The Secret Sauce to Savoring the Holidays for Busy People

by Debbie Lyn Toomey Speaker, Author, Trainer

2 Key Ingredients (2)-53277

How many times have you heard yourself or others say any of these statements recently?

“I cannot believe the holidays are here already!”

“What can I do this year so that I can enjoy myself for a change?”

“How am I going to get all my work done and still have time to shop for presents?”

Yes, folks it’s true! It’s the middle of November and it’s officially the holiday season. While it may seem like Father Time sprinted through 2015 (instead of marching), there are ways to have him slow down so we can relax, reflect, and rest and enjoy the end of the year before the new one begins. My “secret sauce” will help you can gain more time to cherish this wonderful season.

Bitter-Sweet

If you’re like many busy people, you’re probably still trying to remember what you did last month! Realizing the fact that the holidays are suddenly upon us can be enough to make some people cringe and even cry. Although traditionally this is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year,” some people find it difficult to be happy for various reasons such as: having too much on their plate from work- life responsibilities, lack of financial stability, and lack of support from others. Unfortunately, the holidays can be a bitter sweet time of the year where it can feel like salt has been added to deep unresolved wounds.

Too much!

Time does have a way of escaping us because of our busy work and life schedules. It’s becoming more and more difficult to stop and slow down. I’ve coached many busy people who fall into the same old trap of doing and planning. The mere thought of sitting and reflecting takes a back seat because it seems like an unproductive use of our time. As mentioned in my forthcoming book on living a productive and positive life, “Our time management skills are constantly being challenged because of the compounding distractions that are coming from all directions as well as our shortening attention span. Our lives are filled with so many distractions both external and internal multi-sensorial stimuli. The external stimuli come from two main sources: technology and team. Our techie toys are so distracting that even the mere presence of them on our desk tempts us to touch them and use them when we don’t need to. The teams of people in our personal and professional lives can be a source of support or stress. As if those distractions are not enough, we also get internal distractions that bombard and overload us with negative thoughts that ruminate and keep us from feeling good and proud of ourselves. These inner distractions add to self- sabotage, keeping us from producing easily and effectively.” We have so much to contend with in our daily lives that for some the holidays can become more of a burden instead of a blessing.

Special for Everyone

Yes, the holidays are upon us and with them come their own sets of stressors such as shopping for “that perfect gift,” having a reasonable financial holiday budget, decorating, and going to parties. While some love this time of the year, studies have shown that there is an increase in depression, suicide attempts, and drug and alcohol use for others. No one is safe from the stress that happens during this time of the year.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), women experience a higher level of stress than men during the holidays. It is because women tend to take on the work burden to ensure the best possible holiday traditions are celebrated.

The Secret Sauce for a Health & Happy Holiday Season- Gratitude & Mindfulness (6)-11180

What’s in that Sauce?

Although stress is unavoidable, there are two ways of adding sweetness to the holiday season that will get even the busiest CEO whistling his favorite holiday tune as he greets his team. These two ingredients create such a rich combination that they can’t help but awaken all the senses. The two special ingredients that make up the secret sauce are: gratitude and mindfulness. When added together they can: turn bitterness into sweet, make the tough into tender, and heavy into something light. This secret sauce combination is the easiest and most practical way for today’s busy professionals to relish and savor the holiday season so that they have more time to celebrate, communicate, and connect with those they care about.

Yummy Moments

Gratitude and Mindfulness are great ways to bring purposeful awareness, attention, and appreciation to your holiday experience. Together they will give you: more time to be productive, an increased sense of purpose in your actions, and greater positivity in your day. Practicing gratitude is a heart-centered practice that can make you feel connected, blessed, and special. Practicing mindfulness can make you feel more alive, awake, and allowing. Both of these two techniques combined have hundreds of studies that prove their ability to improve health, boost happiness, enhance relationships, and increase productivity during the holiday season. The beauty of these two practices happens during the millions of micro-moments throughout the day. The “practice” happens when we purposely remember what is happening within us and around us—without judgment. Exercising these new habits will deepen your neural pathways and ensure sustainable success in creating positive experiences in your life.

