gratitude

The importance of AM/PM rituals

Sleep | The Life Delicious | Catherine Roscoe Barr

I’m grateful for the terrible sleep I had last night.

It was a good reminder of the importance of AM/PM rituals.

Rituals, according to best-selling author Gretchen Rubin, are habits “charged with transcendent meaning.”

So, rituals are just things you consciously practice with intention.

I usually guard my sleep-supporting rituals with ferocity, and I usually have an amazing sleep.

Amazing sleeps are a relatively new thing for me.

I used to have more terrible sleeps that not before I got serious about this critical component of mental and physical health – and growing field of research.

PM rituals

Let’s start with PM rituals because I think they’re the most important.

Wake up feeling great, and you’re more likely to make great choices and have a great day.

Treat sleep like a science experiment and reverse engineer your day to create the circumstances that have you waking up feeling great.

You can continue to perfect your sleep-supporting rituals by dissecting your sleep when you wake up in the morning.

How do you feel? What did you do in the past 24 hours that could have elevated (or sabotaged) your sleep?

Did you reduce electromagnetic stimulation (screens and lighting) as it got closer to bedtime?

Did you make time to wind down physically and mentally?

Was your bedroom completely dark?

Were your bedclothes clean and comfortable, and not too hot or too cold?

Did you end your day with gratitude?

Did you eat or drink too late?

Did you have an upsetting conversation or read a stressful email late at night?

What can you do today to sleep better tonight?



AM rituals

A participant at one of my wellness retreats last year shared an awesome thought from author Tim Ferriss:

“Win the morning, win the day.”

Winning the morning is something I made a practice of doing years ago – because it has such an enormously positive impact on my life.

I try to guard the first hour of my day from any external distractions.

In silence and solitude, I hydrate.

Then I state my daily intention to manifest freedom, expansion, love, connection and gratitude.

Next, I move my body – whether it’s a series of Cat-Cow poses and Sun Salutations in my living room, a run around my neighbourhood, or a group workout at a local fitness studio.

Finally – before I check my email or social media – I make a big, healthy breakfast and sit down to eat with my husband.

What does winning the morning look like for you?

Click here to read Tim Ferriss’ 5 Morning Rituals That Help You Win the Day.

Click here to read 7 Big Things We Learned About Sleep In The Past Decade.

How to accept goodness with grace

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When our life expands, we realize goals, our dreams manifest – when things are great – we can actually experience discomfort at the newness, and sometimes even self-sabotage, unconsciously, to keep ourselves from moving into unknown territory.

We all deserve to be happy, to bring our special gifts to the world, to live our dreams!

How can we learn to recognize and move through the discomfort of wonderful newness?

Here are 5 tips I’ve used in learning to accept goodness with grace.

I hope you’ll find them helpful! And I wish you oodles of goodness in your life.

1. Address the saboteur

“We all have a saboteur,” says family physician and founder of the College of Mind Body Spirit Medicine, Dr. Divi. “Your saboteur is the voice that says, ‘Who are you to think you’re special?’, ‘Who are you to think you can do anything great?’, ‘Who are you to want more than this?’”

Sound familiar? Yeah, me too.

“I want you to recognize that it’s normal, and that if you push your saboteur away, it will get bigger. So just be aware of it, see it, and possibly even love it,” she says, explaining that there is only love or fear.

The Life Delicious | Catherine Roscoe Barr

This image is tacked to the wall above my desk as a daily reminder of which side of the line I need to be on.

Your saboteur operates in the realm of fear.

“What helps is to remind yourself that when the saboteur is active it’s dialing 911. It’s like, ‘What if this doesn’t work out?!’” Dr. Divi says.

3 steps to recognize and honour your saboteur

“The first step is just to recognize your saboteur,” says Dr. Divi. “The reason it’s so loud is because it’s never been heard. Sit in meditation and hear it.”

“The second step is to allow it to be there. When you hear it, you have to train your mind to recognize it’s just your saboteur. Say to it, ‘I see you’re there, but I’ve got this.’”

The third step, says Dr. Divi, is to show your saboteur the positive vision that you’ve created for your life, and invite it to come along for the ride.

Put fear in the back seat

Elizabeth Gilbert says something similarly powerful, on fear, to Marie Forleo during an interview about Gilbert’s new book Big Magic on an episode of Marie TV:

Fear is trigger happy and it doesn’t know the difference between a genuinely dangerous situation and just a little bit of a nervy situation.

So, whenever I feel fear arise – which is constantly, because I’m always trying to do creative things, and creativity will always provoke your fear because it asks you to enter into a realm with an uncertain outcome, and fear hates that, it thinks you’re going to die – the first thing I do is say to it, ‘thank you so much for how much you care about me and how much you don’t want anything bad to happen to me, I really appreciate that, but your services are probably not needed here, because I’m just writing a poem.

