Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way;On purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgemntally.
_ Jon Kabat-Zinn _
Have you been Fooling Yourself?
blog image

Are you one of those people that have turned a blind eye to those nagging areas in your life? Are you great at telling yourself everything’s ok or I will worry about that tomorrow?

I know I have been there. It is pretty safe to safe, I am not alone in this feeling. So why do we tend to wait until we reach a breaking point before making changes in our lives. Does that really make sense? Does it make sense to live with chronic pain, fear, and/or sadness? To allow these negative sensations, emotions, and energies rule our lives.

When Pain, Fear, and Sadness are present they do rule our lives. We essentially allow ourselves to accept the suffering as our baseline for life. The Pain, Fear, and Sadness may not feel as severe. You may not even recognize that they are there. But you might notice them preventing you from getting up and doing things that you love to do. You may not walk the dog quite as far, skip that exercise class that used to be so energizing, sit on the patio as the rest of the family is playing ball, or something as simple as being unable to pick up your child.

Have you been fooling yourself? Have you been telling yourself that you are actually living? That you are doing the best with the set of circumstances you have been given? Yes, you are actually living, but you aren’t living the best possible life you could be. And yes, you are doing the best you have with what you know. Maybe a better question is are your truly happy with how you have been living your life?

What if there was a different way to look at and experience life? What if life were full of hope and acceptance rather than defeat? What if life were full of laughter and smiles rather than the ‘I can’t’. I know that is the type of life I would rather live. Change is hard. Period. The small hill can feel like a mountain where you are staring at it through the lens of Pain, of Fear, and of Sadness. So how do you change that lens? Do something.

It is as simple and as difficult as that. Do Something. If you aren’t doing something then change isn’t happening. I am not saying it is going to be easy. Change is very rarely easy the first time. But as you keep doing something, it does get a little easier. You start to see those little positive changes, or your friends and family will make comments that allow you to recognize the impacts of your change.

Start small. You don’t have to feed into the fear and create additional anxiety by picking your biggest obstacle as your starting point. You can start by having a glass of water instead of a sugary drink. You can choose to go that one extra block with your dog. You can put your phone down and talk to you significant other. You can sing to a song that comes on the radio or get up and dance because it is something that makes you feel good. These are just some examples. It is about finding what makes your heart happy and finding the joy in life.

I have been shown over and over again in my life, that Life is What we Make of it. I have started on a path of change in my own life and I am continuing that by giving myself permission to be Happy this April and making the commitment to stop fooling myself.

Restore & Renew
blog image

March is a great time to focus on clearing out the body, mind, spirt, and environment to allow ourselves to ability restore and renew. Think of this as a spring cleaning for your overall well-being. A way to restore and renew you!

There are many great ideas out, but what works?

The one that works is the one you do. Sometimes it isn't about finding the latest and greatest thing that works, but reaching within yourself and recognizing those tried and true methods that work for you. You know yourself better than anyone else. This is a great time to gut check and be honest with yourself. What are you truly willing to do to bring your body, mind, spirit, and environment in line with your vision of living a healthy lifestyle?

Getting in the right mindset.

We all know what it is like to have good intentions and before we know it life has gotten in the way of our goals and visions. It's ok to go with the flow of life, but when you truly want to make noticeable and impactful changes on any area of your life it has to start with your mind. This isn't about the brain or how you research things, but how you perceive the situation through your mind's eye.

If you tell yourself your too busy to exercise, you less likely to go for that walk, run or hit the gym. Simply because you gave your brain the out before you even started. This translates easily into many areas of your life. It causes procrastination and getting into a rut.

Why not change your mindset? Why not change the way you speak to yourself and view the world around you? What do you have to lose?

More importantly, what do you have to gain? Possibly, just possibly, the life you also envisioned yourself living.

Living a Heart Centered Life
blog image

We are moving into a time on the planet when people are becoming increasingly aware of the importance and of the grace that comes from living a heart centered life. But in our often busy and stressful lives, how can we foster and nourish our capacity to live more mindfully, more lovingly ?

Because love is such a powerful force, it can ripple out in exponentially increasing circles, touching those within the intimate sphere of our life, as well as touching many beyond. But love has to begin at home, in the center, within us. It starts with us, with our own self love.

