Archive for ‘Simple Soutions’

December 31, 2018

Leave the Past Behind

It’s the last day of the year and time to leave the past behind! Aren’t most New Year’s resolutions about change? Doesn’t change mean leaving something behind? So, maybe keeping those resolutions is as simple as focusing on the past rather than the future.
past
I know that sounds counterintuitive, but paradox reigns king in the world of personal growth. Not to mention, looking toward the future seems to work for less than 10% of us so there can’t be much harm in trying something different. But how does focusing on the past help us leave it behind?

It helps us define what we’re leaving.

Let’s say my resolution is to brush my teeth the full two minutes that are recommended each and every time I brush. If I pay attention to how long that two minutes seems, I’m likely to cut it short. If I think of the gritty teeth, bleeding gums, and pain in the dentist’s office I’m leaving behind, it’s easier to stick out the full amount of time.

Many of us resolve to save money in the coming year. When you see that next cute pair of shoes you don’t need but want to buy, looking back and thinking of that sinking feeling you had last time you looked at your retirement account balance can help you remember why this resolution is important. Leaving behind that sinking feeling may just be more important than another pair of shoes adorable though they may be.

Looking back allows us to honor and appreciate those things that served us well at a previous stage of life.

If you enjoyed your job and colleagues while getting a degree, you may be hesitant to follow your resolution to look for a new job once you graduate. Your coworkers have been partners in preparing you for this next step. Allowing yourself to express appreciation for their contributions can help you realize that you are honoring their efforts by pursuing your dreams.

Perhaps you have gradually recognized that you and your fiancé are no longer a good fit, but you still love him. If you keep looking forward, it will be tempting to only see the regret you have that the relationship didn’t turn out as you had hoped. This places your attention on pain and regret rather than on gratitude and joy. Once you find a way to honor what the relationship has given you, it will be much less difficult to let it go. And you can choose to hold onto good memories.

Looking back lets us reassess.

Sometimes we have wanted something for so long, we fail to recognize that having it now would no longer improve our lives. If we got that national sales job, it would mean weeks away from our newborn son. If we purchased that huge house now that the kids are gone, we’d just have more rooms to clean. If we open a bed and breakfast, we’ll have lots of cleaning and cooking every day at a time when we’d rather play with our grandchildren. We may still be tempted to pursue all of those goals unless we look back to see how our situation and feelings have changed.

Looking back gives us an opportunity to review our attachments.

Attachment to the feeling we had when we ate our grandmother’s cookies may interfere with our resolution to limit cookie consumption. Attachment to the comfort we felt when our mother fed us mac & cheese when Dad had to work late can send us searching for unlimited pasta during lonely or disappointing times. Once we know what we’re looking for is a certain feeling, we can explore different options for generating that feeling. Perhaps the smell of cookies baking is enough. Perhaps painting, drawing, or writing provides a comforting shift.

Looking back with courage can let us see what we already know is true.

If you have resolved to treat yourself better in the New Year, you must first recognize those ways in which you are not kind to yourself. Perhaps you don’t ask for help when you need it. Perhaps you don’t make enough time for rest. Perhaps you never give yourself credit for your accomplishments. When you look back, you may spot patterns of behavior that are so deeply ingrained they feel normal.

Healing the wounds life has delivered is a valuable resolution for any new year. For those of us who grew up in chaos and dysfunction, looking back with a realistic eye can require great courage. It can be much easier to press frenetically forward in avoidance of lingering feelings than to stop, engage, and begin to process what you know on a visceral level. But going back to re-engage with your body, emotions, and spirit is the only pathway to lasting change. You cannot white knuckle a better life for yourself. Your subconscious (the part of you that knows what you refuse to see) will keep you stuck.

Focusing on the past gives us a chance to forgive ourselves, say goodbye, and allow ourselves to be different.

