Do you get cravings? I do! In fact, right now I am diving in to a bag of my favorite tortilla chips – Late July Sea Salt by the Seashore multigrain tortilla chips. It’s been a long day at the computer, writing my newsletter for July which is due out the end of this week. Yikes! I needed some easy energy and the brand new bag was calling my name. Does that ever happen to you?

What else do I crave, food-wise? Well, I was craving green veggies this week. I had been out of town and meals were – light, scattered, and not full of green stuff. So I wanted salads! Besides, it’s hot and salads make a cool, no cook meal often in our house. Sometimes I crave chocolate – just a piece of a good quality, dark chocolate bar. Wine – I sometimes crave a nice glass of red wine with pasta, or while I’m cooking. (I have a small poster of Maxine saying “I love to cook with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food” hanging on my refrigerator!) About four or five times a year I crave a good burger – usually I avoid beef but when this one hits, it’s pretty strong. Peanut butter calls me at lunch now and then – a good PB&J never hurt anyone, right? Soups when it’s chilly or I’m not feeling well. Cheese is another food I usually avoid but sometimes I’m driven to buy a hunk of cheddar and dig in. Not to say I don’t eat these foods other times, just that sometimes the pull is strong.

Do I indulge? Normally, yes, for two reasons. One, I feel like my body knows better than my mind at times, and I should listen to it. Maybe I’ve been unknowingly short-changing some nutrient element of food or using it up more than usual, so my body says “get some of this.” Two, I believe moderation is best in most things, so a little treat of chocolate or a burger is good for the soul. Asceticism generally leads to even stronger cravings. We always want what we ‘can’t’ have, right? It’s why so many ‘diets’ fail – they are too restrictive and often not right for the person trying the diet.

That said, these cravings don’t rule my life, they don’t cause guilt – because they are not constant, overwhelming, and harmful. When people have any kind of addiction, it can be so powerful they give over control of their life to the addiction. The cravings of which I speak are not addiction-related. If you crave something now and then and aren’t restricted medically, then go ahead and indulge! If the craving begins to rule your life, that’s another matter. But an occasional splurge is harmless and only you can decide the degree of its strength. Mostly, I think you’ll feel pretty darn good and move on with life.

So what if you have cravings for something you should not eat due to a medical condition? Like diabetics who crave dessert after every meal, or lactose intolerant individuals who really want some cheese or a glass of milk? Or what if you swore off alcohol (not addiction related) and really want to join a friend in a glass of wine, or you decided to switch to a plant based diet but that burger smells so good?

  • Willpower is essential. Many people believe they don’t have any but really what is often lacking is conviction, not willpower. If you don’t really believe in the reason you are avoiding a food it will be harder to pass on the craving.
  • Substitute something else. I might go for peanut butter on crackers when a cheese craving hits, or a handful of fresh or frozen berries instead of that ice cream dessert.
  • Distract yourself. When I am staying away from wine but feel the urge, I will make a cup of tea. The preparation occupies my mind – filling tea kettle with fresh water, getting the mug out, choosing a flavor of tea. Then I can peacefully sip the tea and no longer care about the wine.
  • Support and accountability are helpful. Maybe your friend will agree to help you by not having dessert when dining with you, and will remind you why you aren’t eating sweets.
  • Know your limits – can you have a little bit or none at all? If none, don’t keep any of the food or beverage you need to avoid nearby, and try to steer clear of places it is featured. If you are diabetic and absolutely love ice cream, don’t keep any at home and stay out of ice cream parlors! If you are refraining from alcohol, stay out of bars.

Mostly, just don’t let a craving make you feel like a failure, even if you give in to it. It’s normal! You’re human! Let it go and carry on.

My last post was about embarking on a whole food, plant based way of eating. (Again, it’s basically a vegan diet but with the emphasis on whole foods, foods in their most complete state.) I wanted to see how well I would do avoiding all animal and seafood protein, all dairy, and eggs. I did promise weekly updates but March has been a very busy month so I missed updating my progress last week.

