Ted Talk Friday: Don’t try to be mindful

Long time, no see! Sorry for the weeks of quiet (again). I have been living life and working hard in grad school, which has been so wonderful. I feel so lucky to have this opportunity to learn for a living for the next 5 years! In one of my courses, the professor assigned us this Ted Talk on mindfulness. Surprisingly, I had not seen this one yet, but I absolutely loved it! It might be my favorite mindfulness-focused Ted Talk to date.

I hope you enjoy this talk as much as I did!

Catching Up: Big Changes, Kittens, & Growth

I’ve missed blogging so much over the past few months! I had not realized how much joy, reflection, and connection it brought my until I stopped writing. These past few months have flown by. I moved away from the Bay Area to Louisville, KY to begin a PhD program in Counseling Psychology at the University of Louisville. I transitioned from being with my partner all the time to making it work long-distance (plus a three hour time difference). I’ve started building a new community virtually from scratch (again). I also spent a few weeks fostering some ADORABLE kittens to help me feel a little less lonely…

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The kittens were certainly a handful, but they brought me so much joy! ūüôā

All of these changes have been challenging, but I’m surprised by how well I’m doing. I’m an anxious, change-averse person by nature, so I was expecting the first few months in Louisville to be an emotional rollercoaster of stressors. Shockingly enough, I’ve taken most challenges in stride and feel unexpectedly calm and well-balanced. During my four years in college, I was overcommitted, overworked, and overstressed. I¬†chose that lifestyle and it took me all four years to understand the powerful toll it took on my mental and physical health. I was so burnt out by the time I graduated.

I learned a lot about letting go and cutting myself slack during my time in the business world. I worked interdependently and oftentimes I had to let go of issues of problems that arose because they were simply out of my control. Working at startups, I also learned that there is always more that can be done, but that should not mean it should be done. The most helpful piece of advice I received from my first boss (a female CEO and mother to a newborn at the time) was, “why do today what you can do tomorrow.” I remember how strange this sounded to me at the time, but I quickly started to see the wisdom. There is always so much to do, but we also have to decide when to let ourselves take a break and enjoy life a little bit. Even if you absolutely love everything about what you do, we all need time to unwind or do something a little different.

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While my PhD program will certainly be more demanding than undergrad or my past jobs, I can also be more demanding of myself to set boundaries, know my limits, and learn when to say no. Sadly, I’ve said no to writing on this blog for the past few months. I’ve devoted more of my time to reading journal articles, meeting new friends, and FaceTiming with my boyfriend.

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That’s what I’ve needed these past few months and it is more than ok. I am excited to get back into writing here! I have a few new recipes to share, some Ted Talks to post about, and many more ideas to explore with you.

Thanks for sticking around!

Ted Talk Friday: The secret language of trees

My mom send me an article from brainpickings that featured this cool Ted Talk. It’s easy to get caught up in life and forget about the magic that is happening around us in nature. I loved this short Ted Talk that describes that hidden, and highly intricate, world of trees. I hope this talk gives you the chance to take a moment and appreciate the complexity of Mother Nature.

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Did you know about the hidden communication network that trees have?

Ted Talk Friday: Waking up as a meme-hero

I’m not usually in the loop with trending memes, but when my boyfriend started watching this Ted Talk I was immediately intrigued. This man has become a key star in some of the most popular memes around the world and hearing his take on his experience, and his attitude was so interesting! Watch on to learn more about “Hide the Pain Harold” aka Andras Arato.

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Were you surprised to hear his story? Did you expect him to be a professional stock photo model?

Southern California Adventures

I decided to drive down to Southern California with my boyfriend this Fourth of July! We live in San Francisco so it’s about seven hours to get to the Los Angeles area. My aunt lives in Redlands, CA so we decided to spend some quality time with her over the holiday. We drove down around 8am on July 4th and made just a few pit stops on the way. I had been dying to try the Taco Bell-exclusive Mt. Dew flavor since I heard about it so (shamefully) we stopped on the way.

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I kept hearing how good it was on social media and I must say it lived up to its (artificial) expectations! I don’t drink soda too often, but it is fun to indulge during a summer road trip.

After an early dinner at my Aunt’s house, we went to a local ice cream shop before heading off to the Fourth of July festivities. This was not an ordinary ice cream shop…check out the flavors: Chocolate Lavender, Olive Oil Vanilla Bean, Beet & Goat Cheese, Avocado!

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We were so torn on what to order, but ended up splitting the chocolate lavender flavor. It had honey and cacao nibs on top and the ice cream was delicious!

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If you’re in Redlands, you must visit A La Minute! Next up, we headed to the fireworks show!

We did not know what to expect, but I think we were both surprised by how amazing the show was. It started out with skydivers and a live band, and the finale (the fireworks) was incredible and lasted for about thirty minutes!

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We got home and promptly fell asleep. I worked for part of the next day, but was excited to spend time with my aunt. She is an EXPERT thrift store shopper and knows all the best spots. By the end of the day, I had accumulated some amazing items! A new swimsuit, 4+ shirts for my boyfriend, silver plated spoons for crafting, and this:

After our afternoon of thrifting we threw together a delicious, colorful dinner.

