June’s Tiny Change: Slow Down

This post is part of Kale & Chocolate’s #12tinychanges challenge. Each month, we’re implementing one super small, super doable change…over a year, it really adds up! You can read about it here and share your progress on instagram – tag @kaleandchocolate and @hamptonskiley with the hashtag #12tinychanges for a chance to win some cool prizes!

When was the last time you did…nothing? Can you remember meandering around town without an agenda? Or taking the dog for a walk just because the sun’s out? Or actually stopping to smell the flowers? Really stopping, breathing, sniffing, inhaling the aroma without a care in the world, somewhere to be, a to-do list to check-off, or a photo to post online?

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Doing nothing can be surprisingly difficult…yet incredibly rewarding! So many of us hide in our “busy.” As a society, we love getting as much done in a day as possible. We feel accomplished and clever when we manage to eat our lunch while replying to emails. The reality is that we’ve found ways to multitask just about every moment of every day…which means we’re missing half of this thing called life! Being “busy,” “plugged in,” and “on” isn’t actually healthy, or sustainable. It’s not good for our bodies, our minds, or our relationships. So, let’s change that!

This is usually the part of the #12tinychanges post where we assure you that this tiny change is really easy and totally doable. And while slowing down is doable, (and important!) it will require more from you than some of our past challenges, such as starting the day in a powerful way, getting more sleep, or eating more color. Slowing down requires you to really commit (mentally and emotionally) to not committing. Although it might feel counter-intuitive to “make time” for down time, it’s just as valuable as those bustling, busy hours (maybe even more!)

slowReady to slow down a bit? Here are five ways that you can ease the pace of your life just a little:

  1. Say no.

It’s hard to slow down if our calendars are filled with obligations and meetings, but when we say “no” to things that don’t excite us, we get to say “yes” to ourselves and to better self-care.

This month, let’s (politely) turn down requests or obligations that just don’t feel right. You know when our bodies tell us “no,” but we say “yes” anyway? Listen to your intuition next time! Can you coordinate this or plan that or be here or meet there or brainstorm for…? No. No. and No.

2. Schedule unstructured time into your calendar.

Yes, really. Open your calendar right now, look at today, find a 20-minute window and schedule time to do nothing. When that calendar notification pops up, treat it the same way you’d treat a meeting: step away from your desk and go do nothing.

Cuddle your pet. Lay in your backyard and stare at the sky. Take an aimless walk through the neighborhood. Make yourself a matcha latte and savor it outside. Page through family photos. Meditate. Whatever you do, resist the urge to turn this unstructured time into cleaning, working, stressing, or doing of any kind. Just do nothing and enjoy!

3. Try doing something the “old fashioned” (or “less convenient”) way.

There’s something incredibly satisfying about accomplishing things without technology. What if you explored a new city using an actual, paper map and asking locals for their recommendations? What if you mixed your brownies with a big wooden spoon and a bit of elbow grease instead of relying on the food processor? What about spending the day at a pick-your-own farm or orchard, plucking fruits and vegetables, instead of grabbing them at the store? Or how about free-writing in an actual journal with an actual pen or pencil?

When we choose to put away our phones and use our minds and bodies (instead of smartphone apps or kitchen appliances), we reconnect with life and the world around us.

4. Do one thing at a time.

Maybe you usually listen to podcasts on your daily walk or catch up on email between activities? Whether it’s calling friends from the car when you have a long drive or using meal times to check in on social media, chances are, you’re doing more than one thing at once.

What if you did just one of those things with that time? The walk or the podcast, the email or the soccer game, the meal or Instagram? We’re so used to multitasking, but it’s not always as effective as devoting your time and energy to just one task at a time. In fact, it’s been proven that multitasking results in lower quality work, and it takes us longer to complete a task when we spread our attention too thin.

5. Literally, physically slow down.

Ever noticed yourself pacing around, talking too fast, speeding, or breathing quickly for no reason other than stress, busyness, and habit?

Often, we can change the way we feel emotionally by changing the way we feel physically. We can often calm our minds by taking deep breaths, releasing our shoulders, and choosing to speak, move, drive, and act with intent. Next time you feel stressed, check in with your body and attempt to literally slow everything down. You’ll instantly feel better!

Slowing down can be tricky. It’s easy to fill our schedules or fall into the pattern of multitasking. But when you learn to slow down with purpose, you regain control of every aspect of your life. Remember, a slower life is a healthier, more centered, present, and efficient life. Your hurried body and mind will thank you. Let’s put the brakes on our hurried lives and sloooooow down!

One Healthy Breakdown: here’s to slowing down and feeling up!

Mindfulness During the Holidays

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How often have you begun the holiday season with the most exalted expectations, only to stumble into the new year burned-out and disappointed? The secret to making your holidays as enjoyable and stress-free as possible is to take the mindfulness you practice on your yoga mat or meditation cushion and actually apply it in your life from moment to moment. And what better time than those frenzied, emotional weeks at the end of the year? Here are some suggestions:

Live in the moment.

