Winning Against “Bo”: Fighting To “No-Tox” My Face

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Sitting in a Esthetician’s chair last week, after being gifted a salon “sampler” package at my gym for referring a friend, I was enjoying the soothing chimes of the background music when my white coated skin care specialist told me she was a medical esthetician. I had no idea what that meant. “You have great skin”, she tells me, “but you should really get some Botox here, and here, and here, and here” she coos as she is pointing to my forehead, under my eyes, and to my “marionette” lines (who in the world thought of that terrible adjective?)… “Don’t worry” she assured me, “just 20 cc’s or so to start.”

I was immediately enthralled. Here I had a real “medical” skin care specialist making recommendations to my tired, over-sunned, once flawless 45-year-old face! I immediately wondered if it hurt. “We give you something to numb the area”, she assured. When I asked if it ever went wrong, she told me that she’s never seen it go wrong, but that I would need to sign several waiver forms to release any liability on their part. “I get it”, she adds. “How old do you think I am?”. She looks about 48 with smooth, baby-butt skin. I think I piss her off when I tell her this. “I’m 49”, she says as she begins to furiously perform skin extractions with what I believe is excessive force. As the tears are rolling down my eye corners due to the stinging she is evoking she soothes me, “Come on Stacey, toughen up”. For those of you curious, non-facial receivers, this is when a little tool is brought out and every pore you have on your face is “de-clogged”. This happens even if you have no visible blemishes or pimples. More of a stated preventative for any potential baby zits or clogged pores that may be thinking in the future they want to become problem areas. I find this just makes my face blotchy and worse looking when I leave, but it must me good for me right?

So instead of relaxing (as the gentle chimes are joined by water trickles and continue to play in the background) while she mousses up my face with a cucumber smelling frothy substance, I begin to fantasize about shooting my face full of botulinum toxin. I think of the ways I could sneak over, and get it done, without telling anyone. I look at the address…I could be there in 15 minutes. True, I write about aging gracefully, eating fresh foods as close to the earth as possible, and refusing to kill animals so I can eat them….but I WANT to put this in my face. Next to my brain. ALL OVER MY FACE to be exact. I do. I admit it. I want to reverse the signs of aging on my face and look better. I don’t want my mouth to have marionette lines on the corners when I talk like a hand puppet. I want, I want, I want. Who cares that the word “tox” is in the name… Not me. Not anymore.

I leave her chair with a business card in hand for the facility she practices in with a “real doctor” also, she claims. “She used to be an internal medicine specialist, but now she does this because she can make $250 for 10 minutes of work and not have to bill insurance, you know?”. Yes, I know I say. I’m conflicted all the way out the door. I get in my car, drop down my sun shade and slide over the plastic window so I can look in my lighted mirror. I’m all blotchy, red and shiny from the extractions and ten layers of skin products. I look at all of my laugh lines around my mouth. I fake smile to see how bad it looks by my eyes. My forehead scrunches up and the lines stay there when I let the smile fall off my mouth. I want this, I think. I’m going to do it. I will look so much younger and better and I will no one has to know. I feel weak to my own judgement. I cave.

I had a haircut scheduled following my facial as it was my day off. My hairdresser is a beautiful, vivacious, 25-year-old women who just got into haircutting 3 years before but is wonderful in both her style and, even more enjoyable to me, in her personality. I sit in her chair explaining why my face looks so blotchy and red. “I thought maybe you just got a peel”, she says. Then I tell her that I think I’m going to start getting Botox. “I just got some today,” she admits. What? “It’s my third time”, she adds…”I get it in trade”. She proceeds to tell me, as she looks down the line of the other gorgeous hair stylists in the row alongside her, that everyone does it there. “All of us do it”, she admits. I am completely blown away as I look at these twenty something young women. What are we doing to ourselves as women? “Even men do it now”, she adds, “they call it Brotox”. Of course they do, I think to myself. What are we doing to ourselves, I wonder quietly.

I realize in talking to her, that I just can’t do it. I have nothing against anyone reading this who has decided for themselves that they want to reverse the clock and take advantage of something that it feels like “everyone” is doing. I get it. I really do. But as I sat in that chair and looked at my stylist I realized that I had a daughter growing up who has told me repeatedly that she never wants me to do any “fillers” or “Botox” and wants me to age naturally. (She also wants me to get really chubby to be a “comfortable” grandmother someday for my grandchildren…but that one I’m going to fight.) She is a 15-year-old beautiful talented girl who is going to feel this same pressure amongst her peers when she is in her early twenties. This next generation of women has a whole new toolbox available to fight aging and maintain some ideal form of beauty that our society is promoting. This toolbox is more of a magicians bag of tricks, and they are often not healthy for our sense of self and personal acceptance.

I take a deep breath, look at my red blotchy face in the mirror, and make a personal commitment to myself that I am choosing to share on this blog. Here it is: I am going to age and it’s going to show on my face, my body, and in my wisdom. I promote self acceptance and positive body love to every single one of my clients as a therapist. I refuse to not be genuine and thus will begin the process with me.

I throw away the “medical” esthetician’s business card. I tell my daughter that I will make her a deal. In this life, I’m going to be who I am, warts and all. But the deal I make is this…If I do it, you need to do it too. She proceeds to tell me that she thinks wrinkles are beautiful and that they add character to a women’s face. What wisdom in such a young fresh woman in training…. Whose lucky daughter is that? Oh yeah, that’s mine.

Stacey Neil, Licensed Psychotherapist, is in private practice in Los Gatos, CA. She can be reached at 408.827.5139. If she isn’t there, she is off floating in the ocean, or hiking in the mountains.

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Surrender Without Quitting: Accept What Is

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I have been contemplating a new wrist tattoo that has a dandelion with the word “surrender” floating away as if set free in a wish. This concept of letting go seems to go against every bit of my type A personality’s desire to “power it out” and “get it done”. However, I would suggest to you that surrendering is the hardest skill to learn of them all. How do we learn how to let go and just be? How can we ignore societies ongoing messages that drive us to achieve, achieve, achieve? I suggest to you that to letting go is the opposite of driving through your life at 110% of capacity…that the truth to living a fulfilling life filled with mindful presence is to actually take a deep breath, exhale it out, and surrender.

