Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Mindful Living - Part 1 - Driving

This is the first post of a series on Mindful Living. This series will help you deal with daily life and tasks using mindfulness, which will allow for a new perspective and can help calm the mind. For more information on what Mindfulness and Mindful Living, please see this post What is Mindfulness

Aggressive drivers, long commutes, and unexpected delays are all a part of the driving experience. It's one of the most daunting daily tasks of most people.  And we always seem to be in a hurry, even when we're not.

Because it is a daily task for many of us, it's important to make it less of a stress and more of an opportunity to practice mindfulness. We have the time for music, audiobooks, news, talk radio, etc, why not turn off the noise and strengthen your breathing routing?



Here are a few tips to help you include mindfulness on your journey:


  • Turn off the noise.  Talk radio can be toxic, so can music.  Turn it off for a bit and turn within. 
  • Practice a simple breathing exercise, like this: Let your breath come in and out naturally, and recite the following (no, you do not need to say it aloud:) I am breathing in. My body is filling with air.  I am breathing out. My body is releasing the air. 
  • When you arrive at a stoplight, stop sign, or traffic jam, use that moment to take in a cleansing breath. 
  • Keep your car clean.  A cluttered car isn't going to help clear out a cluttered mind.  A clean car automatically gives you a healthier perspective. 
  • Wear comfortable shoes.  Take off the heals and boots, and put on a comfier pair.  
  • Get rid of the toxic air fragrances.  If your car doesn't smell good, clean it out and add a more natural aroma. 
  • If possible, change your schedule so you can skip some of the rush. It will help the environment and your mental state! 
Also try to remember that the person driving next to you isn't your enemy. And always, always, always drive safely, paying attention to signs and laws.



Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Learning to Breath - A Week of Meditation

















A while back, I had just gone through a rough breakup, my job was making me miserable, and the hour I had with my son during the weekdays were filled with rushing to finish homework and eating dinner.  Living as a single mom in NYC was killing me. Financially, I thought I would never get ahead, and I was doing it all alone.  I felt like I was losing my mind.

One day, I finally said "ENOUGH" and started seeking ways to heal myself... from the inside (the beginning of happy). Mentally I was a mess, so that's where I started.  I needed a break from my thoughts and those of the people around me. I needed meditation.

I started listening to Podcasts on the way to work.  Then, I started listening to them during my lunch break, as I sat outside in Madison Square Park amongst the restlessness of the concrete jungle.  Finally, I started listening to them before bed.  Yep, I was listening to meditation Podcasts three times a day, as well as anytime I needed a "break" from stresses.

It seems crazy to say, but within a week, I no longer felt out of control.  Within a couple weeks, I was able to smile and realize that I was the only person who could save me.  (Not to say that there weren't things around me causing discomfort that needed removed, but that was going to be a longer process).

I now realize that the problem wasn't that there was anything wrong with me or my mind, but I needed to stop, give my brain a break, and get back to me.  We all have everything we need right inside of us, and meditation gives us the ability to allow our minds to take back control.

A basic meditation is just breathing in and breathing out mindfully (this means paying attention and being present in your breathing).  Meditation is a practice and it gets easier the more you practice.  The beginning is all about just breathing and allowing your body and mind to calm.

Here's a week meditation practice.  Don't move on to the next day, until you feel that you have been able to do the previous day.  Feel free to try it different times during the day.

Day 1: 
Day one is all about mindfulness.  For five minutes (or as long as you can stand), sit in cross-legged position, close your eyes, and breathe -- paying attention to your inhale and exhale.

Day 2: 
We are going to continue with practice from yesterday.  For at least five minutes, breathe in and out mindfully, with your eyes closed and in a comfortable position.  Now, when thoughts come into your mind, gently dismiss them and attempt to keep your mind clear, focusing only on your breath.

Day 3:
Today, let's continue our mindful breathing practice from day one and two, but start to focus on regulating the breath so that inhaling and exhaling are equal. Close your eyes, and count to five while breathing in, then exhale for five counts. Continue this for at least five minutes.

Day 4:
Continue with the practice from day one.  While you are breathing slowly and mindfully, start to relax your body.  Release the tension from each body part by taking a breath and breathing into that area.  Once that part feels relaxed, move on to the next. (Scalp, forehead, around the eyes, jaws, mouth -letting your tongue rest gently away from the roof of your mouth, neck, shoulders, arms, hands, chest, stomach, hip, thighs, calves, feet, toes).

