Maria Connolly, LPC Facebook Facebook Facebook

Category: Health and Wellness

Instead of dieting and depriving yourself, learn valuable tips on Health and Wellness as it includes every aspect of your lifestyle – your eating and drinking choices and habits, your physical activity and exercise, your mental health, and your emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

Increase Your Feeling of Wellbeing – Use the PERMA Model for Happiness

Kissing a cat increases your feeling of wellbeing“The pursuit of happiness” is one of our unalienable rights, according to the U. S. Declaration of Independence. Isn’t that interesting? They focused on the process of searching for happiness. Not happiness itself. They knew that the process is what contributes to our feeling of wellbeing.

Why is our feeling of wellbeing dependent on the process or life system we use?

What makes me happy isn’t what makes you happy. For example, I love my pets, cats especially. Life wouldn’t be complete without them. But you may hate cats, or you may be allergic to them, so they make your life miserable.  

We’re all so different. So to define happiness is impossible. But to mindfully choose to be happy – to choose to see the beauty in every situation – is part of the process.

Yes, everybody wants happiness. Sadly many people today find it elusive. Perhaps it’s because they focus on the wrong things. As the writer Denis Waitley noted:

“It is not in the pursuit of happiness that we find fulfillment, it is in the happiness of pursuit.”

What should you focus on to increase your feeling of wellbeing?

If you had to list what makes you happy, can you easily do it? Or is it difficult to define? Is your list the same as it was 25 years ago? Most likely not!

In his book Flourish, psychologist Martin Seligman, provides some clues that will help you find your happiness. (He’s known as the face of positive psychology.) He proposes the PERMA Contrast – the need for a balance between five different components of life. When you master these, you’ll increase your happiness and feeling of wellbeing.

 

The PERMA Model

1) Lead a life of Positive Emotions – maximize positive emotions and accept and understand negative emotions.  Your feeling of wellbeing comes from things deeper than fleeting emotions or moods.

2) Lead a life of Engagement – seek out activities that allow you to be in flow. (You’re so involved you lose track of time and self.)

3) Lead a life of Relationships. It powerfully plays a role in supporting the other four components of wellbeing.

4) Lead a life of Meaning – belong to and serve something that is bigger than self. (Family, religion, community, country, ideals or causes.)

5) Lead a life of Accomplishment – pursue excellence and mastery, both as goals and as processes.

To maintain a feeling of wellbeing all five of these needs must be met and balanced. Try applying the 20/80 rule to your life. Spend 20% of your time on small mindful practices such as exercise, centering, meditation, reading, appreciation and gratitude. When you do, you’ll find that you’re able to handle 80% of your day in a positive way. No matter what circumstances you encounter.

Remember: it doesn’t take great changes to make you happy. It’s the small acts of self-love, mindfulness and appreciation that matter.

Of course, being happy doesn’t mean you’re smiling all the time. It means you’re living the life that you’re meant to live. Then you’re able to accept whatever comes your way.

Your feeling of wellbeing increases when you understand yourself and your core strengths and use them daily. Do you see areas that could benefit from some attention? Would you like to learn how to live a balanced life? Why not download my free 7-Point Body Wellness Assessment. It’s a great way to start to reconnect with your body, mind and spirit.

And if you want to grab a copy of Dr. Seligman’s book, Flourish, you can find it on Amazon. (In full disclosure, I’ll receive a few pennies in commission. It won’t affect your price at all. Enjoy!)

5 Reasons Why I’d Rather Go On a Women’s Retreat Than a Vacation

Going on a Women's Retreat is better than a vacation for it gives you long-term benefits – centering, healing and rejuvenating your mind, body and spirit.

“I think it is essential sometimes to go into retreat, to stop everything that you have been doing, to stop your beliefs and experiences completely and look at them anew, not keep on repeating like machines whether you believe or don’t believe. You would let fresh air into your minds.” ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti

Have you ever come home from a vacation more exhausted than when you went? Usually this happens when you try to cram in too many activities. Or to the other extreme, you laze around the pool, doing absolutely nothing except eating and drinking too much.

Either way, you may be missing the whole point of vacation – to refresh and reinvigorate yourself. As soon as you get back to “the real world”, stress piles up again. Plus you may have the added burdens of detoxing and getting rid of the extra pounds.

