Archive for ‘Motivation’

June 19, 2018

Notice What Feels Good to Improve the Feeling in Your Gut

When you’re in distress, it’s hard to notice what feels good. If your head hurts, it draws your attention. If your tummy hurts, it draws your attention. If you suffer a loss, the resulting sadness, emptiness and fear draw your attention. When four or five difficult things happen during a short period of time, the feeling in your gut may be so stressful it can become increasingly difficult to notice what feels good.

I suppose it’s the same phenomenon as the squeaky wheel. If some part of us is screaming for attention, that’s where our energy goes. Unfortunately, over a long period of time this shift in focus can become a habit. When the focus on distress becomes intolerable, we tend to do anything we can to avoid feeling it. We often numb ourselves with work, shopping, sex, exercise, binge-watching, gaming, alcohol, or drugs.

Is there a way to feel the good in the midst of hardship?

You’ll find a lot of things written about practicing gratitude. I’ve written some myself. You’ll find a lot of information about being present in the moment. You’ll find resources on showing up authentically and practicing vulnerability. You’ll hear psychological professionals toss around the term self-care. You’ll hear religious leaders espouse prayer. Yeah, yeah, yeah. There is merit to all of these practices, but if you’re white-knuckling yourself into doing them, you may need to go backward to go forward.

Over the past few years as I’ve become able to sit still, able to practice yoga, able to know that intellectual insight will follow trusting my body’s signals, I have become increasingly aware that ease, comfort, stability, and balance are often present when I slow down and shift my focus.

After noticing a feeling of tension in my back, I may notice a feeling of ease in my right abdomen. If I hold onto that feeling of ease, I may feel my back relax. When I feel anger or agitation begin to bubble up, I may notice that synchronizing my movement and breathing causes the tension to quickly dissipate. Remembering that when some part of my body is working, another part is at ease allows me to shift my focus to notice ease more often.

It is this noticing of physical ease and comfort that helps me unknot the discomfort in other parts of my body. The unknotting of my mind always follows. Yes, always. The shift is often tiny. The key is making the space to notice. It is in the noticing that I reconnect with my body. It is in the noticing that I reconnect with real emotions. It is through breathing that I build resilience, confidence, and safety.

Notice that the only connection here is with myself? Notice there is no analysis required? Notice that I don’t try to figure anything out? Notice that I am not forcing myself to do anything? I can simply breathe and notice. Breathe and notice. Breathe and notice.

I have gone back to absolute basics. It sounds so simple. It is and it isn’t. If you’re like me and surrender feels like giving up, it’s one of the hardest concepts in the world! It has literally taken me years to even begin to surrender and I am still a beginner.

If you stabilize your world through control, hold your breath, or muscle through difficult situations, this post may seem like the most ludicrous thing you’ve ever read. When you reach the point that all of that muscling through leaves you with anxiety and constant panic, come back. Read it again.

The bottom line is, yes there is a way to feel good during hardship. It comes from what some would call receiving. That term confuses me, so I’ll call it noticing — noticing breath, ease, comfort, accomplishment, a feeling of solidness your legs provide, a feeling of strength, a feeling of contribution, a feeling of connection, a feeling of competence, a feeling of possibility, and a feeling of power.

When you’re noticing those things, you are not noticing a feeling of tension, a feeling of heaviness, a feeling of pain, a feeling of sadness, a feeling of loss, a feeling of fatigue, a feeling of panic, a feeling of overwhelm, a feeling of anger, a feeling of powerlessness, a feeling of helplessness, a feeling of loneliness, a feeling of worthlessness, a feeling of doom, a feeling of bracing for the next shoe to drop, etc.

You are not wrong for feeling any of these things, but in an odd way, noticing the opposites will allow you to stop avoiding, fighting, numbing, or trying to move away from “negative” feelings (feelings are feelings and all are okay). All feelings can then move freely instead of remaining stuck in our physiology and psyche.

How all of this works is understudied, but we are learning that yoga practiced specifically to reconnect trauma patients with their bodies affects change in their brain scans. We are also learning that gut neurons communicate with the insula in the brain — the area believed to control compassion and empathy, perception, motor control, self-awareness, cognitive functioning, and interpersonal experience.

Body, brain, emotions, and perception share a complex relationship. We can’t necessarily think or talk our way through an emotional problem, set good boundaries, or move on from trauma without reconnecting with our bodies. When we reconnect, our gut flora may affect our perceptions.

The easiest path I know to feeling better is to start with basics – eat a variety of as fresh as possible food with minimal sweets, stay hydrated, sleep at least 8 hours per night, incorporate yoga for trauma and/or guided meditation into your exercise plan, and strengthen your boundaries.

