Tag Archives: meditation

Create Your Own Wellness Retreat (at home!)

We all need a little time to decompress, especially as concerns mount over a new delta variant of Covid-19. While wellness retreats and spa packages are indulgent and delightful options for pampering and reducing stress, they can also prove expensive. Some people might also be reluctant to spend an hour getting a massage in a room with a stranger if they don’t know the professional’s vaccination status, aren’t comfortable removing their mask indoors, or are high risk themselves despite vaccination status. All of these factors can cause anxiety for some people – and that’s the opposite of what self care time is supposed to do!

So, today I’m going to outline the perfect at-home wellness retreat schedule! The best part? The day’s plans don’t require spending money on anything – unless you want to! I will throw in some ideas for wellness products ranging from $18 to $500, but these are entirely optional splurges. Your main agenda is setting aside a day for yourself to relax and intentionally engage in healthy, rejuvenating activities.

 

 

If you have a partner, family or roommate then be sure to make plans with them in advance to allow you the personal space you need and deserve. Once they’re on board and willing to support you, keep it clear that you will be maintaining your boundaries no matter what. This means no last minute chores, errands, laundry loads, calls, etc. Claim the day and keep it open!

 


At-Home Wellness Retreat Schedule & Health Benefits

 

8:00 am or later: Wake-up at a leisurely hour

Sleep is crucial for rejuvenating the spine, boosting immune function, balancing hormones, and improving energy, to name just a few of its functions. Modern culture often places an emphasis on waking before dawn to make the day more productive. Not only does this mean that many people are shortchanging the hours they spend sleeping but the emphasis is squarely on productivity. We think of rest, down time, and a morning spent sleeping in as “unproductive” but that’s simply not true. Sleep is one of the most critical things we need for both physical and mental health. Slowing down is never unproductive. It’s a mature way of acknowledging that our lives demand balance between high and low energy, active days and periods of time spent in spiritual, creative, or mentally replenishing endeavors.

 

8:15 am: Drink 8 oz of water and make a healthy breakfast including fresh fruits

Hydrating early in the day helps your body rehydrate from the long night without fluids. Early hydration helps release toxins and ramp up your digestive system too. A healthy breakfast is another important start of the day. It’s an opportunity to get nutrient dense foods into your system right away (think fruits like berries, cantaloupe, apples, oranges) and give your metabolism a wake-up call. A few delicious options for a healthy breakfast include:

  • Two scrambled eggs topped with avocado slices with a side of fresh fruit
  • Sliced apple w/ 1-2 tablespoons nut butter
  • Greek yogurt topped with berries and a drizzle of agave syrup or honey
  • Egg white, spinach and feta cheese omelet with a side of fresh fruit
  • Whole grain toast topped with avocado and slices of hard-boiled egg
  • Steel cut oats or old-fashioned oatmeal with half a cup fruit mixed in
  • 2 or 3 slices of turkey bacon, whole grain toast, and a small side of fresh fruit

 

 

9:00 am: Read for pleasure while you digest

Reading for pleasure is largely taken for granted. A lot of people put off reading something enjoyable because it doesn’t feel “productive” (ugh…there’s that pesky word again!). But reading for pleasure has a wide range of benefits including:

  • Mental Stimulation
  • Stress Reduction
  • Knowledge
  • Vocabulary Expansion
  • Memory Improvement
  • Stronger Analytical Thinking Skills
  • Improved Focus and Concentration
  • Better Writing Skills
  • Tranquility

Allow yourself to sink into the depths of a good book that you hand select in advance of your wellness retreat day. Get one from your own bookshelf, local library or a friend’s stack of favorite reads. Take an hour and escape from your day-to-day in its pages!

 

10:00 am: Enjoy your favorite workout or active outdoor excursion

Now that your healthy breakfast has digested and you’ve luxuriated in a slow morning, it’s time to get active and enjoy feel-good benefits from an endorphin boost! Pick your favorite type of movement for exercise and bring along a healthy amount of water to keep the hydration going. Go out for a run, stream your favorite yoga or dance class, hit up the weights in your garage or venture out to your most beloved local spot for hiking, biking, kayaking, climbing, or walking in the fresh air! If you’re planning to be out for a few hours then be sure to wear sunscreen and pack a lunch.

