3 tips for a zen vacation
so… i’m leaving for cuba tomorrow… CUBA. i literally never dreamed this day would come… that i, as an american citizen, would EVER be able to visit cuba… so i’m pretty damn excited to say the least! i’m desperately in need of a vacation, so in keeping with the theme of the moment, i thought a travel-related post was necessary. let’s get right to it.
the term “vacation” has lost a lot of its meaning in 2017 america. i’m always reading about how many people don’t use their vacation days, how few vacation days many employers even offer in the first place, and how even when we do take vacation, we have a hard time actually vacationing…
you know… we check our email, we take work calls, we text with our bosses… some people will actually sit in their hotel room and work remotely because they feel so strongly that they can’t get away or everything will fall apart.
thankfully, i’ve never been one of these people. i love travelling, understand the importance of taking a break from things to reset and recharge, and just generally love being able to live life for a week or so a few times a year as if i have no real responsibilities.
so, if you’ve ever found yourself doing any of the above… or even if you’ve actually taken your vacation days, decided to check out, and had crippling anxiety over not knowing what was going on back home to the point that you couldn’t even enjoy your vacation… you’ve come to the right place.
here are my 3 tips for a zen vacation:
1. pack a journal. journaling can be really therapeutic. putting pen to paper and just writing, not even about anything in particular, can do wonders for a racing, anxiety-ridden mind. i always pack a journal when i go on vacation, and it serves a few purposes. first, i love being able to write down all of the amazing experiences i’m having, so that i can look back on everything in detail years later. sure, pictures will help keep the memories alive, but those little details can easily be forgotten. second, it’s a great way to pause, take a step back, and really start to process and get clear on things that might be going on in your life… ya know like your feelings, emotions, where you want to go with your life, if you should or shouldn’t break up with your boyfriend/girlfriend, if you should make a big, risky career move… whatever. i also love the practice of using a gratitude journal to put things into perspective and remind myself how great my life is, even when things aren’t going my way.
2. swap out your daily coffee for tea. as a society, we seriously rely on coffee to get us through the day. when you’re on vacation, you should be relaxing. sleeping in and going with the flow. sure, you might have tours or dinner reservations at specific times, but other than that, vacation is about taking it easy. instead of running to the closest starbucks to get your daily fix, pack some herbal teas instead**… especially those of the calming variety [think chamomile, lavender, ashwaganda]. it’ll help to ease the mind and reduce all of the stress you have about not being at work… which will help you be more present in the end.
[**of course, if you’re going someplace like columbia, italy or bali, where coffee is a huge part of the culture/cuisine… DRINK ALL THE COFFEE YOU WANT.]
3. get off your effing phone. i get it. we all want to be connected to our friends and family. we want to share all of the cool pictures we’re taking at all of the amazing places we’re visiting. [#doitforthegram] but, if you truly want to enjoy your vacation, if you really want to experience the culture of this new, exciting place you’re visiting… get off your effing phone. you don’t even have to go totally off the grid… [i know, scary thought, right?] even just limiting yourself to only checking social media in the evening when you’re back at your hotel can make all the difference… i mean… do you really wanna find yourself standing in front of the taj mahal or at the top of the eiffel tower scrolling through effing facebook or answering a work email? i don’t think so.
i’m planning on going 100% dark in cuba… my phone is going into airplane mode from the moment i step on the flight to havana, and staying that way until i land in LA next week. i’m really craving a little disconnection, and since wifi is hard to come by in cuba, this is the perfect opportunity to just go for it.
what are your favorite ways to check out and really keep it zen when you’re on vacation? do you have any cuba recommendations?! leave them in the comments below… and i’ll see you on the otherside… adios!
3 things you can do to improve your health that don’t involve diet + exercise
this time of the year is all about “resolutions” … many of which include diet and exercise. i’m sick of resolutions and sick of talking about “eat this, not that” and “5 moves to a flatter stomach”. let’s mix it up and talk about 3 things you can do every day to improve your health that don’t involve diet and exercise.
1. meditate. you’ve probably heard a lot about meditation… especially in the last year or so. it’s one of those things that’s becoming less weird as more and more people, from every walk of life, incorporate it into their routine.
it’s no longer just something that yogis or crunchy hippies do. that’s because it’s effing good for you. it’s known to reduce stress, help manage anxiety, slow aging, improve sleep, increase happiness, and strengthen the cardiovascular and immune systems. pretty crazy, right?
if you’re new to meditation, i recommend starting out with just 5 minutes per day, and using a guided meditation [you can find a lot of options on youtube… i really like this one]. once you’re comfortable with 5 minutes, up it to 10… then 15… then 20… and so on. i like to meditate first thing in the morning for about 20 minutes… it really helps to wake me up and start my day on the right foot!
