5 Easy Habits to Get Healthier Now

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Tongue scraping

This is an ancient Ayurvedic practice that Western medicine is beginning to acknowledge as productive to oral health. Did you know that a coating of residue (including toxins and yucky bacteria) on the tongue is what leads to bad breath? You may have learned to brush your tongue, but I have bad news for you. All that does is push the bacteria around. Tongue scraping eliminates it. Getting rid of the coating on the tongue also leads to greater sensitivity of the taste buds; meaning, your food will be tastier. Wouldn’t it be nice to be satisfied with less food? Less food = less unnecessary weight on the body. We all know this. The process of tongue scraping is so quick and simple, there’s really no excuse to not do it. You simply take each end of the tongue scraper in your hands, start at the back of the tongue, and add gentle pressure, scraping from back to front, rinsing in between. Repeat about 5 times. I’m telling you, your mouth will feel cleaner. You can buy a tongue scraper here.

 

 

Switch to Whole Foods

 

No, I don’t necessarily mean the grocery store. You don’t have to drive to another town to find a Whole Foods market. A whole food means a food that is in its complete form, with no additions. Ingredients: 1. An apple is a whole food. A carrot is a whole food. An almond is a whole food. I like what author Michael Pollan says: “eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” What he’s saying is, avoid stuff with a million ingredients. Actually, more than 5 ingredients and you’re going down a road leading to nothing good. If this is too difficult for you, at least start reading the Ingredients on your box o’ food, and avoid anything with the words “hydrogenated”, “palm oil”, “carrageenan”, “maltodextrin”, and “aspartame”. That’s a solid place to start.

 

 

Drink Organic, Fair Trade Coffee (ditch the K-cups)

 

If you’re like most Americans, you drink coffee. If you’re like me, you have a slight obsession that borders on unhealthy. Nevertheless, we’re not here to judge. Coffee is delicious. However, I encourage you to do the environment a favor and stop using the disposable K-cups in your Keurig. I’m not saying to throw out your Keurig…that would be wasteful. Instead, buy a couple reusable, refillable little cups. Buy a bag of high quality, organic coffee. You’ll find that the coffee will last a lot longer, you’ll save money, and you’ll feel good about helping the planet. You can buy some on Amazon here.

Better yet, get yourself a French press.  You’ll feel like a badass, and the coffee honestly does taste better.  I got this adorable one that I take to work with me – it’s enough for one cup (there are larger ones as well).  Check it out here.

 

Begin a Daily Gratitude Practice

 

Get a cute little journal. Find 5 minutes to yourself either in the early morning or before bed. Grab a cozy spot, a cup of tea, and light a candle. Create a sacred space, and get to writing. Write what you’re grateful for. If you’re having a difficult time and grasping at straws, start with something very basic and primal. “I’m grateful for shelter and warmth”, might be a nice a place to begin, particularly if you live in New England like me, where the winters are bitter cold. “I’m grateful that my body carries me through the day and moves me from place to place.” It might seem silly, but it has been shown that gratitude and joy are directly correlated. This is no coincidence. The more we acknowledge all that we have, the more satisfied and fulfilled we can feel.

 

Incorporate Yoga into your Life

 

If you’re a seasoned yoga, or know the basics, try to fit 30 minutes in a day. No need to go to a yoga class, or pop in a DVD. Just roll out your mat and flow through 10 sun salutations, surya namaskar A (see photo below for instructions). If you have no clue what I’m talking about, click the menu at the top of this website and go to “private yoga instruction”, and schedule a session with me (if you live in CT). Even if you don’t live nearby, feel free to email me and I’ll give you some personal recommendations. So, 10 sun salutations, followed by 10 dirgha breaths, followed by 10 minutes of nadi shodhana, and finally, 5 minutes of meditating on the breath.

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Sat Nam,

Steph xo

Project Happy

“Happiness is a thing to be practiced, like the violin.” John Lubbock, whoever you are, you’re a smart man.

I was drawn to this quote in particular, because in fact I used to play the violin, for about 10 years throughout elementary, middle, and high school. And as a musician, practice you must! Although I’m sure there were times in which my parents regretted encouraging me to play an instrument.

