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Today we're obsessed with secrets.  The secrets to weight loss, good parenting, and how to be happy and free.  Sure, success tips are helpful and an interest in learning more is an asset, but from what I’ve drawn from my experience is that these “secrets” lie within yourself, not a magazine article, blog, or the newest self-help book.  

Working in the health and wellness field, I see a lot of people during stressful times in their lives.  The process of healing (mentally and physically) has always intrigued me, and let’s face it, success is just a product of being able to heal yourself really well on a regular basis.  From what I’ve heard from patients and clients, it seems as if a lot of us have been conditioned to believe that success (whatever that means to you- making six figures or simply not losing your patience with your kid for one day) requires risk and sacrifice.  Risk and sacrifice are often associated with uncomfortable feelings, which I believe is at the center of why we get stuck in mediocre.  

Awareness is a powerful thing.  Being aware means giving something attention without judgement or denial.  Awareness can also be a scary place.  However,  the fear is necessary in order to be successful, as long as you act on it in a productive way.  I've sat with people when they've had those “aha moments” and what I usually see is some satisfaction coupled with a good dose of fear.  That’s because once you get to this point, you know you're at a fork in the road.  You can stay with what’s comfortable (and obviously not working for you), or you can take the other route.  The other route is harder and riskier.  It's also more exciting, liberating, and is the way to joy, freedom, and complete fulfillment.  

Successful people have many things in common, and they have nothing to do with race, age, or socioeconomic status.  I’ve heard many times that becoming successful has to do with luck or how privileged you were growing up.  For those who honestly earn their joyful lives, it's not because of random acts or luck.  It's in how they react to feedback, their perceptions, and their ability to productively deal with failure, because failure is inevitable.  The good news is you don’t have to let it control your outcome; you just have to embrace it and use it for what it’s good for-growth.   

To understand why we react the way we do to success and failure, we must first understand our physiological response to these events and how we're taught to respond to them.  According to Susan Babbel, Ph.D., M.F.T., a Somatic Psychology expert, the way we react to success is extremely complex and based on many physiological and psychological factors.  She notes that the excitement of success can feel very similar to the anxiety of experiencing failure or even post-traumatic events.  Our heart rate goes up, breath rate goes up, we get sweaty, and there is a surge of adrenaline.  This is exactly the point where some of us bail and some of us push on.  I'm truly grateful to be there with clients when they decide to push on.  I see the fear, but  also the excitement of finally facing those fears.  Sometimes all it takes is an extended hand and someone to say “walk with me and you'll be okay.”

There are three things I believe to be crucial first steps towards being able to direct yourself towards true success.  They are all based upon the ability to identify signals from your body and mind and use them as a guide.  We tend to get stuck in our minds and paralyzed by the anxiety of “what might happen,” but the saying “listen to your gut” has some validity to it. 

Try getting started with these easy and simple ways towards creating a flawless navigation system for the fast track to that effortless joy we all want.  

1. Practice identifying the signals from your body- this happens in many forms such as meditation or quiet time, listening to music, yoga, exercise, or any other spiritual ritual that allows you to check out from external distraction.  Take notes in a journal about what you're experiencing.  What does it feel like in your physical body?  When is it most challenging to manage these feelings?  What are your thoughts associated with these feelings?

2. Set boundaries and say “no”- overwhelm is a biggie for pulling away from potential success.  If we think we can be super-mom or super-dad and do it all, overwhelm will eventually sink in.  This will be challenging if you're a people-pleaser and get uncomfortable when you're not tending to others.  Start small by making a list of daily activities or chores you can ditch without totally freaking out.  I can let the laundry go for a few days, but if the dishes sit, I freak out.  By dropping some of the load, you'll decrease the anxiety of overwhelm and make room for growth and joy.

3. Become an expert at putting yourself out there and letting go- This will be harder for all you planners and analytical folks.  I found this step to be the hardest because I grew up with an anxious family.  When someone got upset, something bad happened.  I always felt the need to develop control over the outcome so I wouldn’t have to worry about “what might happen.”  In reality, the “what if's” usually don't happen, but the pathways to fear get created nonetheless.  It’s a scary thing to put yourself out there because you risk criticism.  Criticsm is bound to happen, so they key is to coach yourself on how to accept that it regardless of how good of a job you do.  Try to look at it as feedback or information.  It says more about the person giving it than it does about you, so don’t take it too personally.  Ask yourself what you could do better next time and give yourself a pat on the back for taking the risk in the first place!

I love to see people thrive by changing nutrition and lifestyle habits.  Like the research points out, how we react to success and failure is very complex.  It may be helpful to seek professional guidance as you work through things and that’s okay.  The best decision you can make is to take that first step and dive right in.  Once you experience the feeling of optimal health, you won’t ever want to go back!  

When you're ready to dive in and end the cycle of self-sabotage so you can become truly successful and content, consider meeting with me for a FREE 30 MINUTE CONSULTATION. I'd love to hear about your dreams and create a concrete action plan for how we can make them reality. You can schedule a consultation with me HERE. 