Then…
Notice the feeling of being nourished by your food. Time your eating so that you never feel distressed by hunger.
Notice how you feel when you awake rested and how you feel the first moment you become tired. Do not push past your tired feeling. Take a nap or go to bed.
Choose yoga that emphasizes your control over the process, moves slowly, and has an instructor with a soothing manner and voice.
Practice giving yourself permission to prioritize yourself. Notice how that feels.
Use a physical boundary to help yourself visualize your limits. Verbalize your boundaries when needed.
Notice a feeling of ease each time you notice a feeling of tension.
Notice how you feel when you make a decision that’s unlike previous decisions in similar situations. If you feel peaceful, calm, relieved, energized, freer, happy, joyful, or even neutral

With these simple steps, you may be surprised how quickly you begin to automatically notice what feels good! That can have a very positive effect on the feeling in your gut!

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/gut-second-brain/

http://besselvanderkolk.net/the-body-keeps-the-score.html

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/yoga-perfect-home-workout/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/gratitude-is-my-best-defense/

June 4, 2018

Make Sure You Get Your Share of Prune

When you’re in New York City, make sure you get your share of Prune! When I was reviewing this year’s James Beard Award winners and saw Gabrielle Hamilton’s name, I was reminded of my first visit to Prune.
prune
It was 2003 or 4. My boys and I were traveling together. It was their first time in New York City. We had a memorable limo ride from the airport to the Algonquin Hotel. Our driver was a boxer who had sparred with Mike Tyson, swore his father had illegally entered the US in the wheel well of an airplane…twice, and asked the stranger with whom we shared a ride whether she liked threesomes. There were a couple of moments that I questioned my judgement during that ride, but ultimately it was one of the highlights of the trip.

Another highlight came a couple of days later at dinner. I don’t remember exactly where I heard or read about Prune. It seems like some publication had listed it as “the place to be seen” a few months before our trip. Nonetheless, I became aware that a reservation was very hard to get.

The boys and I decided to make ours in person. We walked miles and miles down through Greenwich Village to Battery Park, up and over to Little Italy and Chinatown experiencing the city, then on to 1st Street and 1st Avenue to secure a seat for dinner. Ben was tired. He hit the subway headed for the hotel to take a nap.

James & I continued exploring the city. We arrived at Prune on time. They agreed to seat us at a table by the large front windows where we could enjoy the night air even though Ben wasn’t there yet. The menu at the time included sardines & crackers and overcooked southern vegetables.

While we were perusing it and discussing our options, the landline phone rang (remember those?). Someone behind the bar said, “Cheri?”. I looked back and raised my hand. “You have a phone call.” This was unexpected! I made my way to the bar.

On the phone was Ben. He had gotten off the subway, turned the wrong way, and walked away from the hotel hours earlier. He had finally arrived at our room and realized it was almost time to meet us. There was no way he’d make it. He wanted to know if we could bring him something to eat later. I agreed feeling bad that he was missing dinner with us and amused at his lack of navigational ability. He and his brother are exact opposites in this area.

James & I focused on choosing our food and absorbing the atmosphere. Prune is small. It brings an odd tension between high end and intimate cushioned by a sense of humor and ease. It thinks too much of itself to be a hole-in-the-wall, but not so much that it won’t serve sardines & crackers or fetch a customer to the phone as if all customers get phone calls. It’s the sort of place I love.

Looking at the current menus, the dish descriptions read a bit fancier. I don’t know if the food itself has changed; it has always been simple and upscale (another dichotomy that’s not often done this well). The overcooked southern vegetables I chose from the menu all those years ago may have sounded like the description of typical soul food, but lacked a good 20 minutes of cooking to reach the texture I grew up with in the South.

Over time, I’m sure the restaurant has evolved as all businesses do. Owner and chef Gabrielle Hamilton has written a book, won at least 3 James Beard Awards including Outstanding Chef this year, and is writing a second book all while writing a weekly column for the New York Times magazine and running her restaurant. As her experience has grown, I’m sure it has been reflected in the restaurant. That’s what keeps a small business vibrant.

And vibrant Prune still seems to be. When you visit, expect to sit close to your neighbors. When James and I were dining, the table arrangement was so snug our waiter stepped out the front window onto the sidewalk and then back in to serve the table next to us. There simply wasn’t room to walk between them. That step out the window wasn’t awkward. It seemed perfectly natural and added to the charm of the whole experience.

