Three Lessons Holiday Movies Can Teach Us About Real Life Happiness

Movie stubs and popcornYou don’t have to look at a calendar to know the throes of the holiday season are here; over-packed shopping mall parking lots, reports of airport travel delays and incessant TV reruns of seasonal movies are always a dead giveaway. But just because your eyes might glaze over after the eighth broadcast of A Christmas Story within 24 hours, don’t write these sentimental tales off as just mindless entertainment. Here are three lessons holiday movies can teach us about real life happiness:

  1. Be true to yourself. My favorite holiday season movie is Love Actually. No matter what is going on with the nine intersecting stories, the theme of embracing and accepting who you really are rings true. From Hugh Grant’s adorable Prime Minister endearingly declaring his romantic interest on stage during a child’s Christmas pageant to Andrew Lincoln’s character admitting his unrequited love for a friend’s bride in order to move on, being true to yourself and expressing it to others frees you up for greater happiness.
  2. You get to carve your own path. Feel like others have permanently pegged you as the family’s “Debbie Downer” or as a chronic underachiever? It is not too late to change your ways if the desire is authentic and comes from within. When the Grinch abandoned his plans to steal Christmas, he transformed himself from a foe to a friend of Whoville. The appearance of three very persuasive ghosts helped  Ebenezer Scrooge discover a newfound sense of generosity. At whatever stage you may be in life, you can always take steps that lead to a happier life.
  3. Believe in something bigger. In Miracle on 34th Street, a young girl’s belief in Santa brings joy to all around her while in The Santa Clause, Tim Allen’s character becomes closer to his young son and saves the legacy of the big man in red’s worldwide gift dispersal by finally accepting that he can be Santa. Whatever your spiritual inclinations are, believing in something bigger creates hope, possibilities and a sense of community – all of which can increase your happiness.

BTW, I tried to find a Hanukkah movie to reference but the only one that came up was Adam Sandler’s Eight Crazy Nights cartoon, which was vastly inferior to his Hanukkah song in my humble opinion as a nice Jewish girl. :)

What are some of your favorite holiday-themed movies?  What are you doing this season to embrace more happiness?

Is holiday baking shaking up your healthy habits?

Trying to bake these holiday breads while minimizing temptations!

Trying to bake these holiday breads while minimizing temptations!

Forget the whole three French hens, six geese a-laying and a partridge-in-a-pear tree thing. Last December, I baked eight chocolate chip Oreo cheesecakes, about a dozen banana breads and hundreds of assorted cookies as gifts for clients and service providers. While everyone enjoyed their goodies, the process sent my healthy habits into a tailspin; I gained five pounds from rampant sampling and was exhausted by daily sugar crashes. So this year, I’ve planned ahead to create a healthier holiday baking season through these steps:

  • Minimize temptation. Rather than producing piles of cookies that can be easily misplaced – you know, in my mouth – I’m preparing three main deliverables: banana bread, pumpkin bread and chocolate chip breads that are baked directly in a foil gift loaf tin. As I explained when strategizing this plan with Certified Health & Nutrition Coach Linda Citron, taking a huge bite out of the middle of someone’s pumpkin loaf is just bad manners. Eliminating the transfer of the breads from another cooking pan means there’s no temptation to let one accidentally on purpose crumble apart and become fair game for overindulgence.


  • Honor my own needs. I’m done making cheesecakes. They take way too much time and it’s really hard not to dig into the Oreo cookies when crushing them for the crust. And instead of having to prepare something each day, I planned deliveries and shipping to knock out one session last night (you can see the photographic evidence above) and two more next week.


