journal

The power of strategic repetition to hardwire transformative habits

 

One of the things that gets me up every morning is my fascination with our disconnect.

Every single one of us struggles with some form of disconnect.

We want things, and we know what we need to do to achieve those things… yet we don’t take the appropriate actions consistently to see the results we want to see.

Why is that? Fascinating, right?!

 

We know we should think better. Yet we don’t.

We know we should eat better. Yet we don’t.

We know we should move better. Yet we don’t.

We know we should sleep better. Yet we don’t.

We know we should use time better. Yet we don’t.

 

The Life Delicious curriculum is designed to combat this exact problem – to systematically build a bridge that overcomes your disconnect.

The curriculum facilitates the hardwiring of specific habits, so you can struggle less and achieve more.

These transformative habits cover 5 different pillars:

  1. Mindset
  2. Movement
  3. Nutrition
  4. Sleep
  5. Connection

 

Through strategic repetition, students learn concepts on a very deep level that's able to transcend their normal resistance to change.

When we can learn to recognize how resistance feels in our body and in our mind, we can identify that feeling and choose to move through it, rather than shrink away from it and stay stuck in our unhelpful patterns.

 

Human nature is to move toward pleasure and away from pain.

Thinking better, eating better, moving better, sleeping better, and using time better can feel painful because changing our behaviour is uncomfortable.

If we’re not mindful of how we’re feeling, we can unconsciously label all feelings of discomfort as pain, and fail to grow by failing to take action.

 

Often, what lies on the other side of discomfort (getting out of bed to exercise, choosing our words more carefully, making a healthier nutrition decision) is great pleasure (feeling fantastic in our body, acting with compassion, having wellsprings of energy).

If we can learn to question discomfort, get curious about it, and recognize when it’s in our best interest to push through it, we can grow, expand, transform, and achieve our dreams!

 

Transformative habits aren't tricky or grand. Their power lies in small changes consistently practiced over time, with strategic repetition.

 

Step 1: Learn

The Life Delicious curriculum offers in-depth modules on mindset, movement, nutrition, sleep, and connection.

Students learn tools to balance their brain's negativity bias with a more positive outlook, to practice a growth mindset instead seeing life through the lens of guilt, and to monitor their mindset toward stress and its impact on their cognitive function, immunity, digestion, reproductive health and sex drive, and metabolism. The importance of balancing both exercise and physical activity are also explored, as are menu planning, mindful eating, sleep hygiene, brain hygiene, productivity and connection.

>>> Make a habit of learning new information, but be mindful that it’s only the first step of transformation.

 

Step 2: Think

One drawback to self-study is not giving yourself enough time to process the information you've learned.

Have you ever read a book or article and thought, “that's amazing, I should do that!”... and then never actually done it?

In a retreat setting, time is specifically set aside to give students space to process what they've learned and practically apply those tools to their own lives.

>>> Make a habit of giving yourself time to think about new information to help you absorb it. Create space to think – even 1 minute counts.

 

Step 3: Write

A powerful follow-up to thinking is writing.

When you're tasked with thinking and then translating thoughts into words on the page, you process information on a deeper level.

Every participant at The Life Delicious retreats receives a comprehensive workbook and journal to write in, to facilitate a process called self-directed neuroplasticity, which is the mindful sculpting of new brain connections – i.e. the hardwiring of transformative habits.

Begin your own Mood, Food & Fitness Journal! Check out 5 Tips For A Powerful Journaling Practice to get started. 

>>> Make a habit of writing down how your thoughts, words and actions make you feel, and give yourself space to process new information through the written word.

 

Step 4: Speak

Group discussion is an integral part of The Life Delicious retreats.

Participants take in new information, think about how it applies to their own life, write down their thoughts, and then share those thoughts with others, which not only facilitates even deeper learning, it gives everyone insight into new and novel ways to practice the material covered.

Everyone’s personal experience is unique, and everyone can learn from each other.

This multi-level processing helps ingrain the exact tools each participant needs in their life at present.

>>> Make a habit of sharing new information with a friend, family member or colleague. By explaining your unique insight, you’ll not only solidify it in your own mind, you’ll inspire others to get curious about habit formation too.  

 

Step 5: Reread

The last few hours of each retreat are dedicated to integration.

Participants are given the chance to sort through everything they've learned over the weekend, highlight what resonated most, circle trends, and create a personalized action plan of transformative habits.

>>> Make a habit of rereading your journal at least once a month to remind yourself of your intentions, to notice trends, and to keep yourself accountable to your dreams.

 

Step 6: Share

Once you’re witnessed, intentions are set in motion!

By sharing their action plan, participants create an energy of intention, accountability and community to practice the habits they've determined will best serve their lives.

>>> Make a habit of stating your intentions publicly – whether it’s to a friend, family member or colleague, on social media, or your blog.

 

Step 7: Practice  

Practice, practice, practice!

Change comes through action – you’ve got to do the work to see results!

Display your action plan somewhere visible so you’ll be reminded to practice your transformative habits most days.

>>> Tack an index card to your corkboard, place a sticky note on your bathroom mirror, write your habits down in beautiful script and frame them, jot them on a blank business card laminated with packing tape and put it in your pocket. Get creative with your visual reminders!

 

Step 8: Reassess

Private post-retreat sessions give participants accountability to help hardwire their new habits, and allow them to reassess their needs and wants.

>>> Make a habit of reassessing your habits two to six times a year. Are they still serving you? Are they practical to your lifestyle? How can you upgrade them to better serve your life?

 

 

These 8 strategic steps incorporated into The Life Delicious retreats are what make them such powerfully transformative weekends, truly giving participants the tools, tenacity and drive to take action in creating the lives they desire.

 

Don’t forget:

  1. Learn
  2. Think
  3. Write
  4. Speak
  5. Reread
  6. Share
  7. Practice
  8. Reassess

 


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.