How You Can Be 10% Happier

“What a bunch of hippy dippy baloney!”

– Lord Business (Will Ferrell) from The Lego Movie

I have always been attracted to the self-help movement. I have gone to countless lectures and read tons of books promising to help me love myself, stop worrying, solve all of my physical and mental woes, find the career of my dreams, become an amazing parent and on and on and on. Although I’ve learned lots of valuable information….to be perfectly honest – sometimes I really struggle to wrap my head around the concepts. And often there is an underlying feeling that tugs at the back of my mind – could all of this just be a bunch of crap wrapped up in fancy language?

Case in point – I’ll never forget the frenzy surrounding Gary Zukav’s  book The Seat of the Soul” after his appearance on Oprah back in the 90’s. I pretty much ran to the bookstore to buy his book and after slogging through the first chapter I grimly realized that I wasn’t going to understand a single word. No matter how many times I tried to persevere – it simply didn’t make any sense to me. Same damn thing with Eckhart Tolle – and I even took Oprah’s online course to help me out. Nothing. All I felt was very jealous of the people around me who seemed transfixed and transformed by “A New Earth“.

More recently, based on glowing recommendations from good friends, I signed up for newsletters from a few new-age self-help gurus. And you know what? Over half of the stuff I receive makes me scratch my head in confusion. Gems of wisdom like: “Only the mind decides on what it would receive and give.” “You can’t fear your way into Love, only with trust does Love blossom” and “Enjoy the in between what was and what will be.” Say what?!

But I am excited to share that I have stumbled upon quite possibly the best “self-help” book I’ve ever read. It was a stroke of good luck that I just happened to watch a video of ABC news reporter Dan Harris talking about how his on air panic attack set in motion a series of events that led him to discovering a way to become “10% Happier”. I was immediately drawn to Dan’s down to earth manner, his irreverent and hilarious skepticism and his brutal honesty about his own journey. I could relate to his struggles understanding “spirituality” and “self-help” and I liked his humorous approach to a subject matter that often takes itself far too seriously.

Click link below to watch the video: (email subscribers you may need to go to my site at http://www.lorileighwilson.com to view)

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-14350/why-i-embraced-meditation-after-having-a-panic-attack-on-live-tv-dan-harris.html

So just like my dash to the store for “Seat of the Soul“, after watching Dan’s video I made a beeline for Chapters to pick up his new book 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story”    

dan harris

Honestly – I read the entire book in 2 days! And I can say as a person who has flown through more self-help tomes than you could shake a stick at – this is definitely worth the read. It’s like having a conversation with an intelligent and witty friend as Dan shares the story of his stressful and competitive career, his ensuing drug use and his struggles with depression and anxiety. He then goes on to interview and report on the top guns in the “spirituality” industry and starts untangling their confusing and often conflicting theories. I won’t give too much away but I will share that as a result of his research, he proposes a very easy and actionable plan that has been scientifically proven to make us less stressed and happier. And it takes 5 minutes a day.

So if you are interested in becoming 10 % happier (not a bad return on investment right?) – then grab a copy of Dan’s book. I would rate it a 10 out of 10. And I promise – there’s no frilly language, hard to understand theories….or hippy dippy baloney in sight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unjunk Food

In many ways I would consider myself a hedonist. If you’re having a party – I’ll be there. If you want to stay up late talking or dancing or playing euchre until the wee hours, I’ll stick it out. If you are opening a bottle of wine- I’ll certainly have a glass. And if you want to order dessert – I’m always a sure bet to share with you. I love to have fun and making time to enjoy life is high up on my priority list.

When it comes time for a food treat, my pleasure-seeking brain will often gravitate towards something rich and sweet and junky. I consider myself a pretty good baker but sometimes nothing beats a pack of store-bought peanut butter cups, a handful of M & M’s or a Snickers bar. Every so often when I am checking out at the pharmacy or perusing the tabloids at the grocery store, I will give into temptation and throw a chocolate bar discretely in with my purchases. “Oh that’s just a treat for the kids” I’ll say to the cashier…. but we both know I’ll have that thing devoured before I even drive out of the parking lot.

junk food 3

Have you ever really looked at the ingredients on the wrappers of some of those decadent confections? There are some downright scary things like “partially hydrogenated oils, corn syrup, artificial colors, flavors, chemical preservatives and refined sugar” that I’m not so sure I should be regularly putting into my body or the bodies of my children.

