What Seeds are you Planting this Growing Season?

With Easter on our doorstep and spring in the air, we’re naturally more optimistic as we head into another growing season. When we observe nature, it’s clear that there is an anticipated pattern of ebb and flow. There’s a time to pause and a time for growth. Perhaps you’re a gardener who relishes nurturing seeds that turn into beautiful plants bearing fruit or maybe you’re a bird watcher, who enjoys the season of migration, as our transient feathered friends join the hearty regulars at the feeder.

Spring is a time of renewal and growth; it’s our time to press refresh and take stock of what we love and what doesn’t work for us anymore. There’s nothing wrong with letting go of habits that don’t serve us and that relates equally to behavior and how we think. It’s easy to get caught up in ideas like this is how I’ve always done it or I can’t change now, I’m too old, regardless of how old you are. Both behavior and thinking habits are tenacious, even addictive but we’re bigger than that and we’re better than that. What nobody tells us is that we can change our mind about anything at any time and we don’t need anybody’s permission to make that move. When it comes to our habits, rather than going for bigtime change, it’s more manageable to nurture small shifts in our thinking and behavioral habits that will reap great benefit in the long run.

A breath of fresh air is a great thing to take and an even better thing to be.”  Nikunj Patel

Let’s start with breathing, shall we?  Right now, you’re inhaling one of  25,000 breaths you will take over the course of the day. We take our breath for granted until we have a problem with it but here’s the thing: we should be more aware of how we’re breathing so that we can optimize those precious 25,000 breaths. I recently became aware that my breathing needed some adjustment. I have been sucking in my belly for years to try to appear slimmer and apparently this has not been helpful for my breathing, which ultimately impacts my entire system.

Studies have shown that when we’re stressed our breathing is rapid and shallow; who hasn’t been stressed over the last year in this Pandemic pause? So I’m making time to work on slowing down, breathing in and out of the nose, expanding the belly on the in breath and relaxing it on the exhale.  Try it right now; take four or five nice slow inhales and exhales in through the nose while you expand your belly on the inhale and relax it on the exhale. This engages the diaphragm, which is a good thing. Being mindful of how I’m breathing is not a hardship and it’s a change of habit that I’m enjoying and benefiting from.

Breath is at the core of living and our thoughts are at the core of how we live, so it’s important to ensure that how we’re operating is working for us. When we fuel our happiness with thoughts and actions that make us feel good and are helpful for others, the energy of that flows into every aspect of our life. When we feel purposeful, it’s much easier to be compassionate toward ourselves and others.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s never too late and you’re never too old to feel purposeful. Start with how you invest the 24 hours you have in a day. Have you explored what interests you by taking a course or joining a group based on that interest? Can you give your time, talent or treasure to an organization in need of help? Is there something you love to do that could benefit someone else? It doesn’t have to be complicated: if you bake share your goodies with others; if you love to read start or join a book circle. If history, yoga or art is your thing, try taking an online course. Any engagement like this will spark some kind of delight that will flow into every area of your life.

We can’t forget the other support systems like getting good quality sleep, exercising and having healthy eating habits. Having healthy habits in these areas produce that same spark of positive energy that flows into all aspects of our lives.

Anything we do to improve ourselves adds value not only for us but for those close to us as well as the community around us. This is our time to refresh, renew and dance like nobody’s watching, so don’t be afraid to strut your stuff. Remember that life is for learning and growing no matter what age you are.

Chair Piloga With Tracy Reid of Fitness Powers

Let’s start the day with something new! Piloga. 

What is Piloga

It is a new fitness discipline born of a mix of Pilates and yoga. Sounds fun? In this practice, we aim at total mental and physical well-being.

Click here to participate in this 30 minutes program. Piloga allows you to have control of your body, with the awareness of breathing and mastery of every muscle and every movement, bringing a balanced posture. 

Enjoy!

Cooking With Chef Robert

Ready to make some amazingly delicious Scones and Roasted Pear and Onion Salad? This week Chef Robert Mills shares two of his favorite spring recipes. You can click here to watch the video. Here are the recipes. Enjoy!

Roberts Berry Scone Recipe

Prep:15 mins Cook:17 mins Total:32mins Servings:8

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ Cup Sugar

2 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 stick Butter room Temp

½ Cup Fresh Blue Berries

½ Cup Sliced Strawberries

½ Cup milk

1 large egg

Directions

Instructions Checklist

Step 1

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Step 2

In a medium bowl, mix flour, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt. Use your fingers to work in butter (mixture should resemble coarse meal)

Step 3

In a small bowl, whisk Milk and Egg

Step 4

Using a fork, stir in Milk and Egg into flour mixture until large dough clumps form. Use your hands to press the dough against the bowl into a ball. (The dough will be sticky in places, and there may not seem to be enough liquid at first, but as you press, the dough will come together.) add the Strawberries and blueberries.

Step 5

Place on a lightly floured surface and pat into a 7- to 8-inch circle about 3/4-inch thick.  Use a sharp knife to cut into 8 triangles; place on a cookie sheet (preferably lined with parchment paper), about 1 inch apart. Bake until golden, about 15 to 17 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature.

