Drive By Wisdom: Ask For What You Need

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s hard for us to get our needs met if we are not willing or brave enough to ask for what we need. In this episode of Drive By Wisdom, we’ll explore how asking for help can improve your life.  Click on the video below:

Surviving and Thriving in the Holidays

 

Ah, the holidays are here. We are now in the throes of a marketing blitz to capture every dollar that retailers can get from us. Black Friday is getting darker as more retailers are opening earlier every year. This year many stores opened their doors at 5pm on Thanksgiving Day.

The advertisers and the marketing hype are portraying the holidays as a wonderful, blissful, and stress free event that will bring all of mankind together in harmony.

I know that creates an expectation in our minds that the holidays should be wonderful, blissful, and stress free but that only ramps up the stress as many of us feel like we can’t live up to these expectations. And this is what the marketers want us to feel so we are more compelled to buy their stuff which promises to make our lives better.

I have heard many people complain about how bad it’s getting and how much stress they are feeling around the holidays. If you don’t like the hype and early store hours, I have a simple piece of advice for you: Don’t show up and don’t buy anything. Folks, we are doing this to ourselves. All it would take is enough people not to show up at 5pm, 6pm, or God forbid, not at all on Thanksgiving. If retailers can’t make money on us, they’ll open at 6am on Friday (which is still crazy).

The food retailers aren’t helping much either. You can’t walk into a grocery store without seeing displays of perfect tables with a perfect roast, and all the perfect trimmings. The people are beautiful, the food is amazing, and all the children are happy. There have been a lot of reports about how magazines are photo-shopping the images of models to make them more “perfect”. I can pretty much guarantee those food ads are photo-shopped too.

What’s crazy about all the hype is that I know people who hate to cook and the thought of putting on a Holiday Dinner makes them break out in a cold sweat. I also think women who hate to cook are stressed, because there is an societal expectation that women should do the cooking.

Some of you may be thinking, ” I love shopping at 5pm on Thanksgiving and I love preparing a huge meal for my family and friends.” If that’s the case, then more power to you. Do what you love.

But I know a lot of people who are really stressed at this time of year for one or more of the following reasons.

1. The holidays are painful. Not everyone has happy memories of the holidays and these times remind us of the painful relationships, the deaths, and the relatives we would rather not be around.

2. The holidays are stressful. There is so much to do. Shopping for the meals, preparing the house for guests, and getting the events organized. People are crabby at the stores and the employees are crabby too.

3.The expectations of perfection are weighing us down. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to have everything go perfectly. And top it off, many of us all have a family member who always pulls off the holidays with a beautiful house, the golden brown turkey cooked to perfection, and home made pumpkin and apple pies to die for. And if we use that measuring stick we always fall short, which puts more stress on.

4. We have our own expectations to live up to. We don’t want to disappoint the people we love. We want our celebrations to go well and people to enjoy them. We want to get gifts that they will enjoy and we don’t always know what they will like. We don’t want to buy a gift just to give a gift, but we also don’t want our loved ones to have nothing.

5. We’re trying to lose weight or stay healthy and the holidays throw us off track. How many of us have said, “I’m not going to gain weight this year”? The holidays are full of events that that test our willpower and it can be stressful to be tempted on a regular basis. It wouldn’t be so bad if we could limit our celebrations to just one day, but in addition to standard holidays we have office parties, dinner parties, and community pot lucks. May kids are out fundraising for their teams and clubs and it’s hard to say no to a cute kid in a cub scout or girl scout uniform selling popcorn or cookies. And if you have kids, this is on top of the 4 pounds of candy your kid just collected on Halloween. Let’s face it, when it comes to the holidays, we are surrounded by food.

To Survive and Thrive in the Holidays, Here are a Few Strategies to Implement

1. Determine who you want to be and how you want to act. The reality is that we have no control over other people that we will interact with. I know that for most of us, there are certain people who can really “push our buttons”. We can’t change what they do, but we can determine how we want to respond. We can mentally prepare for these events by recognizing that we get stressed by other people and preparing in advance how we want to respond. One of the hardest things in life is to distance our emotions from the emotions of others, but if you prepare a healthy response in advance you’ll have a lot less stress.

2. Don’t accept societal norms unless you want to. One of the greatest responses to messages of how things are supposed to work is, “Who made up that rule?”. If you don’t like cook, why kill yourself to put on a traditional holiday dinner? Who made up the rule that you can only have Turkey with stuffing and mash potatoes on Thanksgiving? I say, if you order Indian or Chinese takeout for the celebration, “more power to you!’ You could also farm out the meal to someone who really enjoys cooking. There is no rule that I know of that you have to cook.