There is resistance around the idea of surrendering as it can feel like quitting. Surrendering is not quitting. Surrendering is allowing yourself to live in the moment of your life and to realize that in this very moment this is as good as it gets. If you can learn how to let go and be fully present in your life, you can surrender the anxieties that surround all of the “what ifs” that we all tend to ruminate about in our heads. What if I lose my job? What if my spouse cheats on me? What if I never lose these 20 pounds? What if I get cancer? What if my son doesn’t get into that college he is fighting for? Quitting is rolling over and allowing your life to run you; it has nothing to do with surrender. Surrendering is allowing space to just be, as is.

You can surrender and decide you are never willing to quit. You never “quit” trying to be mindful, eat healthier, improve upon your body, learn to relax, living fully and with passion, etc.. Never give up in fighting for the things you want in your life whatever that means for you. To give up self-care is to give up on yourself. Always do your best…and then surrender to what you currently experience as your life. Know that for this very second, what you see is what you get. There is no purpose in feelings of bitterness for what you may or may not have in this second. Surrender to your reality as is.

Why does this matter?

I am always sharing different themes around our internalized myths about what we believe to be in our control (everything) when in fact what we control is very little (almost nothing). We control our own individual words, actions and behaviors. We have no control over how other’s perceive us, what other’s say to us, or how our bosses act. The more we try to control our external environment, the more frustrated we become and the less present we are in our lives. We become focused on the future, potential catastrophic anxiety inducing worries that may happen, or we hold on to past vulnerabilities and pains. What we don’t tend to do is be present in this very moment breath by breath.

Sometimes when a client comes in for therapy, they work really hard at trying to task through the work of becoming more aware of their own internal processes by getting mad at themselves or frustrated by their thoughts or the way they feel. They despise their own judging minds and thoughts. If this ever happens to you, I suggest you try to imagine letting go instead of criticizing yourself. Your thoughts can spiral out of control and you can choose to non judgmentally notice that they are present, then surrender and not engage in the emotions that will only fuel the fire of your judgements. Give yourself permission to be just who you are and allow that to be good enough. Let go of all of the ways in which you feel you are not doing what you “should” be doing according to some internal judgement of yourself and be free. Be good enough. Surrender. It is so much less effort to let yourself go in this way.

What can you do right this second as you read this to let go? Surrendering sets you free. Be free.

Stacey Neil is a Licensed Psychotherapist and Personal Trainer in private practice in Los Gatos, CA. She can be reached at 408.827.5139.

When Body & Mind Don’t Agree: Four Things My Injury Is Telling Me

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The best laid plans…. There is nothing more frustrating, when training for an event, than to do everything as prescribed and get injured anyway. I have been struggling with a recent injury after 5 months of a perfectly laid out running plan for my latest 1/2 marathon, only to get completely derailed three weeks prior to the event. As this has happened to me several times before including summit attempts up Mt. Whitney (3) that had to be aborted 1 mile from the peak, or other adventure type challenges where I had sob inducing spasms 8 miles in…injury is a part of the process of pushing your body, getting older, and being stubborn. It happens to everyone who tends to push themselves at some point or another.

The stubbornness comes into play from my sheer unadulterated ability to be in denial when something starts to go south in my body. The most distressing part of the entire struggle for me is that I tend to get injured only when I feel at my complete and total best. Like a true ATHLETE (love this word). There have been three different times in my life when I have really felt strong, fit, and able, that are perfect examples of this phenomena. These moments are pinnacle training times in my life where all of the hours, sweat, and focus came together and I felt unstoppable. Ironically, these are the exact three times I have gotten the most injured. The first time I had been working out hard as a gym rat and cross training like a professional and I felt great. So I decided to return to my childhood sport of soccer (for the first time in 15 years) in my early thirties. I joined a local women’s league, bought myself some cleats, and went to my first practice (seriously the FIRST one). Running (as if my life depended on it) to save a ball from rolling back into our practice goal, I stepped into a gopher hole and blew out my ACL, tore my meniscus, and bruised my femur. I was in surgery 2 days later. I was laid up on modified exercise for 6 months. Did get this cool leg stretchy machine I got to hook up too, but I digress…

The second time I was doing our bootcamp program every morning and pushing my cross training and fitness to the test. I took on every workout as if it were a personal challenge against myself. I was on fire. One particular morning I was doing burpee circuits and I threw my heart into atrial fibrillation and ended up in the ER with probes strapped onto my chest. Instead of surgery, this got me a hypothyroid diagnosis and many heart tests (was told my heart is healthy as an athlete!). Had to go on thyroid medication (for the rest of my life). This final time was two weeks ago. As some of you readers know, I am training for another 1/2 marathon after my training partner (and dear friend) asked me to celebrate her Birthday with her by doing her first 1/2. Being a good friend, I created the most thoughtful, slow, gentle training plan to get her and I ready to go injury free…and it worked amazing (right up until it didn’t) and I got injured. But it wasn’t the plan that caused the injury, it was my head deciding that I felt like a real runner for the first time in my life and I was the fastest, strongest runner I had ever been. It was literally to the point that I was thinking I could pull off a full marathon a few months post 1/2 if I kept training. I felt unstoppable. I kept speeding up my pace because it felt SO good to my body (coincidentally, this was NOT on the plan). My new speedy running attitude worked right up to a 10K we did together as a charity race where I ran the fastest 10K I had ever done (by A LOT). Got a PR! I was so fired up….and that’s what did it. I pushed too hard. I messed up my TFL and piriformis. Now I cannot walk without pain. Sigh.

Those of you who do not love working out may be confirming your suspicions right now that this is why exercise is evil and you should just stay on the couch! But this is not at all the case. Do not be fooled…it is still the best thing for both mind & body. I thoroughly enjoy the challenge of seeing what my body can do through exercise. Sometimes, however, my head and my body don’t agree. When this happens I get injured. I have learned a few things from my injury that I would like to share with you:

1) Don’t Take Yourself So Seriously – There is no point in stressing out about missing a race I have signed up for, or even worse, needing to walk. I’m not Lolo Jones, I wasn’t going to win. I can go out there on race day and do my very best…whatever that looks like that day. There will ALWAYS be other races/events/challenges.

2) Keep Perspective – Your healthy body demands to be your number one priority. You realize this the minute something happens where you get sick or hurt; however, maybe being mindful of this when things are going well is equally (if not more so) important.

3) Don’t Always Power It Out – You shouldn’t ignore the small little twinges and warnings that your body is telling you along the way. Injuries can happen out of nowhere (like in an accident such as my gopher hole scenario), but often your body is talking to in little whispers before it starts to yell. This is where my head tends to tells my body to be quiet and keeps running, when maybe I should have slowed down my pace, took a few days off and rested my injury two weeks ago when I first started to feel it. Instead I tried to push through. Just because your head may be able to do this, does not mean your body can pull it off.