I had stated I would try this for the month of March but actually started February 26. So it’s been three full weeks as I write this. How do I feel? Physically I feel great; lighter, not so dense. I notice I have longer periods of satiety and don’t feel the need to snack between meals. The occasional intestinal issues have improved. I may have lost a bit of weight, although that was not my aim. I believe I was not eating enough in week two since I found myself feeling lethargic, so I made sure to eat more food to get the calories I need for my activity level. Eating WFPB doesn’t mean restricted intake, I was just finding my way around a different way of thinking about meals and what to prepare, and not eating enough.

Mentally I’m a bit frustrated. The mental frustration comes from two areas. One is not having a partner in the experiment, someone to support the transition and share ideas with. Like a health coach, you ask? Well, yes, that would be a help, lol! Or someone to travel the path with me since it’s harder when those close to you aren’t willing to give it a try and don’t really understand why you want to do this.

The other area of frustration is eating out. Restauranteurs for the most part cater to omnivores, and understandably so since they are the majority. But could restaurants please, please have an entrée other than salad that is fully plant-based? One that I do not have to ask – “Is there milk in that?” or “Please omit the cheese.” One where there is flavor without resorting to ‘fake’ meats, cheese, or eggs. Certainly there are some restaurants that are all plant-based or have many options for vegans, but not often the kinds of places my dining partners want to go to. And some of those places do rely too heavily on highly processed ‘meat’ replacements – not something I want. Trust me, I understand the whys of this and trying to please a variety of palates and encouraging reluctant omnivores to try meatless eating. But I would also like to be able to go to the places we like to go and know there is something to order without a fuss. Maybe like-minded people will keep asking for better options as interest in WFPB eating increases and that will encourage chefs to add an item or two.

Have I been successful? Well, yes and no. Yes, because I am trying new recipes and some new foods, I feel great, and I know I am balancing my nutrition needs. I had one oooops! And one deliberate choice due to the frustration I mention above. The oooops was in the lovely spring lasagna I made early on – it used pesto rather than marinara sauce and I used a store-bought pesto (Kirkland’s from Costco – best stuff ever!) quite forgetting it has cheese. Oh, well. Then this past weekend we wanted to watch some of the March Madness at a local pizza place. NOTHING on the menu was cheese-free, and leaving the cheese out of any sounded tasteless and troublesome so I ordered pizza. A Margherita so there was no meat but there’s the cheese. I was quite ready to quit the whole experiment but a clearer head the next day told me to keep on it!

Has it been difficult? Well, no and yes is the answer here too. I am not a big meat eater anyway so that has not been burdensome for me. Maybe a little tiresome for my husband, as he misses some of his favorites that have chicken or fish. And I stopped using most dairy products long ago, although cheese had crept back in to our meals a little. I miss eggs more than meat or cheese. And of course avoiding cheese in restaurant meals has been a little tough. I think it does take more planning and effort to cook meals that satisfy hunger to the same extent a hunk of animal protein does. Much more prep work than popping a chicken breast in the broiler and tossing a quick salad! Here are some of the dinners I’ve eaten since the last post:

  • ‘Mexican’ salad cups – quinoa, beans, raw zucchini, tomatoes, salsa dressing in lettuce cups
  • Lasagna with beet greens filling, marinara, tofu, and vegan mozzarella-style cheese; simple side salad
  • One Pan Farro with Tomatoes; sautéed cauliflower
  • My ‘Everything’ salad – bits of all the vegetables I have on hand that work in a salad
  • Italian restaurant (veggie panini, hold the cheese)
  • Thai Noodle salad – lettuce, carrot, cucumber, bean sprouts, red bell, rice noodles in spicy peanut-ty dressing
  • Vegetarian sloppy joes on whole grain buns; cabbage slaw
  • Broccoli with udon noodles in spicy peanut sauce; Roasted Brussel sprouts in Momofuku sauce
  • Crunchy Salad – lots of crunchy vegs like raw carrot, celery, daikon radish, toasted seeds
  • Creamy carrot and sweet potato soup; spicy garbanzo fritters
  • Mexican restaurant (veggie taco, arroz side)
  • Pizza restaurant

I try to alternate hot meals vs. chilled salads, all veggies vs. veggies with beans or grains, eating in with eating out, and of course, what works with other plans on a given day. As well, the weather turned hot this past week so appetites go down. More salads will appear on the menu.