I just talk to it, but in this really friendly way, and I don’t go to war against it.

I acknowledge its importance, and then I invite it along, like, ‘You can come with me but I’m doing this thing.’

To which Forleo says, “I love the metaphor that you shared: ‘fear’s going to be in the car but it’s going to be in the back seat. It’s not going to drive.’”

“Or choose the snacks, or hold the map, or touch the radio,” adds Gilbert. “Fear doesn’t get to make any decisions.”

 

“Your homework,” says Dr. Divi, to maintain the practice of recognizing and honouring your saboteur, “is to be aware of how you’re feeling.”

“Are you in that quiet place of serenity, connection and love?”

“Or are you in that place of doubting yourself and worrying, judging, comparing?”

2. Transcend upper limits

Sometimes we create upper limits on our joy, our success, our relationships, our health.

When I picked up a copy of psychologist Gay Hendrick’s book, The Big Leap, last year I was struck by the beauty and simplicity of his concept of the “Upper Limit Problem”.

To make incredible leaps, “we must practice a specific skill,” says Hendricks. “That skill is to identify and transcend our Upper Limit, wherever and whenever we encounter it.”

“The glass ceiling [you’re] operating under is held in place by a single problem,” he says: your Upper Limit.

Once you see the problem and how to solve it, you’re “free to go beyond ordinary success to a new and extraordinary level of abundance, love and creativity in [your life].”

It’s important to be mindful of upper-limiting thoughts and recognize that it’s an ongoing practice.

Says Hendricks, “It's best to think of our quest as a continuing journey of transcending upper limits”

I love it! Isn’t that an amazing intention?

Any time I experience uncomfortable, negative, fearful feelings, I ask myself if I’m upper-limiting.

It can transform the way I feel, from glum to gleeful, in just seconds. Try it!

Adopt The Big Leap’s Ultimate Success Mantra

“I expand in abundance, success, and love every day, as I inspire those around me to do the same.”

How can you feel bad about inspiring others to expand? You can’t.

3. Cultivate your inner cheerleader

Just like we have a saboteur, we also have an inner cheerleader!

We must get in the practice of dusting off our pom-poms, putting on our pleated skirts, and creating some seriously snazzy choreography to go along with our cheers!

No matter how small the success – you meditated for 5 minutes, you took a deep breath before saying something cruel – we must celebrate it.

Inner cheerleading builds self-trust (read more about self-trust here), and self-trust gives you the conviction that you can handle whatever life throws at you – whether it's a painful setback or an enormous success.

4. Embrace your inspiration squad

Certain people in your circle, whether it’s your partner, your parents or your best childhood friend, always give you a boost when you need it.

They always celebrate your success as though it were their own.

They truly believe that you deserve all of the goodness that’s coming your way.

Embrace those people, shower them with love, and give them back that same spirit-boosting goodness.

5. Practice gratitude

Do not overlook the power of gratitude! Gratitude is a potent practice that benefits mind, body and spirit.

The Harvard Medical School newsletter article In Praise of Gratitudestates, “The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness (depending on the context). In some ways gratitude encompasses all of these meanings. Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

A recent article in Maclean’s magazine titled Why gratitude could be good for your health, says, “recent work by trail-blazing neuroscientists, cardiologists, psychologists and educators [reveal] the direct effects of gratitude not just on happiness, but on romantic relationships, health and brain function. Gratitude can reduce symptoms that exacerbate diseases, and in children and youth, it can help develop self-awareness and community-mindedness, even boost academic performance.”

UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center published findings from a recent study on the “neural nuts and bolts of gratitude. The researchers found that grateful brains showed enhanced activity in two primary regions: the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). These areas have been previously associated with emotional processing, interpersonal bonding and rewarding social interactions, moral judgment, and the ability to understand the mental states of others.”

An NPR press release cites the lead author of a study involving “186 men and women who had been diagnosed with asymptomatic (Stage B) heart failure for at least three months,” UC San Diego professor of family medicine and public health, Paul J. Mills. “We found that more gratitude in these patients was associated with better mood, better sleep, less fatigue and lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers related to cardiac health,” says Mills. “We found that those patients who kept gratitude journals for those eight weeks showed reductions in circulating levels of several important inflammatory biomarkers, as well as an increase in heart rate variability while they wrote. Improved heart rate variability is considered a measure of reduced cardiac risk,” he says. “It seems that a more grateful heart is indeed a more healthy heart, and that gratitude journaling is an easy way to support cardiac health.”

Read 5 tips for a powerful journaling practice, and get started today!

5 tips for a powerful journaling practice

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Mood, Food and Fitness Journal

I found my very first Mood, Food and Fitness Journal the other day when I was looking through an old box.

