Morning Rise & Shine Ritual

Snooze. Roll out of bed. More coffee. Scramble through your to-do list. Count down the minutes until you can leave the office… Sounds miserable, no? Here’s a super simple daily exercise anyone can (and should! ) use to rise, shine, and set yourself up for success, with a smile!

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  1. Write down three things that you’re grateful for today.
  2. Write down three things that you would like to get done today.

That’s it. Now, you’re centered, thankful, positive, and motivated, so go seize the day!

One Healthy Breakdown: nothin’ like a big cup of joe inspo in the morning!

How Gratitude Makes You Healthy

An attitude of gratitude. Thankful. Blessed. We all know that we should appreciate the things, people, and opportunities we have; however, did you know that an ‘attitude of gratitude’ has proven health benefits? (Possibly even more than that green juice you paid for.) Before we chat science, why not start with a little exercise to get that gratitude flowing? Ready, set, gratitude.

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  • The simple act of expressing thanks automatically lessens stress, which can lead to illnesses like cancer and heart disease, overtime. So, next time you’re in a rut, shift your focus to the good things you have going for you to boost your mood and your immune system.
  • Grateful people are more likely to take care of themselves, which is hugely related to both physical and mental well-being. Dedicating time for self-care makes us happier, less stressed, more focused, and more capable to take care of others. Think of the oxygen masks on airplanes; we can’t take care of others if we don’t take care of ourselves first.
  • Showing thanks may spark new relationships. Whether your colleague does you a favor or a stranger holds the door for you, expressing appreciation may initiate conversation, which may lead to friendship, which may lead to more happiness and even more gratitude.
  • An attitude of gratitude increases self-confidence, self-awareness, and self-esteem because your focus is on the good things that you like about yourself. Heck yes.
  • Grateful people are less likely to blame others, react with aggression, and experience anger, as they acknowledge their blessings and feel more empathy for others. Bye bye, road rage.
  • Trouble sleeping? Gratitude reduces anxiety, which can keep us awake or interrupt sleep. Simply put, get grateful and get good shut-eye.
  • Gratitude boosts resilience. We’re far more likely to overcome an obstacle or stay strong through a tough time if we keep an attitude of gratitude.
  • Grateful people are proven to exercise more, which also relieves stress and initiates all of the other benefits listed above. Lace up your sneakers for this double whammy.
  • You do not have to be “successful” to feel gratitude. In fact, those with less money or “stuff” have actually been proven to feel more gratitude. It’s not about what we have or do not have, it’s about perspective.

So, how do we practice daily gratitude? Simply set aside time daily or throughout the day to count your blessings. Write them down or simply make a mental list if you’re on-the-go. Be more observant of when others do something nice for you or someone else and express your appreciation. Even if you’re really down in the dumps, force yourself to smile or think of one thing you’re thankful for. It takes little energy and actually produces happy hormones, which lead to all of the above. Giving thanks all year-round will make you a healthier, happier, more productive, well-rested, confident, unstoppable human being.

One Healthy Breakdown: adopt an attitude of gratitude and reap the benefits…then express your gratitude for ’em and let the cycle continue!

March’s Tiny Change: Notice Your Subconscious Thoughts About Food

*This post is part of Kale and Chocolate’s year-long #12tinychanges challenge. Each month, we’re implementing one small, super doable change-over a year it really adds up! Read about all changes here and share your progress on Instagram with the hashtag #12tinychanges. (Did I mention that there are lots of theme-related GIVEAWAYS each month?! Read on!)

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For the last six months, we’ve been making teeny, tiny, totally doable changes in the direction of creating and sustaining healthier lives. So far, we’ve talked about how we fuel our bodies (eating breakfast every day, trying plant-based foods, cooking at home, and moving and resting our bodies.) But a perfectly fueled, well-rested body won’t do us any good if it’s home to a negative, pessimistic, self-critical mind.

Have you ever found yourself having unkind thoughts like these?

