How many times have you eaten something that you didn’t really want, when you weren’t really hungry, for the sake of not letting it go to waste?

The rest of the entree that you ordered.
That half-donut in the office kitchen.
The cookies that didn’t come out pretty enough.
The chip crumbs in the bottom of the bag.
The not-quite-a-bowl-of-cereal left in the box.
Those leftovers from the kids’ dinner plate.

There are a lot of reasons we overeat, but not wanting to throw away food is one of the biggest.

We eat, then, not only to seek pleasure but also to avoid pain — specifically here, the pain of guilt.

Case in point: the dear mother of one of my best friends used to have a large painting hanging in their family dining room. It showed a very hungry child from Ethiopia, all sullen, sad eyes and outstretched arms holding an empty bowl. Whenever my friend would say she didn’t want to eat dinner, her mother would point to the picture. True story.

Now, this wasn’t quite as dramatic as it sounds — it’s now a family joke amongst us friends — but that sort of stuff does creep into your subconscious. We abhor waste in this country almost as much as we adore abundance.

The problem, of course, is that we are so abundant these days that not wasting is affecting our waistlines.

In a world that’s full of lack, the issue of “having too much” is an incredibly fortunate problem. That said, if it is, indeed, one of your problems, that doesn’t mean that eating everything right now is the right answer.

When you’re faced with more nourishment than you need, consider what I call the “4 S’s:”

  1. SPLIT your plate with someone else, or with yourself, saving 1/2 for a later meal (or part of one)
  2. SHARE your goods with friends, coworkers, your mail delivery carrier, your neighbors, etc. Especially awesome for baked goods!
  3. SIZE accurately when cooking, or ordering at a restaurant. Ask for 1/2 or “lunch” portion of an entree (or even an appetizer and a simple salad)
  4. STORE leftovers in the freezer (this is especially good for individual pieces of cake!) or put them in single serve containers for the next day’s lunch

Whatever strategy you use, avoid overeating simply because you “don’t want to waste food.” It’s a mind trick, and it doesn’t end well.

After all, would you rather have it in the trash, or on your ass?

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Is there something that you want to do, maybe that you’ve always wanted to do, that you still haven’t done? Do you know what’s stopping you?

Training?
Discipline?
Support?
Financial backing?

They’re good reasons. (But challenge them. Often, you have, or can easily obtain, everything you need.)

Sometimes, there’s something else underneath.

If you’re like most humans who have a goal, massive or minute, procrastination is fed by a more intangible roadblock: lack of confidence.

Chances are your dream requires a lot of sustenance to grow, bloom, thrive. Insecurity drains its energy supply.

Good news: Confidence is a renewable resource. And self-care is the source.

When you do things that give you juice, when your activities are empowering instead of exhausting, your confidence grows exponentially… and it’s not only renewable, it’s transferable.

Running that half-marathon gives you the goods to dominate the new product you’ve committed to creating next week. Accurately recording how many to-do items you complete every day provides the huge sense of accomplishment that’ll lead to tomorrow morning’s maniacal productivity. Committing to a yoga and stillness practice that continuously brings you back to your center is the basis for the titanic breakthrough you’ll have on Wednesday.

Regardless of what you’re working on — a project, a relationship, a fantastical dream — keep confidence creators on your to-do list. They not only make the process much more balanced, but the chance of success much more likely.

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Question: What do you have to do today?

(Go ahead, take a moment and mentally run down the list).

If your list is chock full of amazing, congratulations. You can stop reading right here. Go get started on all of those incredibly fun, fulfilling things to do.

But if your list feels endless, exhausting, or like a total buzzkill, there’s something — yes, to do — about that. It’s called “reframing.”

Reframing is a type of neurolinguistic programming — a communication pattern that affects our actions, behaviors and other outcomes.

This is an integral self-care technique, because it:

  • clarifies the conversations you have with yourself
  • magically modifies your mindset, and
  • changes your outlook, or the “frame” from which you view the world.

It’s like wearing the same glasses for most of your life, and then getting a new prescription that allows you to see things you never saw before.

And you can reframe your terrible “to-do’s” in just 3 steps.

  1. Pull out your to-do list.
  2. Imagine for a moment that everything that you “have” to do becomes something that you “get” to do.
  3. In each instance, simply replace the word “have” for the word “get.”

In other words, change your frame from having to do something to getting the chance to do something.

This takes practice. After all, you’ve been practicing your current mental framework for years, and old habits die hard. But, when performed, reframing works nearly every time.

Even your least favorite tasks are usually things that are, indeed, voluntary choices:

  • Exercising? You get to do this because your body is healthy enough, and your heart committed.
  • Eating better? You get to do this because you have the insanely good fortune of living in one of the most abundant food meccas on the planet, and you have the opportunity to regularly allocate your resources accordingly.
  • Paying bills or spending money? You get to do this in exchange for receiving products and services that improve your quality of life in some way.

This is reframing at its best. By replacing “have” with “get,” you’ll see that your to-do list actually offers opportunities for mindfulness and gratitude that are so surprising, they might as well be gift-wrapped.

Go ahead and give it a try. You might be pleasantly surprised at all that you get in return.

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I don’t know about you, but I have not been at my best lately. I’ve missed deadlines. Let things fall by the wayside. Made questionable decisions. Just, generally, off my game.

At first, I felt uncomfortable about this. Then, I realized it all brings me back to one of my favorite, although sometimes forgotten, mantras:

“I am an imperfect person.”

Mmmm. The relief of resting in divine imperfection.