Day 5: 
For ten minutes, sit in a comfortable position, with eyes closed, breathing in and out at consistent intervals. Relax your mind and body. Clear thoughts as they come, and return to being mindful of your breath.

Day 6: 
Repeat yesterday, using all of the techniques you have learned this week. When breathing in, breathe into you lower abdomen/ stomach first and then chest, and release the breath first from the stomach and then chest, gently.  Continue for five minutes or longer.

Day 7: 
Sit in a comfortable position, with eyes closed.  Begin to breath in gently and normally, paying attention to your inhale and exhale.  Begin to even the breath.  At the top of your inhale, hold your breathe for a moment, then gently release your breath by exhaling the same count as your inhale.  Continue to breath in this manner, focusing on the breathe.  When thoughts come to your mind, gently dismiss them and return to mindful breathing.

You did it!

Here are some of my favorite podcasts and resources for mediation:

Podcasts:
The Meditation Podcast
Meditation Oasis

Online tips:
http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-20878/4-pro-tips-to-make-meditation-easy.html
http://www.chopra.com/ccl/learn-to-meditate-in-6-easy-steps
http://life.gaiam.com/article/meditation-101-techniques-benefits-beginner-s-how




Thursday, October 8, 2015

Mind and Body Cleanse

When you hear the word cleanse, does your body clench up and your mind immediately assumes STARVATION? I'm not down with that... at all.  However, I need to get back on track with my daily routine and want to take it up a notch before the holidays come crashing down.

Often cleanses and programs focus only on restricting calories and food, but lack holistically.  I want to "clean" my digestive system and my mind. Clear out the clutter and, hopefully, feel a little lighter, happier, and ready to tackle the stresses that come with too much turkey, pumpkin pie, and shopping bags.

I've broken this up into two parts: mind/soul and body, but each component ties together and is just as important as the other.  So, without further ado...

BODY
  • Room temp/ warm water w/ fresh lemon juice before any food/ drink in the AM
  • Real Food Only
    • Lean Meat/ Seafood (organic, grass fed if possible)
    • No Refined Sugar
    • No Gluten or Processed Foods
  • No Dairy 
  • No Alcohol
  • No Caffeine (if you are a heavy drinker, I suggest switching to green tea to avoid headaches)
  • One Raw Meal/ Day
  • Limit meat to 3 ounces/ day (or less)
  • Fast for 12 hours every night (last food at 8pm, do not eat again until 8am)
MIND/ SOUL
  • Sleep: seven hours minimum/ night (I will be aiming for 8-9hrs/ night.  If you can't get the amount you need for maximum restfulness each night, aim to get it at least every other night)
  • Meditate: one time minimum/ day (I like to do three times per day - morning, afternoon, and evening). Meditation can be done while laying, sitting, or even walking.  
  • Mindfulness: be considerate in every action - brushing teeth, walking, grocery shopping, etc!
  • Sleep with phone away from bed (either across the room, or even better, in a separate room)
  • One hour No Phone before bed (the backlight on phones is known to cause sleep issues)
  • No television 
  • No rushing.  Take your time.  Be mindful of each step. 
  • Declutter your bedroom (and living space if possible)
  • No gossip or unkind words about others
  • Get outside as much as possible... talk a walk, put your feet in the grass, enjoy the air! 
  • Move! Every hour, move for at least five minutes.  Take a lap around the office:)
I'm going to provide additional information, resources, and tips too! And feel free to ask questions.  Adjustments can always be made as necessary.  Plus, any of these things are great things to implement into your daily life for positive change. 

That's the best thing about this cleanse... it's not depleting anything you need!!  


DISCLAIMER: This is a program I've set up for myself, with knowledge that I am in good health and can follow the program without risk.  As always, you should consult your doctor before starting a health program.  

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Super Healthy, Plant-Based Protein Truffles

Occasionally, I'll find a couple recipes that I really want to try, but don't have all the ingredients or want to use an ingredient I like better/ is healthier. Often, those recipes turn into $10 of wasted ingredients and an inedible concoction.

Not this one!!!

I really like how these turned out.  The texture is good, soft and a little chewy.  They have just the right amount of both chocolate, peanut butter, and sweetness.  And you cannot taste any trace of black beans.  At. All.