Some people just draw you in. Some places do the same. These are the people and spaces in which you just may find inspiration. Prune could be one of those places. When you travel to NYC, make sure you get your share of Prune!

prunerestaurant.com

https://www.jamesbeard.org/blog/the-2018-james-beard-award-winners

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/19/dining/prune-review.html

http://www.algonquinhotel.com/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/?s=restaurant

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

March 13, 2018

Time Is On Your Side

jellyThere’s no need for pressure in the kitchen; time is on your side. If you’re a fan of TV cooking shows, it may seem like cooking is a timed event. That may be true in reality TV, but it is not reality. In fact, taking your time in the kitchen can bring added benefits!

Of course, it makes sense that TV shows time challenges to build tension that will keep you watching through the breaks, but that might not seem so normal if we hadn’t gradually filled our days with more and more activity and more and more distractions to the point that hurrying has become a way of life. If we begin to think of cooking as a challenge to be conquered in a certain amount of time, we may end up with good-tasting food, but we’ll miss the joy of the process.
tomatoes
My grandmother worked, gardened, canned, and cooked. When she made tomato juice, it was no 30 minute process! In fact, it stretched over months. She planted tomato seeds, tended the garden, harvested the tomatoes, cooked them down, pressed them through a cheesecloth lined chinois using a wooden pestle into sterilized jars, then topped the jars and placed them in a pressure canner for about 25 minutes. Whatever time she spent was worth it! It was the most delicious tomato juice I’ve ever tasted and it only contained tomatoes and salt.

You don’t have to begin with seeds to make delicious food. I only relate the story to help put things in perspective. My grandmother thought nothing of spending an entire day in the kitchen canning tomato juice. There was no hurry to her process.

Viewing meal preparation as a hurry-up-and-get-it-over-with experience adds pressure and robs us of the chance to:

Explore

Taking time to scout for unique ingredients can lead you to ethnic grocery stores, pick-your-own farms, urban gardens, farmer’s markets or produce stands along the highway. Picking strawberries, choosing blue crabs, or tasting churros at an unfamiliar mercado can be a great way to explore your area and spend time together as a family.
blue crabs
Experiment

If you’re trying to get out of the kitchen quickly, you’re unlikely to try something new. Experiments are, by nature, less predictable in time and result than dishes you’ve prepared many times. But eating the same thing over and over gets tiring. Why not make cherry upside down brownies? Why not slow roast a pork butt for the neighborhood barbecue? Why not cook the greens from the tops of radishes and beets? Why not try making croissants?

Teach

There are tons of lessons to be learned in the kitchen. If you’re hurrying through meal prep, you’ll have no time to teach those lessons. Not only will your kids miss out on learning, they’ll miss valuable memories of spending time with you while surrounded by warmth and the aroma of bread baking.

Dance

Kitchen prep time is great for dancing along to your favorite tunes or having a family sing-a-long. Think of it as multitasking in the best sense of the word.

Savor

It’s impossible to be fully present in the moment when you’re rushing around. If you slow down enough to smell each ingredient, notice its texture, carve it carefully, or roll it evenly, you’ll have a chance to savor each tactile delight.

I love being in the kitchen. I know it makes me feel better, and yet sometimes I fight cooking. I wait too long to start and get too hungry. I fail to inventory my pantry for ingredients, lack something essential, and refuse to substitute. I wait too long to cook some meat and it’s spoiled when I open it. While this doesn’t make me proud, I just have to let it go.

I know the value of being in the kitchen and I am usually mindful enough to enjoy the experience when I’m there. Lots of new recipes and delicious food have resulted from my less than perfect kitchen attendance. I’m going to let that be good enough. From this point, I plan to take my time and savor more and more joy during my kitchen time.

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/the-benefits-of-cooking-part-3-the-lessons/

January 4, 2018

Forget Resolutions – Answer the Big Questions

As this year begins, forget resolutions! Until you answer the big questions, it’s pointless to make them anyway.

Is there really much chance you’re going to hit the gym an hour a day for a whole year if you haven’t explored why you’ve purchased 3 yearlong gym memberships before and worked out a total of 3 times?

Will you be able to achieve your goal of reducing clutter if you don’t know why you buy more clothes, but don’t remove anything from your closet?

Is it realistic to set a goal to prepare most meals from scratch if you don’t know whether you believe that anticipated long-term health gains are more important than the convenience that gets you through today?

We’ve talked before about setting up a life structure to support change, but that’s really starting in the middle. Before you set up that structure, you need to know yourself and be clear on your values.

Most of us believe we have a clear view of ourselves, but I can tell you from interviewing many employees and then subsequently observing their job performance, we are either terrible self-assessors or willing to be incredibly dishonest to get a job. If we’re not good at self-assessing, we’re not being honest with ourselves.