  • Offer healthier options. Some people I bake for are gluten-free now, while others shun sugar. Personally, I’m a whole lot nicer to be around when avoiding both of those ingredients. That’s why I’m going to share my new favorite treat, vegan sweet potato brownies that are gluten-free, with people who crave healthier options. Here’s the recipe from Deliciously Ella:


Makes 10 brownies

– 2 medium to large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

– 2/3 of a cup of ground almond (almond flour)

– 1/2 a cup of buckwheat flour (brown rice flour will also work)

– 14 medjool pitted dates

– 4 tablespoons of raw cacao

– 3 tablespoons of pure maple syrup syrup

– a pinch of salt

  •  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Steam the sweet potato chunks for 20 minutes or until really soft and add into a food processor with the pitted dates. Mix until creamy and blended.
  • Put the remaining ingredients into a bowl, before mixing in the sweet potato date combination. Stir well.
  • Bake in a lined baking dish for 20 minutes, until piercing with a fork comes out dry. Remove the tray and cool for at least 10 minutes to allow everything to set. Ella has a great step-by-step “how to” video on her site too!

Courtesy of

BTW, followers of my blog probably noticed that it now looks different as I’ve merged everything into one place on this site. I’m still going to write about healthy living and wellness, now adding in thoughts on the pursuit of happiness, balance, personal growth and whatever snarky pop culture moment captures my attention. If you’d like to receive this via email, please sign up here or using the form on  the right side of this page to ensure you don’t miss a post. Thanks for your support!

What is your stance on healthy habits during the holiday season? Think it is a waste of time or the compass that keeps you sane? How do you handle food temptations?

Three Ways to Identify Your Life’s Purpose

iStock_000028679544SmallFrom David Bowie to Taylor Swift, change has always been a popular song theme.  The topic has sure been on my mind lately, as I’m building on my nearly 13-year-old Branding & PR consultancy to also become a certified life coach and continue to make great progress with my book project on helping people get unstuck. A huge catalyst recently was getting focused on my purpose/mission, and now I wanted to share three tips to help you identify your life’s purpose as well:

1)      Recognize your passions.  Make a list of all of the activities and experiences that truly floats your boat.  There’s no limit here…it could be just a few items or a list that covers several pages. Whether you love zumba classes, gardening, international travel or writing “50 Shades of Grey” fan fiction (hey, I don’t judge), take note of what lights you up at this moment in your life. Now circle the three items that resonate with you most strongly. Are you seeing any patterns or themes here? 

2)      Fill in the blanks. Here’s a handy tool, courtesy of the Coaches Training Institute, the extensive program I’m currently enrolled in to become a professional life coach.

I am the (fill in the blank – metaphors are great here) that (describe your impact).

For example, I’m a rabid pop culture geek, so naturally images of super heroes come to my mind.  A couple of years ago at a dinner party, I was asked to name my super power/hero name and the first thing that popped into my mind was “The Illuminator,” based on inspiring others to maximize their potential. Okay, it doesn’t involve laser beams or sick martial arts skills, so I’m definitely not getting a part in the next “Avengers” movie. But it felt right and has been at the back of my mind ever since.  Lately it dawned on me that what all of my interests have in common is possibilities…I help create them for companies and while providing individuals the chance to recognize and claim their greatness.  Take all of that together, and here’s the life purpose statement I just finalized last weekend:

I am the Illuminator, helping people see and step fully into possibilities.

3)      Take ownership. For me, the first step has been writing this blog post and bolding the above statement. Next I’m working on how to bring all parts of me together – this blog and my current business website, into one place that encompasses what brings me joy and honors that purpose. Once you’ve identified what your purpose is, give it life. Write about it in your journal or blog, tell friends, create a vision board about it, etc. When you focus attention and love on it, great things will happen.

Have you identified your life purpose? If so, what is it? What are you most passionate about these days?

The Beauty of A Work in Progress

Being active has made a big difference for Kimberly Whittaker.

Being active has made a big difference for Kimberly Whittaker.

“Before and after” is the classic set-up of weight loss success stories, love in fairytales and a significantly more stylish wardrobe following a makeover. But the truth of it is that most of us are works in progress, striving to improve ourselves, overcome obstacles or make dreams come true. Because it is about the journey as much as the final outcome, I will be spotlighting great people periodically who are doing what it takes to claim a better, happier or healthier life for themselves. Like Kimberly Whittaker, the Founder and Editor at Manifest Yourself.