It's crazy to think back on this time – a strange mix of super fun adventures (we were in Australia for a year while my husband Aaron worked on Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole) and the tumultuous end of a very long struggle with depression that very few people knew about.

I probably deserve an Oscar for my performance, acting happy when I wasn't.

It was during this time where I hit the proverbial rock bottom and was absolutely done with the seesaw of feeling terrible, hopeless and overwhelmed, versus the joyful, hopeful and empowered character of my true self.

This is where I took control of my life. This is where I began the journey of consciousness.

This is where I began to claim my power, by being mindful of the way my thoughts, words and actions made me feel.

This is where The Life Delicious was born! Along with a new, gentle, self-nurturing, confident, honest, authentic, grateful way of living.

I can't remember exactly what inspired me to create the MFFJ but I am so glad I listened to that inner wisdom and put pen to paper. It truly changed my life and I am filled with gratitude that I get to share this shortcut-to-wellness-of-sorts with others!

Why journal with parameters?

I’ve always been a journaler, but I used to generally be inspired to write only when I was upset or angry.

Not only did this create a document that made my pretty wonderful life look like a miserable mess, it reinforced all of the negative thoughts and angry, hopeless rumination swirling around in my head.

For some thankful reason, at age 30 (I’ll be 37 this year!), I decided to take a different approach and document how my thoughts, actions, diet, movement patterns, creative outlets and social circles were making me feel – like a science experiment!

I’m still amazed at how effective this practice was at turning my life around.

I didn’t understand exactly why it was so effective until a few years later when I discovered neuropsychologist Rick Hanson, watched his TEDtalk, read his books – Hardwiring Happiness and Buddha’s Brain – and attended a weekend workshop with him in Vancouver through Hollyhock.

The scientific explanation for my MFFJ’s ability to significantly change my thoughts, words and actions was self-directed neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity

Our brains are plastic – malleable, changeable, resilient – and change throughout our entire lives, until our very last breath, as a result of our behaviour. Neuroplasticity describes this characteristic of our brain, its ability to rewire its myriad connections.

Our brain is always changing, sculpted by our experiences, shaped by our thoughts, words and actions – so it makes sense that our every thought, word and action matters.

Thoughts matter.

Words matter.

Actions matter.

Self-directed neuroplasticity vs. experience-dependent neuroplasticity

If we go about our lives disconnected from the consequences of our thoughts, words and actions our brains are still changing, hardwiring themselves to reinforce our habits – whether they’re healthy or not – making them easier to stay in and fall back into, even when we’re inspired to change (have you ditched your New Year’s resolutions yet?).

This unconscious, head-in-the-sand existence is reinforced through experience-dependent neuroplasticity.

This is how I used to live. Shackled by the unseen power of my habits to create my brain, and therefore my experience of life.

The great news is that there exists a conscious, eyes-wide-open way of using our minds to sculpt our brains to curate and automate our behaviour: this is the power of self-directed neuroplasticity!

We’re in the driver’s seat! We’re in complete control. We’re in charge of choosing how we want to feel and hardwiring the thoughts, words and actions that make us feel that way – we just have to make it our consistent practice.

5 tips for a powerful journaling practice

1. Mood: Gratitude

Our brains have a negativity bias. We’re born with an innate propensity to scan for and pick out all of the dangerous, nasty and troubling things in our world.

We’re really good at it! And that’s a good thing.

Our negativity bias keeps us alert to legitimate danger (seriously people, don’t wear earbuds with loud music when you’re running alone in the dark or a forest!).

But our negativity bias also keeps us alert to our inner gremlins and our outer critics.

So it’s important to consciously grow our positivity! I like to think of them as antennae.

We don’t want to cut off our negativity antennae, they’re important for our survival!

We just want to nurture and grow our positivity antennae so we can also develop a propensity to scan for and pick out all of the good, delightful and uplifting things in our world.

Hanson calls this “marinating in positive experiences” and says it takes just 30 seconds to create physical changes in our brain.

This is why journaling with intention is so powerful! It reinforces positive behaviours in our minds and in the physical structure of our brains.

Check out these resources:

Gratitude journal exercise: As many days per week as you can make time for (is 3 doable? that would be awesome!), write down at least 5 things you’re grateful for – the more you can think of the better! *On days that you feel you can’t make time to write down what you’re grateful for, take at least 30 seconds each to think about a few things you’re grateful for.

2. Mood: ANTs

Do you ever find yourself caught in an endless loop of negative thoughts? I know I do.

Psychiatrist Daniel Amen calls these ANTs: automatic negative thoughts.

ANTs are “cynical, gloomy, and complaining thoughts that just seem to keep marching in all by themselves” and are “the seeds of anxiety disorders and depression,” he says.

It’s important to recognize and crush ANTs as soon as you become aware of them marching through your mind.

