Gratitude Vs. Appreciation

One of the tools I used to use with my clients was to help them develop a gratitude practice. This would generally be something simple like ending their day by writing out three to five things they were grateful for. The idea behind this practice being that many of us are very future oriented, and tend to focus on what we want but don’t yet have. Living in this mindset of lack, day in and day out can really make your current reality seem pretty blasé at best.

I believed in this tool because in my own life, I found that taking the time to be present to and acknowledge what was already pretty great, (and putting it in writing even though it seemed kinda cheesy) literally changed how I experienced my life without actually changing anything.

But then I realized that there’s an important distinction between gratitude and appreciation.

Gratitude allows you to recognize the blessings you have in your life, whereas appreciation brings more of an awareness of the importance something (or someone) has to you, the value you place on it, and what the absence of it would feel like. In other words, appreciation is that much more real and tangible.

Gratitude is a great jumping off point, but now I like to help my clients cultivate a practice of appreciation. I truly believe that’s where an amazing life begins. <3

Christy  xo

 

Uncertainty and Inertia

I am a person who thrives on certainty. I need to know how things work and why. I require a plan before taking action. And I’m a huge fan of trial runs, just to work the bugs out.

It’s not surprising that certainty is a big theme for me…it makes total sense given the fact that there weren’t a lot of things I could count on as a kid. I never knew if my mother was going to be drunk or sober when I got home from school. I never knew how long I’d be living in the same place. And after I was placed into foster care, I never knew if the family would keep me.

In order to feel any sense of certainty, I had to be resourceful and create it for myself. So I devised routines and rituals for myself; little things like arranging the bedroom I shared with my brother a certain way, setting my place at the table with my favorite fork, and wearing the sweater my grandmother gave me with the same pair of jeans. Those seemingly insignificant things (that I’ve come to recognize as slightly OCD) kept me going. They allowed me to keep moving forward.

I realized that these days, I’m not so resourceful. I get stuck, and can easily let uncertainty force me into a state of inertia.

Inertia: the resistance an object has to a change in it’s state of motion. 

But here’s the thing: If we’re guaranteed anything in life, it’s that there will be thousands of moments of uncertainty. Big moments, and little moments. And try as I might to plot, and plan, and test things out so I know exactly what to expect, sometimes it will be all in vain.

What I figured out though, is that as long as I move forward in the face of uncertainty, I can’t lose. Will I mess up? Sure. Make mistakes? Yep. Need to change course from time to time? Absolutely.

Despite all of that, moving forward will always get me somewhere faster than standing still.

 

Self-Love Series: Stop Working Out

After my post a couple of weeks ago about my very personal struggle with body image, and my decision to stop focusing on losing weight, I got some questions about how I eat and exercise as a means of self care, without allowing myself to fall into old patterns of deprivation and over exercising.

There’s so much to say on these topics, and I want what I share to be as helpful as possible, so I’m going to focus on eating and exercise individually. This week I want to talk about why I stopped “working out.”

Exercise has always been the easier thing to force myself to do than dieting. I’d choose to spend half the day at the gym over giving up pizza any day of the week. I’d always read that exercise could improve my mood, give me more energy, and help me sleep better, but none of these were ever the reasons I did it. It was always about chasing skinny, and figuring out which grueling exercise regimen would get me there the fastest.

Exercise was never something I particularly enjoyed doing, either. It was more of an experiment in what I was able to endure. In college, my routine looked something like this: 1/2 mile walk/jog on the gym’s indoor track, 500 crunches, 12-15 min intervals on the stair climber, stationary bike, and treadmill (yep, each), 5 sets of 10 reps on each upper or lower body Nautilus machine (depending on the day), 500 crunches, 1/2 mile walk on the indoor track, and stretch. Sometimes I’d even add an hour long aerobics class at the end of all that. I’m not even slightly exaggerating. If I was meeting friends at the gym, I’d be there before they arrived, and long after they left.

It didn’t matter if a training session made my heart race till I might pass out, or a run gave me debilitating shin splints and made me want to puke; I’d do whatever burned the most calories regardless of whatever potential injury I might suffer. And I’d take a misguided sense of pride in being able to abuse my body and live to tell the tale.

After I got married and had my girls, this kind of dedication was no longer possible. Workouts were relegated to nap times or bed times or when my husband got home from work and I could steal a little bit of time. The thing is, this wasn’t about self-care or “me time.” Being home with a three year old and a baby, and spending all of their waking seconds reading to, playing with, or giving my undivided attention to them was physically and emotionally exhausting. What I really needed a day to myself or a nap, but whenever I had free time, I forced myself to go for a run, or do Taebo because I felt like I had to.

Right before I started working with a functional medical professional a couple of years ago, I was working out twice a day, and eating very little, but somehow managed to gain 7 lbs in two weeks. My doctor told me that the intensity of my workouts were raising the level of stress hormones in my body and taxing my adrenals. “If you want to heal, you’re going to need to listen to your body. Move in ways that feel good and energize you…like yoga, and walking,” he said.

At that point, I pretty much freaked out. I thought that if my exercise regimen consisted only of walking and yoga, I’d get as big as a house for sure. And telling me to listen to my body? What did that even mean? But right after I freaked out, I felt an immense sense of relief. My doctor was actually giving me permission to slow down. To stop running myself into the ground.

So, with some trial and error, I learned what listening to my body felt like. I noticed that when I pushed too hard, I felt wiped out. I learned to stop fighting my fatigue, as well. When I felt tired, I rested. Paying attention and properly responding to these cues allowed me to try different ways of moving, because I trusted myself to do more of what made me feel good, and stop doing what didn’t. Sounds pretty basic, maybe, but it was all new to me.

Now I’m stronger, healthier, and I’m able to physically challenge myself more than I could even six months ago, but I don’t “work out” anymore. I move my body in whatever way makes me feel capable, strong, and empowered. A couple days a week that might be lifting at the gym; other days it might be hiking the trails in my neighborhood. The only measurable results I’m after is to enjoy what I do, and feel better afterward.

Many of us have a love/hate relationship with working out, because we see it as a means of punishment. Or at best, a misguided set of checks and balances. If working out consists of doing things you hate as a way to earn your food, or punish yourself for not looking a certain way, it’s about self loathing.

If on the other hand, you look at movement as play–an opportunity to try new things, find what’s fun for you and makes you feel kinda badass, it can be the ultimate expression of self love.

Christy  xo