The most important part about this time spent exercising is that it’s enjoyable. There are no “shoulds” on your wellness retreat day. Pick an activity that feels good and makes you happy! Follow up your exercise with 10-15 minutes of gentle stretching and deep breathing to bring yourself back to zen. Unwinding after exercise is important as it allows your parasympathetic nervous system to “turn back on.”

 

12:00 pm: Prep a lunch full of healthy proteins and vegetables

By now it’s probably getting late in the morning or early afternoon and you’ll want to get a meal in before you clean off. A healthy lunch complete with protein and nutritious vegetables will fit the bill. The protein will help you recover and reap benefits from your exercise and will keep you full. The vegetables help with disease prevention, dietary fiber, potassium and essential nutrients. You’ll want to keep breakfast and lunch on the healthier end because here’s a little hint about dinner: You get to indulge!

Some healthy ideas for lunch:

  • Bean and rice burrito wrap with a side salad
  • Greek salad with chicken breast
  • 1-2 sushi rolls with spicy green beans or pickled veggies
  • Poke bowl with plenty of veggie toppings
  • Whole grain avocado toast with fresh sliced veggies (ex: carrots, red bell peppers, cucumbers, celery, broccoli) and dip (ex: light dressing, hummus, tzatziki, Greek yogurt)
  • Chicken or beef kebob with grilled vegetables
  • Roasted red pepper, hummus and veggie wrap
  • Chicken salad on whole grain bread with fresh sliced veggies or side salad
  • Mediterranean chicken and couscous or quinoa bowl with red onion, tomatoes, cucumber and cheese
  • Turkey panini melt with large helping of steamed or baked broccoli

 

 

1:00 pm: Unwind with a Warm Bath or Steamy Shower

After lunch it’s time to relax in some bubbles or a steamy shower. Make sure to have your favorite bath products on hand. Water offers you the chance for physical relief, emotional release, and spiritual cleansing. These are all elements incorporated into pricey wellness retreat getaways, but they’re accessible and free at any time. While you bathe or shower, it can help to burn a soy candle scented with essential oils, add aromatherapy bath salts, or use a scented shower steamer so that you are encouraged to take deep and rejuvenating breaths as you inhale the calming fragrance.

For baths: Focus on deep breathing. Inhale for a count of seven, hold for seven, and exhale for seven. Place attention on your forehead and imagine a bright light radiating from it. Allow your attention to come and go from the rise and fall of your abdomen as you breathe.

For showers: As you inhale imagine breathing in cleansing energy and positive thoughts. You can even repeat a mantra in your head as you inhale, if you like. As you exhale imagine any energy blockages, frustrations, worries, fears, grievances, negative thoughts, etc. leaving your body and flowing off you into the water as it goes down the drain.

2:00 pm: Meditation or Prayer Session

Now that you’ve cleared your mind with breathing and visualization exercises while getting scrubbed off, you’re in a great place to enter into a session of meditation or prayer. Choose what feels most natural to you and allow yourself at least 15-20 minutes to dialogue with God or engage in the meditation of your choice. Even if you don’t consider yourself a very religious person, this is still something that I encourage. Regardless of religious affiliation, we are all spiritual beings with spiritual needs. You can use this time to explore anything you like or simply to engage in a practice of gratitude and reflection.

2:30 pm: Spend time journaling as an outlet for creativity, self expression, dialoging with God, practicing gratitude or dreaming of the future

Kentucky Counseling Center explains that journaling can benefit your mental health by helping you keep things in perspective and explore your emotions and thoughts. Here is a list of different kinds of writing they suggest:

  • Expressive Writing: Talk about the events or your experiences during the day (self-reflect, self-expression, or explore your thoughts and emotions).
  • Personal Planning Journal: This is a goal-setting type of journal. Reflect on your short-term and long-term goals. Formulate a realistic game plan on how to achieve them, and how to keep track of your progress.
  • Gratitude Journal: Write down the good things you’re grateful for and your life’s blessings.
  • Write a letter to yourself: Write down your achievements, address your self-doubt, how you can do better the next time, or how you can take care of your mental health.
  • Stress Management Journal: Write down and describe the stressful moments and emotions you’re going through. Think of the stress management techniques you can use.

These are all great options for journaling. I would also add creative writing to this list as well as writing a letter to God or the universe, or a letter you think God or the universe would write to you. See what happens as you dive deeper within!

 

 

3:30 pm: One hour or more of your activity of choice; music, drawing, more reading, afternoon walk, catching up with a friend on the phone, etc.

