Improving your Mental Health

World Mental Health Day (10 October) is a day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma. Each October, thousands of supporters come to celebrate this program to bring attention to mental illness and its major effects on peoples’ life worldwide. The day celebrates awareness for the global community in an empathetic way, with a unifying voice, helping people feel hopeful by empowering them to take action and create lasting change.

As I reflect on this, I immediately go to my thinking, my mental health.  I realize that it all starts within me. I make it a practice to self talk in a way that is encouraging, uplifting and motivating.  I am usually optimistic, positive and happy because I do things that build me up – right thinking, proper exercise, healthy nutrition. I read and listen to articles, books, music and talks that increase my confidence, nourish me,  inspire me, strengthen and improve my overall well being (body/mind/spirit).  Yes it takes commitment of time, energy, consistence, and persistence. If it is important to you, you find a way to make it happen. However, I know that not everyone thinks they can do this alone. Know that there is help available when you need it.

The below information is from an article in Psychology Today that I believe you will find helpful.
Mental health is not just a diagnosis. It’s your overall psychological well-being – the way you feel about yourself and others and your ability to manage your feelings and deal with everyday difficulties. And while taking care of your mental health can mean seeking professional support and treatment, it also means taking steps to improve your emotional health on your own. Making these changes will pay off in all aspects of your life. It can boost your mood, build resilience, and add to your overall enjoyment of life:

9 Ways You Can Improve your Mental Health Today

  1. Tell yourself something positive.
    Research shows that how you think about yourself can have a powerful effect on how you feel. Practice using words that promote feelings of self-worth and personal power.
  2. Write down something you are grateful for.
    Gratitude has been clearly linked with improved well-being and mental health, as well as happiness. The best-researched method to increase feelings of gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal or write a daily gratitude list. Find something to be grateful for, let it fill your heart, and bask in that feeling.
  3. Focus on one thing (in the moment).
    Being mindful of the present moment allows us to let go of negative or difficult emotions from past experiences that weigh us down.  When your mind wanders, just bring it back to what you are doing.
  4. Exercise.
    Your body releases stress-relieving and mood-boosting endorphins before and after you work out, which is why exercise is a powerful antidote to stress, anxiety, and depression. To get the most benefit, aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise daily, and try to do it outdoors. Time in nature is a proven stress reducer.
  5. Eat a good meal.
    What you eat nourishes your whole body, including your brain. Carbohydrates (in moderation) increase serotonin, which has a calming effect on your mood. Protein-rich foods increase norepinephrine, dopamine, and tyrosine, which help keep you alert. Vegetables and fruits are loaded with nutrients that feed every cell. Include foods with Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (found in fish, nuts, and flaxseed.) Research shows that these nutrients can improve mood and restore structural integrity to the brain cells.
  6. Open up to someone.
    Knowing you are valued by others is important for helping you think more positively. Plus, being more trusting increases your emotional well-being. As you learn about the positive aspects in other people, you become better at recognizing your own. 
  7. Do something for someone else.
    Research shows that being helpful to others has a beneficial effect on how you feel about yourself. Being helpful and kind—and valued for what you do—is a great way to build self-esteem.
  8. Take a break.
    In those moments when it all seems like too much, step away. Sometimes the best thing to do is a simple breathing exercise: Close your eyes and take 10 deep breaths. For each one, count to four as you inhale, hold it for a count of four, and then exhale for another four. This works wonders almost immediately.
  9. Go to bed on time.
    Research has shown that sleep deprivation has a significant negative effect on your mood. Try to go to bed at a regular time each day, and practice good habits to get better sleep. These include shutting down screens for at least an hour before bed, using your bed only for sleep or relaxing activities, and restricting caffeinated drinks for the morning.

Start today.
You have the power to take positive steps right now to improve your resilience and emotional health. Don’t wait until you’re in a crisis to make your mental health a priority. It is easier to form new habits when you are feeling strong. You can then implement those habits when you need them most. Pick something from this article that resonates with you and try it. Then, try something else. Slowly putting in place routines, habits, and regular patterns will help you feel better through gradual change.

To your Improved Mental Health and Well Being!

With Light and Love,
Karen

 

Storytelling

We are all storytellers.  We share our thoughts, our experiences, our vision, our feelings not only with ourselves, but with others.
Do you enjoy listening to your stories? Do others?
Are your stories uplifting?
Do you and others feel good after your sharing?

Our written as well as our verbal words have an incredible impact on us. How many times do you read or hear something and you just smile!  How many times do you read or hear something and you are brought to tears! Our emotions are moved by the words we use and the pictures we create.  Storytelling helps us and others understand. Others are more likely to remember a great story that moved them than just a bulleted, non emotional, even though informative, presentation.