Did you long, as a child, to be loved deeply and unconditionally ? No longer a child, now you get to provide yourself the kind of love you may have previously longed for.

Does your current lifestyle reflect self love and self care ? If you look at your food choices, your exercise habits, your work life, your spiritual life, your family life, at your partnerships and friendships, do they nurture you, or are there things you would like to shift ? There is no better time than now.

When you tune into your inner dialog, your self talk, is it judgmental and critical ? If so, notice it and do your best to shift it at the time. Try creating a new habit, the habit of self praise.

See how many things you can praise yourself for throughout the day. Not just for those things you think went well, but even for those things you think didn't. In doing both, you are helping to heal and lovingly support your " inner child, that child whom still lives within us.That child may still be longing to be loved.

As we all know, often in life, our partners, our children, our families, our friends, and even our pets can truly trigger us, making us feel as though our ability to be loving and understanding has flown out the window ! Circumstances arise that truly challenge and test us.

When this happens, do your best to be loving and compassionate toward yourself, and simply accept all the feelings that the words, behaviors and actions triggered. Breathe and see if you can love the part of yourself that feels so wounded. Feel into what might create more inner peace for you ?

Do you need to take action, set boundaries, or simply let go until you regain your equilibrium.A helpful question to ask yourself is, " What is the most loving thing I can do for myself in this situation ? "

As love ripples out, find ways to light up other people's lives.Take time to express love and appreciation for those people you are close to. Do your best to not let the business of life become an excuse for not sharing intimate and loving moments with them daily.

And in less intimate spheres, the most mundane of chores, like food shopping, can sometimes become great opportunities for making someone's day. Compliment the person waiting on you on something about them you appreciate.. Become a generator of positive, loving energy. I've found it's much more fun than complaining!

Finally, how does your love ripple out into the wider world ? There are so many ways to radiate love and caring. What do you moved to do, to share, to express, to create that could make the community, the city, the country, the world you live in, a better, a brighter, a more heart centered and loving place ? It just takes a little bit of care and loving light to make the world we all share a better place !

Thriving this Holiday Season
blog image

Right underneath the surface of the busyness of the holiday season there is joy waiting to be experienced. Mindfulness simply means being aware of what is happening in the present moment in your heart. If we allow the thoughts running in the mind to be in charge of our actions we can get into trouble and miss out on the gift of the present moment. A few tips for mindfully thriving this holiday season:

Slow down.
The mind is telling you to speed up to get everything done, but it is not consistent with the true spirit of the Season to connect with family and friends in a meaningful way.

Keep the focus on Self-care first.
How can I meet my own needs and those of my friends and family in a balanced way? This has been an especially trying election season. To follow it up with an intense holiday season may not be wise. Compromise and express your needs in a healthy way.

Take a look at the big picture.
What do I want my holiday season to look and feel like? Write it down and schedule it. I prefer the big calendars so you can see the big picture, not the little picture I get from my phone. I want to see patterns. The mind will tell you that you have more time and energy during this season than you actually have which can lead to over scheduling, overspending and overeating.

Keep it simple.
Survey your family and pick a few family traditions that are important to you all. Reach agreement on spending limits and try to choose experiences over more stuff.

You are in charge of you.
You have the power to create exactly the holiday season you want. It may require saying no to your mind and perhaps some family members.

Be present.
Take your life off autopilot. If your mind is ruminating about the past, you are not in the present moment. If your mind is jumping to what you are going to do next year, you are not in the present moment. If you notice these moments and redirect your attention back to what is actually happening in the moment and being with whatever that is, you are practicing mindfulness.

Awaken joy.
In the present moment drop your attention down into your heart. Tap into the joy of seeing a beautiful tree, candle, puppy, whatever brings you peace, happiness and joy in your life.

3 Simple Ways to Improve Your Health
blog image

Do you feel confused by all of the contradictory health information you’re constantly being berated with? You certainly are not alone. Fads are always on the rise (and then the inevitable fall), but luckily, there are some sound, sure-fire ways to live a healthier life — no trends needed. In fact, ditch the fad and diet mindset once and for all. You don’t need them. Instead, focus on long-term lifestyle changes and implementing small changes over time to build up to your long-term goals. You will be much more likely to succeed this way, and it is much more enjoyable of a process.

