Treat your mind like a garden

Photo by Gabriel Jimenez on Unsplash

I recently came across a great metaphor for the mind in “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari” by Robin Sharma. Sharma directs the reader to think of your mind like a garden. Negative thoughts are the weeds, positive thoughts are the flowers, and it’s our responsibility to care for our garden. If you want your mind to be efficient, sharp, and happy, you must tend to your mind like you would a beautiful garden, with intention. There’s the care of the soil, the watering, planting of seeds, and pulling of weeds on a regular basis. Too many people do zero maintenance on their minds, and then wonder why they’re so unhappy, why their garden has been overgrown with weeds. Weeds need to be pulled before they spread and overtake your flowers. Developing a consistent response to negative thoughts to prevent them from growing is how you manage the weeds. Developing positive thinking routines or habits is how you plant and tend the flowers. Practicing regular activities which nurture the mind, body and spirit is like watering your flowers. Finally, getting good sleep, keeping your body healthy so the mind can remain healthy is like the fertilizing of the soil. You must continue to tend your garden, to nurture and maintain the flowers, to pull the weeds, and to water and fertilize the soil. You can’t create a beautiful garden, stop pulling the weeds, and then expect the garden to remain beautiful. So too with the mind. Once you’ve found habits and routines that put you into a good emotional space, continue practicing these routines. Do regular maintenance on your mind, clean the stress on a weekly basis and continue to nurture positive thinking. Don’t let the weeds grow. Negative thoughts, much like weeds will grow faster than your flowers if you let them, so don’t.

For the pulling of the weeds:

Try This One Experience to Prevent a Bad Experience From Ruining Your Day

10 Ways to Reset Your Energy

How to Give Thanks When Gratitude is The Last Thing You Feel

For the Planting of the Flowers:

Morning Routine and How it Can Change Your Life

Affirmations for Happiness and Success

For the Watering of the Flowers:

Why Self-Care is Non-Negotiable and How to do it Part I

Self-Care Part II

Self-Care Part III

For the Fertilizing of the Soil:

Daily Rituals for Nurturing Mind Body & Spirit

Live Well: Diet Habits of Those Who Live Past 100

Harnessing the Energy of our Moon Cycle

Harnessing the energy of our own moon cycle

This is really a post about your, umm... period, menstrual cycle also known as your moon cycle in the yoga world. Sorry boys, insert monkey covering eyes emoji, this post is not really for you, though I think the information is interesting. 

Just like the lunar moon cycle, our own moon cycle waxes and wanes bringing about energetic ebbs and flows. Check out more information on the lunar cycle here. The time of your period is like the full moon, and the time right after your period is like the new moon. Think of a building up of energy, a peak, and then a release. This is what us ladies go through every month with our own moon cycle. There's a natural building up of energy, of emotions, a peak which often shows up as agitation, moodiness, and then a natural release. Due to hormonal changes throughout the month, our energy also waxes and wanes. The week right after menstruation is typically the highest energy time for us. It's a time to start new projects, engage in creative work, to get stuff done. Much like the new moon, it's a time to think about what you want to attract into your life and set the wheels in motion. After that first week, our energy slowly declines, leaving us with the lowest energy the week leading up to menstruation. The few days before and the few days after we start our period should be a time of rest, recharging, self-care, and reflection. Much like the full moon, menstruation enhances and magnifies any imbalances we might have going on making reflection and introspection perfect activities to do during this week. 

Nature constantly goes through cycles just as we do, much like days and nights, winter and spring, there is a natural hibernation and a natural blossoming. Rather than fighting against our body's natural energy cycle, like carrying a river downstream, we can learn to flow with it. Give your body the rest it deserves on your low energy weeks, taking that time to really nurture yourself mind body & soul. Create monthly rituals according to your cycle for high energy weeks and low energy weeks to truly harness the natural ebb and flow of energy associated with your seasons.

For more information check out The Woman Code by Alisa Vitti. This book truly opened my eyes to how our hormones affect our body's functioning. 

