Habits – a Bit More!

Well! I listened to the BEST podcast this morning! Michael Stelzner, founder of The Social Media Examiner, The Social Media Marketing Podcast, host of Social Media Marketing World, literally held as we were all shutting down at the beginning of March …. so Michael interviewed James Clear, author of Atomic Habits! It was just incredible! Great interview, great topic and so timely considering my last post on habit and where we are right now. I want to share some highlights with you that really struck me because ….these little things, habits, are so important to our optimal health in terms of how we are eating, how we are sleeping, how we are moving, and how we are really setting ourselves up to move through our day. They are important to our present and they are critical to our future – which James Clear put into words so beautifully this morning on https://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/shows/ with Michael Stelzner.

Last week, I suggested that when we come out of “this”, some of our old habits may come with us, some may not make it (for better or worse), and there may be some new habits we pick up.

So first, win the day! Take the habits that were making you successful back! If you used to get up and 5am, work out, journal, have a light breakfast and go to work – get back into some sort of routine that resembles that. Now – let’s look at that – if getting up at 5am right now provides you with 5 hours of sleep because you are also staying up until midnight…. adjust accordingly. Maybe, your NEW habit is to get eight hours of sleep. So my take on “win the day” is let’s not let everything go to hell because we don’t need to be anywhere. It will leave us disheveled, distracted and not productive. Let’s pull it together people!


Another tip he offered that I loved since many of us are working and schooling from home is Environmental Design. What this means is look at your space and make it what you need it to be and when. If you work best on your laptop at your desk in your office from 9-1. Do that. Do not also take your ipad into the office – leave it where you do your ipad things. You may even want to put your phone in your desk drawer. The idea is to create a habit of doing whatever it is that you want or need to do there and from then to then. I find this tip enlightening and empowering. As someone who needs to get more articles out the door and a podcast produced, it is intriguing to me to think about carving out different spaces in my home office where I will do each of these activities. And it doesn’t have to mean I am sitting at my desk all day – because I really don’t like that! (I knew there was a reason I put my Grandma’s desk upstairs in front of the pretty windows!). Also, time. Setting a time to STOP working. (This is a hard one for me) It is so easy for us to just work all the time because we can now that we are home. Set an alarm and stop the work day. It will be there tomorrow. Make sure it’s a weekday, btw.

Because we have all had COVID-19 happen to us, we may all be working out different habit scenarios. Did we stop working out? Are we working out more and we’re not getting any work done? Have you forgotten how to put together a reasonable outfit because clothing has become optional most days? Whatever is happening, looking at the new situation and peeling back layers to get to the root cause. As Clear says, “the points of friction”, allows you to solve the problem and get to the root cause.

Lastly, he offered advice from Tiny Habits tips from BJ Fogg Director of the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford University. This is a great concept we can all try now, if we do this, then do this. If our habit is currently A, and we know it. And we want to do B. Then do A, and then do B. We are training ourselves to do one and then do the other. It’s like baby steps that we can take more easily because we have already been doing the first step. As a Health & Wellness Coach, I appreciate this approach for clients who may not be up to cleaning out their entire pantry all at once. But maybe, if they do a few items at a time. Or maybe they open the pantry door and just survey the scene. Those are baby steps.

Finally, Clear said, “the cost of good habits is in the present. The cost of bad habits is in the future.” He could have just dropped the mic here as far as I’m concerned.

The cost of good habits is in the present. The cost of bad habits is in the future.

Trigger, Routine, Reward Habits Lost and Gained, for Better or Worse in a Global Pandemic

I have heard it takes about 21 days to establish a habit. Have you heard this? I can say that having been inside my home now consistently for nearly a month has definitely disrupted some of my habits and also created the potential for some others. This has caused me to pause and consider the 21-day theory. I am sure there is something to the 21 days theory. I also am now a stronger believer in the Cue/Routine/Reward science. Charles Duhigg discusses this in “The Power of Habit” and his description of Ad executive Claude Hopkins who mastered the cue/routine/reward theory in ad campaigns. And while yes, we have had many of our habits literally crushed as Warren Cornwall describes here, https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/04/crushing-coronavirus-means-breaking-habits-lifetime-behavior-scientists-have-some-tips, I also wonder, what habits are falling into place behind them and will we have created them in 21 days of quarantine or did our home stay cues create them?

