Since I’ve been retired I have spent a lot of time on self-improvement. Diet, exercise, mental, emotional, spiritual - I’ve explored them all. And now I’ve made it a weekly thing - my Zoom chat (which began about essential oils) is now all about self-improvement and overall health. Over the last year we’ve chatted about all of those topics in great detail. (I’ve saved them all on youtube, if you’re ever interested in watching. Linda Loves Lavender is my channel.) I feel that I’ve been called by God to help others - in whatever small way that I can. It's not something I can just come out and say to your face. I would get tongue-tied and not know how to express myself and then the meaning would get skewed. But here, I can let you in on a few things that are in my head and my heart, and hope that you understand.
So here goes … My thoughts on life, self-improvement, and making the most of the gifts I’ve been given.
Diet - I’ve lost over 20 pounds since May following a whole food plant based diet. I have a lot more to go, but I’m determined to get healthy. I was never a big drinker, but I’ve limited myself to red wine with dinner a few times a week. There is much to learn about this lifestyle, but even if you don’t want to give up animal products, simply getting rid of processed foods will improve every aspect of your health. I won't judge. I understand the allure of meat, cheese, and junk food. I do. We often consider those our comfort foods when we're not feeling 100%. I give in from time to time because, well, it's hard work trying to eat clean and I'm only human. I follow a great group on FB called Whole Food Plant Based Lifestyle For Beginners 🚀😀🥑🌶🫑 Vegan WFPB Food. (Long name, I know!) There are amazing people trying to improve their health. SO many of them are new and not fully plant-based, and that’s fine. I’m not either. I will have fish on occasion, and eggs from time to time. And since I make my dad's dinner, I will sometimes sneak a bite of something tasty ... but the goal is improvement, not perfection. On the FB page, we share recipes and tips and it has been great for support. I’ve also read some books and watched a few documentaries about this - and the evidence against dairy, beef, chicken, and even seafood is seriously mind-blowing. (Forks Over Knives, What the Health, The Need to Grow, Cowspiracy, The Game Changers, Eating You Alive -- there are SO many). Check it out.
Exercise - This is the hardest for me. I HATE exercise. I like moving, but knowing I have to go
“exercise” has been difficult. When my daughter, Jessi, was here last year, I tried to workout with her - but she can do so much more that I just got discouraged and stopped. But after she left, I tried to do a few things … I found that I needed to make it fun - like dancing. I started tap dancing a bit. Then I got a rebounder. This was the best purchase I have ever made (and I have made it three times now.) You know, those little mini trampolines? Yeah, I have bought and sold two of them in the past, so I wasn’t sure about getting another one. One of the big changes is that this new one has a railing on it - something to grab onto for balance. I don't use the bar that much, but knowing it's there makes me feel safe. I started just bouncing a little, and have worked up to dancing and jogging on the thing. Because I’ve had hip and knee replacements, it helps with a low-impact workout. (Gravity is not my friend on a hard surface!) Now I blast tunes from the 70s or 80s and just keep moving for a half hour. I still don’t LOVE working out, but this has made it fun. And often, I’m inspired to do some yoga or stretching afterwards. And I have a few dumbbells, too. I have found that I am more in tune with my body and I listen. I can figure out what I need to do to physically feel better. (And some days that means just resting!)
One of the things that got me started was my “creation” of the Lazy Girl’s Guide to Morning Exercise. Oh, this doesn’t exist in any real format, but I created a stretch routine for myself that I can do without getting out of bed. Well, the first 10-15 minutes are done in bed, and the rest is done sitting on the side or bending over. This stretch routine helped me feel good - and the aches and pains seemed to fade. It helped me transition to other forms of exercise. Perhaps someday I’ll make a video of my routine … (I’ll need some encouragement!) In any case, just taking a few minutes to stretch and take inventory of how you feel is a great start to the day.