Instead, why not try a women’s retreat that balances your mind, body, spirit? This is something that I love to do! And here are five reasons why I think you’ll love a body wisdom women’s retreat too…

  1. Women’s retreats produce long-term benefits.

Retreats are designed to help you connect with your body’s wisdom so you can lead a more balanced lifestyle. You’ll experience emotional release and physical rejuvenation. And you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how these feelings stay with you and improve your health once you return home. Choose a retreat that gives you the time and space to reconnect with yourself and center by aligning your emotions, beliefs, values, goals and intentions.

  1. Women’s retreats are designed for introspection and reflection.

Visiting a beautiful and tranquil location puts you in a contemplative frame of mind. It’s important to quiet outside “noises” so you can “hear” what your body, mind and spirit are communicating.

  1. Women’s retreats help you connect with nature.

Being close to nature is very healing. It reduces the production of the stress hormone, cortisol. Filling your lungs and soul on the clean air and peaceful surroundings lets your body, mind and spirit calm, giving you a fresh start.

  1. Retreats surround you with like-minded people – your guide and fellow attendees.

There are so many types of retreats. You get to pick a retreat where the guide leads sessions in what you desire to improve the most – health & wellness retreats, fitness retreats, meditation retreats, and body wisdom retreats to name a few possibilities. Look for techniques that will enhance your life long-term.  

Group retreats bring together women who have similar concerns or interests. Because you have similar goals and intentions, you can build a support system. The others can act as a mirror to help you identify issues that you can’t clearly see by yourself. It’s good to know that you’re not alone, that others are on the same path. Women’s retreats are also a fantastic way to find new life-long intimate friendships.

  1. Women’s retreats are managed for you. You don’t have to worry about planning or finding places to eat and sleep. Your retreat facilitator takes care of all those stressful things. You just have your well-being to focus on. Another perk is that you’re more likely to receive exclusive features and discounts because of being in a group.

This year I’m leading a Body’s Wisdom Women’s Retreat through Italy. We’ll discover beautiful Sicily while learning to connect with the body’s untapped wisdom and practice centering, rejuvenating and mindfulness techniques. I plan on making this an annual event. Want to join me? Contact me with any questions.

Develop Systems for Life – A Game Changer if You’re Tired of Chasing After Goals

Rather than setting goals you never achieved, it’s time to revolutionize your approach and think in terms of using systems for life instead of chasing goals “Like a human being, a company has to have an internal communication mechanism, a ‘nervous system’, to coordinate its actions” ~ Bill Gates, co-founder Microsoft

Are systems really that different than goals? On the surface they sound similar, don’t they? Yet how many goals have you set but never achieved? How does that make you feel? Like you’ve failed and are always starting over, right? In contrast, systems for life are daily habits, routines, processes, or practices you implement to support your intentions. And day-by-day, you reach your desired result in a much softer way.

For example, perhaps you set the goal of losing weight by a certain date. You may achieve that goal, but soon the pounds creep back on. Why? Going on a diet implies that at some point the diet ends. A lifestyle change, on the other hand, is a system of healthy eating and exercise that is ongoing and has lasting results.

Over the years, I’ve focused a lot on setting and achieving goals, developing small measurable steps and developing a buddy system. All of this is important, but it’s not effective if my strategies to achieve these goals aren’t successful ones.

What does it mean to develop systems for life?

Let me give you another example: Imagine that you want to go to the gym at 6am three times a week and you commit to doing that. You prepare your gym clothes and shoes the night before so getting dressed in the morning is a breeze. Your gym bag is ready and your water bottle is full and available.

It looks like you’ve set yourself up for success, right? But what if you decide to stay up late because you want to read 10 more pages of your book, or your friend calls and wants to talk about her ex one more time? Will you be successful at getting up when the alarm goes off the next morning?

And what if deep down you hate the gym? How long will you be able to sustain your commitment? When you associate displeasure with exercise, you unintentionally train yourself to stop doing it. If you force yourself to do it you end up using your limited supply of willpower. So what happens as a result? When you’re tempted to eat junk food you give in, negating the good that you accomplished at the gym.