2. spend time outside. let’s get real for a sec. most of us spend the majority of our time inside. at work, at home, commuting, at restaurants, the gym… i could go on forever, but i think you get the idea. all of these places are manufactured… they aren’t natural. ever think that actually spending time in nature could be… what we’re meant to do?
spending time in nature can boost serotonin levels, which helps stabilize your mood and regulates a number of bodily functions, including digestion and sleep. being outside also exposes you to the sun a.k.a. the best source of vitamin d there is.
take a 15 minute walk on your lunch break [yes, even if you live/work in a city], sit in the park and read a book, or find a restaurant with outdoor seating for your next boozy brunch. a little bit of time outside goes a long way!
3. drink water. okay, okay, maybe this technically has something to do with your “diet”… but not really. so i’m going for it. how many times in your life have you been told you need to drink more water? how many times have you told yourself that you need to be drinking more water? probably a lot. so, why don’t you just effing do it?
not to beat a dead horse, but water is like… SO good for you. water IS life. your body needs to be fully hydrated to operate properly. seriously, pretty much none of your systems can work the way they are supposed to without it. it aids digestion and kidney function, flushes out toxins, keeps your skin glowing, energizes the muscles, and can help manage hunger, which ultimately aids in weight loss.
and luckily, drinking water is really easy. we just have to make sure we’re actually doing it. i recommend buying a nice reusable water bottle [m obsessing over these swell x gray malin bottles] and taking it with you literally everywhere. having a nice water bottle actually makes me want to drink more water. kinda how buying new workout clothes motivates me to start working out more. also, keep a glass of water by your bed, and drink it first thing in the morning. you need to get re-hydrated after a long night of rest!
implement these 3 things in your daily routine [or even just one of them at a time] and you’ll notice a difference in how you feel… physically and mentally. you will improve your health… and your body will be so happy with you!
gratitude journals + what i’m thankful for
i know it’s not thanksgiving anymore, but that doesn’t mean that that being thankful and acknowledging our blessings should stop. to be completely honest, taking time each day to note what we’re thankful for can help put our entire lives into perspective [which, let’s be honest, we need sometimes].
gratitude journals have become quite popular. it’s been proven that keeping a gratitude journal can help lower stress levels, improve sleeping patterns, boost self-esteem and increase happiness, just to name a few. seriously, they’re even written about it in forbes.
and it’s a pretty simple thing to do. the steps are:
- buy a journal.
- keep it by your bed.
- every night before you go to sleep write down three things you’re grateful for and why.
- start reaping the benefits!
so today, the day after the day of giving thanks, i wanted to take a minute to note 27 things i’m grateful for [one for each year of my life]. here we go [in no particular order]:
- my amazing, loving, supportive, weird, crazy family. every last one of them.
- my friends [who are basically my family, too].
- my health [both physical + mental].
- a job that i love so much it stresses me out more than anything else does.
- yoga + how it’s changed my life.
- travel + adventure.
- this blog, my creative outlet.
- the beach.
- leonardo dicaprio.
- my [currently] minimally furnished apartment.
- having a car again + living in a city where driving is a requirement [seriously, eff the nyc mta].
- every single person that’s ever treated me poorly … you showed me exactly how not to act and who not to associate myself with.
- living in l.a.
- the idea that my biggest problems can typically be solved with retail therapy.
- long weekends.
- people who keep it real.
- music festivals.
- the 5 years i spent living in new york city, which will always hold the #1 spot in my heart [but seriously, eff the cold/snow].
- the good that comes out of terrible situations.
- healthy, hippie sh*t.
- like-minded, creative, passionate people.
that’s just a starting point, as i really have so much to be grateful for, but i’ll save all of that for another post.
do you keep a gratitude journal? how has it changed your life? share in the comments below!
3 tips for staying balanced this thanksgiving
thanksgiving is one of those holidays that most of us have a love/hate relationship with. on one hand, it’s amazing because it brings family and friends together over a big, home cooked meal where old traditions are carried out and new memories are made. on the other hand, family drama can come up, your entire life can be picked apart by judgmental aunts and uncles, and the big dinner can be the kickoff to the holiday weight gain we all dread so much.
anyone feelin’ me here?
while no one should be feeling like they need to take such drastic measures as drugging their family to survive thanksgiving, i think it’s so funny in the first place because it really is so relatable … amiright??
here are my 3 tips for staying balanced this thanksgiving, both mentally and physically, so you wake up monday morning after this long weekend not only feeling like yourself, but feeling better than you did today!