Which is why I was downright giddy with excitement when I found out about Unreal Candy. Although it’s only available for sale in the United States right now (I’ve already petitioned them to come to Canada so send them an email or tweet if you want to help move things along), this stuff is definitely worth a run across the border! The company was started by a young boy named Nicky who was determined to create candy that tasted great without all of the artificial ingredients. After an extensive search, Nicky and his parents found a master chef in Spain who brought together a team of chefs from across Europe to take up the challenge.

They began their journey by deciding what they’d leave out of the reinvented candy: corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, and GMOs. They also set a goal to reduce sugar by 50% per serving… They decided that the key ingredients had to be responsibly sourced, thereby supporting farming communities and preventing the destruction of rainforests.  
In place of the junk, they added more of the good stuff, like more cacao, real caramel, and peanuts. They also added more protein and fiber from real food, so that each candy has a low glycemic index.

I have had the pleasure of sampling the Unreal creations and let me tell you – they are really really good! Candy coated chocolates, chocolate & caramel & nougat bars, peanut butter cups, chocolate & peanuts in a candy shell and chocolate & caramel & nougat & peanut bars. Absolutely delicious!

unreal

Now I know darn well that given the nature of these products, there are people who will say that this isn’t really a good alternative or a healthy choice. And I’ll admit that I admire those of you who can be content with a crispy apple or a single wafer of dark chocolate when a sweet craving hits – I am truly in awe of your will power. But I know that being realistic, this “unjunk” food is a much better choice for me and my family when it comes time for a treat. Which is why this girl will occasionally be enjoying some Unreal Candy…. and because the odd hit of chocolate will keep me on top of my late-night euchre game : )

Judgement & Food Choices

As a result of the choices I make when it comes to eating, I sometimes find myself in the company of friends and family who feel the need to apologize to me about their own food choices. Recently, a good friend sheepishly asked if I would be okay if she ordered a steak while we were out dining together and another pal ardently defended her love of bacon at an early morning breakfast date.

veggie cartoon 4

Let me just get this out in the open – there is no need to apologize! I choose not to eat meat – that is true – but I promise to make no judgements about your selections. I will keep my own personal lifestyle choices private (unless you ask) and I will absolutely not jump to any conclusions about your character based on what you eat in front of me. Heck, I am certainly no purist. I ate meat until well into my 30’s, I will literally shove you out of the way to get at a fresh bag of potato chips and a glass of red wine and a gooey chocolate dessert are two of my very favourite things in the world. (Of course all of this is null and void if you are my husband – in which case I will freely offer my unbridled opinion….sorry Mark!)

I recently found myself browsing the housewares department at Anthropologie while my mom and sister tried on clothes (this likely explains why they always look fashionably dressed and I can most often be found wearing my track pants ; ) and I stumbled upon a beautiful book called Pure Vegan by Joseph Shuldiner that I just had to buy.

pure vegan

The recipes look amazing and the photographs are downright mouth-watering but what really hooked me was the introduction to the book. The author says:

“My intentions in writing this book are not to debate the virtues of one belief system over another, nor to promote the health benefits of eating a plant-based diet. Aside from having little interest in these debates, I’m not qualified to take up a pair of boxing gloves in their defense. Making my own day-to-day choices about what to eat and what not to eat is complicated enough without trying to tell you what you should and shouldn’t eat. And that, my friend, is what this book is about: making choices that feel natural and right to you; to sow a few seeds in the back of your mind and help you cultivate your own plant-based culinary repertoire.”

Well said! I felt an immediate kinship with Joseph Shuldiner and his lovely and non-judgemental philosophy towards eating. We all have to walk our own culinary path and it is often one fraught with allergies, preferences, mixed messages from food producers and the media, childhood eating experiences, guilt, weight-struggles and financial issues (not to mention the complications thrown in if you are trying to feed a picky family).

So order what you will and enjoy every mouthful. I won’t judge you….. and I trust you will look the other way as I wipe chip crumbs onto my jogging pants.

The Upside of Crying at Target

I recently had a really good cry. A long and stressful week culminated with a Friday morning trip to Target where I ended up at the cash with a big pile of goodies. After frantically checking my purse- I realized that I had no money and no phone! Shit! As I loaded the toddler back into the van to head back home the tears just started flowing. “Why are you sniffling like that mommy?” my little guy kept asking.

