Today I was listening to an interview of Dr. Frank Lipman. If you don't know about him, you can read more here. He put out a book last year, How to Be Well, which I intend to read ASAP. (You'll learn soon enough that I'm a bit of a wellness book junkie and have been for decades.) In the interview he said, "The small ordinary actions we take on a daily basis, or our habits that we perform daily, have extraordinary healing effects." He went on to list some of those things most of us take for granted, that he believes have really important health effects: walking in the forest, walking barefoot on the beach, being kind to others, practicing gratitude, listening to music, having a pet. Daily actions. "It's not just about a low sugar diet, and going to the gym, and sleeping well, which are all very important, but it's those other little things that people don't associate with health, which are hugely beneficial." Wow. Yes.
My aunt used to say that she could just put her face against a horse, just take in that warm smell, and it would do wonders for her. It must be genetic . . . there was a time in my life when I was under tremendous strain, but by all outward appearances, I was the healthiest girl around. I was on the phone with my father, and I was in this hurricane of anxiety that I just couldn't see my way out of. I was sitting in my car as we talked, and he knew I was at the barn because my daughter had a riding lesson. All of a sudden, he just cut me short (my father never cuts me short, which is saying a lot because I'm a talker), and said, "Nicole, I think you need to hang up and go for a ride. I think this is really important." I argued that it was too late, the lesson was almost over, I had been crying and looked awful, etc., but he insisted. And what that did was INTERRUPT that stress response. The stressors were still there, but by walking away from it and getting outside and connecting with life - of the animals, my daughter, the grass, the air, the insects humming - I was able to derail for a while what that stress response was doing to my health.
It does not have to be a horse. Sometimes I just step out onto my postage stamp of a front yard in my bare feet. Sometimes I lie down with one of the kids on the couch and watch The Loud House with them, or I'll ask my son to play the piano. He doesn't know that's why I'm asking (although, he probably knows why now). It also doesn't have to be about a specific stressor. Even the "little" daily stressors can accumulate and settle into our bodies, sending signals to our brains that result in a whole host of issues, from poor digestion to inflammation to hormone imbalances: text notifications and emails piling up and the to-do list and work and money and traffic and environmental toxins. The list goes on. We are emotionally, physically and spiritually bombarded almost constantly. But if we can establish some of those daily habits Dr. Lipman was talking about, a walk outside, a show of kindness, a moment of gratitude, snuggling up with a person or a pet, he's right . . . it can have tremendous effects on our wellbeing.
By the way, that's our rabbit Clover up there. He's the greatest rabbit of all time. He loves his people, and we adore him. He's very good at interrupting the human stress response.
It took me about thirty years to figure out something I heard articulated so well in one of my courses last week: there's baggage around the word EXERCISE. "You should exercise." "I don't have time to exercise." "I really need to exercise more." And here's the thing. I don't like the gym. I really wish I did. I want to like the gym. I've tried mixing things up a little: the treadmill, the bikes, elliptical trainers, lifting weights, swimming, different classes. Some things are more fun than others, but when I'm at the gym, I'm pretty much counting the minutes until I can leave. Running is the same way (I can't run anymore for reasons I'll get into another time). It does release stress, it does help me fit into the clothes I like to wear, but I pretty much can't wait for it to be over.
MOVING your body, on the other hand, is fun. And easier than you think. I too was brainwashed for a while into thinking if it was really that much fun, you must not be working hard enough. No pain, no gain, right? A few years ago, I started riding horses. I became really good friends with a woman at the barn who was a more advanced rider. She broke her foot (not riding horses, by the way) and had to take a few months off. By the time she was back at the barn, she was complaining that she'd gotten out of shape, that the break from riding had left her core and legs weak. I rolled my eyes on the inside, because I thought, there's no way that's a workout. Turns out I was wrong. And I can't believe it's a workout because it is SO MUCH FUN. You know what else makes me stronger and gets my heart beating? Lugging the bales of hay out to the paddock to feed the horses. Carrying buckets of water and feed to their stalls. Shoveling and raking the ring. And on top of all that "exercise," the sounds and smells of the barn are just flat out good for my soul.
I also started cycling about a year ago with my husband. There's a good story behind that also, but my point is . . . that is a SERIOUS workout and I still LOVE it. I feel incredibly powerful on a bike. I was really nervous at first, especially when we were on roads. Also I fell over a lot when I got those pedals that you clip your shoes into. But now I'm addicted.
You may think horses stink (they do) and biking seems like a fair amount of trouble (sometimes it is), maybe the gym really IS your scene. But the takeaway here is, you don't have to have a dedicated hour in an official workout place with your fitness band/watch telling you your heart is in the fat burning zone (I came of age in the 80s, it was ALL ABOUT the fat burning zone). Just MOVE. Even if it's for a little bit. I sat at this computer for six hours yesterday working on the web site and attending classes, so when I took my middle guy to his piano lesson, I took a walk around his piano teacher's neighborhood for a half hour. It was gorgeous. The "computer kink" came right out of my neck.
Try new things. You might not like them. Keep trying, you'll find something you do, and in the process, you just might surprise yourself. Take the kids for a walk after dinner (I do this a lot in an attempt to wear my daughter out). Play outside with them. Find an adult league for a sport you used to love. Swim with the kids in the pool this summer, have races to see who can swim 25 meters first. Jump on that bike. Dance! If you're moving, you're getting healthier, you're managing stress and you might even be connecting with that teenager that hasn't spoken in 48 hours.
May 15, 2019
Here's the story behind those pictures you saw on the "About" page. If you follow me on social media, you already know this. As I sifted through photos to find a profile pic for Facebook and Instagram, I started to think about what wellness looks like. It's different for everybody (and every BODY). For me, it’s not about kale chips and the gym. It’s about balance, God, family and friends, moving my body, cheering on the people I love, eating healthy food, sometimes eating that slice of chocolate cake (I'm also a BAKER, for heaven's sake!) or having a glass of wine, being outdoors, being attentive to my body’s wisdom and intentional about my time, and learning from those times when I’m not. For you, it’s a whole different list of things.
A coach isn't your doctor or nutritionist. I'm not here to assess, diagnose and prescribe. I'm here to help you transform your mind set and build new habits to live your best life. And that's not always (or even necessarily) about food. It can be about fitness, stress management, mental health, connection, spiritual well-being . . . so many things. So that's what those pictures up there are about. The giant mushroom. Eating vegetables but also having a treat every now and then. Being around animals, and touching a horse every chance I get. Cheering on my swimmer and my lacrosse player and my piano player and my ice skater. Connecting with my husband, learning a new skill, overcoming physical challenges, laughing at myself. Making mistakes, asking for and granting forgiveness, and trying to keep my heart open. Life is a tapestry: can we accept and embrace every part of it? Because that might be the very first step to health and wellness.