3. Make a plan about how you’ll eat at all the events you go to. You don’t have to deprive yourself during the holidays, but I encourage you to pick a couple of the most important events to let loose a little, and them commit to eating well at the others. You will experience less stress by being intentional about how you approach each event.

4. Focus on what the holidays are really about. The majority of our holidays, both national and religious, are about being thankful. It’s a time to spend with people we love and connect on mutual values and interests. We can do this over coffee, simple meals, and walks together. We can make phone calls and touch base with our friends. We don’t have to buy anything to connect with the people we care about, and let’s be honest, isn’t it people who make the holidays great?

5. Remember that most people appreciate being remembered. Is there a perfect gift or meal? I don’t think so, but most people appreciate you took time to prepare a meal or buy a gift. People discount the saying ” It’s the thought that matters” but I think it’s true ( this may not apply to kids). I know that a simple gift, card, or meal says that I’m loved and appreciated.

6. Get outside and get active. Exercise and being outside is one of the best stress relievers known. Combine your activity with other people and you’ll benefit from improved relationships and health.

The holidays can be a special time of the year if we have the right mindset and strategy. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be meaningful, so my encouragement to you is to relax and enjoy the people you love and focus on the activities that bring you the most joy. Take the holidays to focus on what you are thankful for. It is in our thankfulness that we connect to all that is meaningful.

 

The Transformative Power of Gratitude

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Gratitude can change your life

Research by Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough has found that people who develop the habit of practicing gratitude are psychologically, emotionally, and physically healthier than those that don’t.

Those that practice gratitude benefit in some of the following ways:

  • Feel better about their lives as a whole
  • Experience greater levels of joy and happiness
  • Get sick less often
  • Feel stronger during trying times
  • Enjoy closer family ties

Gratitude is a practice, a skill we can develop to create greater awareness of what we can be thankful for. I know that when I feel discouraged, left out, or unsuccessful it’s often because my thinking has become negative.  When I stop and work to think of all that I have to be grateful for, my mood improves and I feel better about life.

Here are a couple of articles I found online that summarize the research.

Cultivate the Healing Power of Gratitude

How Gratitude Can Change Your Life

Also, two great reads that have been influential in my life this year that relate to this topic.

The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris and Steven Hayes

Slow Down to the Speed of Life by Richard Carlson and Joe Bailey

 

Take a few minutes each day to practice the transformative power of gratitude

Would You Please Stand Up and Get Outside

credit: RHaynes

credit: RHaynes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It shouldn’t be an earth shattering concept, but being outside is good for us.

It’s more than a nice experience to be in a beautiful environment, it’s good for your health. In the article, “Spending Time Outdoors is Good For You”, from the Harvard Health Letter,  researchers have found the following benefits to being outside:

  • Your vitamin D levels rise
  • You’ll get more exercise
  • You’ll be happier
  • Your concentration will improve
  • You may heal faster

In other research conducted by David Strayer, professor of cognition and neural science at the University of Utah, he found that being outdoors increases brain creativity and problem solving skills. In an experiment he conducted, he took a group of students on a 4 day trek in the wilderness and then tested them on cognitive tests.  The students returning from their wilderness experience scored 50% higher than their peers who stayed home.

If we look at the course of human evolution, it’s fairly evident that we have spent more time outside and being confined to houses, office buildings, and our cars are a modern development.  Our last 150 years is a blip on the human timeline.  Being outside is not a nice thing to do, I think it’s how we are hardwired from our earliest days as humans.

I know that when I get outside I’m happier, more creative, and find that it enhances my relationships. Part of my lifestyle is to go outside as much as possible, regardless of the time of year and weather.  Living in the upper midwest doesn’t always make that easy, but I think it’s a good idea to apply the Boy Scout rule for bad weather:

Plan B, is Plan A with rain

I have to give credit to the Scouts, they don’t let bad weather hold them back from being outdoors.

My encouragement to you is to incorporate more time outdoors as part of your overall health strategy.  Stand up and Get Outside.

Lessons Learned from 10 Years of Sustained Weight Loss

 

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Thanksgiving is almost here and that means other major holidays are right behind running all the way through the new year.  We’ll being going to many celebrations with friends and family, work parties abound, and many of the religious and social organizations we belong to will be hosting celebrations as well.