An infestation of ANTs can hijack the purposeful, passionate life you’re meant to live.

“The most dangerous stories we make up are the stories that we make up about our lovability, about our divinity and about our creativity,” said Brené Brown to Oprah on an episode of Super Soul Sunday about her new book, Rising Strong.

We must scrutinize the stories we tell ourselves through a three-step process, says Brown:

  • The reckoning: is this true?
  • The rumble: get curious and look for facts
  • The revolution:  make the process of questioning our stories a practice

Check out these resources:

ANTs journal exercise: As many days per week as you can make time for (is 3 doable? that would be awesome!), write down any negative stories you’re telling yourself and rumble with them, and address any ANTs you’re struggling with by prescribing yourself some natural pest control! *On days that you feel you can’t make time to write down antidotes to ANTs or challenge negative stories, take at least 30 seconds each to think about them.

3. Mood: Emodiversity

In 2014 psychologist Jordi Quoidbach et al. published a paper in the Journal of Experimental Psychology called Emodiversity and the Emotional Ecosystem, reporting, “Two cross-sectional studies across more than 37,000 respondents demonstrate that emodiversity is an independent predictor of mental and physical health – such as decreased depression and doctor's visits – over and above mean levels of positive and negative emotion. Emodiversity is a practically important and previously unidentified metric for assessing the health of the human emotional ecosystem.”

This is such an important concept to be aware of. Being “happy” is the goal, but that doesn’t mean being happy all of the time.

It’s important to feel, honour and move through all of our emotions that arise.

Mind-body-spirit physician Dr. Divi Chandna says, “emotions are energy in motion.”

If we try to ignore or burry emotions they can become stuck in our bodies and manifest as physical symptoms. I have experienced the power of this knowledge firsthand.

The goal is to create a baseline of positivity and happiness while embracing a full range of emotions.

Check out these resources:

Emodiversity journal exercise: As many days per week as you can make time for (is 3 doable? that would be awesome!), recognize and work through the range of emotions you’ve felt throughout the day. *On days that you feel you can’t make time to write down your emotions, take at least 30 seconds each to think about them.

4. Food

What we eat affects how we feel. Seems obvious, right? Of course it does!

Why, then, can it be so challenging to put two and two together?

I had trouble doing the math until I started my MFFJ and saw the empirical evidence.

Highly-processed, sugary junk made me feel like… junk.

Balanced, nutrient-dense foods made me feel balanced and vital.

Reviewing my journal was a powerful catalyst to eating healthier. (Check out my last blog post on the 70/30 nutrition rule!)

Food journal exercise: As many days per week as you can make time for (is 3 doable? that would be awesome!), write down what you eat for every meal and snack, and how you feel while eating plus 30-, 60-, 90- and 120-minutes later. *On days that you feel you can’t make time to write down your food and subsequent feelings, take at least 30 seconds each to think about them.

5. Fitness

If you’re having trouble being consistent with physical activity and exercise (there’s a difference? read about it HERE), this will be a huge help!

Our bodies are meant to move! Yet so much of our modern lives call for inactivity.

Movement stimulates the release of feel-good chemicals, so we can tap into those positive feelings by marinating in them and journaling about them.

In doing so, “movement always makes me feel good,” is hardwired into our brains, becoming an unconscious part of our psyche.

Then, when we catch ourselves thinking, “I’m too busy,” the first thought that comes to mind is, “I’m too busy not to move!”

Fitness journal exercise: As many days per week as you can make time for (is 3 doable? that would be awesome!), write down your exercise and physical activity throughout the day and how it made you feel. *On days that you feel you can’t make time to write down how you moved your body, take at least 30 seconds each to think about them.

 

#TheLifeDelicious 20 Wellness Tips & Quotes for Barre Fitness

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In January, I was asked to collaborate with Vancouver's Barre Fitness for their "New Year New You" campaign by sharing two dozen wellness tips and a few of my favourite inspiring quotes.

I thought I'd share them with you here!

These are some of my favourite philosophies on living well, and incorporate the pillars of my Trifecta of Wellness: stress management, exercise and nutrition.

I'd love to hear how you incorporate these tips into your life! Share your successes, struggles and aha moments on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook with the hashtag #TheLifeDelicious!

 

1. Reverse engineer your happiness

Instead of thinking you’ll be happy when ___ (fill in the blank), get happy now! I call it cultivating optimal brain chemistry, Danielle LaPorte calls it The Desire Map, and Shawn Achor calls it The Happiness Advantage. Whatever you call it, take a feelings-first approach by deciding to choose actions that productive positive feelings right now, like stress management, exercise and nutrition – and then watch your wildest dreams unfold before you.

In his awesome TED talk, Achor says, “Your brain, if positive, is 31-percent more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed. Which means if we can reverse the formula – if we can find a way of becoming positive in the present – then our brains work even more successfully, as we’re able to work harder, faster and more intelligently.”