4) Get Help – I am ridiculously STUBBORN when it comes to seeking medical help for injuries. Yes, dear spouse, I can admit this. I have no idea the root of my absolute certainty that I do NOT need to go to the doctor, chiropractor or massage therapist to work it out and get help when I am hurt. My cocky, ego ridden, personal trainer self is just sure I can use the tools I already know to get better. If you are like me, save yourself a few extra weeks (or months) of injury and seek expert help. Anti-inflammatory drugs and R.I.C.E (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) do NOT cure everything. Trust me..wish they did, but they do not.

I imagine an injury as a little monster messing with your body. I see it as a little black scrunchy thing with a wicked smile and a pokey spear. It can feel like it is mocking me..right when I feel my best. The truth is, getting hurt is your bodies way of telling you to back off, change what you are doing, or slow down. I don’t tend to pay attention until it is too late and I end up hurt pretty bad. I have been getting frustrated with my body because it won’t do what I want it to do; when the truth is, my head is what needs to change. My body is doing an amazing job keeping me alive and allowing me to do everything I love. My head needs to understand how to be patient, compassionate, and mindful of what my body is telling me along the way. The little monster can really my friend if I learn how to embrace it.

Stacey Neil, LMFT, CPT is a Psychotherapist and Personal Trainer who is in private practice in Los Gatos, CA. She can be reached at 408.827.5139 where she is layed up on ice.

Lost Your Mojo? Here’s 7 Ways To Get It Back

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Burnt out? Tired? Just plain sucking wind? You are not alone…many of us living during these stressful times are feeling the pain. Do you find yourself dreading your thoughts as they start to arise on a Sunday evening at home when they begin to remind you about what you have to deal with the next day? It’s hard to keep up the good fight when our work life balance continues to tip in the direction of working more than is healthy, sleeping less than we need, and struggling to calm down our minds in our often chaotic lives. It happens to all of us at one time or another: we lose our Mojo.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, Mojo is defined as, “a quality that attracts people to you and makes you successful and full of energy.” Maybe you are familiar with Austin Powers having his mojo stolen in the 1999 film, “The Spy Who Shagged Me”. More historically, mojo was defined as a form of “magic” or “spell” that one person puts on another with their charisma and charm. In today’s day losing our mojo seems to be more the norm than the exception. If your mojo has gone into hiding, do you even remember the last time you had it?

So what do you do about this? This is more than losing your ability to be sexually exciting to a potential partner, or having zero desire to put on the sexy lingerie for an evening in with your special person….this is about losing your passion in life, your focus at work, or the joy you feel around your family. You feel flat and somehow this flatness is contagious to those around you as they seem to become less interested in you and even bored by you as a result. We all know how exhausting people around us are when they are down all the time. It sucks the life right out of you.

Ready for a solution? You must try your best to snap out of it. I hate to break it to you, but you are the only one who can do it for you. When you have positive energy and vibrance, others in your life will react with a much more responsive energy to you and your life will hone back into focus. You can become re-energized and fired up as a part of this reaction, but it needs to start with you sucking it up and finding yourself again. If your mojo seems elusive these days, try one of the following 7 tricks to finding it again:

1) Get a New Look – How long have you been wearing the same clothes, with the same hair, and maybe even the same shade of chapstick? Sometimes getting stuck in a rut affects how well you present yourself to others in your environment and you can find yourself with a tired look from two decades before. You don’t need a mid life crisis to upgrade your look. Change is good and can help to knock you out of your comfort zone (which is obviously not very comfortable for you with no mojo). You will be amazed at the response you get from others when they notice the effort, but it is more about the response you get from looking in the mirror and realizing you still got it! You can look your best no matter how much you may wish you had less weight, better fitness, less gray, etc. Put the effort into respecting yourself and get it together.

2) Exercise – Yes, I realize I squeeze this point into many of my blogs, but I cannot overstate the emotional charge that a good twenty minutes of an increased heart rate can give you. Give your system an endorphin boost by getting moving. It doesn’t matter how you get it done, but get it done. Get outside, walk the dog, get some vitamin D rich sunshine, and breathe fresh air. Just get that stagnate body moving.

3) Have Sex – Spice up your bedroom routine. (Or maybe you need to actually have a bedroom routine?) Take a few minutes longer to get ready for your partner. Put on a candle, take a bubble bath, get yourself in a sexy pair of boxers, SHAVE (wherever is needed), and see how you feel. If you are flying single, don’t fret and do something erotic for yourself alone. This is the electronic age – you don’t need to be partnered up to have an earth shattering orgasm. This is one of the best ways to improve your mood, cure headaches, and feel positive in your body. This doesn’t need to be a huge production, you can pull this off in a relatively short period of time. Just Do IT!

4) Go Dancing – I promise you that you don’t need to look hip with your funky self to move your body to music. You don’t even need to leave your family room. Crank up some music and close your eyes. See if you can feel the energy in your body as you begin to sway and move. Gyrate, get your groove on…have fun. It is incredibly therapeutic to dance out your moods, feelings, and emotions. There is an entire group of my colleagues in our therapeutic community who only do this type of dance and drama therapy. It works!

5) Watch a Comedy – Laughter is truly one of the most energizing things we do as human beings. Want to know something interesting? You can actually get benefits, and feel an increase in your mood, by fake laughing (if you really have gotten jaded in your ability to pick out a comedy that might work). Lighten up, watch something ridiculous and stop taking yourself so seriously. Hey, you can even watch Austin Powers look for his mojo if you want.

6) Get In The Water – There is new scientific research that definitively shows the positive effects of water on human beings. The term that is being used to describe this total mindful relaxation is “The Blue Mind”. You can google that term and check out what is being said as it’s pretty cool stuff. There is also a powerful new book written by Wallace Nichols that was just released about the calming, soothing effects of the ocean, or any body of water, with the same title. I have shared my new love of scuba diving with all of you in my past blogs, and it is this feeling of pure bliss that is now being scientifically proven.