Recipe for a Sweet Holiday Season

Directions:

  1. Ask yourself what you want this holiday season to look and feel like for you. Just like with any recipe that you’ve never made before you might first have to look at the picture so that you will have an idea of what the dish will look like.
  2. “Prepave” your holiday festivities with the feeling and images of what you would like it to be for yourself. “Prepaving” is a way of creating and attracting what you want through visualization and positive emotions. Feel as if it is happening now. Have fun using your imagination to visualize and tune into what your holiday celebration is going to be like. There’s no right or wrong way of doing this. Picture yourself purposefully being aware and appreciative of what’s going on around you so that you will experience the beauty of the season so much more.
  3. Practice and play with the secret sauce ingredients throughout your days and nights.
  4. Enjoy adding other quality ingredients to this special sauce such as: creativity, courage, and self-compassion.

Key Ingredients:

1. Gratitude:

According to gratitude expert, Robert Emmons, gratitude is defined as a “felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life.” In other words, it’s more than just saying “thanks.” This year instead of sitting in traffic just to shop from place to place, save yourself some time and lots of misery by staying at home. Instead of shopping for gifts why not make them in a form of a gratitude letter to those you care about. This practice has been proven to boost levels of happiness for a weeks and weeks for both the writer and the recipient.

Here’s how to get started. Think of that special someone in your life that you need to get a gift for. Get a piece of paper (preferably a nice stationary) and write down how they have impacted your life in a positive way. Write from your heart and elaborate as much as you can. When you are done put it in an envelope and personally deliver it to that person and ask them to read it in front of you. Notice their expression. Notice yours. Notice how this loving practice can turn your holiday into a magical one. Try to do this to for as many people as you can. Schedule a time every evening during this holiday season to write out one letter to deliver in person. If you allow yourself to do one letter at a time, you’ll notice what may seem like a burden in the beginning will become a blessing in the end. The practice of gratitude will make you feel blessed and blissful. Once you get into your gratitude letter writing routine this holiday season notice how you look forward to doing it each day or night. This delicious ritual will gift you the special time to relax, reflect, and remember so many golden moments that you’ve shared with your loved ones. You’ll thank yourself for doing this!

2. Mindfulness:

According to mindfulness expert, Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is “paying attention in a particular way on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” Any activity when done purposely and with a beginners mind is considered a mindfulness activity. In other words, activities such as washing the dishes, walking, or watching can be a mindfulness activity as long as the person purposely aims to notice and experience that particular activity fully and without judgment.

Here’s how to begin this practice. During this holiday season, purposely gift yourself about 20 minutes of mindfulness by focusing on one of the five senses at a time. Start with mindfulness seeing and purposely notice all the shapes and colors that you see around you. Once you see something that catches your eye, look even closer. What do you see? Do you see any intricate patterns that make up that particular object? Notice the different shades of colors that meld together to make the colors that you see. Is that object manmade? If so, think about how that particular item made it there in front of you. Look with a beginner’s eye and notice as much as you can in that period of time. The next time you plan your mindful sit, try another sense like taste. Practice savoring when you are eating all the delicious food during your holiday festivities. Imagine as though it was the first time you’ve tasted that food. Notice how long it took you to chew it and swallow it. Try to figure out the flavors that were used in that particular dish. Notice how slowing down and savoring your food helps you stay on track with your diet because you are appreciating each bite and notice when your stomach is full. Practicing mindfulness during this holiday season might just be one of the easiest ways to keep the extra pounds off by mindfully noticing what goes in to your body. Imagine going into the New Year without having to add “lose holiday weight” in your New Year’s Resolution!