I would say a word about the meat replacement products. They can be a bridge to switching to a plant-based way of eating, especially for someone concerned about missing out on certain favorites or about not feeling full after a meal. But there are so many plant foods and so many ways to prepare them, that looking for ways to replace meat with a meat replacement may keep you from fully exploring all those plant foods and methods. Also, be careful of the replacement products – some are full of ingredients you really don’t want to eat and are highly processed. Read labels and know what you are buying.

All in all, I’m feeling good about this process and what we’ve been eating. By the end of the month I believe I’ll have the hang of menu-planning, which will simplify my food shopping. Right now I have an overabundance of vegetables in the fridge! Will I stick to it for life? I can’t say for sure, maybe I’ll know by April 1. Stay tuned for more!

This is the time of year many appeals to help feed the homeless and the hungry are sent out. And many people answer those appeals by donating money, food, or time. I would bet everyone reading this blog and others like it is not ‘food insecure’. How do you help those who are? Is it only when reminded by the holiday appeals that you help or do you assist in other ways all year ‘round? I’m not trying to make anyone feel guilty or obligated – just wondering if this is something you think about.

For those who are able to help with donations of money or food, I would encourage you to check out the program(s) you consider supporting. Some do a better job of helping those most in need than other programs. It is so disheartening to hear of a food bank where the volunteers skim off the best products, although I’m hoping that is rare. Some food banks prefer cash contributions to food stuffs as they can sometimes get wholesale prices and more products for the dollar. I also like to donate a bag of personal care products – things that cannot be bought with food stamps but are necessary for personal dignity. Many families make it a tradition to help prepare and serve meals at shelters – this is a great way to impress on children the importance of sharing.

While you may not be food insecure – you have enough food, good food, can eat when you want – are you hungry in other ways? Certainly one can imagine the hunger of the homeless and the very poor for more than just food. Hunger for security, for safety, for someone who cares, etc. Yet even those who aren’t homeless or poor may hunger for these things; or for family and friends with whom to share; for meaningful work; for better health. The nutrition school I attended considers what we eat to be “secondary food” and lifestyle issues to be “primary food”. This is an important distinction! Yes, food is essential to live and good, clean food is essential to good health. But to get the most from this life, our relationships, our home and family life, our work, our health, and our spirituality are also essential. This is true regardless of socio-economic status. How can we feed these needs, satisfy the pangs?

First you need to identify what it is you hunger for, where is your life lacking? If you love your work and feel you contribute to society by doing it, then that is all good, but if not, is it time for a change? Do you feel a lack of a spiritual center? Are there money troubles? Is your marriage suffering from lack of attending to it? Once you know where the effort needs to go, what you need to feed, you can make a plan.

By helping those who are most in need, we feed our compassion. Maybe you offer your time and money as part of a spiritual practice, so that feeds your spirituality. Perhaps stress at work has you snapping at a family member, so you could make a focused effort on refraining from taking it out on them and on explaining why you have been so cranky. From that discussion may follow ideas on how to relieve or remove the cause of the stress – at the very least sharing with a loved one brings understanding and caring. If there is a health concern, what changes can you make in other areas of your life, like your diet, alcohol consumption, or stress level to resolve or alleviate the concern? Engaging in mindful meditation can bring many benefits to your life, in relationships, spirituality, compassion for others, and health. Expressing true gratitude for the food you eat and for all the people who had a hand in getting that food before you is another way of feeding the inner hunger.

