Life

Self-knowledge, the problem with self-help books and how to truly change your habits

practicemakespurposeYou know when you hit 30 (or 25, perhaps), and you start reading self-help books to address an identified problem or figure out what your life’s purpose is?

Unhappy in love? Relationship on the rocks? Feeling unfulfilled at work? Kids driving you crazy? Stress and anxiety ruining your life? Depression dragging you down? Unable to pay the bills? Feel empty inside? There’s a self-help book for that, I’m sure. And most of it is probably fairly good advice, especially if it’s penned by a PhD, medical doctor, scientist, therapist or psychologist with decades of experience behind their words of wisdom.

But does reading, intellectually understanding and even applying some of what you’ve learned ACTUALLY help you? Not the ego you, but the REAL you? The you that all those self-help books promise to help reveal?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately as I’m currently eyeballs-deep into several self-help books. It’s all fascinating stuff, and while some of the wisdom and advice has definitely helped me to understand myself and others better and to see certain situations with more clarity, I’m curious as to how it’s actually affecting my true self. Although intellectually I understand the advice and have been working on applying some of what I learn into my everyday life… is it really me? It’s like when I give a new client a strength training program or nutrition plan: Intellectually they know what to do and can even take steps to incorporate it into their lives… but is it their default state? Is it something that truly resonates with who they are, their desires, their values, their beliefs? Is that why changing habits — especially ones related to fitness and health — so hard to do? (more…)

Do motivational quotes actually motivate you?

un-motivational quote

“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” – Anonymous

“If you are not willing to risk the usual you will have to settle for the ordinary.” – Jim Rohn

“Opportunities don’t happen, you create them.” – Chris Grosser

“All progress takes place outside the comfort zone.” – Michael John Bobak

There. Now that you’ve read those, are you ready to get up, put down your phone/close your laptop and create a risky opportunity that makes you feel uncomfortable in order to achieve greatness? Are you going to put on your workout gear and head to the gym right this very moment, even though you’re currently cozy in your bed/sitting at your desk at the office? No?

I’ve often wondered if reading motivational quotes layered over images of mountains, oceans and trees actually inspire people to get up and DO the things the quote is trying to motivate you to do. Although many of us seek out and resonate with words of wisdom, especially when we’re going through tough times or are working on something that requires mental strength and willpower, do they actually cause a person to take action? (more…)

Buddha was right: New study proves you’re not who you think you are

buddha-thoughtsAre you unhappy with your body? Do you wish you were faster, stronger, bigger or leaner? Do you long to be one of those neon-clad runners who pound the pavement at the crack of dawn and actually enjoy themselves while doing it? Do you wish you didn’t love ice cream, cheese, chocolate and salt-and-vinegar chips so much?

I’ve got good news for you.

Evan Thompson, a philosophy of mind professor at the University of British Columbia who recently published a neuroscience paper on the concept of what we perceive to be our ‘self’, has discovered that “the brain and body is constantly in flux. There’s nothing that corresponds to the sense that there’s an unchanging self.” Now, this doesn’t mean that one day you’ll spontaneously grow bigger bicep muscles and develop cravings for kale and wheatgrass smoothies – but it does verify what Buddhists have believed for ages; that our self is ever-changing and that we are not our thoughts.

“Buddhists argue that nothing is constant, everything changes through time, you have a constantly changing stream of consciousness,” Thompson explains in this article. He found evidence that “self-processing in the brain is not instantiated in a particular region or network, but rather extends to a broad range of fluctuating neural processes that do not appear to be self-specific.”

So what does this have to do with health and fitness?  (more…)

{Friday Favourites} The best health and fitness reads of the week

best-reads-teaserHappy Friday y’all! How was your week?

Mine started off fairly disappointing when I learned that it’s going to be even harder to get into Boston this year, thanks to 3,000 faster people registering before the five-minute-and-under qualifiers could 🙁 I knew I’d be cutting it close, since last year the time cut off was 1:02 (and I finished within 1:03 this year). Although I haven’t completely given up hope yet, I have a feeling this won’t be my year. I’m sad I will miss out on running it in 2016, but I’m still proud of myself for qualifying. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be, and I’ll need to run even faster next year to get in for 2017. I’m thinking I’ll need to run AT LEAST a 3:29 to guarantee myself a Boston bib. Sigh.