Let’s dig into some that you can start doing today…

1. Map out your goals. When we live life without a plan, the days turn into years… and before we know it, we’ve been saying for the past five years that we wanted to start “blank.” What are the health goals you have for yourself? What is your reason for wanting to reach these goals? Focus on how you want to feel, and map out your goals from there. For example: if you want to feel happier — what changes do you need to make to achieve that? And what steps will you take to begin that process today?

2. Appreciate where you are right now. Learning to reverse any negative self-talk you engage in can be a long process, but daily practice will leave you with bountiful results. Appreciate where you are in your journey, even if you aren’t quite where you’d like to be. When you feel yourself beginning to engage in negative self-talk, stop it in its tracks. Treat yourself with kindness and respect, and start practicing turning the negative self-talk into something positive.

3. Do it for the right reasons. As you work towards your health goals, remember that you’re working towards a greater level of health, happiness and longevity. I have caught myself many times thinking “I need to start working out more, I have that beach trip next month.” While it’s not a bad thing that you want to look fantastic in that bikini, remembering that the hard work you put into your health is so that you can live a longer, happier and healthier life will keep you on track.

There are so many ways to work on your health journey, but starting with these three tips will get you on a solid track. Keep your eye on the prize and you will reach it!

Accountability is a major factor in achieving your goals, so having someone help guide you through this health journey is incredibly beneficial.

May the blessings be, Clarissa Kussin Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, Functional Medicine Health Coach, Detoxification Specialist, Yoga Teacher

Put Your Brain on a Diet
blog image

Now is the time to start paying attention to the sheer volume of information our brain is required to process in a day and to consciously put it on a diet. 40,000 plus unread emails in one email account is not uncommon. Reading and deleting emails and texts can turn into a full-time job. Information is coming into our nervous system from all sides every second we are awake.

The output from our brain is our life. Ever heard the saying “you are what you eat?” It seems to be widely accepted that what we put into our body determines the output of our body. So too with our brain. We must choose what input we want to allow into our brain because it will determine the quality of your life. Take an inventory of what information is coming into your brain. Pay attention to how it makes you feel. Most likely the answer is overwhelmed.

Take a typical day. We wake up. Then the games begin. Newspapers, TV, email, telephone conversations, texts, books, movies, classes, internet, in-person conversations…..

Now notice how much of this information going into our brain is not positive. Not positive is defined here as not helping us be a better person, not bringing us joy, not teaching us something we have a desire to learn, not inspiring us, not offering solutions to systemic issues, not relevant to one’s life….therefore, it is just a distraction.

What if we consciously choose what we allow into our brain and therefore our lives? What if we started seeing our lives as being as flexible as play doh and as subject to remolding as our brain? What if we didn’t need distractions in our life? What if we stopped escaping our life and started living it?

We all have a certain amount of energy in a day and it is being sucked into distractions. Why? One answer: the relationship we have cultivated with our mind.

As we move faster and become busier, so too does our mind. The mind-body connection is so strong that we don’t notice how fast the mind is moving until we slow down the body. We must right our relationship with our mind. In Yoga it is said that the mind was given to you to be your servant. In our society today that relationship has become reversed. We literally do everything that our mind is telling us to do and we aren’t aware that this is happening. And, the nature of mind is to want more….more information in this case.

The information we are bringing in on a daily basis determines how we use our brain. The mind is the software that runs on the hardware of our brain. Chose information and sources wisely. Tell the mind that enough is enough. Put your brain on a diet and free up some disc space for creating the life of your dreams.

A Journey to Mindfulness
blog image

What is this idea of Mindfulness? The concept has its roots in Buddhist meditation, however a secular practice of mindfulness has entered the American mainstream in recent years. Mindfulness is maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. This practice of mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them-without believing for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think of feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing the present moment rather than rehashing the past of imagining the future.

So there it is...sounds daunting, to live in the present without allowing past events to creep into our thoughts or to stress over what is to be in the coming days. Is there any reason to be “in the moment”, how does this benefit us? Studies have shown that practicing mindfulness, even for just a few short weeks, can bring a variety of physical, psychological, and social benefits. Here a some of these benefits to consider:

*Mindfulness is good for our bodies: Studies have found that in as little as eight weeks of training, practicing mindfulness meditation boosts our immune system’s ability to fight off illness

*Mindfulness is good for our minds: Several studies have found that mindfulness increases positive emotions while reducing negative emotions and stress. At least one study suggests it may be as good as antidepressants in fighting depression and preventing relapse.