Having been in business for so many years, I used to pride myself on being clear and concise in my presentations.  I was specific with just enough details.  I loved a one pager!!!!! (We may have had to use a magnifying glass to read through everything, but to get all the information on one page was the ultimate!).

However I have come to realize that in order to rally others around my vision, I needed to elaborate more.  Make the presentation more relatable. I then learned the art and importance of storytelling. I tapped into my personal experiences as well as those from current events, news, books, music, movies, insights, travel and more. I took my audience on a journey through storytelling. They could visualize it, feel it, and sometimes taste it.  Establishing an emotional connection through storytelling made all the difference. It allows others to open their hearts and their minds and become more receptive to new ideas, thoughts, proposals.

We are social beings.  We need engagement with others. Of course, we all like to be alone at times.  Being quiet and going within and listening helps us remain calm and balanced. It allows us to hear our innermost thoughts and provides intuition the space to speak to us. However connecting with others is key to a rich and rewarding life. How are you connecting with others? What stories are you telling? Are you more of a one word response speaker or are you really sharing?

We have the choice of how we communicate and how we tell our stories. We can rewrite the script at any time.  Erase what is not serving you or others.

This is our life and our story.
Make it meaningful, make it important, make it the way you want it to be.

With Light and Love and Inspiring Storytelling!
Karen

 

What’s the Conversation?

We have a choice every time we talk to ourselves and to others.  Will we be loving, kind, understanding and inspiring? Or will we be angry, rude, indifferent, and judgmental?

I choose Loving, Kind, Understanding and Inspiring!  I have noticed through the years though, that since so much conversation is done via the internet (emails, twitter, facebook, etc), people have the tendency to be more critical and harsh in their use of words. I guess they feel safe since it is not a face to face interaction, that the behaviour is okay.  However not in my world!

I intentionally watch how I say things to myself and then to others.  Do I always get it right? No!  I could be juggling more than one project, I can be laser focused on something else and not really paying attention. It happens.  However it is important to realize when that happens and what triggered it.

We all interpret things differently based on our experiences, our age, our gender, our backgrounds.  Being open and receptive to hear what others are saying is key to better understanding and finding common ground. It starts with the words and inflections we use. 

I start my day, even before I get out of bed, with my daily affirmations and gratefulness to be alive and well. I do not take my health lightly having overcome cancer 14.7 years ago.  I give thanks for those that have helped me, supported me, encouraged me, and continued to love me.  I especially give thanks for my husband and love of my life for our almost 38 years together. I set the tone for my day and realize I have the power to impact it.  My conversation with myself lifts me and motivates me to begin a new day.  I then roll out of bed, do my yoga malasana deep squat stretch, put music on, open the shades and stare out to the world.  On clear days (and when the sun is up), the ocean is beautifully glistening and welcoming me. I feel so appreciative that I get to start the day this way. I then head downstairs where my husband has turned on the coffee and the music. Our day begins!

Our conversations set the tone for the day to unfold.  We are thankful that we can choose our projects and set our pace.  Not everyone can.  We realize that.  We think back to all those years of commuting to the office, being in rush hour traffic, running when it was still dark in the morning in order to get our exercise in, getting home when it was dark at night, feeling at times stressed and overwhelmed, rushing to catch planes, lugging suitcases and briefcases, being away on business trips and sleeping not as much as needed.  Reflecting back we did what we had to do in order to be here now.  The conversations we had with ourselves and with others impacted everything. One phrase I used a lot ( and still do sometimes) was from the children’s book “The Little Engine that Could”. “I think I can”, became “I thought I could,” to finally “Yes I can!”. 

So, What is the Conversation you are having?  

With Light and Love and Healthy Conversations,
Karen

Recharging one’s Battery

Why do we take better care of our digital devices than we do ourselves? If a digital device shows a low battery reading, we recharge it, knowing it will stop working if we ignore it. It is the same with us. We need to be self-aware enough that if our Energy dips, stop and recharge. If we don’t catch it, or ignore it, the UNIVERSAL LIFE FORCE is going to put us into a recharge mode. 

Let us learn whatever lessons we need to learn without being forced into a recharge mode. 

