Move Your Body to Improve Your Mind

5 Ways Movement Helps Your Mind

Why Movement is Great for Your Mental & Emotional Health

If “exercising more” is one of your New Year’s resolutions, well you’re in luck because it just so happens that exercise is really good for us! (Ha! Of course we know this – note the sarcasm 😉) But not only is it good for our bodies but it’s also good for our brains and mental/emotional wellbeing. So, if on your list of to-dos for 2021 is to move your body more, here is some extra motivation in the form of “The Psychological Benefits of Exercise.” Let’s nerd out together to find out how exercise can help our minds!

5 ways exercise/movement/physical activity can help our mental and emotional wellbeing:

  • Improved Mood
  • Decreased Stress & Reduced Reactivity
  • Increased Self-Esteem & Improved Body Image
  • Improved Memory & Cognitive Function
  • Decreased Anxiety & Depression

Click here for the quick and dirty (infographic) version – – – keep scrolling for a deeper dive into each benefit:

Let’s dive in to each of these benefits:

Improved Mood
  • What do we mean when we talk about “mood?” It is important to define mood versus emotion here before we dive into how it can be improved through exercise.
    • Mood is tricky as it’s a slightly less defined concept than emotion. Emotions are shorter, more intense, usually a response to certain stimuli. While mood is how you “feel”, more diffuse (less specific), longer lasting, often has no trigger.
    • Let’s look at an example: Someone cuts you off in traffic – the emotion you feel – maybe anger – is usually directly correlated to that event/stimulus/trigger. But a “bad mood” that happens as a result of that incident could last all day. You just can’t shake that anger, feeling of upset, and it seeps into the rest of your day.
    • A couple factors that make up mood: valence and activation. Valence is whether or not the mood is positive or negative. Activation relates to energy levels – particularly whether or not energy is low or high (for example – before or after exercise).
  • So, in what specific ways does exercise improve mood?
    • Mood can be improved after just 1 single session of exercise
    • Regular exercise increases the frequency of better moods
    • After an exercise program is established, energy is increased and fatigue is reduced
    • Exercise decreases irritability, tension, anger, anxiety and depression
  • And final note on how exercise improves mood (for those looking to really nerd out on the science) – results from changes in neurobiology/neurochemistry – namely involving: endorphins, endocannabinoids, dopamine, and serotonin
Decreased Stress & Lower Reactivity
  • {Positive} Distraction from stressors
  • Promotes muscle relaxation, reduces muscle tension related to stress
  • Improves rhythmic breathing (more on breathing – techniques and importance – coming soon!)
Increased Self-Esteem & Improved Body Image
  • After regular participation in physical activity or even after 1 session or movement, self-esteem can improve as you feel a sense of accomplishment
  • Body image can improve after regular activity as you notice you are becoming stronger, have more endurance, and increase your physical skills
  • Self-esteem can also improve as the result of being in “a flow state” or “in the zone” – this is the result of just the right mix of challenge to skills of whatever activity you are participating in. If you’re interested in learning more about flow states, let me know as I have a lot more to share on this if want to know more!
Improved Memory & Cognitive Function
  • Improved sleep quality
  • Improved attention, processing speed, executive (conscious control of thoughts/feelings/action) function, memory
  • Improved heart health > better blood flow to the brain
  • Decreased anxiety and depression
  • Reduced systemic inflammation (reduced incidence of metabolic syndrome – diabetes, high blood pressure; visceral fat) > better cognitive function (especially important as we age!) & less brain fog
Decreased Anxiety & Depression
  • Any and all {types and amounts of} exercise is one of the best “treatments” for mild to moderate anxiety – so get moving and chill out 😉
  • Improved self-image
  • Improved sleep quality
  • Improved Mood
  • Lower inflammation
  • Change in neuroendocrine response to stressors
  • Change in endorphins, endocannabinoids, and neurotransmitter pathways

* For mild to moderate anxiety & depression – consult a medical/mental health care professional to treat depression with physical activity alone or in conjunction with medication or behavioral health treatment

Some things to keep in mind…

  • It’s important to manage your expectations if you’re just starting an exercise program
    • Remember that you will get what you expect to get out of it (and anything in life really)
    • Take recommendations from others about what to do and how to do it, but remember that everyone’s experience is different. What works for your best friend may not work for you.
    • Try to let go of any previous negative experiences you’ve had and approach your new activity with an open mind.
  • And watch out for possible negative effects of implementing a physical activity program:
    • Compulsive behavior patterns – Disordered eating or excessive exercise
    • Exercising even if it’s causing you harm – i.e., you are injured but continue exercising anyway to your detriment
    • Working with a coach, trainer, group, or other professional can help you avoid these effects

Now get out there (or stay in if that’s where you exercise) and move your body! On the trail, the sidewalk, the treadmill, the pool, or the gym – never stop moving!

And if you need help with “the how” of implementing for more movement in your life – let me know, I am here to help!

Don’t underestimate the power of exercise along with nutrition and quality sleep – 3 important lifestyle factors – on overall psychological health! More on nutrition & sleep coming soon!

