Simple Pleasure of the week: Shopping Locally

The farmers' market is a weekly event for us. We love the full experience of walking around outdoors, live music playing, and buying most of our food for the week straight from local farmers. The quality of the food is better than anything you'll get in the supermarkets, and it connects me with the people who grow my food. I love that I'm able to support local, organically grown produce by buying directly from the growers than from the supermarkets. It holds everyone accountable and puts a humanness back into food for us. The farmers' market also gives me power to use my money to support something I believe in, to stick it to the man so to speak, and place my vote for food gown with love. Something about shopping what's in season also connects me with the earth's natural rhythm, with the food that's most nourishing, given the weather patterns, with food that's been picked right before purchase rather than shipped hundreds of miles. I had been eyeing a book on Amazon for quite some time but decided to pick it up at our local bookstore instead. I did pay a few extra dollars but got the experience of shopping in store in exchange, time to spend leafing through interesting books, smelling incense, holding actual items in my hand before making a purchase. Now I do my fair share on online shopping, but again, nothing can beat the experience of shopping locally from actual humans who just might live in your neighborhood. For all of these reasons, shopping locally is this week's simple pleasure. Happy Weekend!

Tulum-Inspired Quinoa Breakfast Bowls

We were first introduced to the idea of quinoa for breakfast in Tulum. I ordered this breakfast bowl early in the trip and then many times after that. This recipe is so simple and easy, filling but light, healthy, and unexpected. Below are the directions for two servings

Ingredients:

  • 2C dried quinoa
  • Soy milk
  • Cinnamon
  • Fruit/berries/nuts of your choice

Directions: First of all, cook the quinoa. I use a rice cooker to cook my quinoa and it's so simple. I use 2:1 water to quinoa, turn the cooker on and wait about 15 minutes. I added some sprinkles of cinnamon to flavor my quinoa for this recipe. Once the quinoa is cooked, add milk to give your bowl a porridgy consistency. My favorite milk of choice to add is soy because I think it gives the bowl a nice nutty flavor but choose according to your preferences (almond, coconut, ect). Top with chopped fruit (I use whatever I have around but berries, apples, mangoes are all good choices), add any chopped nuts if you'd like and sprinkle with cinnamon. Enjoy! Cooked quinoa is always nice to have on hand, so you could always have some made ahead of time to save time in the morning. In that case, you'd just warm the quinoa with milk, and add your toppings. 

Happy Weekend!

I love this quote. I find it to be wildly romantic for some reason. Maybe it's because this quote talks of beautiful, magical things: books, flowers, freedom and the moon. Maybe it's because this quote makes happiness so simple and really, talks of simple pleasures (one of my favorite things). Maybe it's because this quote reminds me that I have a lot to be grateful for, that I live in a free country, a country of abundance, of excess. And that I'm able to experience love and beauty on a daily basis. With all of these things, who could not be happy? Happy Weekend!

Summer Playlist 2017

Matt and I are always looking for new songs. I love music because I believe it speaks to the soul, to our emotions, but mainly because music just feels good. I've dedicated an entire group at the hospital focused on how music can affect your mood, because it's a powerful tool. Hope you discover some new songs, and at least find one song you're as obsessed with as we are on this list. Let me know which is your favorite and if you have any favorites that aren't on this list. I love discovering new music!!!

Happiness | Collective summer 2017 playlist

  1. Ruin - Shawn Mendes
  2. May I Have This Dance - Francis And the Lights
  3. ILYSB (Stripped) - LANY
  4. So American - Portugal. The Man
  5. Chihiro - Yoste
  6. Slow and Steady - of monsters and men
  7. Berlin - RY X
  8. Modern Jesus - Portugal. The Man
  9. Electric Feel - Henry Green
  10. Love Like That - RX Y

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Simple Pleasure of the Week: the great outdoors

I'm among those who believe we are meant to be at one with nature. We evolved co-existing with the great outdoors, completely reliant on all that it has to offer for us (food, shelter). Just as children naturally love their parents, so are we created to love nature. I instantly feel calmer, a little more grounded when I'm surrounded by the great outdoors, smells of meadow grass or pine trees, the sound of oceans waves or birds chirping. Enjoying nature is such a simple pleasure because it costs no money and fulfills a primitive longing. Happy Weekend!

