Tip Tuesday: Don't Let Thoughts Control You

Sometimes we can become consumed by thoughts. With our brains on nearly the entirety of our lives we have lots and lots to sift through. A study by the National Science Foundation estimates that humans have between 12,000 and 50,000 thoughts per day. It's hard to believe it's that many! But with all thought thoughts flowing through our heads, many of them unwelcome at any given time, it becomes difficult to focus at the task at hand or tougher, relax our mind completely. 

Some people really struggle with an influx of negative thoughts. And even positive people sometimes have a hard time pushing negative thoughts from their mind. When there comes a time that you want to become less consumed by the thoughts that are difficult to you or you want to relax your mind try these tips I've gathered from various sources. 

I recently began listening to a new podcast from NPR called Invisiblia. In one particular episode a man had become overcome by strange and unwelcome thoughts of killing his wife. In the show this man began working with a therapist that did a specific visualization exercise with him. She pulled out a book that she used as a physical representation of peoples' negative thoughts.  She explained that many people hold negative thoughts as the primary focus of their attention. She held a book to her clients forehead. After it was enough time to feel uncomfortable by thisthe therapist then moved the book to her clients lap. She explained that the thoughts were still there, they just were no longer the focus of attention. Give this a try yourself. 

What meditation is, is just learning how to displace thoughts so that they do not control you. This leads me to bringing Eckhart Tolle into this Tip Tuesday. I recently listened to a meditation of his which encouraged you to be aware of the thoughts flowing into your head, but if they are not useful at that time, just let them float on by. You may acknowledge that the thought was indeed there, don't try to fight it, just don't let your mind latch onto it.

I think so many people identify so much with their thoughts that when they have undesirable ones, they may feel negatively upon themselves. But as the Invisibilia podcast explains our thought are not us. There is no good reason to focus on the bad ones.

Listen to the full Invisibilia episode here.
Try the Eckhart Tolle meditation here.

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Life List Item #3: Visit a Desert

Usually on a day when I know I am checking off something from my life list, I get very excited. In this particular case, for whatever reason I didn't even realize I was checking something off until I was in the thick of it. 

Recently I took a short, but very full trip to San Diego, CA to visit my friend Tav. We decided we wanted to visit Joshua Tree National Park, a three hour drive from San Diego. We rented our car, packed some groceries and camping gear, and heading out.  Now I don't get to national parks often so I was excited at this possibility. I didn't know what else to expect besides a lot of Joshua trees, so everything that came my way were perfectly  executed unknown surprises. 

We planned on camping in one of the many camp grounds available in the  1,200 square mile park. We didn't realize we were entering the busiest time in Joshua Tree, so we entered completely full campgrounds. We found out that back country camping was available, but it meant a 1.5 mile hike off the road and no fires. Tav and I took the hike to the back country sites just to check it out and decided we would try to find some  people to share a fire with in one of the other campgrounds before turning in for the night. 

After hiking around some more and exploring the park we entered a group campsite. There were large plots meant to accommodate several tents in a group. Plus there were large fire pits for large group fires.  We parked our car and first approached a young couple who had just moved back to America from France. After pitching our tent and a quick rest we joined them for some homemade vanilla rum  and a camping version of darts. They were really open and genuine people. The four of us then journeyed to the larger campsite nearby where a group of about 10-15 twenty-somethings were camping together. They were all friends from San Diego. They were a warm and welcoming bunch and soon enough our entire eclectic group became one cohesive blend of people from all over. We all connected so naturally having so much fun talking laughing, joking, eating, drinking, and telling scary stories. I was on cloud nine, wrapped in a moment that had everything needed to put me in a perfect state of bliss. When we said good bye to our friends we headed to our tent and spent the night nearby. In the morning we joined our friends for breakfast then headed off on a short hike up Ryan Mountain. 

You may be wondering where the life list part comes in. Suddenly I realized I was in a desert and that I was getting something on my life list. One of the times that this was actually unplanned. Or at least a time when I just got busy living life and didn't worry about fulfilling a goal.

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Tip Tuesday: 5 Ways to Eat Less Sugar

We are unfortunately eating way too much sugar. Don't eat lots of sweets you say? Even if you are not gulping large pops or taking a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down, you are likely getting much more sugar than you need. 

Frighteningly  sugar is hiding in mostly everything we eat.  Yogurt, pasta sauce, granola bars, you name it. What may seem healthy has way too much extra sugar. When food companies remove fat and calories, they add sugar because otherwise we wouldn't buy that stuff. We are only recommended to get an additional 9 teaspoons of sugar for me and 6 for women. However, on average Americans take in about 22 extra teaspoons of sugar per day. Over a period of time this once sweet treat, is beginning to kill us. 

