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Here's to living your Best Day Ever. Every day.

Choose Happy

Here's to living your Best Day Ever. Every day.

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Make sure your values shape your habits—and not the other way around

A woman I was talking to recently confessed that, rather than working at her current job, what she really wants to do in life is help people. “I need to feel as though I’m making a difference in the world. I’d love to volunteer at a nursing home—or maybe the hospital. Or a youth center.” “So why don’t you?” I asked. “Oh, I can’t,” she said. “I just don’t have time.” “Run through a typical day for me,” I suggested. “Tell me what you do.” It turned out that most of her days looked pretty much like this: She went to work at an office job where she spent most of her day sitting in front of a computer. She usually worked late, and she often brought work home with her. At night, she was too tired to do anything but collapse on her sofa and turn on the television, snacking on junk food while she watched. Before she went to bed every night, she always had a bowl of ice cream because she said, “I deserve to have at least one thing I look forward to all day.” Then she’d do it all again the next day. If you listened to this woman talk, you would hear that she really values things like kindness, helping others, making a difference in the world. But if you looked at her life, you wouldn’t see those values present. You’d think her values were work, television and junk food. Does your daily life align with your values? She’s not unique. Despite our best intentions, we don’t always live our lives in a way that aligns with our true values. When that happens, we feel as though we’re missing something important in our lives. We instinctively know something is wrong, and that cognitive dissonance leads us to try to fill the hole—with a bowl of ice cream or TV. But those things are never going to give meaning to our lives. Best-Day-Ever lives match up values and action. They’re built, piece by piece, by aligning the things we choose to do with the values we hold most important. Does this mean you’re never going to enjoy a bowl of ice cream or a mindless TV show? No. But it means those things do not become the steady diet of your life. To make that happen, we must be willing to change. The woman whose life is too busy for anything but work, television and junk food needs to reassess how she’s spending her time. It doesn’t mean it’s all bad, but it does need refining to match up to her values. Maybe she needs a new job—but even more importantly, she needs to consciously align her values with what she does every day. For example, even the most boring office job will provide opportunities for her to demonstrate kindness to others. She might begin looking for occasions to help someone—her colleagues, her neighbors, her family—in small ways. She also might find that if she did volunteer work one evening a week, it could energize her instead of making her more tired. Living our values isn’t always easy. Often, we’ve fallen into habits—deep ruts in the way we use our time—that lead in opposite directions from the “why” that would give more meaning to our lives. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.” Don’t let habits choose your values for you. Think about what you believe is most important—and then be willing to change your life, routine and habits so that the two match. Make it personal Want a quick way to assess how well you are living your values? Check out the Life Balance Wheel exercise to get a visual representation of where you shine and where you need to put more attention.   Photo by Drew Beamer on Unsplash

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Make sure your values shape your habits—and not the other way around

A woman I was talking to recently confessed that, rather than working at her current job, what sh...

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Visualize your way to success

This summer 19-year-old Bianca Andreescu beat tennis legend Serena Williams to become the first Canadian to win a singles Grand Slam tennis title. This Thrive Global article details five mental tactics she used to win, available to any of us. My favorite was writing herself a mock check for $3.25 million when she was 15, representing the winner’s check that year at the U.S. Open. She then updated the check each year, as the amount increased, until she received the real check for $3.85 million. Her reaction? “I guess these visualizations really, really work.” Some people may think visualization is too esoteric or “woo-woo,” but, really, it’s just about brain training and creating neural pathways that make it easier to make the right choices for you to reach those big goals. You may not have your sights set on winning a Grand Slam, but I would bet you have a big goal or dream you want to achieve. If it’s seemed unattainable, even though you’ve put some effort toward it, you may want to try some of Bianca’s strategies:   Write the check – Bianca likely got the idea from another famous Canadian, Jim Carrey, who wrote his own check for $10 million as he launched his acting career. Writing down your goal actually helps your brain remember just what it is you’re aiming for. People who take the time to describe their goals in vivid detail are 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to successfully reach those goals.    Visualize – Bianca did more than just write a mock check, she regularly used visualization to put the tournament cup in her hands. Visualization can “trick” your brain into thinking that visualization is actually real – a memory of a past accomplishment, which your brain then “remembers” and helps you play out again and again. Just 10-15 minutes of visualization each day is enough to make the goal real in your mind’s eye.   Be present (with every shot) – In a high-stakes competition like the US Open, Bianca needed to be present and focused. Her meditation routine honed her focus, which paid off when she was center stage against the crowd-favorite, Serena. Mediation can “strengthen the muscle of attention” by building neural pathways that encourage focus. Whether you’re an athlete or an executive, focused attention will keep you in the game. Breathe – Deep breathing calms both mind and body, no matter what kind of stressful situation you find yourself in. Mindful focus on your breath goes hand-in-hand with being present, and reduces the “butterflies” we get from the body’s stress response. “Dream Big and Get Big” – This piece of wisdom comes from Bianca’s mom. When you have a big dream you’ll naturally grow to make that dream a reality. What’s your big dream? Write it down, with as much detail as possible, and then set aside time each day to see it. As you step onto the “court” to meet new challenges, don’t forget to focus and breathe. Try it for 30 days, and see how you grow toward your dream.   Photo by Randy Tarampi on Unsplash