Back in April 2011, Kimberly was worried about gaining extra pounds and during a visit to her godmother in Florida, stepped on a scale for a reality check. It read 185 lbs for her 5’3″ frame, an all-time high. Stress was a constant companion at the time, as she juggled a full-time job, graduate school and a required internship while planning her wedding. While she bounced from diet to diet, Kimberly didn’t make much progress until after her wedding last year.  Changing her approach, she hired a personal trainer to discuss her wellness goals and made a serious commitment to exercise. In the past year, she has lost 20 pounds of fat while gaining more muscle, tremendous confidence and self-esteem. Here’s a quick Q&A about her experience:

Q: How has celebrating success and milestones helped your journey?

A: When it comes to getting in shape, it’s hard to appreciate the non physical changes that happen along the way,” says Kimberly. “I was never one to even notice until my trainer pointed them out from time to time. These small accomplishments helped motivate me along the way, propelling me to work harder in the gym and reward myself with things that wouldn’t set me back on my journey. Instead of driving to my favorite restaurant to eat a three course meal, I would splurge on a form-fitting outfit for work or pick up a new pair of yoga pants for the gym.

Q: Where do things stand for you now?

A: I am still a work in progress. As for weight loss, I still have another 20 lbs to go, but it seems much more attainable than it ever did in 2011. However, what excites me most is that I went from hiding in the corner of the gym where no one would see me to having the confidence to try new and harder exercises in the middle of the gym floor. Even though my body does not look exactly the way that I would like it to yet, I have another layer of self confidence because I know that I can work hard and master new things on the gym floor. Even without my trainer there, I can create my own challenging workouts and see changes in my body.

Q; What advice do you have for others who are looking to make lifestyle changes?

A: Seek help! If you find yourself spinning the wheels in your life, then maybe you need someone to help teach you a new way to ride your old bike. It’s easy to reject help and keep trying to affect change on your own. It takes strength to seek help to find a way out of a situation you are uncomfortable in. This help can be a professional who is trained to help in the area you want to change, or it can be a candid, yet supportive, friend or family member who will motivate, encourage, and tell you the truth.

I always tell my readers that I am constantly manifesting myself. I’m not perfect. I make mistakes. I have goals that I haven’t reached. But, the important message about getting unstuck is to keep trying. Don’t give up because it feels hard, you are defeated, or you don’t know what to do. Like the character of Olivia Pope said in the season premiere of Scandal, “I always have options!”

To learn more about Kimberly’s stories and opinions, visit

In what areas of your life are you currently a work in progress? What milestones or successes have you celebrated recently?

Embracing Backslides, Relapses and Bitch Slaps on the Quest for Happiness

Doh!If necessity is the Mother of Invention, then I consider the quest for more happiness to be the Catalyst of Good Intentions. Think about all of the times a desire to feel better or alleviate a source of pain has prompted you to eat cleaner, start exercising more, tackle that mound of credit card debt or begin looking for a job you truly love.  Even with strong momentum and support though, the best intentions can be derailed. That’s why I wanted to share how embracing backslides, relapses and proverbial bitch slaps can ultimately help achieve your goals and claim a happier life.

1)      Understand that change can be hard. Even if you are the “little engine that could” surging forward against the odds, sometimes you may take a step backward before regaining your momentum.  Being aware of that fact can help keep deal with relapses.

“Change isn’t a one-off decision, it’s a commitment to a long-term process, warts and all,” says Psychologist Jenna Mayhew, cofounder and therapist of Write As Rain: Written Word Therapy, an online therapy service for women that celebrates the benefits of writing. “It takes a lot of attempts and ongoing commitment to maintaining the change. However if you aren’t psychologically prepared for periods of relapse, any ‘mistakes’ can be experienced as failures, leading to decreased motivation and confidence, and in some cases, giving up.”