*Mindfulness helps us focus: Studies suggest that mindfulness helps us tune out distractions and improves our memory and attention skills.

* Mindfulness fosters compassion: Research suggests that mindfulness training makes us more likely to help someone in need and increases activity in neural networks involved in understanding the suffering of others and regulating emotions. Evidence suggests it may boost self-compassion as well.

*Mindfulness enhances relationships: Research suggests mindfulness training makes couples more satisfied with their relationship, makes each partner feel more optimistic and relaxed, and makes them feel more accepting of and closer to one another.

That sounds pretty good right? Can all that really be achieved by being “mindful?” If so, how do we begin this journey? Mindfulness can be cultivated through formal meditation, that’s not the only way though. We can cultivate mindfulness practices in our daily routines, and build on them at a pace that fits. Here are a few ways to start becoming aware of our mindful state:

*Pay close attention to your breathing, especially when you’re feeling intense emotions.

*Notice-really notice-what you’re sensing in a given moment, the sights, sounds, and smells that ordinarily slip by without reaching your conscious awareness.

*Recognize that your thoughts and emotions are fleeting and do not define you, an insight that can free you from negative thought patterns.

*Tune into your body’s physical sensations, from water hitting your skin in the shower to the way your body rests in your office chair.

These are but a few examples of ways to be more present in each moment. Sometimes just taking a moment to stop and become aware of a color or a smell can reset our attitude and give us just enough time to gain insight into what we are experiencing. Mindfulness is a practice, one that takes time and patience, and most of all, acceptance of yourself. Allow yourself some space and time to try shifting your awareness, see where this journey can take you!

Chakra Balancing

Chakra balancing is a great way to detoxify the soul, with added benefits for the mind and the physical body. There are 7 main chakras along the spine that receive, incorporate and express life force energy. These chakras are constantly rotating and vibrating. As a coping and defense mechanism, chakras become blocked through experiencing loss, conflict or accident. Anxiety, fear and stress are the common reasons for a chakra to malfunction. Other chakras then become over-active to compensate for the closed energy centers and overuse the mind’s attention and body’s energy. Once the closed chakras are opened, the over-active chakras begin functioning normally again. An imbalance in a chakra will be expressed in the bodily system and endocrine glands linked to it. The free flow of energy into our system through all chakras that are open and balanced promotes mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. Below are the chakras listed with examples of blocked/unbalanced indicators:

  • Base Chakra is linked with the kidneys/adrenals. This is where we hold feelings related to security, trust in life and the ability to manifest what we need. The color associated is Red. Examples of blockage may be experienced as feeling like you never have enough money, unsupported in life, lack energy and drive, dislike of your body, experience foot, bowel and/or bone problems. An overblown Base Chakra causes paranoia, nervousness and aggression.
  • Sacral Chakra is linked with the sexual organs and bladder. This is related to our self worth, sexuality, creativity and ability to give and receive. The color associated is Orange. Examples of blockage may be experienced as not feeling good enough, feel unloveable, insecure, pessimistic, lack intimacy, sexual and fertility problems, kidney and bladder problems. An overblown Sacral Chakra causes greediness, addiction and compulsivity.
  • Solar Plexus Chakra is linked with the spleen, liver, gallbladder, and pancreas. This is related to willpower, control, identity, activity, ability to accept others and empathy. The color associated is Yellow. Examples of blockage may be experienced as feeling like a victim to the world, have low self control and loss of self esteem, problems with gall bladder, constipation, liver and chronic fatigue. An overblown Solar Plexus chakra causes an attachment to holding power over others, narrow-mindedness and abrasiveness.
  • Heart Chakra is linked with the thymus and heart. This area relates to unconditional love, compassion, and forgiveness. The color associated is Green. Examples of blockage may be experienced as loneliness, depression, and afraid of commitment. An overblown Heart Chakra causes obsessive love, suspicion, jealousy and being resentful.
  • Throat Chakra is linked with the thyroid and vocal chords. This area relates to communication, expression and ability to speak your truth. The color associated is Blue. Examples of blockage may be experienced as comparison and feeling low self worth, feeling helpless and not expressing uniqueness out of fear of upsetting others, timid/shy, constant sore throat, hyperthyroid and bronchitis. An overblown Throat Chakra causes distraction, preoccupation with others and dishonesty.
  • Third Eye Chakra is linked with the pituitary and pineal gland. This relates to conscious perception, intellect, imagination and intuition. The color associated with this chakra is Indigo. Examples of blockage may be experienced as lack of imagination, self absorption and insensitivity. An overblown Third Eye Chakra causes hallucination, daydreaming, paranoia and spaciness.
  • Crown Chakra is linked with the entire body and the Universe. This chakra opens at the top of the head. This relates to spirituality, cosmic awareness, self-realization, inner wisdom and enlightenment. The colors associated are Violet and/or White. Examples of blockage may be experienced as extreme loneliness and detachment from the world, isolation and feeling cut off from the Divine. An overblown Crown Chakra causes inability to control encounters with other realms of existence, having trouble grounding, and considering yourself better than others in the world around you.

