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?

flowers

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!

The Ultimate Reminder to SLOWWWW Down!

I recently experienced the ultimate reminder to SLOW DOWN and I’m here to share.

slowHere’s how it went down. Busy Wednesday mid-November. Home for an hour between meetings to eat lunch and get some work done. Starving. Going 100 miles an hour. Cue the incident. No time to cook. Go for a frozen veggie burger. Go to cut two frozen burgers apart with a sharp knife. Stab knife between frozen burgers to separate. Think “bad idea.” Keep going. Cut ring finger. Cue pain and LOTS of blood (will spare further gory details.) Stop in tracks. Cringe. Attend to booboo. Get very nauseous. Get better. Decide to shake it off instead of go to hospital. Live with swollen finger for three months (yes, THREE MONTHS.) Finally go to doctor. Get engagement ring and wedding band sawed off finger. Told severed tendon will not heal without splint. Go to physical therapist. Get splint made. Forced to slow down because everything is slower with a splinted finger.

Curse my own stupidity. Count my blessings. Thankful only a finger. Thankful all limbs working fine. Thankful that recovery is only a month. Thankful for good doctors. Annoyed with self. Regretting going 100 miles an hour. Missing rings desperately. Aggravated that shampooing, cooking, TYPING, holding weights, kettlebells, steering wheel etc. difficult.

See where I’m going with this? If I had just literally taken the extra four seconds (FOUR SECONDS!) to set the gosh darn veggie burgers down and cut them in a safer manner, I would have saved myself hours of nausea, three doctors visits, replacing my wedding and engagement rings with far less-attractive finger splints, hundreds of dollars in medical bills, lots of frustration, and a really silly story to tell.

Point is, we’re all super busy. We’re going, going, going…but, regardless of where it is that we’re going, if we rush, cut corners, and get ahead of ourselves, we’re not living in the moment, we’re not enjoying the ride, and we’re putting ourselves and others at risk of making a silly mistake. Do it right or do it twice and pay the price. I’m paying alright.

This is my reminder to STOP in your tracks. Take a minute to breathe. Really breathe. Allow yourself a break. Reset your speed a bit slower. Enjoy the ride. Embrace the moment. Don’t miss this minute because you’re eager to get to the next. Live in the present. Count your blessings. Hug your loved ones. Be kind. Stay calm. Put the phone down. Practice mindfulness. Do what you do with grace and intention. Work hard. Prepare the meal slowly (and safely.) Taste your food. Chew slowly. Be yourself. Listen to music. Take care of yourself. Find pleasure in everything. Embrace nature. And once again, B R E A T H E. Breathe slowly. Stop every once in a while to check yourself before you wreck yourself. Your to-do list can wait and you’ll need all 10 fingers to be the superhero that you are…trust me!

One Healthy Breakdown: Proceed slowly.

12 Days of Holiday Fun

How about actually enjoying this time we know as ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ spreading cheer instead of fear?! There’s nothing holding us back from keeping calm and embracing the season. Instead of just surviving the holidays, lets slow down, breathe, soak it in, count our blessings, have fun, be silly, make cookies, and spread CHEER this year! Here are 12 ways to keep calm and have a HAPPY holiday season!

8ea3e998a97216c58c47d7c29b917d3c*photo via Pinterest

12. Make a shopping list. Put some thought into your gifts and stay organized. Check off as you shop and don’t save it all for last minute! When you’re done shopping, reward yourself with a little something special for yourself. 11. Wear a big, chunky holiday sweater (it doesn’t have to be “ugly,” per se – beauty is in the eye of the beholder…) but it must be too big and super comfy! 10. Make hot chocolate and watch your favorite holiday movie and soak it up. My personal faves include Elf, Love Actually, The Family man, and The Holiday. 9. Did you get your Christmas tree yet?! Blast the tunes and decorate with friends/family! 8. Take a break from it all to focus on you. Get ALL bundled up and take a long winter walk or run. Leave your phone at home and soak up the silence. Enjoy a healthy peppermint smoothie while you’re at it! 7. Open a bottle of wine and throw yourself a gift-wrapping party. 6. Send a card to someone who won’t expect it and will be touched. 5. Make your favorite holiday cookies, from scratch, and share them. Or try a new recipe; TLC Cookies or World Peace Cookies, both of which are made with love. 4. Take a nap (the holidays are exhausting!) english bulldogs dressed up as santa and rudolph 3. Blast your favorite holiday tunes and have a dance party. 2. Family time. Enough said. 1. Have yourself a merry little holiday season. One Healthy Breakdown: we look forward to the holiday season all year. Don’t let the stress distract you from enjoying the most wonderful time of year.

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!