My violin is now collecting cobwebs somewhere in the depths of my closet. I always say I’ll take it out to play again one day…

But whether you play an instrument or not, happiness my friends, is something worth practicing.

I’ve never been the cheerleader type. You know, perky and smiley and all those other exaggerated cheerful qualities. Quite the opposite in fact. I was always an inquisitive, thoughtful, serious sort of child. Perhaps even a dark little thing at times. In second grade, when we were asked to write about a particular topic in our daily journals, such as: “What do you like about yourself?” I would write something like, “I don’t like anything about myself, I’m not good at anything.” Holy perfectionism!

No, a cheerful disposition never came naturally for me. Upon seeing a company of men getting all their equipment ready to cut down some trees at my next-door neighbor’s house, eight-year-old little me marched right over there with an 8″x 11″ hand-drawn sign that read: “STOP KILLING THE TREES!!!” The utter horror and injustice of such a crime was real and important to me. I was jaded by the age of 10.

But as I approach 30, I’m becoming that cheerful, happy person.  I’ve still got my edge and introversion, which are parts of my personality that will never go away, and I’m fine with that.  I’ve simply learned that what I focus on has changed.  Now (not all the time, but enough of the time), I focus on my vision.  That place where I see myself in a couple of years time.  Living on my metaphorical mountaintop, yet more connected than ever.

It’s a rad thought.

Sip a Cup of Positivitea

Whenever I feel happy, I try to record it.  Write it down, snap a silly selfie, wiggle my shoulders and belt out an NSYNC holiday song, smother one of my dogs with hugs and kisses, dig in dirt, stare at some trees, whatever.  I wrote the following in my journal just two weeks ago…and last night I cried and cried until the veins on my temples popped like on the biceps of bodybuilders.  Where had that joy gone?  Why can’t I keep it in my locket and open it whenever I need my mojo back?  It’s so easy to get sucked into the quicksand of sadness.  But the more I get to know myself, the quicker my recovery time is.  Why?  Because I know what specific things I can do to lift my spirits.  I can fake an obnoxious smile until my cheeks hurt (see photo).  I can read poetry, or an inspiring story.  I can curl up under a heated throw and eat dark chocolate chips out of the bag.  I can sip tea and tell myself, “you are worth it.  You have a birthright to be happy.”  And there it is.  My cup of positivitea.  It is my foremost goal in life to discover what it is that makes me/people/communities happy.

10.3.15 Journal Entry

I feel so inexplicably wonderful in this moment.  Full of love, devoid of anxiety, relaxed, and grateful.  I smile because I am blessed.  Suddenly, I noticed that I was brimming with love and I was not trying.  Maybe my metta meditation has worked.  Maybe I’m moving closer to my dharma and that makes me feel hopeful.  Maybe it’s just that there’s nothing going horribly wrong right now.

I feel held by something greater than myself.  Quiet, soft, my body billows like a down comforter.  Self-love, perhaps, is the culprit, the wellspring.  Maybe that’s what this feeling is.  The idea that I am in charge of my life.  That I have the passion and the inspiration to be successful no matter what I end up doing.  Maybe I’m starting to enjoy the journey.  Trust the process.  Know, deep in my gut, that everything will be as it should be, and so I can let go of my worrying about it all.  This is a remarkable feeling.

Next I think, “I hope this never ends.”  Clinging to comfort.  Buddhism says grasping causes suffering.  I am mindful enough to recognize this knee-jerk reaction to clutch to comfort.

As I began writing this, halfway through the page I started to feel that old pang in my chest come up again, like that stubborn eyebrow hair you keep on plucking.  I wonder if that anxiety comes from not wanting this happiness to end.  Or maybe the anxiety comes from the ever-increasing hushed words of the self-critic, who could be suggesting that I don’t deserve this happiness, and it, in fact, won’t last, and I’ll be back to discomfort and dissatisfaction.  Even still, I feel pretty darn rooted in the belief that I can accomplish anything, and I no longer need to seek approval.

