Wednesday, February 23, 2011

You are AMAZING!

The most wonderful thing happened to me this morning. I was simply going about my day when I happened to wander into the ladies room here at UCSF and was bombarded by positively inspirational and complimentary post it notes stuck on every single mirror. Instead of noticing how tired I looked or how dirty my hair seemed, I smiled and actually giggled a little as I read:

“You’re kind of a big deal; just saying.”

As I walked out and passed by the full-length mirror I was hit with a burst of confidence as I read, “Wow, you look great today!”

It’s really difficult to feel bad about yourself when you are reading positive statements while looking in the mirror. It the same reason why we end up feeling so bad when we continually tell ourselves we’re not beautiful or we’re stupid or we’re just not good enough. If we tell ourselves those things enough times we will start to believe them and we will end up living them as truth instead of the thing we made up in our head.

If we keep telling ourselves we rock, then eventually we will start to believe that too and isn’t it better to believe you’re awesome than to believe you suck? It just takes practice.

So what better way to practice than to take an example from the UCSF feel good fairy? This week I want everyone to write some positive statements on a few post-it notes. If you can’t think of what to write, have a friend write it for you or use some of the examples below. Then put those post-its on every mirror in your house. If your husband/wife/child/roommate/cat thinks you’re nuts, oh well. Tell them I am making you do it.

Put them up on your steering wheel or on your computer. Secretly put them up in the bathroom at your work. Leave them on your neighbor’s desk or stick it to a seat on the bus. Lets make this a week of reminding ourselves, and others that we are amazing, because we are. I truly believe that.

Some possible post-it’s

You are beautiful, no I mean it; you are gorgeous.

You blow me away!

You are awesome, I mean really awesome.

You are kind of a big deal, seriously.

You light up this room.

Wow! You are hot as fire today!

Damn you’re smart!

Come on, seriously? Is that smile legal?

Be Good to your Body, it’s where you Live

Monday, February 14, 2011

Write away your fear

This morning a client informed me of an article in Science magazine about a recent study testing the effects of expressive writing, about test anxiety, on test results. Turns out the results were conclusive. (I also found an article on the study told in more lay mans terms)

The study found that taking a few minutes to write about the forthcoming anxiety actually helped alleviate it and the students performed better on their exams. I think that we could use this information to help us in all kinds of situations.

This totally goes against what we naturally feel inclined to do. Have you ever told someone who was nervous about something, “think of something else; just let your mind relax and think happy thoughts?” I certainly have. I tell myself that all the time. Just be positive, Sarah. Don’t focus on the negative Sarah. The glass is half full Sarah. And that’s all well and good for daily life thoughts but I am talking about specific instances when anxieties are getting the best of you.

Maybe you have to give a speech or sing karaoke or disappoint a friend or go to a high school reunion.

Maybe taking a few minutes before doing any of the above things could actually help alleviate the stress. The idea being that if you get the anxiety out of your mind and out of your body, you will have more space for success. Think of all the cortisol building up in your body while you fret over an impending work meeting. Put those worries to paper and you just might surprise yourself with the space you have left to wow your co-workers.

Pick something, anything that might normally cause you anxiety and all this week immediately before you do it, try writing about it. That’s the clincher too, it has to be immediately before you do it otherwise you will have tons of time to jack the anxiety back up.

Do you get worked up before rush hour with impending doom about the traffic? Free write all your fears; the worst thing that could happen, then get in the car, turn on the tunes and drive home happy. The anxiety can fester on your desk.

Nervous about a first date? Write out those anxieties and all that scares you, then put on some lipstick (or whatever date attire makes you feel great) and proceed with confidence, because your worries will be literally left at home.

I know that you might be scared that if you write down your fears they will somehow be real and they will come true but I promise that’s not going to happen. That anxiety you feel is living inside of you and putting it on paper is only going to get it out.

What’s the worst that could happen? Now on a count of three, let’s write

Be Good to your Body, it's where you Live

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Have you ever wondered what yoga teachers mean at the end of the class when they say, Namaste? The first time I ever heard a yoga teacher say that, I felt insecure. I wondered why I didn’t know what it meant? I wondered why everyone else in the class looked so serene and serious and how they all seemed to know just the right way to bow and how far down to bow. It was like they were all a part of this special church and I was the girl in the back who was taking communion but had never been confirmed. I was sure everyone was staring, wondering why I was drinking the wine; it’s so obvious I wasn’t ready for the blood of Christ.

For years, I muddled my way through yoga classes pretending I had some semblance of a clue as to why we were chanting, bowing, or continuing to say that word, namaste. I even started hearing people using it in non-yoga moments. Famous people started bowing during acceptance speeches, yoga girls were using namaste as a thank you when the barista handed them their skinny chai lattes. It’s emblazoned across t-shirts and baseball caps, it’s everywhere, this word, and I was still unsure what it meant. Eventually I drummed up enough courage to ask a yoga teacher; I was a little nervous but it went pretty well. The teacher said to me, “It means I bow to you.” Oh … I see, now I completely understand. I walked away nodding my head and smiling like a person who has suddenly had their eyes opened ... not.