My husband sent me the above insight while we were on a mini get away in British Columbia.  Whistler was incredibly beautiful, majestic mountains, soaring trees, flowers, lakes, and beautiful vistas for miles.  However, it was also rainy, cold, damp and cloudy.  That did not stop us from exploring!  Go Go Go we did! Bundled up in hiking and rain gear, we ventured out every day. I did not though, expect what happened.  After a few days out in the elements, I could not get warm.  My body felt achy and chilled.  I actually stayed in bed last Friday and slept the  entire day!  So glad I had Tiger Balm ointment in my travel bag!!!!
It has taken about a week to feel like myself again.  Once we returned home, I could not wait to run along the ocean’s edge, basking in the warmth of the sun. I sat on a bench to feel the warmth penetrate my body. So good. True, I had to pace myself and could not just resume where I had left off.  (Maybe I would have earlier on, but I have realized that I needed to ease back into my exercise routines. 6 miles yes, but with intermittent breaks.

I was upset with myself for not noticing the signs of feeling a bit run down. Early morning flights, long drives, meals at different times, exercise routines disrupted, and then the weather! However I realize I am a sensitive person, and my shield was down.  I wanted to experience all that BC offered.  Hiking and taking long walks exploring every day, indulging in a few too many morning muffins that were oh so good!  Great seafood, fresh locally grown produce.  I loved it all.  My body not so much!!! Especially the carbs and sugar. Lesson learned!!! Do what you know works for you.  For me that is mostly plant based meals, home cooking, vegetables both raw and steamed, and plenty of fresh fruit.  For protein, I enjoy fish and nuts.  And be mindful when you are enjoying foods usually not consumed, being out in inclimate weather, or not keeping your routines, sleep patterns and taking time to just BE.  Remember, moderation is key. And finding Balance. I remember one morning in BC, I asked the server for a custom smoothie with kale, spinach, blueberries, nut butter and avocados- Heaven! My mind and body thanked me.

Here’s to your taking the time to Recharge your Battery!
With Light and Love and a spare battery,
Karen

 

 

New Adventures

I love to travel!  Ever since I was a young girl I always dreamed of traveling the world. I remember helping my sister with a school project about Peru and pasting cotton balls on the llama.  That was the beginning.  I became intrigued with traveling to new places to immerse myself in the culture, history, food, music, art, architecture and the natural beauty around.

And travel I have.  When I met my husband, we shared a love of adventure and travel. And here we are, still seeking adventure in new places after almost 38 years together.
We have traveled to 6/7 Continents, 6/7 Wonders of the World, 44 countries.  The gypsy in me tends to seek out more off the radar places and I could easily go for a month!  In fact it had been a desire of mine to ideally work 3 months/take a month off/repeat.  Although that has not materialized yet, we have enjoyed 1 week, 2 week and 3 week holidays near and far. Instead of dealing with laundry, at times we have been known to take well worn clothes and running shoes with us and then donate or toss.

Planning a trip is also a fun project for me.  We have done small group tours (like bicycling trips with Backroads, and other companies). However we prefer independent travel with some of the transportation and daily excursions pre-arranged.  Then it is Charles and I exploring, getting lost, having the map upside down!, finding out of the way treasures, participating in funerals, weddings, all kinds of celebrations.  Great experiences and great memories.

For me, travel is an education.  It helps me remain non-judgmental, open to new things, more flexible, more adaptable, more receptive.  I feel that everyone can benefit from traveling.  And it doesn’t have to be far away.  Look at all the different neighborhoods around where you live.  Take the time to explore those.  Talk to locals.  Taste the food.  Attend a concert or visit a museum.

So much to learn.  So much to see.  So many places for New Adventures.

Happy Exploring!
With Light and Love,
Karen

 

 

Reinvent Yourself

I have recently read quite a few articles regarding Retail Reinvention. Having been in the industry for so many years, even though I am retired, I continue to be fascinated by all things retail related.  Especially regarding fashion and beauty.

Two of the most significant changes impacting the landscape are:
Subscription services – a monthly charge to receive a box filled with new items based on your preferences that you keep, or a monthly fee to rent, return, and refresh a selection of items with new ones.
Resale of Used Items – Thrift and consignment stores have evolved and expanded into online channels and are now morphing into retail departments within stores or as freestanding locations. Key players have entered or have announced their plans – Bloomingdales, Macys, Urban Outfitters, Patagonia, Banana Republic, Stage, Nike, Vince, West Elm, JC Penney. The list grows daily.

These are definitely game changers.  Several of the reasons noted are:
Convenience – Shop online and have it delivered to your home.
Newness – We all want to try the latest, greatest and best items. 
Sustainability – Help the planet, recycle, reuse, repurpose.
Affordability – Rent  designer clothes and accessories for a reasonable monthly fee. 
Selection – So many items to choose from. 