Adding gratitude and mindfulness will surely add more richness to your holidays. This delicious combination of ingredients will kick up your festivities a notch so that you can have your cake and eat it too– without guilt. Once you begin practicing these techniques, you will notice that you have more time for more important things and people in your life. Cultivating gratitude and mindfulness in your busy life will not only make you healthier and happier but also add more harmony to your life. Begin today and look around you. Challenge yourself to find something new that you haven’t seen before. Have fun and have yourself a healthy and happy holiday season!

Do you have a way of making this holiday season fun and stress-free? Please share your suggestions with me below. Thank you in advance!

New Normal

I don’t know about you but this summer has been a roller coaster of incredible and intense emotions. It has been filled with some endings and wonderful beginnings. Between my wedding anniversary, my two oldest sons’ graduations, birthdays, and new opportunities, this has been an unforgettable summer. It’s a summer that emphasizes having appreciation for those you love and how much they have impacted your life.

New-Normal
There’s a “new-normal” that’s unfolded for me. I learned about this description after spending an afternoon with a friend just days after losing his 84 year old father from cancer. As I sat with him in the park, he told me that now that his father has passed, both he and his mother had to get use to a “new normal” way of living.

Bittersweet
As for me and my family our “new-normal” takes on many bittersweet forms. Our “new normal” consists of adjusting to my oldest son living at home and working in Boston with a prospect of being relocated to Chicago. Another “new normal” change is getting used to not having my middle son home. This week kicks off his 1st week of living at college and away from home. Lastly, my other “new normal” is supporting my youngest as he starts a new school. In the grand scheme of things, my “new-normals” are all great news and certainly something that my husband and I are both proud of. It still does not help with the feelings of longing for the good-old-days of having everyone at home, all together, safe and sound, and silly-at-times. No matter what you call it – separation anxiety, the “new-normal” or simply life, is still painful. It hurts when you no longer have the person that you love near you to talk with and sit with like before.

Life
As a Health & Happiness Specialist™, I often share my own experiences in my programs. Happiness is nothing without pain or sadness. Life will deliver each of us good and not-so-good times. This is what makes life very interesting. Nothing good lasts forever and nothing bad lasts forever too. There a dynamic motion that propels us forward to become better than before if we allow it. The secret is to feel the negative emotions and allow them to surface so that we can move on. It’s when we hold on to our negative emotions that we start suffering in many ways that can manifest as severe depression, insomnia, gastro-esophageal reflux, chest pain, anger, over eating, and so much more.

3 Ways to Feel Better
Fortunately, with the increase in positive psychology research there are so many effective ways to help people cope with life’s challenges. The science of happiness has many solutions that help people grow and thrive so that they can be the best version of themselves.

Here are 3 ways to feel better:

1. Do something kind for others. When you think outside of your own situation and do kind deeds for others, you begin to feel happier.
2. Physical activity. Doing any type of physical activity is a positive way of releasing your sadness and stress.
3. Contact someone. Whether it is going to church to pray or calling up a friend. Connecting with others enhances relationships which often lead to greater happiness.


How about You?

If you are struggling with life’s ups and downs right now, trust that where there is darkness there also is light. If you need a coach to help you reach your personal or professional goals please contact Debbie Lyn at debbie.ultimatehealingjourney@gmail.com

4 Secrets to a Dream Come True

I can’t believe it.  I just turned 49 years old this week!

How did that happen so quickly?

As a product of the 80’s and the MTV generation, it felt like it was only yesterday that I was “Sexy and Seventeen” and “Pretty in Pink.”  Those were the days! It was the time when I was filled with many hopes and dreams of becoming a nurse, a wife, and a mother. Not knowing what my future would bring, I kept the faith and did everything I was supposed to do to make my dreams come true.


High School

Between you and me, I didn’t like to study or read when I was younger. I was a daydreamer and got bored too easily. Luckily I had parents who valued education and an older sister who was a high achiever. This combination motivated me to work hard to get good grades so I could go to college and have a career.  All that determination worked out and I got my wish; I got accepted into nursing school with a full scholarship.