There’s no afternoon slump on your luxurious wellness retreat day! Use that tiresome late afternoon hour or so before dinner to enjoy something you seldom make time for but enjoy. Maybe you’re overdue to catch up with your best friend who is long distance or perhaps you love taking your dog for walks but never get the time to in the afternoon. Whatever you choose – music, painting, a puzzle, a nap – just enjoy without any pressure about outcomes.

6:00 pm: Cook or order yourself an INDULGENT dinner

You’ve eaten two healthy meals already so now it’s time to indulge! Cook or order in your favorite meal and toss any guilt you may have about its contents or calories to the side. Emotional eating is a healthy and natural thing, and when you allow yourself to pleasurably eat here and there without self-shaming then you’ll find greater satisfaction with your overall food choices. So, go ahead and get the juicy burger or pizza. Cook your favorite Italian dish or yummy tacos. Whatever sounds mouth watering! Feel free to imbibe in an adult beverage if you desire too, but for the sake of this being a day oriented around wellness, only have 1-2 drinks max so you can continue feeling your best.

 

7:30 pm: Movie Time!

What better way to wrap up your wellness day at home than with a movie? Pick out a fun sounding new flick to watch or curl up to a nostalgic film that’s a long-time favorite. Settle in on the couch and relax! After the movie, get to bed at a decent time so that your body can reap all the wonderful benefits of your day’s efforts while you sleep.

Congratulations for putting yourself first and being intentional with your wellness!


Optional Add-on Products for Your Wellness Retreat

(low to high cost) 

 

 

Dry Brushing Body Brush Set

$17.99

Dry brushing has been getting a lot of attention in the wellness realm over the last couple years and I know of many cancer survivors who do it regularly. According to Healthline, “Dry brushing is a type of Ayurvedic medicine that has been around for centuries. It’s believed to have many health benefits. Some of the benefits may include:

  • stimulating the lymphatic system
  • exfoliating the skin
  • helping the body rid itself of toxins
  • increasing circulation and energy
  • exfoliation
  • helping to break down cellulite”

Many people swear by dry brushing even though there isn’t a lot of data to back up the benefits of it. At the very least, you may find it relaxing and it’s unlikely to cause any harm. People with sensitive skin might want to speak to a doctor before trying it.

 

 

Tension Potion Aromatherapy Soy Candle

$22

Scent is closely linked to memory and mood, so when we stimulate our limbic system with aromatherapy candles and scents then we’re immediately tapping into a part of the brain that regulates emotions and can help us feel good. This Tension Potion Aromatherapy Soy Candle has a specific blend of essential oils to create high, medium and low notes in the fragrance. It’s complex but pleasing smell is sure to elicit a sense of calm on your at-home wellness retreat day.

 

 

KateandBelleCo Spa Care Package

$40

A close friend was the first person to get me a KateandBelleCo Spa Care Package last year when I lost a pregnancy and had emergency surgery. I was touched by the gesture but also surprised by how much I loved the products. Every scent was delightful (especially the bath salts) and I loved trying my first-ever shower steamer. I used the chapstick every day and it helped me take a deep breath each time. I also used the eye pillow at both cool and warm temperatures on my eyes and other aching body parts – to include my incision cite from surgery and extremely tense neck. It was so helpful! I have since gifted various versions of this set to friends. More options are on their Etsy site!

 

 

Pro Facial Steamer

$149 or 4 installments of $37.25

Some people are raving fans of facials. Personally, I don’t crave them quite like I do a good massage or pedicure. Nonetheless, this at-home facial steamer is a steal compared to the price of facials at a spa. Of course it doesn’t come with the scalp massage or face mask, but exfoliation through opening pores is one of the most essential things for clean and smooth skin. For the price of two facials you can have limitless access to this facial steamer in the comfort of your own home.

 

 

Infrared Sauna Blanket

$499 or 4 installments of $124.75

“All the celebrities are doing it!”

It’s true. This high ticket item is catching fire with those who can afford it. The Higher Dose Infrared Sauna Blanket is exactly as it sounds: an at-home sauna. The benefits of the infrared technology in the sauna blankets (think: giant adult sleep sack) include “deep relaxation, glowing skin, a mood boost, and better recovery.” Higher Dose’s clever tagline is “Get high naturally,” and they boast somewhat provocative marketing content on their Instagram handle. Their eye-catching strategy seems to be working because more and more people are slipping into these sacks and claiming they don’t want to return to the real world. If you’re a sauna junkie then this might be the best early birthday splurge ever.