 

2. Start an anti-sedentary revolution!

The science of sedentary physiology cautions that an intense workout doesn’t cancel out the effects of low-energy-expenditure behaviours – like sitting on your couch, at your desk, or in your car – for the remaining 23 hours of the day.

See every chance to move your body as a gift, embrace formerly-tedious tasks, reframe your thoughts on chores and errands, and identify myriad opportunities to get physical!

~

“Tell me, what is it

you plan to do with your 

one wild and precious life?”

– Mary Oliver

~

3. Banish the all-or-nothing mentality

It’s easy to declare the day, week, or month a write-off following one poor decision, whether it’s an unhealthy food choice or skipping your workout again. How many times have you said to yourself, “I’ll start ___ (eating better, exercising, meditating) ___ (tomorrow, next week, next year)”? What if you took just one teensy weensy step today?

Challenge yourself to reframe your mindset, to accept that every breath is a rebirth, each moment – each breath – presents the opportunity to make self-nurturing choices and start anew.

 

4. Squish out, don't deprive

Don’t think about your diet from a deprivation perspective. Add so many beneficial, delicious, good-for-you things that the unhealthy stuff just gets squished out.

 

5. Add more good

Boost your nutrition by making it your goal to add at least 2 vegetables to each meal. Aim for one deep, leafy green and another rich hue like orange, purple or red. Multi-colour meals equal a rainbow of nutrients!

~

“When you want something, 

all the universe conspires in

helping you to achieve it.” 

– Paulo Coehlo

~

6. Lower your stress inventory

Take an inventory of your uncomplementary stress (poor nutrition, sedentary lifestyle, negative thoughts and anxiety, toxic chemicals, toxic relationships, spiritual suffocation) and complementary stress (exercise, achieving professional goals), and work to lower your overall stress.

For example: sometimes you need gentle exercise (physical stress) if your mental stress is high.

 

7. Elicit the relaxation response

Take time every single day to elicit the relaxation response (the opposite of the stress response) because your body’s innate self-repair mechanisms only function when your parasympathetic nervous system is activated through the relaxation response or rest.

In addition to meditation, says physician and author of Mind Over Medicine, Lissa Rankin, “creative expression, sexual release, being with people you love, spending time with your spiritual community, doing work that feeds your soul, and other relaxing activities such as laughter, playing with pets, journaling, prayer, napping, yoga, getting a massage, reading, singing, playing a musical instrument, gardening, cooking, tai chi, going for a walk, taking a hot bath, and enjoying nature many also activate your parasympathetic nervous system and allow the body to return to a state of rest so it can go about the business of self-repair.”

~

“You must witness your behaviour 

if you truly want to change it.” 

– Gabby Bernstein

~

8. Drink a big glass of water first thing in the morning

After a night without water, you’re dehydrated, so drink a big glass of water when you wake up – and pay close attention to what an incredible difference this makes to every cell in your body!

 

9. Know your food's origins

If you think about origins, it’s so much easier to eat healthfully. Is this vegetable locally, organically, lovingly grown? How was this animal treated? Is this seafood sustainable? How far did this package travel – what is its carbon footprint?

It's difficult to truly enjoy eating something if you suspect that the way it was grown, raised or processed was seriously lacking in love and respect.

 

10. Create self-nurturing energy rituals

At the start of each week (I love to do this on Sundays), create energy rituals by making weekly action plans for stress management, exercise and nutrition:

  • make a menu plan, a corresponding grocery list, and prep your ingredients so it’s easy to whip up healthy meals and snacks
  • plan your workouts (I do a 3-day rotation of strength, cardio and flexibility) and put them in your calendar
  • set aside time for YOU, whether it’s for regenerative solitude, creative endeavors, or battery-filling hobbies

~

“Freedom from obsession is not 

about something you do; 

it's about knowing who you are.

It's about recognizing what sustains

you and what exhausts you.”

– Geneen Roth

~

11. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude

Physician, psychiatrist and author of Change Your Brain, Change Your Life, Daniel Amen says, “The best antidepressant isn’t Prozac, it’s gratitude. If you write down three things a day that you’re grateful for within three weeks you’ll notice a significant difference in your level of happiness.”

Whether you write them in your journal or make a mental note as you drift off to sleep each night, reflect on your day and list as many things as you can that you're grateful for. This trains your brain to scan the world for positives and counteract its negativity bias.

 

12. Improve the quality of your sleep

Sleep is essential for repair and regeneration, and even if you’re getting enough sleep (7 to 9 hours), it may be subpar.

In a nutshell, spend at least an hour winding down at bedtime, and sleep naked (orgasms are encouraged) in a pitch black, cool, electronics-free room. In a larger shell, check out my article for the Lululemon blog on 5 surprising tips for a better sleep.

