are on top of the fridge but the carrots are inside the fridge out of sight – you are more likely to reach for the chips/crackers because they are an obvious cue. But if you put the chips/crackers in a cupboard and your first step is to look inside the fridge and see the carrots instead, you are more likely to grab the carrots. We must set ourselves up for success.

Taking this “eat more veggies” example further….or further back if you will. If you never (or less frequently) brought the chips/crackers in the house you would be controlling the inputs even more. So that the output you are seeking – eating more vegetables – becomes even easier. With no “negative” input available, and only carrots or “positive” inputs available, you are more likely to get the positive outcome/result you are trying to create. (Quotes around “positive” and “negative” – as we need to take care when describing foods and food habits as good/bad, positive/negative – this is rarely an all or nothing issue – so much gray area around “eating well.”)

Ideally, we would create environments (home, work, etc) for ourselves that have minimal “problems” so that our habits are developed for improvement or optimization rather than cleaning up or fixing larger issues. Of course, this isn’t always the case, but no matter where you are starting from, creating habits from your environment/systems/processes can help get you where you want to be.

We must take back control of and be the architects of our own lives – we must focus on systems not goals, and processes not outcomes. If we fix the inputs in our lives, in our environments – the outputs, the outcomes/results, will fix themselves. Author James Clear says in his book Atomic Habits, “We do not rise to the level of our goals, we fall to the level of our systems.” Goals and aspirations are important as a starting point, but we must have the systems, processes, habits in place to support them.

What goals, dreams, hopes, results/outcomes are you working to achieve currently? Do you need help setting up your environment for success? Setting up your processes and systems to support you on your journey? Contact me today so we can work together to make it happen for you!

For more ideas on developing habits, optimizing your life, and living more joyfully, check these out:

Want even more tips, tricks, and ideas for living well through nature, nourishment, movement and mindset? You know you do!

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4 Keys to Building Better Habits (Part 1)

So you didn’t take my advice and made a New Year’s resolution anyway

But you know what? That’s okay.

Because if you did in fact make a New Year’s resolution, something that will be useful in helping you keep that resolution are some good habits. Because remember: willpower may only help you get started – it’s a finite resource. Usually what we need is to design our environment, our life, in a way that we set ourselves up for success so we do not have to rely on willpower, self-discipline, or avoiding temptation because these tactics rarely work in the long-term.

One of the better books I read in 2020 was Atomic Habits by James Clear. The 4 Keys to Building Better Habits that I gleaned from that book are:

1.           Focus on long-term sustainability, not short-term gratification

2.           Focus on systems, processes, and environment, not outcomes or results

3.           Focus on who you want to become

4.           Focus on getting clear around your goals and just start!

This post will focus on #1 – Long-term sustainability, with 2, 3, and 4 coming soon. But before we dive in, let’s set a baseline for what habits are, how behavior plays into habit building, and the psychological cycle of habits.

So, what is a habit? A habit is a routine or practice performed regularly; an automatic response to a specific situation.

How does behavior – defined here as: outcome over time – align with habits? Our habits make up our behaviors, that is to say our behaviors are the result of our habits. Our outcomes (our results) over time are the result of our routines, our practices, our automatic responses to situations.

What is the psychological cycle of a habit? According to Clear, there are 4 Laws/Rules of Behavior Change, which I like to think of as the steps in the psychological cycle of habits. They are:

1)           Make it obvious – these are the cues/prompts to an action (available/visible)

2)           Make it attractive – utilize minimal energy/resources to take the action

3)           Make it easy – the action should be convenient, with minimal friction

4)           Make it satisfying – the action should be rewarding, not neutral

If you’re interested in practical ways to incorporate these in your life with whatever habit you are looking to create – let’s talk!

For now, let’s dig into the first key to Building Better Habits:

Focus on Long-Term Sustainability, not short-term gratification

Why is it so hard to build a good habit? We’re talking about a positive habit, doing something, adding a behavior; not not doing something, not taking a behavior away.

The problem lies in the immediate outcome of adding a positive behavior/habit being unfavorable, but the long-term outcome being favorable. Take eating more vegetables for instance. If you plan to eat a vegetable at every meal or snack, the immediate benefit (other than vegetables are delicious!) is fairly unapparent, but the long-term benefit of better health (in many ways) is the true benefit.

1 way to implement a habit like this – let’s continue with eating more vegetables example – is to think of it as a 1% improvement adding up to huge gains. Eating more vegetables at every meal might not be sustainable but what about starting with eating vegetables in at least 1 snack per day? Then adding on from there? Over a year, you would be eating SO MANY vegetables! These small changes are much more sustainable than a complete overhaul of your diet (here, simply your way of eating, not a restrictive program) or your life.

Remember that massive success comes from taking massive action, but that massive action comes from taking consistent action over time, not a once in a lifetime transformation

All good things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision – like deciding to eat vegetables for your next snack (and then the next day, and so on). But as the decision is repeated, a habit sprouts and grows stronger. Roots entrench themselves and branches grow. Often the thing that will make the best/biggest impact are the smallest things and we might not see that impact for a while. I know patience is hard for many of us (me included!) especially when we cannot immediately see the fruits of our actions. But…you have to be willing to play the long-game.

On the flip side, why is it so easy to build a bad habit? The answer lies in exactly what you might think – instant gratification. The immediate outcome of a bad habit is usually favorable, but remember that the long-term outcome is usually unfavorable. Many examples here – drinking alcohol, eating candy, smoking, watching TV instead of working out/working/reading/etc. And countless other examples…

But in the short-term in the here and now, what’s a simple way to start to build a good habit? The answer? Habit stacking.

Geometric shot of building in MSU campus.

Let’s take the eating more vegetables example again:

Say you pick up your phone at 10 am or 2pm on your morning/afternoon break from work. This is also the time you might want a snack. What if, when you pick up your phone you also eat vegetables. Phone = vegetables. (Now of course you have to back up to actually packing/prepping vegetables to eat in the first place – but again, a coach can help you identify/implement all these steps). Eventually you will get to a point where if you pick up your phone and are not eating vegetables you’ll wonder why 😉 (careful with this one as the reverse could take hold – we don’t want to be eating vegetables and think we always need to be on our phone…but that’s a discussion for a different day)

If you want help – and remember it’s okay, even great! to ask for help! – please reach out so we can work together to set up your systems/processes/environments to get you to be the person you want to be and achieve whatever hopes/dream/goals you have set for yourself!

Check out these other blog posts for thoughts on establishing new habits, living well and optimizing your life:

Want even more tips, tricks, and ideas for living well through nature, nourishment, movement and mindset? You know you do!

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