Monday, January 17, 2011
According to the Dalai Lama the purpose of life is to seek happiness. Happiness is not the same thing as pleasure. When we are happy, we are more likely to be more loving and compassionate to ourselves and others.
Each day we face choices. We often choose things we know are not ultimately good for us, but that will give us pleasure. Unfortunately, what is good for us is often the more difficult choice, because we must give up all or some of our pleasure.
Satisfaction is also not the same as happiness. All non-virtuous actions may bring a sense of satisfaction to the person engaged in the act, but the ultimate consequences may be negative, detracting from happiness. By keeping this in mind, we can more easily give up things that may bring momentary pleasure or satisfaction, but ultimately harm us. Instead, if we ask, “will this bring me happiness?” we move in a positive direction. Instead of focusing on what we might be denying ourselves, we focus on what we really seek….to be happy.
So, if we continue to ask ourselves each time a choice is to be made, “will this bring me happiness?” and we answer and act honestly, then we will naturally move towards a healthier and more respectful lifestyle.
[Based on Chapters 1-2 of “The Art of Happiness” by the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M.D.]
Sunday, January 09, 2011
I joined the 28-Day Bootcamp Workout Challenge today because I thought some accountability would be good for me. Boy, did it get the ball rolling.
Today's challenge was to do a 10-minute cardio video. When I got dressed this morning, I dressed in my workout clothes to make it especially easy to get my workout in. I did the video and it was more challenging than I'd expected, but I felt energized when I finished. Why stop there? I got a new beginning belly dancing video for Christmas that I haven't looked at yet, so I popped it in the DVR player and practiced basic belly dancing moves for over 30 minutes. How challenging! Each exercise works a particular group of muscles in isolation. I can already tell that I'll be at least a little sore tomorrow, because I exercised muscles that haven't been used for a long time. But it was fun and challenging and I was sweating and I felt REALLY GOOD! I exercised, I completed my challenge for the day, and enjoyed it. What a sense of accomplishment. So, why stop there?
I tracked everything I ate today. That's saying something, because I haven't tracked consistently for a while. Two down, what else can I do?
This evening I was feeling munchy. I crocheted for a while, then I made some Good Earth tea, which I'm sipping right now. My craving have subsided.
All in all, today feels like a complete victory!
Friday, January 07, 2011
[Written a couple of days ago]
I make a schedule or a list of things to do. Depending on the unpredictability of my day and my mental or physical energy level, I have varying degrees of success completing activities I had every intention of doing.
This morning, I listened to my “First Things First” CD for the fourth time. This is what I heard, “What are the three or four things that are most important to you?” I stopped to actually think about the question this time. I surprised myself when I couldn’t answer the question easily. After several minutes of contemplation I came up with five things that are very important to me, including my health. Then, I paraphrase, “Are you spending the time needed to achieve the desired results for each item of importance?” Why, no, I’m not. And I always seem overly busy, too. Also, I feel like I constantly have to do some things I’d rather not and find that I face a lot of internal resistance, like I’m forcing myself to take some nasty medicine for my own good. How fun is that?
I hear, “You lead people; you manage things. How are you leading your life?” I’m not, really. I guess I’ve always tried to manage my life, but managing the tasks doesn’t seem to get me to where I’d like to go, perhaps partly or wholly because I don’t know where I’m going. Next (paraphrased), “The four human needs are to live, to love, to learn, and to leave a legacy. To live is to eat, sleep, have food on the table and clothes in the closet. This is basically the necessities of life. To love is relationships, including family and friends [and I’m going to include pets]. To learn is to improve skills, increase knowledge, think creatively, come up with solutions to problems, plan for the future, etc. To leave a legacy is to have meaning or purpose in life and includes the spiritual aspects of life.”
I think I’m starting to get this. If I focus on what is important, then plan each day to regularly make progress in or spend time with each thing of importance, then I will be filling my days with means to an end, and not just an endless list of tasks to be accomplished. If I focus on why I am doing each task, then I will likely want to do it, because it helps me to do what I need to do to achieve the desired results for each item of importance.
Then, specifically, there is my health and fitness…when I walk to work, I’m not just getting to work; I’m exercising my muscles and my cardiovascular system, which is a way for me to show myself that I respect and care about myself. It is self-love. So is getting to bed at a reasonable hour so that I can feel rested when I wake up each morning. So is planning for physical activities and healthful meals. So is being mentally gentle to myself by not being overly critical or negative (i.e., you shouldn’t have done that, you can’t do that, you didn’t do that very well).