 

Products or not, keep claiming your wellness! True well-being is free and already yours for the taking.

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

 

 

Meditation Counters the Negative Effects of Multitasking

Steve Jobs is a great example of the powerful benefits one can reap from daily meditation. Why? Well, because when Steve Jobs died at 56 his brain was only 27, thanks to daily meditation practice. (I highlighted these results back in my February newsletter.) By roughly the age of 45, symptoms of brain deterioration related to the aging process become apparent and measurable. Meditating for just 30 minutes a day can “reverse” the aging process of the brain, repairing cells and thickening areas associated with memory, emotional regulation, self-confidence, focus, empathy and more. In one study, these results were seen in as short as 8 weeks of regular meditation.

If that’s not fascinating enough, meditation can also help counter the negative effects many people experience from multitasking. Women are the ultimate multitasking pros who juggle work, home life, children, doctor appointments, cooking, social calendars and more, so this is especially compelling for us.

 

 

But wait, let’s backtrack for a second here…multitasking is a NEGATIVE thing?!?

That’s right, friends. This news stopped me mid-stride in one of my daily mental sprint sessions. I’m the queen bee of multitasking and I take pride in it! I juggle two young children as a stay-at-home mom, a daily breastfeeding schedule, part-time work squeezed into nap and late-at-night hours, and oh yea, self care…that ever-elusive concept. I literally sit down to nurse my baby with an agenda, my mind ramping up to full speed as I tackle 5 emails, respond to 3 texts and proofread an article…all in 15 minutes while nourishing a small human. I mean…yikes!!! Is anyone ELSE’s head going to explode? Mine sure is close…

 

It turns out that there are 3 different types of multitasking:

  1. Multitasking – attempting to do two or more tasks simultaneously
      • Ex: Computer work while making an unrelated phone call
  2. Switching costs – switching back and forth between tasks
      • Ex: Prepping dinner for children and running to the living room to keep toddlers entertained (because they just love to run into the kitchen the second it’s time to take something out of the hot oven)
  3. Attention residue – performing a number of tasks in rapid succession
      • Ex: The fast pace of western culture. End of story.

 

The Negative Consequences of Multitasking

According to Rescue Time, an app that “helps you understand the habits that make you productive,” multitasking leads to the following negative consequences:

  • Impacts short-term memory
  • Leads to increased anxiety
  • Inhibits creative thinking
  • Stops you from getting into a state of flow
  • Causes more mistakes and less productivity
  • Can drop your IQ by 10 points
  • Similar to losing a night of sleep

Okay, now it’s really clear that multitasking does harm to our minds and bodies! This is seriously such a game changer for me as a wellness blogger because I routinely wonder why I’m so exhausted at the end of every insanely busy day, even after a good night of rest and some healthy exercise in the morning. Anyone else feel like their *brain* needs some rest and rejuvenation? I can practically hear all the miscellaneous thoughts and agendas rattling around in my own as I write this, just waiting for me to give them attention. But this information really makes me pause and consider how I might approach each day a little differently. How about you?

 

 

Decision Fatigue

Multitasking is part of what makes moms so worn out because it “comes with a biological cost that ends up making us feel tired much more quickly than if we sustain attention on one thing.” This may be why women need on average 20 minutes more sleep each night than men. Another aspect of multitasking is that it leads to decision fatigue – that feeling that once you’ve made so many decisions in a single day you simply don’t have the energy to make another one. This is a real phenomenon!

An article from the New York Times states that “decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rustproof their new car. No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price.” This totally explains why I have a hard time making decisions after 5:00 pm. Anyone else in the same boat? I’ve used up all my decision making power right in time to cook a million different things for small humans with specific food needs, portions and cut-into-bite-size meals.