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Visualize your way to success

This summer 19-year-old Bianca Andreescu beat tennis legend Serena Williams to become the first C...

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Flexitarian diet provides best of both worlds

Being committed to healthy, planted-based eating doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. That’s why the Flexitarian lifestyle may be just what you’ve been looking for.  Flexitarian, a term coined by dietician Dawn Jackson Blatner, is sometimes also called “semi-vegetarian” or “plant forward.” Whatever you call it, the idea is to pile on the plant-based food choices while still allowing meat at some meals. For many of us, this may be the best of both worlds! Numerous studies have shown that eating a plant-based diet is good for our waistline and heart health, and may even help prevent cancer. Vegetarians on average weigh less than meat eaters thanks to fiber-rich, lower-calories meals, and vegetarian diets don’t contain the “bad” cholesterol that contributes to heart disease. Vegetarians also have a lower incidence of diabetes. Studies have shown that eating a “semi-vegetarian” diet has many of the same benefits. We can get most if not all of our protein from plant sources – we don’t really need all the meat that we as Americans typically consume. But some nutrients are absent or lacking in a vegetarian diet, such as vitamin B12, calcium, iron and omega-3s. Adding an occasional source of meat can help in getting these important nutrients, which is an added benefit to this way of eating. Choosing a mostly plant-based diet is also easier on the Earth. It takes far less energy to produce agricultural crops than it does to raise animals for meat products. We’ve been seeing how this takes a toll on our planet as the forests of the Amazon are burned in order to clear land for cattle ranching. How to live like a Flexitarian The health benefits and a concern for our environment are  both great reasons to focus on a diet filled with fruits and veggies, but you might be wondering what does eating Flexitarian really look like? Along with plenty of produce, this way of eating focuses on whole grains, beans, and legumes. What it’s not is a gluten-free/paleo/keto way of eating – but that’s not to say that these diets can’t be complementary to each other. A Flexitarian diet also limits added/refined sugar and processed foods. And don’t try to create an unhealthy work-around by loading up on items that are technically vegetarian but still not all that good for you. I’m looking at you pumpkin scones and cheesy fries!  In Jackson Blatner’s book, she suggests trying out the Flexitarian lifestyle by aiming for eating vegetarian-only meals two days a week, eventually moving up to as many as five days a week. Or, you can try Mark Bittman’s VB6 approach: Eat vegan before 6 p.m. When you do add meat to your diet, add it in small quantities and choose better quality. Choosing sustainably raised meat and fish are better for the environment and often have higher nutritional value. You’ll likely pay more for these products, but since you’re consuming less the cost should balance out. Meal ideas to get you started Looking for some ways to ease into the Flexitarian lifestyle? Here are a few tips: Breakfast is a great time to load up on whole grains. Try muesli, a traditional Swiss-German cereal packed with oats, nuts or seeds and dried fruit. Pour on your favorite milk alternative.  Swap out the chicken or beef for black beans in your taco salad.  Stock up on snacks such as nuts and seeds to replace the crunch you’re missing from your favorite chips. Load up your dinnertime stir fry with double the vegetables you usually add. You don’t need to reduce the amount of meat since you’ve changed the ratio of veggies to protein. Or try tofu for a plant-based protein source. Roasted vegetables are so satisfying on their own, you might not even miss a serving of meat along with them. Best bets include cauliflower, carrots, onions, squash and golden beets.   Photo by Anna Pelzer on Unsplash

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Flexitarian diet provides best of both worlds

Being committed to healthy, planted-based eating doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing propositio...