Shawn Clavelle earned her bachelor’s degree in Nursing from the University of Vermont. She earned her certification in Holistic Health Coaching from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and is also a Certified Yoga Instructor at Willow Tree Wellness & Counseling. Shawn’s vast clinical experience and knowledge of the healthcare system makes her proficient at helping others design their own treatment plan through structured goal setting and continuous evaluation of progress. Using a holistic approach with a focus on nutrition and fitness, she helps uncover the obstacles to good health and provides simple options for making better lifestyle choices.

 

The mind is like a puppy; it likes to wander. And when it’s allowed to wander, it gets into lots of trouble. If you don’t train a puppy to follow your command, he’ll do what he wants, when he wants, and how he wants. Your mind will too. If you aren’t in control of your mind, you’re mind is in control of you…and this is a very. bad. thing. 

 

When the mind is left to it’s own devices, without our true selves being in charge, it will automatically gravitate toward the negative, ruminate on the past, obsess over the future, and tell irrational stories disguised as the truth. The mind is a brilliant tool and can do incredible things when we use it as such. We can use the mind to problem solve, analyze complex situations, make important decisions, and create cutting edge innovations. But we must know when to calm our minds down and put them to rest. Here’s an example of what I mean:

 

Say you want to hang a picture on the wall. You grab a hammer from your tool box and use it to drive the nails into the wall. Then you put the hammer away. The mind should be used in this way too; it should be used as a tool and then set down when the job is completed. However, we often don’t use our minds like this. We allow our minds to be engaged ALL THE TIME! It’s like carrying around that hammer and randomly hitting walls with it, even after we’ve hung the picture.  It’s completely useless and sometimes destructive. If we don’t “put our minds back in the tool box”, we can experience that same type of destruction in our own lives. The mind can work against us if we let it. And if our mind isn’t “trained”, it will get into just as much trouble as that untrained puppy. 

 

FEAR. WORRY. ANXIETY. DEPRESSION. ANGER. OVERANALYZING. RUMINATING. REGRET. SADNESS. LONELINESS. FRUSTRATION. SHAME. GUILT. 

 

These are all emotions we commonly feel and none of them are all that pleasant. Our thoughts influence our feelings and our feelings influence our behavior. If you want to change the way you FEEL and BEHAVE, you absolutely have to change the way you THINK. You have to take control of your mind so it doesn’t take control of you….and make you feel like crap. But before you can change the way you think, you have to figure out HOW you’re thinking NOW. 

 

What thoughts enter your mind on a regularly basis? Are they mostly positive or negative? Are they mostly about the past, present, or future? What’s the tone and feel of your self talk? Are you typically kind, supportive, and encouraging with yourself or are you skeptical, harsh, and judgmental? We can’t control the thoughts that enter our minds-those are automatic. But we can CHOOSE WHICH THOUGHTS TO PAY ATTENTION TO. (This is part of “training your brain”.)

 

A thought is just a thought unless you feed it with your ATTENTION and ACTION. If you don’t feed the thought, it will die. It will cease to exist and simply fade away. If you feed the thought, it comes alive, it takes form, it grows. Therefore, you want to be very careful about which thoughts you choose to feed. Once you master the ability to choose which thoughts you pay attention to, you free yourself of needless suffering because you refuse to feed the negative thoughts that enter your mind. As a result, all negativity dies and your life is one of positivity, hope, and joy. YOU HAVE THE POWER TO CHOOSE YOUR THOUGHTS….claim that power and put your mind in it’s place. 

 

The best way to “train your brain” is through MINDFULNESS PRACTICE. Mindfulness is “informal meditation” and is simply the act of noticing and observing without attaching judgement. Take a few moments to practice tapping into your senses. In this very moment, what are you hearing, seeing, tasting, touching, or smelling? Bring your focus of attention to the present moment and observe your surroundings without labeling them as good, bad, happy, or sad. Just notice. As you do this, your mind might try to wander (after all, it’s like a puppy and that’s just what it’s inclined to do). That’s ok. Expect that to happen. When it does, lovingly and gently guide your mind back to what you were focusing on. We don’t whip and punish the puppy when it wanders off….we kindly guide it back. Do the same with your mind. 

 

By practicing mindfulness in this way (there’s about a million different ways to be mindful and this is just one example) you’re actively training your mind to work for you as a tool. You’re actively taking control over your mind so it doesn’t have power over you anymore. You’re developing the ability to choose your thoughts, and thus choose your feelings and your behaviors. You’re gaining a deep sense of control over yourself, and with practice and time, you’ll eventually be able to feel and behave however you want at any given moment. Once you achieve this ability, you will reach your full potential and you’ll experience ultimate freedom from suffering. (Kinda sounds worth the effort, doesn’t it?)

 

PRACTICE MAKES PROGRESS (notice I didn’t say “practice makes perfect”). When it comes to training your mind with mindfulness, consistency is key. You have to practice…everyday. Mindfulness practice is convenient though because you can do it anytime, anywhere, and no one even has to know you’re doing it. You can practice mindfulness for just a couple minutes, a few times throughout during a day. The results are worth it. Practicing mindfulness will bring you into the present moment, which is the best place to live. Here’s a saying I’m in love with because of it’s supreme truth:

 

“If you’re living in the past, you’re depressed. If you’re living in the future, you’re anxious. If you’re living in the present, you’re content.”