Nutrition Facts

Per Serving: 319 calories; protein 4.9g; carbohydrates 41.1g; fat 15.5g; cholesterol 60.1mg; sodium 249.3mg.

Maple Syrup roasted Pears, Onions, Balsamic Vinaigrette, on Romaine Spears

Salad for two

Prep: 10 mins  Cook: 15 mins  Total: 25 mins  Servings: 2

Ingredients

1 Whole Pear

1 Whole Red onion

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 tablespoon Olive Oil

4 teaspoons balsamic vinaigrette

One head of Romaine

Directions

Instructions Checklist

Step 1

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Step 2

Cut Pear into 8 Wedges removing the seeds, Removed the skin from the onion and cut into 8 Wedges

Step 3

Place onto a baking sheets and Drizzle over the Maple syrup and Olive Oil

Step 4

Place in the oven for 15-20 minutes

Step 5

Clean Romaine and set-up on two plates

And place warm Pears and Onions on top

Finish Balsamic Vinaigrette

Per Serving: 604 calories; protein 7.6g; carbohydrates 39.2g; fat 25.8g; cholesterol 17.7mg; sodium 335.2mg

How Mindfulness Can Help Manage Stress

What do you think of when you hear the word mindfulness? Do you imagine a guru sitting crossed-legged on a mountain top chanting? Frankly, I think mindfulness could use a new public relations campaign, so that we can all appreciate the benefits of this simple yet powerful practice. I want to share with you how mindfulness might be something you can use every day in your life to manage stress, like a secret superpower.

It’s challenging for our busy thinking mind to understand that taking the focus off of our worries is a good thing. We “think” we have to think our way through everything but just like our body needs rest, our mind needs a break too. We’ve all been on a kooky emotional roller coaster ride, since this Pandemic pause began. Depending on your circumstances, you may be managing working from home, schooling for your children, you might be concerned about your investments, your family and friends, grieving loss of a loved one, your former life and there’s always the underlying fear that you might get sick.

Mindfulness is part of a deep-rooted Buddhist ritual; it’s a practice, just like being grateful is a practice. Once we start to notice what we’re grateful for in our lives, we’ll always find that there’s more to be grateful for but we have to develop the habit of seeing our world this way. Same thing goes for mindfulness, which is the practice of being present in the moment. Our beautiful brain is wired to anticipate what’s coming in the future and it loves to ruminate on what’s already happened whether it’s good or bad. The practice of mindfulness interrupts this ingrained pattern and allows us to be present without attachment to any of the concerns we have about the future or the past. The thing is it’s fleeting, so we have to be mindful of what thoughts are coming up and through practice, train our mind not to judge our thoughts and not to allow those thoughts to prevent us from living fully.

Mindfulness can be meditation but it doesn’t have to be. What if I suggested sitting comfortably with your eyes closed and just observing your breath for a few minutes. Breathing in and breathing out without judging anything, just observing. That’s a form of meditation and that’s not so weird is it? In my view, mindfulness is about becoming the observer of our thoughts without feeling that we have to jump in and engage with them. With practice, we become skilled at bringing our attention back to the present moment when we get carried off by a thought about something.

A lot of the stress we’re feeling these days is the result of speculative thinking because there is so much uncertainty in our world right now. Going over and over what we don’t know doesn’t soothe us, it does the opposite. So mindfulness can start by allowing for an awareness of how much time we invest in these questions with no answers. What if, instead of allowing random thoughts about all of our concerns, we focus on what we can do and choose one thing; then do it. That’s being mindful. If you pause when you notice your thoughts are taking you in six directions and just focus on your breath. Breathe in; breathe out. That’s being mindful.

Some people enjoy meditating, some love to colour. Some enjoy listening to music and for others it’s all about exercise. There’s no wrong or right way; certainly not just one way to nurture mindfulness. The key is to interrupt the constant stream of the 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts that bombard us every day and take up a lot of our brain’s bandwidth.

Beginning the day with a few minutes focused on mindfulness whether it’s writing in a journal, taking a walk outside, sitting quietly with a morning beverage or listening to a guided meditation, all of these practices can set us up to more easily manage our thoughts throughout the day. Then it’s important to move through the day, looking for the good in it and only focusing on one thing at a time. We’re very capable of multitasking and sometimes we think it’s the only way to get things done but multitasking is a myth; research has shown that it’s best for our mental wellness to focus on one task at a time.

However you choose to be mindful, whether it’s looking for ways to help others, learning something new or exercising, you’re supporting a healthy immune system, you’re preventing your cells from aging quickly and you’re taking charge because while there’s a lot we don’t know right now, there’s so much we can do to improve our mindset which is the only thing we have control over at any time. So, as you pursue your mindfulness practice, remember that your thoughts are powerful and you’re in charge of them.