You can check it out here: http://www.wallacejnichols.org/122/bluemind.html

7) Get Enough Sleep – There is no way that you haven’t seen all of the latest news media around the crucial need we humans have for 7-9 hours of sleep each day that very few of us are getting. Our brains are actually more active during restorative sleep than we ever realized. It is slated to be the number one health problem or “crisis” that faces our next generations. This is entirely in your control if you take the time to practice prioritizing this. Learn to love your bed: get good sheets, a comfortable mattress for your body type, chuck the TV out the bedroom window, and get rid of the illuminating clocks. You have your phones so set your alarm there. Have gentle lights, pleasurable reading, and a calming environment. I suggest doing nothing in your bed that is stressful. Do you work in another room. Your bedroom should be your sanctuary. If you don’t have one set up a sleep routine.

Here’s how to set up a sleep routine if you aren’t sure how: http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/need-sleep/what-can-you-do/good-sleep-habits

So as you can see finding your mojo has everything to do with taking better care of yourself, having more fun, and taking yourself less seriously. Don’t sweat the small stuff (realize it’s all small stuff). We have very little in our control in this life and that continues to burn us out; however, I suggest you think about this lack of control instead as a form of freedom. If we have very little in our control, why not just surrender and decide to make the most of our time, every single minute? Which number above are you going to start with first? Maybe you plan a date with your partner with a combination of #1, #4, and #3 + #6 combined…I bet your mojo would be feeling pretty good after an evening like that. 🙂

Stacey Neil is a Licensed Psychotherapist and Personal Trainer who works in Private Practice in Los Gatos, CA. She can be reached at 408.827.5139…unless she is out looking for her mojo. Then you may need to wait for morning. 🙂

Mindful Eating: 5 Simple Ways To Be Mindful At Your Next Meal

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If you’re anything like me, I have to pay attention while I am eating or I taste the first 2-3 bites of any given meal, and then check out. If you are not present when you are eating the foods that you have prepared for your body to enjoy, you can end up feeling less than satisfied which will in turn cause you to eat more than what your body truly needs. Many of us share in this habit. In fact, recent studies show that in America, at least 20% of our meals are eaten in the car alone on a daily basis. I imagine it is safe to say that there is not a lot of mindful eating going on in the car while driving, watching out for the texter in the car next to you, or trying to fight traffic during rush hour. The truth is that we are stressed out and unable to find the time to take part in one of life’s greatest pleasures: mindful eating.

There are a myriad of reasons we don’t eat mindfully. The number one reason is we claim we don’t have time. We also like to say that we’re tired, we want to relax and eat in front of the TV, or we just plain don’t want to. So why does it even matter? It matters because when we don’t eat mindfully, we end up eating way too much food, we have no idea what our body is craving from a nutritional perspective, and we eat foods that are not good for us. When this happens, we end up overweight, we have digestion problems like acid reflux, and we never experience full satiety with our meals which leads us to grabbing those after meal snacks of a high sugar nature…which leads us to overeat (and continue the cycle).

What does it even mean to eat mindfully? There are several definitions of what it means to eat mindfully. The most prevalent definition states that mindful eating is defined as “eating with attention and intention”. That’s pretty clear, but I really like one I came across in FitWomen, which states, ” mindful eating is a means of feeding yourself in a manner that supports your health and weight goals”. Semantics aside, to eat mindfully is to be completely focused and present in the moment while eating. Not just to hold on to being in the moment for the first two or three bites that you ingest, but to hold on to the focused intention of eating mindfully all the way to the very last bite of your meal.

Mindful eating is a skill that takes patience and practice. I enjoy teaching my clients how to eat mindfully during their sessions because it is almost always an entirely new experience for them. We are not taught from an early age to be mindful of what we are putting in our mouths. In fact, many of the early messages we are fed have more to do with what are “bad” or “good” foods, or that we must finish all of the food on our plates. Messages like this take us away from mindful eating by their very nature. If we are going to base our understanding of food on the fact that it is fuel for our body and meant to provide us with everything we need to sustain health, then it allows for us to set up the platform to celebrate eating as if it is a tribute to our sense of self and the very basis for how we care for ourselves and respect our body.

Ready to get started? I encourage you to practice these five simple tips on the next thing you put in your mouth. It can also be fun to do what I do with my clients in my therapy office when I teach these skills. Go get 5 or 6 different texture/taste/sensory food items and place them on a small plate. They should all be single, small items. An example of what I have set up for a client include: 1 blueberry, 1 raisin, 1 pistachio nut, 1 raspberry, 1 small ball of blue cheese, all on a plate together in little piles. We then practice these skills going through the items on the plate one by one. Don’t be surprised if you try this and realize how long it can take you to eat these 6 items in the manner I outline below.

Step 1. Create Space – Make sure when you are going to eat, it is ALL you are doing. This means you get yourself into a place where eating is all that is going on for you. No TV, cell phone, email reading or checking Facebook. When you are eating, practice JUST EATING.

Step 2. Show Gratitude – Give a silent moment of thanks for the food you are about to eat. We are surrounded with convenience on every level to such a degree that we have no concept of the man hours it took to grow and harvest even just the lettuce bed that our meal may be served with. A dear friends daughter who is serving in the peace corps in Africa just recently learned a hard lesson first hand when she spent hour after hour tilling the dry hot African soil in order to plant sunflower plants. She was hoping to make sunflower oil to use in cooking. After spending numerous hours and waiting many hot dry days she harvested the crop of seeds and took it into town to be ground into fresh oil. She literally was able to make 3 tablespoons of oil from all of her hard effort. She shares this as one of the most humbling experiences of her life in the peace corps. It is a lesson for all of us in the disconnect we have from how our food is grown, harvested and shipped to the market for us to purchase. Appreciate this.

Step 3. Sensory Orgasm – Place a small bite on your fork. Smell it. Most of what people perceive as “taste” is actually a result of their sense of smell. You need to rev up those nostrils and get them on board for what’s coming up. Smell your food and imagine that it is acting as a “teaser” for what’s coming your way. Get excited about how that bite is going to taste by considering exactly how it tantalizes you. See if you can recognize the different spices or scents that are being released by the small bite on your fork. The human nose has over 400 different scent detectors that can detect over 1 trillion different scents. How many can you detect in your bite?

Step 4. Titillating Texture – Place that small bite on your tongue (finally!) and just leave it there. The average human has 10,000 taste buds but did you know they are all not on the top of your tongue? They are also under the tongue, on the side of the mouth, the roof of the mouth and even on the lips (which are especially sensitive to salt). So once that bite is on the tongue, move it around and activate those taste buds! See what flavors and salivary glands get spritzing when you do! Your whole mouth can join in the experience as you feel the texture, experience the taste, and get your digestive juices flowing in preparation for swallowing. Enjoy this bite you have given your body and when you have really spent time with it up down and around…chew and swallow.

