2018 ~ Setting Focuses…Not Resolutions!

At the end of each year, I like to reflect on what the last year brought into my life.  Much like a daily gratitude journal, a yearly reflection allows me to assess how far I have (or have not) come.  Before I look forward to the next year, I take account of my lessons learned.

2017 brought much into my life.  I proved to myself that I am a capable endurance runner and much braver than I thought.  I tackled trails all alone that would have scared me in years gone by.  Kenny’s and my relationship grew to a whole new level of wonderfulness.  I was given the opportunity for a temporary promotion which I feel I tackled successfully.

On a rougher note, our boys had a difficult year in a few ways.   By association as parents, we did too.   And juggling Kenny’s return to school was a tough transition for the family.  But through these experiences, we grew to be an even closer family.

While in a few ways, 2017 was one of the most difficult years of my life, in others, it was a year of tremendous growth, love, learning, and adventure.

Learning from the past is critical to plan better for the future.

Looking ahead to 2018, I do not care for New Year’s Resolutions.  Like many, I do not see value in making a promise that is destined to be short-lived.  Resolutions like, “I will never eat another piece of candy again” are bound to fail!  Instead, I prefer to use any new beginning as a chance to determine how I would like to grow and commit to focusing on those actions next.  This happens at various times throughout the year, but after the winter holidays, and with the returning of the warming energizing power of the Sun, the New Year is a fitting time to re-examine my focuses and commit to them out loud.

As I step into 2018, I have established three areas of focus for my life:

Intimacy in My Most Important Relationship

I cuddle with my kids. I share meals and stories with friends.  At times, I spend more time with co-workers than I do my spouse.  But oh sweet intimacy, only my best friend/partner/spouse receives that.  I divulge thoughts and feelings I would not share with anyone else.  I give my physical being to my spouse.  I trust him with every bit of my vulnerability. Yet despite the importance of intimacy in setting this relationship apart from all the others in my life, it is easily lost in the daily chaos.  For 2018, I would like to focus on making intimacy in my marriage a higher priority.

Getting my Children Outdoors More Often

My boys are pretty active.  They jump on the trampoline every day, play on their swing set, love bike rides and swimming.  Inevitably however, they get overly excited about playing on their tablets or wanting to find “easy” entertainment.  Yet, whenever we venture into the great outdoors, they always find joy in it.  Getting dirty is good for the body, mind, and soul and while I do it regularly for myself, I don’t drag my kids along often enough.  For 2018, I would like to focus on getting my boys into the great outdoors more often.  Camping, hiking, swimming in lakes and rivers, kayaking, paddle-boarding, mountain biking….anything that leads to fresh air, dirty feet, and a joyful heart.

Running with Women Who Are Stronger and Faster than Me

I love the times when I have runners who join me to push themselves.  I find great joy in helping other women find their next level.  But when I am destined to be the slower runner, I get nervous, anxious, fearful.  What will they think of me?  Will they assume that I am a terrible person because I can’t run as fast as them?  What if they never want to run with me again or even be my friend?  HAHA….It is just ludicrous the ideas that go through my head when vulnerability knocks down the door.  Yet, the times I have overcome my fear, I have found great pride in myself at pushing to a next level.  For 2018, I would like to focus on allowing myself to be vulnerable and dare to chase that next level of accomplishment.

Setting focuses for the year remind me of the intention I like to set before a run or yoga class.  There are always areas I want to improve in my life and if I try to do them all at once, I will fail at everything.  Breaking down my goals into smaller focuses will give me a chance to make some real progress towards the woman I want to become while not losing the beautiful parts of who I already am.

The journey continues……

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Every Run Needs a Purpose

Running is a powerful tool in coping with depression and really just life in general.  The physical activity relieves stress while releasing endorphins that elevate the mood.  Many of the runs I do have the sole purpose of giving me release from the chains of depression.  

Runs all need a purpose.  Some days it is a cure-all for emotional distress.  Other days it is pushing for a new personal record.  And at other times it is also a chance to seek out new adventures.  