Meditation

Throughout our day, we have thousands of thoughts that go through our minds. These thoughts are about work, our families, to-do lists, conversations, things that made us happy, sad and/or angry. This is just to name a few! Meditation is a great way to detox the mind, give you tranquility and reconnect you back to the present moment.

For most people the thought of meditation seems like another “to-do” list assignment that you have to pencil in your day. However, finding time to meditate is not as hard as you might think! All you need is 10 minutes, and those 10 minutes are easy to find believe it or not. Most sources say that the morning is the best time to meditate, so that you can start your day clear, connected and refreshed. Wake up 10 minutes earlier, go during your lunch break to somewhere quiet, or in the evenings before you go to bed. The key is to be present with yourself in those 10 minutes. You can cut on some relaxing music, sit in a chair or lie down, whatever is comfortable. Start by paying attention to your breath. Try to take deep slow breaths, feeling your abdomen expand and your chest rise and then completely emptying your lungs before the next breath. After doing this a few times, focus on your body parts individually, notice your toes, then your heels, then your ankles and so on, until you have assessed each part of your body. With this you are just noticing each part of your body, no judgements, just feeling, continuing to breathe deeply. This process will probably take you about ten minutes. Note that in the beginning, your mind will still jump around to different things. Most of us are not used to giving our mind a break. So during these 10 minutes if your minds jumps to your grocery list or work, don’t get upset with yourself, just bring your awareness back to your breath.

The more often you meditate the easier it will become to focus on the moment and release everything else. You may even get to a point where you add more time, or maybe meditate more than once a day. Mediation is not a competition and there is no right or wrong way to practice.

Remember: Love yourself through the process!

Detox into Spring
blog image

Spring is in the air! Can’t you feel it calling you out to play as we started March off with a gorgeous day full of sunshine. We may yet have some more hints that winter isn’t willing to let go but you can help shed some of winter’s dreary hand with your own Spring Detox.

What is Detox?

Detox is quite simply the eliminations of impurities from the body; to rid yourself of unhealthy substances or things often referred to as toxins.

Why should you Detox?

Do you feel sluggish? Are you foggy headed most days? Do you forget what you were doing? We are bombarded day by day with a wide array of outside influences. Some of these influences are good for you, some are bad but most through time, overuse, or over indulgence begin to wreck havoc on your body. Do you want to feel better? Do you want more energy? Then you should consider trying a detox.

What type of Detox right for you?

There are so many different types of detoxes out there. Everything from baths, to cleanses, to sweat inducing sauna, massages and more. With so many options out there, how do you choose which is the best option for you? There is no straight-forward answer as each has its own pros and cons depending upon your individual situation.

Let’s look at some of the different options for detox.

Baths - Water is the essence of life, so it is no surprise that it is one of the most common forms of detox. A warm bath, just above body temperature, will help soothe the nervous system. A hot bath with get you sweating. Add salt to the bath to increase the benefit. Your body will absorb the minerals it needs and the salt will act as a magnetic to pull excess fluid from the body, including toxins. Follow with a shocking cool shower, will give the system a full shock and is invigorating too.