Live Well: Why Exercise Helps you Live Longer

In last week's post Lifestyle Habits of Those Who Live Past 100 fitness/or exercise was mentioned as a top habit of Centenarians (those who live past 100). Exercise is so important. Not only does it make us feel good, but it also has important positive effects on our mental, physical and spiritual selves. When talking about the importance of exercise as a psychotherapist, I like to describe it as a means of cleansing our energy. Stress, emotional pain, diet and environmental toxins accumulate within our bodies. Exercise helps to move energy through us, discharging negative energy, and replacing it with new, clean energy. I decided to do more research for you guys though and below are the benefits exercise has on our mental, emotional, and physical well being:

  • Improves sleep. Really important functions happen only while we are sleeping. Deep, REM sleep prompts the body's repair and renewal functions. Exercise has been shown to promote improved quality of sleep and quantity of sleep, so if you have any sleep difficulties, exercise should be a non-negotiable part of your self-care routine. 
  • Improves brain functioning. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain which is crucial for brain functioning. It promotes brain functioning on a physiological level as well which I will explain later. 
  • Improves and preserves strength and mobility. Strength and mobility are crucial for quality of life as you age. Aging doesn't have to include a break down of your strength or mobility, exercise can help to preserve the quality of your body regarding muscle function, metabolism, and strength. 
  • Decreases Stress. Exercise decreases cortisol (the stress hormone). Cortisol negatively effects the digestive and immune systems in the body. Over time, chronic stress can take a major toll leading to problems such as depression, insomnia, digestive problems, immune system issues, hormonal imbalances, and obesity. Since exercise regularly flushes cortisol from the body, it can also help to prevent any of the major issues related to chronic stress.
  • Releases feel-good brain chemicals. Exercise releases endorphins, nature's pain killers and anti-depressants in the brain. Rhythmic movements have also been shown to stimulate serotonin in the brain, a neurotransmitter believed to prevent depression and promote mood balance. Thus, exercise is actually uber important for positive mental health as well. 
  • Stimulates the circulatory system. Exercise gets the heart pumping, thus stimulating and working the circulatory system, the part of our body responsible for moving blood through our bodies, and distributing vital nutrients to our tissues and organs. 
  • Stimulates the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is basically our body's drainage system. It removes toxins from our body, and protects us from infection, bacteria, and cancer. The problem is, that unlike our circulatory system, the lymphatic system has no pumping mechanism to keep fluids circulating. We have to pump it ourselves through movement (e.g. exercise). When the lymphatic system is healthy and functioning properly, it keeps our body clean and our tissues and cells healthy. 

This is just one example of the power you have over your own physical and mental/emotional health. Centenarians (people over age 100) all had the lifestyle habit of daily exercise in common. The thing is, most of these Centenarians got their exercise regularly from walking, gardening or outdoor work since gyms and health clubs are only a newer concept. You don't have to commit to a daily intense gym session to reap these benefits. Even 30 minutes of walking before and/or after work provides benefits. The most important thing is to find an exercise that you enjoy and fits into your lifestyle. Just get moving however you can to get your energy moving, your lymphatic system flowing, your brain pumping out those feel-good chemicals, and your blood flowing!

Live Well: Lifestyle Habits of Those Who Live Past 100.

One of my favorite things to do is to learn something new. It's no surprise then that during our 3-day immersion at the Wanderlust Festival, I took full advantage of the workshops and lectures offered. One common theme in the workshops we took was the impact lifestyle has on one's life expectancy, overall health, and the quality of life as we age. During Seamus Mullen's workshop "Real Food Heals", he discussed the 3 pillars of health: genetics, environment, and lifestyle. Lifestyle is the pillar we have the most control over meaning the activities we engage in, the rituals and routines we perform on a consistent basis, diet, and relationships. During Jason Wrobel's lecture entitled "How to Life (Almost) Forever" he discussed the blue zones (areas in the world with the highest concentration of centenarians, people who live past 100). In the book, The Blue Zones, Dan Buettner outlines major lifestyle commonalities all of the blue zones/centenarians have in common. These blue zone lifestyle choices are as follows:

  • Fitness. These centenarians moved their bodies everyday whether it was through walking, hiking, gardening, etc. They didn't go to gyms, but simply got exercise naturally based on their lifestyles.
  • Diet. Majority of the centenarians ate a mostly plant-based diet. I know, meat and dairy products are so delicious but I don't make the rules. Don't shoot the messenger. While some of the blue zones strictly followed a plant-based diet, others were more flexible, eating a mostly plant-based diet mixing in some meats and diary products. 
  • Spirituality. All of the blue zones had some type of spiritual practice. I define spirituality as anything that makes you feel connected to something greater than yourself. For me, nature is a spiritual experience. If you're a long-time reader of this blog, you know my feelings on isolation and how dangerous it is for your mental and emotional health so it's no wonder that finding something which makes you feel connected, not alone, would have positive effects on life expectancy.
  • Purpose. Everyone had a strong sense of why they get up in the morning. Everyone took joy in the "doing" of something whether it be to care for grandchildren, meet up with friends for their daily glass of wine, or to serve their higher power. Everyone had some purpose, some calling. 
  • Tribe. Everyone belonged to a tribe, whether it was to their group of friends, their spiritual community, or to their family. All of the blue zones had a high, strong theme of social connection, of feeling part of, some sense of feeling important and needed by other people. 