“I can’t believe I ate all that pasta. Gross. I’m so weak.”

“How do I keep screwing this up? I told myself I wasn’t going to overeat and here I am, stuffed, unhappy, and guilty. I should be better than this.”

“I know that dairy upsets my stomach, but I just ate half a pint of ice cream. I’m so bad.”

I recognize them myself because this is something that I struggled with for ages. If I ate too much, I’d say mean things to myself. If I didn’t eat enough vegetables, ate mindlessly, or if told myself that I wasn’t going to finish the rest of the hummus and then when I did—I’d berate myself.

This food-related stress and anxiety isn’t just emotionally unhealthy: it’s physically unhealthy. Marc David, my mentor and founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, explains that our thoughts quite literally affect how our bodies function. Guilt and other negative, stress-related emotions trigger the release of cortisol, which can cause us to store more calories as body fat.

Thinking negative, stress-inducing thoughts after a meal impacts our digestion and nutrient assimilation and removes any pleasure we might have experienced while eating the food. To put it simply: the thoughts we think about the food we eat instantly become the reality in our bodies via the central nervous system.

By now, we’ve heard “you are what you eat,” but you are also what you think! This month, let’s commit to stopping unkind thoughts before they even start. We can rewire our mind to be more positive. Here are three steps to help you release negative food and body chatter, once and for all:

1. Take note of when and how you say these things to yourself.
For many of us, these unkind thoughts are mental background noise. We’ve heard them so many times, playing on repeat in our heads, that we don’t even notice them anymore. Whether we are aware of them or not, they affect our self-esteem, our choices, and the chemicals in our bodies. Noticing these thoughts is the first step to healing our relationships with food and our bodies.

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2. Speak to yourself the way you’d speak to a young child or a dear friend.
We would never, ever tell a friend that she was “weak” for having a second serving of brownies, but for years I’d say things like this—and worse!—to myself. When I finally realized that my negative self-talk was a problem, I struggled to find positive, supportive things to say to myself. If you’re in the same boat, talk to yourself the way you’d talk to a dear friend or a young child.

“You’re doing your best.”

“You made the most of a tough situation.”

“You’re doing a great job—keep it up!”

“I’m proud of you.”

When we give ourselves the same amount of love and attention that we give other people, our internal dialogue begins to shift. This can feel a little awkward at first, but keep the conversation going! Training a new behavior takes time, and once it’s ingrained, you’ll have swapped a harmful, unhealthy, and counter-productive habit for a positive, uplifting, healthy one. Using kind, supportive language in your conversations with yourself will help ease the food stress—and more!

3. Remember that you are the creator of your thoughts, so you can change them.
When we tune into our inner dialogue, it’s easy to feel out of control. It can seem as though we’re being forced to listen to a radio station where a mean (or even spiteful!) DJ isn’t taking requests.

But it’s important to remember that our thoughts—both good and bad—originate from us. We are the creators of our thoughts, so we are capable of changing them. I can say to myself, “That’s how I was for the last XX years, but I don’t want to be like that any more. This changes now.”

Your mind is a one-person radio station—and you are the only one who gets to choose the playlist. Believe it or not, it’s all up to you! You can even try this trick for re-routing your internal monologue: The next time you start to hear the same unkind chatter that plays on repeat, I want you to actually think (or say!) the words: “Stop. Change the station.”

Imagine reaching out toward the knob on your car radio and turning the dial. Or imagine pulling the headphones out of your iPhone and being greeted with glorious (and peaceful!) silence. Try it. You won’t believe how effective this can be!

Changing the way you think is a journey that requires a lot of focus and effort. Be gentle with yourself during this process and try not to get down on yourself when and if you have those negative thoughts again. They’re bound to resurface occasionally. Awareness is the first step here!

To help you have kinder & more loving thoughts, I’ve teamed up with some incredible partners to give you awesome and supportive tools for this month’s challenge. Simply join the conversation #12tinychanges on instragam and tag @kaleandchocolate and @hamptonskiley.

