Category: Mindfulness

“Have to” versus, “Get to,” or, The Power of Gratitude in Your Life!

Adding gratitude into your life can be powerful.
Adding gratitude into your life can be powerful.

Today I had a session with a client who experienced a very powerful shift. During a family weekend away in a cabin, she stepped into a messy kitchen. Suddenly, she realized that instead of automatically thinking, “Oh, I HAVE TO clean this all up…” she reframed the thought as, “I get to do this for/with my family so that we can spend better time together.”

Once she switched the thought in her mind, she also noticed that the attitude spread to the other members of the family. Everyone worked together to get things done, and it kicked off a wonderful experience for the rest of the weekend.

How many times do we rush through our day thinking that “I have to do this,” when, if we take a step back, we can instead be grateful for the opportunities that we are able to do or have? Life, after all, tends to be made up of the choices we’ve selected for ourselves. There’s actually a saying: “If you don’t like your life, make better choices.”

Gratitude has a host of benefits across a wide spectrum, including a stronger immune system, being less bothered by aches and pains, lower blood pressure, better sleep, feeling more alert and alive, experiencing more joy, optimism and happiness, and being more forgiving and outgoing. These benefits can be obtained with just such a shift in thinking.

Sometimes if we’re mindful of the moment and think about what is going on, it can cause us to realize that we ARE too busy or stressed to enjoy what is going on. If the list of things for your day is a mile long, even enjoyable activities can start feeling like a “have to”, instead of a “want to,” or even, “get to”.

Here are some simple ways to cultivate gratitude in your life:

  • Savor moments of happiness: When something good happens, really enjoy the moment and make it last. Reflecting upon these moments later has also shown to have health benefits.
  • Express it: Simply saying, “Thank you”, benefits both the person who says it and the receiver of the thought. Make it a point for a day to state gratitude for things both small and large. Note how it makes you feel.
  • Keep a gratitude journal: Making notes of what we’re thankful for, either daily or once a week, can be an invigorating experience. This can also help guard against taking things for granted.
  • Meditate on gratitude: I’ve written about the benefits of meditation on a focused mind. There are many ways to meditate, and this includes concentrating on the things for which we are thankful.

Later, I realized I had mentioned during a chat with my sister that, “I have to walk the dog now.” Noting that this was something I normally enjoy, I reflected on my conversation with my client. I suddenly realized I had been preoccupied for most of the day.

So, I took a deep breath, looked out into the sunshine, and reframed the thought. “I get to walk with my dog on a peaceful evening and enjoy the scenery,” I mused. Due to that simple shift, instead of feeling bothered… I felt happy, smiled, and appreciated the time to head out the door with my pal.

Contact amie@runningwithlife.com if you’d like to open up your life to gratitude, and more!

Until then – Keep Running with Life! -Coach Amie

Have You “Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” for RUNNING?? Here’s How to Get It Back!!

How to rekindle your LOVE OF RUNNING!!
How to rekindle your LOVE OF RUNNING!!

I’m dedicating this post to someone who recently contacted me about this – however I frequently speak to people who have this issue. They rarely run anymore because what they once loved now feels like a chore. Perhaps you have the same feeling but it’s toward another type of exercise, a job… or even a relationship! Here are a five questions to ask yourself to rekindle your fire!

  1. What did I originally love about it?

    Think back to when you really loved to run. What got you to lace up your shoes and get out there? Perhaps it was the feeling of being outdoors in nature, but recently you’ve been rushed and have just been putting in treadmill miles. Or maybe it was the endorphins (feel-good chemicals) that rushed through your body and left you feeling exhilarated, but recently you’ve been stressed and so just push through your run to “get it over with”. Maybe it was the freedom, however now when you run, instead of letting things go, you just stare at your sports watch with demanding expectation each time.

    Picture yourself back when you used to run and loved it. What elements were different that you can recapture now?

  2. What caused me to stop enjoying it?

    Feelings of irritation or avoidance can happen if we push ourselves hard for a goal, sacrifice, and end up with results that are less than stellar in our eyes. Perhaps it was a race goal that didn’t pan out as expected, or even a bad string of workouts. This can leave us feeling dejected and not wanting to participate, or sometimes even think about, that activity anymore.

    If this is the case, can you reframe the result from something negative into a positive? If you didn’t get the race time you wanted, what other good things came out of the training you had put in? Maybe you lost a few pounds or got into great shape. Maybe you worked harder than you ever thought you could. What did you learn about yourself in the process?

