In July 2014 program dietitian Vicki Bovee and her husband, Bill, committed to do a weekly challenge for a year to improve their health and lifestyle. Vicki and Bill decided to tackle a variety of challenges to eat better, eat and live more mindfully, and improve physical health and emotional well-being because there is always room for improvement. They successfully completed a year of challenges but that didn’t mean they were finished.

Challenge #57 Progressing to the positive

I think some things most of us strive for are; to be more positive, to be more balanced, and to be more at peace with ourselves and our surroundings. Enter the Urban Monk. I came upon Pedram Shojai, the Urban Monk, via an email from a health website that I follow. Pedram’s book was just released in February and sales took off. I guess there are a lot of people out there who want less stress, better time management, a healthier diet, more sleep, and to just live a happier life in this crazy, busy world.

I ordered the book and it took longer to get in the mail because sales were overwhelming. While we were waiting for our book, we went to the Urban Monk’s website and signed up for his free Seven Day Reboot. Talk about a wealth of information! Within each daily video he included more resources and videos. Do you need a 5-minute workout that you can do next to your desk? Do you need some easy guided mediation exercises for better sleep? Want to learn simple qigong exercises to reduce stress?

After watching the Reboot we were excited to finally get our book. I knew this was going to be something we would enjoy. Pedram practices tai chi (so do I) and qigong (so do we) and Bill and I  both know the benefits of these Chinese exercises. The book has ten chapters that each discuss a major life issue we have in our modern world and delves into the problem and solutions.  After doing the Seven Day Reboot, we figured we could do one chapter per week and we picked our top four. Our first pick was the first chapter dealing with stress. We set our expectations high, too high as a matter of fact. We never got past chapter 1. I guess you could say we reduced our stress by not stressing out over getting through the other three chapters.

Vicki’s observations:

  • I think I read chapter 1 at least five times. There were seven strategies. I didn’t do all of them consistently. I already exercise so that strategy was a done deal. Over the month, two of them filtered out to become healthier habits.
  • I practiced morning visualization and that set my day to start on a positive note. I hit the snooze and spent the next seven minutes lying quietly with eyes closed and visualizing what I wanted to my day to look like. I didn’t just run over my schedule or to do list. I looked at my activities and thought about them in a positive, productive way. Honestly, this did work and I was more positive, happier, and less stressed. I am continuing with this.
  • The other strategy I found to be helpful was mental scanning. You know how your mind races around, either looking backward or forward, and you don’t get anywhere? I practiced mental scanning, a form of mindfulness. Periodically just stop and ask yourself, “What am I doing right now?” Check in with yourself and bring yourself to the moment. Then I added my own second question, “Is what I am doing positive?” If I was falling into negative thinking I acknowledged it and stopped to turn it around. I found that over the month I was doing my mental scanning more frequently and it became a habit.

Bill’s observations:

  • There is no doubt we all live in a very stressful and, at times, a very negative world. Just watch an hour of the news or listen to the presidential debates and you will start to get negative vibrations surrounding your body and mind. This is why Vicki and I try to practice “no negative Sundays.” We are not allowed to talk negatively. I love that about our Sundays.
  • In the first chapter I learned a new breathing exercise, a new stress reducing exercise and the power of drinking certain teas. I must admit that I did not do all three of these every day but when I did I felt better and it brought me into the moment. Many times I find myself thinking of the past or planning the future. One of my biggest obstacles is staying in the present.
  • I look forward to doing the morning visualization and mental scanning exercises that Vicki worked on. Both of those exercises will help me stay in the moment. Change is never easy but I need to learn to be more of an “Urban Monk.”

Maybe you don’t want to be an “Urban Monk” and that’s OK. But the strategies to tackle our busy lives are worth a try. As Bill has heard me say at least a thousand times, “Can’t hurt, might help.”

Next month we carry on with our Urban Monk lifestyle with a food focus. We eat pretty healthfully so we’ll be working on how we eat with the “Slow Down Diet: Eating for Pleasure, Energy, and Weight Loss.” There’s more to it than just making your meal last 20 minutes. Stay tuned.

Eat Smarter…
Vicki Bovee, MS, RDN, LD