I just encourage you, in this season and all seasons, to consider both life hunger and food hunger, for yourself and for others. In helping others, you help yourself in ways you may not even know.

20161025_autumn-treeWe don’t really have four seasons here in the Valley of the Sun. We have two: nice weather and summer (which most people don’t consider “nice”, LOL!). It’s late October and our afternoons are still in the mid-90s although overnight lows are in the upper 60s to low 70s – nice and cool in the mornings! I spent the bulk of my life in the Midwest so I feel like I should be wearing jeans, sweaters, and boots this late in the year but I’m still wearing shorts and sandals during the days. I loved autumn in the Midwest and miss those crisp, fall days. What to do?

To start with, I follow my long-time fall routine, just maybe a month or so later than I used to. That means – heavy duty cleaning. True, the house was mostly closed up all summer with AC on so not much dust got in. It just seems the air must be stale, so I open the windows and clean! Once upon a time I was really ‘scrubby Dutch’ but that time is past and I really have to have a reason for this now. Like, company coming from out of town to stay a few days – that gets me moving! They will be here in two weeks so I better get rolling.

Heavy duty cleaning means I move a lot of things around to clean in, under, and closer, and that means I find things that really, we don’t need. “Why did we keep this?” I wonder. There’s not a lot of storage room in our condo so space for needless things just doesn’t exist, and have I ever mentioned that I don’t like clutter? Someday I will get up a lot of motivation and clear out the garage, but that day is not here yet! Still, I’ll end up with a bag or box or two to donate, and probably a fair amount to toss. So I find this a good time to de-clutter.

While I’m taking a break from all that cleaning I might browse a new magazine or the web and come across recipes for soups and stews and chilies that sound delicious and warm and cozy and cold-weather satisfying. But it’s still too hot for those dishes, I tell myself! That doesn’t stop me from saving the recipe for ‘later’ although by now I have dozens of these recipes saved and few of them actually tried. Still, a few will get tested, a few will get tossed without trying (why did I save this one??), and a few more will morph together into one brand-new recipe. I do make some soups in the summer but they tend to be lightweight, like a cool gazpacho or a nice, light cauliflower soup that is good hot or cold. My cool weather soups are heartier, with heavier flavors, bigger chunks of veggies, and more beans and/or grains. I also do more baking in our cooler season, for obvious reasons!

Another habit that came with me from my roots is stocking up the pantry as the weather changes to winter. Who wants to go out when it’s cold, windy, snowy, or icy? Not me! So I’d make sure I had plenty of ingredients on hand for the days I didn’t feel like getting out. Not that we encounter many of those days here in the valley; it’s just habit. And now that habit seems to last all year, because who wants to have to run to the store when it’s 114? I try to always have staples on hand – onions and garlic, dried and canned beans, plant-based milk, frozen veggies, canned tomatoes, spices, dried pasta, and nuts and seeds. Summer meals usually mean lots of fresh salad veggies and ingredients for dressings. Winter meals also have lots of fresh vegetables but I make fewer salads.

My last transition activity is shifting clothes. Like I mentioned, not a lot of storage here so sweaters, heavier pants, long sleeved items get packed in boxes in spring and brought out in fall; shorts and sleeveless tops and summery skirts go into the boxes. This year I need to take a really critical look at my wardrobe because really, I have too many clothes. Since I gave up corporate work, I don’t need all the clothes I did before but it’s been hard to get rid of perfectly good items. Now I think I’m ready to let some go to a better home. Still not time to pull out the heavier sweaters and switch to wearing boots, but it will be soon!

Living here has simplified my seasonal transitions for two reasons. One, I only have to switch twice, from hot to cool, and cool to hot. I used to have to adjust to four seasons. Two, no daylight savings time – that change always hit me hard and I love not messing with adjusting my internal clock to arbitrary clock changes.