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Holy cow! So many milk alternatives

As more people choose alternatives to cow’s milk, whether by choice or necessity, the milk alternatives vying for a place in your refrigerator are growing. Almond milk, soy milk, oat milk … even banana milk! How can you choose? And maybe some of you are asking, “Why should I choose a milk alternative?” Research has shown cow’s milk doesn’t provide any special health benefit to adults, but so many of us have grown up with it that waving good-bye to milk can be really hard, so I get why some of you may be reluctant. Plus, it has lots of naturally occurring sugars, so it tastes pretty delicious as well. The trouble with cow’s milk is that some people can’t tolerate either the lactose, a naturally occurring sugar, or casein, a protein, both found in dairy. Additionally, the hormones given to some dairy cows, as well antibiotics supplied when cattle are ill, find their way into the milk, which means those substances find their way into you. (No thanks.)     Many of us enjoy unsweetened yogurt with breakfast (lots of good probiotics!), the occasional nibble of cheese at a party, or even an ice cream cone on a hot summer’s day. When you can, choose milk products from grass-fed cows – you’ll be getting a boost to omega-3 fatty acids and CLA that you don’t get in milk from conventionally raised cows.   So many milk alternatives... As I mentioned before, there are a LOT of options when it comes to replacing the moo in your morning coffee, lunchtime smoothie or weekend pancakes for the kids. So let’s take a quick look at a few of those options. Almond Milk Even if you haven’t tried it, you’ve probably seen almond milk in your local grocery store. Its nutty, slightly sweet flavor seems to agree with most palates. Almonds are a natural source for calcium, and while a cup of almond milk won’t match the protein packed into a cup of cow’s milk, it still makes almond milk a standout compared with many of the alternatives. Almond milk is good in most sauces and baking. If you’re crafty in the kitchen, you may even want to make your own almond milk. You’ll find easy-to-do options online. Coconut milk Made from the meat of the coconut, there are two kinds of coconut milk. The thick coconut milk you find in a can is excellent for cooking and baking, but you likely don’t want to drink it – it is ultra calorie dense along with being super thick. Coconut milk beverages, like other milk alternatives, are not so thick and great for the usual milk purposes, such as in coffee or smoothies. Boxed coconut milk doesn’t have much in the way of protein, but what it lacks in protein it makes up for in medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), a saturated fat known for helping reduce appetite and improving blood cholesterol levels.  Oat Milk Oat milk is trending! But does that make it worth it? With a good showing of protein and fiber (something the other milk alternatives don’t have) the answer is yes! Oat milk has a thicker “mouth feel,” which may remind you more of cow’s milk and is making oat milk lattes all the rage. Soy Milk The granddaddy of milk alternatives, soy milk stacks up favorably to cow’s milk when comparing calcium and protein content. Bonus for you cooks and bakers: According to the folks at OneGreenPlanet, soy milk’s protein makes it excellent for savory dishes and sauces as well as in baked goods.  Hemp Milk This one is my favorite! Hemp milk provides plant-based protein and calcium along with essential fatty acids. On top of that, this alternative is low in carbs. Made from the hemp plant, it is related to cannabis, but hemp milk doesn’t contain more than a trace of the THC associated with the drug.  Pea Milk Also relatively new to the milk alternative scene, pea protein makes this product another solid choice if you’re concerned about protein. Added bonus: It has less sugar than cow’s milk. With a mild flavor and a thicker texture than some of the other alternatives, those missing their moo may find pea milk to be a good option. Rice Milk Rice milk is a good choice for people with nut or other food allergies, but doesn’t have much of a nutritional punch. Sweet and light, it can be a good choice for using in desserts. Cashew Milk Thanks to its creamy texture, cashew milk is popping up in vegan cheeses and other dairy alternatives like yogurt.   A final word on choosing a milk alternative As with any processed food, it’s important to choose wisely and look for those that are minimally processed. The shelf-stable varieties of any of these milk alternatives will have more ingredients on the label than their refrigerated counterparts. Using the “less is more” mindset, the fewer ingredients the better. While most of these “milks” are composed of their main ingredient (almond, oat, soy) plus water, many do add thickeners and stabilizers. Added ingredients aren’t necessarily bad, but some you can do without. In particular, watch out for: Added sugar – Many brands try to win us over via our sweet tooth, but we just don’t need the added sugar in our diet.  Artificial flavors – Just like the added sugar, you don’t need added flavors such as vanilla. Try the unflavored varieties of several alternatives and see which one has a natural flavor you like best. Carrageenan – Carrageenan can cause inflammation and bloating in some people, so many brands are now opting for alternatives such as gellan gum.  Oils such as canola or sunflower – Ugh, who wants oil in their milk? Yet some varieties add oil as another kind of thickener. While having any of the above doesn’t necessarily kick your favorite alternative milk off the list, check for comparable brands with less of these ingredients. And, really, your best bet it to lose the added sugar. Happy sipping!     Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