2)      Be prepared. More than just the lyrics from a popular Lion King song or the motto of the Boy Scouts, trying to be prepared for backslides or bitch slaps can help you minimize their damage.  Mayhew advises that relapses should be embraced by planning ahead for them. Her tips include:

  • Take note of times when you think you may be vulnerable to relapsing. Proactively build in strategies that outline how you will stay consistent and committed during these times.
  • If you do backslide, plan how you will deal with this. For example, after you inhale a dozen chocolate truffles at a dinner party after diligently eating clean for the past week, take a journal and write about it. Indentify what happened, the context, influencing factors and how you can prevent this from happening again.

“Willpower is like a muscle that needs to be strengthened over time,” she adds. “Expect backslides, plan, reflect, keep trying, and you’ll eventually master your change.” 

3)      Learn from the experience. Rather than being a linear path, life is often like a game of Candy Land (which I used to play frequently with my niece when she was five years old). The draw of a card can jump you forward towards Candy Castle or set you back into the midst of Lollipop Woods eating the dust of your opponent.  What matters is how you learn from challenges or backslides. Last year, a five year client of my PR/Branding consulting practice decided to take their communications in-house. At first, I was surprised and a little hurt. But stepping back, I realized that their decision made absolute sense, stopped taking it personally and began thinking more about the kind of business I actually wanted to focus on. That’s when I started honing in on clients that made the world happier, healthier or more livable, which was more strongly aligned with my personal interests. Soon enough, new business replaced the departed company that resonated stronger with my passions and now I carefully screen prospective clients to ensure a better fit.


Have you ever experienced backslides, relapses or even bitch-slaps from life? How did you handle the situation, and what did you learn from the experience?

Three things the government shutdown can teach us about healthy living

iStock_000020563722Small (1)Remember the game of “chicken,” portrayed in movies ranging from Grease to the Fast & Furious (all seven times), where two dudes pumped up on testosterone drive hot rods at each other at blinding speeds until one blinks first and swerves to avoid the collision? Unfortunately, it felt like politicians on both sides of the fence just did that with the well-being of our country with the government shut down. That 16-day pissing match finally ended yesterday, and in the tradition of making lemonade from lemons, or at least a better-for-you version that foregoes copious amounts of sugar, I’ve identified three things that the shut down can teach us about healthy living:

  1. Strive for long-term changes. One of the saddest things about the “compromise” is that it expires less than three months from now, potentially setting the scenario up to happen again per this analysis from Time Magazine. You know, kind of like when you decide to lose some extra weight, eat a ridiculously low amount of calories for five days, become surly from the intense deprivation and then blow it all on a large pizza out of frustration on day six? (Can you tell I went through that cycle a lot back in the day?) Taking a more measured, deliberate approach to healthy living for the long-term is going to increase your chances of success rather than a short-term fix.
  2. Be willing to make uncomfortable choices. Let’s say that you are not thrilled with your current wellness. If the closest you come to weight training is placing the extra large frozen lasagna dish from Costco into your grocery cart, and your nightly TV watching routine is incomplete without a heaping bowl of buttered popcorn, then you need to make some changes to your habits. And some, in fact many, might not be comfortable at first. But focusing on one shift at a time or keeping your motivation strong (through means like journaling, setting up a vision board or getting support from an expert or friends) can really help. I went cold turkey giving up caffeine in 1992 in light of my six to twelve pack a day diet coke habit at the time…and it sucked for a while. But the headaches passed and drinking water and adding in exercise helped wake me up in the morning better than a soda ever did, and after a week or two of being uncomfortable, I was fine.
  3. Do put yourself first. America politicians certainly focused on their self-preservation, albeit at the expense of the public they serve. But when it comes to your own wellness, taking care of yourself first can enhance the well-being of your entire family.  Think about it. Mom or dad adopts healthier eating habits, starts exercising moderately most days of the week and sheds 40 extra pounds that was causing knee pain and shortness of breath whenever they used to climb one flight of stairs. Chances are good that those closest around you, impressed by your increased energy and better self-esteem, will also be more interested in their wellness. Perhaps your spouse joins a gym or the family tradition of going out for ice cream after dinner is replaced with a vigorous walk around the neighborhood where you actually talk to each other for more than 10 minutes at a time. Caring for your health can have a really positive domino effect with those you love the most.