Step 5. Repeat – But wait you scream! I want another step to this simple process. I have this as your final step because I promise you, it is the hardest one to do. For you to be able to mindfully eat your meal following the process above until your very last bite is a patience that you may find outside of your reach when you first get started. Mindful eating is a practice. It pays off, but you need to work on it. Keep at it. If you find your mind wandering off, bring it back. Try it again.

Food is a sensual sensory experience that is meant to be celebrated, honored, and enjoyed on every level. We are taught so many negative messages about food that sometimes we have negative relationships around meal time from the time we are small. Learn to fall in love again with food by enjoying the many sensations and joyful emotions that can arise when you are present and in the moment with your food. Make everything you put in your mouth worthy of your health, your body and also your complete focus. So what are you having for dinner?

Stacey Neil is a Licensed Psychotherapist and Personal Trainer who is in private practice in Los Gatos, CA. She can be reached at 408.827.5139.

Healthy is Too Hard!! Answers On How To Implement Positive Change

smart goal setting concept

If you are someone who is interested in making positive changes in your life, I imagine you are reading this blog among many others. It is my hope that you read with an open mind and take things away that are pertinent to you or speak to you in some manner, but leave behind the advice or suggestion that doesn’t speak as easily to you. In my work as a therapist, personal trainer, and wellness coach, I spend a great deal of my time with my clients working on the issues that they are hoping to work through or heal from; along with a great deal of energy dedicated to how to make positive changes. As I have heard in the voice of many of my frustrated clients: “Healthy Is Too Hard!”

Yes, it is incredibly challenging to make, implement, and maintain positive changes that you attempt in your life. A lazy, sloth-like, fast food eating, indulgent lifestyle are much easier to pull off in our society full of convenience, sensory overload, and consumerism that pushes us to “buy”, “eat”, “compete”, “drink”, and live in a manner that is not in alignment with a wellness based goal of balance, health, and long-term care of our spirits.

Sometimes it is easier to ask yourself, “why bother?”. I find the answer to this question to be grounded in the idea that many people who are not taking good care of their health and wellness are unhappy, unfulfilled, lack work/life balance, and are completely living a life that does not feel in alignment with who they always believed themselves to be (if in fact they are aware of who that is). Sometimes they have anxiety, depression, impulsive shopping problems, work/life balance issues, no real quality time with their children, or no idea about who they are and where their passion lies, or chronic health problems. Maybe they drink themselves to relaxation every evening to relax.

Wellness is about integration between many different components in your life in which you have health including: emotional, spiritual, mental, vocational, physical, family and financial. Often we are good in one area in our lives, but not another. If for example, you are doing a great job working out and eating well each day but you are working 14 hours a day at a desk and having no time to explore your emotional well-being – you are not living a life of wellness. It is the integration of these components that makes up a complete picture.

This discussion gets complicated because the first step in working towards improving upon your life is to take an honest assessment of where you are. I use an integrated wellness assessment I have created with my clients, but you can even write down the 7 areas I mentioned above and check in with each section by asking yourself, “How am I doing?”. You must be brutally up front with yourself if you are going to be able to truly take a current day snapshot. Most of us have one or two real problem areas in our life and struggle with having to face the facts around our behaviors and how they are affecting us.

The next step is to grab one of your problem areas and set yourself up with 2-3 goals using the S.M.A.R.T. format listed in the graphic above. You literally just start somewhere positive. Pick one (maybe the area you tend to feel the most negative consequences in your life from). You can learn more about setting smart goals here:

http://www.wikihow.com/Set-SMART-Goals

Pay special attention to being specific and having goals that are achievable. We often attempt to set goals that are too vague or general and have very little chance of success. If you are not honest with where you are currently in regards to the behavior, you have very little chance of setting up an achievable goal that targets it effectively. For example, if your goal is to start exercising and you are currently at 0 times per week. Your smart goal would look like: I will walk 20 minutes on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 7-8 beginning 9/15. It must be that specific, and as you can see, it needs to start with an achievable amount of time and days involved. Going from 0 to 2 X per week is a great start. Keep it up for a few weeks and re-evaluate if you want to, but don’t create a goal that has you working out 7X per week straight out of the gate. You will set yourself up to fail.

Speaking of failing, one critical step when setting a new goal, is to always be mindful of also setting up a plan to fail. That is, put down a plan for what happens if you fall off the wagon. It happens to all of us, no matter how motivated we are to get started, so you want to anticipate it ahead of time. It is always incredibly helpful to say your new goal out loud to someone who can hold you accountable, or post it on social media…maybe you want to hire a wellness coach to help you along. Whatever it takes. Wellness is a life long journey that will require tweaks, updates, and constant monitoring to check in with yourself and how you are feeling within your individual life.

I am lucky to have worldwide readership on this blog; however, for those of you who may live in or are close to Silicon Valley, I am offering a special program to help this process along for my clients. I am offering it only for a limited time to help kickstart some of my readers and clients (and their friends) to get started on improving your wellness. Please see my flyer below for more details.

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I will continue to write tips and ideas on how to integrate wellness and find a way towards authentic living in a mindful, balanced and fulfilling manner. This is my greatest passion and I believe strongly that we need to focus on all of the areas of our life to have a true understanding of how we are living. Our lives are so very precious and short. We owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to live it as fully as we are able.

Stacey Neil, LMFT, CPT is a licensed Psychotherapist, Wellness Coach and Certified Personal Trainer who is in private practice in Los Gatos, CA. She is also the Co-Founder of TotalFit Solutions, Integrating Mind & Body. She can be reached at 408.827.5139, or http://www.totalfitsolutions.com

Or you can fill out the form below and I will get back to you!

This Is As Good As It Gets: Live In The Moment

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One of the ways to immediately ground yourself and be present in your life in this very moment is to realize that “this is as good as it gets”. If I suggested that there was no tomorrow, next week, or retirement year ahead of you that were worthy of you holding back, not fully living, or experiencing the moment as it is with total presence…would you believe me? Probably not. You believe you know better. You think you have many days, seconds and years left to live. You have time to put things that matter off. You would argue that you need to wait to start pursuing your dream until: the kids go to college, you are able to finally stop working in a job you don’t like, or you are able to save enough money in your 401K, etc. (What Would You Add?)