I’m an adult.  I have to remember that.  Sometimes I still feel like a child.  But I’m an adult.  A fierce, compassionate, innovative healer.  I can eat popcorn for dinner and soup for breakfast if I want to.  It’s exhilarating to start to release perfectionism, approval-seeking, whatever.  I am happy being me.  Finally!

What dream of yours seems so outlandish, that it couldn’t possibly materialize into reality?  I challenge you to challenge that belief.  Instead, say, “why not?”  Why can’t this dream happen?  Pay attention to what stories you might be telling yourself.  Write them down.  We’re about to turn all of that on it’s head and chuck it into the ocean.

xo Steph

Trusting Your Inner Compass

Remember the times before GPS?  Yeah, me neither.  I do remember typing my destination address into Mapquest’s magical navigator, and scribbling down the directions on a scrap of paper, dashing in my car, and whizzing on my way.

Many times, I still got lost.  But that was half the fun of it, wasn’t it?  It was part of the adventure and emblazoned anxiety.

Now, we set out on a journey and it’s no longer really a journey.  We’ve become so reliant on information systems outside ourselves, and lost touch with our own inner compass.

Do you see where I’m going with this?  We try to control the events of our lives, set reminders on our phones, tweet and post and scroll, clutching fervently to whatever seems to be working for us.  Distractions from ourselves.  Whatever it takes to get us to our pre-determined destination crafted by the thinking (vs. intuitive) mind, that’s what we’re going to do.  Steps A-Z.  In sequential order.

Well what happens when our plan runs off the tracks?  When T comes before B?  When someone throws a wrench in our perfectly prescribed timeline to “Z” destination?  I can tell you what happens for me.  I become disappointed, confused, angry, bitter, sad, and usually, defeated.  I forget the entire journey, throw away the destination, and move on to devise another plan.

Maybe I don’t need to do all that planning.  Hmm, there’s an idea.  Maybe it makes more sense to follow signs, landmarks, breadcrumbs, garden gnomes.  (Ok, probably not the last one).  At least I won’t be so attached to a rigid outcome.

I think by allowing myself to stray, to wander, to try different hats and shoes and scarves on, I can free myself from the anxiety of reaching that pre-set destination.  Maybe I’m already where I’m supposed to be, in every moment.  And the more I’m fully here and awake in each moment, the easier it will become to follow the flags, lights, and arrows pointing me to my next excursion.

This of course, requires trust in some force greater than myself, and also great trust in myself.  I used to ignore, shove aside, and snuff out my intuitive sense.  I’d shush that hushed voice that was actually guiding me.  I did things that didn’t align with what felt right to me, or true to my essential nature.

The more I denied my inner compass, the more lost I became.  But now, I feel like I’m starting to rest in the knowledge that I will listen to ME, and also take some hints and nudges from God/Universe/Spiritual Law/whatever IT is…because that resides in me.

The answers reveal themselves like dominoes clicking gently against each other, spiraling and weaving and knowing exactly where they are headed.

Steph xo

Okay, Universe. I Get It.

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I see this magnet every morning when I make my coffee.

Don’t be too timid or squeamish about your actions.  All life is an experiment.  The more experiments you make the better.

But sometimes, I actually pay attention.  I read this brilliance of Ralph Waldo Emerson and think to myself, “when am I going to take a courageous step, and stop being so timid and scared?”

Have you had a dream that you’ve pushed so far away in the back of your mind, that you hardly remember it’s there?  Maybe as a kid, you had a particularly keen eye for beauty and expression of life, and you took pictures with your polaroid camera, wanting to spend all of your days capturing special moments.  Maybe you’ve always wanted to be that photographer, and throw all of your energy, inspiration, and time into honing your craft.  But this subtle voice of doubt always said: “That isn’t practical.  You’ll have to claw your way through the competition.  How will you find clients?  Better stick to your “safe” job, and “steady” paycheck.  You have to eat, remember?”  Well I think that voice of doubt is full of crap.  And even though I think it’s rubbish, know it’s not really true, and know there are ways to succeed and make your passion work for you in a financially sustainable way, doubt continues to checkmate me.  I get so close to winning the game, and then doubt taunts me, making the final move that I wasn’t confident enough to see.  Freezing me into inaction and disappointment.