What are your seasonal transitions like?

20161011_meditationDo you find it disturbing when you hear someone nearly bragging about feeling exhausted and stressed out? And then realize he/she is the twentieth person you’ve heard talk like that just recently. And then realize that you empathize with them all, because you are in the same boat. We boast of our ability to multi-task. We try to out-do the other person’s list of to-dos. We carry our mini-computers, otherwise known as “smart phones”, and respond instantly to whatever chimes or chirps it makes, even at dinner with loved ones, while walking with our kids, while working out. We say “yes” to every request for fear of being labeled ‘weak’ or ‘can’t-handle-it’. Because it’s all so important.

I’m sure you’ve heard of mindfulness meditation by now. It’s a big thing, one more thing for your already too long task list, to fit into your day, to buy new clothes for, to seek out a guru, and don’t forget the cushion. It’s the thing to end your stress, calm your mind, settle the WWIII going on at home, help you get a good night’s rest. Or is it?

What is meditation? Meditation is a practice of training or focusing the mind in order to be present with Now, with what is before you in this moment. It brings clarity to an unfocused mind that jumps from thought to thought constantly – what is often called ‘monkey mind’. While meditation may be a hot topic currently, it has been practiced for centuries by many cultures and religions, and in various ways. Mindfulness meditation or “mindfulness” as a practice is really the same as plain old meditation, but maybe a more acceptable term for those who associate meditation with a specific religion. Mindfulness is the label popularized in the West by a program started by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, where patients with severe medical problems learned to meditate to help alleviate some of those problems. It’s not just for those with stress or health problems, but is good for anyone looking for self-improvement.

One does not have to identify with a religion or movement to practice meditation. Benefits of a regular practice include more calmness, better clarity, reduced anxiety and stress, lower blood pressure and heart rate, and more compassion and awareness of self and those around you. It takes time to build up a good practice and reap the benefits of it, and of course not everyone experiences meditation in the same way. But those who stick with it definitely find it worthwhile. Much research is being done to study and measure actual impacts of meditation on various physical and mental health issues.

There are many methods of meditation, and since I am not a trained instructor in the art of meditation but only a novice practitioner, I will not elaborate on those. Suffice to say no special equipment, clothing, or education is necessary. A dedicated time in a quiet space is all one really needs. There are many books, classes, audio programs, and online programs that help people learn to meditate, and much information on the web about what it is and is not. Some guides will strongly recommend you begin with a qualified teacher and other guides tell you to jump right in. I have read many books and online articles on how to meditate and listened to several guided meditations, but always return to the method I initially learned. It’s a simple practice – I start my day with 20-30 minutes to sit and follow my breath, not trying to not think but keeping focus on my breathing, in and out. I like mornings as that is when I am least interrupted or disturbed by activity or noise. Did I mention that I am a novice? Yes, my monkey mind is far from tamed but I do feel progress in being able to focus on what is right in front of me.

One caution I will state: if you are someone with deep emotional or mental disturbances, I absolutely recommend working with a trained instructor who can guide you, as sometimes looking deep within oneself can stir up deep memories that are painful or frightening.

Some of the books I have read and will suggest are those by Pema Chodron (How To Meditate), Jon Kabat-Zinn (Wherever You Go, There You Are), and Thich Nhat Hanh. Wikipedia has good entries about ‘meditation’ and about ‘mindfulness’. As well, the web has thousands of entries on the subject, some with detailed instructions, some with guided meditations. Explore for yourself, and give meditation a try. You may find it is just what you need!