Face touching. AGGGHHHHH! I literally have been touching my face my entire life. My. Entire. Life. And I hate it, btw. I read somewhere that it was a sign of weakness – especially in women. Whatever. And ever since then, I have watched to see how many people are listening intently to others speak and while so doing have their own hands on their chin, over their mouths (my usual resting place), or somewhere on their face. The answer? Never. Just me! State leaders, news media, and a lot of reading have all told me over the last couple months, “Don’t touch your face,” and I still have to sit on my hands. I do not think this habit that seems to have emerged from the womb along with me is going away anytime soon. I would like to add here – I am trying!

Since high school, to show my professional capacity, I have been reaching out immediately upon meeting someone to firmly shake their hand. Yeah – that’s over. Along with any desire to do so. And it didn’t take close to 2 days for that habit to die, let alone 21.

I have been dropping my kids at school and driving to Peets Coffee or some coffee shop to wait out traffic and enjoy my iced tea for about 16 years. I loved this habit. I also disliked this habit. It had started long ago to feel a bit like handcuffs to me. With quarantine times, obviously, I can no longer go there after dropping off my kids (which was the cue), but I sure do want my ice tea – which I’m popping by to get after mobile ordering maybe once or twice a week. Do I miss sitting in Peets? Yes….. Do I miss the black iced tea? I do miss their tea, but thank heavens for Tejava! Happily, I am enjoying working at home! Which really makes me think on the cue – it’s the cue way more than it is the number of days.

When faced with the reality of, “Look, end these behaviors or you may get sick and consequently a whole lot of other people may get sick, including your family – so knock it off,” out went the cue, the routine and the reward all in one fell swoop. I have replaced these and many habits with working at home, bottled tea or make my own, and well, I’m working on touching my face.

Whether we go for the 21 day theory, or cue/routine/reward theory, I am wondering what we are all itching to do when we emerge eyes blinking to a new day. Go right back to sitting in Peets or continue to work at home? Now that I am a bigger believer in the science behind cue/routine/reward to make something a habit, I believe I will continue to work from my home office if I can avoid the trigger that snared me into Peets in the first place. I just won’t take my kids to school? Eeeek because I love taking them to school! Good news – that won’t be happening anytime soon! So maybe, because it was that drop off that seemed to trigger me and my car towards the coffee shop, and that trigger has definitely been removed until at least August, I may have a chance.

What new habits are emerging? Exercise routines have been rocked for sure and new routines have emerged. Sleeping patterns have changed – better or worse. Family dinners have been re-introduced to our house and I understand many others. Rotational cooking duties has also been introduced to our house – which is AWESOME for this Momma! Drinking from our “best” wine ..um…. more often, shall we say. Calling and reaching out to friends, families and colleagues that I haven’t talked to in a long time to just check in and make sure they are ok. Long walks with my husband and daughter. Our little dog will probably never expect less than an 8 mile day. We have seen so many families out – entire families walking and playing in streets. I am driving slower, less hurried.

You know what else I notice? I have felt more love, kindness, empathy and compassion in the world than I have felt in a really long time. People want to help people. There is true concern for neighbors and communities. There is a can-do attitude amongst people and kids to just figure it out – whether it be online, or at a distance, or over the phone. Or maybe it doesn’t need to be done right now.

Yes, there are habits of ours that have been crushed. I know there are BIG things that are missing right now and we are not sure where they will land – going to concerts, sporting events, movies, travel. And there are discussions about who is following quarantine protocol and who isn’t, who is physical distancing and who isn’t and even that whether someone chooses to physical distance is a political statement. Honestly, I am bored by this level of discussion. We are going to choose to further divide over a global pandemic? No thanks. The divisive nature that has crept into our country is a habit I am happy to leave behind – can we please break that one in 21 days??

What habits have you “picked up” since shelter in place? Which have you shed? I would love to hear from you either about your habits or what you are seeing in your communities.