 

I think that’s part of the problem.  Not seeing past the doubt to the truth.  Not taking small, courageous steps toward your dreams each day.  Allowing society’s measure of “success” to dictate what you do with your life.  If you know what you’re capable of, and know that you have to take a stab at achieving you dreams, because anything else just feels like a distraction, the first thing to do is to determine your own definition of success.

 

I’ve thought about what success means to me quite a bit lately.  There have been times in my life where I subscribed to the traditional, Americanized version of success: becoming a doctor, lawyer, or fabulously wealthy entrepreneur; owning a house so large that the smallest sounds echo; driving fancy, gas-guzzling “look at me – I have money!” SUVs.  There have been times where I felt unfulfilled, and I tried to fill that void by shopping, buying clothes and shoes and purses I didn’t need.  None of those material things made me fulfilled or happy.  In fact, they made me feel bloated with the hangover of excess.  Somehow, this didn’t seem like right living.  Not when there are children in parts of the world that don’t own a single pair of shoes, and eat dirt cookies dried in the sun to fill their bellies.

 

Success to me, is about real, heartfelt connections.  It’s about giving the best parts of me to the world.  A sense of community and unity.  It’s about people helping people.  It’s about doing my very small part to heal and create change.  Success to me, is having the freedom to curl up under the cozy covers with a book, with my dogs snoring softly on the floor nearby.  Success to me, is staying continually in awe of nature.  Success to me, is having a beginner’s mind.

 

It is only a matter of time before the urge to become who I’m meant to be becomes so strong, that I will have to forego what I’ve been doing and change my life completely.  In the meantime, I’ve begun to change right where I am.  I’ve done this by making a conscious effort  to connect with people at work, even if it’s just with eye contact and a genuine smile, or asking about their children and really taking the time to listen.  Offering someone undivided attention and presence is powerful.  With our electronically-dominated world, this is becoming a rare and needed gift.  More often, I step outside of my bubble and make small talk with the person bagging my groceries.  Giving and connecting, and being radically grateful for all I have, has made all the difference.  I’ve ditched my victim mentality, I’ve stopped belly-aching about the trivial, and I’ve started getting REAL.

 

And guess what?  I will silence that voice of doubt.  I will go for it, fully, and with abandon.  The only question that remains, is…when?  And when will you go for your dream?  Let me know, I’d love to hear your story, your dream.

Steph xo

Joy is here

  

I felt it. I tapped into the unfathomable, untainted joy that I don’t think I’ve felt since a child. Yesterday was the first instance, as I drove my beloved Subaru up to the Berkshires. Destination: Kripalu. Everything was a green so vivid and rich, I could’ve been inside a watercolor painting, or maybe a high-definition photograph would be a better analogy. As I drove further away from denser populations, I felt my body melt. Shoulders, neck, fists. Everything unclenched and relaxed. I remembered my breath, it’s location and path. I noticed the quality of the air on my face, I recognized that the wrinkles between my brows disappeared. Everything soft and warm. Along some parts of my journey, nothing but the winding paved roads seemed touched. Places unimaginably unscathed by humans. My delight in this was obvious. I felt alone with nature, and that freed my spirit. It was back. My happiness, my lightness, my appreciation for details, for subtle movements, for life in it’s basic form. My proverbial well kept filling, rising higher and higher.  
I reached Kripalu and felt the click of a lock open. It was me. I was open again. I was back. My heart, my softness, my joy, my self. This wasn’t a question of ego. It was simply a reunion with self-determination, passion, and peace. I checked in and felt on top of the world. The staff member informed me there was an envelope that was to be presented to me with my room key and welcome papers. I opened the envelope to find a gift certificate to be used for Healing arts. Love, Summer, Shannon, and Zile. My roommates from YTT. Again, my well filled higher. The gesture overwhelmed me with love. 
Later, after getting my ass handed to me in a vigorous yoga class led by the anatomy genius Chris Holmes, my sweet Summer came to visit. We talked about life, love, work, travel, dreams, and everything in between. We chanted om gum ganapataye namaha and om namo bhagavate vasudevaya in the whirlpool. We grabbed some famous Kripalu cookies and headed to the 4th floor meditation room, where she led me in an 11-minute Kundalini meditation, which I hope to continue practicing for 40 days. Ong namo gurudev namo. Mudras were left hand on the heart with thumb pointing up and fingers pointing right, and right hand lifted with first finger and thumb touching.  

