Gratitude, making your own happiness, part 1 of 3

My good friend Matthew left formal religion as a non-believer. This was a big problem for his wife, who consequently dumped him, moved away with his kids, and remarried. He counseled me a lot as I was newly divorced.

I sought that out, because his divorce was amicable and he refuses to be miserable. What happened (losing his wife whom he adored, and his very young kids moving to another state) is the kind of thing many people spend a lifetime recovering from.

But he’s made a choice to be happy, make a cool life for himself. He has found meditation and gratitude exercises to be life-savers. He gave me an awesome Tony Robbins Gratitude CD a long time ago. You can’t listen to it and stay in a gloomy place.

Today I just want to write five things I’m thankful for. I hope you’ll do the same.

One, I am so glad I have my four beautiful kids. They all have quality friends and activities they excel at. They have fun, unique personalities and I learn from them every day. I made a goal today to not allow myself to say anything that “corrects” them (i.e. constructive criticism!) unless I’ve said five positive things first. Parenting thoughtfully has taught me creativity. Just now, I said to Ten, “I am going to be SO proud of you when you start putting your Lara Bar wrappers in the trash–I’m excited about that!” instead of “Why did you throw this on the floor again?”

Two, I am thankful for a healthy body that serves me well, never lets me down. It lets me play tennis, run, and my latest fun thing–Zumba dance.

Three, I am thankful I live in the Rocky Mountains, one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I have a beautiful view of nature every day. Snowy, green, yellow/orange, depending on the time of year–I love it year-round. Sundance / Provo Canyon are my “happy place” on my skiis, bike, or feet.

Four, I am thankful for beautiful and unique friends who each contribute something valuable to my life, make me laugh, help me see things differently, and teach me stuff as I sit with them in negotiating their life’s trials. That includes my internet friends–every one of you who contributes here. (And even you lurkers–love you, too!)

Five, I am thankful for meaningful work that I love. I get to help people, write, travel, and eat good food, in my job. How could I ask for more? I always have a choice: and I choose to focus on what I have, not what I don’t.

I would love it if you would undertake this exercise–here on my blog or privately. I have a few comments tomorrow about creating your own happiness.

Some of you will outgrow me, and I HOPE YOU ALL DO!

In the recent Mercola/Campbell debate I called “Clash of the Titans,” a comment was made by a reader that you may not have noticed–but it really made me think.

“John” said that the more he stays close to sun and soil, and the more he learns and empowers himself, the less attention he pays to “outside experts.”

I love that. Very frankly, you should move down the path to less reliance on me, too.

I have seen some readers do it in the past three years. Some whose stories I know well, I have observed. They include Darlene in Canada, Tina in North Carolina, Jamie in Utah, Tonya in California, Tricia in Texas, Leslee in Texas, Dr. Denise in Florida, and my very own Jenni, whom I adore and who is head of my customer support team.

These eight (and more–name yourself and tell your story if you fit in this camp) got their start here at GSG or elsewhere, but embraced knowledge and change.

They’ve outgrown me. They’ve studied, pondered, and prayed. They’ve practiced. They’ve developed a repertoire of recipes and habits. They’ve overhauled their pantries, fridges, freezers. They’ve begun growing gardens. The learning curve got flatter and flatter.

They’ve seen the fruits of their labors: better health, amelioration of energy deficits and chronic conditions. They’ve converted others to the lifestyle that has so dramatically helped them. They haven’t done it halfway–they’ve done it flat-out, in a committed way.

Most of them voluntarily wrote testimonials for 12 Steps. They didn’t write sophistry or canned marketing hype or excessive praise. They wrote the real stories of their families’ genuine experiences.

They check back here now and then because no matter how far down the path you go, you need reassurance, community, and support.

But their knowledge eventually rivals my own. AND I LOVE THIS. I honor all all of you who have a sincere wish to help others learn the truth and get healthier.

As John said (which reminds me of someone I read Bernard Jensen saying, a pioneer in nutrition who lived well into his 90’s), live close to the rich, black dirt, and the air and sunshine. Where those things are, you’ll find whole foods: they keep you grounded, sane, and whole.

Does it help to visualize? Hit The Cycle!

GSG reader Alisa sent me her meditation CD for evaluation, and I was listening to it this morning. Over the sound of ocean waves, it says in a million ways, “I am choosing habits to lead me to my slender, healthy body NOW.”

Do you think it makes a difference to imagine positive outcomes in your life?

My son Kincade is a junior in high school. Today against Lehi High School, he hits a single, a double, and a triple. At Kincade’s last at-bat, Scooter Nelson says: “You gonna hit The Cycle, Cade?”