My oldest son was at home when I came to collect my wallet and immediately asked what was wrong. I told him it was nothing – I was just feeling a little sad and he said “it’s okay mom – it’s good to let your feelings out.” So darn wise for a 12-year old.

After I dried my tears, stopped my blubbering and blew my nose- I really did feel much better. I headed off for a coffee and repeat trip to the store in a much better frame of mind. I was able to laugh at myself and the absurdity of sobbing over something so ridiculous. (As a side note I’m pretty sure I freaked out the cashier at Starbucks because she asked me at least 5 times if everything was ok – guess the red puffy eyes totally gave me away.)

My son’s words got me thinking about how often I rush through life and suppress or ignore my emotions or just totally numb them out with coping mechanisms. My go-to’s – chocolate, reality TV, red wine, Candy Crush and People magazine just to name a few. Especially with the advent of our cell phones, it’s so much easier to zone out with mindless games, Facebook, Twitter and texting than to stop, breathe and really check in with ourselves and how we are feeling. And what I realized in that moment was that by feeling that sadness, I made way to feel better, to laugh and to move forward.

This video features the comedian Louis C.K. He’s actually talking about why he refuses to get cell phones for his children but the overall message is much more powerful. Have a watch and remember that as much as we all love our devices, it’s a good idea to put them down every now and again, to slow down and to let ourselves just be……even if that means crying in the check-out line at Target ; )

Warming Minestrone Soup & 10 Things I Love About Winter

I pride myself in being a hearty Canadian girl and as such I usually embrace the winter and truly enjoy the snow and seasonal outdoor activities. But I’ve got to admit that this frigidly cold weather is really starting to get me down. Thankfully a good friend reminded me yesterday that the days are slowly getting a bit longer and slightly warmer temperatures are in the forecast (not to mention that American Idol is starting again next week!) so things are definitely looking up.

winter cartoon

In an effort to remind myself of the positive things about this season, I made a list of a few things that I love about cold Canadian winters:

1. Snuggling up under a blanket in front of a crackling fire (even better with a glass of red wine in hand)

2. Making excellent use of my weather station by checking it 100 times a day just hoping I’m reading the temperature incorrectly (that can’t really be -23 C???)

3. Having a legitimate excuse for staying inside all day in my pj’s watching movies (the weatherman said exposed skin would freeze in 5 minutes for heaven’s sake!)

4. Snow days (bet those warm tanned Floridians never get to experience these special family days. Suckers!)

5. Hot chocolate, hot coffee, hot tea and Hot Toddy’s. Mmmmmmmm……..

6. Building snowmen in the front yard, tobogganing down frosty hills, building snow forts and skating on backyard rinks

rink

7. No dog poop to scoop- each new layer of snow just covers it all up. Booyah!

8. Sculpting toned arms by scraping layers of snow and ice off of my car (not to mention the killer leg muscles from navigating the icy sidewalks)

9. Not having to worry about doing anything with my hair since it will just be stuffed underneath a toque all day (same goes for clothing- I could be wearing my jammies under my coat and no one would ever know : )

10. Relaxing with my family and enjoying hot and comforting foods like this soup:

Minestrone Soup (vegan)

minestrone

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried turmeric
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
Pinch allspice
1 tsp sea salt
Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
1 28oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 15 oz can of chick peas
1 15 oz can of navy beans
4 cups of vegetable broth
2 cups of water
2 bay leaves
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup frozen green beans (broken into smaller pieces)
1 cup dried pasta (I used little tubes called Ditali Rigati but any small regular or gluten-free pasta will work)

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large soup pot. Toss in onion, garlic, carrots, celery and spices and stir to combine. Cover and cook for 4-6 minutes until veggies are starting to soften.

Add in tomatoes, beans, broth, water and bay leaves. Stir and heat to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add corn, green beans and pasta and cook for an additional 10 minutes or until pasta is al dente (almost cooked). Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

I hope you are finding ways to enjoy the weather wherever you live. And perhaps if you are reading this while relaxing in a warmer climate you would send along some positive vibes to us Canadian folks who are currently freezing our freakin’ butts off!

9 Ideas for Holiday Entertainment

Perhaps during the days between the hustle and bustle of Christmas and the festivities of New Years, you may have some time to settle down with a good book or a classic movie or grab a glass of wine and peruse some of the incredibly talented writers and creative people on the internet. Or you might be inspired to start a new project or spend some time setting some goals or focusing on self-improvement.