    And if it was a bad race – sometimes we overgeneralize the situation. Just because one race at one time wasn’t ideal, doesn’t mean that all future races will be the same. You’ve gone through it – you’re smarter now. You’ve learned what works for you – and what doesn’t. Now you can focus on improving your training, schedule and strategies for next time.

    If you’re going through a bad set of workouts, maybe you can look at something else that has been affecting you, such as poor sleep or compromised nutrition, that you can correct for the future. Again, learning from it, rather than staying down for the count.

    Pulling out the positives can help motivate you to move forward toward new goals and new heights, rather than dwelling on perceived disappointments.

  3. Am I overwhelming myself with expectations?

    Sometimes we set our goals so high that it feels overwhelming. We think it will take hours and hours of time, we must hit certain paces all the time, and if we don’t do that 100% then we’ve failed. It becomes demotivating to even think about.

    I’m all for setting high goals, however it’s best to be realistic and set them to a level that you can achieve or is just above what you think you can achieve. Maybe your first goal is to just go for a run without any focus on time or distance, but for the sole purpose of enjoying it.

    With small wins, you can have the confidence to move on to bigger things.

  4. Is my life in balance?

    Sometimes burnout can occur when we do one activity to the exclusion of other things we enjoy. Even things we love to do need balance. If running feels like a burden, it’s OK to stop for a while. Even elite athletes are known to take up to a month off in their off-season or after a tough race. Studies have shown that up to ten days off of workouts affect fitness very little.

    There are also health and mental benefits to cross-training or trying another type of workout. You may even find one you enjoy enough to incorporate from time to time on a regular basis.

    And, even workouts need balance. For all the hard workouts you do, remember to incorporate recovery into the mix. This helps become stronger both physically AND mentally.

    Also, what else is going on in your life? Are you extremely burdened at work or is a relationship or other issue taking it’s toll? Are you allowing someone else’s negative opinions toward your running influence the way you feel? Sometimes other issues can lead to an overall loss of motivation, so work on balancing things in your life as a whole.

  1. Have I been doing the same ol’ same ol’ a bit too long?

    Perhaps every day you go out and run the same route at the same time of day. Or, your pace and distance are always the same. If so, spice it up! Add interval training – if even on the same route, alternate fast/slow running. If the route is convenient, try running it in the other direction, or even changing up a block here or there. Add some cross training, such as push-ups or squats after every few blocks.

    Go trail running if you just run on roads. If you run alone, try running with other people, or volunteering to run with a shelter dog. If you always run from home, try a different route. Even driving a few miles away and just starting from a new location can open up a lot of new options. Run at a different time of day. Sign up for a race… or if you feel all you do is compete, don’t, and just run without your Garmin for a while, enjoying being mindful of the moment.

    Overall, don’t be afraid to change things up for a while. And make sure to give yourself permission to do so. Feel good about what you are trying versus feeling guilty because “I should be…” Do what you need to do to stay healthy and well!

I work with people every day to develop strategies to improve health and wellness – contact amie@runningwithlife.com for how!

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Until then, keep Running with Life! – Coach Amie

How Meditation Can Help Your Running… And Your Life

Can Meditation Help Your Running?
Can Meditation Help Your Running?

I was out in the middle of nowhere when I realized IT.

On a sunny morning, I was out for a run in the countryside. It had been happening for a while, yet it hadn’t dawned on me. Until just – that – moment. And that’s exactly what IT was. The complete clarity of that moment.

I saw the greenness of the trees and surrounding vegetable fields. The pale blue sky. The birds flying and chirping to my right. A breeze blowing across the dark asphalt road. I was in that frame of time, and nothing else.

But even more: I was fully in tune to my running. I felt, smoothly, how my body and muscles were functioning during the run, as a well-oiled machine. The tap tap tap of my feet hitting the ground in perfect rhythm with my breathing.

And that’s when I realized IT. The constant chattering of my thoughts were missing. The stream of things I had to do later that day, of what someone said yesterday, of how far I’d run or still needed to go, of my race, of this, that and the other thing – gone. I had total, clear focus on my surroundings, my body and my running.

A couple of weeks prior I had bought a meditation headband known as, “Muse,” to help me meditate. I’d studied meditation before, and said I was going to do it. Without “actually” doing it. I was skeptical. But the headband was a bit expensive, so now that I had some skin in the game – I was invested – I WAS going to meditate. Through sensors that communicated with an app, it detected if your thoughts started to move away, at which point, it would signal you to get back in the game.

