Body & Soul

3 things to know about trusting your gut and trusting your heart

When you’re facing a fear, pursuing a dream, doing something new and different, or living your life, you will rely on trusting your gut and your heart most likely every day.

I can’t—and no one else can—tell you how to trust your gut and your heart. However, to help you here are three things to know.

1. Your gut, heart, and your mind are always connected but not always in agreement

Self-doubt, worry, and negativity lives in the mind.

Always go with your heart. That is where truth, positivity, and the right thing to do lives.

2. Sometimes you will “fail” when trusting your heart

None of us are perfect and our hearts aren’t either. But you must stay loyal to your heart because your heart will remain loyal to you. Together you will reach where you want and need to be.

3. Your gut is for short distances; your heart is for the journey

Your gut will help with quick decisions and out-of-nowhere obstacles but your heart will fuel you and sustain you, through all your adversities, successes, journeys, and for life.

Trust your heart.

Photo by David Goehring

Body & Soul | August 9th, 2012 | Comments Off | View post page →

5 Ways Regret is Ruining Your Life and How to Move On Already

This is a guest contribution.

Regret is a sticky thing. Like gum stuck on the sole of your favorite shoes, it came unexpectedly and it’s hard to get rid of. You never expected to step in it, you did your best to get it off, but it still left a sticky dirt-encrusted glob. We don’t expect to regret things {well, there was that one time in college} …. usually. And it seems most of the things causing us loads of regret are those things we didn’t see coming. Like that piece of gum we stepped in.

More surprising than the sticky nature of regret is that the act of regretting is ruining your life. An argument with a loved one, a poor decision at work, or a slip of the tongue that hurt another –we encounter situations every day with the potential for regret. We’re only imperfect humans and mistakes are part of life. Yet if we let it, regret will hijack our mental energies, negatively affect our health, and keep us stuck in the past.

A few months back, I had a falling out with a dear friend and mentor. We both said some things in anger and didn’t speak for a while. I always intended to make amends, yet she died suddenly: before I had the chance to let her know how much I cared for her. The regret I felt about my role in our disagreement immediately loomed large in my mind. I found myself rehashing our final conversation over and over with no different outcome {obviously} and no possibility for reconciliation. I had trouble focusing on my work, I couldn’t eat or sleep, and I was irritable with my loved ones. Regret was hijacking my joy and wreaking havoc on my life.

Regret is part of our human situation. We’re only human and it’s only natural we’ll make mistakes, poor decisions, or say unkind words we’ll later regret. So how do we let go of regret, take back our happiness, and move on? We learn how regret works to ruin our life and we take action to prevent it:

#1: Regret keeps us stuck in the past

Regret keeps us looking backward and sets up a cognitive tape-loop of obsessive ‘what if’ ‘should have’ and ‘why didn’t I’ thoughts. Thoughts like these create neural pathways that are reinforced over time; so the more we think about that regret-filled situation, the more we find ourselves regretting it. And the more we regret, the more we look back, and the LESS mental energy we have for looking forward –or appreciating the present moment.

What to do: Visualize a better outcome.

Indulge yourself for a moment: What could you have done differently? What should you have said? If it helps you to write, spend a few moments writing out the situation in a journal or in a letter you’ll never send. Alternately, consult with a trusted friend about the situation. Give yourself the opportunity to say or do the ‘right’ thing….even if it’s just hypothetical. Then let it go.

#2: Regret hijacks our attention

The mental mechanism that regret {and its second cousin guilt} employs to keep us stuck in the near distant past is called reciprocal inhibition or the inhibition of certain groups of neurons while others are active. While this is a handy tool for helping us focus on a task at hand, it backfires when we’re focusing on a negative experience or a should-woulda-coulda situation. Continually shifting our attention back to those regretful thoughts prohibits us from pointing the lens of our attention at what truly matters.

What to do: Focus on the present.

When you find yourself re-hashing the situation or returning to the regretful thoughts, take a quick mental pause. Tune into your breath, check in with your body, and notice what you’re doing. Bring your attention fully to the present and back to the task at hand. In so doing, you’ll activate an alternate neural network and quiet down those neurons stuck on regretful thoughts.

#3: Regret builds on itself

The brain preferentially remembers negative situations. In many cases, this is an evolutionary advantage; for example, we’ll never forget the pain of burning our hand on the hot stove, so we’ll avoid it in the future. Yet this habit of filing negative situations away and letting positive situations slip through the metaphorical cracks in our memory contributes to the psychological pain regret causes.

What to do: Focus on the positive.

Call to mind other difficult situations you handled well. Highlight points in your personal or professional behavior on which you’re often complimented. Make a list of these positive situations or attributes and call these things to mind when you feel overcome with regret.

