Keys to a Better Life: Make the Most of Now

As much as I love fall, I admit to feeling a little sentimental at this time of year. It’s possible that the diminishing daylight has something to do with it, but it’s also the season when I lost my mother, and just last year, one of my two sisters-in-law. Just tonight I received word that a cousin has passed away. Seeing the trees shed their leaves and plants looking tired adds to the realization that it’s a season of change. It’s a really busy season at work, we’re going to and coming home from work in near darkness….but wait a minute, I said I LOVE FALL, despite all those things that seem like reasons to hate it. How can that be?

Well, the key for me is just to make the most of now, whatever the situation is. Yeah, I’m running in the dark before work instead of enjoying a beautiful daybreak. And the afternoon dog walks are getting shorter and require flashlights. My mile splits are slower than they’ve ever been. There are no more fresh tomatoes at the farmer’s market. Maybe that’s the saddest thing of all. But you know what?

I love getting my sweaters and closed-toe shoes out of storage. I love apple cider (unfiltered, unpasteurized thankyouverymuch) and making soup. I love having the windows open in my bedroom when it’s in the high 40s at night so we can snuggle under a blanket. I love that those morning runs don’t require 30 minutes of cooling off before being able to put on my work clothes. I love that when I do take the dogs out, they aren’t overheated and their little feet aren’t getting toasted from the pavement. I love when it’s cool enough in the evenings to not be eaten by mosquitos, and we can sit by a fire with a drink that warms our insides.

There are lots of reason to love this season, but my sentimental feelings about fall is probably what helps me “make the most of now”. Time passes so quickly, friends. To wish time away, to not take advantage of the strength in your body and mind, to spend time loathing a time of year for whatever reason, to not soak in and appreciate whatever surrounds you in terms of nature, your health, your family, and friends—to me it’s just wasting precious time.

Make the most of now. In all its imperfection, it’s what you have. There’s a meditation that I love, that reminds me very well to make the most of now and I hope it speaks to you:

May you be happy
May you be healthy
May you ride the waves of your life
May you live in peace
No matter what you are given

Have a beautiful October. And make the most of now.

Keys to a Better Life: Avoid Social Comparison

I have this weird, vivid memory from my childhood, when I was playing with some neighborhood kids, and one of them informed me that her family had more “poperty” than mine. We couldn’t have been more than 6 or 7 years old, summer days being spent playing in each others’ yards. Who had what or how much of anything wasn’t something that had really crossed my mind until then—at least not that I was aware of—but apparently it had been a topic of conversation in their home, so once it was brought to my attention I felt inferior for the first time I could remember. It’s wild to think that social comparisons can be rooted into our being at such a young age, isn’t it? From wanting the toy that the other kid has, to the sneakers that everyone is wearing, to skirt length, the cuter boy/girlfriend, the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)…it progresses with us all our lives. Getting into the better college, getting the higher paying job, building what looks like a perfect life. And on and on.

Social comparison is a natural human behavior, and I think it can actually help in some ways—to help us learn from each other, to gauge how we’re doing, and sometimes it can even help us feel better about ourselves. But too much of it can be stressful and make us anxious, angry, or overly-competitive.

In my parents’ day, social comparison was there, but it was often encountered in person—the ladies at church noticing that so-and-so got another new dress. The casual mention of the new wall-to-wall carpeting or the husband’s promotion. The new car. Today, social media has taken social comparison to a whole new level—one that’s sometimes a little twisted and frightening. We see who’s doing what we’re not, or are they really doing that? The daily miles that we’re not keeping up with. The pace that’s faster than ours. The fabulous vacations, perfectly-themed and decorated parties. We’ve all fallen victim to these social comparisons at one time or another. Maybe the key to a better life isn’t to avoid social comparison altogether, but rather to just not let it run (or ruin) your life.

IMG_6673.PNG

I will say that I think my hangups about social comparison are less than they used to be. Is it age? Maybe. But alongside of that, there are a few things I try to put into practice to keep my perspective:

  • Expressing gratitude for life itself, for the ability to think clearly and move freely, for the people I love and who give love back to me, for a roof over my head, and for a job that pays the bills.

  • Celebrating my strengths (which are many) and being OK with imperfections (which are infinitely more), because it’s these very things that make me who I am.

  • Cleaning up my social media feed, occasionally weeding out the accounts that stir up negativity

  • Affirming those who inspire or motivate me as positive role models

We only get one go-around at life, and none of us is promised a certain number of days. I guess I’ve just reached the place in my life where I refuse to live out whatever time I have left comparing myself to anyone else. For me, that’s a key worth holding onto.

Keys to a Better Life: Don't Take Every Opinion to Heart!

If my brief Google research is correct, the quote “Opinions are like assholes, everybody has one” is originally attributed to actor Clint Eastwood. I think (ok yeah, here’s my opinion) everyone is entitled to have an opinion, but having one (perhaps like having an a-hole) doesn’t mean you need to share it with the entire world.

My mom used to tell me when I was little that I wore my heart on my sleeve too often, and I brought a lot of that into young adulthood with me. I could be hurt very easily by the words and actions of others. In the world we live in today, where people feel empowered to state an opinion, often in unkind terms, and often about situations where they don’t have all the facts or choose to ignore them altogether, it’s easy for a “heart on the sleeve” person to be really damaged by taking too much stock in what other people—often strangers—think and say.