Here's the recipe:

Ingredients:

1 Can Black Beans
3 Tbsp Raisins
3 Tbsp Unsweetened Cacao or Cocoa Powder
3 Tbsp Natural Peanut Butter
3 Tbsp Hemp Protein (or unsweetened protein of choice)
2 Tbsp Ground Flaxseed*
2 Tbsp Maple Syrup

Directions:

Add ingredients to a food processor and process until smooth.  Taste and add extra sweetener if necessary (not too much or you are defeating the purpose!). Roll into balls.  Optional - roll in cacao/ cocoa powder and cinnamon.  Refrigerate for an hour and enjoy!

*Buy whole and then grind in a cheap coffee grinder.  (Just not the same one you use for your coffee beans.)  It's cheaper and the seeds will last longer.

Nutrition via Myfitnesspal.com

Note: only one gram of sugar comes from the maple syrup, the rest is found naturally in the other ingredients.  There is no refined sugar.

Remember, they are rich in Iron and Omega-3!!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Don't Worry Be Happy :)

This song reminds me of childhood.  How can you not be HAPPY when you listen?!



Friday, February 27, 2015

Let's Start at the Beginning... of Happy

For most of my life, both adult and child, I've struggled to be "happy".  It's not that I'm not okay or that I'm depressed.  Life just seems a bit incomplete to me.

Most people throughout my life have told me to just "be positive" and think of all of the blessings I have and... I don't remember because it isn't that easy for me.  And I think a lot of people can relate to that.  I'm not saying it's okay to have a "whoa is me" attitude, I'm just saying that those people who think that living a good life is all about thinking positively, don't understand.



Anyway, I'm rambling and the whole point of this post is to talk about REAL ways to get happier.  The reason I renamed this blog "The Beginning of Happy" was to share the things I'm doing to help with this happiness conundrum.  And the things I've implemented work but I have to do them consistently or I fall back into grey... and not 50 Shades.

I can't promise that you will have the personality of a psychotic cheerleader but I can tell you that the following tips will help.  It's all about getting back to the beginning.  The beginning of eating, thinking, breathing, moving, all in order to find a greater sense of happiness.

1. Food, obviously I was going there.  What we consume (food and drink) greatly affects our mood.  There are so many things I can say here, but the most important thing to remember is that serotonin is made in our guts, which is why what we put in our bodies can have such a great affect on how we feel.

2. Movement.  So many of us sit all day, and we don't even know how catastrophic this behavior is going to be toward our longevity since we haven't seen it's full effects.  We  need to move.  Do enough cardio to get your heart rate elevated.  Strengthen your muscles.  Muscle mass is important to keep us young, thin, and healthy.  And just move around.  Every hour. Just move.

3. Meditation.  I know, this is tough.  Maybe you are freaked out by the idea or maybe you tried and couldn't concentrate.  That's okay. Ease into it.  Take five minutes, three times a day and just breathe.  When thoughts come into your mind, send them away.  Rinse. Repeat.

4. Sleep.  I am so sick of the "motivational" and "successful" people telling us that we have to deal with little to no sleep.  Yes, if you want to get rich quick and live like Donald Trump, than maybe so.  If you just want to live a long, healthy life in your terms of success, get your sleep. My doctor recommended that I get a least one night of 9 hours (my preferred number) of sleep a week.

5. Play. Laugh.  Bring out the kid inside you a little everyday.

Start with these simple things, and let me know how you feel.  I think you will enjoy the results:)

Oh, and DISCLAIMER consult your doctor before making any major changes!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Maintaining Weight When You Can't Hit the Gym

There are so many excuses that will stop us from hitting the gym, but sometimes, those excuses are legit!  From time constraints to injuries, getting to the gym isn't always an option.

And to be honest, whenever I hear someone say "I'd rather eat whatever I want and bust my butt at the gym, than restrict myself of any food," I want to go all health documentary on them, but I usually resist. A person's diet (as in what they eat, not some overly restrictive food plan used to lose weight), is the most important factor in health and weight loss.  

Not to say exercise and cardiovascular health isn't important, it is, extremely, but diet trumps exercise. Sorry meatheads (I kid, I kid:). 

Okay, let's get back on track.  

I am a single mom living in NYC.  I have about zero minutes available to go to the gym, so I'm rely on a healthy diet to maintain my weight. *  I've been body-conscious since I was a in elementary school, which is when I started researching health, calories, and diet.  That puts me at about 22 years.