Detox Diet/Juice Cleanses - Cleansing the body from the inside out is a powerful tool. And while detoxing is thought of as going without by many, the best detox diets and juicing program provide the body with the nutrients it needs to fight the toxicity within the body.

Dry Brushing - One third of your body's toxins are excreted through the skin and dry brushing helps to unclog pores and excrete toxins that become trapped in the skin. To get started, follow the simple steps below: mindbodygreen.com

Massage - Massage helps with the detoxification process in many ways. Most massages get the lymphatic system moving, which is on the main elimination systems within the body. In addition, massages that relax the body, such as swedish, take the body out of the flight or fight reflex and allow the body to focus on basic functioning that aides in the body healing itself.

Sauna - Sweating. Heat. These are things that you typically think of when you think of sauna and sweating is a natural way the body cools itself as well as eliminating toxins. Not all sweat is created equal and the infrared sauna has been proven to be a more efficient sweat. Click here for more details on the sauna.

Now that you know a little more about the options, you can decide which one speaks to your goals and is suitable for your current state of health. You can be as aggressive or as cautious with your approach as you want in order to achieve your wellness goals.

A word to the wise - An important final note.

As with starting anything new, it is important that you be in good general health or have a doctor’s approval to start a full detox program. You’re typically correcting long exposure to various things that have become toxic to the body and can be mild to moderately taxing on your system. So it’s very important to make sure your system is in the point that it can handle the detox. It’s even more important to stay hydrated while detoxing, than it is on any other day. Drink your water!

Be Purposefully Mindful
blog image

Are you mindful of the relationships in your life? According to various studies, happy couples in successful relationships have three common factors. Friends - First and foremost they are great friends, who truly like, respect and are interested in each other. Communication - Whether couples clash frequently or rarely, loudly or quietly, they manage to communicate and effectively resolve conflicts. Meaning - They share a sense of meaning in their life together by creating a culture for their relationship through rituals, goals, and dreams.

I have a friend whose husband constantly surprises her with flowers. It’s his way of showing her that she’s important to him, that he’s thinking of her, and that he wants to make her happy. It may be making a reservation for your anniversary at the same restaurant as your first date. It’s paying attention to the little details and the shared little things that make each relationship unique. These rituals become the foundation for successful relationships.

It feels good to make those you love smile. This starts with being mindful of ourselves and others. Consciously incorporating those rituals into our day to day life, help to keep those bounds from fading by keeping light in our relationships. You can not please everyone all of the time. However, if we create those moments of meaning, you will have happiness in abundance.

Exercising in Cold Weather
blog image

Living in North Carolina, we’ve been spoiled by fairly mild temperatures this the winter. As a result, it’s easy to forget that we still need to adjust our outdoor exercise routines for the cooler temperatures.

Our lives are busy these days, but taking a little extra care it will ensure that you keep your body healthy, injury free, and better prepared for the warmer Spring weather just around the corner. Change is often difficult, so here are a few easy tips to incorporate into your outdoor exercise routines:

  • Dress in Layers - As the temperatures drop, we compensate by dressing warmer. But as we exercise which warms up the body. Dressing in layers allows us to adjust to keep our body temperature regulated, avoid overheating and dehydration.
  • Ease into the routine - Whatever activity you choose, it’s even more important in colder weather to warm up. This will allow your body to move a little easier and the risk of pulling a muscle. If you have your own standard warm up, just extend it a couple minutes. If you are run, start with an easy jog and slowly work up to your standard pace before trying to progress forward. Don’t have a warm up routine, here are a few full body moves to get your blood moving and the body warm.
  • Stay Hydrated - Each cell in our body needs water to function. It’s the oil of the human body. In the warmer months, you tend to sweat more which is a more physical reminder that you need to replenish the fluids you have lost. You body is still working just as hard to regulate your body temperature. So don’t forget to drink your water.
  • Be flexible when you work out - We all have our routines. But by staying flexible and being willing change up when you workout so that it is the warmest part of the day is a great way to keep from shocking your body too much.

Spend just a few minutes on either side of your outdoor workout to remember to take care of your body. It will reduce the risk of injury while still allowing you to enjoy the benefits that come with being outside. And in the end your body will thank you.