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We're all clear on what we're supposed to do in order to be happy. Get the right job. Check. The right partner. Check. The right house. Check. So how come so many of us get all this stuff (or come close enough) and still can't relax and enjoy our life?
What many of us are missing is peace of mind. Unfortunately (or fortunately) this is not something you can buy in the designer department at Neiman-Marcus or build from carefully chosen lumber from Home Depot. Peace of mind means we like ourselves and we like other people; we feel safe in the world and trust ourselves.
No one I've ever met lives in such a place all the time, but we can all live here more-and-more. This column explores some ways to do so.
There are more LGBT-friendly religions around to choose from than ever-before. Religion offers you a structure in which to pursue your inner peace. It also offers a community of fellow seekers. This is no small thing: to be part of a community seeking inner peace can be powerful. For some of us, this kind of structure may be a good fit, for others, it's too constricting. If you're looking for a community to support you and with whom you can share the highs and lows of a journey towards peace, a church, mosque, temple or religious community may be helpful.
Meditation has often been portrayed as some big mysterious thing. The truth is, meditating is about being quiet and listening to yourself. Period. Your thoughts can drive you crazy - have you noticed? Meditation is simple: the hard part is just slowing down enough to do it. There are lots of different ways to meditate and there are several LGBT-friendly meditation groups here in San Diego County you can check out. The real benefit of meditation - whatever type you try - is that it helps you slow down and see what you're thinking and what's going on with you internally. This greatly increases your access to feeling peaceful and contented more of the time.
Cognitive therapy and affirmations
In some ways, cognitive therapy and doing affirmations are similar: both help you experience more peace of mind by replacing disturbing thoughts with neutral or positive ones. A simple cognitive technique is "thought replacement": you notice your thoughts, stop thinking the destructive ones and replace them with neutral or positive ones. Saying affirmations is similar: you repeat positive thoughts so they gradually replace your old, habitual negative thoughts.
What is a spiritual path and what does it have to offer? Most of us start on a spiritual path because we want a way out of our misery...we're tired of suffering. We want happiness and peace of mind. Most of my clients on a spiritual path have some sort of structure that supports their process of questioning and discovery: they may meditate, pray, go on silent retreats, etc. One good place to start on your own path is a book like Jack Kornfield's "A Path with Heart" or Pema Chodron's "The Places That Scare You." Yoga, chi gong, gardening, hiking in nature and even good ole' psychotherapy can be components of a spiritual path.
Without asking the right questions, we may foolishly believe that our happiness lies in external events or people that we cannot control. To find peace of mind we need to do inner work: it's a journey into yourself. You have your whole life to enjoy this journey, so relax. It's like growing a flower: you plant a seed, water it, care for it and allow it to unfold in its own time, or you can get out there with a knife and try to force the flower petals to open faster. Peace of mind is the same way: we plant seeds of peace and contentment, water them with prayer, meditation and whatever nurtures us, and allow it to unfold. And, when we do the work, it will...
About the Author
Michael Kimmel is a psychotherapist in San Diego, Calif. His website Life Beyond Therapy assists individuals and couples in their continued growth and development.
Recently, we have felt these shifts at an emotional and mental level, but our bodies are moving through these challenges with us as well. When working with my clients and asking how they’re doing, the two words that come up most frequently right now are: stressed and tired. The long-term effects of stress can be extremely depleting for our bodies and our energy levels.
This information is for educational purposes only, please do your own research before incorporating new herbs into your life. Consult with your healthcare practitioner first, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, or taking any medications.
Fortunately, there is a whole class of herbs that are able to assist us in times like this! These herbs are called adaptogens. To be considered an adaptogen, an herb has to meet three criteria: it must be relatively non-harmful (meaning minimal potential side effects), it must help the body to resist stress, and it must have a normalizing effect on the body’s regulatory systems. Many adaptogens also have other associated potential benefits, but meeting those three criteria is the main benchmark.
A few examples of adaptogens, some of which you may have come across before, are ashwagandha, ginseng, rhodiola, holy basil, eleuthero, cordyceps mushroom, and schisandra. One note about ginseng is that it has been overharvested to the point where United Plant Savers lists it as an at-risk plant. Fortunately, there are so many others to choose from! Today I’ll focus on two of my current favorite adaptogens to work with: holy basil and schisandra.