Hopefully you are not currently defining yourself by something that happened in your past you believe is unforgivable, the way someone else views you, or what’s being said on social media. If you are, all things can change! You can learn to forgive yourself, say goodbye to the old, and allow yourself to shift toward becoming your best self. It is never too late!
2019
Whether we make New Year’s resolutions or not, most of us think about how to improve our lives. We seek fun, excitement, security, contentment, and joy to balance the weight of our responsibilities. Taking a moment to focus on the past can be the key to leaving it behind for good. That’s a moment I’m willing to take so I’ll be ready to move joyously into the New Year.

I wish you peace, calm, inspiration, and playfulness in 2019!

https://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinkruse/2016/12/26/7-secrets-of-people-who-keep-their-new-years-resolutions/#735e7ea27098

https://www.shutterfly.com/ideas/happy-new-year-messages/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/answer-the-big-questions/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/stop-struggling-start-thriving/

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September 10, 2018

My Five Feel Good Things for the Week

We all need five feel good things for the week every week, but sometimes we need them just a little bit more. My 4-month-old granddaughter is back in CVICU after a second heart surgery. We’ve been through this before and we knew this was coming. Somehow that doesn’t make it any easier.

While I was writing this, the elderly cousin of whom I’m in charge was taken to the hospital. When stressful life events come in a large wave, it’s easy to get sucked into a place where it’s hard to feel good. In order to avoid that, I like to have Five Feel Good Things to look forward to picked out in advance. It’s part of my self-care structure.

It’s easy for people to advise self-care, but next to impossible to practice it in a difficult moment unless you have a structure in place. Think of this structure as temporary shoring to hold and support you whenever you need it. Your structure can include anything that makes you feel safe, solid, peaceful, calm, good, joyous, or happy.
raspberries
Here’s what’s lined up to make me feel good this week:

Chocolate Bliss
I absolutely love Luna & Larry’s Organic Coconut Bliss Dark Chocolate Frozen Dessert Bars! Made with coconut milk, agave syrup, cocoa, and vanilla extract, each bar is dairy free, soy free, gluten-free and has 160 calories. The texture is soft and dense. The flavor is chocolate delight.

Total Body Yoga
Yoga makes me feel relaxed, but also strong and solid. Sometimes I do yoga for knees or hips. Sometimes I do yoga for strength. Sometimes I do yoga for relaxation. This week, I want a deep stretch for the whole body.

The keys are to practice with an instructor who makes me feel calm and to practice at home. If I have to adhere to a class schedule, there’s a good chance I’ll miss out. At home, I can practice any time I have a few minutes.

I may choose Yoga with Adriene on YouTube or Wellness Through Yoga with Kanta Barrios on Amazon Prime. These two instructors are my current favorites.

Cowboy Boots
Last week I took DJ to a horse show. I wore my brown, turquoise, and red Lucchese boots. We walked and walked and walked — upstairs, downstairs, through the barns, around the arena and the whole time I was thinking how much I like walking in boots.

It’s just a bit difficult to put together several outfits per week that go with turquoise and red. As soon as my Frye Harness brown, square toe boots arrive, I plan to walk in them a lot.

Binge Watching
Binge watching is a fun way to zone out. Sometimes binge watching a show I liked in the past is just what the doctor ordered to give me perspective. Roku TV currently has all 4 seasons of Cybill. Seasons were a lot longer in the 90s, so I don’t know how far I’ll get, but I’m going to kick off my boots and carve out some time to ignore reality and enjoy Mary Ann’s banter.

Raspberries
I can eat raspberries by the fistful. I like the bright red color and the delicate flavor. They’re delicious with no embellishment and eating them makes me happy.

Just writing about these five feel good things makes me feel….well, good! And that is the point.

https://coconutbliss.com/bliss/dark-chocolate-bars

https://therokuchannel.roku.com/details/w.V1Ya7eWoy0FPrwwGW16KTV2jwvm0mGcaGbJY926aiw6l9aAl2gCJBD5qLyR/cybill-s1-e1-episode-1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLy2rYHwUqY&t=548s

http://www.kantabarriosyoga.com/

https://www.thefryecompany.com/womens/featured/shop-the-campaign/harness-12r-d-77298

https://www.tradesy.com/i/lucchese-blue-1883-red-brown-leather-western-cowboy-cowgirl-women-s-bootsbooties-size-us-6-regular-m/16447027/
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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.”