~

“Change is effortful until it becomes effortless. 

Our brains like to use the path of least resistance, 

which is the well-worn existing path. 

Just as a river needs time to carve a canyon, 

resilient new brain pathways depend

on repetitive and deeply felt experiences.”

– Dr Amit Sood

~

13. Shower your love on YOU

We can be our own harshest critics, but self-loathing and self-sabotaging behaviour get us nowhere near our goals. Embracing self-nurturing thoughts and actions allows you to be your best self – and when your battery is full you have a significantly more positive influence on the world around you.

 

14. Spend time in nature

In the fascinating and eye-opening book The Nature Principle: Reconnecting With Life in a Virtual Age, author Richard Louv says, “Every day, our relationship with nature, or the lack of it, influences our lives. The Nature Principle is supported by a growing body of theoretical, anecdotal, and empirical research that describes the restorative power of nature – its impact on our sense and intelligence; on our physical, psychological, and spiritual health; and on the bonds of family, friendship, and the multi-species community.”

~

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” 

– Mark Twain

~

Energy Rituals for Stress Management

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Vega-energy-rituals

Creating energy rituals frees up precious time for productivity, creativity and community by reducing decision overload. (Image: Vega) 

This post was originally written for Vega (myvega.com).

Happiness guru Catherine Roscoe Barr shares simple tips for streamlining your daily routine

Energy is a limited resource. Wasting energy cuts into your achievements and aspirations, and as a result, wasting energy creates stress.

As a happiness expert and wellness coach, I teach people how to reduce their stress and get the most out of this one-and-only amazing life. Managing your energy is a great place to start.

The Life Delicious

In 2009, I created my company, The Life Delicious, as an outlet to teach others what I know about happiness, through my work as a writer, speaker and wellness coach.

The Life Delicious stands on three pillars, The Trifecta of Wellness:

  • stress management
  • exercise
  • nutrition

I found stress management to be the missing link from the exercise and nutrition gospel I preached as a fitness professional. I believe that overall health starts with mental health, and stress management is vital for mental health.

Energy Rituals

When I began thinking about managing energy, I came across The Energy Project, whose CEO and founder, author Tony Schwartz, created the concept of energy rituals: “highly specific behaviours done at precise times.”

I've taken this concept and applied it to the Trifecta of Wellness, creating energy rituals for stress management, exercise and nutrition.

The Organized Mind

Creating energy rituals frees up precious time for productivity, creativity and community by reducing decision overload.

“Neuroscientists have discovered that unproductivity and loss of drive can result from decision overload,” says neuroscientist, musician and author Daniel Levitin in The Organized Mind. “It’s as though our brains are configured to make a certain number of decisions per day and once we reach that limit, we can’t make any more, regardless of how important they are.”

By creating energy rituals, you’re making important, self-nurturing decisions ahead of time and freeing up mental energy for productivity, creativity and community.

Energy Action Plan

Let’s take a closer look at four different areas of stress – mental, physical, chemical and electromagnetic – so you can create a personal stress management energy action plan.

  1. Mental stress

Mental stress is insidious. It’s easy to slip into patterns of negative thinking and difficult to realize what an enormous impact it’s having your life. Our brains have a negativity bias – a penchant to scan the world for danger – which served us well when we were on the lookout for saber-toothed tigers and caveman foes, but less so now that many of our foes are less dangerous and even imaginary: a stranger jumping the queue, an insensitive colleague, a perceived disagreement with a loved one, or thinking that you have bad luck.

The good news is that it’s possible to reduce mental stress by overcoming our negativity bias and re-wiring (or re-training) our brain to scan the world for the positive.

Try this:

  • Set aside 1 minute each day to write down, or at least think of, 3 or more things that you’re grateful for and/or positive experiences that you’ve had that day. This re-wires your brain to scan the world for the positive, and reduces mental stress.
  • Set aside 5-10 minutes each day to sit in a quiet spot and focus on your breath going in and out, your torso expanding and contracting. Every time you have a thought, acknowledge it, let it go, and return to focusing on your breath. This teaches your brain to be mindful of the thoughts that are entering your mind.
  1. Physical stress

Our bodies are meant to move and a sedentary lifestyle can cause both mental and physical stress. Physical activity produces feel-good chemicals, like endorphins, and keeps our bones, joints and muscles strong and functioning properly. Exercise – physical stress – is necessary for metabolism, muscle growth and maintenance, but must be balanced with periods of rest and renewal. On the other side of the coin, too much exercise, too often, too intensely can put you at risk for injury and push your total stress load over the edge if you’re already struggling with high levels of stress in other areas of your life.  Listen to your body, pay close attention to proper form, and balance a physically active lifestyle and active recovery (like gentle yoga or low-impact swimming), with those high intensity workouts.

