The SpirFit Blog

We’re nearly two weeks into a new year, so let me start by wishing you a Happy Belated New Year! This isn’t just any year. It’s 2020, and it’s bringing in some hype, anticipation and contemplation. About 40% of the population started this year by making a Resolution. (I made two and - eek - already broke both of them!) Which makes me wonder, is there a secret formula to successfully changing our habits and patterns of thinking? To find out, I reached out to a veteran in the Mental Health field, Dr. Julie Sell-Smith, who inspired me to reconsider my plan and try again.

Today’s Spotlight: Dr. Julie Sell-Smith

Psy.D., MSW, LISW-S, Licensed Psychologist, Wife, Mother, Christian

Me: Let’s talk about New Year’s Resolutions. Is there a trick to keeping them? Because I have already broken mine.

Dr. Sell-Smith: Funny you should bring this up, Jessica. I recently read in an article that only 8% of people keep their resolutions. 

Me: 8%! I’m already feeling better.

Dr. Sell-Smith: In my practice, I’ve observed that people don’t meet their resolutions or goals, because they’re too vague. For example, a person might say I want to get in shape this year. That’s too vague. We need to be more specific, like: I’m going to cut down on eating sugar and exercise X amount of times a week. 

Also, our goals need to be realistic. If we’re concerned about this, then we can ask a friend, family member or professional: Am I being realistic?

We also need to be kind to ourselves. Here’s where Mental Health is really important. We tend to have this all or nothing mentality. If we slip up and eat something unhealthy in the morning then we think our whole day is shot. We say, I failed. But that’s not the attitude you want. You’ve got to retry the very next opportunity you get. 

There’s this book called Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results by James Clear that I recommend reading.

Me: It’s great to have tools to guide us in our personal lives.   

Dr. Sell-Smith: Yes. I also recommend using tools to track your progress. There’s an app for everything these days so it’s easy to do. If weight loss is your goal, you can use My Fitness Pal. If meditation is your goal, you can use Insight Timer, and so forth.  Tracking allows you to notice small changes over time that you might not normally consider. Sometimes we get trapped in thinking we’ve failed if we haven’t fully reached our end goal and fail to notice other, smaller changes.

Me: Looking back at the failure rate of people sticking to their resolutions, do you think making New Year’s Resolutions are a good idea?

Dr. Sell-Smith: Yes, they can be. Instead of picking a resolution, per se, I personally pick a theme for the year. Last year, my theme was Health and Wellness. This year, my theme is Being Brave. My goal is to say yes more to opportunities that scare me or make me uncomfortable. For example, public speaking. I have booked several speaking engagements for 2020.

Me: Well, I’m very excited that you’ll be speaking at our March Wellness Retreat! How can we prepare ourselves to successfully meet our goals?

Dr. Sell-Smith: We need to give ourselves time to prepare. 

Me: So don’t wait until the night before to make a New Year’s Resolution. (Which might explain why I failed so quickly!)

Dr. Sell-Smith: Right. And once you settle on a resolution, make an announcement! Social psychology says if we make a public committment we are much more likely to follow through with our resolutions or goals. So if you’re going to make a goal, tell people about it. Tell your friends, family, co-workers. Put it on social media.

Me: Tell me how we can use Mindfulness to achieve a goal. 

Dr. Sell-Smith: Some people thrive on setting a goal and completing it. But many of us don’t operate that way. Mindfulness is about learning how to sit with uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, and tolerating them without acting on them. Most thoughts and feelings enter our awareness and then leave. But many of us want to avoid or control uncomfortable thoughts. Mindfulness practices the opposite reaction. We look at how uncomfortable thoughts feel in the body, observe them, and then watch them leave. It’s like imagining your thoughts on a train car and watching them go by. 

Me: I love this approach to Mental Health. Are many professionals using Mindfulness Behavior Therapy?

Dr. Sell-Smith: It’s actually so ancient that it’s new again! I discovered the practice of Mindfulness in my Doctoral program. I took a class on Mindfulness-based stress reduction. It was so beneficial I took it again two more times! We learned how to break down anxiety at the sensory level. For example, what color would you give your anxiety? What texture? If it had movement, how would it move? 

Me: Why would we do that?

Dr. Sell-Smith: People believe their thoughts. But thoughts are just the inner workings of our mind. We don’t have to believe our thoughts. For example, "I’m not good enough". That is a common, yet unhelpful thought that people often buy into. We can’t be afraid of our thoughts and feelings. Otherwise, we’ll get locked in fear. Learning to observe them and then resisting the urge to react in an ineffective way is much more productive. I’d like to recommend a book, The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris. There are great activities in this book on Acceptance and Commitment. If there’s only one book I can recommend to your readers, it’s this one. 

Dr. Julie Sell-Smith thank you for sharing your time and insights with us. I hope this interview will help others move toward their goals in 2020!

To learn more about Dr. Julie Sell-Smith, please click here. Or to hear her speak in-person, sign-up for our March SpirFit Wellness Retreat on Eventbrite

Peace, health & happiness! 

This month, the world celebrates the “Christmas Season” with it’s lights, delectable foods, shopping frenzies and holiday festivities. From the Hallmark Movies (which I watch) to the Holiday Parties, there’s much to do and many places to be.

Inside God’s Church, however, this month is not called the Christmas Season, but the Season of Advent. And how differently these coinciding seasons are celebrated!

In contrast to the holiday hubbub, the Advent Season is a time of darkness, quietness and an opportunity for reflection. During this time, we’re called to reconcile with God, prepare our hearts for Christ’s coming, and contemplate on the Bible’s account of the world before Jesus entered in.