Lifestyle - Most of you reading know my passion for Essential Oils. I’m not really pushing them as a salesperson any longer, but I am still using them everyday. I believe that they keep my immune system healthy, and that anything that comes along I can deal with naturally. I won’t go into much detail here, because, well, I’ve said it before. If you want to know more - just ask! Anyway, other lifestyle changes include eliminating the things that could have an adverse effect on my health. Things like candles, cleaners, personal care products, and even the pots and pans I use. There are so many toxins hidden in the products we use, so my philosophy is to limit my exposure wherever I can. We never know exactly what causes an illness or disease, but if I can reduce my risk by using “clean” products, I’m going to do it. I’d rather do that than wonder later if I could have avoided a problem simply by changing my toothpaste or household cleaner or all of the above.
Mental health - I think my mental health is strongly connected to my emotional and spiritual health. I used to be a worrier - suffering from the dreaded “gracies” - my mom’s word for getting nervous, worked up, or in a panic mode. This is an inherited problem, as “the gracies” is named for my maternal grandmother, Grace. I still have my moments - like when I’m prepping a big meal for a party, or trying to juggle too many things at once - but for the most part, I’ve adopted a new philosophy that has helped me tremendously. I pray. I give it to God and let Him worry about it.
My spiritual life has really developed over the past few years. I was always a believer, but not a practitioner. I prayed when it was a necessity - like when my mom was about to have another surgery - but not as a daily thing. It wasn’t until I discovered essential oils that my spiritual life took some turns. You see, I never felt like I was a religious person. I didn’t feel worthy of God and I thought I had to go to church three times a week in order to be worthy - something I wasn’t going to do. In fact, I was under the impression that all religious people were zealots and crazies … which may be true for a few, but I was wrong. The group of women I met when I began my EO business were all strongly grounded to their religious beliefs. And you know what? They weren’t crazy church people. They were normal people just like me. They shared the same problems and obstacles in their lives, but they just handled them differently. They actively included God in their lives. I realized that religion did not equal crazy and began to slowly add God back into my life.
I tried to go to a new church. That was an experience in itself. From the start, I felt like I was “new meat,” or the next “kill,” when I walked in. Everyone was SO friendly, but by the end of the service, all I felt was manipulated. The religious leaders of this church manipulated me by using the word of God to their advantage. Or should I say, their profit. As a theatre person, I felt like I had just seen a bad production … nothing was honest about it, and I left with a bad taste in my soul. While I am not against church, I have discovered that religion does not equal spirituality, and I didn't need a church in order to open my heart to God.
I started a gratitude journal. Every day, I made a list of 5-10 things that I was grateful for in that moment. I wrote every day - or nearly every day. The list would include things like my husband, my cat, my kids, the weather, or maybe a day off from work. Whatever came to mind, I’d write. It’s an activity that I highly recommend because I have found that there is something to be grateful for each and every day. And the more we express our gratitude, the more we appreciate the good, and then the bad doesn’t seem so bad.
After a while, the gratitude journal developed into a prayer book. I now write to God and tell Him what’s going on in my life or in my head, and ask for direction. Since I write several pages at a time, this activity has become a weekly task, rather than daily. I also try to take time to read the Bible weekly to try to glean some understanding. So far, the Old Testament is just scary, but the Gospels are uplifting.)
My daily tasks include thanking God for another day when I wake up, and giving up prayers before sleep. This has been one of the best things I’ve done for my sleep, too! By thanking God and giving Him my worries, I find I don’t toss and turn thinking about all the things … I’ve learned that my trust in God is valid, too. He answers prayers in amazing ways - maybe not the way you planned, but it’s all His plan, anyway, right?
I know there are some of you that may not believe in God. But these activities are still valid. You can still keep a gratitude journal. You can still sleep after listing all the good things in your life. You can write your worries or tomorrow’s “to-do” list on a slip of paper and let it go. And you can begin writing your thoughts, dreams, and troubles down in a journal. The more truth you write, the more honest you are with yourself, the more therapeutic it is. And then you begin to heal. You begin to recognize solutions for your problems, and realize that the big stuff is not so devastating. You begin to appreciate the small stuff - and the small stuff becomes more plentiful. And you begin to recognize your own self-worth and uniqueness.
I may have always had a “glass half full” attitude in life, but since I have begun this trip of self-improvement, my glass seems to be overflowing. I want that for all of you, too.