20160524_clutterwarsI am what some might call a “neat-freak”. I’m not as obsessive as I once was; a busy life and getting older changes one’s perspective on many things. But I do have limited space in the condo in which I live, so neatness still matters. People who visit will say “your house is so clean!” as if they are surprised about that for some reason, but what they really mean is that it is so neat. Yeah, it’s pretty clean too, but not as “scubby Dutch” clean as I once would have kept it. (The term “scubby Dutch” refers to southside St. Louis Germans who called Germany Deutschland and spoke Deutsch, or German. The housewives were very clean and neat, and scrubbed everything. The word ‘Deutsch’ became ‘Dutch’ when non-German speakers said the word. Yes, those women were my ancestors! In the past I tore my whole house apart twice a year and cleaned everything – every light fixture, vent, piece of furniture, drape, every square inch. On top of regular cleaning.)

Now, I was not like this as a teenager, no way. My room was as messy as it could be. Fortunately, the obsessive-neat gene bypassed my mom and she just ignored my mess, as long as it was in my room and didn’t draw bugs! She knew I’d get tired of it sooner or later and clean up, and periodically I did. Then I got married and our first apartment was small, with minimal storage space. Plus we had a baby, with all the stuff that comes with one. Keeping things picked up was essential if we didn’t want to trip over things in the dark when the baby awoke! Even as we moved to larger homes, I realized the more stuff we had on shelves, tables, and floor, the more work I’d have cleaning, not to mention packing and moving it all. So even though I had knick-knacks and decorative items, I tried to keep those minimal.

Time goes by, and I become more conscious of the environmental impacts we humans cause. Think of the trash, wasted resources, and energy usage and pollution from shipping long distances the ‘stuff’ we buy. Stuff to decorate, or to try that nifty new appliance that only gets used a couple of times, or to keep up with fashion trends. Stuff that replaces other stuff, except the other stuff is still perfectly fine so we don’t get rid of it. Or it holds sentimental value. And pretty soon, the stuff overflows the closet, the garage, the basement, the cabinets. And you have clutter! And I hate it. It makes me nervous. I have to reorganize it until it seems uncluttered, and if that won’t work – time to purge.

However, some people celebrate clutter! We call them ‘pack-rats’ or sometimes, ‘hoarders’. I think it depends on the depth of their clutter collections. Everyone’s tolerance for clutter is different. Not to say all clutter is BAD – research has found that some people need a bit of a mess in their surroundings to feel inspired. If you are in this category, the next section may be painful to read! Because I’m going to point out why you should de-clutter and give some tips on clearing the clutter.

Why de-clutter? When your surroundings are cluttered, it’s hard to de-stress and decompress from the clutter in your mind. It’s more difficult to find things. You lose track of what you already have, like discovering you own three of the same kind of shovel. It allows for more dust and dirt to hide, adding to allergy symptoms. Clutter fosters procrastination; if it’s hard to find a starting place, it’s easy to give up the task or project. Clutter can stop you from moving forward and getting passed the past. Clutter competes for your attention and overloads your senses, resulting in increased stress and impairing your ability to think creatively. Maybe multi-tasking is not the problem! And of course, clutter can be a safety hazard, like tripping over one of the three shovels on your way through the garage!

So how does one go about clearing this up? Well, there are those who insist organization first is key, and others who promote a ‘just do it’ method. The latter feel that organizing 1) takes too much time for the truly cluttered and is daunting; and 2) promotes keeping things, albeit neatly, that should really be tossed out. Yet without some organization or at least a systematic approach, time will be wasted and interest lost when tackling the big projects. One suggestion is to have a bag or box for five groups – things for the trash, things that already have a place but aren’t in it, things that have no place but should, things that you will donate or sell, and things that you don’t use, can’t wear, or haven’t looked at in years yet are reluctant to get rid of. This latter group should be labeled with a date, say a year or six months from the time you pack it, and if you do not need to retrieve anything from it in that time, out it goes. Take these five bags or boxes to each area to be de-cluttered and begin. Once you have finished that area, take care of the five bags/boxes as soon as you can. Carry the stuff to the trash. Arrange to go by the charity drop off point or plan a date for the yard sale. Take the things with a place back to it, and find a place for those that have none. Store the box with the date out of the way. You may want to limit your first forays to 15 or 30 minutes, to reduce the stress of getting started. But once you see that now clear area, it will be so inspiring you will want to tackle the next area and work longer at it! Another suggestion is to start with a really cluttered area that is in your face daily – like the place where everything coming in the door stops and jumbles up: keys, shoes, mail, dog leash, etc.