Through December (starting after Thanksgiving really) I started falling back into my old, bad habits. But it's a new year now. This week I am doing a lot of thinking and life re-evaluation. I have started to fill my schedule with tasks and goals that support my desired outcomes in relation to my things of importance. For example:
(1) go to bed at a reasonable hour each night (10:30pm is my goal),
(2) get up earlier (and well-rested, see above) to have time to exercise before work,
(3) brush my cats' coats more often,
(4) reduce "treats" with my afternoon coffee and reduce sugar intake in general (this is extremely hard to do, but I know that I feel much better when I don't OD on sugar), and
(5) get evening grazing back under control by drinking more decaf tea and keeping my hands busy crocheting.
There's so much more that I want to do, especially feeling the renewed enthusiams, but I know I don't want to overdo it and become discouraged. Also, what I'm focusing on are challenging (if they weren't I'd already bo doing them!), so I want to focus my energy and those that are most important right now. So my plan is that once I've gotten to the habit stage, I'll add others. I know this is not going to be easy, but it is important to me. This may be a life-long journey, but I'm worth it.
Monday, January 03, 2011
From my previous Blog-O-Rama: "The average North American gains seven to twelve pounds over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays." I wasn't going to be one of those average Americans, but it turns out that I am, gaining 8 pounds during December. However, I know exactly why it happened and have a renewed enthusiasm for refocusing on my overall health. This new focus is a result of all the work I did and insight I gained since starting SparkPeople in March of 2010.
At the beginning of last year, I was feeling so hopeless and defeated. I was still unemployed after being laid off in June of 2009, I had gained so much weight that I was technically obese, my clothes no longer fit, I had difficulty breathing when I was seated. Overall, my health, both physical and mental, was not in a good place. Then something clicked and my outlook changed. I was able to get the tools and information I needed on SparkPeople. I dedicated myself to overcoming my emotional eating and to get fit. As it turned out, I lost 40 pounds and was feeling great. I was so pleased that changes were happening to my body, but also to my mental and emotional self. Each success fed other successes, which started momentum that felt unstoppable. Then, in August, I took a volunteer, full-time position...
I really believed that I could continue my progress towards better health while also working. I continued to exercise and eat healthfully. However, as I got more wrapped up in my "job" I found that I started to ascribe lower and lower priority to both my exercise and my food planning and tracking. I stopped losing weight, but, thankfully, I was able to maintain my weight loss from August through November, which included a week-long cruise, my birthday, and Thanksgiving.
Once December hit, I was feeling a lot of stress because of the holidays, the tight schedules, all the parties and availability of food. But mostly I was stressed because of choices that I need to make in my life, but I don't know what to do. I want to move forward, but don't have all the information I need to make informed decisions, so instead I stress in limbo. I try to tell myself to let it go, but easier said than done. Unfortunately, all of these stressors combined were too much for my new-found coping strategies and more often than not I found myself reverting back to my old emotional eating strategies, which soothed me, at least in the short term. Soothe, maybe, but cause 8 pounds of weight gain, definitely. I'm not happy about it, but, interestingly, I'm not beating myself up about it either. Boy, how far I've come in a year!
So now I start 2011. My renewed focus comes from a few books I read and a CD I listened to over the winter break. I still have the same stressors, but as I work to put things in perspective, these stressors seem to be less important in the grand scheme and, therefore, less stress-inducing. I've decided to commit myself to my health as a first priority instead of letting work get in the way. I've worked out a road map to get me going. I have the tools on SparkPeople to get me refocused.
More than any new year I can remember I feel like I really don't know what this year will hold. I'm afraid, but also curious and excited. I wonder what's waiting for me...
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Each of us is responsible for our lives. Not to say that everything that happens to us is within our control, but that we are responsible for how we choose to respond to the events or non-events in our lives. We are able to choose our response...we are response-able. This is not my idea, but of Steven Covey and his co-authors of "First Things First," of which I have a summary CD.
Covey explains that we are not our pasts or our futures. The memories of the past and the ideas or projections of the future may influence how we react in the present, but we choose how we react in any given moment. I am so bad at this. Most of the time it seems as though I am blown around like a oarless, rudderless boat on a stormy sea. But I'm starting to understand why this is so. I have not yet figured out what my mission or purpose in life is. I'm starting to think I do, but then life doesn't happen how I plan and I'm more confused than ever. However, I'm starting to see the wisdom of having a mission, even if it is not the ultimate one. In fact, it can be changed as life changes, or maybe as it is accomplished a new mission will emerge. But having a mission is like a steady spot on the horizon toward which I could steer.
Being response-able means not being a victim of circumstance. It also means being the actor in one's life, and not the acted-upon. Being kind to one's self no matter what is an example of choosing one's response. Each day holds so many moments to choose. At each opportunity today, as a start, I want to choose self-forgiveness.
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