#4: Regret makes you feel worse

You will literally make yourself sick with regret. Chronic negative emotions –including regret—are linked with increased vulnerability to disease (PDF). Elevated stress hormones disrupt the immune and endocrine systems putting you at a higher risk for contracting illness and a reduced ability to fight off infection. Continuing to obsess about the choices, actions, or words you regret creates a physiological cascade leading to {or exaggerating the effects of} chronic stress. Chronic stress is linked with chronic disease –from rheumatoid arthritis to cardiovascular disease –so do yourself {and your health} the great service of jumping off the runaway regret train.

What to do: Put it in perspective.

In the grand scheme of things, where does this particular regret-filled experience rank? Are you regretting harsh words with a dear friend? How does that argument compare to your friendship on the whole? Remember my own regret-filled experience from earlier? I finally moved past that regret because I chose to view that negative experience as only one of many {mostly} positive experiences throughout the friendship. Do you regret your choice to drop out of college? Focus instead on what that decision allowed you to accomplish or experience. Reframe your current regrets to encompass the constellation of other decisions, experiences, and outcomes that make your life meaningful. {Then take a few moments to relax}

#5: Focusing on regret keeps us from learning from our mistakes

To be human is to fail. Part of our process as human beings is to learn from our mistakes and move on. If we’re truly wise, we’ll learn from others’ mistakes, too, and avoid the hassle of repeating them. However, when we’re stuck on HOW we failed, we miss the opportunity to learn from that failure.

What to do: Accept the lesson.

Pretend a friend came to you with a similar situation. What advice might you give them about the situation? What would you say to them? How might you interpret the situation symbolically? Now how can you apply this advice in your own situation? Consider your regretful situation as a learning experience and commit to learning the lesson it is offering to teach. Put it on your ‘lessons learned’ list and move on.

Written by Kellie Adkins, M.Sc., ERYT

Kellie is a mommy, writer, yoga teacher, and holistic health coach fascinated with the link between brain, biology, and behavior and frequently reads neuroscience journals for fun. She draws from contemplative neuroscience, positive psychology, yoga philosophy, and the mindfulness traditions in her coaching practice. If you happen to be in Florida’s Bible Belt look her up for some irreverent jokes, a cup of tea, or some kick-asana Vinyasa Flow yoga. Kellie leads yoga teacher trainings, retreats, and workshops all over and is obsessed with all things French. When she’s not writing, teaching, chasing her toddler or balancing on her hands, you’ll find her knitting sweaters….just because.

Connect with Kellie at: Twitter  |  Facebook  |  YouTube  |  Pinterest  |  Blog

Tree photograph by David Lienhard

Body & Soul | June 1st, 2012 | Comments Off | View post page →

The Road To Somewhere

This is a guest post.

Have you ever been driving on a long trip and suddenly you realize that forty five minutes have passed and you have no recollection of the journey or how you ended up at that spot?

What happened? Is everyone safe?  Are there any other vehicles around and how did I not hit any?  How many exits have passed by?  It takes a minute to orient yourself and to re-establish where you are and what you’re doing…

I had been trucking along, on auto pilot really, heading down this familiar highway.  After being startled into consciousness and determining my bearings, something had changed, and the traffic had stopped.

Maybe I was tired of driving.  Maybe it was because I was moving past 40.  Or maybe, it was the gnawing in my belly for some satisfaction that wasn’t about money or my career.   I wanted more enjoyment, stronger family connections, spiritual development, and to see more of the world.

I needed to get out of this traffic jam right away – but I wasn’t sure what to do, or even how to get off the expressway.  Panic was setting in.  I didn’t have a GPS, night was coming, and I was running out of gas.  It was then that I noticed the road sign for the very first time… ‘Welcome! You’re on the ROAD TO SOMEWHERE.’

I don’t know how many accidents I caused as I got off this crazy road and pulled over.  People were whizzing by and I realized that everyone was going somewhere and I wondered, how many knew where that was?

Now parked, I was finally checking the map and asking myself: “ What makes me happy?”  It should have been the first thing I thought of BEFORE I started this trip.  I think my ego fueled by my ignorance on fire attitude had prevented me from thinking that way before.

The real truth is I didn’t know what “happy” meant to ME.  I define “happy” as the equilibrium you reach when all your pie pieces like: career, financial, personal life & family, and hobbies & interests are identified and cultivated.  It’s different for everyone. Your happy list should be YOUR list.  It’s really not a destination but an ongoing renewing process we have to make in each area of our lives or; we get lost in speeding to a destination that no longer exists or is somebody else’s idea of what “happy” is.  I think I would have figured things out faster, if I had read something cool about a life-changing, self-realization moment with a good highway metaphor, and these key lessons:

Lesson 1: YOU MUST ASK THE QUESTION…”What makes me happy?”

