“Cake is happiness! If you know the way of the cake, you know the way of happiness! If you have a cake in front of you, you should not look any further for joy!” ― C. JoyBell C.
I recently celebrated my birthday. One of my favorite games to play with people is to have them guess how old I am. It never fails...they always guess between 27 and 31. They are always wrong. When I reveal that I'm actually 37 years old a look of shock and confusion typically washes over their face. Then I'm bombarded with questions of:
"How is that possible?!"
"What is your secret?!"
I don't spend hundreds of dollars on miracle face creams. I don't make myself choke down wheatgrass shots. I've never worried about being beautiful or staying young. I don't wear makeup. I don't try to enhance my eyes or my lips. I don't apply bronzer to get that "healthy glow". In fact, I don't follow any beauty regimen of any kind, and yet, I'm constantly complimented on my "beautiful skin" and my glowing complexion.
The truth is, I have no beauty secrets. I never considered myself beautiful until recent years. Growing up, I was the awkward kid with big teeth and eyes set too far apart. My hair was, and most of the time still is, out of control. I was too skinny and my feet were too big.
I spent a lot of time trying to fit in, so I frequently sported the latest fashions and hair crazes. I remember a time when "The Bangs" were like a living, breathing creature atop my forehead. I wore blue eyeliner and red lipstick and oh-so-much mascara. It was as if every day was Halloween.
When I became an adult, I let go of trying to be like everyone else. I began to follow my inner voice that was telling me to stop putting all that crap on my face. I grew out the bangs and found hairstyles that complimented the shape of my face.
In the past few years, I have turned my focus on beautifying myself from the inside out. I've been more concerned with becoming a more compassionate person than looking cute. Through the cultivation of mindfulness skills and consistent practice of yoga, Nia, and meditation, I've become a happier, more vibrant person. That inner beauty is what I think is being reflected to others when they compliment me on my skin or my good hair day.
Here are my top 10 tips on looking up to 10 years younger (or otherwise living a healthy, happy life):
1. Sleep. When the body is tired, rest. Make sleep a priority. Naps are magnificent. Do not settle for less than seven hours of uninterrupted sleep. Buy the best bed you can afford. I have a Sleep Number, and it was the best money I ever spent. Indulge in the softest sheets and blankets. Rest your head on firm pillows. Keep your bedroom dark and cool. Someone special or a furry baby to cuddle is also nice.
|Eat the damn cake!|
2. Eat Well. My relationship with food has changed in the past few years. Food used to be my drug of choice. I would dull the pain of a neglectful relationship with pasta. I would ease the sting of hurtful words with mashed potatoes. I would silently tell someone to go to hell (in my head) over ice cream. Once I learned mindfulness skills that help me become aware of my self-destructive eating patterns, I made better choices. Instead of eating my feelings, I started to address them. What do you know, actually telling someone to go to hell feels even better than eating ice cream.
Now, my general rule when it comes to food is to eat well. I do not diet. I do not deprive myself of anything. It saddens me to hear people say "I'm on this or that diet" or "I'm off this or that food" or my favorite, "I couldn't possibly have another piece of cake". I just want to grab them by the shoulders and shout, "Eat the damn cake!" Who doesn't love cake?
If I want to eat something, I just check in with my body first. Am I wanting to eat it because it is going to be delicious and pleasureful or am I wanting to eat it to hide what I'm feeling? If the answer is anything other than "I want to eat it because it is going to be amazing and bring me pleasure", I don't eat it. In the past two years, I've lost 65 pounds and kept them off, without dieting. That is a whole other blog post.
3. Stay Hydrated. I've been living in the desert for almost a year, and I realize the importance of drinking a lot of water. The human body is 75% water, so go ahead, drink up! Water is important for keeping all of our bodily functions operating correctly. Brace yourself for my eye-roll when I hear things like "But I don't like water". That's like saying you don't like air, so you should just go ahead and hold your breath right now. The body needs it, so shut up and drink it. Add lemons, cucumbers, oranges, or whatever strikes your fancy. Just drink your 8 glasses a day. Period.
|Nia on the beach in Hawaii|
4. Play. This is what some people might call "exercise". I hate to work out, but I love to play! My cardio of choice is Nia, a blend of dance, martial arts, and yoga. It is the only form of movement that I have been consistently participating in for the past 8 years. I wish I could say that about all my unused gym memberships.