On the upside, all that money I was saving for a Boston trip can now go towards some other trip, perhaps a tropical vacation?? I got a few items in the mail this week from my cousin in New Zealand to entice me to come and explore NZ’s amazing trails. Maybe?? (more…)

Why you don’t need to get lost to find yourself

wilditwasWhy do we sometimes feel the need to get lost to find ourselves?

Where did we go?

Are our comfortable, 9-to-5 lives with practically the whole wide world available at our finger tips so bad?

We bask in the glow of our tech products instead of the warm light of the sunrise. We go to a big room full of sweaty humans and various sizes of black iron and rubber objects and machines with levers and pulleys for a few hours each week in order to maintain our physiques instead of chopping wood, tilling the ground and playing outside. We go to warehouses stocked full of delicious and nutritious food from around the world located just minutes from our homes — most of the time we don’t even have to walk to get there. We’re not under constant threat of predators, we don’t go to bed hungry wondering where our next meal is going to come from, and we can generally fair okay in the elements.

Boy, do we have it easy.

So why are we so depressed? So anxious? Why do we feel the need to abuse substances to feel okay? Do the 27 percent of adults in the U.S. who suffer from mental health disorders all need to sell their belongings and go into the woods for a long hike to find themselves, too, like Cheryl Strayed? (more…)

Why mindset is the key to achieving your health and fitness goals

Mindset: The key to achieving your health and fitness goalsI listened to a fantastic episode of Nia Shanks’ Lift Like A Girl podcast the other day where she interviewed Carrie Campbell, a counselor and personal trainer with the Mindset Performance Institute (MPI) about how importance mindset is when it comes to changing habits.

The thing I’ve struggled most with as a newbie personal trainer is how to get clients to follow their programs. Even though you can create the best exercise program designed to fit into a busy schedule and can provide simple nutrition guidelines that include foods the client enjoys eating and meals that are easy to prepare, it can still be hard to achieve compliance. And it’s not the fault of the client, by any means.

Think about it: How many of us already KNOW what we need to do to lose weight or get fit? I’d say most people know they need to eat more vegetables, drink more water, eat less sugary processed food, get more sleep, and exercise regularly. I’d also say most of us even know HOW to do it – stock your fridge with veggies, cook more meals at home, carry a water bottle around with you and set a timer on your phone to remind you to drink, turn off your electronics an hour before bed, and go to the gym three times a week on your way home from work.

So why do we struggle to follow through?

According to Campbell, it’s because we’re not doing the pre-work we need to do to get to that point of adapting to a new habit. We need to change our mindset first before we can change our habits. And to change our mindset, we need to understand why we do the things we do. (more…)

{thinking out loud Thursday} The one question you need to answer to help stop the cycle of shame

you will not get what you truly deserveHave you ever been in a situation where you shared something that was important or meaningful to you with another person or group of people, only to have it ignored? Or to not illicit the reaction you were hoping for? Or maybe even you’ve set some kind of expectation for yourself and let your own self down by not following through. If you have — like I have regularly — that sinking feeling you feel is most likely shame, according to bestselling author Brene Brown in this INC.com article I came across yesterday. And there’s only one question you need to ask yourself to combat that emotion of shame you’re feeling in that moment: “What story am I telling myself right now?”

UGH. That’s so me. The spinner of stories. You could be thinking/feeling something completely different than what I perceive, and one wrong gesture or voice inflection and I’ve made up an entire scenario in my head about why you don’t like me/don’t agree with me/are mad at me/think I’m stupid. Ridiculous, I know — but as a highly sensitive person, I’m hyper aware of verbal and non-verbal cues and the general energy of other people, and can pick up quite easily on when things aren’t all rainbows and puppies. The problem is, I always assume it’s because of something I said or did, not because the person might be feeling upset/low/irritated/stressed due to something else going on in their life. (more…)

7 things you might not know about me

Secretly a hippy at heart.