One Healthy Breakdown: What you think is just as important as what you eat. And the only person who can change your mind is YOU.

Out With the Old, In With the New

Spring. Birds chirping, sun shining, snow melting, spring cleaning. Before you roll your eyes, this isn’t about weeding through your closet, although that may be a good idea. Spring cleaning is about so much more than old clothing, clean countertops, and fresh gardening. Life is reborn for trees, flowers, wildlife, and whoever wants to take advantage. Spring is the season of growth and renewal; the perfect time to cleanse the old and welcome the new, both inside and out.

Cleanse. Clean out the junk in all aspects of life and replace it with fresh, positive, healthy goodness. As the saying goes, if you keep good food in your fridge, you will eat good food!

EatRealFoodCleanse your eating. That does not mean you’ll have to live on juice – been there, done that. Good news: your body is designed to cleanse itself. That’s right, you can skip the starvation, straw sipping, and pill popping. Just get back to the basics and treat your body right by eating right. Go through your pantry, fridge, and freezer, and throw away anything (and everything) past its expiration date, labeled with ingredients you don’t even recognize, and those winter comfort foods you know aren’t doing you any favors. Then make a grocery list full of (almost) nothing but whole foods and fresh, in-season produce. Get shopping, aiming for organic, unprocessed, high-quality, and local as much as possible. Most importantly, practice mindful eating to break up your current patterns. Call on a friend or nutritionist for some moral support. Take a step back, listen to your body, turn to whole foods, and sit and slowly chew, taste, and savor each bite. Soon enough, you’ll find you’re eating what your body truly wants and needs, not what your sweet tooth or emotions crave. You’ll be more in-tune with yourself and ready to spring into spring!

drinkmorewater The other factor in cleansing is hydration. Drinking enough water is crucial to our health in so many ways. Since we’re made of mostly water, our body needs to stay hydrated in order to function properly, cleanse naturally, stay active, and maintain balance. Plus, drinking lots of water can boost metabolism, avert cravings, and energize your muscles. Since you’re cleaning out your fridge, you’re ditching the soda, fruit juice, sports drink, cocktail mixers, and whatever else you’re sippin’ on. Good ol’ H20 is where it’s at. Always carry a water bottle with you and spice up your water with fun additions and natural concoctions!

ThinkgoodthoughtsLastly, what’s progress without positivity?! As we clean out our closets, pantries, and bodies, this spring renewal won’t last without an attitude adjustment. It’s as simple as the three words above: think good thoughts. Clean out the old – the judgement, negativity, fear, guilt, etc. that we place upon ourselves and others. Replace all this wasted space with pure, uplifting thoughts. We put so much effort into taking care of others and showing our loved ones that we care, but we often overlook the same treatment for ourselves. Treat yourself with respect, kindness, and self-confidence. Catch yourself next time you have a negative thought and turn it around. Soon, these mindful changes will result in greater happiness and health like never before! Feel free to evaluate the people in your life as well. If someone does nothin’ but bring ya down and you can easily avoid them, cleanse them right out and don’t look back. Fill your mind with good thoughts, fill your life with good people, and fill your days with good things!

One Healthy Breakdown: This spring season, don’t just replace the snow boots with rain boots. Instead, think about the changes you’ll make to rid the same old and embrace the new you, from the inside out and the outside in!

 

Yoga’s Gift to Me

Young Woman Meditating on the FloorMoms have the hardest job! With five kids of my own, I’m guilty of bellowing “I can’t take another minute of this!” Not so positive, I know… But I have to be honest, I meant it! I meant this and…many other negative, self-defeating thoughts and statements through the years. General stress topped with ‘end-of-day-mommy-exhaustion’ can do that to a person. Am I right or am I right?