It’s true: imperfection can be a source of divinity, of otherworldliness and messy, beautiful bliss. Imperfect timing, circumstances, experiences and efforts all assist in the makings of our crazy, wonderful lives. That’s just how it works.

But I didn’t always think this way. As a child, I strove for 100%, for 100% of the time.

I wore my Type A badge with bright, beaming pride. An “A-” on a test was likely to generate a teary waterfall. Anything less than “the absolute best” just was. not. an. option. If there was a line to draw, I drew it straightest. If the teacher had a task to do, I got the job. Reliable, dependable, efficient, effective, in control, on the ball, put together, uber-professional-even-at-the-tender-age-of-7.

I told everyone I was a “perfectionist.”

Do you know what I’m talking about? Were you right there with me, all of those years ago, marching in a straight, pre-planned path? This kind of behavior is encouraged by others, after all. Praised. Admired. Rewarded. For me, it went on well into my collegiate years.

Eventually, I couldn’t keep up the perfectionist pace.

It started with my failure to place in the top 10% of my class at my top 10 law school. It might not seem like much to most people. But, I’d spent my whole life defining myself by academic achievement.

And when you realize that who you thought you were isn’t who you are, it can crush you.

Even if you’ve been an academic underachiever, that sneaky pursuit of perfection can rear its head in crafty ways. The athlete who’s game falls apart with a missed goal or injury. The artist who goes crazy when creations aren’t genius. The employee who regularly sacrifices health to work harder.

But here’s the good news: your self-care practice is the antidote to that drastically draining perfectionism.

Taking care of yourself…

* encourages acceptance of our humanness.
* directs attention inward, softening your competitive drive with others and yourself.
* focuses on the present moment, as it is, as you are.

Of course, it’s possible to be a self-care practice perfectionist. But resist. Give yourself room to try doing new things, to try doing nothing, to flounder, fall and, yes, fail.

And if you find yourself defending your impossible standards, remember that when you say “I’m a perfectionist,” you’re really just saying “If I’m not perfect, I’m not good enough.”

Ouch.

Do your best, then rest.

Have faith. If you screw something up, you can figure it out.

Remember the wise saying: “great is the enemy of the good.” Go for the good, knowing that it’s enough… and that it might just be the best thing overall.

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First, let’s get physical:

Most people don’t have favorite muscles, but as a former private yoga teacher, I do: the transversus abdominis (or “TVA”). It’s the deep belly muscle that wraps around your torso like a corset, and it’s nestled under the more popular “6-pack muscles (rectus abdominis) and your obliques. The TVA adds definition to your waist, helps keep your internal organs in place, and stabilizes your body when you move.

In other words, the TVA is your body’s physical “inner core.” And, it physically represents your emotional center.

I stumbled across the “emotional inner core” concept years ago accidentally, when I was suffering from a debilitating injury. I couldn’t do a physical yoga (asana) practice, but I sat on my mat each day and learned that the non-physical benefits of yoga are even more mind-blowing.

It was a dark time, and strengthening my emotional core was a lot harder than getting six-pack abs.

But as I did, something incredible happened…

Happiness, contentment… even seemingly unattainable “inner peace” flooded my world.

So how did I amp up my emotional core strength?

There’s no magic, one-size-fits-all formula. But, there are a few specific things I did — and you can, too — to build up my emotional reserves.

* Step 1: Be mindful.

Mindfulness is a huge buzz word (and book and blog topic) these days. What it means: recognize your honest thoughts and feelings. Being honest with yourself about your experience helps you live a life based on authenticity, truth, and more happiness.

* Step 2: Begin where you are.

This is a primary yogic concept. Once you’re aware of your place in space, accept it. Avoid blaming others or criticizing yourself for not being as far along as you’d like. Reflect on reasons why you might be a bit behind in your plan, and then try to let it go. Hear the harsh words you tell yourself, and then politely tell that voice to shut it — you’re busy working on a strength program here. Burn that negative energy like fuel.

* Step 3: Invite in the _______, and sit with it.

One of the best ways to build up your core is to surrender to pain without trying to make it go away. Instead, invite in the fear, irritation, anxiety, whatever. Then, as the brilliant Pema Chodron advises, welcome it to the table “for tea.” Pay attention to what comes up. Breathe. Cry, cower, get angry. And keep sitting until something softens. Something always does.

* Step 4: Create emergency exits.

At some point, though, “sitting with it” it just going to suck too much to stick. So, have a few back-up self-care plans ready. Maybe you take a nearby yoga class or hike a favorite trail (physical exercise is a great compliment to emotional work). Write in a journal. Create a one-page “cheat sheet” with favorite quotes, inspirational reminders, and soothing statements.

* Step 5: Let the answers reveal themselves.

Stop trying so hard. Start trusting yourself. Know that you already know stuff. We are our own best teachers, but it takes time and consciousness to understand the lessons. Create a safe space within yourself, so that knowledge can rise to the surface.

And if you forget those steps, just remember this:

Your emotional core is like a tree trunk. If a tree trunk is small and feeble, then whenever the weather turns, the tree will sway and, possibly, fall. It’s shaken by every wind that blows a bit. But if the tree trunk is solid, it stands regardless of hazardous weather.

Similarly, stressors can knock you right over if your emotional core is weak. But when you have a steady center, outside conditions won’t break you down easily. Stress may sway your branches or take off a few leaves, but that’s about it.

Just like the hundred-year old redwoods and oaks and others that extend high into the skies, you’ll stand tall, too.

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