The pursuit of happiness has long been the goal of humankind. But, what is happiness? For us, it could be a feeling of calm and security. For others, it may be a feeling of success on a professional and/or personal front. Happiness is truly subjective! One of the keys to unlocking the path to being happy is to practice mindful happiness.
Mindfulness is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as, “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.” So how does mindfulness increase our feelings of happiness?
By utilizing the power of awareness of the present moment, we allow ourselves the opportunity to connect with our heart, mind, body, and spirit with crystal clear transparency. When we allow our thoughts to be focused on the “now,” we invite our clarity to serve as a compass, guiding us toward the happiness that may have eluded us in the past.
When practicing mindfulness, we pay close attention to the signals that our bodies are sending us, those pangs of guilt, shame, regret, and learning to bless and release them through allowing those signals to remind us that we are a work in progress. Through the mindfulness practice of breathwork, we empower our bodies to cleanse some of the adverse biological reactions that our bodies and minds have created in reaction to our perception of the lack of happiness.
Mindfulness is a skill that takes practice! Our bodies and minds have a natural tendency to fight stillness. If you have tried meditation and find your mind racing with that list of “to-dos” or constant distraction, it’s not your fault! Our brains are designed to be the operating system that we rely on both consciously and subconsciously. Taking some small steps in quieting your mind will lead to training your brain to power down temporarily. Here are some steps to try when working on quieting the mind:
- Find a space that will allow you solitude and quiet
- Start with an intention of a short time period, perhaps 5 minutes. You can always increase this as you increase your skill level!
- Pay attention to your breath. Using this awareness as a focus increases the release of stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, and increases the “feel good” chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine: both of which are “happiness hormones.”
- Notice your body: find a seated position that is comfortable to you and that will allow you to relax.
- Allow your mind to wander. Remember, when your mind is sending you messages, it’s doing its job! Work on recognizing the thought without judgment.
Mindful happiness occurs when we align our mind, body, and spirit with our unique strengths. Happiness is not a destination, but a journey of the authenticity of our truth, a lifelong practice of pursuing a wholeness that is genuine and unique to each of us. Each moment in our life gives us the opportunity to be keenly aware of the path to follow, even if it’s one that you need to create. By following your individual journey through mindfulness, you will own the key to creating a life of fulfillment, which in my view is “happiness.”
There is so much to love about this time of year. One of my favorite things to do in December is to reflect on the past year and begin anticipating the months ahead. Goal-setting is my jam, but if I’m honest, I easily lose momentum when it comes to resolutions. In hindsight, I’m grateful I didn’t put pressure on myself back in January 2020. Who could have known what a crazy year we’d all face?
While this certainly wasn’t the year anyone expected and we’ve all had to make adjustments, I can still say I learned a lot. Here’s what stands out as I reflect on 2020 and look ahead to 2021:
What I Will Keep
I’m grateful to say that despite the chaos in the world around us, my personal mental health blossomed this year. I chose to take a few months off of work, slowly re-built my hours, and now work a part-time job that brings me enjoyment and involves little stress. I learned to be gentle with myself, letting go of the pressure to live a life that looks like everyone else’s and instead embrace what works best for my family.
I also took on new hobbies: how to garden, how to cross-stitch, and how to paint with gouache (okay, I’m still learning that one). I became more flexible, a necessary skill to survive this year! And best of all, through a therapy session and much prayer and reflection, I learned to accept and appreciate my spouse instead of focusing on what could be different.
What I Will Leave Behind
I’m grateful for the opportunities to leave some things behind and start fresh in 2021. If you’re like me, you felt the pull of the news and social media more than ever this year. The pressure to be connected at all times has worn me out and threatens to dismantle the inner peace I’ve worked hard to protect.
I also want to leave behind the negativity and temptation to complain that has seemed inescapable. I imagine it will be some time before our lives all go back to “normal” (or whatever our new normal will be). Acknowledging the grief caused by the pandemic is necessary and valuable. We are allowed to mourn the many losses we’ve experienced. But as much as I can, I want to move forward with thankfulness for what I have. That leads me to my goals for 2021!