Try this:

  • Start an anti-sedentary revolution! Since you’re likely at a desk for your job, schedule your day into alternating sedentary and active blocks, so you’re never sitting or standing still for more than an hour at a time.
  • Schedule a workout, even a mini 10-15 minute workout, at least 5 days per week, alternating strength training, cardio and flexibility for a balance of physical fitness.
  1. Chemical stress

Vega creator, Ironman, and author of the Thrive book series, Brendan Brazier, says that over 40-percent of the average person’s stress comes from nutritional stress – i.e. consuming too much empty-calorie food and not enough nutrient-dense food.

Try this:

  • Fuel your body and mind with fresh, seasonal fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds – and look for local, organic options when possible
  • Cut out, or drastically reduce, processed and packaged foods
  1. Electromagnetic stress

Electromagnetic stress, especially in the form of screen time – TV, computer or hand-held device – can disrupt your sleep, by raising cortisol levels and reducing melatonin production, which prevents your body from properly performing its nightly regime of renewal and repair.

Try this:

  • Stay away from screens for at least an hour before bedtime – read, journal, meditate or have some fun between the sheets instead
  • Dim your lights or use candlelight for at least an hour before bedtime to promote melatonin production and optimize your sleep

Free up precious time for productivity, creativity and community by creating energy rituals to address mental, physical, chemical and electromagnetic stress on a daily basis – let me know about your success!

The Life Delicious on Shaw TV

Catherine Roscoe Barr | The Life Delicious
Catherine Roscoe Barr | The Life Delicious

My dear good friend, Johanna Ward, host of Shaw TV’s go! Vancouver and YWCA fitness instructor extraordinaire (seriously, go to one of her amazing, thrice weekly DanceFit classes) came over the other day to talk about The Life Delicious!

We exercised on my patio, talked about stress management in my hammock, and made a tasty, quick and easy curry in my kitchen. Watch the segment below.

 

What is The Life Delicious?

The Life Delicious is the convergence of stress management, exercise and nutrition.

Health, happiness and productivity blossom where stress management, exercise and nutrition converge!

When you prioritize self-nurturing, by creating energy rituals for stress management, exercise and nutrition – by filling your mind, body and spirit batteries – you bring your best self to the world.

When you prioritize self-nurturing, you inspire others to do the same. Imagine if everyone brought their best selves to the world!

The Trifecta of Wellness: stress management, exercise and nutrition

As a full-time personal trainer and group fitness instructor for nearly a decade, I felt there was something missing from the conversation about exercise and nutrition. In general, people know it’s important to “eat well” and “exercise,” so why is there such a serious lack of implementation? Why isn’t everyone loading up on fresh greens and gym memberships?

I believe the missing link is stress management.

A healthy mind makes anything possible. Self-nurturing – a balanced diet, rich in nutrients and open to occasional indulgence, and an active lifestyle with a diverse selection of physical activity – becomes so much easier when you have a positive, mindful, open attitude.

The Life Delicious harnesses the power of self-directed neuroplasticity

Your brain is an ever-changing, ever-evolving organ. Neuroplasticity, or brain plasticity, refers to your brain's malleability, it's ability to physically change throughout your lifetime.

Experience-dependent neuroplasticity describes the passive structural changes your brain undergoes with day-to-day thoughts, actions and experiences. What you think and do changes your brain, for better or for worse.

Self-directed neuroplasticity describes the conscious, mindful sculpting of your brain’s neural pathways. You can physically change your brain by consciously focussing on the positive. Whether you end your day by writing down a list of things you’re grateful for or positive experiences you've had, or just take a minute or two to ruminate on gratitude and positivity, you are changing your brain.

When you consciously focus on how great you feel when you eat nutritious food, move and challenge your body, and spend time doing things you love and with people you love, you are changing your brain.

Neurons that fire together wire together

Using your mind, you’re changing your brain to scan the world for the good, and you’re creating strong pathways and associations between healthy behaviours (mindfulness, physical activity and nutritious food) and happy, positive and resilient feelings.

So the next time you’re trying to manage a stressful situation, deciding whether or not to exercise, or planning your next meal, healthy options will spring to mind, reinforcing them even further.

This is such a powerful and easy-to-implement way to make a balanced, healthy lifestyle practically effortless. It’s made all of the difference in the world to me. It’s kind of magical!

Check out the fabulous TEDtalk with neuropsychiatrist Rick Hanson below on “hardwiring happiness.”

 

Click on the image below for the 12-minute workout I shared with Johanna.

The Life Delicious | Catherine Roscoe Barr
The Life Delicious | Catherine Roscoe Barr

Click on the image below for the coconut lentil curry recipe I shared with Johanna.