1. set aside some time for yourself. i’m not going home for thanksgiving this year because l.a. and my hometown are just too far apart and flights are too expensive, but somehow i still managed to fill up every single day of this long weekend with some kind of activity or adventure [not that that’s a bad thing]. however, i know the importance of taking some time for myself to chill the eff out, so tonight, when i leave the office, i’m heading to a yoga class to start my weekend off on the right foot. it’s very easy to get wrapped up in the go-go-go of a holiday weekend when you’re hopping from party to party, traveling or prepping for the big day, but it’s so essential to set aside some time for you! sleep in tomorrow, take a relaxing bath tonight or head out to your favorite workout class friday morning. whatever it is that helps you unwind and makes you feel good, make time for it!
2. eat mindfully. i obviously talk about this a lot [this is a health and wellness blog, after all] but this is even more important on thanksgiving, the holiday centered around eating. before you dive into your thanksgiving dinner, scope out all of the options and see what you’re workin’ with. fill your plate up with mostly veggies, and then add potatoes, turkey [if that’s your thing] and whatever else might be calling your name [obviously leaving some room for dessert, too!]. and when you do dive in: slow. the eff. down. take small bites. chew your food. breathe. it’s not a race. enjoy your food. by the time you’ve finished, you’ll feel full and satisfied, not like you need another huge plate to get the job done.
3. take 5 minutes to acknowledge what you are thankful for. this should be the obvious tip, as this is thanksgiving, but i think that the majority of us have lost sight of the holiday’s true meaning. thanksgiving isn’t about eating a turkey, it isn’t about leaving your family gathering early to head to the mall to trample other people in the name of “getting the best deals” … it’s about being thankful and appreciating everything you have. there are so many people in the world who would kill for your sh*tty studio apartment that you pay way too much money for … they would love to have a family as annoying and crazy as yours … and yes, they would probably do anything to have the job you complain about day in and day out. if you’re reading this from a computer or a smart phone, i guarantee you are luckier and more fortunate than most of the world’s population. take 5 minutes tomorrow to write down … yes! write down! what you’re thankful for and why. keep those things in mind when things aren’t going your way this weekend. an action this small can take you leaps and bounds … you’d be surprised!
happy thanksgiving, everyone! i hope you have an amazing day celebrating with your family and friends, and take some time to unwind the rest of the weekend … you deserve it!
3 reasons to implement a morning routine
i’m sure you’ve heard how important routines are to our health, and if you haven’t, let’s talk for a minute.
why do you think parents are so crazy about making sure their babies and kids are on some kind of a routine? because it’s good for them. both mentally and physically. when our minds and bodies know what to expect and when to expect it, they function more optimally. i’ve recently started to build up a morning routine, and while it’s not quite where i want it to be yet, it’s slowly becoming a habit and that’s all that matters … baby steps.
tomorrow is the beginning of october, and fall is a great time to get into new routines, especially when that colder weather starts changing our habits! here are 3 reasons you should start implementing a morning routine a$ap, and 3 ideas to get you started:
1. easing into the day sets a positive tone for the rest of it. we all know that feeling … our alarm goes off and wakes us up from a deep sleep and we hit snooze. and the alarm goes off again … and we hit snooze again. and again … and again. we wake up at the last possible minute, take a hurried shower, get dressed, throw our sh*t in a bag, inhale our breakfast and run out the door. sound familiar? starting our day off in a rush is going to set a pretty negative tone for the rest of it.
personally, i like to set my alarm for about 15 minutes earlier than i need to be up, and allow myself at least an hour to get ready so i don’t feel rushed. of course, this doesn’t always happen, but on the days it does, i feel so much better when i head out the door. what do i do with that extra 15 minutes?
tip #1: meditate! starting your day off with a quick 10-15 minute meditation can do wonders. it’s as easy as turning off your alarm, sitting on the edge of your bed, turning on some meditation music [i love krishna das] and zoning out and being completely still for a few minutes. studies have shown that meditation has a huge positive impact on how the brain fuctions, so it’s a great way to get you into the right headspace before beginning your day. if the idea of meditating freaks you out, this guided meditation from one of the sweetest souls i’ve ever met, cassandra bodzak, is perfect for getting started … and for a little extra motivation for going after your goals!
2. looking at your phone first thing in the morning is bad for your brain. it’s probably not new information that the light given off by our device screens seriously effs with our eyes and our brains. waking up and immediately trolling our instagram or facebook feeds isn’t going to help us ease into our day and will really confuse our brains that are trying to adjust to being awake again. when you don’t have a routine in place, it’s so easy to grab your phone, turn off the alarm and go straight to email, texts, twitter or whatever it is you’re into these days, so …
tip #2: buy an alarm clock … like, a real alarm clock. invest in a real alarm clock and put your phone facedown on your nightstand when you go to sleep the night before so you aren’t as tempted to wake up and check it immediately. i promise you, whatever it is, it can wait. try to go phone free for at least 30 minutes after waking up. this cloud alarm clock is fun, simple and gets the job done.
