A conversation with a client was the most fun I’ve had at work in quite a while. She had set a goal of exercising three to four times a week, which had been a challenge because she had a busy job and was exhausted at the end of the day, when she had chosen to workout. But, she had lost 60 pounds with nutrition changes, and wanted to add in exercise so she could continue to lose weight and tone and strengthen her muscles.
I was a little nervous about her goal because I thought maybe she had bitten off more than she could chew. But, a couple of weeks later, she checked in with great success! I asked her what the trigger was that got her from the couch and up working out. Her answer was so simple and so awesome: I just love how I feel when I do.
She went on to tell me that even when she had a long day at work and was really tired, she exercised because she knew she would feel better right away.
I wanted to clarify this point and make sure I understood exactly what she was saying, so I asked her to confirm what I heard: the results from exercising were immediate, positive, and attainable. Yes, she said. They were.
I was floored. This was fantastic news! Just a few weeks prior, she had been frustrated that her progress had stalled, and she was at a crossroads for what to do. She was confused, because she was still working hard but her body wasn’t changing as much as it was before. She sighed and confessed, “I know, I want instant results. I need to give it time.”
But now she was positively giddy, telling me that exercising made her feel so good right away that she was looking forward to her workouts after a long day at work. It was not possible for her to have a bigger smile on her face.
A lot of life can feel uncertain and disorganized at times. But, we have more control over how we feel than we think. We have access to tools that can help us feel better right away.
Chief among those is the immediate benefit of feeling great through exercise, which my client was enjoying every single day. When the world’s problems seem like more than we can handle, sometimes the best thing we can do is feel better, because feeling better is not overrated. In fact, feeling better makes it easier for us to be part of the solution!
Worried about diabetes? Exercise reduces insulin levels in your blood and improves your insulin sensitivity. That means you and your brain are better able to partner up to notice when you are full and don’t need to keep eating.
Feeling stuck on a project at work? Exercise helps with neurogenesis, which is the creation of new brain cells. A walk and some fresh air can lead to more clarity of thought, productivity, and energy to work.
Exercise is proven to boost our mood to the point where we can alleviate symptoms of clinical depression. Just thirty minutes a few times a week can make a difference. But don’t just stroll around. Work up a good sweat and get your heart and lungs pumping! Get your money’s worth!
Feeling a little low on self-confidence? Battling anxiety? Go and do a strength-training workout or join an exercise class. Exercise can boost self-esteem and improve body image, making you feel like a million bucks. And when you feel good, you look good. More instant benefits! Could this get any better? You betcha.
Not only does exercise immediately make you feel amazing, raise your intellect, and make it easier to eat healthy, it burns calories, which leads to weight loss. Yes! You can even lose weight, on top of feeling great whenever you want to. Oh, and exercise also lowers your blood pressure, enhances sleep quality, reduces cholesterol…should I go on?
My client and I were laughing and cheering over the phone as we marveled in her discovery. Happiness, relaxation, lower stress…it was all attainable within minutes and completely in her control. In fact, the two things that were guaranteed to bring her a lifetime of happiness were two things she had complete control over: what she ate and whether or not she exercised. Instant gratification was sitting right next to her this whole time.
It’s sitting next to you, too. You can join her and feel amazing today. Right now! I hope you will, and that your smile will not be able to get bigger. You deserve to feel great. What are you waiting for?
Does it seem like the holiday season begins earlier and earlier each year? I'm one of those people who can't wait for an excuse to put out some pumpkins and welcome fall, even if it is still 85 degrees outside. I am ready!
But more often than not, the season that I look forward to all year long seems to be done in a flash, and I feel like I've been so busy making it happen that I missed the whole thing. I hear the same sentiments from my clients, along with things like, "I just want to survive the holidays."
Them's fightin' words for me - life is too short to settle for surviving. No ma'am. We are here to experience life, not just get through it.
I could cite dozens of studies that have reported the rising numbers of Americans who are hanging on by a thread, trying to keep the plates of life spinning in a world that seems to get more and more demanding.
People who feel like they don't have a choice, because they need to pay the bills.
People who feel stuck, hopeless, and resigned to just, well, surviving.
Life is too short for me to stand by and let other people settle, either.
I can't actually solve everything, but I can help people organize their lives, so I started asking my clients about how they want to experience the last six weeks of the year. Their answers were pretty standard: cooking, traveling, spending time with family, shopping, etc. It was clear they had not understood my question, so I needed to clarify what I meant.
I didn’t want to know how they expected to spend the holidays. I was curious about how they wanted to experience the holidays. After the cooking, shopping, and family visits are done, what makes a happy holiday season for them? How will they know that the time was well-spent? What experience do they want to have, and what do they need to do to create it?
It’s been said that the best way to predict the future is to create it, and that’s something you can do any time of year. We don’t get to choose every circumstance of our lives, but we have more control over circumstances than we may think. So today I ask you: how do you know if you are having a happy holiday?
There are a few rules for this exercise. First, you must be specific about what brings you joy during this time of year. The more detail you can put into imagining the scents, flavors, and images of the holidays, the easier it will be to find them.
Second, you must be somewhat realistic. For example, if your dream is of a snowy winter wonderland, you better have the budget and vacation time for travel to a place that manufactures snow on command. You can’t bring people back from the dead, and you have to exist in this dimension. But, other than the laws of physics and constraints of your resources, have at it.
And third, it must be self-generated. That is, nothing in your perfect holiday scene can be dependent on someone else doing something. Waiting for other people to do things in order for you to be happy is just a recipe for heartache and resentment.
Okay, are you ready? Here we go.