Boyfriend

I wasn’t allowed to have any boyfriends or go to any dance when I was younger—my father was very strict. Because of this, I worried about not having any boyfriends, let alone any fun! Not thinking about boys when you’re a teenage girl is close to impossible. I remember dreaming almost every night of what my future would be like. I imagined marrying a handsome “Mr. Right,” having 2.5 kids, and living in a cozy home. I would do it so often that it felt real. Gratefully, it became a reality. When I was in high school, I met my soon to be best-friend and future husband while working at my first job at my local sub-shop.


Nurse

When my older sister and I were younger in the Philippines, we used to shout out what we were going to be when we got older. She would emphatically say that she was going to be a doctor. And I would say I was going to be a nurse. At a young age, I instinctively knew my limitations and strengths. The thought of reading “all those thick books” and going to medical school for so many years just did not appeal to me. What I wanted was a way to learn about health in a reasonable amount of time and to start helping people right away. I always loved making people feel better and I knew that there were many ways to do that. Nursing gave me the experience and skills to be able to fulfill that goal. Fortunately for me, I went to nursing school during a nursing shortage. In my third year of nursing school, I was accepted in an internship at Tufts Medical Center (formerly known as New England Medical Center) and was guaranteed a nursing position when I graduated. 


Being a MOM (That’s “WOW”, if you spelled it upside down!)

I’ve always wanted to have boys because I never had a brother. While it was great to be one of 4 girls in the family, I often wondered what life would be like with to have a brother. As you can imagine, I was so excited when I got pregnant and found out I was having a boy. I named him Phillip after my father, who always wanted a son and ended up with 4 girls. The expression on his face when my husband and I told him that we were naming our first son after him was priceless.

Mom is “Wow” upside down, and I can see why these two words have this relationship. Being a mom has changed me to the core. I can honestly say that I am a better and stronger person because of my 3 boys. They’ve taught me what unconditional love really means and how lucky I am to be alive.


4 Secrets to a Dream Come True

I am so happy to be getting so many “Happy Birthday” greetings this week! Yes, I am 49 and I’m happy to say that I still get carded! My birthday wish is to help you achieve your own dreams so that you can live a healthy and happy life. That said, I want to share with you my 4 secrets to help you make your dreams come true.  They are: faith, hard work, passion, and acceptance. I’ve always had faith that good things will happen for me. I always had to work really hard to get an outcome that might come easy for others. Also, I always use my passion to fuel my actions in order to keep from daydreaming and being bored. Finally, I learned to use acceptance to let go of what I can’t change and to enjoy what I have.  These 4 principles are tried and true. I highly recommend anyone to apply these into their life so that they can make their own dreams come true.


Here’s how:

  1. Faith- Cultivate faith, hope, and optimism by focusing on your positive outcomes. This will help fuel your ability to trust in yourself and your achievements. The more you do this the better so that you can change your mindset into believing in your abilities.
  2. Hard work- This is self explanatory. The more you work hard on something, the more you will appreciate it. This shows grit. A proven skill that brings on success.
  3. Passion- “Turn to your passions, and make them happen!” Do what you love and love what you do! If you ended up in a career that doesn’t make you happy then find a hobby or another job that will do it for you.
  4. Acceptance- Everyone has limitations. Everyone is different. And…everyone is unique and special. Accept what you can’t do or don’t have and move on. Don’t use your limitations to keep you from living a healthy and happy life. Use your strengths to your advantage.


I hope you get great outcomes from these principles. If you need further help in trying to achieve your dreams, contact me for coaching so we can get you back on track. Contact me at
info@ultimatehealingjourney.com today.

The Secret Sauce to Resilience is…

I recently presented at the Cancer Support Community, MA South Shore, on a topic that is rarely talked about during the cancer journey: Gratitude. While it’s understandable that there is absolutely nothing to be thankful for when you or someone you know has cancer, there are ways to use this virtue to help you feel more victorious.