* Note that “exercise” as it’s used here means moving your body – physical activity, movement. I know that often exercise can have a negative connotation, so we want to focus on movement that feels good, that is enjoyable – because when we focus on that type of movement we are more likely to sustain the practice (or that exercise regimen if you will). Social interaction (in “non-COVID times” maybe), time outside, incorporating music/entertainment are a couple ways to increase enjoyment of physical activity and thereby increase the likelihood you’ll sustain the practice.

Source: Psychological Benefits of Exercise, ACE Fitness webinar by Barbara Brehm Ed.D

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

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!

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

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Mindful Eating 101

Also called intuitive eating, mindful eating means finding ways to engage all of our senses when selecting what food to eat, cooking and eating with intention, and paying attention to our body’s cues around hunger and food.

Continue reading below for the ins and outs on intuitive eating.

Or for a quick and dirty version, check out the

What is mindful eating?

  • Engaging all of your senses when selecting which foods to eat and paying attention to how they look, feel, smell, and taste.
  • Creating time to choose, prepare, and cook meals with intention.
  • Paying attention to how your body responds physically to different foods.
  • Raising awareness of the cues that guide and inform when you eat and when to stop eating.

Practicing mindfulness when eating:

  • Accept there is no wrong or right way to eat, but there are different levels of awareness relating to the experience of eating food.
  • Acknowledge that everyone’s eating experiences are unique to them.
  • Develop awareness of how your own eating habits can support your overall health and well-being.
  • Understand the deep interconnectedness that exists between all living beings, cultural dynamics, and how food choices impact these connections.

Benefits of mindful eating:

  • Nourishment of the body, heart, mind and soul.
  • Identifying emotional and reactive eating patterns that lead to poor emotional health.
  • Greater awareness of your relationship with food and broader surroundings.
  • Better control and empowerment to make conscious, positive choices.

The How-Tos:

  • Start with a shopping list:
    • Before you begin shopping, write up a comprehensive shopping list.
    • Consider the following when making your list:
      • The health benefits of everything you put on the list
      • Each item’s longevity in your kitchen pantry and nourishment value
    • Don’t shop when you’re hungry (which can lead to impulse buys) and stick to your list.
  • Set yourself up for success:
    • Think about the week ahead and plan accordingly.
    • It can be easy to turn to junk foods, foods we know don’t bring us a lot of value, or no food at all when we’ve got a busy schedule and haven’t planned for our meals.
  • Register hunger and act on it:
    • Be patient and curious. Practice, practice, practice.
    • How often do you really listen to the cues your body is giving you about what it needs?
    • Commonly we think we’re hungry when it may actually be our body trying to tell us we’re thirsty.
    • Spend time getting to better understand the cues your body is giving you, and act on them appropriately.
  • Don’t wait until you’re ravenous to eat.
    • If you skip meals and wait to give your body what it needs, you’ll come to the table ravenous, which can lead to impulse eating and overeating, as you seek to fill the void of hunger rather than eating meaningfully.
    • This comes back to setting yourself up for success – always prepare for busy days and make time to eat.
  • Consider your portion size.
    • Start with a smaller portion size to:
      • Help you become more aware of the food that is actually on your plate
      • Increase your focus on what you’re eating
      • Notice how it’s meeting your hunger needs
  • Create a small ritual to accompany meal times to change how you experience your food
    • Try offering gratitude or
    • Simply arranging your cutlery and napkin in a specific way
  • Eat with all your senses engaged:
    • Turn off the television
    • Put your phone away
    • Save the book for later
    • When you’re sitting down to a meal, give it your full undivided attention.
      • Engage all your senses with each meal:
        • How does it smell?
        • What are the different textures?
        • What colors are there?
        • How does the food feel on your tongue, in your stomach?
        • Savor the first bite and enjoy each moment.
  • Take a break between bites.
    • Put your utensils down and pause as you complete your mouthful.
    • Reflect on the food left on your plate before continuing with your next bite.
    • This physically forces you to slow down and gives you the chance to check in with your body and see how your fullness levels are doing.
  • Chew slowly and pay attention.
    • Make a conscious effort to chew slower than you normally would.
      • You might be surprised by how much you taste and how much quicker you feel full.
  • Take the time to reflect.
    • Mindfulness doesn’t end with the completion of your meal.
    • Take a moment to consider how you’re feeling now that you’ve eaten.
    • Listen to your body and take note of how eating has created different sensations and emotional reactions.

Mindfulness, Values, and Weight Loss

  • Identify your own personal values and whether weight loss supports those values.
    • Is your desire for weight loss personally driven or socially driven?
  • Focus on the importance of your own personal values and attach your weight loss goals to these values.
  • Start to acknowledge your thoughts relating to food as just that – thoughts.
    • These thoughts do not necessarily need to be believed or acted upon.
  • Develop a sense of self that allows non-attachment to negative thoughts and feelings around your weight loss journey.
    • Acknowledge the thoughts, but don’t allow them to dictate how you respond physically.
  • Learn to embrace internal discomfort around your weight loss journey, rather than avoid it.
  • Accept that attempting to control feelings and physical sensations relating to hunger will not always be successful.

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?

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.”

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?

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!

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!

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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