What other lessons do you think we can learn from the recent government shut-down? Have you or someone you know made healthier living changes recently that impacted others in a positive manner?



Seeking great stories of people who got “unstuck”

Woman in a Carboard BoxMost of us have been “stuck” at some point in our lives. I’m not talking about being in rush hour gridlock with squabbling kids or wedged in the middle seat of a packed concert venue when you realize a trip to the bathroom is in order, neither of which is particularly fun. What I mean is that point where you feel overwhelmed or practically paralyzed when facing a circumstance contrary to the life you want to lead. You know, like desiring financial freedom but feeling trapped by a mountain of debt; wanting to meet the love of your life but feeling too scared to check out online dating or other options for meeting suitors; wishing you had a healthier body and lifestyle by lacking the momentum to ever hit the gym, and so on.

As you might have guessed from this blog post title, I’m working on a book project to help people get unstuck and create the life of their dreams. Through my networks and social media, I have been interviewing some wonderful individuals whose stories will motivate and inspire you. Now I’m looking to include insight from a few others who fit the descriptions below (and the more dramatic example they have to share, the better):

  • Someone who forgave themselves for past decisions or behaviors, and it helped them get unstuck and move forward into happiness.
  • A person who suffered major financial set-backs like crushing debt or even bankruptcy, overcame that situation and now enjoys strong prosperity.
  • A subject matter expert (psychologist or coach) to discuss what role gratitude plays in getting unstuck.
  • A long-term weight loss/healthy living success story who can discuss why understanding that “self-care” didn’t mean “selfish” helped transform her life.

Thanks for spreading the word to your friends and networks! Anyone interested can contact me directly. Meanwhile, have you ever been stuck? If so, how did you overcome that obstacle?


Three Ways for your Brand to Engage Target Audiences

Brand engagement has nothing to do with the ring!

Brand engagement has nothing to do with the ring!

The term “engagement” typically brings to mind images of diamond rings, creative proposal stories and bridezillas who obsess about finding the perfect white doves to release during their vows. (At least it does for me, a pop culture junkie and relative newlywed.) But when it comes to your brand, engagement is all about connecting with the people most important to the services or product you provide – clients, customers, business contacts and supporters. Here are three ways to engage target audiences and enhance your branding:

  1.  Pay attention. Understand what is most important to the people you serve. Let’s say that you have a food product whose primary audience is working mothers that want easy-to-prepare, healthy and cost-effective dinner solutions for their families. Make their lives easier by offering simple, quick recipes and touting your positive health and taste benefits on an eye-catching label. Consider reaching out beyond the grocery shelves to embrace the causes they and your brand truly care about through a social responsibility marketing effort.  
  2.  Establish a dialogue. One-way communication is more than just boring…it can turn people off of your brand. Rather than just talking “at” target audiences through traditional advertising, use social media tools to listen to their input, comment on their content and truly interact. That’s how you forge a deeper connection and brand loyalty that triumphs slightly cheaper prices or special offers from a competitor. Pressed for time? Focus on two vehicles to start – maybe you concentrate on Twitter and Facebook, and then add Pinterest, YouTube, Google+, Instagram or whatever else fits your needs down the road.  
  3.  Be authentic. Remember how mom always said “just be yourself,” and everything will work out? The same is true for your brand. Embrace who you are and use that distinctive personality to connect with the people most important to you. For example, I spent a big chunk of my career thinking I had to be all glossy and polished, when my true core was as goofy, excitable and demonstrative as a Labrador puppy (don’t worry, I’m past the crate-training phase). Once I embraced that part of me, letting my “freak flag fly,” my business and influence grew. So stay true to yourself while engaging target audiences, and let that authenticity strengthen your connections. 