The Cycle is legendary in baseball. It’s happened ONCE this year in MLB. It never happened on the Thunder, the outstanding traveling baseball team Cade played on for 4 years before high school, coached by Dennis Smith, one of the best men to ever walk Planet Earth.

So Cade walks up to the plate with Scooter’s words ringing in his ears. On the first pitch, he smashes the ball 40 feet over the center-field fence.

The Cycle is a single, double, triple, and home run. See our celebratory photo after the game, below.

Every player comes out to body-slam Cade as he rolls into home plate, and Coach Nelson, of 4 state baseball championships, says, “That was psycho stuff,” and gives Cade the game ball.

He is batting 900 in his first three games of the fall, and he had 7 RBI’s tonight, winning a game against a very tough team.

How much does VISUALIZING positive outcomes matter? Imagine yourself healthy, with energy to spare, doing stuff you maybe haven’t done in a decade or more. It can happen. Not magically, but because actions start with thoughts–consistent ones that you nurture.

My 17 y.o. baseball player is the sickly, underweight, chronically wheezing kid taking five courses of steroids in his second year of life. The one whose story I tell on the site and in my latest book. Whose life did a 180 when we started eating whole foods and quit eating dairy, meat, and sugar.

[Oh, and what IS that shirt you’re wearing, you ask? I got grease all over my favorite white t-shirt and ripped a hole in it, extricating it from my bike chain today. So I let my two youngest kids “decorate” me with a bag full of Sharpie markers. Then I went to the gym in a tank top and everyone pointed out the Sharpie bleed-through all over my shoulders. BEING A MOM IS FUN!]

Change is good . . . or at least inevitable (part 2 of 2)

I once gave up another new sport I’d fallen in love with, kickboxing, when I peeled a tendon off my shoulder bone hitting the bag too hard. For 9 months, I couldn’t do the things I loved. Just like now. A friend of mine just invited me to do a 10-hour hike this Saturday and I had to say no, because of the injury.

Change happens. It’s not that it’s good or bad, although I think most change is a crucible that leads to growth. If we let it be.

It helps to quantify the changes and why the differences inspire and enhance my life. From tennis and running, to cycling? I now have different legs than I had before–biker legs instead of tennis legs. I like them. I liked my tennis legs, but the different, evolving muscle shape is awesome now too. I also get to be outside enjoying the most beautiful scenery in the world.

I went biking Saturday with my friend Kristin, and on the downhill she said, “This is like therapy!” I said, “I know! Sometimes when I’m up here, I start laughing, because it’s all so beautiful it blows my mind. And sometimes I pray. I say, ‘God, thank you for this!'”

And I feel thankful that change–something bad, actually–threw me into these discoveries and metamorphoses that feel like they are “meant to be.”

So why do we resist change so much? It’s scary, I know.

I watch so many people making the shift from the standard American diet, to the whole-foods, mostly raw program that I teach. And I see their reluctance, their fears, their excuses, in the beginning. I see their challenges and hurdles, their small successes, their building excitement, their health improvements and weight loss.

Change we have no control over, that seems bad at the outset, often leads us somewhere good.

Through my divorce, I gained or rekindled two new hobbies/skills (tennis and skiing), new friends, a lot of self-awareness, learning and growth–and it frankly made me a better parent. Because of plantar fasciitis, I’m now spending lots of time biking the beautiful Provo and American Fork Canyons in 20- to 50-mile rides.

Through my son’s illness, I changed my entire family’s health, with nutrition, and wrote books and developed this site to share with others.

Change has cost me a LOT of effort and angst, but it’s made me so much better.

So why don’t we make change that we know is going somewhere good, more often? I wish I could convince everyone to eat whole foods with me. I know sick kids whose parents won’t make dietary changes–because they fear change.

“I won’t get to eat foods I like.” “I won’t know what to make.” “I’m sure it’s too expensive.” “My family won’t support me.” Just some of the excuses to avoid change. I’ve heard from hundreds of people with those complaints, who took a leap of faith, and ended up with glow and energy and chronic conditions reversed.

I am learning to be a person who embraces change and sees the challenge and promise in it. Come with me.

Do the Opposite, Take 2

My girlfriends and I went to the Peter Cetera concert (musically bordering on awful, but good times nonetheless) this past weekend.

Apparently we were rather loud.

Do you remember my Do the Opposite story? I don’t know if I attract these people, or what.

Apparently a few of us, I won’t say which, were singing and laughing too much (like many others in the “lawn” crowd). A couple of women in front of us got up and moved. They never asked us to pipe down, or we would have.

A woman in their party, after they moved, came over and stood right in front of us. (See photo below.) Keep in mind we were on the lawn, and 100% of those attending the concert were sitting on the ground. She swayed to the music, blocking our view, and when we didn’t react angrily to her clear provocation, she moved backwards to stand on our blanket. She began to be rather obnoxious.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Tif was there, the only one my friends who was there in Long Beach for the first story. And Jennie reads my blog and knows the story well.