Nutrition and Mental Health

Recently, I was fortunate enough to see Deepak Chopra speak about a number of things.  One of the issues he touched on was optimal wellness.  Deepak believes that nutrition and nourishment are a core piece of our wellbeing.  I was nodding my head furiously in the audience as I have felt this for a long time.  Did he know? Admittedly, I have been prone to “hangriness” and low blood sugar, as are my daughters. (sorry, girls). I am also surrounded by teachers. Teachers who notice the difference in the little bodies they are trying to engage with the degradation in quality of snacks and lunches that have become the norm over the years. So, Deepak’s comments that night all made sense to me. He also had science behind him and I wanted to know more.

Jamie Street

Additionally, more and more research is surfacing regarding “dirty” ingredients in the products we use every day on our bodies, and how they can affect mental health. This has caused me to look for information on the ingredients we are putting in our bodies, as well. I didn’t have to look far.

In the blog for Mental Health First Aid, March 13, 2018, Amy Magill states that good nutrition is as important to mental health as it is physical health.. . She mentions 8 changes we can make to support our mental health:

  1. Eat at set intervals throughout the day
  2. Choose less refined sugars and eat more whole grains
  3. Include protein at each meal
  4. Eat a variety of foods
  5. Include omega-3 rich foods, like oily fish, in your diet
  6. Reach and maintain a healthy weight
  7. Drink plenty of fluids, especially water
  8. Get regular exercise

I consider myself to be pretty healthy, but when I go down the above list, I’m 50/50. 50/50! That’s probably not great. I am currently not depressed, shelter-at-home aside…. However, research is showing that sound nutritional habits can not only affect our brain’s ability to modify structure, wiring and function (related to anxiety and mental health), but also oxidative stress (cellular damage) and chronic inflammation. Dr. Charles Raison states that with psychiatric stress, inflammation can be equally capable of producing depression, anxiety, fatigue, and social withdrawal.

Avoiding foods that promote inflammation in the body; refined carbohydrates, added sugars, processed foods, sugar-sweetened beverages, processed meats, and white breads and pastries will help your body avoid inflammation triggers. And also, help to keep you on a more even emotional keel, as well. You will feel good. You will want to eat good again because you recognize you feel well. Over time, it will become a good cycle instead of a vicious cycle.

Brooke Lark

Making changes to your nutrition and eating habits will get you on the road to better physical and mental health. As Magill states, it is not a substitute for proper medical care and treatment. If you have concerns about your mental health, please talk to your health care provider today.

Dealing with Disappointment: Journal

How we deal with disappointment is important for how we move through life.  When I reflect on my life, I can’t remember that many little disappointments.  Unless you count the fact that my Mom drank herself into a stupor every night, she harassed me mercilessly, the arguments between my parents were loud and scary, my Dad was a chauvinist who loved me like crazy and also never really thought a female would amount to much. (And I loved him dearly, btw).   The overall mood in my home was often…. tense and I walked on egg shells a lot.  It was also often filled with laughter.  Is that disappointing?  Meh.

On the other hand, my Mom, a functioning alcoholic loved us fiercely.  She always had food on the table, our house was impeccable and our clothes were spotless.  She was incredibly introverted, insecure and agoraphobic.  We stopped fighting after I graduated from college and I had my own babies.  She turned into an amazing grandma, in fact, someone I would want to model.  She was loving, and generous and wanted to get to know my kids.  She was less nervous than she was as a Mom.  Am I disappointed I missed out on a “great Mom” experience? Nah…… my kids had the best version of her.

Disappointment does happen to all of us.  What I love about this truth, is that, as the author, Beverly D. Flaxington, and other people state in Psychology Today, it does completely normalize it.  The first thing a lot of us do when faced with “less than a win” is load up on some self-hate talk, wallow around for maybe too long in that self-hate talk and sadness and sometimes even vow to never move on or “do that again.”

What if everyone took that approach to set backs?  I won’t bore you with the list of amazing inventions, do-dads, books, music, art, or even fun food items that we would not have.

We always hear, “it’s how you look at it.”  There is nothing new there.  What if we look at disappointment like a journey instead of just the event that happened?