Have anything to add to the list?



Why seeking out new challenges can give you a bigger dose of happiness

On top of a mountain during a two-hour morning hike at the Miraval Resort.

On top of a mountain during a two-hour morning hike at the Miraval Resort.

If you want a bigger dose of happiness, try seeking out new challenges and experiences. Whether it involves taking on an unexpected role (my hilarious friend and notable smart-ass Leslie at The Bearded Iris is loving leading her son’s scout troop) or pushing yourself for a huge physical accomplishment, as my husband did in going from no running and swimming at all to completing several Half Ironman triathlons in less than a year, striving to experience something new can go a long way to creating a more fulfilling life. I saw that first-hand during my vacation to the Miraval Spa in Tucson last week.

Growing up, I organized the middle school sleep-over parties and being a Resident Advisor was one of my favorite college experiences – so pulling together a trip for 15 wonderful women to Miraval was second nature. I arrived thinking much of my time would be spent taking fitness classes and working on my book in-between spa services and wellness sessions. Yeah, right. With limited gym offerings available, I found myself instead taking a two-hour guided hike in the Catalina Desert Mountains three mornings in a row…something wonderful I would never have a chance to experience in my suburban Atlanta lifestyle. And instead of writing furiously, I spent more time thinking about the book and life coach practice I’m creating to focus on personal transformations…and gained a whole lot of valuable insights instead.  Those different experiences – one covering physical challenge and the other emotional wellness – really fed my soul.

Many of my buddies stepped outside of their comfort zone, like Nancy Mullin. Her first big challenge was Swing and a Prayer, which involves climbing a ladder and being lifted 35 feet in the air above the desert floor using a rope and pulley system guided by four strangers you just met moments ago.  When you let go of that rope, it is also about releasing your emotional restraints as well. The Equine Experience proved to be just as remarkable for her, where your own attitude, approach and communication skills are enhanced by working with horses.

The impact on Nancy has been profound. “There is not just one word which can truly describe my experience at Miraval,” she says. “Words like unforgettable, once in a lifetime, going outside your comfort zone, memorable and testing your boundaries don’t seem to do it justice. Miraval is a distinct mixture of emotional and physical challenges designed to give you life altering experiences which are 100% usable in your daily life.”

If you are interested in seeking out new challenges for greater personal fulfillment, here are a few steps to get started:

  1. Acknowledge what thrills you. Let’s say you always wanted to be a ballerina and still love watching dance performances on stage and television. Maybe it’s time to  get in on the fun by taking a dance class yourself. Have a lifelong dream of being a rock star? Start jamming with some friends in your garage or check out rock and roll fantasy camp where you get to interact with professional musicians.
  2. Give yourself permission to feel awkward.  Want to do something big and bold, but are scared of looking like a dork? Just let go of feeling like you’ve always got to be smooth and coordinated (heck, I never am either of those things) and jump in. If public speaking scares the bejesus out of you but it would really help your career, try Toastmasters or volunteer to lead tours at the local museum to practice that skill. Want to try skydiving? Sign up for a dive at a locally accredited facility and jump tandem with an experienced instructor.
  3. Create more opportunities for challenge. How many times have you said, “if I only had more time in the day…” Well, let’s call B.S. on that. We are all busy with work and families and commitments and having to watch NBC’s The Voice live so you can vote 27 times for your favorite competitor. Schedule time for new challenges just as you would for a conference call, your kid’s soccer game or a pedicure. Doing so reinforces how much you love and value yourself.
Nancy Mullin experiencing a Swing and a Prayer at Miraval

Nancy Mullin experiencing a Swing and a Prayer at Miraval

When is the last time you embraced a new challenge? What impact did it make on your happiness and sense of fulfillment?