And with that morbid thought in mind I leave you with a few tips from Time Magazine to reduce your sugar intake. Also please do not be fooled by all the names sugar can hide under, sucrose, dextrose, lactose, high fructose corn syrup.  Many of those man made sugar substitutes are not any better for you, do not fall victim to that.

1. Nix sugary drinks. Pop, fruit juices, flavored teas, energy drinks, are all a huge source of sugar. Besides from tasting good for a few minutes this beverages are doing nothing for us. They give very little or no nutrition and they very easily will pack on weight. They are also very addicting. With so much sugar intake our brains begin to crave it all the time. 

2. Look for hidden sources of sugar.  Make sure when you are reading food labels your eyes are scanning the entire thing. Even if something is not sweet, there very well be lots of sugar in it. Eating a nice healthy granola bar may be giving you close to your full days sugar allowance. When you are making food choices, take the amount of sugar into consideration too. 

3. Buy plain foods and sweeten them yourself. This is a big one for me. I tend to like to buy plain yogurt and oatmeal and sweeten them with some honey or maple syrup. These are both more natural sources of sugar and I am also controlling how much goes in. Sweeten plain water with some fruit or cucumber. 

4. Limit sugary treats to once or twice a week. We all know what we will still crave a brownie or a Snickers once in a while. In our society it's unrealistic to think that we can be strong all the time when we are literally bombarded by sweet snacks in every store we enter. If you try these above tips and get good at them, this last one will be okay for you to do once in a while. 

If you have some time and care more about this subject, take a look at the documentary Fed Up about our increasing problem with sugar. It can be viewed online here.

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Tip Tuesday: A Healthy Spine

"You're only as young as your spine is flexible." This is quoted by Joseph Pilates and other gurus throughout the years. Recently I watched my mom go through having a herniated disk and watching something like that really makes me want to ensure I have good spinal health. Your spine connects with many other crucial bones, muscles, nerves, and ligaments so keeping a healthy foundation can prevent injury later and keep you moving well.

One of the ways to keep your spine healthy and to keep your back feeling good is to do these few stretches daily. Once you get into a habit your body will really crave these stretches at the end of the day. Remember to treat your spine with the utmost care. 

1. Cat/cow
 Try your best to synchronize your breath with movement here.

2. Lying spinal twist. 

You may do this with both knees bent or as pictured above. Try to direct your inhalation to you lower back while doing this.

3. Cobra 
Start by just pushing yourself up gradually and you may work up to however far is feels good to stretch.

These are just a few stretches to get you started to a great feeling spine. As always be gentle at first, move slowly, and remember to breathe.

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Tip Tuesday: How to Not Spread Yourself Too Thin

In light of my day today I felt compelled to share these tips. There are some times that I feel I've taken on too much. But there are also many times that I purposefully do not take on too much in order to prevent burnout. There is so many things to be done in a day, so many choices, and so many people. But my advice is to not spread yourself too thin, I think we all are trying to prevent that. Some are better at it than others, but some just want to do everything and be everywhere. Take these tips from me, to not let this happen to you. 

1. Be selfish. Many people get over committed because they are  people pleasers.  If someone ask for your help and you are a kind person you want to be of service to them. But realize that you can't help everyone, you have your own things going on, and there are only so many hours in the day. 

2. Realize the consequences of over committing. The last thing you want is to get so over committed to so many things that you find yourself having to pull out of your commitments. If you were to get overwhelmed at what you have going on, while healthy for you, pulling back could be hard on those you had already committed to. 

3. Know what your priorities are. If you know you love working with youth, volunteering with a youth organization may be a lengthy enough commitment. You may get opportunities to volunteer in areas that you aren't quite so passionate about so keep in mind the things that you love when making your choices.Your don't have that much free time and you can't do everything, so you have to pick and choose.

4. Keep in mind the commitments that you can't back out of. Your personal time, health, job, and family already require a lot of time from you. These are generally things that could suffer when committing yourself to other things. Make sure you are not making too big of sacrifices for things that are important to you. 

5. Be okay with saying no. When someone asks you to be a part of something sometimes you don't want to let them down. It's even difficult to say no to their face. Phrases like "I respectfully decline" or "I can't take on any more right now" can help to let the person down nicely. Not to make excuses, but help them to genuinely understand why you can't commit. It's not a crime to say no, and its not a crime to think of yourself when being careful not to stretch yourself too thin. When you think about it you are actually doing yourself and them a disservice if you commit but can't give your all. 

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