Green Detox Breakfast Smoothie

I believe I've mentioned before that Matt and I have a green smoothie for breakfast most mornings. We switched over to green smoothies about a year ago and noticed how much more energy we had, how much lighter we felt, and we haven't looked back since. Starting your day with a smoothie provides an awesome opportunity to get some good servings of veggies while giving your body a few more hours to divert energy it would be using for digestion to rebuilding and repairing. Recently, I figured, if I'm going to be making smoothies every morning, why not create a recipe that has even more health benefits. This smoothie is packed full of good-for-you plant-based ingredients! If you're not a cilantro fan, this probably is not the smoothie for you, though I must say the flavor is quite subtle and refreshing in this recipe.

This recipe makes approx 2 smoothies

  • 1 avocado
  • 1.5 handfuls of frozen mango
  • 8 leaves of kale (though you could substitute any greens of your choice)
  • 4 tbsp flax
  • 1 cup cilantro
  • Approx. 1.5 inches of ginger root peeled
  • 4-5 large ice cubes
  • Approx. 1.5 cups water
  • Protein powder (this is our favorite protein powder)

Directions: Blend. Enjoy.

I have a fairly fast metabolism and this smoothie keeps me satisfied until lunchtime. So why these ingredients? Supposedly the combination of cilantro and flax help to detoxify the liver. Cilantro is a major detoxifier, supporting to rid the body of heavy metals, and decrease inflammation. Flax contains good plant-based omega-3 fatty acids which are so good for the skin. It also helps to balance hormones, and works in conjunction with cilantro to support the detoxification process. Mango adds a bit of sweetness, and a smooth consistency to the smoothie while providing a great dose of Vitamin A and C, both of which stimulate collagen production (necessary for smooth supple skin). Kale provides tons of antioxidants and fiber, avocado provides plant-based fat to keep you full longer, while fueling the brain and body, and ginger root further supports digestions and fights inflammation. We use and love the Vitamix blender. It's definitely an investment, but so worth it if you're into healthy eating. We use ours every morning for smoothies, for making vegan sauces, and raw desserts. We actually bought our Vitamix certified refurbished and it's worked perfectly for years. If you've been eyeing a Vitamix but just don't want to spend the money on a new one check out the refurbished options (you save about half the price) here here and here

The Detox and Rebalance Breakfast Smoothie recipe was created after reading the below articles. Check them out for more information on the smoothie ingredients, and how they work to detox and rebalance the body. 

The Best Smoothie Recipe For Bad Skin Days

The Two Random Foods That Cleared My Skin and Balanced My Hormones

Live Well: Diet Habits of those who live past 100

As part of the Live Well series here on Happiness | Collective, today we are focusing on the diet of centenarians (people who live past 100). In the book, The Blue Zones, Dan Buettner outlines major diet guidelines the blue zones/centenarians have in common. Below is a compilation of these guidelines and please take note, almost all, if not all of the Happiness | Collective featured recipes fall into these guidelines. Check out past recipes featured on the blog here.

  • Eat a mostly plant-based, whole foods diet. The Blue Zone food guidelines suggest the 95/5 rule for diet meaning 95% of your diet should be plant-based foods (e.g. fruits, veggies, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds), while the other 5% could comprise of animal products (e.g. meats, dairy, eggs, butter). Also, eat mostly whole foods. Bob Mackey, the founder of Whole Foods Market defines whole foods as foods where "nothing bad has been added, and nothing good has been taken away" (basically anything you buy in a box or baked goods would not be considered whole foods). Check below for a link on his diet tips. In my opinion, if you can only make one of these changes, I think this one would have the biggest impact on life expectancy and quality of life. 
  • Eat beans, nuts, fruits, veggies, and whole grains. These are the power foods that should consistently comprise your diet. According to the blue zones diet you should strive for up to 1 cup of cooked whole grains (e.g. quinoa, brown rice),  1 cup of beans, a serving of nuts and/or seeds, and plenty of veggies every day.
  • Avoid Sugar, processed foods, sodas, and diet sodas. Remember, whole foods are foods where "nothing bad has been added, and nothing good has been taken away". This rule of thumb applies to all beverages as well. Matt and I have given up sodas completely and drink mainly water, coffee in the morning, or tea at night. We often squeeze lime into sparkling water for a refreshing treat with dinner. Best news ever: wine is allowed, and actually encouraged on the blue zone diet (in moderation of course). 
  • Bread should be whole food and naturally fermented or sprouted. If you've ever turned over a bag of bread and read the ingredients in conventional supermarkets, you know that so much bad stuff is added to bread. The only bread you should be consuming should be made with whole ingredients (e.g. flour, salt, water) and naturally fermented or sprouted. Naturally fermented sourdough goes through a natural fermentation process which breaks down the phytic acid found in bread making the bread much easier for our systems to digest and making the nutrients found in the whole grains available to us. Unfortunately this bread is much harder to obtain since its a lengthier, more labor intensive means of baking bread. Read more about the process here. Sprouted bread is easier to find in the supermarkets and while I don't believe it's as good as a true naturally fermented sourdough, sprouting does break down the phytic acid as well, decreasing the negative impact the bread would have on your system. 