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, most of your stress occurs when you’re worrying about the future or obsessing about the past. Live in the present; your mind naturally settles down and your anxiety dissipates. Easier said than done, of course, especially around the holidays, when your head is filled with back-to-back commitments and an endless list of things to do and buy. You can make a commitment to yourself to stop from time to time, shift your attention from your thinking, and pay mindful attention to your experience right now—the weight of your feet against the floor, your back against the chair, the coming and going of your breath.

Let go of expectations.

The holidays are fraught with promises that life and other people can’t possibly fulfill. Maybe you desperately want to take your family on vacation but discover you can’t afford it. Or you’re looking forward to a big family gathering but your folks get sick and have to cancel at the last-minute. Instead of attaching to the way you think things should be (and causing yourself unnecessary stress), you can choose to stay present and grounded, roll with the changes –and heed the other tips in this list.

Tread softly with the relatives.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em (or a little of both), family can be a major challenge to your peace of mind, especially when everyone’s stressed. Breathe deeply, and resist the temptation to rehash old hurts or expect more love and approval than they can muster (see above). Relish the tender moments, generosity, and togetherness that the holidays tend to evoke.

Be especially kind and gentle with yourself.

If you’re pushing yourself too hard, you need to be the one to notice, back off, and give yourself a little loving. Take a hot bath, do some yoga, get a massage, spend quiet time in nature, meditate, call a close friend. Do what nurtures you, then return to the fray refreshed, reinvigorated, and rebalanced.

Count your blessings.

Researchers agree that the key to a happy life is to appreciate what you have. Dwell on the positive and your mood quickly lifts. Spend five minutes each night, especially during the holiday season, reflecting on the good things that happened to you that day, even if they seem inconsequential. The sky at sunset, the loving look in a baby’s eyes, a gift from a friend, a tasty meal, a funny incident at work. Human minds tend to skew toward the negative to alert us to predators and other threats, so you need to make a special effort to correct the bias.

One Healthy Breakdown: Remember to be mindful, no matter how busy you get. In the end, you’re responsible for your own happiness and peace of mind. No one else can provide it for you, even at the holidays!

*Stephan Bodian is a world-renowned meditation teacher, psychotherapist, and consultant specializing in stress management and positive psychology. He is the author of the Mental Workout programs, Mindfulness Meditation and Freedom from Stress, available inside the Mental Workout app and on www.mentalworkout.com. He has also authored several books, including Meditation For Dummies and Wake Up Now: A Guide to the Journey of Spiritual Awakening, in addition to being the former editor-in-chief of Yoga Journal.

One Healthy Mom

Enjoy this refreshingly honest and inspirational interview with local family life teacher, parenting coach, and amazing mother of five, Anastasia Gavalas!

meee1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am a mom, family life teacher, author of WING IT: 6 Simple Steps to Succeed as a Modern Day Parent, and founder of the WING IT PROJECT. I live in Bridgehampton with my husband and five children (ages 15, 13, 11, 9, & 7.) Helping parents make life with children easier is such gratifying work and making a difference in the world through the WING IT PROJECT is something I’ve always dreamed of doing. I live my life in a wholehearted way where I am happy with myself and confident with the choices I make.

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2. How did ‘life as you know it’ come to be?

After I had my 2nd child I felt exhausted and couldn’t get out of bed. I was quickly diagnosed with Hypothyroidism, an autoimmune disease, that had been manifesting in my body for years. I took the prescribed medicine and it just didn’t help much. I kept plugging along but felt overwhelmed and emotionally drained. In 2003, we decided to move to the Hamptons and found out we were expecting baby #4… surprise! With all that was going on, on top of not having family or friends around for support, I quickly learned that I needed to change. I began searching for alternative methods that would support what I knew in my heart was best. I tried acupuncture, homeopathic remedies, and a new overall wellness approach for my health and for my family. It was out of necessity that I found a more organic way of living life. This included making my well-being a priority as well as teaching my children to be more independent.

3. What’s something you overcame and how?

My need to do everything perfectly and my fear-based reactions. Once I was able to recognize that the display of the “perfect” children or my role as the “perfect” mother was wearing me out and preventing me from living authentically, I let those ideas go. Perfection is based on other people’s judgements. I made a decision to separate myself from the concept of perfection to be happy. I practiced meditation starting ten minutes a day, carved out me-time every single day, and (just like I explain in the chapter, “Build Your Village” in WING IT) I began to surround myself with more supportive people who encourage my growth.

4. What is your favorite workout? Favorite family activity?

Dancing is one of my favorite things to do and I mix it with a brisk walk a few times a week. I get bored easily with exercising so I need to change my workout routine up all the time. As far as a family we like to swim (although 2 out of 5 kids hate the beach – not sure how that happened?!?) take bike rides, and go skiing. I have high-energy kids who are constantly moving and ready for adventure at all times so, we’re always moving & grooving.