If you do have some time to spare – here are a few books/movies/clips/articles that I’ve watched and read lately that made me laugh, made me cry and made me think. I also included a great project that I shared with my entire family this holiday that may inspire you to focus on the happiness in your life in 2014:

(email subscribers – you’ll have to follow the links or go to www.lorileighwilson to view the videos)

1. Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple– quite simply the best novel I’ve read in a very long time. I could not put it down and I mean that literally- I read the whole thing in one day! Wow. Just wow. (Burlington buddies – Mark is just about finished reading it if anyone wants to borrow my copy : )

bernadette

2. Jaclyn Desforges – I love Jaclyn’s wellness blog because she always seems to post an article or plant-based recipe at just the perfect time when I need something new to create in the kitchen or a different perspective on life. Recently she wrote a very thought-provoking article called “You Should Stop Setting Goals (Here’s Why)” that really resonated with me. Well worth the read!

3. This is My Excuse – mom-of-three Maria Kang faced a lot of backlash when she posted a picture of herself on Facebook with her perfect bikini body and the caption “What’s Your Excuse?”. Kudos to blogger Taryn Brumfitt for writing a kick-butt rebuttal that I think most women will be able to relate to: “Dear Maria Kang: This is My Excuse for Not Having a Body Like Yours“.

maria-kang

4. Collaboration between ZeFrank and Harry Shum“If You Are In A Shell“- my family loves ZeFrank videos (you gotta check out “True Facts About the Tarsier” for a good laugh!) but his recent collaboration with Glee cast member and brilliant dancer Harry Shum is a touching narrated performance piece on shyness. Anyone who has ever suffered from shyness or has a shy child should watch this beautiful video.

5. We’re The Millers– I will admit to having a slightly warped sense of humour…and this movie is definitely not for the faint-of heart. It’s rude, crass and sometimes downright uncomfortable. But it’s also freakin’ hilarious! My hubby and I laughed our butts off!

we're the millers

6. Educating Yorkshire: Musharaf Overcomes His Stutter-this video was all over Twitter so forgive me if you’ve already watched it but I was so moved by it I just had to share it with my readers too. Makes me cry every time.

7. Blackfish Documentary– I caught this doc when it aired on CNN in November and I simply cannot stop thinking about it. A expose of animal cruelty and the sometimes lethal danger to workers at SeaWorld – this film is required watching for anyone who is interested in the dark truth behind killer whale “performances”.

8. Lip Sync Battle with Jimmy Fallon, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Stephen Merchant – thanks to my friend Conor for introducing me to this incredibly funny and family-friendly YouTube video. My whole gang bust a gut watching it….and it even inspired our own family lip sync battle this past November!

9. Happiness Jars– I got this idea from the talented author Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) and I decided to make one for every member of my family for Christmas. Basically, you use any vessel (I chose mason jars) and each night before you go to bed you take a piece of paper and scribble down the happiest moment from your day- date it, fold it and pop it in your jar. Then if you are feeling blue or going through a tough time, you just pull out a reminder of your happiness. Simple. brilliant and powerful….and the kids can take part too!

happiness jar

I hope you find some time over the holidays to sit back and relax…..and maybe enjoy a little entertainment. May your final days of 2013 be filled with fun, reflection, family, friends, quiet, love and happiness!

Guest Post: The Upside of Downtime

I first met Barbara Reade and her partner Roman at my Sunday morning bootcamp class and she struck me right away as someone who was friendly and warm but also strong and determined (she completed the Tough Mudder in the spring for heaven’s sake!) When I asked for guest bloggers about a month ago, she was the very first person to step up with an offer to write a piece on her painful, frustrating and enlightening journey back from a knee injury. Judging from the crazy number of backwards lunges I saw her do just this past Sunday in class, I’m fairly certain that she has made a full recovery. But I think you’ll agree that there is much to be learned from Barb’s struggles and observations as she healed her body over the summer and eventually made peace with the process.

Thank you so much for this insightful and honest post Barb! Check it out below:

The Upside of Downtime

By: Barbara Reade

Definition of “downtime”, according to the Free Online Dictionary – “The period of time when something, such as a factory or a piece of machinery, is not in operation, especially as the result of a malfunction.”