Holy basil, also often called tulsi, makes a lovely cup of tea and can also be worked with as a tincture or even in your cooking. It has a spicier, peppery flavor compared to the sweet basils we are used to in pestos, and I love to add it to stir fries or soups. It’s easy to grow and has beautiful purple flowers that the pollinators in your garden will thank you for. Besides being an adaptogen, I have also found holy basil to be a great plant ally to turn to when I’m feeling a bit blue and need a boost. It always has a light, uplifting effect on my mood. It’s also helpful for digestive troubles, and pairs well with other herbs such as lemon balm and ginger to settle one’s stomach.Schisandra has berries that are referred to as the Five Flavor Fruit because they are thought to taste sweet, bitter, salty, pungent, and sour - all at the same time. These berries are most commonly found for sale in a dried form, but the plant is a hardy perennial if you are interested in experimenting with growing your own. I like schisandra as a little boost when I am feeling low-energy and need some help to make it through the week.
Schisandra’s berries can be chewed and eaten as is (herbalist Katja Swift talks about eating ten berries per day for one hundred days as she feels schisandra helps her cope with her sugar cravings) or they make a yummy addition to your herbal tea blend. Another fun way to bring schisandra into your life is by infusing a few ounces of the dried berries into a bottle of wine for a week or two, then strain out and enjoy. This is best done with a sweeter wine to complement the sourness of the berries.
If you’re interested in diving deeper into this topic, David Winston’s book Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief is an excellent resource. And perhaps you can enjoy a delicious cup of holy basil tea as you read!
About the Author
Sara Schuster is a community herbalist and medicinal herb farmer. You can find her classes, podcasts, and herbal products at FoxandElder.com.
Many of us have made resolutions and pledged ourselves to transforming some aspect, or aspects, of our lives. For some, these resolutions will involve career, budget, home ownership, etc., but for a LOT of us, they will involve various health, exercise and fitness goals.
Often, these resolutions are vague, like “lose weight” or “exercise more”, and way too often they begin with a gym contract and end with Netflix and a bag of takeout. Getting specific can help in holding yourself accountable for these commitments, though. So we thought it might be interesting to talk with a local gay trainer, James Mai, about his fitness journey, his work as a trainer and how he keeps himself motivated, and get some of his suggestions for carrying through on this year’s fitness resolutions!
Mai said he hasn’t always been athletic, though he was thin. “I have not always been athletic. I danced a bit in college but never lifted a weight. I was what you call ‘skinny fat’ and I didn't know any different. I only started truly working out three years ago, when I started in the entertainment industry.”
The motivation to get into better shape was work. “Fitness was a byproduct of having to keep up my looks for castings,” he explained. “I found a love for training because everyone is on a different path, but I knew that I enjoyed being on that journey to help others get to be their more confident selves.”
Training, of course, keeps Mai in the gym, and helping others reach their goals keeps him motivated. He trains at Barry’s Bootcamp in Nashville, and he’s clearly passionate about his workplace.
“Barry's Bootcamp has been my family for the past 3 years!” Mai said. “There is a community of people that come together and actually encompasses what a fit family truly is.”
Barry’s describes its gym as “the room where everything becomes possible. Where you push through the ‘I can’t’s’ and ‘If Only’s.’ Where you run faster, lift more, lean out, quiet down. This is what transformation looks like. Where you become the best version of yourself.”
“The workout itself is designed for efficiency. The intervals and strength training combinations are proven to lean and tone your body. This isn’t a fitness trend. It’s just science. And it works,” the company says. “Then there’s the ‘thing’ that happens when the doors close, lights dim, and music turns up. There’s a palpable energy in the room that pushes you one step further. It’s the soul, body, brain revolution that’s uniquely Barry’s.”
Mai’s commitment to health continues outside the gym, though. “Outside the gym, I love dancing, and you can see me taking classes at DancEast to brush up on my technique or out and about just jamming to music. Dance is a great way to move your body and a cardio workout, if you are really get into it.”
It’s not all about what you do with your body: what you put into it matters as well. “Diet is a huge part of getting results that you want, in addition to time at the gym,” Mai explained. “I meal prep every week, so that I know what goes into my body and I can monitor the macros that I am consuming each day. There are plenty recipes and information about meal prep options to help you reach yours goals. Check it out, test it out, and choose what you like and don't like.”
Mai also doesn’t do something that might be a hard habit to break for some of us: “I also don't drink, so that helps keep off those unwanted calories that I don't need!”
Asked for some strategies he’d suggest for people looking to get healthier and keep those New Years resolutions, especially those of us out of practice or new to trying to get in shape, Mai offered the following:
Try to exercise every day.Be active, whether it's a simple walk or run, bike ride, dance class, yoga, or swim. Daily exercise builds adrenaline, endorphins, pheromones, and testosterone—which are ingredients for the perfect healthy addiction. Once exercise becomes a daily habit, you will miss it if something gets in the way.
Get a workout buddy.Friends don't let friends down. With a friend, you can hold each other accountable and keep that motivation intact. Try a new studio together, take a class together, and laugh and share the joy of your journey together.