I have only a passing knowledge of Brené Brown’s research into shame and vulnerability, but it seems logical that feelings of shame regarding our perceived inadequacies or the vulnerability of being unemployed contribute to our construction of a story that doesn’t match other people’s perception of us over time. While this may feel necessary for landing a job, or our social mask may feel necessary for navigating public interactions, it is important for us to connect to our true selves. If we don’t, we simply can’t construct a life that will benefit us.

Think of it this way, if you build a house with standard height doors, it won’t comfortably fit LeBron James or Kevin Durant. If you love to sleep late and work at night, a 7am – 3pm job does not fit you as well as an 11pm – 7am job. If you value routine, outside sales will make you crazy. It doesn’t matter that your earning potential is increased because the job is not a good fit! On the other hand, if you love flexibility outside sales will let you blossom.

Asking the big questions helps to identify our strengths, obstacles, and things that bring us joy. Answering the big questions with courage solidifies our values. With the resulting clarity, we can construct a life framework that supports us becoming our best, healthiest, most joyful selves, even if our new plan is 180º from where we’ve been headed.

Is it seriously possible to go from an inability to keep a single resolution to a 180º turnaround? I believe it is. I’m not saying the path will be straightforward – your particular trail may never have been blazed before. I never expect a journey that has a straight up trajectory, or is without failure. Forward progress most often requires a foundation of commitment, diligence, learning from mistakes, and holding yourself accountable.
question
What does a big question sound like if I should want to ask one?

Big questions are things like:

1)What are my greatest inherent strengths?

2)What are my greatest learned skills?

3)What are my greatest weaknesses?

4)What am I most lacking right now?

5)Can I sit still in total quiet without distractions or company and feel calm and comfortable?

6)What do I have in great abundance?

7)What do I have that I can live without?

8)Am I invested and engaged in my family, my job, and my community?

9)Am I able to feel my real feelings in the moment?

10)What do I do to avoid my feelings?

11)Do I embrace my emotions, both positive and negative, and lean in?

12)Can I look myself in the eye in the mirror and sincerely utter the words, “I love you?”

13)What is the worst thing I’ve ever done? Have I forgiven myself for that?

14)If I have not yet forgiven myself for my worst action, can I do it now?

15)Do I have good boundaries?

16)Do I contribute more often to peace or to conflict in my relationships?

17)Am I more likely to display compassion or judgement?

18)Do I take responsibility for my contribution to family or work conflict?

19)How do I behave when I’m my best self and during what percentage of each day am I my behaving that way?

20)Am I willing to practice gratitude, bravery, health, fitness, kindness, thoughtfulness, and generosity?

21)Am I reliable? Can others regularly count on me?

22)What kind of friend am I to myself? Do I take care of myself as well as I do my husband, wife, children, friends, coworkers, or clients?

23)What inspires me?

24)What motivates me?

25)If there were no obstacles, what would a perfect week look like?

26)What steps can I take today that will move me toward that perfect week?

27)If there is no way to change my current circumstances, will I be okay and can I learn to thrive?

28)How much time am I willing to commit each day to improving my physical health and fitness?

29)How much time am I willing to commit each day to strengthening my emotional & spiritual health?

30)What percentage of the time do I say no when I should say no?

31)What do I believe is the biggest obstacle standing between me and my #1 goal?

32)Do I have the courage to sit with my fear?

33)What one thing can I do each day that will add joy, laughter or connection to my life?

34)What do I believe I deserve in life?

35)Am I aware of the effect my choices have on those around me?

36)What one kindness can I offer someone else today?

The answers to big questions often reveal themselves in stages of realization slowly over a period of time as we gain insight. Many of us have had our relationships to ourselves interrupted in a manner that leaves us feeling alone, helpless, weak, undeserving, defective, or numb. When this is true, it can be a monumental task to reconnect with our emotions. If you have difficulty seeing yourself as lovable, deserving of good things, or feel a need to avoid all emotions, Somatic Experiencing® may be a good place to start.

Somatic Experiencing® Therapy allowed me to reconnect with my body so that I could relax the defenses that prevented me from feeling. Developed by Dr. Peter A. Levine, SE can easily be practiced with or without the assistance of a practitioner. Using SE tools still helps me trust my body to support me while I free my mind to know what I know and my heart to feel what it feels. That puts me in a much better position to answer big questions in a manner that is consistent with supporting my best self.

If you’re already feeling concerned that you may not keep your resolutions this year, forget them and try answering some big questions! After all, there’s no danger in trying something different and the knowledge you gain about yourself can give you insight into a better strategy for sustaining positive change.

Take your time, you’ve got all year! Let’s just call this a rebuilding year.

https://brenebrown.com/

http://somaticexperiencing.com/