New Goals for the New Year
In 2021, I want to continue prioritizing health, self-growth, and gratitude. I want to hike with my daughter (I just purchased hiking boots for both of us), do another stitching project (also purchased), and go on a writing retreat, among many other things. I am trying something new and starting my goals this month so that I will hopefully have already created new habits before the New Year hits.
What good from this year will you carry with you into 2021? What will you leave behind? We’d love to know!
This has been an amazing Wholistic Woman Retreat journey. It is true that it’s about the journey, and not the destination, or else we would have arrived in Sedona, AZ 10 years ago. We really needed the last decade to learn and grow our own programs, develop our community, and create a safe environment for women – and in the case of 2020, a safe way to travel with each other. For me, it’s easier to work backward starting with now – the present, and then retrieve the last 10 years of growth.
My life and business have been immersed in travel, and I am like “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” coach if you have ever seen that movie. Naturally, I have been focused on a WWR destination retreat experience because of my love for travel. Sedona was the soulful place to make that dream retreat a reality – just as WWR was a dream for our founder Carol. Twenty women in 2020 joined us in red rock country – my most favorite place. It was fun to have the founding coaches be my “wing women” for retreat take-off and other special WWR team members, including one of our past co-founders, coach Jeanette. Together, we arrived and it exceeded my expectations…Sedona sisters for life.
When we started Wholistic Woman Retreats over 10 years ago the vision was to offer women retreats for one to two days and now we have experienced a three to four-day retreat! We also offered monthly in-person meet ups that turned virtual in 2020. Our group of founding coaches were go-getters putting on two retreats the first year – a one day and a two day! Oh my! We were just getting started. Wow, we thought we can do this with our team strengths that make us “whole” – which became our motto – Be Whole…in heart, mind, body, and spirit. We formed a like-minded Wholistic coach approach, like in “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”, the one pair of jeans fit the four best friends of different sizes and personalities, sharing them equally to lead them in heart and spirit and to feel braver. Our organization leads that way…loving your sisters and loving yourself.
Connection and community…
We learned over the decade that our women love retreats and wanted to retreat more often. Somewhere in the middle of our time as an organization we took monthly Build Your Own Business (BYOB) Success workshops from my business model and morphed them into our WWR community. The different venue locations, coaches, and creative topics opened the door from 10 to 20, to 30, to 40 and sometimes 50 women, month to month. The connections grew stronger over the years. This is one way we created a safe space in our community and developed the motto that we follow to this day…come as you are when you can.
Coaching Circle and Growth…
During this time we expanded our coaching community bringing on partner coaches. This is my favorite part of our growth as an organization. We are so much more and stronger together. We built internal and external coaching opportunities – supporting and meeting each other where we are and developing our coaching circle. We work as a team to strengthen our retreats, membership, alliances, sponsorship programs, and most importantly ourselves. We are women- on- the- grow becoming our best selves. Carol, our founder, became an author writing her first book Lost and Found; Laura, a co-founder, faced her fears with public speaking and jumped out of a plane – wait can we pause and say that again, Laura jumped out of a plane! For myself, I recognize my 15-year company milestone that includes joint ventures in airports with Minute Suites, the Travelers Retreat, and my Wholebeing Institute Certification in Positive Psychology. Our founding and partner coaches have all grown so much personally and professionally.
Celebration of sisterhood…wherever you are
We celebrate hundreds of women from our day retreats, overnight retreats, monthly events, international women’s day events, women’s conferences and organizations, and our Soulful Sedona destination retreat. This has been the time of my life. That’s when you know it is right – and feel a calling to go on. We now have businesses that believe in our organization and offer scholarship funds to assist our women-on-the-grow.
Gratitude, growth, connection, and celebration are words to wrap-up this year and this decade. Meaningful words that will be our foundation for what’s ahead. One of our founding sisters is now branching out on a new journey and one thing I know, like the “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”, is that we will be together even when we are apart. Thank you Laura for being on this 10-year journey. Thank you Carol for the invitation to be a part of something so much bigger than me. Thank you to all the WWR founders, partner coaches, community and members, sponsors, and alliance partners. Whether you have traveled one mile or hundreds of miles with Wholistic Woman Retreats, I look forward to being on this journey wherever you are… and celebrating sisterhood.