The truth is a harsh reality. We really have no guarantees in this life for a tomorrow, next week, retirement age, or more stable 401K. All we have as human animals is this very moment in time. Today. This second. Right now. This is as good as it gets because it’s all you have. Would you live your life differently if this day was your last? Would you spend a single second in relationships that were toxic, jobs that were not satisfying, or a passionless life? Maybe you would, but I believe that you would choose a different option if given the chance. Maybe I am wrong.

There is no better day for you to start something that you have always wanted to do than now. Or to begin a new healthier lifestyle that matters to you. How about that hard conversation you have been waiting to have with your partner where you begin to express all of the ways you feel loved? Or the one in which you need to ask for what you need and take responsibility for your part in a negative pattern? Maybe this moment is the perfect time to tell those that you love how much they mean to you. Or even more powerfully, how wonderful would it be for you to unconditionally choose to love yourself with total empathy, compassion, and acceptance? Not you in 10 less pounds, or you making more money, or you as a “better” person. Actually loving the YOU that you are in this very second; perfectly imperfect you.

How freeing would it be to realize that we have little control over most of our lives? We control our thoughts, actions and words…our own self. We have NO control over others’ behaviors, actions or perceptions. As we learn to live in this moment, we enable ourselves to let go of all our anxieties over what little we can control and surrender to this very moment in time by making it count. Making it matter – finding our way second by second.

Would you live differently if this was as good as it was going to get? Would you breathe a little deeper, slow down a little bit, smell the proverbial flowers or have dessert? Would the familiar photos on your walls take a bit of your gaze, or the hug you give your child as they walk out the door mean a little bit more? Maybe you would wear more comfortable clothes and let go of aging worries. You would buy that beautiful coat at the store to fit the body you live in now rather than decide to get it when you can buy the size you wore last year. What would change for you? Would you stop wasting your time?

Stacey Neil, LMFT is a Licensed Psychotherapist and Personal Trainer in private practice in Los Gatos, Ca. She can be reached at 408.827.5139.

Why Dieting Has Always Made Me Fatter

Diet-progression

Want to gain weight, get angry, frustrate yourself, and mess up your metabolism potentially forever? Go on a diet. As many of my readers know, I grew up overweight. I weighed in at higher than 160 pounds in 4th grade. I remember this clearly because I had to get my wisdom teeth pulled (at an ungodly young age) and I lied to the dentist about how much I weighed so my dad wouldn’t know. This caused him to not use enough numbing medicine and I began to feel all of the cutting, pulling and tearing midway through the surgery. I will admit, as much as that sucked, I was still glad my dad didn’t know how much I weighed because even by age nine I was fully aware of the stigma associated with being the “fat” girl in my school.

My doctor at the time told my mom that I needed to go on a diet and put me on The Peanut Butter Diet. Seriously. No joke. Peanut Butter. I had ton’s of peanut butter for each meal. I remember being seven and trying to measure out a tablespoon of peanut butter into a little plastic spoon. That’s hard as you know if you have ever tried to do it. It’s also a really small amount of peanut butter and it leads you to want to suck the remaining smears of leftover peanut butter off the spoon if any clings on. Sure, this doesn’t lead to food cravings and feelings of deprivation. This is how food obsessions are born. My little girl self was dutiful. I measured, logged, counted calories and tracked everything I ate. I didn’t like the fact that my parents needed to order “pretty & plump” size clothing for me. It was humiliating. At the time, this was the early seventies, I just wanted to be able to get my clothes at Sears like everyone else. If you have ever been overweight, you understand that to buy clothes “off the rack” is highly desirable when you haven’t been able to do so in the past. Stores didn’t use to have attractive, cool, fashionable clothes for larger women like they do now. I ended up hating peanut butter for about 10 years. And I gained weight once I cried and told my parents I couldn’t do it anymore.

Next I went on Weight Watchers with my mom (who used to have those delicious Dexatrim chocolate caramels under her bathroom sink when I was growing up) by around the time I had my wisdom teeth pulled. Dieting as a young girl makes you bitter. You watch your friends (who at the time had ruler shaped bodies and no curves whatsoever) eat whatever they want from chips to cookies to soda, while you are eating carrot sticks, celery stalks and dry bread. Nothing makes you feel worse than being so obviously flawed at a young age that you need to eat different foods then your peers. If it wasn’t already obvious that you were overweight and “not like everyone else” (which by the way it already was) then you certainly didn’t fit in when you pulled out your little veggie packets during recess. I didn’t lose any weight during this diet either and had to hear my grandmother ask me each time she saw me at the holidays, “How is your diet dear?”. My diet? What I wanted to say was, “It sucks Grandma, and the minute you turn around I’m going to sneak into that candy jar and eat as much as I can hold in my mouth before you walk back in the room.” But of course I am a nice polite little girl (back then) who doesn’t speak to her grandmother like that. I did however learn how to steal candy from her jar when she wasn’t looking in my very own “silent lid removing” skilled way. That’s how my diet was. Dieting just made food my obsessive enemy. A feared necessary evil that I apparently was unable to control. I mean look at me, the evidence was right there. And yet, I was persistent in my quest to lose weight…and would be for 35 years.

The point of my historical dieting memoir is that I have been on just about every diet that has come out since back in the seventies. I am here to tell you that what I have learned in my history of eating: only protein, no carbs, fat free, low fat, SouthBeach, Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Nutrisystems, liquids only, fasting, and bordering on anorexic deprivation – is diets do NOT work for me. They only make me fatter. It wasn’t until I stopped trying to make myself eat “this” or “that” particular food and stop considering foods as “bad” or “good” that my weight was able to stabilize. Granted, I am still in no way a small woman, but I am able to take the power away from my obsession with food that dieting only encouraged. I have finally been able to let my dieting goblin go and not have food rule my every thought, action and feeling about myself. As a woman who can tell you it used to be easier for me to not eat at all then to eat healthy, I have found freedom.

When you are taught at a very young age that you are not “allowed” (internalized as “good enough”) to eat ______________ (insert any delicious off limit food a young girl wants), you really mess up your relationship with food from the get go. Food is not understood to be energy for your body to utilize in order to be fit, strong, and healthy. Food becomes public enemy number one. The surest way I know to make an individual obsessed with and yearn for a particular food is to make it off-limits. When food is off-limits it becomes ALL POWERFUL. All you think about. Dieting by its very definition is, “to restrict oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight.” That is the definition for the verb form of the word and I assure you for anyone who knows what it takes to diet, it is definitely an “action” word verb, not a (person, place, thing) type noun. Love the term “special kinds of food” by the way…. I think food should just be food. Not special, or bad, or holiday themed. Food is fuel…delicious, nutritious, scrumptious fuel.