I recently experienced a disappointment and sat down to run myself through these questions:


Disappointment Journey: Get Out Your Journal for 11 Steps

  1. What was it that you put yourself out there to do or experience?
  2. How did you decide you wanted to do it?
  3. WHY did you decide you wanted to do it in the first place?
  4. What preparation did you take to do this experience?
  5. When it was go time, did you feel fully prepared?  Why or Why not?
  6. What was the result?  Attained or not?
  7. Was the result within your control?
  8. What would you have done differently?
  9. Will you pursue doing this again and if yes, how will you prepare differently to achieve a positive outcome?
  10. What have you learned from this experience?
  11. How long will you allow yourself to feel sad about this?  (I mean it – give yourself a time limit).

Journaling is a good practice and certainly for circumstances like disappointments.  I recommend not waiting just for the big stuff though.  Treat your journal like a friend, reach out often and treat it with respect.  As recommended by Flaxington et al in Psychology Today, if you have experienced a significant tragedy, PTSD, or a reaction to a life experience, please seek professional medical attention right away. 

Digital Health & Wellbeing

“I need to go on a digital diet,” said no one. Ever. Yet.

(Or did they because it’s actually in the Urban Dictionary!) Check this out: digital diet:

My husband and I are both educators, although I would never put myself in his league. He is a 25 year veteran of the little people (K-12) and has been known to have kids on the edge of their seats, on the track, on the soccer field, you name it. That guy can engage kids! Lately though, he has even commented on the difficulties around catching and keeping their attention. I instruct at the community college level, and just like in K-12, every class is different. But there are definite similarities and one is the inability to give full attention to just one thing at a time is very low . The problem is, students think they are maximizing time by “listening” to a required podcast, or their teacher, while they answer whatever super critical event is happening anywhere else. Yet, they cannot. More evidence is showing we are not meant to multi-task in these ways and we are actually short circuiting our growth. I would love to talk about multi-tasking soon!

Photo by zhengtao tang on Unsplash

While researching this article, I came across an article from Time magazine, May 14, 2015 (https://time.com/3858309/attention-spans-goldfish/) that stated a new study conducted by Microsoft showed that people pretty much fade out after 8 seconds. 8 seconds and you’ve probably lost someone’s attention – and that was four years ago. The article cited our increasingly digitalized lifestyles as a culprit. I was intrigued by the word choice….. “lifestyle”. I have been researching the concept of digital wellness as it is a piece to our complete package of wellness: physical / mental / emotional / relational / spiritual / environmental / …. digital. Of course. (slapping my head). Just like with all of the other components of wellness, if we are not digitally well, our other components will suffer. It is a chain reaction.

First, defining digital health and wellness is not “easy”. This topic has been morphing over the last several years. Certainly, arguments can be made that the digitization of our society has been changing relationships, and certainly of youth. “They don’t know how to have a conversation,” is something I commonly hear from parents. There is a legitimate worry amongst the parents I talk to about their kids general feeling of loneliness and isolation. Even when surrounded by friends, there is a feeling that they do not have any friends. And, adults – we are not off the hook here. Let’s be honest, there are times when things are said on text that should have been a phone call, am I right? Or something is screamed on facebook that really should have been thought through and possibly worked through with a therapist or best friend before hitting the news stand. Adults are also feeling the loneliness and isolation. My point is, we, as parents, have to step up and get well digitally if our kids are going to follow suit. They (kids) are watching us (parents / adults). And if you think they aren’t, ask them.

What does it mean to be digitally healthy? While honestly, it seems like the jury is still out on the actual effects on technology on all of us, not just youth, there is one thing that seems clear: we really should be paying attention to what is happening to our digital health as much as our physical health. And even more importantly because they are going to have technology in their lives for so much longer, we need to teach our kids to manage their digital health, as well.

Practice digital health together!

You will not be here forever, and if gone tomorrow, Johnny or Sheila need to learn to not answer the !$^&*$ cell phone in class (true story). Teach them NOW – before they fail and wonder WTH?