She is an incredible human being, and brings laughter and love to everyone who crosses her path, I’m sure of it. 
Fast forward to breakfast this morning. I sat in the silent dining room facing makeenac lake, gazing out over the pristine water and rolling mountains. The longer I sat, the longer I looked, warmth overcame me, body and soul. Electric light traveled through each artery, vein, organ, muscle fiber. Tears welled up in my eyes, stemming from nothing but pure joy. Words fall extremely short of what I experienced in that moment. But I knew without a single seed of doubt that this is where I want to be. Maybe not Kripalu specifically, but here. In this place of happiness. With nature. Away from the noise. In this space where I feel real, and whole, and full. This is me. This is mine. This is I. I am this. 

Cleansing the Soul

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It occurred to me on Day 2 of my cleanse that this isn’t just a cleansing in the physical sense. This process is not just about the food, or my body. It’s about awakening spirit, inviting new opportunity, and letting go of what doesn’t serve me. When we nurture our body by feeding it as many whole, natural, organic foods as possible, we also begin to see how we’ve been mistreating ourselves from a mental/emotional standpoint.

The beautiful thing about a cleanse is that you start to experience food in a different way. Since you’re truly physically hungry, you become more appreciative of the subtle and wonderful flavors of foods in their natural form. Suddenly, kale becomes a salty treat, brown rice is nutty and satisfying, and apples taste like candy. It forces us to slow down and appreciate nature’s bounty.
The challenge for me in going through a cleanse like this is dealing with the emotional stuff that comes up. It’s common for anybody (including me) to reach for a crunchy bag of chips when they’re stressed. When that crutch is gone, we are forced to stop stuffing down our emotions with food and actually feel them. This is what we do in yoga. Sit with our emotions. It can be uncomfortable, but I believe it’s necessary if we want any sort of growth and change to occur.

I’m learning a lot about myself. I’m learning how to let go, and appreciate. I’m learning and remembering how important gratitude is, and how essential it is to extend that gratitude to ourselves and our bodies. It’s important work. And it’s ongoing. So with this cleanse, I’m renewing myself. The journey begins here.

xo Steph

5 Ways to Love Yourself Today

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1. Stop comparing yourself to others.

You are uniquely you for a reason….God makes no mistakes.  Remember this truth everyday.

 2.  Find your beauty.

Look at yourself in the mirror without judgment.  Shift your experience to one of love, and take note of the things you like, even if it’s as seemingly insignificant as thinking your ears are cute, or noticing the beauty of a birthmark.

3.  Indulge…without guilt!

Have a piece of your favorite, rich dark chocolate (or whatever you LOVE, but are currently depriving yourself of).  Take a moment to yourself, without distraction, to really fully enjoy the taste.  Don’t look at the calorie count.

4.  Compliment another woman.

Too often, womens’ insecurities lead to jealousy of one another.  Instead, be a leader and choose to lift your fellow females up.  Encourage each other and build confidence together.  If you think your co-worker looks fabulous in that shade of blue she’s wearing today, let her know.  Chances are, spreading love in this way will help you love yourself.

5.  Stand for something.

Giving back feels good, and benefits others as well as ourselves.  If you love animals, maybe consider switching to a vegetarian diet, or if you’re able, fostering/adopting a pet.  Another great option is looking into volunteer opportunities; Foodshare and Rebuilding Together are fantastic organizations that help the hungry and people with at-risk homes, respectively.  Simply giving up a Saturday morning to volunteer your time will touch many, and likely inspire you, too.  It helps us put life into perspective, and be grateful for all we have, rather than focusing on what we lack.

 

What do you do to love yourself?  I look forward to your feedback!

xo Steph

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