The world doesn’t hold the same meaning for the word advent. The dictionary states advent means “the arrival of a notable person, thing or event”. Like, “the advent of television”. The Church, however, defines Advent in more precise terms. Advent is a four-week holy period of expectant waiting and preparation for the Nativity of Jesus’ birth, and the return of Jesus at the Second Coming.

Which season do you celebrate? My house is lit with Christmas lights (which are presently buried under snow), presents under the tree, and a puppy in a holiday sweater dying to tear into them. Which makes me wonder, are my actions matching what’s in my heart?

I hear so many people complaining that the holidays are stressful. The demands and pressure unrealistic. The expectations to perform and be happy too great. To top it off, each year it seems to get harder, they say.

But no one says that about the Advent Season. On the contrary, rather than great expectations, Advent is a simple invitation to “walk in the peace of Christ. To leave what you’re familiar with to encounter God’s perfect love.” What does that mean? Leaving behind what we’re familiar with …

I have a few ideas (that won’t ruin your Christmas cheer). Perhaps, it means turning down a couple social invitations to spend more time at church or with family. Maybe, it’s lifting the pressure of finding the “perfect gifts” and giving gifts of prayer and forgiveness. Or maybe you’re being invited to go deeper … Just rest assure by saying “yes” to the invitation of Advent, you’ll receive something far more magical and rewarding than any present under the tree. As Pastor Rev. Reinsersman said in Sunday’s homily, “We are blessed when we go out of our way for Jesus Christ.”

So let us pause now to pray for all those struggling this time of year. May the world find peace in the promises of Advent. And may you fulfill the true spirit of the Season. Could you be a light to someone’s darkness this Advent?

Wishing you a Merry Christmas, and hoping your light shines bright in the New Year!

Updated: Jan 17

In this new interview-style series, you’ll meet a variety of people, from Industry Experts to the Fit Neighbor down-the-street, and learn about their unique journeys to finding Whole Body Wellness. We’ll discuss topics, habits, and practices that work … and ones that just don’t! Please grab a cup of coffee (or tea), and join us. There’s a lot we can learn from each other!

Today’s Spotlight: Lexi

Wife, Mother, Teacher, Christian, SpirFit Instructor &

Running Enthusiast

Lexi is the friend, next-door neighbor, or family member, anyone would

be lucky to have. If you met Lexi, you’d remember her for her big smile

and willingness to help. Despite keeping a full schedule, Lexi exudes a

calming presence. What's her magic? Her outlook on wellness may be

one answer.

Let’s hear more from Lexi …

Me: What everyday choices do you make to try to stay healthy?

Lexi: I try to get a good night’s rest, eat well, exercise, spend time with others and find a little time each day to do something I really enjoy on my own.

Me: Do you encourage your family to maintain a healthy lifestyle?

Lexi: I do try to influence my family to maintain a healthy lifestyle. My husband coaches and I help coach our school’s cross country team. Both children run for the team. Through this program we encourage children to be active, set goals and to know what it feels like to be an important part of a team. At home, we try to discourage too much time on devices or watching TV. As far as what we eat, we talk about what we eat and why certain foods are better choices than others. Our faith also plays an important part in our family life and helps provide strong moral direction and helps us determine how we spend our time. In addition to talking with the kids about positive life choices, we also try to model this. More times than I would like to admit, we fall short, but we know each day we get another opportunity to show through our actions what it means to live a happy, healthy, and productive life.

Me: What do you think is "the key" to keeping your body healthy?

Lexi: I think the key to keeping a healthy body is supporting the mind, body and spirit. For the body, it is about eating whole foods, exercising, and sleeping well. For the spirit, it helps to have a strong sense of belonging and purpose. This could be with your religious community, your circle of friends, family or work community. I also think it is important to find pockets of time for stillness, silence and prayerful contemplation. A time to connect with God … to something greater than ourselves. There are many ways to keep the mind healthy. For me I like taking classes, reading books and articles, listening to podcasts and watching documentaries. I also feel like a good sense of humor and finding joy in what we do can really keep a person happy and healthy.

Me: What is your favorite form of exercise?

Lexi: I really enjoy running, because it can be done anywhere, anytime, with or without a group and it builds both physical and mental strength. There is nothing like a good run to really help lift my spirits! I also really enjoy SpirFit. The stretching, breathing and a time for prayer and stillness are a wonderful combination.

Me: What is your favorite meal to make?

Lexi: I like to make a big pan of roasted veggies—carrots, onions, broccoli, red peppers, yellow peppers, brussel sprouts---whatever I have on hand. I sprinkle them with a little olive oil and sea salt and roast them for about 25 minutes at 425. Then I will eat them over brown rice or quinoa. It is nice to make a big batch and have them ready to go in the fridge for meals. For breakfast, I like to sauté spinach in olive oil, add a scrambled egg and sprinkle a little cayenne pepper and onion powder. It can be served over rice or wrapped in a tortilla. Yum!

Me: Do you have any rules for your diet or exercise regime?

Lexi: Sometimes. I go through times when I am pretty strict with my diet. I use these times as a kind of reset (and so my clothes will still fit!). I have been eating vegetarian for several years now so not eating meat is one rule I follow. Most of the time, I just try to keep everything in moderation and avoid processed foods and drinks with extra sugars. I am usually only strict with my exercise program when I am training for a race. Most of the time, exercise is one of the main ways I like to socialize. I know I would not get up early in the cold, dark mornings and run if my running group was not there to meet me. I also love SpirFit. It is great for supporting the mind, body and spirt.

Me: Why do you make keeping your body healthy a priority?

Lexi: I believe our bodies are a gift from God and we must take care of them. It is our bodies that allow us to do the work God has put us here to do and if we don’t have a healthy body in which to share our gifts with the world, it makes it harder to fulfill His purpose.

*Photo of Lexi: by Emily Morel Photography


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