In the presentation, I shared a story about my mother’s cancer journey with breast cancer, endometrial cancer and lung cancer. A journey that never crossed her mind before because she had no family history of such cancers and had always made healthy choices in what she ate and did. My mother is still the healthiest person I know despite the cancers that she had.

Gratitude is the Secret Sauce to Resilience

2013 was the year that my mother celebrated being breast cancer free for 5 years, only to find out two months later that she had endometrial and lung cancer. Needless to say, 2013 and 2014 were the most difficult years of my mother’s life. Despite the fact that she remained strong in front of everyone, this was the period in her life that tested her spirituality and optimism. The only consistent practice besides prayer that she did to feel better was to be grateful for her many micro-moments of progress towards being cured; she said “thank you” in almost every other sentence. It was like breathing to her. She looked for any signs of progress—big or small—celebrated them, appreciated them. In other words, she mindfully used gratitude to feel better. Dr. Les Kertay was right when he said that, “The secret sauce to resilience is gratitude.” My mother uses the practice of gratitude as a way of feeling healthy and happy every single moment.

The Good Things during the Bad Times

My mother made her goals practical and simple. For many months they were: to feel good enough to move without anyone’s help, to sleep without bone pain, to taste her food, and to have her hair grow back so that she can look like a woman again in front of us (especially my father). It wasn’t until that time that I saw the power of gratitude fueling someone’s resilience and ability to feel good during bad times. Normalcy was what she strived for and not perfection.

How to Turn Your “Grrrr” Moments into “Grateful” Micro Moments

Not everyone is like my mother, who can find the good even during the tough times. She said “thank you” in almost every other sentence. While it was as easy as breathing to her, the great news is that anyone can learn gratitude. It’s a skill that requires repetition and a routine. According to researchers, the best way to cultivate a positive habit is to practice, practice, practice!

Here’s how to get started:

  1. Days – Try it for 7 days. If you find you like this practice continue for 2-3 more weeks
  2. Decide- What time will you be doing it? Pick a daily routine to practice gratitude.
  3. Document- Write your gratitude down on a pad of paper.
  4. Deed- Do a good deed and pass on your good and grateful vibe.

Try it and see how you like it. If you or someone you know are a cancer survivor or caregiver and need coaching on practical and proven ways to increase levels of optimism and resilience, contact Debbie Lyn at info@ultimatehealingjourney.com

Simple Stress Reduction Technique

Here’s a simple stress reduction technique that is perfect for any age, I call it the Dirty-Water-in a-Plastic-Bottle technique.

I recently demonstrated this technique to a group of 6th graders that I’ve been teaching mindfulness based learning to in Boston, MA. It was actually great timing that I did this because the school had just finished their first week of standardized testing. All the kids’ (and the teachers’) energy levels were so high from preparing and performing, that the stress level in the school was palpable. Needless to say, the last thing that my students wanted to do that day was to sit down and learn about mindfulness from me. Those kids were “done” with learning that day. That’s why it took me some time to get them to listen to my lesson, which incidentally was on stress. Between you and me, I was getting stressed too because I could not get them to simmer down. I felt my level of control over the class slipping out of my hands quickly!

Super-dee-duper Contraption

Just when I thought it was hopeless, I changed my lesson plan by taking out my super-dee-duper stress reduction contraption sooner rather than later. I needed a way to hook them onto my lesson and it did the trick! When I took out the plastic drinking bottled filled with a water and soil mixture the class stopped and asked what I had in my hand.

I thought to myself, “Yes, you got their attention!”

“Don’t stop and keep talking!”