Then one day, I heard my daughter shout in an awful, guttural, honestly horrifying way, “I can’t TAKE another MINUTE of THIS!” I couldn’t even try to deny where she got it from, everyone in the house looked right at me. It really is something when we face ourselves in our children isn’t it? The good, the bad and the ugly. Ugh.

In my highly-energized (some may say ‘wound-up,’ I prefer ‘highly energized’) way, I shared this latest exclamation with one of my serene, calm, always-balanced friends (we differ in some ways…) She suggested I join her for a yoga class. Yoga? Not fast enough for me. I spin, I run, I lift, I swim, and I do triathlons. I am fit. Yoga? I don’t think so. Truly the teacher would not want me there. I will squirm, mentally go thru my grocery list, watch everyone else, count how many ladies are wearing LuLu…nah, it won’t be good, it’s not for me.

My friend persisted….she spoke of things like breathing, (duh, I do that!) listening, slowing down, (slow is not usually my style) and sweating (now that’s what I like to hear!) So I went to yoga. And to this day, I have a dysfunctional relationship with yoga, but I did I get one of the biggest life-changing gifts during that yoga class.

My mother always said: “f you have nothing nice to say, say nothing.” In life, that saying has always stayed with me, but there’s more to it. What I learned in that yoga class was the power of positive thoughts. Pay attention, this is actually life-altering. Take it from me, the skeptical mom of five who will try anything to make life flow a teeny, tiny bit smoother.

At the end of class, the teacher had us close our eyes and lay on our backs. She continued to quietly talk about self-kindness and the power of positive thoughts. (I should probably mention the fact that she was going from person to person massaging each of our feet – THAT may have helped!) Anyway, she suggested, when we go home, to hear our negative thoughts and try to replace every negative thought with a positive thought, recite the positive thought aloud, take 3 big inhales and exhales, and then recite the positive thought again.

The payoff? That yoga teacher claimed many; serenity, calm, happiness, hope, gratitude, improved immune system, improved overall mental health, improved concentration, and more! What mom isn’t looking for a little of that? So I tried it. And it worked. Not overnight, it takes time, but it helps. A lot. It’s something I am mindful of everyday, and it works.

While I can become a bit discouraged about the number of times a negative thought still floats through my mind, I’m in awe of my ability to press ‘rewind’ and turn a negative into a positive. I’ve discovered positive behavior follows positive thinking! You know what else? Positive energy attracts positive energy! I’m constantly amazed at how greatly this one exercise has empowered me. Finally, I live a life full of positivity. And the change is actually doable. It’s free, it’s personal, and it’s mind-blowing.

The best part? The other day…my daughter was running across the playground and a little boy bumped into her. She took quite a spill. As I approached her, I braced myself for her response. Perhaps she would cry, want to go home, or even lash out at the other child. Guess what? She slowly got up and while wiping all the sand off her knees, I heard her mumbling “It’s ok, little boy. We are fine. We are strong kids! We are positive! Want to play?” And off they went!

I am inspired by that yoga teacher. She taught me that being fit is about more than just my body. It’s about being strong enough to listen to my thoughts, breath thru them, make a choice to change them, and believe in the power of positivity. It’s a great gift we can give ourselves and our children. Try it for yourself…if I can do it, you can do it!

*Norah Benincasa is the owner of Pedal and Pose Fitness Studio in Concord, MA. She is a certified personal trainer, spin instructor, TRX trainer, Body Pump trainer, more…and mom of five! Norah holds a masters degree in social work and is an expert in all things fitness!

What’s a Spirit Junkie Sati?!