Here is a list of suggested ways to practice mindfulness:

  • Take deep, slow belly breaths.
  • Do some gentle stretches.
  • Paint something.
  • Sit or walk in nature observing everything around you.
  • Move slowly.
  • Observe art.
  • List what you’re grateful for.
  • Listen to music.
  • Listen to a guided meditation.
  • Write in a journal.

Decluttering in a Pandemic: Your Guide to Feeling Lighter

Discussing decluttering a year or two ago was quite a different conversation. Marie Kondo, the Japanese organizing consultant had us all under her spell, teaching that if something didn’t spark joy in us, we should let it go. Now we’re storing toilet paper and keeping our pantry full of dry goods just in case. We’re in survival and preparedness mode and that sparks stress: an indescribable often unacknowledged tension that lies there like a blanket covering all of our lives.

There’s nothing like a global health crisis to reshape how we think, how we spend and how we live, among other things. We panic purchased to help calm the fear that rose up and took over; we’ve been watching the news to stay informed, thinking that might calm the fear but it just feeds it. Almost a year later we are more hopeful with news of a vaccine but we are nowhere near the end of this and I think we’re all tired of being afraid of something we can’t understand. Let’s be mindful that fear serves a purpose; its job is to keep us safe and our job is to manage how much of it we allow to direct our lives. If we declutter fear, we’ll be able to see ourselves through this Pandemic with more hope and optimism.

Some good news in all of us spending time at home is that we’re finally getting around to painting a room or two and switching out furniture we’ve been meaning to replace. This has been a great benefit to charities like the Furniture Bank that assist refugees and low-income families with used furniture. There’s the rise in kindness and compassion we’re seeing in our neighbours, we’re spending less time in our cars and the work world is seeing benefit in having some employees work from home. I think we’re all searching for reasons to feel hopeful that out of this chaos comes some positive change. Isn’t that the way it always works? If we look back over our lives, I think we can all see evidence that out of disorder a new order is created however we just don’t do well when we don’t know what’s coming or when.

We want to plan grand reunions, we want to know when we can hug our kids and receive a hug from a friendly soul and who can blame us? We are made to live in a community; not isolation. So let’s begin by focusing on ways we can feel empowered instead of powerless. It starts with gratitude and appreciation for what we do have and what we can do. To activate the feeling of empowerment, it’s important that we implement simple practices like letting people know we appreciate them by giving compliments, making phone calls and sending messages to those we’re grateful for. There’s a lot of power in directing our attention this way.

We also have to manage how much time we devote to the news. It’s important to be informed but cultivating calm is how we quiet fear; we cultivate calm by settling the mind through prayer or meditation, whatever resonates with you. We calm our mind through exercise and focusing our attention on what we can control; surrendering the worry thoughts about what we aren’t in charge of. It’s like fine-tuning our insides; instead of allowing fear to make us feel scrambled and overwhelmed, we can manage our feelings by focusing on calm.

As we go through the day, instead of looking to the outer world for certainty, let’s go inward and take charge of our attention and focus. Remember that how we feel is going to dictate how our day will unfold. When we begin the day with appreciation and healthy boundaries, we’re decluttering our minds and choosing to feel empowered. When we limit our exposure to stressful influences we’re nurturing our mental wellness, which is an investment worth making if what we want is to live well.

Here’s a checklist to help maintain focus:

  1. Start your day by acknowledging what you’re grateful for; name at least five things.
  2. To activate feelings of empowerment, focus on what you can do such as giving compliments, reaching out to those you appreciate and giving your attention to people and things that make you feel good.
  3. Limit your exposure to negativity such as watching or listening to too much news; avoid gossip.
  4. Cultivate calm through meditation, prayer, exercise and practicing kindness toward yourself first.
  5. If you feel overwhelmed and find these recommendations difficult, there is support for you; all you have to do is ask.

How To Improve Emotional Intelligence

“Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure.”   – Oprah Winfrey

Here are four strategies for cultivating emotional intelligence:

  1. Practice Empathy: Cultivate your ability to both understand others’ emotions and encourage people to share their perspectives and feedback. By making active attempts to listen to and understand others, you will be better equipped to deal with a wide range of people in a wide range of situations. As Ernest Hemingway noted: “When people talk listen completely. Most people never really listen.”

  2. Continually Learn: The more you learn the more you can grow. Emotional intelligence isn’t about a destination but about continual growth.

  3. Nurture Relationships: Cultivating relationships gives you practical experience in dealing with a wide range of people. Not only will developing these relationships improve your outlook, but it will also make you better equipped to deal with people you’ve never met before.

  4. Practice Breathing: Breathing exercises can both help you clear your mind and stimulate you for the day ahead. Here is a great breathing technique from Andrew Weil, M.D. to get you started:
  • The Relaxing Breath: This breathing technique will clear your mind and put you at ease. Start by pressing the tip of your tongue against the top of your mouth, right behind the front teeth. Exhale through the mouth. Inhale for a count of four through the nose. Hold your breath for a count of seven. Exhale, making noise, for a count of eight through the mouth. Repeat three times.

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