But my other friends Jamie and Lisa, and Jamie’s mom? They don’t know about Frowny and what went down in March in Long Beach.

So I turn to Jenni and Tif, and I say: “Do the opposite.” They totally get it. It’s where you don’t suck into an aggressive person’s negative emotional-energy vortex. You stay clear of it and choose a path far from what that person wants from you, which is to be reactionary and engage in their anger/hostility.

I offer Aggressive Lady some gum from somebody’s purse. She accepts. I ask her if she’d like to sit with us on our blanket. (If she had, I’d have put my arm around her and invited her to join in on the swaying sing-along.) She says no thanks, though she can’t help but respond to the hospitality. She seems to decide that she likes me, while my friends, not so much. She steps back further onto our blanket, onto some of our belongings. Jenni and I amiably move our stuff, scoot over to make room, and continue enjoying ourselves, laughing and joking and singing Chicago songs.

Jamie, Sue, and Lisa, though . . . they begin to confront and then argue with Aggressive Lady. One of them gets a security guard. A big scene ensues. I don’t really know anything about it because Jenni and Tif and I are continuing to have fun and blowing it off. (As you can see, photos below.)

Aggressive Lady succeeds in ruining three of my friends’ night. We explain Do the Opposite to them later. We tell them that by choosing the opposite of instinct, you don’t drain your battery being angry and miss the whole point of the concert–the R&R.

Anyway, this is my philosophy about the Mercola/Campbell debate. It’s an important issue. When I see irresponsible statements made in my field, I will address them and I will be plain. Some will get angry. A handful comments on my blog on both sides of the debate I didn’t accept because they weren’t constructive, just angry and misguided. I’ve often observed that people are more emotional about food than they are about religion or politics.

Now I’m done saying what I felt needed to be explained. I’m not going to give it excess energy. I want my energy for productive things. I believe Dr. Campbell feels the same. We’ve heard from Denise Minger here and I would imagine we’ll eventually hear from Dr. Mercola, and I welcome that. Thanks to everyone who has, and will, weigh in on this complicated but important debate.

If you have ever tried Doing The Opposite, let us know how it went here. I use it with my kids often, always with anywhere from good to great results. Once you start doing it, you never want to go back to allowing people to suck you into negative energy.

Mid-Life Mojo, part 2 of 2

Since I turned 40, I have done a bunch of stuff on my bucket list, for instance:

  1. Write three books (two published)
  2. Travel in 19 countries
  3. Take up a competitive sport and advance in it
  4. Start skiing again
  5. Do service in a 3rd world country with my kids
  6. Fall in love (that didn’t work out, but now I know it can happen!)

I’m not done, of course. I’M JUST WARMING UP! That’s the thing about shifting some of your unhealthy habits to healthy ones–you get YOUNGER and you tap energy you’d forgotten long ago that you once had. You get to do stuff on your bucket list!

I got on the back of Dixon’s Harley to drive the Alpine Loop and I was enthralled, enamored, blown away. “OMG!” was my out-loud reaction. (My secret reaction was, “Move out of my way and let me drive!”) But I am intimidated because I’m not mechanical and that kick-start thing reminds me of the lawnmower rip cord. I love mowing but hate dislocating my shoulder using the ripcord. I texted Dix and he said, DUH, they start with a button nowadays! Yay!

So, new things for my bucket list for the next 18 months? In no particular order:

  1. Go to Africa
  2. Go to Australia / New Zealand
  3. Write a couple more books
  4. Start a new web site
  5. Hold a GSG retreat
  6. Buy a Harley and learn to ride it

Somebody hold my feet to the fire and ask me how many of these I’ve done, in a year.

Please make a bucket list of what you’re going to do with all your newfound energy. Don’t let your conversations when you’re 65 be about what your cardiologist said about your need for stents and open-heart surgery, and how much your joints hurt, and how you aren’t digesting your food and the Metamucil just isn’t working any more, and how your Prilosec is bothering your stomach, and . . . .

(In case you’re wondering, that’s part of a real live conversation I had with a 65-year old person who is no longer LIVING but rather is SLOWLY DYING and it’s by CHOICE because she is reaping the sad consequences of lifestyle choices. It’s not just depressing to listen to, it’s got to be a nightmare to LIVE that life! And why? So that you can cling to the one pleasure you have left–In ‘N Out Burger?)

I have been accused of having a mid-life crisis. No way! (Where’s the crisis?)

I’m just LIVING in mid-life rather than settling into an armchair and beginning to die. When did this become the standard?! Join me for more Mid-Life Mojo than you ever dreamed possible.