Four Ways to Get Ready for Fall Wellness

With the high today in Atlanta topping 82 degrees and triple-digit temperatures forecast for my impending trip to Tucson, Arizona, it does not feel like summer has relinquished its grip yet.  But on September 22, fall officially begins – and here are four ways to help you get ready for wellness this season.

1)      Add warmth with functional, fashionable layers

Chances are good that the “go-to” running tank top and shorts look that so efficiently wicked sweat away this summer isn’t going to give you enough warmth during outdoor exercise in the upcoming months. No matter where you reside, you will also need something to wear post work-out before hitting the shower. I don’t spotlight many products in this blog, but here are two that I use for functional yet fashionable exercise cover-ups:

  •  At first glance, I don’t have much in common with Olympic Volleyball Gold Medalist and tall, blonde goddess Kerri Walsh…okay, make that a second and third look too. But we both dig BORELLI active performance scarves, which can be turned into wrap-around jackets and even sarongs depending on size. While some women “glow” after killer workouts, I am sweating hard and appreciate how this item wicks away sweat four times faster than cotton while helping me vie for the title of gym fashionista.  A triathlete herself, founder Marissa Borelli Casellini is passionate about creating products that marry fitness and style; you can wear her creations to ward off post-workout chills or as a chic accessory in daily life. Never very intrepid when it comes to geometry and angles, I found their demo video essential in figuring out how to wear this with flair.  Visit to learn more.
  •  Then there is my lululemon hoodie jacket. Perfect to wear while driving home after an exercise class or running errands, I love its vibrant purple color and how it keeps my nicely warm before changing. Plus it lasts. I’ve had this jacket for three years now and it keeps on ticking.

2)      Embrace Seasonal Foods

If you’ll miss summer offerings like strawberries and watermelon, take heart with all of the seasonal foods options like cranberries, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, apples, winter squash and much more. Here’s a handy guide to fall produce from Cooking Light magazine that spotlights selections and recipes. As for me, I’m all about the pumpkin, opting for smoothies over pies these days. Here is my favorite pumpkin smoothie recipe:


Courtesy of Citron Nutrition, adapted from Tasty Yummies

¾ cup cooked pumpkin (you can use canned, but fresh is much better)

1½ cups unsweetened organic vanilla almond milk

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely minced

2-3 Medjool dates, pits removed (soak first if they aren’t soft)

Clean additions:

1 scoop of vegan protein powder or 1 tablespoon ground flax seed

Directions: Add all of your ingredients to the blender. Puree until smooth and creamy. If your pumpkin and/or almond milk isn’t cold, you could add a handful of ice, although this may make it less creamy. You can also add a splash of water or additional almond milk if your smoothie is too thick. Top with a sprinkle of cinnamon and/or nutmeg.


3)      Plan workouts to take advantage of seasonal changes

Consider changing up your exercise routine to enjoy the crisp fall weather. If you typically run on a treadmill or cycle city streets, head out to the countryside or mountains to experience these activities and more while savoring the beauty of changing leaves. I found great resources such as Hike New England and Autumn Hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains with a quick online search and am sure you can do the same for your own area.  

4)      Focus on blossoming internally

There might not be flowers outside, but the fall is a wonderful time to start blossoming internally through personal growth. You don’t face the stupid pressure of New Year’s resolutions and with school back in swing, it feels like the season to learn something new. Last fall I took swimming lessons to combat a long-time fear of being in the water. While I’m never going to be Diana Nyad – and have no desire to ever wear a jellyfish-proof mask or adopt a distance swimming-friendly hairstyle – I can now get in a pool with a kickboard and sometimes no accessories at all without freaking out.  Or maybe you really want to meet your soul mate and it’s time to push yourself to put up an online dating profile to start getting out there. Whatever the case, nurture yourself and see how the happiness grows within.

What is your favorite part of fall? How do you plan to challenge yourself or grow during this season?