Accepting ourselves, just as we are, is a double-edged sword. Dissatisfaction with our lives manifests either as a motivator for progress, or some combination of bitterness, self-loathing, shame and regret. The latter acts as a brake pedal, even a shift to regression, and the former, an impetus for change. It is my personal, but never rigid, opinion that we do not remain stagnant in life. Not even if we, by default, choose lack of action rather than mental expansion. When growth stalls, we do not simply remain unchanged. We shrink. We aren’t moving to stay in the light and the shadows soon overtake us. The very seasons of nature, subtly but powerfully demonstrate that all we see and all we feel is constant change. You may opt to never look within and identify the places that most need nurturing in your heart, soul and thought processes, but the unattended need for awakening in our personal world guarantees even less advancement in the world, at large. Why must we clean house, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally before we start to experience a genuine satisfaction, on the large scale? Because. The small scale is EVERYthing. For instance, how great is your work day if you are angry with things outside the work place? Or, you are climbing the walls with pent up energy that has nowhere to go, because you’ve not made it a priority to at least go for a walk, everyday? What about food intake? When we fuel up on fried food, donuts, or any energy zapping, sugar crashing, caffeine laced menu, (guilty, sometimes…progress) we can’t expect to feel energetic, clear minded and healthy. It doesn’t require the extreme food plans that make their debut only to fizzle when the next big fix comes along, to fuel your body in a way that sustains and benefits you from morning til night. These small, repetitive choices we make, day in, day out, create the life we are experiencing this minute. If I don’t meditate on regular basis, I FEEL it…it has become a practice I’m unwilling to go without. If I don’t hit my yoga mat, or knock out some push ups, ANY body weight exercise and launch head long into a busy day that may require a lot of sitting, (ie: writing) it’s never a mystery why my clarity is impaired, my body is sluggish and my mood, mediocre. The dissatisfaction these feelings bring is a huge motivator to take a few extra minutes, everyday, to ward off the negative response my mind and body has to desertion of self-care. Some of you, like me, may suffer from “all-or-nothing,” syndrome. I can become paralyzed easier than I’d like to admit if unforeseen circumstances upset my “me” time. I find it even easier to skip out on these small, super-hacks for better living, if I miss out on a day or so of making time for them. With so many agendas out there, beyond the aforementioned food prisons to fighting to the verbal death over which type of exercise/political platform/make of vehicle is best, it’s easy to become so saturated with information that you end up feeling LESS equipped in deciding what is best for your lifestyle, your body, your health. Fear not. Eliminating the option of jumping ship every time, “New research suggests…” will take you far in establishing and PRACTICING a doable, healthy routine that suits you. Once you reach a decision that, yes, I would benefit from healthier choices, where do we begin? Again, nothing suits everyone, but something suits anyone. If you list the top 5 areas in your life that you consider the least satisfactory, things you could change, today, what would they be? Think very “basic” things…hydration, sleep, quiet solitude that never happens, some form of exercise… It’s been my experience in working with populations who did not know where to begin, that they simply did not begin, at all. In listening to their average day, from food intake to sleep to the amount of water consumed, what was glaringly obvious to me was invisible to them. The same was true for me when I decided to abandon dogmatic, limiting movements in favor of combining techniques and daily rituals that worked together for ME. I gave up soda decades ago. That was quite possibly my first small step to living a healthier life. I didn’t know all of the facts behind soda consumption or the effects it had on my health. I wasn’t overweight. I didn’t start a fad diet. I just chose to replace soda with water. I was amazed at my body’s response. No sugar crashes. More energy. Who knew at one soda per day, I had still developed an ADDICTION? (In my 20’s, I switched from regular soda to diet soda. If you drink either, I encourage you to dig up some unbiased information on both and decide if this practice is something you are willing to try…giving up soda for water.) I then traded cow’s milk for almond or cashew milk. The scientific evidence for these small changes is irrefutable, but you’ll never catch me trying to convince anyone to make these changes against their will. It’s quite pointless. And, it interferes with MY inner peace. When one is determined not to understand something, they’ll succeed, every single time. This leads me to the benefits of a quiet mind in a ceaselessly noisy society. No one is likely to tell you, “I like to argue… I love futility…fruitless battles with others really brings out my passion for living.” But, we all know these people. They are every where. Unless, you establish some boundaries that protect your inner sanctum. The problem with boundaries and this breed, however, is they already lack the ability to respect your beliefs, so the chance they will take the social cue of honoring your boundaries is almost nil. Once you have dialed in the people who, after even short interactions, absolutely drain you, it is on you to take any means necessary to remove these individuals from your life. It doesn’t have to be forever. It doesn’t need a timeline, at all. But, for now, “I am working on strengthening myself in several facets of my life, and I don’t feel our communication is mutually beneficial. Thank you for understanding,” goes a long way in opening your eyes to facts about these energy vampires that you may have sensed before, but becomes as subtle as wrecking ball at a funeral, once you calmly express your boundary. No respectful, healthy adult will challenge this statement of taking space for yourself. Of course, if they were respectful and healthy, you likely wouldn’t need to address the fact, in the first place. As you clean house, proverbially, you’ll start to collect slices of time, that, combined, opens up moments you can choose to spend wisely. One of the least utilized and most beneficial practices in our society is meditation. Skeptics, don’t believe me? Turn to western (not just eastern) research…conclusions of doctors who study brainwaves of regular meditators. Anxious responses take a nosedive. Clarity is the new norm. Sleep is improved. You’re NICER. Calmer. Eventually, you won’t do without it. Super-hack that I cannot recommend enough…try it for twenty minutes a day for 30 days. If it doesn’t do wonders for your mental health, which directly and significantly impacts your physical health, all of your misery will be waiting on day 31. It doesn’t solve all your problems. It solves your response to all your problems. As a result, problems shrink. Rumination is a killer. Reliving negative events continues harming our well-being, whether the argument you had with your spouse or a life-altering trauma, help is available which you are not likely tapping into. For the big stuff, if you aren’t already, I always recommend a therapist with which you resonate. Counselors are guides, not gods, so don’t be afraid to visit several before committing to unpacking your life with this person. If therapy is not in your budget, look into support groups or those experts who work on a sliding scale. The bottom line, there is help and you can start as soon as you like. Why. Why am I telling you all of this very basic information that no one DOESN’T know, if they stop and think about it? Very simply, sometimes, we are so immersed in the BS, we forget we don’t have to live like “THAT,” anymore…whatever “THAT” is, to you. And, you are exponentially more likely to make tiny, doable changes to which you have instant access vs. seeking out some life coach that will overhaul your life, top to bottom. Overwhelming ourselves is the opposite of self care. It feeds, not diminishes, anxiety, stress and worry. It thrives on our self doubt. So, if this is the only place you hear it today, this week, this year…know that it takes nothing more that a tiny bit of willingness to step toward a life that serves you. I find incredible sadness in those who live by, “If only,” vs “No excuses.” With all that is out of our control in this world, the worst thing we can do is relinquish that over which we CAN control. It is our birthright to create the most serene, satisfactory, fulfilling, healthy life we possibly can. It is our responsibility to encourage (not bludgeon) others to do the same. As you grow, expand and evolve into the best version of yourself, remember our humble beginnings as we fearfully chose to step into the light, and never forget there are many others still in the darkness which you are now leaving. Be the light, Warriors.