As 2013 comes to a close, I have been reflecting on the things I have learned this year and the new habits I have incorporated that have made a positive impact in my life. Over the past year, I have taken a much deeper interest in living naturally and becoming aware of the foods and products I put into and on my body. I dedicated a lot of my time learning about those topics, and I also put a lot of good advice into practice in the area of self care. I have better learned how to honor my true self, and I spend much more time doing things I truly love. I live a more authentic life because I stopped trying to please others. I finally feel like I am following my passions and am living each day fulfilling God’s purpose for my life. Each morning when I wake up, I am so grateful to have another day on this earth and to be able to enjoy all the wonderful blessings God has given me, and I am so excited to see what the day will bring and how I can use my natural gifts and talents to serve others. Here are 10 things I learned in 2013 that have contributed to improving my overall wellness:
1. Every person, every thing, and every experience we encounter each day is a gift from God.
There are no accidents or coincidences in life. Every person we come into contact with and every experience that happens to us each day happens for a reason. Even the seemingly bad experiences and encounters are a gift. When something unfortunate happens in my life, I remind myself that it is a gift and it is happening because there is a lesson I need to learn from it. If suffering didn’t exist in the world, we would not have the chance to grow. Having the faith that there is a good reason behind everything brings me instant peace. I try to recognize and appreciate all the gifts that come into my life each day because I have found that the biggest secret to happiness is the attitude of gratitude. For more of my secrets to happiness, check out my blog post Secrets to Happiness.
2. Eating REAL food makes a huge difference!
In October, I took the October Unprocessed Challenge and spent the entire month eating only unprocessed foods. It was a huge learning experience for me! During the challenge, I felt terrific and full of energy all day long, I discovered some wonderful new foods and recipes, and I connected with a whole world of like-minded people committed to improving their health and supporting each other. It became a lifestyle change for me and my family. I found healthy replacements for a lot of the foods we ate, and I feel great about all the positive changes I have made to improve the health and wellness of my family. To learn about ALL the benefits and challenges I encountered during this experience, check out my blog post here.
3. How to Read Ingredient Labels
As part of the October Unprocessed Challenge, I learned how to read the labels of all those foods I had always bought out of habit without really knowing what was in them. I realized the importance of knowing what ingredients I am putting into and on my body every day, as well as the source of these “foods” and products. Many of the products we use every day are banned in other countries because they are dangerous to our health. I came out of the October Unprocessed Challenge with a whole new awareness about foods, and I am committed to learning more in this area and helping to educate my family and others who are interested in improving their health.
4. Downtime is not wasted time.
This is something I have slowly learned over the years, but this year I really came to embrace it. For most of my life, I was very focused on being busy and doing something productive at all times. When I became a mom 11 years ago, I was forced to slow down. That was the biggest blessing I could have ever received! I learned that life is about relationships, not productivity. In the end, our relationships with God, others, and OURSELVES is all that really matters!
Stopping to be still and spend time with myself was difficult to do at first. I felt guilty because I felt like I “should” be doing other things. But I am so grateful that I ignored the “shoulds.” Focusing on myself helped me to re-evaluate my priorities and get to know myself better so I can spend time doing things I really love to do and share my natural gifts and talents with the world. This year I made it a priority to schedule “MY TIME” every week. “MY TIME” consists of a block of 1-2 hours each week where I spend time alone and just let myself reflect on my life and write about whatever thoughts come into my head during that time. I use the book “Life Makeovers” by Cheryl Richardson as a guide in evaluating the changes I am making or need to make in my life. I have come to treasure that alone time each week. It gives me time to recharge, and I feel I am better able to take care of my family and others if I take care of myself first and make that downtime a priority. Because when mom is happy, then everyone is happy, right? 🙂
5. Green Smoothies are Yummy!!
At the beginning of the year, I had no desire to even try a green smoothie. Now, I can’t imagine a day without one. They can be absolutely delicious once you find a recipe that works for you (and even my 11-year-old daughter loves them). I found that green smoothies are an easy way to get more veggies into my diet, they provide lots of nutrients, and they give me lots of energy. Here is my favorite recipe, but substitute to your liking (really any fruits or vegetables you like will work):
1 orange fresh squeezed from the juicer (or use about 3/4 cup store-bought orange or apple juice, or even water)
3/4 cup organic baby spinach (or other greens…sometimes I use Kale)
1 frozen banana (I buy them from the reduced price section of the produce department…get them with brown spots, take them home, peel them, break in half, then immediately put into the freezer in a freezer bag.)
1/4 cup Plain Greek Yogurt
A handful of fresh pineapple
Blend in any blender. Mine is over 12 years old, and still works great! Be sure to blend the greens and liquid first until the greens are dissolved. Then add the rest of the ingredients.
Check out simplegreensmoothies.com for more yummy smoothie recipes.