Here are my tips for maintaining your weight when you can't work out: 

1. Sugar - avoid, avoid, avoid.  Particularly refined sugar - this means candy, cookies, soda, and sauces (ketchup, bbq, Sriracha, etc.).  You should also stay away from syrup, honey, agave (but these are a little better). 

2. Refined carbs - come on, you knew this was coming.  Bread, pizza, rolls, donuts, pastries, etc. Stay far away, or at least treat them as a once a week treat. 

Side note: remember that "you are what you eat commercial with the woman walking around with the cinnamon roll bum?  Well add 1 + 2 above together and that's what you'll get.  

3. Fried food -  just don't.  Fried food can usually be replaced with an almost as delicious baked version.  Fries and sweet potato fries are delicious when baked (homemade!!). 

4. Veggies - yes, yes, all day, yes. Honestly, you cannot go wrong with veggies.  I'm talking plain, unsalted, un-dipped, fresh veggies.  Frozen are okay too, but fresh is always the best. Get creative with them... bake up a pan of mixed veggies, chop up a colorful veggies plate with a little homemade guacamole or hummus, make a delicious, overflowing salad of all your favorite veggies.  

5. Fruit - yes, but not all day.  Fruits are the perfect dessert after a healthy meal, an awesome addition to oatmeal and whole grains, and a great snack when you need a sweet.   Fruits are full of awesome vitamins, but they also contain a lot of sugar, and if you are trying to maintain weight while decreasing activity, just go easy on anything related to sugar. 

6. Whole grains - yep, but not just grains - they make a great accompaniment to veggies (rice with stir fries, oats with a little fruit and nuts...).  Just stick with rice, oats, quinoa.   

7. Legumes - you bet! (earmuffs you Paleo nuts out there).  Legumes are so great! They are a great source of protein and vitamins, and when cooked right, they are so tasty.  

8. Nuts and seeds - oh yeah! But definitely in moderation, as they can pack on the calories and fat like crazy.  I like nuts and seeds as add ons to food.  Nuts on oatmeal, seeds in salads. Don't just chow down on a big bowl of nuts (hehe).  

9. Good fats - sparingly!  We are talking olive oil, coconut oil, and even avocados.  Use them, just remember they add up even faster than nuts and seeds.  

10. Meat - welllllll, I'm not a huge fan of meat.  I take that back, I love meat.  Burgers, steaks, chicken wings... love em. However, I just choose not to eat much meat (or fish) for a variety of reasons (environmentally mostly, but also the options available, and the ethics of the meat industry).  When you do eat meat, chicken/ poultry is the best way to go. 

11. Fish - Most fish is good and good for you, if cooked in a healthy way (baked!), but make sure what you are eating is fresh not farm raised.  Fried fish falls under the fried category, not this one;)

12. Dairy - milk is unnecessary and the benefits are inflated. Non-dairy milk is really not that much better as it contains additives that really aren't necessary/ beneficial (homemade non-dairy milk is great!).  Cheese, how I love the, but you should really ditch it... it's calorie and fat dense.  Yogurt should be used as a condiment not a meal.  

13. Alcohol - sad to say, alcohol is just a lose lose.  There aren't even enough benefits in any alcohol (yes, I'm looking at you red wine) to make it ever a drink worth drinking. If you are going to drink, limiting yourself to no more than 4 ounces of red wine a day is the absolute maximum.  Man, I feel like the biggest hypocrit on this one, but I do realize how quickly my weight, completion, and health have changed when I've given up alcohol for long periods of time. 

14.  Arrrgghh! There is something(s) I'm missing but just cannot put my finger on it. Stay tuned for possible edits. 



















My favorite meals: 

-Homemade oatmeal, topped with fresh fruit, nuts, and cinnamon
-Zucchini noodles with marinara or a healthy pesto
-Meat free taco salad - chop up some romaine, add homemade gauc, salsa, and some peppers, and you've got a delicious, easy meal
-Stir fries - chop up whatever veggies you have, and heat them up over a little coconut oil.  Throw them on some brown rice with a little hot sauce or soy sauce. Viola!
-Mixed veggies plate - slice up your most delicious raw veggies, add a small scoop of homemade hummus, and call it a meal

Enjoy and be happy:)

*Disclaimer, my eating habits revolve around my want to become the most healthy me I can be.  I want to thrive for as long as possible, not just look cute in a swimsuit... though I wouldn't hate that either.

Disclaimer 2 - Also, I'm not a doctor, so you should talk to one before making any major changes to your diet.