 

Different Types of Meditation

Still thinking about whether or not meditation is right for you? I have good news; there are lots of ways to meditate so it’s easy to find the right style for your personality and energy. There are four main methods that I will mention here:

  1. Body-Scan Meditation – scanning your body top to bottom and becoming aware of different sensations as they arise, one body part at a time, bringing your attention back to the practice when your mind wanders. This allows thoughts to stay in the background and breathing and relaxation to take the main stage.
  2.  Breathing Meditation – in traditional ashtanga yoga this is called pranayama or breathing practice. There are lots of ways to do this (I will try to write a whole article on it some day) but the most basic is slowing down the breathing and silently counting inhalations and exhalations while quieting the mind and refraining from judging one’s own thoughts.
  3. Observing-Thought Meditation – this is the same thing as what some call “mindfulness” meditation which allows for greater awareness of the nature of one’s own thoughts. It is sometimes done while picturing your thoughts as clouds passing or waves coming and going, acknowledging their temporary nature.
  4. Loving-Kindness Meditation – repeating positive phrases about oneself then applying those phrases to another person, then to a person who you are in conflict with, then to all of humanity.

For what it’s worth, my personal favorite is breathing meditation because it creates a rhythmic pattern that helps me better establish flow. I also enjoy switching the type of breathing exercise midway. It helps hold my attention while remaining calm and peaceful.

 

 

The Good Stuff: Meditation Resources

Meditating just a few times a week can prove beneficial if it helps you calm down. I’ve personally found that my morning “meditation” of sorts is to listen to the Bible and to do yoga or meditation a couple times a week, when I’m diligent (let’s be honest, not every week is “perfect”). Other times I pray for a few minutes or try to close my eyes and just clear my head for a second. The point is that you can approach meditation with flexibility and openness rather than stress over how to fit it into every single day. Allow yourself to grow and get there gradually. After all, there’s no rush.

Below is a list of different apps and websites that you can use to help you establish a routine with meditation.

  • Headspace – mindful approach to improved happiness, health and sleep
  • Meditation Studio – various meditations that are led in [what I consider] a psychologist/counselor style so great for people who want a lot of guidance and discussion of emotions
  • Stop Breathe & Think – short activities to tune into emotions, can even be used on Alexa
  • Calm – app for “mental fitness” and has option to use its services within the workplace/for a team
  • Ten Percent Happier – meditations by some of the world’s leading experts, book and podcast by the same name
  • Mindful.org – podcast with free body scans ranging from 3-25 minutes long
  • Audible – free with subscription; “Morning Meditations for Daily Magic” & “Rise & Shine Yoga Flows”

Last but not least, if you’d like to take your practice to the next level I suggest you consider a personal growth journey through Mindfulness Certification Training for Individuals and Coaches. My experience getting trained to become a yoga teacher was one of the foremost challenges of my life. Pushing yourself, even for a short while, to become disciplined in meditation can be life changing. My experience was over a decade ago and I’m still learning from it to this day.

If none of this sounds enticing then…

Just. Breathe.

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

 

 

Discovering God in Movement

I’ve discovered in my foolish efforts to move faster, through exercise and life, that happiness alludes me. The more I try to align my purpose with the values of this world (my image, finances, and outward success), the more spiritually depleted I become. The more my spirit suffers, the more my physical and emotional health precipitously decline. The inner parts of me [and you] are interconnected. That said, the best part of discovering my weaknesses is that I’ve witnessed an eternal strength of God, who serves as my backbone during the movement of life, even as I am spinning in its tornado. These are just a few examples to ponder, when my body and mind were swept away by the hurried pace of life, but my spirit was called back to place of staying grounded.

…There are different ideas about meditation. Common Eastern meditation practices are a way of clearing the mind and simultaneously opening it up to receive the eternal, energy, detachment from superficiality, whatever the specific practice or belief encourages. You probably find a lot of these meditative forms in yoga classes. As an exercise professional who teaches yoga, I’m well acquainted with them. The Christian view of meditation is fixing one’s mind on scripture or the way of God, and allowing that to guide one’s adoration and intentions. Some Christians believe Eastern forms of meditation are “corrupt” because they don’t focus specifically on God and thereby open the mind to “satanic” and Godless thoughts. Yes, I’m a Christian. But no, I don’t believe Eastern forms of meditation are corrupt. In fact, I have experienced the Spirit through both forms of meditation, and have seen firsthand how each has a positive and transforming power; how God can be in written words, in the stillness of opening one’s mind, and in the focus on eternity. God is omnipresent. I’ve also experienced spiritual growth through another, less-talked-about form of meditation: movement.