I don't know about you, but I want to age well. I want to live a long, full, high quality life where I feel vibrant, strong, mentally sharp, and happy as I age. Lifestyle is something we all have control over. Lifestyle is simply comprised of a series of choices we make consistently, over time. For that reason, I plan to start the "Live Well" series here on Happiness | Collective. I'll dive deeper into each one of these lifestyle habits, contribute mental health information as appropriate, and identify how to incorporate these habits into life. In the meantime, take an honest, mental inventory of which of these above lifestyle habits you have down, and which areas you could improve upon as preparation for the Live Well series. 

Happy Weekend!

This is one of my all time favorite travel quotes, because I feel like it sums up why I seek. For me, the ultimate goal is to continually have new eyes, to see the world in a new way, to gain new perspectives. Sometimes, travel is the experience that gives you those new eyes, but there are also so many stops along the path to discovery. Books, classes, a meaningful conversation, can all be experiences that crack us open to view the world in a new way. Sorry for the repeat of two quotes in one week, but this is a good one. We will be in full swing at the Wanderlust Yoga Festival by the time this post goes live and hope to return with new eyes! Love to you all. Happy Weekend!

5 Tips to Help You Through a Major Life Event

I just passed the licensing exam for my profession (LCSW), earlier today. It was pretty awful, I must admit, 4 hours, 170 questions, many of which you had to choose the best possible answer amongst multiple good ones. It's something I have been actively working towards for the past 6 years of my life, and a long-term goal of mine since I majored in psychology over 10 years ago. I'm not gonna lie, it was quite a stressful process, and there were many moments before and during the exam where I wasn't sure I would pass. I've had similar experiences in which I felt terrified, and needed to keep my cool, like the three years I competed in the National Yoga Asana Championship for California. The yoga competition is a 3 minute demonstration on stage, in front of a silent auditorium of people in which you demonstrate balance, strength, flexibility, and grace. It's terrifying, but also a wonderful experience. Below are my 5 biggest tips to help you through a major presentation, deadline, exam, wedding, job interview, fill in the blank:

  1. Deep breaths. When your heart is pounding, and you feel like you could pass out, take long slow deep breaths. Close your eyes even, take deep breaths and center yourself. I used this tip many times throughout my yoga competition and my exam, and the breath truly works. Deep breathing calms the nervous system down, lowers heart rate, lowers blood pressure. It works guys, and we know it works because it feels good and we can measure the positive physiological changes deep breathing has on the body.
  2. Put things into perspective. I like to picture myself on my deathbed and this usually helps me to put everything into perspective. At the end of my life, I don't think I'll look back and regret bombing a presentation, failing an exam on the first try, or fumbling a competition. What I would regret is the time I spent worrying about the event or beating myself up afterwards for not living up to my standards. Before our yoga competition, one of the judges/yoga gurus gave all the competitors a pep talk. She reminded us that we have been practicing yoga before the competition, we will practice yoga afterwards, and that the competition was simply 3 minutes to be in the present moment. It wasn't going to change our lives. We were going to continue practicing yoga regardless of the outcome. It made something that felt so big, feel a bit smaller. Putting things into perspective can really help calm the nerves.
  3. Be in the present moment. The last tip leads me into this one. Try to be in the present moment during your major event whether it be an exam, a presentation, a competition, etc. Tip #1 can help. Whenever I found my mind wandering out of the present moment, that's when I noticed my suffering increase, or my performance decrease. Try to be in the present moment. It will make everything go smoother. 
  4. Practice Gratitude. I noticed my nervousness, my stress, my anticipation, my mind calmed when I thought of the things in my life I felt grateful for. You can't actively feel grateful and scared at the same time. Gratitude fills your heart up, it calms the mind, it improves mood, it attracts more great things into your life. Try gratitude the next time you find yourself in fear or anxiety.
  5. Tolerate Discomfort. Part of me knew I would feel a sense of unease until the end of my competition or exam. Sometimes, what we fight we strengthen, so accepting a certain level of nerves can help to keep them from becoming even more intense. Fear and stress can be a good thing. My fear of failing the exam motivated me to study even more the days leading up to it, so embrace what you can of your fear and use it for good not evil ; )

Hope these tips were helpful, use them the next time you have a major life stressor coming up and leave a comment underneath of any tips you have that would apply here.