6. The importance of saying NO.
This past year, I got really good at saying no. I have learned how to set my priorities, guard my time better, and set boundaries. It is so easy to say yes to all the little requests that people have of my time, but I have found that when I do that, I am left with no time left for me. Sometimes we need to say no to people to say yes to God. Saying NO was not an easy thing for me to do because I do want to help others and make their lives easier, but I learned that doing ANYTHING out of guilt or obligation is not an act of love. I made a promise to myself at the beginning of the year to only do things out of love. I learned that you can’t please everyone and there will always be people who don’t understand you or the decisions you make, but in committing to love myself more, I started to let go of my need to be accepted and I stopped caring about what anyone else thinks. One of my favorite quotes is: “It is none of my business what other people think of me.” It felt really good to stand up for myself and be truly authentic by living according to my values rather than always following the crowd. I also realized that the fewer commitments I have, the happier I am and the less stressed I am. I re-evaluated my priorities, let go of commitments that I didn’t really love, and that freed up a lot of my precious time to spend on things I am passionate about so I can use my natural gifts and talents to help others.
7. The many uses and benefits of coconut oil.
Coconut oil has to be my greatest discovery of the year! I love that stuff! Before this year, I had never even heard of coconut oil, let alone use it in my daily diet and health and beauty routine. It has many health benefits and is said to help with weight loss, diabetes, cholesterol, Alzheimers, and many other health conditions. I can attest to it helping with cholesterol. This year, I threw out my huge jug of canola oil and vowed to never bring that or any vegetable oils into my house again. I now use coconut oil in place of butter and other oils in many recipes, and my “good” cholesterol went up and my “bad” went down. 🙂
Coconut oil has many uses for the skin and hair as well. It is a popular ingredient in many homemade natural products. I use it daily as a facial moisturizer (as an added bonus, it is naturally an SPF of 4). I use it as a shave gel, lotion after shaving, and I use it in place of chapstick on myself and my daughters. There are countless uses for it. Check out 101 uses here, and check here for a short blog post I wrote about coconut oil containing additional links and more detailed information on the benefits and uses of this natural product.
8. The answers are all within us.
I am passionate about learning about things I am interested in, but when I spend too much time listening to the “experts” instead of listening to my gut, I tend to get very stressed. I am all for learning and taking advice from those I admire, but sometimes I need to just take a break from the book I am reading or lecture I am listening to and take the time to listen to my inner wisdom instead. When I do start to feel stressed, I learned that the best thing for me to do is to stop everything I am doing, forget my to-do-list and all the projects I am working on, and spend my time writing instead. Sometimes I feel like life is so exciting and there is so much to learn and do and there are not enough hours in a day, but I need to remind myself that I am not the master planner for my life. Everything is happening exactly as it should and will happen in it’s own perfect timing. Let Go and Let God lead the way…that is the way to peace.
9. How to eliminate my shampoo and conditioner.
This one took a little while to get used to, but for about 7 months now, I have not used shampoo or conditioner on myself or my 6-year-old. This is what I do instead: I mix 1 Tablespoon of baking soda with 1 cup of water (I do this in the shower in a plastic 1-cup measuring cup) and pour it over my head for the shampoo. I rub it in gently, and then rinse. It doesn’t take long to rinse out because it does not suds up. The thin consistency took some getting used to. For conditioner, I mix 1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar with 1 cup water, pour over my head, rub in gently, and rinse. That’s it. The Apple Cider Vinegar also took some getting used to. I could not stand the smell at first, but now I am used to it and don’t even notice it. When my hair dries, the vinegar smell is gone.
This idea was inspired by a blog post from The Art of Simple Blog. Check it out for a more extensive description as well as reasons why you may want to try it. It definitely is not for everyone, but it has worked for me and my 6-year-old daughter for over 7 months and has saved me a lot of money in shampoo and conditioner, and gives me peace of mind that we are not exposing our bodies to unnecessary dangerous chemicals. Many hair products we use all the time in the US are very dangerous to our health. The last time my daughter had a haircut (before we changed to the “no-poo” method), the hairdresser asked me what type of shampoo we used…I told her and she said to throw it away and don’t buy it again because it is banned in other countries (this is a shampoo I was using for MANY years.) So many things are done out of habit…we just buy them because that is what we are used to, or we think it’s safe because everyone else uses it. I think it is so important to become educated about everything we are putting into and on our bodies (this goes for our pets, too). I’m still searching for a good “natural” shampoo that is inexpensive to use for my 9 and 11-year old daughters. They could not get used to the consistency of the no-poo method. As soon as I find a good one, I will post it here on my blog.
When 2013 began, I knew very little about blogging. Having my own never even crossed my mind. I discovered some blogs that interested me, but I never thought I could make one of my own. I was very intimidated because I thought blogs were for “real” writers and authors, not for a regular person like me. As a very private person, I couldn’t imagine everyone being able to read what I write. But one day while writing in my journal, God opened my eyes and let me know that I need to share all these things I am learning. So, I decided to listen and attempted to start my own blog. It was very scary at first (and still is), but I am gradually gaining confidence with each post I write. I still have so much more to learn about blogging, but it has been a fun experience so far. I have discovered blogging to be a whole new world of opportunity and a wonderful community of like-minded individuals ready and willing to support each other, and a great way to share what I am learning. Here are just a few of my favorite blogs:
Looking Ahead to 2014
As 2014 approaches, I am very excited to continue on my journey to wellness in mind, body, and spirit. I hope to discover many new unprocessed recipes, natural health care products, and tips to greater wellness. I am grateful for the opportunity to share it all here on this blog. I hope you will follow me on my journey and we can achieve better wellness together. You can join me on my journey by following this blog and by following Journey to Complete Wellness on Facebook. I wish you a happy, healthy, and blessed 2014!