I told them what it was and why I brought it. Some of the kids were “grossed out” while others were intrigued. I explained to them that this murky bottle of water was like our minds sometimes. It is filled with the mixture of positive and negative thoughts making it difficult for us to pay attention and to feel calm and in control of our actions. Furthermore, I told them that the key to decreasing our stress and seeing solutions more clearly is becoming mindful to our present state and knowing how we are feeling. I reminded them that mindfulness was all about paying attention and being aware of what’s in front of us, around us, and within us. Moreover, I emphasized that the best way to start feeling better, especially from the week they just had, was by allowing things to settle down (like the dirt in the bottle) and using the power of our breath to reduce our stress.

Letting It Settle

With this in mind, I shook the bottle of muddy water while the whole class watched the muddy vortex swirl around in the bottle. While we watched it swirl around and around, I had them participate in a deep breathing exercise. I encouraged them to continue the deep breathing exercise until we noticed that all the dirt had settled at the bottom and that the water had become clear. This became a powerful visual aid because they were able to see that by becoming aware of their stress, they could stop engaging with the stressor and start deep breathing exercises to regain their sense of self control. This Dirty-Water-in-a-Plastic-Bottle technique that I taught them made them feel relaxed, and they were able to concentrate more on the rest of the class. It really worked!

This technique is perfect for anyone as a way to reduce stress.

Mindfulness is...

Cheap and effective reminder

The Dirty-Water-in a-Plastic-Bottle technique is a great recycling project to do and possibly one of the simplest stress reduction techniques to use.

Here’s what you will need:

1. Empty clear 16 oz plastic bottle (remove label)
2. 16 oz of water
3. Soil (glitter or small plastic confetti would be a great substitute for the dirt if you don’t have any around)
4. Super Glue (permanent strong glue)

Directions:

Add items 2 & 3 into the empty plastic bottle. Dry the opening of the bottle, apply super glue, and twist cap tight. Allow the glue to dry for about 1 hour.
It’s that easy! You now have a homemade stress reduction tool that will surely help you and others feel better during those chaotic and overwhelming days.

Enjoy!

How about you?

Is stress leaving your feeling stuck and unable to move towards the life of your dreams? Contact me at Debbie.ultimatehealingjourney@gmail.com for coaching to help you gain more clarity, and confidence to move towards the life of your dreams.

 

Let’s get physical

 

Healthy and Happy March to you!

I don’t know about you but I am so excited that this new month has finally arrived. It’s been such a cold and snowy winter in the Boston area that it seems like everyone, including me, has gotten “cabin fever.” It really made me appreciate the warmth of the sun and being outside for just a few minutes so I could clear my winter blues away.

Physical activity can boost our mood

Did you know that experts say that doing any physical activity can actually help boost your mood? It’s true and it does work. Every time I would start feeling low or down, I would start doing a physical activity such as de-cluttering my workspace, walking to the post office, or even walking on the beach. Of course your physical activity (notice I am not saying the “e” word that ends with “cise”) will depend on your health and activity tolerance.

An inspiration

I coached a group from the Boston Senior Home Care’s Stronger for Life Program recently and they were a wonderful inspiration to me! They are so determined to reach their goals to lose weight and to increase their endurance. They do their physical routine in their apartments, hallways, and stairs. They did not let the cold harsh winter ruin their goals of becoming stronger for life.

What an inspiration they were!

As for me, walking around my neighborhood, shoveling, making snowmen has become my winter sport. I’ve also found snowshoeing to be a wonderful way of getting out and having fun in the cold weather.

Debbie snow-62596

How about you?

What have you been doing this winter to help you lift your spirits? Please share it with us. Just remember, anytime you start feeling the blues coming on, it’s always best to recognize it so that you can make the choice to shift from that state to be better one. What better way to make a positive shift than to start getting…physical. Have fun!

Need coaching?

Have you been feeling stuck and stressed not knowing what to do to move closer to your dreams and goals?

Has there been a goal that you have been wanting to achieve but just don’t know how to start?

Are you finally ready to serve your own needs instead of others for a change?

Contact me at info@ultimatehealingjourney.com so  we can get you moving towards the direction of your dreams.