I work with my clients who are interested in losing weight by following a very simple principle….and for those of you who work with me on this, you know I am always insisting you call your meal planning a “lifestyle change” and not a “diet”. There is more to this phrase than simple semantics. A diet implies deprivation by it’s very definition and if you want to successfully implement a healthier eating method in your life, you need to make sure you can follow whatever you roll out with yourself for the REST OF YOUR LIFE. Seriously. Forever. Because if you take something away that you love from your daily food intake in order to lose weight, you need to never eat it again for your weight to stay off. It makes more sense to try and incorporate balance and smaller portion of foods that you love on a daily basis so you can maintain whatever changes you have made long-term.

This is pretty simple actually. If you take a bunch of foods away from what you like to eat and lose weight, you are creating a new pattern for your body to follow of eating. This is the principle of a diet. As long as you diet in this way forever, you can maintain the weight loss, but if you cannot keep yourself following whatever plan you put yourself on that is causing you to lose weight, you will inevitably gain the weight back. Add to that the new brain science that is being discovered around our bodies desire to fight weight loss at all costs by changing our hormones, brain chemicals, and metabolism when our body goes into starvation mode or caloric deficit. Your body does not know you are overweight and fights any weight loss you try to achieve as a means of saving its’ life. Our bodies are super machines. To lose weight in the caveman days meant sure death and your body has not yet changed it’s thinking in this regard. It does not realize we have fast food and processed super connivence items at every street corner. Evolution did not get the memo.

So what works if you are looking to eat healthier and be fit? Moderation, mindful eating, balance, and exercise. Moderate your overall calorie intake. Eat slowly and enjoy every bite your put in your mouth and balance out foods by eating a diet full of rich colors and grains that are as close to the earth as you can (i.e. not processed). Exercise. Do this by finding your way to an exercise program you can maintain because you enjoy it. Eat foods you enjoy fueling your body with (mindfully and slowly) and then…and this is really important…accept the body you end up with as a result. If you are eating healthy wholesome foods most of the time and exercising in a way you enjoy, you can give yourself permission to let go of what you think you are supposed to look like and instead celebrate your best self as you are. Stress kills. Tearing yourself up all the time because you aren’t as thin as you want, or because you ate that brownie at the pot luck, is just going to make your life miserable. A miserable life is a life that is no fun. Life is hard enough without having to move through it without accepting and loving yourself as you are. You are so much more than your looks, your body, and the size of clothes you wear. Let go of your materialistic expectation and just do your best. Live fully and with pleasure.

Shhhh…The Secret To Finally Starting an Exercise Program

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My clients ask me all the time about exercise programs. As a Personal Trainer and Licensed Psychotherapist, I tend to meld both backgrounds into my transformational work with my clients incorporating the importance of moving your body, practicing mindfulness and also looking to implement positive change in dealing with struggles that individuals face with anxiety, depression, loss, or trauma. Exercise is amazing for many aspects of well-being that go far beyond physical health and include re-wiring the brain.

Scientific studies are finally beginning to catch up with my soapbox preaching around the importance of exercising to overcome mental health issues. Now you can pull up your favorite search engine and type in “the benefits of exercise for mental health” (I tried Google) and get over 78 million responses. I believe that every Doctor and Psychiatrist should have a section for “exercise prescription” on the medication pads. I don’t think medication should be prescribed without a discussion on the benefits of exercise to go along with your chemical cocktail of symptom relief. If you are going to take pills to feel better (and often that is absolutely necessary) it is equally important to get that body of yours moving.

So what makes it so hard for all of us to grab our bodies and begin an exercise program when we know it is SO good for us? In my experience with clients it boils down to a feeling of overwhelm. There are so many individuals who are mass marketing programs that guarantee you results in “3 Months”, “30 Days”, “14 Days”, or even (believe it or not) “The 3 Minute Exercise Solution” that it is impossible to know where to start. To add even more confusion to the mix is the conversation around what you “should” be doing as a part of a complete exercise program such as the baseline debate over which is better: cardiovascular exercise “cardio” or strength training. In addition, once you even whittle down past these two main categories, there are literally hundreds of different exercise options available.

As a prospective new exerciser begins to look into how to work out, what exercises to do, or how to plan a program – worries begin to arise. The opposite of positive thinking occurs, and instead the only increase that comes up for someone is a spike in his or her stress levels. I have heard these concerns. Everything from: “I don’t want to bulk up”, “I am too old”, “I am going to get hurt”, “I’m too overweight to do that”, etc. pops into consciousness as attempts to find the best possible excuse to forget getting started on a new program in the first place arise, and going to the pantry to get a snack begins to sound like a much better idea instead.

I know it’s intimidating because I hear it from clients all of the time. That’s why I want to share the number one secret that I have learned to getting started on any exercise program. The best thing you can do to assure that you are going to get started, and more importantly, stick with an exercise program is to find something you enjoy doing. This cannot be overstated and does not need to be more complicated. If you find something you enjoy doing, you will stick with it. If you like to walk in the evenings with your dog, go out for a walk starting for 20 minutes and work your way up to 30. Don’t like dogs? Grab a bike, go for a swim, try a class, take a hike, or find a friend to join you. Hire a Personal Trainer to explore ideas with you if you want. But try something. If you don’t know what you like, give yourself permission to try a lot of different things. There is no perfect science to finding out your likes and dislikes other than having the courage to give it a shot.

I promise you that if you are able to find something you enjoy you can begin to create a new healthier habit. This takes 6-8 weeks to do, so you may find yourself needing to self motivate until the habit gets established, but this will become routine, and your body will start to look forward to whatever activity you begin to practice. Yes, there are ways to change the way your muscle structure looks through exercise, or lose weight, or even improve upon you metabolism; however, this is not necessary to focus on, when learning how to get your body moving. What is important for improved health is as simple as it is stated below in the American Heart Association Recommendations.

AHA Recommendation

For Overall Cardiovascular Health:

-At least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days per week for a total of 150 minutes.

OR

-At least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least 3 days per week for a total of 75 minutes

(You can visit http://www.heart.org for more information on this)

If you enjoy walking your dog in the evening and want to make this your exercise routine, you can make sure you are going at a moderate-intensity if you can still talk but have increased your breathing rate. Maybe you need to take Fido up the hill for a stroll to accomplish this, but you can make this the only exercise routine you need if your exercise plan is to walk according to the guidelines above.