Every so often, life throws a curve ball in your direction. You can either stealthily duck to avoid it or, if you are less agile and perhaps involved in a sport that involves skillful pivoting in sand while looking skyward for flying balls, you can get hit squarely in the face. Or in the knee, which was sort of my case. In actual fact, I ended up spraining my knee while playing volleyball on the beach with a group of friends who had banded together to form a team for an upcoming fund raiser. The only caveat was that we needed to play beach volleyball convincingly well, so practising was imperative. None of us had so much as picked up a volleyball since our high school days, but we were all keen, overflowing with enthusiasm and ready to have fun. I should mention as well that every single one of us was involved in a number of athletic pursuits already, so we felt that we were ready for the challenge.

My initial reaction to injuring my knee, I’m ashamed to say, was embarrassingly immature. Shortly after the practice that cut short my volleyball career, when it was obvious that I had done something really unpleasant to my knee, I had a little tantrum back at home. I was feeling rather sorry for myself, quite hard-done by and blurted out to Roman, my ever patient partner in life, “I don’t even play volleyball!” As if I would feel much better had I injured myself doing something that I participated in all the time. Would I have felt differently if I had been inadvertently kicked in the knee during a boxing class, or if I had wiped out attempting a daring box jump in a small group training class? I mean, heck, I made it through the gruelling training regimen for Tough Mudder when there were literally dozens of ways to get hurt. Yet, in reality, it was an injury that resulted from a sport that I had tried just for fun and to help raise a little money for a good cause. It could have happened to anybody.

The day after that fateful twist of my knee, I hobbled off to the chiropractor to confirm what I already suspected; that I did, indeed, have a sprained knee. I was told to ice my knee every few hours and stop my usual physical activities until the knee had a chance to heal. In other words – rest. How lovely. Rest. So why did this one word, which normally conjures up pleasing images of reclining, lounging, napping, and basically draping one’s body over every available piece of furniture for hours on end, send me into an emotional tailspin?

Once the pouting, sulking and moping subsided, I decided to take stock. Why did I have such a powerful emotional response to what was, in the scheme of things, just a minor blip on the radar? I didn’t have a terribly severe sprain, but it was enough to sideline me from the things that I loved to do, for at least a little while. What was so important about being involved in the active lifestyle that I had worked relentlessly to cultivate? The answer became clear – my life had lost its former balance. I needed to rejig the scales in order to get through this recovery period. In other words, I needed to find the upside of downtime. I needed to acknowledge all the positives that had flowed from a negative experience. I started to make a list, a list which continues to grow as the days go by:

The Upside

  1. I now have indisputable proof that exercise and the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle are non-negotiables. Life is just a whole lot better with wellness at the forefront. The lack thereof, is worse than an injury.
  2. I know for sure that I have many wonderful people in my life because of item #1. Without them, I feel like I’m missing limbs. Their support and friendship sustain me.
  3. With fewer commitments, I created more time to spend with my elderly parents during the week following my sprain. This was a welcome change, as I had originally planned to spend the final week of my summer holidays tackling as many activities as possible before the launch of another school year. Instead, I met my folks for a leisurely mid-week breakfast, escorted them to a couple of favourite shops, drove Mom home from the hair salon, enjoyed ice-cream with the two of them on a bench, and simply had more time to hang out and chat. For the first time too, I kept pace with my Mom as she walked with her rollator, never feeling like I was going too fast. My slower pace was just right.
  4. I’m learning how to overcome my tendency to restlessly relax. I admit it, when I’m “relaxing”, I usually have one eye scanning my surroundings for something else to do. You can’t leap up every few minutes when you’ve got an ice pack positioned just so, and your leg propped up comfortably on a pillow. The battle is not yet won, but I am learning to resist those urges to flit from one activity to the next.
  5. You can’t read a great book if you’re perpetually on the move. Suffice it to say, I’ve done a lot of reading recently.
  6. As difficult as it has been to miss out on all my favourite activities, it’s good to know that they will still be there for me when I’m ready to return to them. My situation is temporary, not permanent. I’m so very thankful for that.
  7. I learned how to remove cat pee from a litter box in order to provide the veterinarian with a urine sample. Really. One day, I may write about it.
  8. Maintaining a sense of humour is everything. I’m glad that mine is still intact.

As I mentioned earlier, this list continues to grow and I have undoubtedly left out many valuable observations that I will kick myself for later. Speaking of which, I need to get back to resting, icing and healing my knee, so that I can resume all the power walking, lunges, squats, dipping birds, stair runs, boxer shuffles, and yes, kicking, that I have enjoyed so very much.

Well, maybe not the dipping birds.

By Barbara Reade