Coconut Lentil Curry | The Life Delicious
Coconut Lentil Curry | The Life Delicious

The Winning Trifecta of Wellness

Catherine Roscoe Barr, left, and Mana Mansour talk about multi-muscle exercises at Steve Nash Fitness World and Sports Club.

My incredibly inspiring friend, reporter Mana Mansour, recently spoke to me on an episode of go! Vancouver about wellness resolutions for 2013.

I was so happy to share a little of what I’ve learned along the way through my work as a fitness professional and wellness writer, as well as my voracious appetite for new books and information on how to live your best life.

Everyone talks about fat loss and dieting and this pill and that exercise. But being well is simple.

I shared with Mana what I call The Winning Trifecta of Wellness: actions that produce optimal brain chemistry.

If you strive for optimal brain chemistry, everything else will fall into place.

The Winning Trifecta of Wellness includes stress management, exercise and nutrition.

The effects of stress management, exercise and nutrition on the mind are more powerful than their effects on the body – think of fat loss, muscle tone, flexibility, strength and endurance as pleasant side effects.

The effects on the mind are immediate. You feel happy, alert, positive, creative, vibrant, energetic and confident when you take time to rejuvenate your mind, move your body and provide it with the right fuel.

Once you discover the immediate effects of the Trifecta on your brain chemistry – how you feel – you’ll be more motivated to regularly take time for stress management, exercise and nutrition, much more motivated than working towards long term goals like losing 6 inches or dropping 15 pounds.

See the go! Vancouver segment below. 

Stress Management

You can’t control what’s going on in the world around you but you can control how you react to it. Thoughts and feelings are chemical communication in your mind and body so do as much as you can to create a healthy environment, not a toxic stew.

  1. Take 10 deep breaths
  2. Smile
  3. Meditate
  4. Start a gratitude journal
  5. Get out in nature
  6. Take time to pursue a hobby
  7. Build community – get together with friends and family, perform random acts of kindness, volunteer your time or money to help others

Exercise

  1. Move. Period. Look at housework in a whole new light. Be thankful you have to walk your dog. Dance more. Take a quick stretch break. Do 20 jumping jacks. Walk to as many errands and meetings as possible. Have sex! Anything is better than nothing – just 10 minutes a day will produce positive changes.
  2. Move as many muscles as possible in as many different ways as possible. Choosing multi-muscle exercises will give you the most bang for your buck, by revving up your metabolism and moving oxygen and nutrients throughout your body.
  3. Have a contingency plan. Listen to your body and be flexible with your schedule. Some days a vigorous workout, where you break a sweat and get your heart pumping, will feel great. Some days you need gentle movements like a bike ride along the seawall or a restorative yoga class. Sometimes, if I can’t be bothered to drag myself to the gym, I workout in my living room. If I’m too tired or running too late for a morning workout, I’ll workout right before I eat lunch, and if that fails, I’ll workout right before I eat dinner.

Nutrition

  1. Choose fresh and un-processed products – if you do this, you can’t go wrong
    • Shopping local, sustainable and seasonal may cost you a little more in the short term but the long term benefits to your health and wellbeing are priceless, not to mention the deposits into your karmic bank account by supporting your planet and community.
    • Every time you make a purchase, you’re voting with your money. When you purchase local, sustainable, seasonal, free-range, organic, un-processed foods, you're voting for the humane treatment of animals and products that aren’t pumped full of hormones or sprayed with chemicals.
    • Also, by knowing where your ingredients come from and preparing most meals from scratch you can control what you’re putting in your body and eliminate as many chemicals, fillers and junk as possible.
  2. Hydrate with water! Drink a glass when you first wake up because you’re likely dehydrated and keep drinking throughout the day. If you’re not keen, try making it more fun by adding citrus, cucumber or frozen berries or have a mug of hot water with a squeeze of lemon.
  3. Fuel your body throughout the day, especially after a workout and after fasting overnight – going to bed on an empty stomach improves sleep quality because your body is able to focus on repair and rejuvenation, not digestion.
    • Ideal day of eating: 7AM, 10AM, 1PM, 4PM, 7PM = 12 hour fast
    • Eating every 3 hours ensures that your blood sugar levels stay steady
    • Spreading calorie intake throughout the day increases metabolism and also helps you to avoid binge eating and poor choices because you’re starving

Mana Mansour, left, and Catherine Roscoe Barr check out the fresh produce, sustainable seafood and animal products that meet the 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Standards at Whole Foods Market.

So, forget about the long-term goals and focus on the now. Focus on how you feel. Don’t make weight loss your new year’s resolution – resolve to feel good by creating optimal brain chemistry through stress management, exercise and nutrition.

By making optimal brain chemistry your new year’s resolution, you can immediately feel energized, positive, creative, happy and vibrant – and fat loss, muscle tone, flexibility, strength and endurance will be icing on the cake of health and happiness!