How much better to create a system for being active every day at a level that feels good, while experimenting with different methods of exercise until you find the one you love. Maybe it’s something as simple as using a pedometer to count your steps. Before long your body is trained to crave that psychological boost. It builds a natural inclination for challenges that gently nudges you toward becoming more active. 10,000 steps today…12,000 steps tomorrow. That’s a sustainable system!

Don’t get me wrong. Goals are fine for getting a project finished. But they have their limitations…

  • Goals remind you that you’re not good enough. You’re starting from that negative state and basing your happiness, not on the present, but on a future, which you may or may not achieve.
  • Goals make you feel guilty when you don’t achieve them.
  • Goals foster a yo-yo of short-term results, instead of a steady flow toward long-term progress, because as soon as the goal is achieved you revert back to previous practices.
  • Goals make you feel powerless when you have setbacks. When you have systems for life you know you can pick it up again tomorrow when you feel better.
  • Goals make you focus on one thing while de-emphasizing others things you’re committed to. Consequently, you’re more likely to miss out on opportunities that could be far better than your goal.

The interesting thing is that if you never set another goal, but have a variety of systems for living an excellent life, you’ll still achieve what really matters to you. When you focus on the practice instead of the performance, you can mindfully enjoy the moment, while making improvements at the same time.

If you’re having trouble sorting out which system you need to implement first, feel free to contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation, in-person, by phone or via Skype.

Embrace the Healing Benefits of Sunlight – Happy Spring!

We who live in northern climes like Oregon need to take advantage of the healing benefits of sunlight to offset the health-zapping effects of a long winter After a long, hard winter it’s a relief to feel the warmth of the sunshine and see the flowers beginning to emerge! It makes me think about the healing benefits of sunlight, but also about some of the dangers from unwise sun exposure.

In northern climes like Oregon where there are so many overcast days, many people suffer from Vitamin D deficiency. Others struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder and depression. Beware…this can also occur from spending all day in the office working!

How much sunlight you need to produce your daily dose of Vitamin D depends on where you live. Scientist at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research has created an online calculator that can help you determine the amount for where you live. (Click here to learn more.) Without it our bones deteriorate (osteoporosis and rickets) and we’re more prone to cancers (prostate, breast, color and ironically, skin cancer) type 1 insulin-dependent diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and heart disease.

Our mood is greatly affected by the amount of sunlight we get. We need the light to calibrate our circadian cycle of sleep and wakefulness. And it builds our immune system by increasing the white blood cells, called lymphocytes, which play a major role in defending the body against infections. It’s also been noted to lower cholesterol, fight bacterial infections, and clear up some skin disorders. On the down side, too much exposure can cause painful burning, skin cancers and possibly cataracts.

Even though UV from the sun can be harmful in high doses, you can safely enjoy the outdoors without risking your health. Keep in mind I’m not giving medical advice. You must use common sense and listen to what your doctor says about your situation. That being said…here are a few tips that help you enjoy the benefits of sunlight safely…

  • Know your skin type. If you burn very easily, you’ll have to exercise greater mindfulness in how long you stay out in the sun.
  • During the less intense times of the day (sunlight is strongest from 11 am to 2 pm) gradually increase your exposure duration to 10 or 15 minutes.
  • Use sunscreen for longer exposure. Do some research and find the most healthful brand for you. Many of the products contain fragrances and chemicals such as Oxybenzone, (linked to hormone disruption and cell damage) Retinyl palmitate, (a carcinogen), Octyl-methoxycinnamate (oxidation damage which ages your skin) Butyl-Methdiebenzoylmethane, (releases free radicals into the body) Benzophenone 2 (BP2), (decreases the function of the thyroid). So choose wisely.
  • Find sunglasses that provide UVA and UVB protection and good coverage of your full field of vision.
  • Wear a hat and cover up in white clothing (more cooling on hot summer days than no clothing) during long exposure times.
  • Be mindful of what you eat. A balanced, nutritious diet provides protection from some of the sun’s hazards. However, a diet high in omega-6 polyunsaturated fats like sunflower, safflower, and other vegetable oils will make you more prone to sun damage. Healthier fats to use are coconut, avocado or palm oils.
  • Also be mindful that some medications make you more sensitive to sunlight. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if the type you take falls in this category.