3. when we wake our bodies up in the right way, all of our systems start to regulate. sleep is something that our bodies need in order to function. sleep has a huge impact on all of our systems … digestive, lymphatic, circulatory … literally everything our bodies does requires sleep to do it right, but giving them a little jumpstart won’t hurt! how can we do this?
tip #3: wake up your system with skin brushing or give your metabolism a head start with hot lemon water! dry skin brushing [read all about it here] is a great way to wake up the lymphatic system first thing in the morning [i typically do this right before hopping in the shower as it’s also a way to exfoliate] and drinking a mug of hot water with the juice from half of a lemon [and maybe a sprinkle of cayenne pepper, turmeric and a splash of apple cider vinegar] before eating breakfast will give your metabolism a little boost after it’s been at rest overnight [the recipe for my daily detox drink is here].
getting started with something like this can be daunting, especially when we feel like we’re losing sleep. i highly recommend starting slow … that’s what i’ve been doing over the past few weeks and it’s working wonders!
go out and buy an alarm clock and start waking up just 5 minutes earlier than usual for the next week to meditate. for the week after, try 10 minutes, the following week, 15 and so on. once that’s feeling good, add skin brushing or hot lemon water … and keep building it up! the change doesn’t have to happen overnight [see what i did there?!] … as always, baby steps build habits, extremes don’t.
do you have any ideas for creating a morning routine that i didn’t mention here? share in the comments below!
photo courtesy of the design chaser
guest post: 5 tips for finding a fitness plan that works fo you
when it comes to finding a fitness plan that works for you, it’s important to remember that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. in fact, there are so many ways to keep fit and stay healthy that you don’t need to worry if hitting the gym just isn’t your thing. simply getting off the bus a few stops early or maybe going for a walk during your lunch hour can all add valuable physical activity to your day.
but, what you do need to remember is that any fitness plan has to work around your life, otherwise the likelihood is that you won’t stick to it. this isn’t necessarily a reflection of you, it’s just human nature … and it doesn’t have to stay that way! if you can find a way to get fit that works with your lifestyle, you’ll be well on your way to reaching your fitness goals.
keeping all of this in mind, let’s take a look at the best ways to find a fitness plan that will work for you!
1. don’t push yourself too hard at the start. when you first begin a new workout routine, you may feel super motivated and like you have something to prove, but pushing yourself too hard at the beginning is only going to create problems. if you haven’t worked out in a while, you could be increasing the chance of getting hurt if you push yourself too hard. not only this, biting off more than you can chew will encourage you to skip sessions when the going gets tough, and this will likely lead to you just stopping completely. a fitness plan is a lifestyle change, so when it comes to planning yours, you need to make sure that you find something that’s realistic for you.
2. do your research. whether you love going to the gym or would rather spend time at the park with family, there are plenty of ways to get fit. researching will help you to find exercises that you think you may enjoy. If you like swimming, find a pool that has an adults only swimming time so you can get a workout without the distraction of children. if you worry about how you’re going to fit your fitness routine around family/friend time, then bring them with you! working out with a buddy is more enjoyable than working out alone, and if you have kids, they can benefit from a bike ride or a run around the park, too. get creative!
3. tag team it. one of the best ways to ensure that you stick to a new fitness plan is to enlist someone else to join you. whether you choose to take your partner or a friend, it can be a great way to spend some quality time with someone. exercising together will also help you to bond and stay connected, while having someone to keep you motivated and vice versa. if you can’t get anyone on board, try making friends with people who workout at similar times as you. if you’re in touch with someone at the gym or in a workout class and they’re expecting you to be there, you’re more likely to show up.
4. follow a gradual plan. fitness is becoming more and more popular all the time, and because of this, the amount of plans aimed at people who haven’t worked out much before is growing. there are plans that can help you go “from your sofa to running a 5K” and much more. diving in head first isn’t sustainable, but working gradually towards a goal means you will be much more likely to stay on track.
5. find what works best for you. if you have a fitness plan in place and haven’t noticed any changes after about four weeks [or you just aren’t enjoying it], consider changing it up! remember, it’s always best to do a mixture of cardio and strength training, but strength training can be anything from yoga to hiking, and cardio can range from dancing to jumping on a trampoline …. think outside the box and create a fitness plan that keeps you entertained, motivated and is something you love to do!
getting fit and starting a new fitness plan can be intimidating at first, but when approached the right way, can change your life for the better. all you need is the motivation and a plan that works for you and your lifestyle.
and remember, fitness is about leading a healthier lifestyle, not worrying about the number you see on the scale or the tags of your clothes. focus on how you feel, because that’s what really counts!
this post was written by amy leach on behalf of focus training.
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