You may not like the answer you get.  I understand that.  We all have our insecurities.  However, if you don’t think about what makes you happy, and what you need to: (do / become / clear away) to BE happy, you will have a narrow chance of reaching your potential.   Seriously, I am not talking about some 2 week feel good thing here.   I’m also not suggesting some unrealistic notion of giving up all responsibility and becoming a wanderer.

I’m saying life isn’t supposed to suck 80% of the time so we can “live it up” the remaining 20%.  I’m talking about feeling good, regularly.   Is the 80% of your picture a good representation of how you want to feel about your life?  Sorry, not trying to be heavy, just honest.  Make a list.  Nothing fancy, just outline all of the things that make you happy even if you aren’t doing any of them right now.  It’s powerful.  You’ll thank yourself for remembering why you are supposed to get out of bed everyday.

Lesson 2: YOU MUST ASK SOME FOLLOW-UP QUESTIONS…

Pretend you have accomplished the task list you put together and you are doing everything you thought would make you happy.  Visualization is the key here.  How does it feel?  Is there anything missing?   Could you do that, feel that, every day?  For a week straight?  How about for a year without becoming tired of it?

Lesson 3: IF YOU ANSWERED YES ABOVE…

Get started.  You don’t have to figure out everything out at one time.  Do one thing on your list (big or small).  Then do another.  For you planners (I’m one too), loosen up.  Make a plan and be open when it needs to change, because it will.  Remember the goal here, it’s not about the plan you put together.  Always be open to better, faster channels to reach your personal nirvana.

If you answered “No.”

Your reasons are not strong enough.  In that moment when you knew it didn’t feel right is where you’ll find what’s missing in your plan.   Do your list again.  It takes a few times.  It’s a process.  You can’t do this kind of serious introspection in one night in your hotel because you’re pissed and want to quit your job and go home.  YES. START THEN and know that it will take some time to really create a strong vision of what you want.  Seriously, don’t rush to drive another bad route.  For pete’s sake, at least think about it some more on the plane ride home.

And so it’s out.

All my action to move myself forward, didn’t really. It took me miles to learn that the The Road To Somewhere doesn’t really go anywhere.  I’m not complaining because I changed direction.  I am just grateful that I saw the sign at the right time.  Keep an eye out.  Don’t be driving and texting and miss YOUR sign.  I found a lot of roads pour into The Road To Somewhere so make sure about the road you’re on, and know where it’s taking you.

Written by David Pitts {dp}

DP is an idea man, entrepreneur, and bottom liner. Check out his latest project at www.thedooverblog.com .

Photo by PeterJot

Body & Soul | June 21st, 2011 | Comments Off | View post page →

Eating Well – Eating to Benefit your Nutritional and Mental Health

This is a guest post.

Although eating “well” can mean a variety of things, in the context of this post and in the context of my mind, eating well is eating to sustain and promote health in body and in mind. While eating can be, of course, full of pleasure and enjoyment, on a most basic level, its purpose is to fuel us with energy to survive. And, when you combine that purpose and goal with the added benefit of seeking to improve your mental strength and a positive mental attitude, you simply can’t go wrong.

I’ve dealt with many health issues over the years, most of them related to chronic fatigue and chronic pain. And, when you’re facing health issues or frustration or stress on a daily basis, it takes a huge toll on your mindset. Your mood falters, your outlook on life gets a little dimmer, and a bit of the joy you once thought was normal, can seem far off and unattainable. And, though I saw many a doctor and tried many vitamins, supplements and healing plans, one of the biggest ways I was able to help heal myself through my food. Here are some of the things that I learned to Eat Well.

1) Eat for Fuel, First & Foremost

When you are eating with the primary goal to fuel your body, it makes your eating choices and decisions much easier. While many of us are obsessed with dieting and trying to determine what’s the “healthiest” or lowest in calories, when you simply look at a food in terms of how much lasting energy it’s going to give you, the right choices suddenly become much easier to spot. Why do you hear whole grains so often? It’s because the carbs burn slowly over time, giving you sustained energy instead of a flash boost that causes you to drop and fall rapidly thereafter. (The crash after a donut? We’ve all been there.) Study and keep track of the foods you eat that power you through your day the best. This is different for everyone. While I may need more protein, you may need more whole grains and vegetables. Each body is different and needs to be fed accordingly.