That's really it guys. The blue zones diet is really quite simple. Eat whole foods, mostly plants, drink plenty of water, and avoid sugar and processed foods. Fairly simple, but not easy to follow. In doing research on the blue zones diet, I was pleased to discover this is mainly the diet Matt and I follow. In the future I may do a separate post on the food philosophy Matt and I follow. It's far from perfect, especially since we both have a sweet tooth, but it's always a work in progress. Happy eating, and I'll list some diet-related links below that I've found particularly interesting:

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!

Mindful Minute: Body Scan

This is a type of mindful meditation I like to use with beginners who are just being introduced to mindfulness and/or meditation. It's a fairly simple concept, but can make a large impact on your sense of calm. Body scan meditation is exactly what it sounds like, focusing awareness to scan through your entire body head to toes. If you want to stick to one minute, simply set your timer for one minute and tune your awareness to your body, muscles, and energy starting with your head, moving down the body until you reach your toes. Consciously relax any muscles you notice tension in until your entire body is relaxed. If you've noticed negative thoughts, negative energy during your scan, picture yourself blowing out these thoughts and energy with your out breath. If you want to try the body scan for longer than one minute, I suggest spending 1-2 deep breaths on each part of your body (e.g. head, facial muscles, neck, shoulders, upper back, lower back, etc). With each in breath focus on a part of your body, noticing tension, taking inventory of any pain or tightness. With each out breath, relax that portion of your body, picture yourself blowing out negative thoughts, negative energy, tightness or tension. You can picture that tension and negativity as a black cloud you're blowing out of your body if it helps. This is a great exercise to do during times of stress, or at bedtime to aide with sleep. Fun Fact: body scan was the very first meditation I ever tried back in my early 20's! Try a body scan soon, and happy weekend!

Self-Care Part II

Self-care is non-negotiable and must be part of your daily routine if you desire wellness of mind, body, and spirit, or if you are on the road to any type of mental or emotional healing. Read part I of the self-care series here. Self-care is all about balance. Different types of self-care correlate with the different parts of our Self. For example, hygiene, and grooming practices are all about physical self-care, or self-care of our body. Time spent with friends and/or family would fall into the social/emotional category of self-care. I like to use the aboriginal wellness wheel to break up our Self into 4 main categories: social/emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental/psychological. 

 

The point is to strive for balanced self-care. The point is to ensure you're taking care of each part of yourself. Rarely will any of us ever have perfectly balanced self-care, but the point is in the trying. Most people's wheel would look like an unbalanced mess, as we are naturally inclined to practice self-care in certain categories over others based on our history, skills, and lifestyle. Those categories that don't come naturally for us require more practice and effort. Though our self could be broken up into more cattegories, in efforts to keep it simple, I chose only 4. Our physical self refers to our body, our self in physical form. Mental/psychological self refers to our mind, cognitive capacity, and thoughts. Social/emotional self refers to our self in the context of relationship and the emotions. I like to think of our spiritual self as the part of us that feels inspired, connected to a purpose, connected to something greater than ourselves. Some quick examples of self-care activities in each category are as follows:

Physical

  • Exercise
  • Grooming
  • Hygiene
  • Diet
  • Wearing a great outfit

Mental/Psychological

  • Learning something new
  • Reading
  • Deep breathing/meditation practices
  • Therapy/Psychiatry

Social/Emotional

  • Spending time with family/friends
  • Journaling
  • Therapy
  • Having a good cry
  • Art/Creativity

Spiritual

These categories are fluid meaning, that some self-care activities fit into multiple or all categories, and you can utilize one self-care activity to tick all the boxes. For example, a walk in nature is healthy for my physical, mental/psychological, social/emotional, and spiritual self. Self-care is personal, and must be customized to fit each person's needs. Find the things that work for you, make you feel good mind body and spirit, and the self-care series will continue next time with more specific self-care ideas for each category. 

Sunrise Smoothie

This is the green smoothie we make every morning for breakfast. Making smoothies for breakfast was a game-changer. Not only does it save me time in the morning, because I take my smoothie to go and drink it en route to work, or during my morning meeting, but I've also noticed just feeling better, lighter, and having more energy since converting to this routine. We've tweaked the recipe a couple of times to decrease the amount of fat and perfecting our morning smoothie will always be something we strive for. With it being the day after Thanksgiving and all, I thought it a perfect time to share our current recipe to help with your post-turkey detoxing : ) 

This recipe makes approx 2 smoothies.

Ingredients:

  • 1 avocado
  • 2 medium apples
  • approx 1 inch of ginger root peeled 
  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 1.5-2 cups of coconut water (dependent on preferred consistency)
  • 6 ice cubes
  • (optional) 2 tbls coconut oil (we have omitted this, but if you need more fats, you can add this in)

Directions:

In a blender (we use a Vitamix and it's awesome) just blend away and enjoy. The quality of your ginger root really makes a difference in determining how intense it will taste. We have purchased really fresh ginger root and it ended up tasting too strong so just use with caution. The ginger really cuts the bitterness of the kale though, so it is an important ingredient. Hope you love this green smoothie as much as we do.

What Are You Using to Numb Out?

I'm coming off of a month where I had been working a lot, picking up extra shifts. It was too much. Even though I love my job, I didn't have balance. During this time, I felt this sense of dis ease, something wasn't right. I felt unsatisfied. I felt like I was working towards nothing, as though I had been working harder, but it wan't getting me anywhere. I bought more things, justifying my extra work days as time that had gotten me that extra treat, but I was still feeling unsatisfied, and down. Finally, I realized that I had been working for "things" and those things, didn't satisfy my heart or soul. I was using the extra shopping to numb out to the fact that I had lost balance. I felt like I was working for nothing because I was, in a sense. I was working for "things" which had no value as far as the heart is concerned, and using things as a means of feeding the sense of dissatisfaction that arises when one's soul isn't satisfied. It got me thinking....what do I need to feed my soul.  I didn't need more beautiful things in my home to feel happier, or to feel satisfied by life. I needed to get back to living in a way that feels satisfying rather than seeking without for that satisfaction. 

We all numb out with something, thinking that if we could just have (fill in the blank), we would feel happier. We all use something to decrease feelings we don't want to feel. Drugs and alcohol are an obvious, but buying stuff, dieting, staying busy, constant traveling, television, social media and internet, overexercising, eating disorders, self-harm, sex, flirting, can all be ways we humans numb out to the fact that something isn't working in our lives. Most of the aforementioned can also be part of a healthy life as well (with exception of self-harm, eating disorders, and overexercising), it's how we use them that make them either healthy or unhealthy. I can tell you from experience, that if you use them to numb out, these things will only leave you feeling more unsatisfied. They will feed and fuel your dissatisfaction, forcing you to either realize what's going on and grow, or propel you into using these things even more to numb out of the now greater dissatisfaction. Only you can stop and reflect on your behaviors and determine which of them are used to numb out. Only you can determine whether you have balance in your life, whether your life revitalizes your energy or drains you of it. What do you need to feel satisfied with the life you are living? Everyone's balance looks different, but you'll never find it if you don't take the time to inquire.