For many of us this is a special time of the year and we look forward to it. I’m with you, I love the holidays.  For some of us, there is also a undercurrent of low anxiety as we are not the people we want to be.  Many of us are struggling with our weight and our health and in some ways we dread the holidays because we know we’ll be bombarded with a lot of food.  Many of us will also be thinking that this is the year we are going to commit ourselves to losing weight, yet there is a nagging doubt that we can do it because we’ve tried so many times before and it didn’t last.

I understand those doubts, but I want to provide you with some hope.  I rode the roller coaster of weight loss and weight gain too, but I finally found a way off over ten years ago.  I thought it might be helpful to you to share some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way.

First, it really is possible to lose weight and keep it off.  We can let our past failures dictate our future or we can learn from our failures and try a new way or  strategy. If we can be resilient along the way we will figure out what works best for us and what we’ll be able to do long term.

Second, learning to think more optimistically was a key shift in my thinking that allowed me to deal with the ups and downs of this process.  Before, pessimistic thinking would thwart my ability to move forward as it would cause me to give up and go back to old patterns of living.  If you’d like to know more about optimism and pessimism go to the archives on my website and look for the podcasts on March 22, March 29th, and April 5th.

Third, I also had more success when I figured out what worked for me regardless of what other health experts were advocating. I’ve read so many books on this topic and so many of them conflict that I came to the conclusion that I had to figure out what worked for me.  Each of us has a unique genetic makeup, mindset, and cultural influences that I don’t think there is one solution that will work for everyone.  We may have to take a good eating strategy and adapt it so it works for us.

Fourth,  there is no easy way out, losing weight is hard and weight maintenance is even harder. But don’t let that discourage you because being overweight and obese is the hardest all.  The benefits of the hard work is that I feel infinitely better and am able to do the things in life that only a healthy body can do.

Fifth, even in weight maintenance there are ups and downs as your weight won’t be static for the rest of your life. I have kept off between 75 and 80 pounds over the last ten years, but it hasn’t been a perfect process.  I’ve gained some of it back here and there, but I have always been able to take it off.  The biggest difference is that today I don’t let an short term weight gain get me panicked and discouraged.  Utlimately I know what to do and I’m confident I can make course corrections when I need to.

Sixth,  I’ve leaned to appreciate the role of sleep and stress reduction as a part of my maintenance strategy.  I know that when I don’t get adequate sleep I get more cravings for junk food and it’s the same when I get stressed.  The best strategies for dealing with this is to get to bed at a decent time and to make sure I’m getting exercise in most days of the week.  If you are overly stressed and sleep deprived, attaining your goals around weight and health is much more difficult.

Lastly, everything is interconnected.  Sometimes in order to improve our health, we need to work on our relationships or career. I’ve seen many people who are very unhappy with their jobs, that when they switch to a job that is a better fit for them, they lose weight because they are not having chronic stress like the used to.  Having better relationships with our spouses, partners, or children can do the same.

 

There are so many other things I’ve learned and I’m incorporating those into my book Get Smart and Get Slim.  Make sure you check out each chapter as I release it each week.  If you click on the tab, Get Smart & Get Slim you’ll find all the chapters posted so far. Also if you’d like to receive updates automatically, sign up for my email distribution list.

 

 

Simplify Your Way to Better Health: Interview With Joel Zaslofsky of Smart and Simple Matters

 

 

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What does simplicity have to do with health?  At first glance, maybe nothing. But as we probe deeper into trying to simplify our lives with great advice and wisdom from Joel Zaslofsky, it’s clear that simplicity can have a great impact on our health.  By de-cluttering our lives, careers, and belongings we can create a clear path to what’s really important in our lives.  Simplifying life can reduce stress, as well as create mental and emotional freedom.

I wish creating a simpler life was easier.  Married with two kids, managing a career and household, and trying to impact our world with this podcast and blog is definitely a challenge.  Creating simplicity in this context seems like an impossibility, but I’m a believer in starting small and building progress along the way.

Joel has a lot of great ideas in this podcast and I encourage you to listen, take notes, and see how you can create a simpler life for better health and better life overall.

Here are some of the websites we talked about in our conversation you might be interested in:

www.valueofsimple.com  Joel Zaslofsky’s website where you can find more out about him and his podcast Smart and Smart Matters

www.simplerev.com   This is a new movement being created by Joel and his friend Dan Hayes.  This website and podcast is promoting simplicity and their first SimpleRev  conference in October 2014.

www.simplelifetogether  Dan and Vanessa Hayes website and podcast on how to create simplicity for your family, work, and life.

www.project333.com  An interesting challenge by Courtney Carver to simplify your wardrobe by limiting what you wear to 33 items.

Do you have to simplify your life to have better health?  No, but why have life be more complicated than it already is?