I made a goal to use it every morning when I woke up. I started with three minutes. Clear your mind, and focus on your breath. That doesn’t sound that hard, until you try to do it, and then all of a sudden, you hear the ending tone of the app and realize that your mind has been elsewhere. The.Whole.Time.

Nevertheless, I stuck with it. I made it to five minutes, seven, and twelve. Around the two-week mark, I began to think it wasn’t doing anything for me.

Until that moment.

I then noticed the same effect on the trails. My mind wasn’t everywhere in the chaos of my daily thoughts. It was on the trail, totally centered, yet without effort. I wasn’t tripping over roots yet I also wasn’t forcing myself to pay attention. The focus was clear, yet natural.

In his book, “Running with the Mind of Meditation,” Sakyong Mipham, a marathon runner, Tibetan lama and leader of an international community of meditation centers, says that running and meditation complement each other. It is natural to train both the body and the mind. Without this, we can become imbalanced. This combination of body and mind training, according to Mipham, is needed to become fully engaged in what we are doing.

This concept is also similar to what other texts name as, “Flow.” Have you ever been so involved and interested in something that you’ve lost track of time? Then you’ve experienced Flow. If you’ve watched elite athletes competing in their sport, you can see the definition of total focus, the synchrony of their mind and body in a total state of  Flow.

The first step in meditation can simply be mindfulness. Just noticing what you are doing and staying focused on it. If you are talking to someone, clear your mind and let your full focus be in the other person’s voice. In running, concentrate on your form or even one aspect of your form.

When you’re ready to try meditation, it doesn’t have to be complicated. You can simply relax, breathe, and focus on the feeling of your breath entering and exiting your body. Many think you must close your eyes, but you can also focus on something with your eyes open, such as a candle. You can listen to a clock ticking, or you can envision a relaxing scene. If you can’t clear your thoughts, you can simply watch them go by, without judgment, as clouds in a clear sky. Set a timer for two to three minutes, so that you can focus without worrying about the time. There are also many types of meditation. The key is to find the one that resonates with you.

Yesterday I attended an advanced mindful meditation clinic and the instructor said meditation IS training. It’s directing your mind to be in this place, right now. She said she couldn’t tell us how meditation would affect our lives, because it affects everyone differently. For some it may be during exercise, for others it may be a calmness in the din of fighting children or a demanding work environment. It might be better productivity, improved sleep, lowered anxiety/stress/depression or increased resistance to pain. It might be all of these. You never know until you try…

I can provide the help you need to incorporate meditation and focus into your life and/or running. Contact amie@runningwithlife.com for more information!

Keep Running with Life – Amie

The News and Your Health

Many of us are aware of the terror attacks that struck Belgium, and thoughts go out to those involved. This morning, media programs splashed headlines across the news, with channels running special report streams with in-depth analysis. Images of fear-stricken faces scrolled across television screens, online and in print.

Yet studies have shown that these types of attacks not only affect the people directly involved, but can also impact those who are at a distance from the attacks who constantly watch the intense media coverage [1]. This can cause increases in depression as well as PTSD, even if the viewers are a continent away from the event.

On the other extreme, purposefully blocking out our reactions to sad events or denying whatever level of internal grief it can cause can have health impacts as well. It’s human nature to show concern for others. It’s fine to stay keyed in to what is happening, but like many things, moderation is key.

Integrative medical doctor Andrew Weil has suggested limiting news exposure as there tends to be a negative bias in the stories covered that can affect health and create a pessimistic view about life [2]. And once started, it can be hard to look away. Weil suggests that occasional “news fasts” can be helpful. At the same time, others may cite the stories of hope and positive news that can evolve in later coverage.

Rather than blindly taking in information day to day, note what effect media has on your well-being. If you are having issues with feeling down in general, make some adjustments and see if it helps.

Turn on the news to catch the headlines, but then shut off the TV or internet as you have a meal. Focusing on what we’re eating versus including it in our multitasking can also help increase mindfulness, which is being aware of what we’re eating. This can help to feel more satisfied and consume fewer calories [3]. Later on, skip the constant updates and take a walk out in nature instead, which tends to be healing [4]. Then, evaluate how you feel.

Do you think that media can affect your health? How do you stay tuned in with moderation?

[1] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3346624/When-fear-used-weapon-PTSD-depression-strength-resilience-psychiatrist-reveals-terror-attacks-impact-mental-health.html
[2] http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA230786/Learning-To-Live-With-Terrorism.html
[3] http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2015/02/09/the-benefits-of-mindful-eating
[4] http://www.chopra.com/ccl/healing-through-nature