It can be overwhelming to listen to all the fitness programs available, and at times having access to so much information can lead us to shut down instead of take charge. Fitness professionals are master marketing moguls and typically have killer bodies to boot. From Beach Body, to Jillian Michael’s Fat Shredder, to P90X; the options for exercise promises and benefits are numerous, but rest assured that for you to improve your mental health, relieve depression, and feel happier and healthier, you just need to find something enjoyable to you.

So get out there and ride a bike, join the Y, rescue a pet that needs to be walked, or take a class. Check in with yourself after a few days and see if you can feel the difference in your mood, you self-esteem, and sense of well-being. Becoming mindful of this feeling of accomplishment and improved health will keep you going. Good Luck On Your New Plan!

Stacey Neil is a Certified Personal Trainer and Licensed Psychotherapist in private practice in Los Gatos, Ca. She can be reached at 408.827.5139.

Neutral Buoyancy: Mindful Weightlessness

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I have experienced one of the most incredible feelings imaginable to a human being: total weightlessness. I did this during a recent challenge I took on to learn scuba diving. Me, a few friends, and my two teenagers all went through a PADI Open Water Scuba class over the last 4 weeks. It was one of the scariest things I have tried to do and it taught me a lot about myself and true mindfulness. This is a class where to panic is to really put yourself into what could potentially be a catastrophic situation, has the potential to even be life threatening (not to mention the fact that both of my teenagers were watching my every move and I had my “cool mom” image to uphold).

For those of you who have done Scuba diving, you know how amazing it is. I have not had the opportunity to find a new hobby in many years, and am happy to report that this is no longer true. Scuba diving opens up an entirely new world of discovery that is not often available to the human eye in real time, up close and personal. I absolutely LOVE it. Going through certification was no piece of cake and in fact I had to really fight through a lot of my mental fears to pull it off.

To get certified in Monterey, CA (where our ocean dive location was) means you need to be covered from head to toe in two layers of 7 mil neoprene. Just to squeeze your body into what feels like a sausage casing is a calorie burning triumph in and of itself. This is especially fun when you are doing your in pool training (over 16 hours) in an indoor pool that feels like a steam room. Sweat is running down your exposed circle of a face as you do “buddy” checks with your classmates to check on all of your gear. Putting on the scuba gear (BCD, Gloves, Boots, Fins, Masks, Hoods, Weight Belts, etc.) is brutal. By the time you are totally geared up you weigh about 70 pounds more than you did before you got to class. Walking around, into the pool, down to the ocean shore, across the lawn, etc. is probably the hardest part of doing scuba at all. But don’t fret. If my daughter at 100 pounds can do it, so can you.

One of first skills you practice in the pool is achieving neutral buoyancy. This feeling is like having the ability to hover above the ground/ocean floor with absolutely no effort by being totally weightless. This feels like nothing else I have experienced. This is like space man walking on the moon kind of cool. You practice this in the pool with nothing to look at but your fellow classmates, but when you have the chance to get in the ocean, you feel like you have just achieved enlightenment. You hover above the ocean floor and are surrounded by the most beautiful sights you can imagine. Your mind clears and it is all you can do to hover, maintain constant breathing and totally relax. It is the epitome of mindful awareness.

The entire experience took about 50 hours of preparation before you even get to the ocean in classroom time, test taking, at home studying, video review, and in pool skills practice. You really have to be dedicated to want to go through the program to finish. The skills can be really hard and terrifying and at times cause you to want to go into a full blown panic. I found myself looking for the calming eyes of my instructors (thanks Ray and Bob!) many times and forcibly calming myself down with breathing that I teach my clients who are feeling a panic attack. It is unnatural to be breathing under water and the class forces you to go through every possible emergency experience that is a potentiality to prepare you in the unlikely event that one occurs.

The hardest skill that I had to master was fully removing my mask at the ocean floor at 25 feet below the surface. I had no problem doing this in the 10 foot swimming pool bottom, but at the 52 degree ocean floor, it was unnerving. The very idea that you cannot shoot to the surface if you panic, to get clear of the water, causes your heart rate to increase and your mind to yell at you to breathe in through your nose with your mask removed (which would of course cause you to drown). You have to pull it off, flood your face with freezing water (eyes closed), then replace your mask and snorkel and completely clear your mask before opening your eyes. Trying to get a mask on your face without catching your wetsuit hood on the edges and twisting up the straps with these giant bulky neoprene gloves on is ridiculously nerve racking…and of course then you need to override your brain and keep yourself from breathing in. Oh yeah, then clear out the water from your mask.

I blog a lot about how to pursue your own best authentic life. I write about following your passions and if you don’t know what those are, finding them by trying new things. What it’s like to challenge your body, mind and thoughts occupies my work in the therapy office and in my writing. I must admit that I feel like an entirely new door has opened up for me in a way I could not have even imagined by finding this brand new hobby. What a gift to have given myself and I had no idea it would be this good.

I did not want to learn how to scuba dive. I was perfectly fine snorkeling at the surface. I did it for my partner who was always asking around for a diving buddy and having no luck finding a reliable person to go with. I was terrified about clearing my ears as I descended, panicking at the bottom of the ocean, not being able to clear my mask, set up my equipment, or embarrass my 45 year old self by failing miserably and breaking down with the stress of it all.

I pushed through over the first few weeks not finding enjoyment at all to be honest. Then I was able to finally achieve neutral buoyancy at the bottom of the pool for the first time, and I realized what it felt like to feel none of the everyday weight we experience walking around as human beings on our earth, and I began to see the potential. I still had no idea what it would be like to get on to the ocean floor, and I must report it was beyond expectation. Taking a risk and trying something new can be overwhelming, but when it turns into a newly discovered passion, the resulting feeling is infectious. I want everyone I care about and know to go out and discover what I have learned. I’m probably going to get irritating to my friends by talking of nothing else. I want to share the joy of taking a risk and having it pay off so handsomely. This may not be your thing. Find something else and give it a shot. No regrets. It may not work out, but at least you have opened up your mind to new experiences. My only regret is that I waited this long to get going. I want to scuba the world!

Stacey Neil is a Licensed Psychotherapist and Personal Trainer in private practice in Los Gatos, California. She can be reached at 408.827.5139.

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