After graduating college, I moved to Hermosa Beach California where one of my favorite restaurants, Good Stuff, sat on the strand right by the beautiful beach. Good Stuff was just one of the many restaurants in the South Bay where you could easily find healthy meals but what stood out to me about this particular beachside eatery was their slogan, “You are what you eat so eat good stuff”. That phrase has stayed with me although over time, it’s come to take on new meaning. When I first heard it, after having just spent 4 years studying sports performance, exercise, and nutrition, I interpreted the phrase quite literally. At the time, my focus was very much on eating “the good stuff” and working out.
Twenty-plus years later, I’ve come to realize that “the good stuff” shouldn’t just refer to the food we’re consuming. While our food and drink choices are important, everything else we consume all day can have a huge impact on our lives. I used to pay so much attention to making sure I worked out and ate healthy foods, but what I’ve come to understand is that so much of our overall health and wellbeing is directly related to everything else we consume throughout the day including but not limited to the TV and news we watch, the music we listen to, the people we surround ourselves with, and the books we read.
I have become even more sensitive to this since having children. I make an effort to limit the amount tv - especially news - they are exposed to and we almost always have music playing throughout our house.
Another thing that has helped to significantly improve my mental well-being is my active gratitude practice. Similar to healthy eating or exercising regularly, an active gratitude practice takes discipline and dedication to fully incorporate as a daily habit.
My goal is to gratitude snack all day long!
I make a conscious effort to start every day with a quick and intentionally positive mental checklist. Starting my day this way helps me to carry a gratitude mindset into the rest of my day. I'll start by taking an inventory of how I’m feeling, and then taking some time to reflect on the days to do list. My internal dialogue during this morning exercise goes something like this:
- Physical check-in: My body is sore. –I’m grateful I got to workout yesterday and for my health which enables me to get moving.
- Work check-in: I have a day full of meetings and a full to-do list. – I’m grateful that I get to work at such an amazing organization, with awesome people and a life-changing “product”.
- Home check-in: This evening packed with after school activities. – I’m grateful that my kids enjoy sports and the lifelong benefits they’ll get from them.
- Family check-in: My family is all healthy. – I’m grateful!
- Every day is full of surprises, so at the end of my morning checklist, I like to throw in a little gratitude for all of the positive unexpected things that are headed my way throughout the day.
I want to teach my kids to develop a gratitude practice of their own so we do a few things every day to instill that practice:
- Gratitude Grace: Before eating dinner, we go around the table and share something we are grateful for, explaining why we are grateful.
- Thank you notes: We make a point to practice, recognize and be grateful for people who went out of their way for us every day by drafting imaginary thank you cards every day. Every night before my kids go to bed, we each talk about who we are sending that day’s imaginary thank you note to and why. My daughter even has fun telling me how she would decorate the card (it’s usually lots of unicorns).
- Reframing: Everyday things happen that are outside of our control. We often view these unforeseen things negatively, but the truth is, inconvenient things happen, it's inevitable. What each negative instance provides is the opportunity for us to practice reframing the way we process negative situations. One exercise we practice at home is taking whatever the negative event was and reframing it by completing the following, “the reason this is good is because…”. Sometimes we finish the sentence reflecting on a lesson the event taught us, sometimes we identify a better way to do something, and sometimes it is just that we understand that we don’t want to treat people a certain way. This exercise can be the most challenging but isn’t that where all the magic happens…?
My challenge to you is to perhaps give the food log a break and focusing on some of the other “stuff” you consume that affects your well-being. Try and take an active inventory of everything else you consume in a day – is it “good stuff”? If you need help adopting better practices, try incorporating some of my family’s gratitude exercises.
You’ll be grateful you did. 😉