As we have learned that green vegetables and whole foods are good to fuel our bodies, plenty of rest is necessary to recharge our brains and bodies, exercise is critical to relieve stress, burn excess calories, build and maintain muscle, keep your heart pumping, (I could go on and on about exercise), I’m going to say that watching our digital diet is just as important. There is a reason the physician asks if you’re limiting your child to 2 hours a day of screen time. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/pediatricians-no-more-than-2-hour-screen-time-kids/ . My question is – why isn’t the physician asking us if we’re limiting our screentime? Maybe because our heads are bent over on a screen during the appointment. (is this you?)

In the attached article, on digital health and wellness,  Marilyn Price-Mitchell, PhD, offers 12 tips not just on improving your child’s digital health, but ultimately increasing their own self-awareness. Self awareness is just one of the five key competencies identified by CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning) https://casel.org/core-competencies/ as critical to social and emotional learning. Spoiler alert: “1. Manage screen time.” https://www.rootsofaction.com/digital-health-families/

There are so many key things to do to manage your digital diet. Who remembers the poster, “You are what you eat?” The little body filled with all sorts of junk food and then the little body filled with all the good food? What if we had a poster full of just everything we’re and our kids are consuming online. Would it be full of good, helpful, soul-filling content? (I immediately got a visual of some of the more violent video games – yikes) . As with any shift that we make with an exercise program or eating program, or health program, we just need to start with a baby step. Key word, start.

#letsallflourish, #parenting ,#zerotohero, #digitalwellnessforthewin,

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Raise ‘Em Up to Talk

One of my favorite Keith Urban songs, trust me, there are many and that’s for a different post, is “Raise ‘Em Up. In this song, we sentimentally raise a glass for a lot of reasons, and we also raise our kids up “tall and strong” to “learn right from wrong”. (@KeithUrban and @EricChurch, this makes me cry every time I watch it.) I digress. But not really.

I know, as parents, we are supposed to guide, nurture, love and provide our children with all of the best we have to offer and then send them on their way. Launch them! Right? Agggggggh. It’s like ripping my heart out of my chest every time. I’ve done it twice now and both times, the sadness is overwhelming to me. The anxiety wakes me up in the middle of the night. The worry and the what-ifs are never ending.

Raise “Em Up and Launch them on their way! I wonder if Keith and Eric can come back together on a new song about parents getting out of the way to let their kids get on with their lives….

Recently, I had the honor of working with a group of high school juniors and seniors, who were wicked smart and just did not have a lot of background on college. We were together to work through that. It was a fascinating class to learn what is on the minds of youth these days who were about to get on with their lives. One of the things that has stuck with me is they wanted to talk. They wanted to talk about what was on their minds. TV and movies can often portray youth as disconnected and self-absorbed. This is not my experience. The youth I encounter are engaged and desperate for interaction. Some of them are searching for their person to interact with safely, but they do want a person.

The class covered a lot of personal introspection.  They would journal and share, if they chose to do so.  At several points in the semester, I mentioned to my own daughter, then a senior in high school, “I wish you were in this class!”

But why wasn’t I just asking her some of these same questions? What did she think her big hurdles were going to be in college? What was she most stressed about? And importantly – how was she going to handle that hurdle? How was she going to handle her stress? I felt quite comfortable asking a stranger’s children these intimate questions and asking them to journal and then share them with me and an entire class.  Yet, I did not want to intrude on my own child.  WTH?

Finally, we were able to cover some of this ground on some long car rides and during some coveted lunches before she left for college and I cherish those conversations.  I will keep asking because as I learned in “Angst” an educational and inspirational movie about childhood/teen anxiety, one of the tools our kids have in their belts is talking to someone they trust. 

Talk to someone you trust. 

We, collectively, as people, haven’t forgotten how to talk, we have just gotten lazy.

The social media posts of everyone going off to college and looking so happy – parents and kids.  That can be tough, right?  Tough on the college-bound young adult, tough on the parents, maybe even the siblings.  Everyone looks so happy online.  No one is posting that this sucks at first, trying to make friends and adjust, and eat strange food,  and it’s like someone just cut off one or our appendages and we’re trying to figure out how to breathe over here.  

So, let’s  Raise ‘Em Up, be ever so grateful for every moment together and launch them forward to be independent, adults who are going to take this world by storm and call and talk to us as often as they can.