Off we go!
During my last coaching call, Coach Carol pointed out to me that I was seeking feedback in nearly every area of my life. I was intrigued by this observation. I think it’s in my personality to crave feedback — I love affirmation, and I’ve always been the type of person to want to do things the best way possible. This craving for input has led me to seek my mom’s input on parenting my daughter, to ask my boss if I should tackle a project from a different angle, and question my husband on his honest take on what I serve for dinner.
But not everyone actively seeks the input of others. It can be intimidating (not to mention humbling) to invite the opinion of someone else. Trust me, the discomfort is worth bearing. I’ve learned several specific advantages of receiving feedback along the way.
You learn to not let mistakes define you
The biggest reason people avoid seeking feedback is their fear of failure. Who wants to be vulnerable to exposing mistakes? As we shared in a recent post on professional growth, people with a growth mindset believe intelligence can be developed, and they view failure as an opportunity to learn and try again. They see possibilities, rather than limitations. Therefore, someone who receives feedback with an open mind is able to move forward instead of staying stuck in their current situation.
You learn new perspectives
Do you want to stay sharp and ensure your work doesn’t become stale? Seek feedback from safe people who will challenge you with unique thought processes. By being open to the ideas of others, you allow yourself to grow as a person and embrace change. You might learn your coworker has a brilliant method for time management, for example. Perhaps your business coach longs to convince you to let go of a problematic client.
Admitting that there is more than one way to approach an issue frees up your mind to see a variety of strategies. A whole new world of possibilities awaits those who are willing to see them!
You set an example for others
A leader who invites feedback from their team will not only grow in their own leadership but also inspire others to adopt a growth mindset. If you desire your team members to be open-minded, you must be willing to display this skill and seek opportunities to strengthen it.
Plus, the more you practice receiving feedback, the better you become at giving it. After all, the tenth step in Brené Brown’s feedback readiness checklist is, “I can model the vulnerability and openness that I expect to see from you.”
Whether or not you apply the feedback you receive is up to you. Either way, you’re sure to gain from the experience.
“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end” ~ Closing Time by Semisonic
Bittersweet… that is how I am feeling writing this blog as I am writing about an ending, and endings often have a bitter component (this one definitely does), and sweet because I am writing about listening to and trusting my inner knowing and that absolutely feels sweet.
About 18 months ago I started feeling the nudge to move on from my leadership role with Wholistic Woman Retreats. There was no specific reason other than that I was craving simplicity in my life and honestly, I didn’t trust the nudge. The overwhelming thought when the feeling first came in was WHY? Why would I walk away from something that was having such a positive impact not only on my life but also on the lives of so many amazing women? So I did what I believe a lot of us do when we don’t understand our feelings… I pushed it down and ignored it.
(Side note: This is not something I recommend! Ask my children… ask my coaching clients… They will tell you that they’ve heard me say on more than one occasion that feelings are meant to be felt.)
Shortly after that, Wholistic Woman started seriously discussing turning the dream of holding a destination retreat in Sedona into a reality and the feeling morphed into a voice in my head that said “Finish what you started.” To me, this meant that I was supposed to see the destination retreat come to fruition and I was supposed to stay to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the organization. My inner knowing told me that 2020 was going to be the year I finished what I started.
So here we are…2020 is coming to an end, something I am certain we are all excited about, as none of us could have predicted the insanity and uncertainty that this year has held. We, as an organization, moved from monthly in-person coaching events to a virtual platform… We celebrated the 100th anniversary of the passing of the 19th amendment that gave women the right to vote with a virtual retreat that supported the programming of Frederick’s Chamber of Commerce’s Women in Business group… We took 20 women to Sedona, Arizona where we held an in-person retreat while following CDC guidelines regarding Covid-19 and are happy to report that everyone stayed healthy… And, we closed the year with both an in-person brunch for people who felt comfortable gathering socially as well as a virtual event for those that didn’t with our annual gratitude celebration which this year included celebrating 10 Years of Wholistic Woman Retreats! For me, this absolutely feels like finishing what I started.