I bow to you? That’s it? It’s just a description of what everyone has been doing?

What was she talking about? I was even more confused than before. Why was it so important? Why were celebrities saying it? Does it even need to be said if that’s what you’re doing when you say it? So many questions … if only there had been Google then.

Since that fateful yoga class, I have done my own fair share of studying and yes, it does mean, I bow to you, but it’s much more than that. The mantra I use for myself is this: When that greatness, which you possess and which lives inside of you, is shining bright, and that greatness, which I possess and which is living inside of me, is also shining bright, we are connected. That light I am referring to is you; you when you are alive and present in the moment.

You could say higher being, light, spiritual being, God, or divinity. It can be done as a salute, a bow, or a respect, it can be said at the end and beginning of a yoga class, as a thank you or as a greeting, but no matter what, when or how, it all seems to mean about the same thing. One definition a yoga teacher I love often uses is:

“I honor the place in you in which the entire Universe dwells. I honor the place in you, which is of love, of integrity, of wisdom, and of peace. When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, we are one.”

Sometimes in daily life, it is really easy to get tunnel vision. Often I will only see what is directly in front of me; I can easily forget that the world is bigger than my apartment, UCSF, or San Francisco. This week, I urge you to pay attention and to honor those people around you who contribute to your world. That is what I think namaste means. I think it is recognition that we are all in this together and that if each and every one of us tries to stay open and present, we will all be connected. Honor can mean whatever you want it to mean. It might mean that you say good morning to people as you pass them on the street, maybe it means you take an extra moment to say thank you to someone who holds open your door. Maybe you let someone go ahead of you in line, or you pay someone’s bridge toll. Perhaps you volunteer on the weekends at a shelter or at your kid’s soccer camp, I don’t know, it’s all relative and it’s all personal. All I do know is, if we all try a little harder to respect and honor our fellow woman, we will all be better off, we will all be living in a better world and we will all be able to say, Namaste.

Be Good to your Body, it’s where you Live

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Walking with Lalane

I would be surprised if someone reading this hadn’t heard of Jack Lalane. He’s the guy who was always trying to sell us juicers late at night, right after Cindy Crawford tries to improve my skin and George Foreman insists I start grilling more. I am sure you know him. He’s famous for much more than juicers though. He is the original fitness guru convert. He was a junk food addict and at age 15 heard Paul Bragg (who makes the best salad dressing in the universe by the way) speak and it changed his life. It was all health after that. Jack invented some of the first weight machines and opened a gym in our very own Oaktown. He was a chiropractor, body builder and health extraordinaire. He recently died at the age of 96 (just last week) and in memory of his amazing contributions to the world of health I am dedicating this weeks wellness update to him.

When thinking of what aspect of Jack to write about, a girlfriend mentioned the health of Jack’s wife, Elaine. “Did you know she was a smoker, overweight and eating donuts for breakfast every day when jack met her?”

Jack was so into Elaine that he fell for her, tobacco and all and they started dating. Elaine began to change her habits because of spending so much time with Jack. They would exercise together regularly. She started eating better and eventually quit smoking. I am not saying that in order to be healthy you need to marry a health nut but it makes sense that spending time with a healthy person could eventually rub off on you.

Think about it in the opposite direction. If you are going out to dinner with a group of friends and the majority of your friends want to eat pizza, it’s going to pretty hard to say, “No! I want something healthier.” It’s much easier to say, “Oh, I will just order a salad and have one slice.” You compromise to fit the majority. If you are with a group of health nuts all vying for a nutritious meal, it’s going to be equally as difficult to insist on pizza.

I am obviously not telling everyone to dump his or her Doritos loving amigos. Heck, even I love Doritos every now and then. But if you are trying to exercise more, eat healthier or decrease stress, maybe spending more time with your like-minded buddies is a good start.

This week would be a great time to call that friend who loves power walking and make a date for some chat/walk time. Or have the Smiths over for dinner this weekend (Did you know Laura Smith doesn’t eat sugar?) Maybe you should spend your lunch hour with Donn from down the hall. (Doesn’t he meditate at lunch?)

Ok, here’s the caveat: Sometimes I have negative feelings towards overly healthy people. Yes, it’s true. The person who only eats fruit and nuts that have fallen from the tree and can’t go out to dinner unless the produce is from an organic farm next door and the fitness freak who can’t spend a day just relaxing in front of the TV. Sometimes these people make me crazy. It’s just as detrimental to be fanatical about health as it is to be unfanatical. We all need to be balanced. So if you are the person who can’t go out to lunch with friends because it means missing spinning class, or you are unable to enjoy a bite of your daughters birthday cake because of the calorie content, I recommend hanging out with some oppositely minded people this week. Let go for a day. Have some cake, dance a little, and sleep in. Health is about balance. I think Jack Lalane was great but he may have been lacking some balance, which is why I think Elaine was just as good for him as he was for her.

Be Good to your Body, it’s where you Live