Don’t let the fear of sun keep you from enjoying life fully. Exercise mindful awareness of the risks and benefits of sunlight and get outside! Now is a good to assess your entire body/mind/spirit wellness to determine ways you can improve. Download my free 7-Point Body Wellness Assessment. It’s an eye-opening self-examination guide.

If you already know what changes you want to make, but you need some accountability and support, then feel free to contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation, in-person, by phone or via Skype. I’d love to help you reach your goals!

The Wheel of Life – Seven Steps to Creating a Truly Balanced Lifestyle

Introducing The Neways Wheel of Life – Find Your Balance

Find your balance because "happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmnony." ~ Thomas Merton“It’s not enough to be busy; So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Work-Life Balance…can it really exist? There are millions of people searching for the answer to work-life balance. Since the issue of balance usually arises when one feels that something important is missing in life, this indicates that way too many people are unhappy. And shouldn’t it really be called Life-Work Balance anyway? Life is more important isn’t it?

If you don’t mind, I’d like to ask you:

  1. How do you define balance in your life?
  2. What might it look like when your life is truly balanced?

Some people look at life-work balance as a three-legged stool that needs all three legs for balance – the legs represent their physical, mental and spiritual needs. Yet this seems to oversimplify it because within those three categories are so many areas of life. And for many people, balance involves feeling like they have TIME, but don’t we all have the same amount of time? So there’s something needed that’s much deeper than just having time.

No matter what your definition of balance is, achieving a feeling of harmonious peace and happiness is really a matter of both internal and external balance. 

If you’re internally balanced:

  • Your inner critic is in check and it operates more like a friendly coach.
  • You can methodically work on self-awareness – knowing yourself allows you to share the true you with others.
  • You have awareness of your values and always operating from them.
  • You check in periodically to make sure all inner parts are congruent and feel seen and listened to.
  • You have a balance between taking risks and stretching beyond comfort and pursuing what is quiet and familiar.

If you are externally balanced:

  • You will engage all areas of life (see The Wheel image below) that fit your lifestyle.
  • You surround yourself with social support.
  • You set boundaries.
  • You’re comfortable with saying, “NO”.

I’d like to share seven steps that you can take to achieve greater balance

  1. Define what balance is to you. Your definition will be uniquely yours.
  2. Identify your values by using percentages: 15% fun, 10% travel, 25% family…to see how much you require of each to be happy in an ideal world.
  3. Take care of basic needs: nutrition, water, sleep, exercise, vitamins and supplements.
  4. Regularly visit a supportive therapist, coach, or mentor.
  5. Make quality time for social contact.
  6. Block out “alone time” to be introspective, using mindfulness to get to know yourself more deeply – what your wants, needs, preferences, personality traits, and quirks are.
  7. Manage your energy not time! As the book, The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal, demonstrates, managing time is not the key. Instead, focusing on a balance of exertion and renewal helps youreach optimal performance.

Here is a tool for you to use in your quest for balance. It’s called The Neways Wheel of Life – Find Your Balance.

The Neways Wheel of Life Find Your Balance

Click here to get your downloadable, printable PDF copy of the Neways Wheel.

This Wheel of Life is designed to visually help you develop your own definition and vision of a balanced life. Each wedge represents critical aspects of life: Friends & Family, Healthy & Wellbeing, Love & Intimacy, Career, Personal Growth & Learning, Life Vision & Purpose – Spiritual Fulfillment, Fun & Leisure, and Physical Environment.

From 1 to 10 how would you rate your satisfaction in each area of the Wheel of Life? (Please print a copy of THE Wheel of Life and fill it in with where you are right now. Keep it handy and check your progress regularly.) You’ll find that your numbers will vary. And that’s a good thing. Obtaining a perfect 10 in all categories is not the goal. Balance is not static. It’s like riding a bicycle. You only remain balanced if you keep moving forward. Remember, it’s the journey that counts. We never truly get to the destination, because our definition and vision of balance changes as we change throughout the years!

No matter where you begin, all the sections of your life are interconnected, just like the wedges on the Wheel of Life. It’s simply a matter of what you want to focus on first. If you’re craving a more balanced lifestyle, it might be time to enlist the help of a life coach who can help you fully utilize your Wheel of Life. Contact me, because I would love to work with you!


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