We finished up around 8pm and my aunt and I went for a nice walk. Upon our return, my uncle told us there had been a 7.1 magnitude earthquake just minutes after we had left for our walk. We had felt nothing! I was a bit bummed I missed the experience, but glad it meant I was completely unscathed.

We had a very lazy Saturday morning; my aunt and I indulged in season 2 of the show “Big Little Lies” and we enjoyed every minute of the first four episodes. I met up with one of my amazing college friends that afternoon and we made the drive into LA. We went shopping in so many cute stores on York Street and found so many cool things. We ended our shopping spree with a stop at Donut Friend:

So beautiful, delicious, and vegan! After our donut stop, we began the 6 hour trek home.

All in all, we had a pretty amazing (and eventful) Southern California holiday!

Gut Health: Do’s and Don’ts

Gut health is front and center all over social media and in the news. Everyone talks about the “best” things you can do for gut health, but I’m here to tell you something different…they are almost all wrong, because nutrition and gut health is¬†unique¬†and¬†personalized.¬†There is no one solution for everyone; sure, there are best practices and suggestions, but it all comes down to your own lived experience.

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My first tip is simple: listen to your body. Take note of how different foods make you feel.

  • Do you get a stomachache after your morning bowl of cereal and skim milk? Try a plant-based milk instead.
  • Do you feel queazy after a cup of tea on an empty stomach? Hold up on caffeine before eating.
  • Do you have trouble falling asleep? Try having your last snacks either earlier in the evening or closer to bedtime.

It sounds trite, but so many of us listen to the typical routine of three square meals a day or not eating after a certain time or getting stuck with our preferred habits.

Second tip: experiment! It is not normal to always have stomaches or bloating. If you are experiencing those things, try something different. That might mean working with a nutritionist on an elimination diet, adding new supplements into your routine, or simply keeping a food journal to track how certain foods make your body feel.

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I used to suffer from bloating, stomachaches, cramps–you name it, I had it. These symptoms impacted my life quite a bit. I would hesitate to go out with friends at night, was nervous about trying new foods, and would often just want to sleep through my pain. Over time I learned more and more about what triggered my stomach pain and bloating, and I’ve had way fewer problems since! I still experience symptoms occasionally, but nowhere near as severe or frequent.

I’ve been trying natural supplements for prevention and to help ease my occasional discomfort. For the past month or so, I’ve been using Quality of Life Supplements¬†Probiotics¬†and Peptisol supplements. I have been taking probiotic supplements for years, and it can be really difficult to discern what’s working and what’s not working. I’ve been taking ProbioPure¬†for the past month and have been really happy with the results. The ingredients are simple and they have the research to back up the effects. There are a ton of probiotics out there that have little clinical evidence so choose your probiotics wisely!

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The Peptisol¬†supplement is one that both my boyfriend and I take if we feel indigestion or any kind of upset stomach (usually this happens around dinnertime for me). It’s made with ginger root, artichoke leaf extract, and GutGuard DGL. Ginger has long been used as a stomach soother across traditions and GutGuard¬†has significant research showcasing its benefits.

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These might not be the right supplements for you, but again…it’s all about experimenting and listening to your body! If you do want to give these a try, use code HANNAH10 for 10% off your order at Quality of Life Supplements.

Sleep Hygiene: Maximizing your zzz’s

I have struggled with poor sleep for a long time. Growing up, it was normal for nearly everyone in our household to have trouble falling asleep, wake up frequently during the night, or feel unrested in the morning. I have always been a morning lark–waking up at 6AM or earlier from a young age (what fun for my parents ;). After starting college, I started to wake up more and more often during the night. While I might have slept for 8+ hours, that sleep was interrupted at least 2-3 times.

After my own issues staying asleep, I began looking into techniques and tools to improve my sleep quality. There are a few common practices suggested by the CDC, National Sleep Foundation, and a number of other reputable sources out there:

1. Consistency is key: Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. It’s tempting to stay up late on weekends and sleep in, it can throw off your body’s rhythm. This is a tough one when you’re in your 20s, but I try to limit to late nights of partying to 1-2 times a month so my body isn’t thrown out of whack as often.

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2. Ambiance: Very little light, a colder temperature, and white noise. These little tweaks go a long way! I always scoffed at white noise machines until I tried one myself six years ago and have been using it ever since. Whether you live in a loud dorm or a bustling city, noise machines (or a white noise song on repeat) can be a real life saver.

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3. Screen Shutdown: This one is tough. I was much better about this during college, but set a time that you shut off your screens every night. I used to turn my phone on “Do Not Disturb” at 10pm and wouldn’t check it again until I woke up the next morning. My life is much less structured now and I definitely don’t follow this rule anymore, although I do try to stay aware. I highly recommend the computer app called f.lux¬†— it’s a free tool that customizes your screen’s blue light to the time of day and when you go to bed. It decreases the blue light as you approach bedtime so you can use your screen a little later with less negative effects.