Once you clear the clutter, or at least the bulk of it in your main living areas, it is important to keep things neat. If you let it all pile up again, you will be frustrated about the time you had spent cleaning it and feel way less motivated to tackle it again. No need to become a drill sergeant, but try to make a habit of putting things away. Maybe make a rule that if a new XYZ comes through the door, an old XYZ has to go. Or no buying new XYZs unless it is really needed and has a place to be kept out of the way. And, you must engage the others in the household to stick with the new habits and rules.

Most of all, freeing yourself of clutter simplifies your life and that’s what I’m all about, right?!

smile‘Your attitude determines your altitude.’ This or one of its variations is usually seen on motivational posters or presentations in regards to employment, climbing the ladder, achieving financial success. Yet it certainly applies just as well to our personal lives, to how we perceive ourselves and our satisfaction with our life and its various aspects.

Have you ever read this poem: “Children Learn What They Live” by Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.? In part it goes like this: “If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn. … If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.” (Nolte, 1972, lines 1, 9). The sentiments in this poem could certainly be re-worded to read ‘if you practice criticism you will learn to condemn; if you practice tolerance you will learn to be patient.’ In Ayurveda, too, we learn that our five senses are the gateways to perception, and that the sensory perceptions you take in you become. If we take in nourishing experiences that balance us and create a quality of well-being, we will be healthy. If we choose perceptions that will make us unhappy and lead to feeling toxic, we create an unhealthy body and mind. Our minds accept all the seeds we plant, and all the seeds we allow to be planted by forces outside of us, even if unintentional.

How you see people, events, yourself, and life’s problems is your attitude towards them. We can wallow in what we perceive as “bad” or “imperfect” about those things, thus building this negative perception into our personality. We can exercise this negative attitude, allowing it to stop us, hold us down, and keep us from having joy. And from having friends, as who wants to be around such constant harping?!

Or we can recognize and rejoice in the “good” about those things. I’m not talking about positive thinking here but actually examining aspects of our life and truly seeing the good. Not just believing good things will happen, but recognizing the good that already exists. (Good, bad – just adjectives, subjectively used to describe our perceptions.) This attitude – seeing the good – opens your heart, expands your mind to see infinite possibility, and frees you from the negativity that drains you and those around you.

Take a look at these areas of your life – your health, job, family relationships, spiritual life, finances, social life, education, and level of physical activity. Which do you perceive as “great” or “doing fine”? And which are areas of your life that may not be humming along quite as smoothly as you’d like? Celebrate and express gratitude for the former! And then examine the latter. Not everything in our lives will always be perfect or great; plus our own interpretation of what makes “great” may change from one era of our lives to the next. But really consider those not-so-great areas and ask yourself – is it only my attitude towards it that makes it seem so bad? Am I letting one factor that I perceive as negative outweigh what would be considered positive? Have I developed a habit of bad attitude? If you answer ‘yes’ to these questions, it’s time for an attitude adjustment. (Not the temporary, after work kind!) Let’s say it’s your financial situation that is troubling. To what degree? If you have lost your job, used all the unemployment benefits, maxed out credit cards – this situation is beyond attitude and I hope it can be rectified soon. But if you are able to pay your bills yet are discontent about your purchasing power or savings amount or income level, ask yourself why. Is it because you are a certain age and think or are told you should have more? Are you trying to keep up with the Joneses? Are you trying to outdo a competitive sibling or friend? Then examine this deeply and check if there is truly any validity in those beliefs for you. Does having more make you a better or happier person, really? Can you accept that your worth as a person, spouse, parent, friend is not based on numbers of dollars? Change your attitude about money and worth and you will find greater content in your life.