So, I am listening to the call on my heart and will be stepping away from leadership with Wholistic Woman Retreats. This choice is about saying yes to an inner knowing. I am creating space… space for whatever is next… space for something that I can’t even envision right now… space to let Divine Intervention step in and show me what is next for me. I am trusting the nudge!
I am in no rush to fill the void that will follow this decision. If there is one thing that 2020, the year of Covid-19 and it’s stay at home mandates, has shown me, it is that I enjoy space, downtime, and simplicity. Therefore, I am inviting the bitterness I feel around saying goodbye to the active role I’ve held for the last 10 years here with Wholistic Woman Retreats while at the same time experiencing the sweetness of anticipation of the unknown future. In this season of gratitude, love, and giving, this decision feels like an unopened gift… a bittersweet gift.
To all you beautiful women who have trusted me to support you in your personal and professional growth, I want to say ‘Thank you’! It has been an honor to witness your fear, your uncertainty, your tenacity, your bravery and your strength. Thank you for doing your work! Your growth helps heal the world. You bring light and love where there is darkness and fear. There is no job bigger than that. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!
To the Wholistic team, thank you for supporting me in my growth as a coach and leader. You have witnessed my fear, uncertainty, tenacity, bravery, and strength. You know me deeply and I have never felt anything but love and support from you. You are the reason this decision is so hard for me to make. I love you all. It has been the privilege of a lifetime to work alongside you. I will always be your biggest supporter.
The beauty is, geographically, I’m not going anywhere. I will still be here and I look forward to continuing to witness the sweetness of the work you all will continue to do.
10 years ago, Wholistic Woman Retreats was a new beginning for me and this year that beginning is coming to an end… I wonder what new beginning will come from that beginning’s end!?!
I’ve always loved the idea of private coaching, and have even entertained the thought that I might make a good coach myself. But before the spring, I had never experienced an actual coaching call. I consider myself a self-aware person. I have a nice life: I have a job, good health, solid faith, loving family and friends… what could I gain from private coaching? What would someone coach me on? It turns out I had a lot to learn!
Why I Started Private Coaching
I started private coaching earlier this year after quitting a job I was extremely invested in. It took a lot of courage to quit, and I was proud of myself. I didn’t want to lose this suddenly realized self-empowerment. I wanted to dig deeper, to fully recognize my ability to control my own choices and behavior. I had attended Wholistic Coaching Coalition events for several years and appreciated that each event left me feeling encouraged and motivated, but I had never tried their private coaching service. I knew the best way I could continue moving forward on my journey towards self-growth was to receive expert help.
I began private coaching with Coach Carol, and through our conversations I have received invaluable input. The following are three things I appreciate most about our time together:
Each of the Wholistic Women coaches offer their own unique expertise, such as positivity, leadership skills, parenting, finance, and more. Carol is trained in CliftonStrengths, an assessment that helps people discover their greatest talents and how to best use them. I shared my assessment results with Carol, and she references my report on our call. For example, she will point out when I’m using my empathy strength on my husband, or when I’m using my developer strength on myself. These insights have not only been empowering, but they’ve also given me a new perspective on my talents.
One promise of private coaching is that recipients will be carefully listened to. I never have to wonder if Carol is actually listening to what I’m saying, because she asks thoughtful questions in response. Depending on the topic, her questions are designed to either help her understand me better, or make me dig deeper. I’ll admit, sometimes this aspect of private coaching can be difficult. It isn’t always easy to be vulnerable with someone. However, I’ve developed a trusting relationship with my coach and I feel fully comfortable being my true self with her. (It’s an incredible feeling!)
There’s more to private coaching than just talking — the process also involves taking action! Carol and I work together to create action steps based on what I’m struggling with or hoping to gain. These action steps motivate me to move forward, and I’m always excited to share my results with Carol. I keep a journal to record her questions, observations, and action steps, and I reference it often.
If you are looking for someone to listen, offer new perspectives, and help you grow, give private coaching a try. I highly recommend it!