Yesterday was one of those days. One of those life-altering days I’ll never forget. I spent the day with Gabby Bernstein and Patricia Moreno at The Surf Lodge for their second annual Spirit Junkie Sati (#spiritjunkiesati.) Amazingness. In the sun. On the bay. In Montauk. On a yoga mat. Making history.

photo 3Gabby kicked off the morning with Kundalini Kriyas – sets of exercises, with both physical and physiological meaning and purpose. Just hearing Gabby speak can put you at ease. Doing yoga with her, that’s a whole other story. Our first Kriya is meant to bust through blocks, to bust through what holds you back in life. Another Kriya strengthened the spine; as Gabby explained, a healthy spine is a healthy life.

photo 1Having been lucky enough to have gotten to know Gabby a bit and being halfway through May Cause Miracles, I was excited to learn what Kundalini Yoga is all about. As opposed to classic yoga, which is usually more individually up to interpretation, Kundalini yoga speaks to one purpose at a time. There is a Kriya for everything. I mean everything. Look it up. Try one. As Gabby says, expect miracles.

Then, Gabby had us do something amazingly effective. A tool I will definitely keep in my back pocket and use often. You should too. To wrap up our Kundalini hour, we “shook it out” and we shook it good. Sitting on our yoga mats, we shook our arms overhead for three + minutes. We shook all of the crap that holds us back, all of the negativity, all of the problems, the constant sadness on the news, the anger, the pain, the resentment…any of that heavy stuff that weighs us down…SHAKE IT OUT! Seriously, try it now. Standing or sitting cross legged, with your arms overhead, knowing you’re getting it all OUT. Shake all that stuff you don’t need right out the tips of your fingers. Shake furiously. Even yell a little if you want to or blast some really loud music if you want. Get it all out. And then breathe, regroup, and start fresh. Phew.

After about an hour of Kundalini, we broke for an amazing lunch thanks to Byron – The Surf Lodge’s Restaurant (which I must say has jumped to my top 10 list.) The food is fresher than fresh, simple, delicious, healthy, and even better, local! If you’re ever in or around Montauk, definitely stop in to Byron at The Surf Lodge for a meal. Just a heads up, if you’re there on a weekend, it’s packed…and I mean PACKED. Be prepared to relax on the bay and have a few drinks. If I were you, I’d make a day of it. In fact, I often do.

photo 5After a nice long lunch, Patricia (two words: ROCK STAR) graced the stage. From the moment she opened her mouth, the energy was astounding. Contagious. Mind-blowing. And pretty freaking awesome. She put us on the spot and I’m going to do the same to you: spend one minute (yes, 60 whole seconds) telling someone how great you are, the awesome things you do, how much you love your body and yourself, the obstacles you’ve overcome…Can you do it? Can you spend 60 seconds saying only good things about yourself? I couldn’t either. A minute of self-promotion is HARD. But, a minute of complaining would be easy as pie, right?! That’s her point, that’s what Patricia turns upside down: the fact that we’ve been trained to think and speak more negatively than positively, which often holds us back from pure bliss, greatness, and self-love. As Patricia said: “it’s inspiring to hear people thrive. Just like negative thought can make us negative people, positive thoughts can turn that right around. What thought has done, thought can undo.” Amen, sister. Think, say, and do better for yourself and better things will come. Really, they will. Gabby and Patricia said so.

Patricia invented IntenSati, an aerobic workout NEVER been done before. It’s dance, cardio, yoga, martial arts, intervals, oh and loud and proud affirmations all at the same time. No, you haven’t done something like this before. There is nothing like this workout. IntenSati is a workout for the mind just as much as the body. It’s a cleanse, a detox, an inspiration, an enlightening. There really are no words, just find a class and DO IT, trust me. And, if you come upon a future Spirit Junkie Sati lead by Patricia and Gabby, DO IT. Trust me. And if you stumble upon something that sounds cool that you kinda want to do, but aren’t sure what to expect, something the fearless version of you would do in a heartbeat, DO IT. Trust me.

photo 5One Healthy Breakdown: That’s Patricia’s awesome sweatshirt. Sunny and happy, just like our Spirit Junkie Sati. Oh, and I’m sore. Between Gabby’s 26 frog poses and Patricia’s powerful punches, my body hurts, I’m beyond exhausted, and I’m totally enlightened.photo 4