…It all started when I was in high school. Field hockey tryouts were every August, so the summer evenings were spent running the hilly road that my family’s house was on. As I ran up and down, one hill after the next and my heart racing, I felt like life tilted just enough to see it from the right angle. Juvenile worries faded and my mind wasn’t distracted by the whir of emotions that accompany teenage years. I felt like I was one with God, the universe, life. Some might call it a runner’s high and attribute it to endorphin hormones, but if you’ve experienced a similar spiritual experience then you know just as well as I do that it’s more. So much more.

My running became less routine during my first year of college. Evening runs were traded-in for “pre-gaming” frat parties or cramming for morning exams. I lived in a cloud of stress and under a haze of booze, wondering if my pre-law coursework was really taking me in the direction I was supposed to go with my career and life. After my first year of college came to a close, I resumed running that hilly route on summer evenings, even though making the field hockey team was a thing of the past. I pined for the feelings of connection to God that I experienced on those high school runs and hoped I could find Him again that summer. The faster I ran and the harder I tried to force it, the less I could see of that Great Spirit. I was devastated. Where did God go? Had I been abandoned?

One evening run, mulling over my directionless academic experience and dim prospects for personal happiness in practicing law, I hit a different cadence. Instead of running fast and furiously, I just ran steady. My breath matched my step and a rhythm established itself. With every exhale, my mind began to clear of the stress. With every few steps, I felt more calm and began a true communion with God, there in that moving meditation with my feet loud on the pavement but His words whispering softly to my mind. It was in that moment of moving meditation when I let go of the things of the world, the lies I was telling myself about what “success” should look like. In letting go, I fell seamlessly into a new purpose. I realized I wanted to help other people feel amazing in their bodies, like I did in that moment. I didn’t even know about the Exercise Physiology degree option at that point in time, but I understood I had to figure out a way to help people move and find freedom for their bodies and spirits. So, that’s what I did.

Since that day, when my entire future turned on an axle, I’ve found it surprisingly easy to connect with God via exercise. It’s been my favorite form of meditation. It’s in the other forms of life’s movement that being spiritually centered has been a challenge. The hurried movement from one deadline to the next, from email to email, and all the busy-busy stuff in between that takes up mind and heart space. But, I’ve found that even though its undeserved, God is still there amidst the distracted movement of life.

…It was my last walk-through of my post-college apartment in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, DC. My now-husband and I had just made the decision to begin our lives together. We were making engagement plans, picking out furniture, and feeling the initial butterflies of settling in together. I walked through the apartment and felt stale feelings prickling up. Memories of the sleepless, scared and lonely nights in that space caused my throat to tighten. I had lived there three years and almost every experience had been marked by extreme growing pains. Late nights panning through spiritual books, trying to understand how to approach the “real world” as myself. Afternoons collapsing into my bed to nap, my body inflamed and suffering, before waking up to go back to work for another evening shift of clients. I heaved a sigh of relief that I was finally moving on. As I finished sweeping the last room’s dust bunnies I remembered that I hadn’t swept my bedroom’s closets out. I walked to the back of the house, opened the glossy black closet doors and began sweeping. A faint clatter sound on the ground caught my attention. As I knelt to inspect, I discovered the top piece of a broken prayer box that I’d long forgotten about, laying in the heap of dust. Someone had been with me through all the tears and loneliness, even when my unintentional inclination was to leave Him hiding in the closet.  

…It was my last walk-through of our first apartment together before moving. We had just bought a town home that we were giddy about. As I walked through the apartment, I checked cabinets and corners, almost 100% certain that we had collected all our belongings, but the paranoid perfectionist in me beckoning one last inspection. I pulled back the mirrored closet door and looked through the now-empty space where clothes had formerly been stuffed on hangers. My heart caught in my chest. Again? On the opposite wall inside the closet hung a cross made from Popsicle sticks, one I had long forgotten about and hardly remembered hanging there. It was a gift from a friend I had made while working in Sedona, Arizona, the capital of “New Age” practices, as a personal trainer. That friend made the cross in prison, where he was now serving time for turning back to drugs after several decades of fighting to find freedom from them and enjoying brief reprieve that summer we met. When he sent me the cross, he included a note with the quote:

“Peace,

It does not mean to be in a place

where there is no noise, trouble

or hard work. It means to be in

the midst of those things and still

be calm in your heart.”