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Holy cow! So many milk alternatives

As more people choose alternatives to cow’s milk, whether by choice or necessity, the milk altern...

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Introducing play into your work day

It's summertime, and that means the kids are out of school and hard at work doing their summer jobs – in other words, they are hard at play. Play serves a beneficial role in the development of our children's brains. Play allows children to learn and explore in creative ways. Sometimes it looks like getting messy. And sometimes it looks like asking lots of questions. Whatever that child's play looks like, it has valuable learning attributes. This summer, why not take a lesson from your children and introduce play into your work process. Getting creative can be a good way to get unstuck when a creative block has you feeling stumped or you just don't feel inspired to get down to work. Here are a few ideas for introducing elements of play into your work: Get colorful –  An easy way to tap into our creativity is through art. You don’t have to be an artist to have fun with a box of crayons or a set of watercolors. Both coloring and painting have been linked to reduced stress and increased focus, which can help to create the space in our minds we need for that “a-ha” moment. My favorite adult coloring book is by Mike Dooley; it’s a great way to get a break into your day and reset your brain in the middle of a tough task.  Get outside – Parents are always encouraging kids to “Go outside!” and there’s good reason. Being in nature is one of the best things we can do for our mental health and our productivity. Just a 15-minute “walking meditation” outside (even if it’s on pavement) can help clear your brain and let your subconscious solve problems for you. Read more about the benefits of being outside in this Best Day Ever post. Get curious – Take a cue from kids and ask questions. My favorite phrase for this idea is “Tell me more.” You may be surprised that the answers lead you to a solution in an unexpected way. Inga Stasiulionyte, writing for Success Magazine, explains that questions form new patterns in our brains, which allows us to access the answers we already have. Get your groove on – Dance can be a great way to shake up your day. One study found that participants doing either aerobics or hip-hop dance reported greater feelings of well-being as well as less fatigue. My current favorite dance artist is Bruno Mars. And if you’re on Spotify, you’ll find many pre-made playlists that will lift your mood while you move your body. So put on those tunes and get moving!  Give it a try What’s magical about these techniques is that they don’t have to take long. A five-minute dance break may be just what you need to refocus. Or consider scheduling a quarterly “creativity afternoon” for you and your team to do an art project. Here a few more actionable ways to add play to your workday: • Gamify a task –  Turning a mundane task into a game can be the best way to boost productivity. Come up with your own way or find an app to help.  • Get it on paper – Sketch, highlight or doodle your way to breaking a project down into its parts, streamlining a process or seeing your schedule in a whole new way. • Walk & work – Your inner child wants to go out and play, so why not say “yes”? Schedule your next meeting for a walk around the block instead of sitting in the conference room. • Brainstorming with a twist – Brainstorming is inherently creative, but try kicking the creativity up a notch by introducing games to your brainstorming session. Here are three options you can try.  Whatever you choose, know that when you sit back down to the real business of your work you will have benefited from the creativity you engaged in. Enjoy your playtime!   Photo by Alice Achterhof on Unsplash                     

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Introducing play into your work day

It's summertime, and that means the kids are out of school and hard at work doing their summer jo...

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