I find this fascinating. The younger generations are definitely driving these choices.  And rightly so.  It is in sync with their values and goals.  Since Marie Kondo inspired all of us to only keep what brings you JOY, consignment and thrift shops have been overwhelmed with merchandise.  People are  more open to vintage and used clothes. No stigma attached.  And the concept of renting clothes and accessories for a short time is preferred.  No more jammed closets with items we no longer use or wear!  

With this reinvention of how we buy, rent, use, reuse our  “Things” – I was sparked to expand the concept to our “Thoughts”. We can use the same principle of reinventing ourselves. What thoughts, habits, feelings, wants and routines need to be recycled?
What behaviours continue to represent us and which should we let go of?
What dreams and goals are still relevant and which aren’t?
What are our likes and dislikes as of today, not from the past?

Give yourself the chance to Reinvent Your Entire Being.  From head to toe, and heart to mind. Clear out what no longer serves you.  Make adjustments to refresh yourself. Try a new way of doing something.  Try modifying your behaviour. Go left instead of right. Try a new sport.  And if you don’t like it, then do not subscribe to it!  Let it go. Reinventing is a necessary component for all of us.  Become  the new and improved version of YOU.

Here’s to your Reinvention!
With Light and Love,
Karen

 

 

Sweet Pain

Or should I say Mild Discomfort!  Well worth it though.
Yesterday I continued on my gardening project.  Before I knew it, I had spent over 4 hours digging holes for new flowers, pulling out weeds and roots, snipping off overgrown vines, adding in soil amendments, and then stepping back to appreciate what I had accomplished. My husband was a big help in carrying out the tools, the bags of soil, cleaning up and watering.  Team work definitely helps!

Since the gardening work was after our Saturday 6 mile run on the beach and trails, I knew I would be having a super charged work out day.  No wonder I got tired and was in bed by 8 pm!!  And I slept a good 12 hours.  My body did feel it.  I ached a bit during the night, especially my upper back and shoulders from digging with the gardening claw.  However when I woke up this morning, I felt pretty good.  My sweet pain was minimal.  I could do my morning deep squat without any tightness in my thighs or lower back. I was also thankful that Sundays are a casual walk day!! 

I give thanks for my health and ability to take on projects that require some muscle. As I was maneuvering the claw in the soil, I thanked my weight training and yoga for giving me the strength.  I also thanked myself for not overdoing it and asking my husband for help when needed.

At this stage in life (I will turn 66 next month), I want to continue being an active participant in life.  I want to continue being active – running, hiking, practicing yoga and traveling.  And I want to remain injury free.

So it’s okay to feel some sweet pain or mild discomfort at times.  Challenge yourself but know your limits.  Be mindful and careful.  Ask for help if you need it. Give yourself recovery time.  And commit to doing what is in your power to have maximum good health – nutrition, exercise, rest.  And the right attititude.  It all makes a difference.

With Light and Love and a little sweet pain from your gardening project, whatever that may be.
Karen

 

 

 

One Step at a Time

Taking that first step changes everything!
However sometimes we get overwhelmed with the scope of the project that we don’t even begin it. We talk ourselves out of it. Sure we can be a bit nervous.  Am I doing the right thing, is this the way, is it the right time, do I really know what I am getting into, will it work?  Doubts surface.
However that is the time to proactively reaffirm your commitment, your desire, your enthusiasm and your intention. Take a deep breath and break the project down into smaller steps. By so doing, you diffuse the stress and anxiety, allowing the excitement to build. Use your affirmations and positive self talk to affirm “Yes I can do this”.

It all begins with that first step. As we begin, we become energized.  We get focused on what we are doing.  We get in the flow.  And in most cases, the project becomes easier than we expected!  Maybe some detours,  but in most cases, better than we imagined.

An example: For a while now, my husband and I wanted to replace some bark underneath our succulent container gardens.  So we set our intention on that project. We realized that we had to start somewhere.  As much as I loved the TV show “Bewitched” while growing up, I could not just twitch my nose and make it happen!

So we developed our action plan.
Step 1 – Commit to taking on the project.
Step 2 – Buy the bark based on number of bags in the past.
Step 3 – Decide on the day to do it.
                (Saturday after a long run is always good since we are already sweaty!)
Step 4 – Rake up the old bark. 
Step 5 – Distribute the new bark.
Step 6 – Make some adjustments to the pots and succulents.
Step 7 – Oops- Realized we needed more bags than we thought!
Step 8 – Decide when to go and buy 2-3 more bags.
Step 9 – Schedule the day to finish project.
Step 10 – Project complete!!!! Already the 3/4 done looks awesome!

And it all started with taking the first step. Making a commitment.  Setting your intention.