(unknown)

…It was a handful of months after moving into our new town home. When we bought the home, we were thrilled that there was a lot of green space in front of it – a unique find in the city, let alone just one block from public transportation. The green space reminded me of being back at my childhood home and made me feel more spiritually centered. When we did our first walk-through of the home after getting the keys (it was officially ours!), we videoed the empty rooms exclaiming over the things we loved and things we planned to change. I was walking in front of the camera, my husband filming me from behind, when I approached one of the front windows. “And this beautiful park!” I declared. “If anything ever happens to it, I’ll die.” I replayed that moment in my mind while standing in front of our home, tears streaming down my face as I looked at the spray-painted grass and miniature white flags butting up right next to our property. These marked where a construction company would soon excavate this slice of nature to carve out space for an underground garage and apartment building. I was devastated.

I was spouting my frustrations over the phone to my husband, regretting our decision to buy and worrying over what living with a crane over our heads would be like. He was calming me down and reassuring me that we were still going to love our home. My crying reduced to sniffles as he explained that this “misfortune” might be an asset for improving our home’s future sale price. As this thought sank in, I took another long look across the expanse of greenery before turning my attention down to the ground in front of our home. It was still a painful thought; that the green oasis would soon be destroyed. As I kicked my feet against some loose rocks and dirt, a cream color caught my eye. I reached down, thinking I would pluck a large rock out of our front planter. But what I unearthed was something unexpected. “Hold on, Casey…” I paused him mid-thought. What is this??

It was a miniature St. Joseph’s statue. I’m not Catholic so I didn’t know what this signified. After a little investigation, I learned St. Joseph is the patron saint of families and homes. Catholics bury the statue in gardens and yards to bless the sale or purchase of a home. I’m not sure if the former homeowners put it there for their sale of the home or to bless its buyers [us], but that home afforded us many happy experiences and a tenfold profit (from our modest down payment) when we sold it just five years later. I still have that statue in my bedside drawer, a selfish part of myself unwilling to part with it now.

…It was just a few months ago, my husband and I experiencing butterflies on the drive home from Richmond, VA where we had just walked through a home we felt excited about putting an offer on. Are we crazy for moving to a new city where we have no jobs? Are we uprooting our lives for no purpose? We were both voicing our doubts and worries out loud on that drive, even though both of our heartstrings were being pulled in favor of the home. As the waves of giddiness and nervousness passed over me, I looked upwards to the sky through the front window. The light that had been pouring in through the car windows suddenly seemed dim. I wondered if it was about to rain. As my eyes cast upwards, I saw that the entire sky was covered in billowy white clouds…except for one small patch of pure blue in the shape of a well-defined heart. I knew. While only caring about the future amid my busy plans, God was steadfastly with me in the present.

….

Whether I’ve been moving fast or slow, looking up or down, focusing on meditation or tripping through life absentmindedly, God has proven that He is always there. And when I realize that I’m more than the sum of my physical parts, thanks to something greater, it’s pretty awesome. It puts a bounce in my step as I hit the pavement for a good run.

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

Mindfulness; It’s Not Just for Celebrities

I’m pleased to introduce you to Sarah Pike, our contributor for today’s guest post! Sarah and I share a lot of the same passions – women’s health, writing, health technology, volunteering, and working with children. Please enjoy the wisdom she has to offer. We’re SO happy to welcome her to WellnessWinz! 

mindfulness  only takes a moment

One thing you won’t find in a typical list of healthy “do’s,” is the use of mindfulness/meditation practices.

Before you roll your eyes at another “out-there” quack extoling the virtues of meditation, know that I too was once one of those eye-rollers. It’s hard to understand the benefits of something as intangible and difficult to measure as mindfulness. But after hearing Oprah, Deepak Chopra, and Arianna Huffington preach about the difference it made in their lives, I started to pay attention.

After all, if such successful people are advocates of this practice, then maybe there’s something to it. These days everyone from Katy Perry to Kobe Bryant sing the praises of meditation and mindfulness practices. But I wasn’t one to simply take a celebrity’s word for it. Neuroscientists have proven that there are real, positive effects to engaging in meditation.

Beyond a sense of calm and general well-being, a group of neuroscientists from Harvard were able to measure improvement in learning, memory, emotion regulation, and sense of self. They found that regular mindfulness practices can actually change your brain and increase overall well-being and even improve quality of life.

practicing mindfulness

Meditation for Beginners

Testing the waters of meditation can be intimidating. I had images of sitting cross-legged for hours, chanting strange words while Eastern music played in the background. But mindfulness doesn’t require uncomfortable positions or unfamiliar words.