Vary your diet.Most people will eat the same thing every time, given the option. Think about how what you eat powers you through your activities. There are many types of diets out there. From keto or whole 30, paleo to low carb, research and try out what works for you. Even gradually incorporating aspects of these diets can help you towards your goals.
Get more sleep.Take naps, go to bed earlier, and give yourself more time to rest. Sleep volume is directly correlated to physical and mental health.
Focus on yourself and your feelings.Often, people strive to lose weight or make muscle gains and focus on the scale to see their progress. Making change takes time and is not immediate. Instead of focusing on the numbers right away, focus on how you feel after a workout: strong after a lifting exercise, energized after cardio, or relaxed and connected after a yoga session. By focusing on how you feel rather than the scale, you are more inclined to stay motivated on your fitness journey.
Mai also had some suggestions for incorporating health goals into daily life. “Being healthy is comprised of many parts: Mentally, physically, and emotionally. Filling these capacities takes time and needs attention and care. At the end of the day, you are working on living your best life, and, by living a healthy life, you impact not only how you feel but also how others feel around you.
“Mentally,” he explained, means “Keep learning. Feed your mind and continue to grow. Workout your mind and allow it to keep you informed and motivated. Eat well. Drink sensibly. Take a break from social media, because the perceptions versus the realities of posts on social media can mess with your emotions and how you think. Allow yourself to connect mind, body and soul.”
“Physically, working out and exercising allows you to get to your best self. Like Elle Woods says in Legally Blonde, ‘Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don't shoot their husbands, they just don't.”
“And emotionally, how you feel about yourself feeds into how you perform. If you look in the mirror and you don't like how you look, you are less likely to want to go out and have a good time,” he added. “By emotionally feeding yourself positivity, you are creating a more well-rounded version of yourself. Every time you look in the mirror, tell yourself ‘I'm beautiful and worthy.’ These words of affirmation to yourself may seem silly, but are crucial to your health. Start believing that you are beautiful and worthy and that positivity will take strives in your life.”
For more information on Mai’s gym, visit barrysbootcamp.com.
After the last 2 years of dealing with the pandemic and packing on those COVID pounds here are some motivational quotes that can be the spark plugs to our wellness engines. You can have a full tank of gas, a clean carburetor, all the fluids topped off, and 300 horsepower of Detroit’s finest under the hood, but you’re going nowhere without that initial spark. In your quest for well-being, you need a catalyst to move you from idle to ideal. Here are some motivational jolts to inspire you to get your health and fitness vehicle moving.
Make time for exercise each dayPhoto by Victor Freitas on Unsplash
Thomas Paine said, “The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” You will have conflicts with making time for exercise each day. The treadmill will conflict with your enjoyment of the living-room couch and its fluffy pillows. Your body will engage in conflict with dumbbells and exercise balls as it seeks better health. Embrace these conflicts with excitement, and walk through the smoke and fire. Triumph is waiting on the other side.
Marathon runnersPhoto by Miguel A. Amutio on Unsplash
John F. Kennedy said, “Things do not happen. Things are made to happen.” The firefighter’s 55-pound weight loss did not just happen one day on a call. The computer programmer’s success in the Chicago Marathon did not just happen on a Sunday in October. The 4th grade teacher’s significant drop in cholesterol level did not just happen the day before spring break. These people made things happen…and it took time.
Ralph Marston of The Daily Motivator website, wrote, “What you do today can improve all your tomorrows.” Let today be the first day in 28 years without a cigarette. Stay an extra five minutes on the recumbent bike at the gym today. Start training today for the three-day breast cancer walk that is scheduled for the fall. Tomorrow is always waiting to see what you put in your piggy bank today. Invest wisely and watch the dividends grow.
Full MoonPhoto by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash
Jill McLemore once said, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you will land amongst the stars.” Set that goal to trim 75 pounds from your body. Only losing 42 pounds puts you way out there with the North Star. Aim to run 750 miles this year. Coming up 68 miles short will still put you past that former planet Pluto and on your way to the Orion constellation. Dropping eight waist sizes by Christmas instead of the projected 10 will let you glow with the luminescence of several brilliant wonders in the sky. By the way, I think there’s a full moon tonight!
Zig Ziglar stated, “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” Tom Cruise was another aspiring pretty face in Hollywood about 30 years ago before starting to audition for parts in TV shows. Jared Fogle was a morbidly obese college student at Indiana University in the 1990s before beginning his Subway diet. Mark Zuckerberg was just another starry-eyed Ivy Leaguer until he began to implement a social network idea. They all have that common bond: They started something.
These motivational quotes should help get your wellness engine running and once your car is started there’s no telling where your health and fitness can go. Don't forget to end me a postcard when you get there!
This health and fitness article is brought to you by that guy who’s sneaky like a black hole and bright like a nebula. My name is Ron Blake and I can be found playing with my telescope at email@example.com.