I also like to run, and when I say "run", I mean move my legs in a forward motion at a pace slightly faster than walking. I am quite possibly the slowest runner on the planet, but I enjoy how my body feels when I'm doing it. Find some activity that you enjoy doing for at least 30 minutes at a time at least three times each week. That's the key to fitting in regular exercise. I'm not talking about exercising to lose weight. I'm talking about strengthening the heart to pump blood through your body and deliver vital nutrients to all your organs and cells. Again, the body needs it, so you might as well find something you enjoy doing. Move it, move it!
|Me and my yoga students|
5. Get Bent. Do yoga. Seriously, do it. I have heard every excuse in the world why people do not do yoga. I have even used several of them myself. Yet here I am, a yoga teacher. Who would have thought that someone who hated yoga as much as I did would become a yoga teacher?
Lately, it's the only thing that keeps me sane. I do yoga to stretch my body, but also to quiet my mind. There's no need to fold myself into a pretzel to accomplish this. I choose to move my body gently. I listen when she says to back off. I connect with my breath.
Yoga enhances my Nia and meditation practices. It gives me the focus and mental clarity I need to make better decisions. It keeps me from punching people in the face. For that reason alone, I think everyone should do yoga. Find the style and teacher that are right for you. If you can't find joy and peace in a yoga class, take a yoga teacher training to figure out why. That's what I did. Click here to do yoga with me. Namaste.
6. Exercise Your Brain. Engage in activities that keep the brain active. When focused on completing a task, the brain does not have time to worry about the future or linger in the past. Learn something new. Play games that are mentally challenging. Read. Write. Learn a new language. Take a class. Do something every day that increases the grey matter under your skull.
7. Spend Time in Nature. Whenever I have a problem that I cannot figure out, I know it's time to go into nature. The answers to all our problems are within us, and sometimes the only way to unlock them is to go into nature, away from electronics and distractions. There's nothing like sitting on a rock that has existed for thousands of years to gain a little perspective. Try staring up at a tall tree and thinking about paperwork. Try looking at birds and butterflies and thinking about your to-do list. Try digging your feet into the damp earth and thinking about paying bills. Go ahead...try it.
|My dancing Nia sisters in AZ|
8. Find Your Tribe. Social interactions are important for our emotional health. Humans are social animals and we constantly seek out connection with others. I tend to surround myself with positive people who aren't afraid to be themselves. I gave up on pleasing others a long time ago. I like to spend my time with people who are genuine.
We don't waste our time with smalltalk. We speak from the heart and share our feelings. We support and guide each other. We tear it up on the dance floor together. We have tequila shots and share meals together. Most importantly, we are happy to see each other and spend precious moments together. You know when you've found your peeps when they find you.
|Yeah, I'm still afraid of heights.|
9. Step Outside Your Comfort Zone. Take risks. Explore. Travel to distant lands. Learn about other cultures. Try something new. My advice to the non-adventurous spirit is to start small. Add a jalapeño pepper to the scrambled eggs tomorrow morning. Find a new route to the office or the grocery store. If you're lucky, you'll get lost. Ask the bartender to make you a surprise drink, and actually drink it. Wear patterns with stripes. Write down all your fears and pick one or two to confront.
I've written a lot about my "advenchas" in previous posts. Check out the one on the Fire Walk. That was way out of my comfort zone. I was scared to death, but it was also the most badass thing I've ever done. When we step into the unknown, it can be scary, but when we do so consciously and willingly, it can be incredibly liberating.
10. Enjoy the View. Life is short. Live it with your eyes open. Take in the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures of all your experiences. If a situation is not going as planned, take a deep breath and look around. You might find that even a chaotic situation has beauty. See the world as though you've never seen it before. Be curious. Be playful. Be joyful.
|Me on my 37th birthday.|
“You've got this life and while you've got it, you'd better kiss like you only have one moment, try to hold someone's hand like you will never get another chance to, look into people's eyes like they're the last you'll ever see, watch someone sleeping like there's no time left, jump if you feel like jumping, run if you feel like running, play music in your head when there is none, and eat cake like it's the only one left in the world!” ― C. JoyBell C.
Bonus Tip: Above All Else...Have Love In Your Heart. The only time we have is now. Love yourself. Love each other. Follow these 10 steps and you too can look 10 years younger.