2) Listen to Your Body and Respond Accordingly

You know how it feels to feel good. Make notes when you feel good and what you ate on those particular days. Similarly, what did you eat on the days you felt down? Sluggish, tired, moody, irritable? We all have those days, no one can argue it, but what we don’t often realize is that a lot of the time, our food plays a big part in that. Avoid the foods you ate on the off days and see if you notice an improvement. If so, make a conscious effort to listen to your body and make dietary changes accordingly. Energy and mood are tied closely together, which is why eating for fuel can go a long ways in improving your attitude. Likewise, eating the foods that can make you feel guilty or ashamed need to be cut instantly.

3) Cherish the Feeling of Feeling Good

The more you recognize and take note of when you do feel good after eating, the easier it becomes to eat well. You will find a new enjoyment in preparing your food and planning and crafting the ingredients and techniques that you know your body appreciates. Eating itself will also become more pleasant and enjoyable. While there may be a thrill in eating a piece of chocolate cake, it’s short lived and many times followed by guilt. There is another thrill that comes with preparing a well-balanced, colorful, nutritious meal that’s guaranteed to boost your mood and energy level all day long.

Eating well, above all, means taking care of your body. When you start researching the different foods that can promote memory and boost your endorphins or foods that reduce inflammation and help headaches, you’ll be amazed. Enjoy your food and don’t forget variety, simply eat well.

Written by Jocelyn Anne

Freelance writer Jocelyn Anne is passionate about healthy living, whether it’s related to living a more green eco-friendly lifestyle or simply the food we put into our bodies and the exercise we do. She is currently writing about the benefits of breathing cleaner, purer air with a portable air conditioner.

Photo by shenza

Body & Soul | June 8th, 2011 | Comments Off | View post page →

Being Happy & Healthy in Spring 2011

This is a guest post.

It’s that time of year when the transition from winter to spring becomes imminent and we find ourselves itching to ditch the heavy, bulky layers of clothing, escape the confines of the suddenly all-to-small-house, and stretch our legs during a late night walk while the sun sets.  But often, we come so caught up in the warmer weather, the extended hours in a day, and an over-ambition to do so much to make up for the more sedentary winter months that we miss the beauty of spring and we over-exert and wear ourselves down before we know what’s happened.

This year, I challenge you to start prepping now to build yourself up mentally and physically to  be prepared!  Here are some easy tips to get you started:

Start Exercising

One reason people often feel unprepared for spring and summer is the sluggish/out-of-shape attitude that we take on following months of a more sedentary lifestyle.  You don’t have to do anything drastic, maybe start taking quick walks after work.  Pop in an exercise video 2-3 times a week.  You’ll be amazed at the mood boost you’ll get from this, as well as the energy boost, both of which will help tide you over until spring is really here and start building up your energy level for longer days with more activity.

Eat Spring Appropriate Foods

One should really only eat so much soup in a year!  Regardless of whether or not you’re still seeing snow out your window or there actually are sprigs of grass peaking through the earth, start changing up your meals now.  Try to cut back on the carb-heavy, higher-fat foods that so often accompany winter months and winter moods.  Start lightening up the dinner plan with more fresh fruits and vegetables. Make Wednesday night Salad Night. Consider doing a cleanse and really gearing up your body to feel refreshed and renewed.

Finish Goals & Set New Ones

Whatever tasks you had planned for the winter months, wrap them up!  Then, start making goals for what you want to happen ahead of you in the spring and summer months. This will not only carry you through any winter blues, it will give you a sense of satisfaction for work completed and inspire you to plan and prepare for new tasks, new achievements.  It will also give you a time frame so that spring doesn’t hit and make you suddenly feel overwhelmed with the necessity to go everywhere and do everything.

Find a Volunteer Outlet

Helping someone else out is actually also one of the easiest ways to help yourself out.  Not only do you get to inspire another person or help them to overcome obstacles or needs, the rewards, the confidence and the happiness that such an activity produces in you is immeasurable.  If time is limited in your life, you don’t need to find something with a regular time commitment, or even something that requires a huge chunk of your time on any one day.  Go volunteer at the nursing home to play games for a few hours on a Saturday.  Check to see if there is a house being built for a family in need that you could pitch in and help with.  Spring is the perfect opportunity to delve into new places to get involved and to make a difference in your community.  You’ll see, the rewards to you will probably far outweigh what you’ll possibly give to someone else.

Be prepared, be pro-active, and gear up to be happier and healthier this spring.  There’s nothing like the signs of new life all around and the invigoration that accompanies that to set a trend for an extremely positive new year.

Written by Tara Alley

Tara is a freelance writer who enjoys writing about ways to live healthier, more fulfilled lives.  She also writes frequently about eco-friendly and sustainable lifestyles and is currently working alongside Coffee Home Direct, helping them research fair-trade green coffee.  You can follow her on Twitter @hopesiempre.

Photo by dominiqs

Body & Soul | February 16th, 2011 | Comments Off | View post page →