I've been remiss with updating my blog, mainly because the possibilities for topics seem vast and endless. I figured that I would use this uncertainty as an opportunity to reach out and ask for ideas. Is there anything in particular that you want to learn more about? Are you looking for thoughts about relationships, finances, healthy living, mental health in general? Can this blog be useful to you in any way, and if so, how?
After the frigid winter and wet spring we just had, this summer is shaping up to be a wonderful relief. Remember the feeling of summer vacation as a child with the whole expanse of free months stretching before you?Remember catching fireflies at dusk, playing kickball with your friends, running home shrieking for quarters at the sound of the ice cream man's bell? Try to recapture some of those feelings this summer. Make new memories, play outside, frolic in the water, eat ice cream cones. Joy doesn't have to cost money, but it does require us to live in the moment and appreciate the small happinesses that come our way. Enjoy!
Valentine's Day is this Friday, in case you missed the barrage of ads for flowers, chocolates, and sparkly things in your inbox. This holiday is touted as being a day of romance, a celebration of love. But is love really about increasing the sales of the card or candy industry? Expressions of love ideally happen every day, not just on February 14th.
If you want your relationship to be loving, it's important to make a effort all the time. Love involves some self-sacrifice and putting the needs of your partner before your own. If both people in a relationship do this, both people's needs are met, and both feel nurtured and loved. Is it one-sided sometimes? Sure it is. When we're sick or stressed it's natural to turn the focus inward simply to cope. Hopefully our partner understands, and can be supportive. When your partner is sick or stressed, be the nurturer. Be kind. Be compassionate. Be the caretaker you would wish for yourself.
In my opinion, a genuine expression of love is doing something beyond what you would normally do in order to make someone else happy. In a relationship, partners tend to evolve into certain roles and work in a complementary way so that all the bases are covered. Doing some of these basic tasks are important for functioning as a family, but they don't count as "loving". If you regularly vacuum and change the sheets, or mow the lawn, it doesn't really count as a loving gesture. If, however, the mower one day changes the sheets, well then! Truly loving gestures require us to extend ourselves in some way. So this is my challenge to you: start extending yourself. Go beyond the usual and do something meaningful. It will enhance your relationship far more than a box of chocolates. (But still get the box of chocolates, because they're good too!)
Welcome to the New Year! Have you finished digging out from the clutter and chaos of the holidays yet? And how about those New Year's Resolutions? Let's review those....
Is "Lose Weight" the first (or perhaps, only) item on your list? Or maybe, in the spirit of mixing things up a bit, you've considered "Eat Better" or "Exercise More". I'm willing to bet that any of those come with a nice heaping portion of self-recrimination, too. Lots of "if-onlys". If only...I'd stuck to this last year. If only...I could get off my butt and get to the gym. If only...I could lay off the chips. I would like to propose a challenge this year. How about, instead of judging yourself or planning a regimen of self-denial, you think about adding things to your life that will be pleasurable and enjoyable! For example: I will go online and find two new recipes for a vegetable that I've always wanted to try, and prepare them this month. Or how about: I will think about what kind of movement activities would be fun for me and try one...and yes, sledding, skating, and snowball fights totally count!
Something I say frequently to clients is "the weight will do what the weight will do". Weight is largely biologically determined and beyond our control. What we *can* control are healthy habits, including moving our bodies, eating nutritious food, and getting proper sleep. See what happens if you gradually start making changes with the primary goal being better health, not weight loss!
If you can't decorate like Martha, cook like Giada, or shop like Oprah, your holidays will be a bust, right? Of course not, but that's the kind of pressure we put upon ourselves in order to create the perfect Hallmark holidays for our families. Here are a few tips to help you keep your sanity as we go through the next few weeks.
I wish you all a joyous, healthy, and fulfilling holiday season!
I was having a conversation with a client the other day about her internal pressure to "lose weight and get in shape". This is a common concern that clients (especially women) frequently bring up in therapy. I tend to use this as an opportunity to normalize the push that people feel to be a certain weight or size, then gently present the possibility of looking at health from a more size/weight-neutral perspective. "What would you like to be doing differently than you are doing today?", I might ask. This then opens up a discussion about embarking upon some pleasurable activities that contribute to improvements in flexibility, for example, or strength.
Another important piece in this is, of course, diet. We are so conditioned by the incessant barrage of messages about food and weight that any focus on size or weight sets us up for the psychic leap to Diet Mentality. Diet Mentality is the all-or-nothing, good-food/bad-food way of thinking about how we nourish ourselves. It inherently sets people up for a cycle of restriction and overindulgence. Just think about how this might apply to you, or people you know. How often have you said "well, I had an extra slice of pizza, so tomorrow I better do an extra 15 minutes on the treadmill"? Or how about "I think I'm going to be bad and order dessert."? Or "I was so good all week that I deserve to cheat on the weekend."? Sound familiar? I am willing to bet that if you eavesdropped on almost any dinner conversation among a group of women in a restaurant you would hear any number of statements to this effect.
So let me pose this radical idea. What if we stopped labeling foods "good" or "bad"? What if, instead, we think about what our bodies really want and how the food makes us feel? What if, instead of eating an entire pint of ice cream (because, after all, you've already blown it so you might as well eat the whole darn thing!), you portion out a serving and pay attention to how it smells, how it tastes, how your body feels afterwards? This is, in essence, intuitive eating. It involves an inherent trust in ones body to make choices about food and nourishment without imposing all kinds of rules or judgments. Intuitive eating doesn't restrict, it guides. Are you craving a cupcake? Have the cupcake. Choose a really nice one. Be present in the moments as you thoroughly enjoy it. Savor it. Pay attention. How do you feel? Do you feel satisfied, guilty, full? Again...don't judge. Just notice. Observe.
Intuitive eating takes practice and patience. So many of us have overridden our natural ability to do this by years of Diet Mentality and weight cycling. It can feel really scary to let go and trust our bodies to make the right choices. It also requires that you be honest with yourself. Maybe cupcakes give you heartburn. Maybe pizza makes you lethargic. Maybe oatmeal causes bloat. Pay attention and tune in to your body and your feelings. Over time you will naturally sense what, when, and how much you need to eat to be comfortably satisfied and properly nourished. Your decisions around food will happen in a more organic, comfortable way, and you can stop beating yourself up for making "bad" choices. You will be able to stop "dieting" and start eating in a way that will promote a sense of well-being and fulfillment.
Some resources if you're interested in reading further:
Excellent primer on Intuitive Eating, Author Geneen Roth,
now in its third edition known for her work in this area
Yes, it's that time of year again. "The most wonderful time of the year", right? The stores are already glistening in their holiday finery, and Halloween was only yesterday! While some people look upon this season with delight (probably mostly those under the age of 25 or so), the holidays can be fraught with stressors. It's prime time for worries about money, being pressed for time, overindulging in alcohol or food, and struggling with family members about plans. We're also rapidly approaching the new year, and the ensuing New Year's Resolutions.
The hectic beginning of the school year is behind us, and we're in a bit of the lull before the full swing of the winter holidays. Now might be a good opportunity to take stock. Are you happy with where you are in your life? Do you believe that you are on the right path? Would you like some support as you manage the holiday stress and start off on the right foot for 2014?
This is fine time to consider having some counseling sessions. Use that mental health benefit or health savings plan before it runs out! Your mental and emotional health are just as critical as your physical health, yet tend to be pushed aside. Focus on creating a new you from the inside out this year!