How many projects and desires are you floating around in your head?  Our mind is a thought machine. Our imagination is limitless.  So many great ideas. Which ones should I do?

Making a list and prioritizing the projects is still the best way to go for me.  Then I can zero in on developing the strategy, breaking the project down into steps that I can tackle one by one.

Here’s to your First Step!

With Light and Love,
Karen

 

A Summer State of Mind

How is your summer going?  Are you taking the time to relax a little more, unwind, slow down, enjoy being outdoors, travel, see friends and family, read, listen to music and just BE?
I hope so!

When I run into people I haven’t seen in a while, they ask “How is your summer going?” I chuckle because I feel that we are blessed to live at the beach in Southern California.  Everyday in a way feels like summer.  And not just because of the weather.

Summer is a state of mind. It can be with you all year long.  Just because the calendar moves on, we don’t have to. Even if we are returning to more formal rhythms of school or work with an intensified schedule, we can still carry with us a summer vibe.

For me, being retired has the benefit of more time to enjoy life. I can spend my days doing activities, projects, hobbies and interests that allow me to Reflect, Renew and Refresh my spirit. I can be more mindful and not rush.  I can make sounder choices and decisions. Sure, there are responsibilities, appointments, deadlines, things that “Have” to get done – however there is a calm that I attempt to maintain underneath it all.  

As I run on the beach at this time of year, I see so much JOY with tourists and children enjoying themselves building sandcastles, digging in the sand, swimming, surfing, getting a suntan glow. The kids at their week Life Guard camp are having a blast.  Even though I have to dodge them, I am glad  they are experiencing a JOY filled adventure.  However I have to admit, I do prefer the beach when it is quieter!

As Labor Day approaches, and back to school is beginning,  the calendar may say that Fall has arrived and Summer has ended. That does not mean that your Summer State of Mind has to. Think of ways you can carry it with you all year long. Slow down a little. Balance your life with more “Want to”s” versus  “Have to’s”. Be adventurous, be carefree, be curious and playful.  Continue to spend time in nature even if you have to layer your clothing more.  Keep your Summer State of Mind!

With Light and Love,
Karen

Nourishment

Fueling up with nutritious food is an important part of health. I have for most of my life been a more plant based foodie, incorporating fish and occasionally eggs into my food selections. Food does make a difference. I find that without dairy, my sinuses are clearer. I get the jitters if I have chocolate – although it tastes so good – I react. If I endulge in too many carbs, especially late in the day or night, I feel sluggish and puffy. I can’t remember the last time I had a soda. A natural and plant based diet is for me  – mostly consisting of raw, steamed or grilled vegetables, fruit, nuts and fish. Sure I like my weekend coffee with some liqueur added! And an occasional craving for something like chocolate, carrot muffins, or ice cream (even though I know I may react to it!) This practice works for me.  However not everyone will agree.  Find your preferences.  See what works for you. And then stay the course.

Equally important is nourishment for our minds and spirit.  Like food for our bodies, we need to experiment with what works, what feels right, and what influences our behavior and actions. What thoughts are you thinking?  What are you reading?  What types of videos, movies are you watching? What podcasts, talks, broadcasts are you listening to? What activitites do you engage in? Are you a sports enthusiast? Do you hike, bike, surf, ski, run, play soccer? Do you spend time in nature, by the ocean, mountains, desert? Who are you hanging out with? And why? Do you feel and share love and compassion? All these can be considered some type of food intake for your mind and spirit. I find myself reading less and less from the “News” – I scroll through headlines so I am aware of what is happening, though I do not get too much into the detail.  Why? Because too much of the negativity, the grief, the “BS” that goes on, could bring me down.  Therefore I watch what I allow in; what I read, what I watch, what I participate in.  I daily spend time in nature, especially on the beach. I run, I practice yoga. I am grateful and thankful each and every day to share my Life with a loving, kind and very special husband. And to be alive and cancer free for 14.5 years!

Just like with nutrition for my body, I decide what goes into my mind and spirit. I carefully select those I want to be around.  I focus on uplifting and inspiring words, positive and meaningful communications, engaging activities.  I look to resolve issues – I find the solutions, I make recommendations, I put a “can do” spin on things.  I make time for me! Keeping myself nourished allows me to be stronger, healthier and better equipped to deal with all that Life has in store for me. And I intentionally find what is good.  I have my three words that guide my decisions – Faith, Dream, Believe.

We have a choice! Fuel yourself with the right nourishment and watch the healing take place. Feel more alive. Feel more you. Make a decision today to nourish yourself completely.  Thrive and Be Well.

With Love and Light,
Karen