Secretly a hippy at heart. Photo by Penny Lane Photography.

Last week, I was tagged by the lovely Jill of jillconyers.com to share seven things you might not know about me to help wrap up the #7daystretch challenge with prAna and Sweat Pink.

Since I’m coming off a busy long weekend and have no idea what to post on the blog so far this week, here are 7 things you might not know about me:

  • I am [wildly/strangely/obviously] obsessed with: dark chocolate and peanut butter. But you already knew that, I’m sure.
  • I have a collection of: Beach pebbles and sea glass. I pick something up every time I’m at the beach, and put it in my jacket pocket. Sometimes I forget they’re there and get confused when I stick my hand in my pocket only to pull out a handful of stones. When I remember to take them out, I put them in a meditation bowl or in the glass vase with my bamboo plant.
  • I secretly (not so secretly): Want to be a minimalist hippy living in a tiny house by the sea growing my own food, writing a novel and taking in rescue animals.
  • When I was 7, I wanted to be: Jane Goodall and a children’s book author.
  • If I could do one thing today, it would be: Get on a plane to an exotic country to explore and relax for a bit.
  • I’ve always dreamt of: Hiking Machu Picchu.
  • My favorite way to travel is: By car or train, even thought it takes longer. I love looking out the window and stopping in small towns you wouldn’t normally get to experience.

Your turn! Answer one or more of the seven things listed above in the comments or on your own blog.

{thinking out loud Thursday} What advice I would give to my younger self

“The secret of health for both mind andLast weekend I took my 19-year-old second cousin for a hike along one of my favourite trails on Vancouver Island, the Coast Trail in East Sooke Park. Along the way we chatted about life, school, photography, what he wants to do for a career, travel, and what we both want to be when we grow up (because I’m not sure I have that figured out quite yet either).

I told him that if I could go back and do it all again at 19, I would have travelled more when I had the chance. I wouldn’t have spent money on a brand new Jeep, would have stayed home longer instead of moving out with various boyfriends, and would have done a different university degree.

But would I really have been better off for it if I took my own advice at 19?

Maybe. Or maybe not. (more…)

{thinking out loud Thursday} Are wellness bloggers doing more harm than good?

Me being a stereotypical #wellnessblogger #yogi #motivationalquote #greensmoothie #liveauthentic

Me being a stereotypical #wellnessblogger #yogi #motivationalquote #greensmoothie #liveauthentic

Health and wellness bloggers: We need to have a chat about your Instagram accounts and the advice you share on your blogs.

Just because you’re “young, photogenic, big on Instagram and top bestseller lists around the world” does not make you qualified to give people nutrition and health advice, as pointed out by author Hadley Freeman for this fantastic The Guardian UK article.

I have to agree. Although being a healthy living inspiration as defined by our cultural standards can be a positive thing — especially since more than one-third of U.S. adults are obese — I think there is a point where wellness bloggers can do more harm than good.

Just as looking good does not make you a fitness expert, being pretty and thin with an Instagram page full of Reyes-filtered images of your morning coffee, mala beads and laptop; frosty green smoothies in mason jars topped with cacao nibs causally placed next to a carefully stacked pile of homemade raw/vegan/gluten-free/Whole 30-approved energy bars; a spiralized zucchini noodle pasta dish with cashew cream sauce (#vegan #healthy #wellness) you “just whipped up”; and wistful photos of you exploring a beach or doing yoga poses in the forest with some kind of inspirational quote about living life and following your dreams (#vcso #liveauthentic #explore) does not make you an authority on health, wellness and nutrition. As a fitness blogger who lives near the ocean in the pacific northwest, does yoga, practices mindfulness, eats primarily plant-based and often shares recipes on this blog and my Instagram feed, I’m totally guilty of some of these stereotypical shots and I’m the first to admit it. However, I’m also the first to admit I eat chocolate everyday and drink wine on the weekends, overindulge on vacations and fully believe in a life of balance and moderation. Being too rigid one way or another is not practical nor healthy, and I think portraying ourselves as the epitome of all that is health and wellness is not inspiring others to “live better” as much as we think it is. (more…)

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