Does it take time and effort to examine and change your perceptions? Yes. But, “If you don’t make the time to work on creating the life you want, you’re eventually going to be forced to spend a LOT of time dealing with a life you don’t want.” (Kevin Ngo, Let’s Do This! 100 Powerful Messages to Help You Take Action) Improve your attitude and your satisfaction altitude will soar!

20150630_cheerleaderA few days ago I knew I needed to get writing my post for this week but was not very motivated to get it going. Summer doldrums, other things on my mind, who knows why. But, gotta get going so I reviewed the list I made a few weeks ago with some topics for future blog posts, and guess what one of the topics was – Motivation! Voila! What better way to find motivation than to research how other folks get themselves motivated?

How do people get into a workout routine? How do they create and then stick to a business start-up plan? How do non-cooks become great home chefs? Some days, how do some of us even get out of bed?! Certainly one factor is whether the task or project is something you want to do, something you need to do, or something someone else promised you would. (“Sure, Pat would love to help you with that project…”) It seems some people have more self-motivating powers than other people, and some people just can’t past their procrastination. This week, I’ve been in the latter group!

There are many articles online with tips, with reasons, and with motivational programs to purchase. Most of these narrow down to some common sense steps, steps we all know and just need reminding. For starting a new project or habit, these are some tips:

  • Focus on why – why do you want to develop a workout routine? Why do you want to start that business? What drives you to cook at home? Make a list of the whys and keep it visible, on your desk or mirror.
  • Plot out the steps. Looking up at the top of the mountain is daunting – look for that first handhold, the first foothold as you climb. Then list the next step, and the next. Once you see the steps, the mountain doesn’t look insurmountable.
  • Examine your obstacles – are they excuses? Some hurdles are not of your making but may be gotten over with creative thinking, delegation, and cooperation. Other hurdles are self-imposed, like fear of failure or feeling like you don’t have the tools you need. For these you need to build your self-confidence and do some inspirational reading of others who triumphed over their self-blocking thoughts.
  • Test the waters. Baby steps may be all you need to fire up those motivating juices. Find some simple kitchen techniques to try and see how it goes; then move on to simple recipes – next thing you know, you’re cooking!
  • Get a partner. Maybe someone to try that new gym with you, or do a daily walk. A mentor for your business planning. A friend who wants to try their hand at cooking. A partner brings help, accountability, and fun.
  • Reward small successes. Taking those baby steps or the first full step on the way to your goal is a success in itself, so reward yourself, even if it’s only a verbal compliment. Appreciating your efforts helps you keep up your momentum.

However, sometimes we find it hard to be motivated to do something that is already well ingrained or underway. Like not being inspired to write this post. Or not wanting to cook dinner even though I cook at home all the time. Or not motivated to help the neighbor as your parent/spouse/friend said you would.

  • Focus on why – why don’t you feel like doing it? Maybe you are not feeling well, something else is distracting your time and attention, or you simply don’t like the neighbor that well. Then you can decide whether to postpone, delegate, or cancel the task/project/plan and stop fretting.
  • Take a walk, actual or virtual. Sometimes stepping away provides the break you need to be reenergized.
  • Stay positive. Just because you run into a wall of sorts doesn’t mean it’s permanent. If you like what you’ve been doing, the drive will return.
  • Give yourself a break. Lack of motivation does not mean failure. It means you are human, not a robot, with a human life and all its complexities. It could also mean you are trying to force a square peg (you) into a round hole (something you don’t need to be doing).
  • Remember why you wanted to do this task/project/plan. Reminding yourself of the reasons you began may be enough to reinvigorate your efforts.

So, following the tips I found and sticking to my commitment to myself, I completed this post on time! And, in the process, fired myself up to work on the other topics on my list!!

I think I can, I think I can, I know I can, I know I can, says the little train.20150630_train-bottomofpost