What happens when a run lacks purpose?  Most runs that lack purpose feel flat and unfulfilling.  You naturally fall back into habits and the full benefit of that run gets lost.  On the other hand, giving a run purpose provides a foundation for the movement in that run and helps you focus expectations.

How do you set purpose for a run?

  1. Begin by planning ahead.  Having a training plan that identifies each run and its purpose ahead of time helps set the stage long before you lace up your shoes.
  2. For each run decide what conditions you need to fulfill that purpose.  For example, if I am doing a tempo run, I like to get some faster friends along for the ride to help me push the pace.  Make arrangements to have those conditions met.
  3. The night before set the stage for execution.  Is the intention of your run to socialize with friends after work?  Then be sure to pack clothes so you don’t have to come home after work, but rather can go straight to your meet-up.
  4. At the beginning of each run, silently or out loud, set an intention.  Tell yourself, “On Today’s run I want to……”  Use this intention to set the expectation for the run and let all other expectations go. If your intention is to use the run as a recovery run, that is the intention.  Do not expect to set a new personal record on Strava that day and be okay with that because running fast is not the intention for that days run.  
  5. Don’t be afraid to adjust your purpose if you need to for that day.  You may have an endurance run planned, but just need to get anger and frustration out so you can be present for your family.  Do it.  Maybe you are tired from a long week and just need an easy run or have missed a friend you haven’t seen in a while.  Change your purpose to get what you need in your life.  

What are some examples of purposes for a run?  We often think of the purely physical purposes….tempo run, fartlek run, long run, and so on.  But for the majority of us, there are far greater and more important reasons to run than just getting faster or running longer.  

Here are some of the intentions I choose to set before a run:

  1. Social interaction – spending time with friends and deepening relationships
  2. Good for the soul – spending time in nature and reconnecting with my inner self
  3. Adventure – seeing and exploring new places
  4. Stress Relief – pounding out anger from a hard and frustrating day
  5. Recovery – moving my muscles in an easy way to stimulate recovery from hard efforts
  6. Building Speed – shorter bursts of faster speed to build speed for longer runs
  7. Building Endurance – long miles in an aerobic zone to build the bodies endurance

Picking the purpose of your run helps you be ever mindful of what you are seeking to get out of your running.  If you give running the chance, it will deliver far more than physical fitness.  It will deliver some of the strongest friendships, the best mental health medicine, ability to deal with conflict and challenging events in life, and so much more.  

What are some other intentions you have set for a run?  How do you give your run purpose?

Build longevity, embrace the delicate within and let the journey continue…..

The ABCs of Happiness

Dealing with depression on a daily basis is a challenge. Even for those that don’t struggle with depression, days can become full of frustration and the struggles of work and groceries, homework and meals. Often it feels like happiness is elusive.

But happiness is a choice and one that is YOURS and MINE to make. It is helpful to have a strategy to aid in making this choice. I sat down and gave some thought to the various words of wisdom that I try to incorporate into my daily life. Practicing The ABCs of Happiness aids in keeping my depression at bay and supports healthy living.

A – Always be willing to say you are sorry first when you are wrong and sometimes even when you are not.

B – Believe in the good in yourself and in those around you.

C – Chase after dreams and goals that are your own not someone else’s.

D – Dream big, live large, but in the way that you define is right for you.

E – Embrace that which makes you delicate; it is the delicate that teaches us to be strong.

F – Find gratitude each and every day in both big and small ways.

G – Give love and affection to others and accept the love and affection others give to you.

H – Have courage to buck societal norms and pave a path that is true to your heart.

I – Intentionality….start your day with setting an intention and remember it throughout the day.

J – Jump and play like a kid often.

K – Know your limitations then bust through them anyway!

L – Love large, put your heart out there, you will never receive love if you don’t give it first.

M – Make time for self love and self care.

N – Never be afraid to take a risk.

O – Open your eyes and heart to the perspective of others. You may not agree but you will learn something.