The main goal is to practice focusing on one thing at a time. Usually the easiest way to start is to pay attention to your breath. You can follow Huffington’s advice and start with just a few minutes, and then work up to longer durations as it feels more comfortable. If your mind tends to race with non-stop thoughts, you can use that to your advantage in meditation as well.

Instead of focusing on your breath, focus on your thoughts. When you catch your mind wandering, instead of getting caught up in each thought, simply let them go. Over time, this practice will help improve concentration and your ability to be present in the current moment.

10 apps for mindfulness

The Top 10 Apps to Improve Mindfulness

The good news is that you don’t have to jump into meditation all by yourself. If the thought of counting your breaths or figuring out how to let your random thoughts go is intimidating, try an app to help you get into a mindfulness routine. And, contrary to what you might think, using technology to help you meditate isn’t contradictory. In fact, it’s been found that there’s a correlation between connectivity and happiness.

Here are my 10 favorite apps to help jump-start your meditative life and get you on the road to feeling more holistic, healthy, and happy.

  1. Emojiary

If you’re not quite ready to sit quietly and breathe, this app can help you get into the general mindset of meditation, which is increased awareness of how you’re feeling at any point in time. This app checks in with you throughout the day and asks you how you’re feeling. All you have to do is pause, consider, and answer with the appropriate emoji—a great way to get your mindfulness practice started.

  1. Stop, Breathe & Think

This is the perfect app for beginners. The whole idea is to teach you how to meditate with customized programs that help you identify how you’re feeling before you start. It also tracks your progress over time and helps you easily expand and extend your mindfulness practices as your comfort with the process grows.

  1. Centered

Another great resource for beginners, Centered helps you manage stress and increase mindfulness with daily reminders and meditation timers. It even syncs with Apple Health to help you track all of your healthful activities in one, convenient place.

  1. Lotus Bud Mindfulness Bell

If you’re ready to expand your meditation practices, this app is a great tool. In order to bring mindfulness to all of your daily activities, the Lotus Bud Mindfulness Bell sends you reminders in the form of bell tones throughout the day. When you hear the bell, you are reminded to breathe, pause, and take in the current moment.

  1. Calm

For those whose meditation level is intermediate, Calm offers a variety of guided meditations lasting anywhere from two minutes to half an hour. If you have trouble falling or staying asleep, this app can also offer help to get you that restful night you’ve been craving.

  1. The Now

This app offers another great way to bring mindfulness into all of your daily practices. The goal is to help you live in the present moment. Using push notifications as cues, this app helps you remember to take in your environment, focus on what is currently happening, and look at people and situations with compassion and empathy.

  1. Athlete Minder

If you’re looking for a way to track the health of your mind, body, and spirit, this app might be your new best friend. Athlete Minder helps you keep track of your exercise habits and state of mind before, during, and after workouts. What you learn will let you make the right tweaks and changes to your routine to maximize the benefits.

  1. The Mindfulness Diet

Exercise isn’t the only aspect of your health routine that can benefit from mindfulness. This tool helps you add focus and awareness to your eating habits. And, thanks to helpful reminders, you will be encouraged to slow down and truly savor each bite.

  1. Guroo

For mindfulness pros, this app sends you random reminders to catch you off-guard and give you the chance to re-set your perspective throughout the day. Whether you need to knock their socks off in a presentation or be calm during a parent-teacher conference, this training app will help you fine-tune your mindfulness to make sure you’re at your best in every situation.

  1. Meditation Experience

This 21-day experience is designed for everyone. Whether you’re a beginner or have been meditating for years, this interactive program designed by Oprah and Deepak Chopra will quickly move you to a more tranquil state of mind.

With so many easy-to-use resources at your fingertips, now is the time to add meditation to your daily health regimen. Give one of these apps a try and see the difference a few minutes of mindfulness can make!

Thank you again, Sarah! I can’t wait to try a few of these out and I’m sure readers feel the same! Good luck being mindful, ladies! ~Maggie

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Contributor Bio:

Sarah Pike is a Community Outreach Coordinator for BusinessBee and a college writing instructor. When she’s not teaching or writing, she’s probably binge-watching RomComs on Netflix or planning her next vacation. She also enjoys following far too many celebrities than she should on Instagram. You can find Sarah on Twitter at @sarahzpike.

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