5. As a career woman, mother, and wife, and how do you maintain balance in your life?

First, I redefined the concept of balance. Standing upright at all times isn’t realistic or worth the effort. But, remaining focused on a goal with a trusting, more joyful attitude will help balance appear in the most challenging of roles. I believe balance is about remaining flexible and knowing that, just as the mightiest of trees will bend and sway with the winds of world, so will mothers who strive for balance. At the end of the day, people just have to appreciate the flexibility and positions experienced.

5. Any great healthy tips for busy moms?

Yes, take time for yourself: get enough sleep, eat good food, sit down and take time to meditate so you can be the woman you were meant to be and the best mom for your children.

6. What food items do you always keep in the house?

Fresh vegetables and fruits – organic as much as possible, olive oil, different cheeses, good meats, gluten-free foods, and always a bottle of chilled champagne for those special occasions…because moms are people too!

7. What is your favorite indulgence?

Drinking tea in the morning, sleeping in (that’s happened maybe three times in the past 10 years… but, a girl can dream!) and long hot showers (alone.)

8. How do you make health a priority in your family without going overboard?

Practicing being healthy is a lifestyle choice. We spend a lot of time outdoors. I talk to my kids about nutritional balance. Four of my children are responsible for cooking one night per week. So, every night, we have a really good, balanced, colorful meal. Children learn by what they observe and I try to demonstrate a healthy lifestyle with the choices I make instead of badgering them with health talks.

9. What is your FAVORITE thing about living in the Hamptons?

The ease of living out here. There is an organic way to life. I love the diversity of people and the experiences it provides. It is a really special place to live with the most amazingly kind people. It’s a great place to raise children because you can be as tuned-in to what’s happening or tuned-out of the busyness of life as much as you want to be.

1094944_578046278901282_1736507745_nOne Healthy Breakdown: Love, laugh, play, learn, and live your life for YOU.

I’m Coming Home…#weddingvenueshopping

Whew! Touring wedding venues is EXHAUSTING! Super fun, special, and exhausting! Over the past week, my mom and I checked out seven wedding venues in The Hamptons and Boston (where I’m from.) It’s been an exciting few days for sure and I think I’m ready to return to my normal routine back in The Hamps.

photo 3I’ve quickly learned that wedding planning includes a hell of a lot of champagne and desserts. Not complaining! But, it’s a lot. Even without a wedding to plan, we all have weekends, celebrations, parties, meetings, traditions, and vacations. While it’s important to enjoy these events to the fullest and live a life of balance, not deprivation, it all adds up. The drinks, the clinks, the cals, the bubbly, the courses, the birthday cake, cake pops, pies, and so on.

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Who wouldn’t want to dig right into this?! You better believe I did. I tasted almost everything because it’s not everyday a girl is offered a sampler of fresh desserts involving carrot cake pops, chocolate covered strawberries, macaroons, and pumpkin whoopie pies…now is it? But, a taste is a taste and I do want to be able to fit into a wedding dress over the next few months! Yes, I had my cake and ate it too, but I also focused my enjoyment of this whole process on seeing the venues, enjoying the beautiful city of Boston, spending quality time with my mom and the rest of my family, and meeting new friends along the way!

photo 5I took advantage of this mini-vaca and enjoyed the time and these indulges. However, I did not sleep in and I did not forego my workouts. Balance is about enjoying what life has to offer, but not unraveling, or straying from goals. My goal is pretty loosely a body and mind that feels good, strong, and healthy, and a balanced, fun life. While my afternoons and evenings have been spent touring venues, getting drinks, lunch, or dinner with family, and, of course, the occasional frozen yogurt, my mornings have been spent running, spinning, at the gym, or on the yoga mat. And I love it that way. Work hard play hard, that’s really the message here.

Whether you’re in or out of your normal routine, do what you can and enjoy it. The weather is amazing this time of year, perfect for outdoor walks, runs, hikes, or bike rides. Choose something you love and do it. That way, exercise isn’t a chore but an activity. Something you know will pay off in the end, whether it’s to negate that cake pop, strengthen your muscles, stretch your body, refresh your mind, or all of the above, it’s always worth it if you ask me. Did I want to get up early yesterday morning to go to yoga? Not necessarily, but once I hit the mat, after a few downward dogs, I couldn’t have been happier that I did. That yoga class was exactly what I needed after lots of spinning. And, I enjoyed that yoga-zen for hours afterwards, an added bonus. Strive for balance, not perfection. It’s possible to enjoy every celebration, big and small, while living a healthy life. A healthy life is a longer life! More moments to enjoy!

One Healthy Breakdown: When all else fails, take the stairs!

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