P – Pursue your dreams relentlessly.

Q – Query others on they do to find joy and try out some of their ideas.

R – Respect everyone even if you don’t like them.

S – Show compassion always.

T – Try new things, places, etc. regularly

U – Use your time wisely.

V – Value relationships and experiences over material possessions.

W – Wait until your emotions subside before dealing with difficult issues so you can approach the situation with a clear head.

X – X-ray yourself regularly to find out where you can work on being a better person.

Y – Yearn for the future, cherish the past, LIVE in the present

Z – Zero grudges, zero regrets.

Call to action: What do you live by that helps you choose happiness in your life? Comment below.

5 Ways to Embrace Gratitude This Holiday Season

We have cycled around to another holiday season.  Thanksgiving is upon us and we are pausing to take stock in our blessings.  An “Attitude of Gratitude” is the motto of the day.

It is easy in the day to day to focus on negativity.  Sometimes in between rushing to soccer practice, and traveling for work, and paying bills, we lose sight all that we are grateful for in our lives.  Being grateful take practice.

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Getting my stretches in while chalking up the sidewalks

Today I was able to start my day by combining two of my biggest blessings…running with my Moms RUN This Town (MRTT) community and spending time with my family.  Our MRTT chapter organized a Turkey Trot 5K run.  It wasn’t formal – no race bibs, no registration, no timing.  Just show up and run, with love and laughter.

Prior to the race, a few of us got together and exercised our stealth “chalking” skills.  We  loaded up the neighborhood sidewalks with sayings of thanks and positivity.  Several people were out walking and asked what we were doing.  I was thrilled to tell them we were setting up for a community run.  It felt so good to be a part of something that would bring joy to others.

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Ahwatukee MRTT represents before we head out for our 5K family run

I did the “run” with Quinlan and my dad, who is visiting from Louisiana.  We mostly walked which gave us a perfect opportunity to have Quinlan read each of the sayings.   One of the sayings read, “What are you thankful for?”.  When I posed this question to Quinlan he said, “That’s a tough one, there are so many things!”  From the mouths of babes.  It warmed my heart.

Starting our day celebrating our blessings and being with our loved one set the stage for a day of gratitude.  It continued on with more love, thanksgiving, good food, and better company.  Gratitude is contagious and the more we are grateful, the more those around us see the blessings in their lives too.

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So how do we cultivate this same level of gratitude in our each and every day and not just limited to the Day of Thanks?  Here’s 5 ideas you can give a try to build gratitude into your daily life:

  • Gratitude Journal
    • Either begin or finish each day by writing in a journal, electronic or pen and paper, makes no difference.  Write down a minimum of three things you are grateful that day.  Big or small.  Gratitude for you were able to make your bed or gratitude that you survived a car accident – both build the habit of gratitude every day.
  • Set an Alarm
    • Use your smartphone to set 5 or more alarms throughout the day.  Each time the alarm goes off, pause for a minute to think of something you are grateful for in your life.  Again, big or small, gratitude is gratitude.
  • Post-It in Bathroom
    • On your bathroom mirror, steering wheel, or any common place, post a sticky note with the question, “What are you grateful for today?”  If you want to get fancy, you could stencil it or create some beautiful plaque, but be careful that it doesn’t become so decorative that it fades into the background.  You want this note to be noticeable so you look at it every day and answer the question.
  • Ritual
    • Create a ritual around a certain event in the day in which you give thanks.  For example, pausing before a meal to reflect on your blessings.  Our family regularly does a round-robin at the dinner table sharing our gratitude.
  • Gratitude Box
    • Buy a beautiful box or decorate a plain one.  Leave a stack of small pieces of paper and once a day write down a item of gratitude.  At a regular interval, weekly or monthly or so on, open the box and read what you have written down.

Incorporate one or more of these into each day and gratitude will begin to become habitual in your life.  And then that habit will influence those around you and bring more joy and blessing into your life.

Call to Action: Share in the comments what other ways you bring gratitude into your daily life?