 

Put you’re mind in it’s place by not “feeding the thoughts” that focus on the past or the future. Exercise your power and only feed the thoughts of the present, the here and now. If you do choose to think about the past or future, choose your thoughts carefully and use you’re mind as a tool. Once you’re done, put the mind “back it it’s toolbox” by quieting it down with some mindfulness practice that will reposition you in the present. 

 

Much of my clinical practice centers around training the mind and using meditation and mindfulness practice to help you reach your full potential and live a happy life. If you’d like to know more about these areas of my work, I’d love to talk with you more. Send me a message on our contact page or write a comment beside our blog. 

 

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Nicole C. Iacovoni earned her Master’s degree in Clinical Social Work from the University of Denver. Through her vast experience working in the mental health field and her own personal self growth work, Nicole has developed valuable skills and tools for enhanced self awareness, self care, and improved relationships. Her passion and life’s work is to help women overcome life’s many challenges, become the best version of themselves, and live the lives they envision. She currently serves as the Founder and Executive Clinician at Willow Tree Wellness & Counseling in Bloomsburg, PA.

It seems as if everyone today is suffering from some degree of anxiety or depression. Our lives are busier than ever with increasingly demanding jobs, fast paced technology and media, packed schedules, and pressure to keep doing more. We are a society that thrives on what’s new, which makes things exciting, but also easy to lose gratitude for what we have...because, after all, what we have is probably “so yesterday” already.

 

I grew up in small New England town where the pace of life was a bit slower than city life. In fact when I visited a city and then eventually lived in one, I found myself exhausted and overwhelmed at the end of the day. It was exciting to be in the midst of all the happenings, but I noticed myself getting further and further away from nature and the connection to my body. I often thought, how do these people sustain this level of energy and stimulation all the time? Quick answer, they don’t. Not without a great cost to their physical, mental, and spiritual health. We are a nation that survives on coffee. Really, think about it...how productive would we be without caffeine and sugar to keep us going? Don’t get me wrong, I am not giving up my daily cup of joe anytime soon, but just think about how we keep ourselves going to sustain this whirlwind pace we have created. No one has time for anything anymore! We are all so busy, yet, depressed, have poor energy, stressed to the max, and often sick as a result.

 

Depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders can have a strong genetic component, but our lifestyle and diet today is also heavily contributing to the sharp increase in morbidity. We all have experienced some degree of depression at some point in our lives. Major clinical depression is another beast all-together that requires an individualistic treatment plan, often including medication and psychological counseling. There are chemicals in our brains called neurotransmitters that allow our nerves to talk to each other. These include serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine-our “feel good” chemicals. It is believed that those who suffer from depression have less of these available, and thus, resulting in a lower mood. Antidepressants help make more of these chemicals available, ultimately improving mood.

 

Exciting new research suggests that there are natural “antidepressants” called polyphenols found in many whole foods we consume. Polyphenols are micronutrients found in many plant foods. The studies suggest that these natural chemicals can affect the physiological and biochemical reactions in our body in the same way that an antidepressant medication would. I am never ceased to be amazed at what nature provides for us and how incredibly intelligent our bodies are! These powerful little mood enhancing nutrients can be found in foods such as apples, kale, berries, grapes, and onions. I would also like to highlight three categories of foods that can be crucial to improving mood.

 

1. Chocolate (dark chocolate, or raw “cacao”): Cacao is raw chocolate before we add the cream, sugar, and flavoring. It is high in antioxidants, contains calming magnesium, and decreases toxic stress hormones like cortisol. You can buy it in it’s raw powder form or eat it as delicious dark chocolate in small doses as it is higher in milk fat and calories.

 

2. Carbs: Carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap lately and partially for good reason:

refined sugar, a huge contributor to obesity and diabetes. Not all carbs are bad, however, and whole grain carbs can promote serotonin production, thus increasing mood. Just choose whole, unprocessed, no sugar added varieties such as oats, brown rice, buckwheat, and quinoa.

 

3. Omega-3’s: We don’t make this essential fatty acid in our bodies so we need to get it from food. The best source is ground flax seed or flax seed oil, but you can also find it in fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and sardines. If you are vegetarian or vegan, you can buy supplements sourced from algae.

 

Of course, do not stop or change your medication dose without speaking to your doctor first. These foods can absolutely elevate your mood, but it is important that you have adequate support and oversight if you feel your medication treatment needs to be adjusted. The best place to start is to experiment with these types of foods and note how you feel. Keep a journal so you can track progress and what you learn about how food affects your mood. Most importantly, have fun and get your smile on! 

 

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Shawn Clavelle earned her bachelor’s degree in Nursing from the University of Vermont. She earned her certification in Health Coaching at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. Shawn’s vast clinical experience and knowledge of the healthcare system makes her proficient at helping others design their own treatment plan through structured goal setting and continuous evaluation of progress. Using a holistic approach with a focus on nutrition, she helps uncover the obstacles to good health and provides simple options for making better lifestyle choices.  

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