IMG_6684.PNG

I’m glad I’ve toughened up. Not so much that I won’t or don’t seek the opinions of someone I respect or trust; but for the most part, I can block out a lot of opinions that aren’t offered for the purpose of helping me succeed or grow. Maybe age has had something to do with it. Still, it’s not always easy to ignore, especially if the opinions come in loud or unkind ways. But if you can pull back and recognize those opinions more as a reflection on the person issuing them than about you, you just might find, like I have, that they hurt a whole lot less. Carry on, friends. And don’t be an a-hole, okay?

Keys to a Better Life: Get Some Exercise!

The editor of a local magazine reached out to me recently, to ask if I would share in an upcoming issue how I find balance in my life or stay centered. It was pretty easy for me to identify the major components of what I think keeps me from going entirely off the rails, but in the weeks since that article was submitted, I’ve really been thinking more about the nitty gritty of what’s important to me in the effort to live a better life. Have I achieved success in all these areas? Hell, no! I’m just a regular person with the same struggles as everyone else. But I think if you don’t strive for “better”, then you’re destined to be worse off in some way. So, I’m calling this the first of how many ever I can think of blog posts about what I’m striving for. If you can identify with any or all of these as the weeks go on, I’d love to hear from you!

I’m starting with exercise, because movement is at the root of what makes me feel better in general. Even on the days when I really don’t wanna. In fact, especially on those days. Do you need to join a gym? No. Do you need to run races? No. Do you need any special equipment? Again, no. All you need to do is start. Somewhere. From wherever you are. Just move.

IMG_6681.PNG

If exercise is new to you, start slow. Don’t have access to weights? Grab a couple cans of beans off your pantry shelf for tricep extensions, lateral raises, bicep curls, or raise them overhead. Use your washer, dryer, or kitchen countertop for balance and do some modified pushups, lunges, squats or leg raises out to the side. Park a little further from the store. Take the steps. You get the idea.

Or maybe you’re already exercising, but you’ve fallen into a rut where the same old thing just seems old. I have to keep changing things up to stay consistent. Personally I’ve done that with a fitness app that I really enjoy, and I like it because it encompasses a variety of activities with different coaches. I use it on my own for outdoor running/walking/yoga and when I go to the gym for strength training, treadmill or elliptical. What I know is that I have to move every day. Have to—for mental health as well as physical. It might be yoga, a meditative walk by myself or a walk with the dogs; or it might be an all-out sweat fest with a rowing session and a cycle class, or a run. But I’m moving purposefully every day for at least 30 minutes.

One day maybe I’ll share more of the “why” behind my commitment to moving every day. No need for me to try and get into the physical and mental benefits of exercise—I’m no doctor, and your doctor has probably told you why it’s important. I just want to tell you that it makes my life better every day, in so many ways.

So what are your exercise habits? Victories? Or hurdles? Maybe I can learn new tips from you, maybe you can learn from some of my struggles. I’d love to hear from you! Let’s keep moving together!

Let's Talk About Our Armpits!

Probably one of the biggest adjustments for me, in trying to live with fewer toxins, is something very personal—what I apply to my armpits every day. Natural cleaning and laundry products? No big deal. Beeswax paper to cut down on plastic dependency? A little training time, but again—doable. The quest for an effective, natural deodorant has proven to be a more elusive issue. As of this writing, I still haven’t settled on “the one”, so I’ll be glad to hear from anyone who has a great recommendation that I might not have already tried. Why is this so hard? 

Basically, when you decide to use a natural deodorant instead of a big-brand antiperspirant, you’re undergoing a form of detox.  Your body has grown accustomed to artificial results (reduced wetness and smell) produced by using artificial ingredients. But using potential toxins day after day in one of the most sensitive areas of our bodies can potentially lead to some pretty scary health problems. Removing those ingredients, on the other hand, might lead to some other side effects that we find a little undesirable. Truth is, though, with a little time and patience those side effects will subside. What can you expect to happen? 

Sweat

When you switch to a natural deodorant, you might find that you initially perspire more than usual. Why? Because the chemicals in conventional products might have your system out of balance. I know, it doesn’t help that culturally we (especially women) are encouraged to cover up normal biological processes, but contrary to that, we are absolutely supposed to sweat. Once your system’s balance is restored, you might actually find yourself less sweaty than before.

Smell

What if I stink? Well, just like the chemicals in conventional antiperspirants mask our sweat, they also mask the smell. If you have gotten used to the scent of artificial, synthetic fragrances, then you might feel a little stinky during the transition. I am definitely not down with being super stinky, but I can attest that this resolved pretty quickly for me. No matter what, you should always avoid deodorants that have “fragrance” on the label – this is usually a code word for lots of chemicals. 

Irritation

I have not experienced irritation from any of the natural deodorants I have tried, but I know it can happen. Many natural deodorants contain baking soda, which can cause underarms to become red, itchy, and bumpy, kind of like a razor burn. Irritation could also happen if you are using too much of a product or applying it right after shaving while your skin is most sensitive. 

If you’re considering making the switch from conventional drugstore antiperspirant to natural deodorant, I say go for it, because I truly believe it’s healthier for you. If you haven’t because you’re afraid you’re going to be a hot stinky mess, I promise in reality the detox isn’t that bad and only lasts for a week or two at most. I’m including here a list of ingredients you should look for on whatever product you’re using or considering, and I urge you to think carefully about your choices as they could seriously affect your health.

Let me hear from you if you have a product recommendation. And here’s to your happy, healthy, non-stinky armpits! 

Deodorant Info-2.png