August 7, 2018

Time for Another Pantry Challenge

My pantry is a mess; it’s time for another pantry challenge. My range broke recently and you can see it in my pantry. Apparently I’ve been cooking less, but buying as if I’m going through food at the regular rate. There are so many layers of lazily stacked pasta, tuna, honey, chicken stock, strained tomatoes, and baker’s chocolate I can’t see what else is in there. My sister calls making yourself use what’s in the pantry a pantry challenge.
pantry
If I make this pantry challenge a game for my grandson DJ, maybe I can accomplish two things at the same time. At the ripe old age of two, DJ has become a picky eater. He used to love broccoli, beets, sweet potatoes, carrots, butternut squash, bananas, blackberries, steak, chicken, and bacon.

Now he only wants cheese, cheese dip, cheese quesadillas, cheese crackers, and cottage cheese. Funny thing though, he doesn’t like mac & cheese or other typical kid food for that matter. He won’t eat hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken nuggets, French fries, or mashed potatoes either.

Truthfully, he likes hummus, pretzels, applesauce, grapes, raisins, dried mango, dried figs, scrambled eggs, pancakes, and pizza. But we’d really like for him to eat more green vegetables, fresh fruit, and meat, fish, or poultry. We’d also like for him to enjoy whatever we’re eating.
stove
DJ has his own stove – a metal one that I played with in my grandmother’s attic when I was his age. DJ has also started helping me cook. He likes to add salt and pepper and stir with a whisk. Maybe if I let him choose one or two things from the pantry as the basis for a meal he can help prepare, he’ll be willing to taste a wider variety of food.

If he chooses a box of pasta and strained tomatoes from the pantry, we’ll be in good shape. I’ll make pasta with some kind of red sauce that includes meat. If he chooses tuna and green chiles, I can make a southwest tuna casserole. On the other hand, if he chooses a bottle of vinegar and a bag of caramel chips I may have to think for a very long minute.

I don’t really want to reorganize the pantry until I’ve emptied some of its contents, but I may need some rules to keep this challenge headed in a positive direction. Here’s what I’m thinking…I’ll choose 6 items, sit them on the counter and let DJ choose 2 from the preselected inventory.

Then he can help me prepare something with the two items he has chosen. As long as I pick 6 things that can be mixed and matched easily, I can use the other 4 in the same dish or an accompanying one later in the day. DJ is here two days each week. Using 6 items at a time, the excess should be gone quickly.

A quick look in the pantry reveals these possibilities…

Wednesday’s proposed selection can be mixed and matched several ways:
Egg noodles
Black beans
Chicken stock
Tuna
Green chiles
Gluten-free breadcrumbs

Next Monday’s options lean toward something Asian:
Tamari gluten-free soy sauce
Rice
Honey
Mandarin oranges
Raw cashews
Shredded coconut

The following Wednesday could lend us cornbread:
Yellow cornmeal
White cornmeal
Sweet white sorghum flour
Sugar
Shortening
Baking powder

Another Monday will garner ingredients for a hearty salad:
Quinoa
Pimentos
Dried figs
Pecans
Pumpkin seeds
Golden raisins

As I dig deeper, I’m sure to find other suitable combinations. I’ll probably let one day be dessert treats just to keep the game fun. I know I have some chocolate chips and marshmallows hanging out somewhere in the pantry. I can make gluten-free grammy crackers in advance & we can make s’mores. Maybe we’ll make solar s’mores on the back porch. It’s certainly hot enough!

In a couple of weeks I’ll have reduced the pantry contents to a more acceptable level. At that point, I’ll reorganize and get rid of anything that’s too old. Then I can resume shopping as usual.

In the meantime…game on!

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

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/