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4. Caffeine: Stop drinking caffeine early in the afternoon. My cut off time is 3pm; I’ve played around and learned that this is the time that works for me. Drinking caffeinated beverages any later has a noticeable effect, but it’s likely different for everyone! I’ve read that holding off on caffeine starting anytime between 1pm and 5pm is best.

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5. Melatonin: Melatonin is the hormone your body naturally produces when it’s time to go to sleep; it is responsible for regulating our sleep-wake cycles. My dad has been using melatonin for over a decade! I started using it in college when my sleep issues started and I’ve only found a few brands/types that actually work for me. I’ve recently been trying out Quality of Life Supplements Melatonin-SR. The melatonin has micronized, sustained-release, which means that it is made to release over time to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Research suggests that you should take melatonin about two hours before you want to fall asleep. I find that if I take it much later than that, I have trouble getting up in the morning. I’ve been taking QOL Melatonin-SR for the past 2-3 weeks and can really feel it helping–it makes it easier for me to fall asleep and stay asleep longer. I will definitely continue taking it!

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Use code HANNAH10 for 10% off your order at Quality of Life Supplements! Stay tuned for my review of their digestive health products.

Ted Talk Friday: An honest look at the personal finance crisis

I found this talk to be a fascinating look into the challenges of personal finance. This talk shares the new experience of aging, retirement, and financial security–with a dose of humility. I was lucky enough to take a personal finance class in high school, but no amount of education can address the challenges so many individuals face today. I live in the Bay Area, which is one of the most expensive areas in the US, and it is incredibly difficult to save–even as a young, unmarried professional with no dependents. I have actively tried to save for about a decade now, but it’s not easy…and it’s far from linear. Luckily, the younger you are, the more time you have to start saving–even if it’s putting 1% of your paycheck away each month. White breaks down the challenges we all face and provides action steps for those who are closer to retirement.

 

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What do you think of White’s talk? Do you think about personal finance regularly?

Ted Talk Friday: 8 Lessons on Building a Company People Enjoy Working For

I am interested in workplace wellbeing from a number of different perspectives: as a lover of psychology, as an employee, and as an employee of a wellbeing technology company. I love how McCord breaks down her lessons into eight simple ideas. A lot of these ideas echo the lessons I learned in Bren√© Brown’s most recent book, Dare to Lead. I think lesson #6 is the hardest lesson for most companies…watch the video and let me know if you agree!

 

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Do you agree with these 8 lessons? Are there any other lessons you would add?

The Hard Work of Self-Compassion

If you’re a perfectionist, or¬†recovering perfectionist, like me, you know that self-compassion is far from easy. I still remember reading Kristin Neff’s book on self-compassion and feeling complete shock at how unkind I was to myself. I remember reading, “Treat yourself like you would treat a good friend” and I’m sure my mouth dropped. I would never think or say things I say to myself to a friend, or even my worst enemies.

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Self-compassion, as defined by Dr. Kristin Neff, is made up of three key elements:

  1. Self-kindness vs. Self-judgement: We are all imperfect and self-compassion requires us to both acknowledge and accept those imperfections with kindness and love rather than judgment.
  2. Common humanity vs. Isolation: Imperfection is part of what makes us human–no one is perfect!
  3. Mindfulness vs. Over-identification: Be mindful of what you are thinking and feeling, but do not let those thoughts and feelings control you or become part of who you are.

I’ve been working on my self-compassion for the past three years since I read the book–and it’s not a simple change. Yesterday I found myself thinking, “It’s ok, babe. You’ve got this.” I paused and realized that this was my new internal voice; what a beautiful moment that has come after years of putting in work and changing my narrative.¬†That¬†is how I talk to my friends and those I care about, and I’m finally using that confident, compassionate, and loving voice for myself as well. I stopped what I was doing and nearly felt like crying because of how proud I was.

That voice does not come naturally to a lot of us, particularly those of us who have perfectionistic tendencies. I know many in the world of academic research see self-compassion as a bit “fluffy,” which has always bothered me. While it might sound fluffy in that it focuses on self-love and accepting imperfections, the science is loud and clear about the benefits that come with self-compassion. Researchers have found that self-compassion can increase immune function, lower the heart rate, and increases overall wellbeing.

Self-compassion is a skill we can build and it can help buffer us against the kind of self-directed negativity that accompanies depression and anxiety. Research shows that self-compassion can weaken the association between perfectionism and depression.

I’ve always been on the more anxious side; I primarily worry the most about my future and my performance, whether at work or school or in an interview. Building my self-compassion practice hasn’t made these anxious feelings go away, but it certainly helps when things go wrong or I make a mistake. I’ve developed mantras like “You’re ok” and “This is not on you” that help me get through difficult times. These mantras aren’t excuses to avoid taking responsibility for my mistakes, but they are ways I can minimize how my mistakes impact my mindset. You can still own your mistakes and learn from them while practicing self-compassion!

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Curious about how self-compassionate you are? Take the quiz here!