Let’s flip the calendar a couple of pages to January 1. Imagine sitting on that day in your favorite place, with a wonderful feeling of contentment wrapped around you like a blanket. Life is just peachy. Gosh, that was a wonderful holiday. Now imagine someone comes to sit next to you and they ask, “how was your holiday?” And you say, “it was just wonderful,” and then begin to paint the scene. What, specifically, made it so wonderful?
When I think about this question, my mind reminisces about hearing jingle bells on the doorknobs of the house, making treasured family recipes to share with others, decorating my home like we live in the Biltmore, and smelling cinnamon, orange, and clove simmering on the stove. I like to have clinked glasses with friends and family, witnessed the magic of the season through the eyes of children, and indulged enough to feel fancy while still fitting into my jeans in January. If those things have happened by December 31, I feel good.
Now, there are other things that make the holidays nice, too. Children being polite and gracious to their elders, no one getting sick, family members not discussing politics, no car trouble on the way to Grandma’s, good weather, my husband buying the correct gift for me, my kids eating the fancy food I have made, the music at church being exactly the kind I like, the lines at the stores not being too long, and seeing the correct reactions to all of the gifts that I have purchased for others, to name a few. But we’ve already discussed that.
Now let’s zoom back in the calendar to the present day. You’ve just painted that picture of the events of the coming weeks that led to that feeling of contentment. Now it is time to make it happen! What do you need to do to ensure that the elements that made you feel so happy can actually take place? You’ve identified your priorities, so now schedule them!
For me, staying active is key, because my morning workouts are like my own personal reset button. That means I need to stick to my exercise routine and maybe even bump it up a little to account for extra nibbles. I may even take a day off during the week when I can bake, listen to carols, make my simmer pot, and decorate my house. When visiting my family, I enjoy sliding to the background to observe everyone as they interact together, watching the kids play with snow globes when they think the grown-ups aren’t watching.
Then, when we get the flat tire, or my kids dash off without saying thank you, and no one eats the meal I have made, it’s okay, because that’s not what I needed for a happy holiday.
So, how do you want to experience the last three months of the year? I created a Happy Healthy Holidays Guide to help you work it out - and keep track of your progress. Download it here.
And remember: keep it specific, realistic, and intrinsic, and maybe even Santa will ask for your secret.
An excerpt from Happy, Healthy You: Breaking the Rules for a Well-Balanced Life
In 2018, I watched a good portion of Hurricane Michael blow through Tallahassee from my front porch. As a lifelong Southerner, I’ve seen a few tropical storms and hurricanes, and find myself stuck between being in awe of the power of nature and wanting to give it a wide enough berth to show my respect.
This storm was no different, and as I sipped my coffee and wondered how long the power would last, I sat under the cover of my porch and watched the trees.
I have a lot of pine trees around my house. I have some of the big fat ones and some of the spindly little ones, and I had placed my bets on which would survive and which would not. As the bands of wind and rain came through, the trees began to sway. And then they began to bend. That’s when I went inside and moved to the window.
I watched the trees bend and thought about their root system. I wondered how far the roots went down and how far over a pine tree could bend. I wondered whether it was better to be a big fat tree or a little skinny tree. And, I noticed some things.
A while ago I saw a quote with a picture of a tree that said, “if you do not like life’s circumstances, move. You are not a tree.” It made me feel kind of bad for trees, because they can’t move from their circumstances. They have to stand there and take it, whether it is a drought or a category four hurricane.
We are like that sometimes too. Sometimes circumstances are bad and it’s easy for someone to say, “well, if you don’t like it, then leave.” But sometimes we are so rooted where we are, either by family or obligations or other life things that happen, and picking up and leaving isn’t really an option. We are like a tree, and we have to stand there and take it.
I know a lot of people who feel that way about their health. They need to make changes, and sure, it’s easy for someone outside to say, “well just eat better. Just get up earlier and exercise. Just quick buying cigarettes. Just do it.” But they are rooted in lives that can’t be undone that easily, and it seems like they have to withstand the winds of life.
But as I watched the trees in the storm, I noticed that they were doing more than just standing there. They were swaying, bending, and releasing. Even when we are rooted where we are, we can do the same thing.
Sway when you can
The storms of life can definitely push us around, but we don’t have to just stand there. Like a tree, we all sway from side to side throughout our lives to allow for this event or that unexpected change of plans. I believe that these times actually make us stronger, more cognitively nimble, and more creative.
Sway when you can so that the things you do to take care of yourself can keep happening even in a storm. Swaying might mean compromising on when exercise happens so that it can, rather than letting it stop altogether.
Bend when you need to
As I watched the trees bend I thought about how they were pretty stubborn and must really be committed to being where they were to withstand so much pressure and not fall over. It reminded me of those times when life gets so hectic that if we want to stay healthy in spite of it, we need to make even bigger compromises.
Sometimes we let exercise go and focus on eating healthy. Sometimes food choices are not in our control so we make sure to stay active and counteract it by staying active. Bending in this way means that we might not be getting everything we need, but at least we’re getting some of it, and sometimes that’s enough.
Let some branches fall
Those trees were swaying and they were bending, but they were also releasing some of themselves in order to stay upright. This is a loss, for sure, but one that is regained over time. Don’t be afraid to let some branches fall off your tree if it means you stay rooted in what supports your physical and emotional health. It’s likely that those things will come back in time, and the loss will be a temporary one.
The clean-up from the storm continues, and as we reach out to the west and help our neighbors recover, I believe that our roots will go deeper and we will be stronger. If another of life’s storms is headed your way, be like a tree. Sway, bend, release, and hang on to your roots.