This month I’m inviting you to focus on healthy habits that fill you up – not adding more to your plate. I share my favorite 3-part framework that zeros in on what feels good when it comes to movement, meals, and mindfulness. If you could use some actionable goals for what to work towards this April, then this snackable episode is for you!

here’s a glance at this episode:

  • [1:31] April marks the transition away from winter and into spring which brings themes of renewal, growth, and light. It’s a great time to reflect on the first quarter of the year and commit to some really actionable habits and goals around health and wellness.
  • Use our Movement, Meals, Mind Framework to help organize your focus for the month of April:
    • [10:02] Movement: Begin or return to a yoga practice. This is a beautiful way to connect with your breath, body, and season of regrowth.
    • [16:33] Meals: Try making a homemade sauce! They’re so simple and allow you to curate it to your own taste.  It’s also my number one healthy habit hack!.
    • [20:05] Mind: Journal on the prompt, “what’s true for me?” – and feel free to get specific!  Answering this question allows us to get better at understanding what is true for ourselves in every aspect of our lives.

links mentioned in this episode

Gretchen Rubin, The Four Tendencies 

Yoga with Adriene Free 30 Day Challange

Dressings & Sauces Recipes

Book: The Body Keeps the Score 

read the transcript

Robyn Conley Downs: (00:01)

You’re listening to The Feel Good Effect, what to focus on in April. Yeah. We’re going deep into health and wellness goals that you can focus on this month. Let’s make it happen

Robyn Conley Downs: (00:14)

Radically simple and ridiculously doable. The Feel Good Effect will help you redefine wellness on your terms. Hi, I’m your host Robyn Conley Downs. And I believe that wellness isn’t about achieving another set of impossible standards, but instead finding what works for you, drawing from cutting-edge science on mindfulness, habit and behavior change. This podcast offers a collection of small mindset shifts that allow for more calm, clarity and joy in everyday life and allows you to embrace the idea that gentle is the new perfect. I invite you to listen in as we cut through the clutter and find the small shifts that create huge changes in your life. Less striving, more ease. It’s time to feel good.

Robyn Conley Downs: (01:03)

Well, Hey, Feel Good fam. I am so glad you’re here. We’re talking about what to focus on in April or really actionable habits and goals around health and wellness that you can focus on. And as always, this is not about giving you more to do or adding more to your plate, but rather focusing on starting from a place of feeling good and then adding everything else around that. So as always take what you need and leave what you don’t.

Robyn Conley Downs: (01:31)

Okay. So let’s talk about April holistically in terms of where we are in the year. Interestingly, we are now officially in the second quarter of the year, so we have made it through an entire quarter of 2022, and we recently just had daylight savings as well. So we’re at this point where we’re really transitioning out of winter. If you live in the Northern hemisphere where we are adding light, literally into our daylight at the end of the daylight at the beginning of the day.

Robyn Conley Downs: (02:02)

April happens to be an month of many holy celebrations as well. So Ramadan falls at the very beginning of April this year, Passover starts right in the middle of the month and Easter falls shortly thereafter. And these are all deeply meaningful holidays depending on your faith and religious beliefs and not to overgeneralize about these different religions, but there are some commonalities around reflection and taking stock and gratitude. So I think April is definitely a time that we can think about reflecting and focusing on what is good. And also on this idea of renewal, that’s kind of how I’m framing April. I’m thinking about it and just how I’m approaching the month mentally.

Robyn Conley Downs: (02:50)

The other interesting thing about April is that it will always be for anyone who lived through the pandemic or remembers living through it. So not our babies and our little ones, but those of us who will always remember it in our, you know, young adult or adult lives, April will always be the month that lockdown happened. Really, it was March, right? It was halfway through March, at least in the us that it actually started earlier or other places, but halfway through March in the us and then into April and this April is two years later. So I’ve been really reflecting a lot on the fact that two years has gone by, which is, you know, both. I believe that because I feel like it’s been 10 years, but it’s also been zero years. Like the pandemic time warp will never make sense to me, why time stopped making sense.

Robyn Conley Downs: (03:42)

And I think there’s been a lot of discussion about how do we heal from that time and maybe the best thing. I don’t know, I just read an op-ed the other day. I think it was in the New York times that maybe the best thing to do is just forget that it happened and just move on. And I can feel that I completely understand where that’s coming from, because I think who wants to really go back there in your mind? Like, does anyone listening wanna go back to April, 2020 and like relive that mentally over and over? I think there’s a lot to be said about moving forward and just leaving the past in the past. I’ve also been re reflecting on the past, on the fact I’ve been reflecting on the past and the fact, and the fact that I’ve been reflecting on is that that was real trauma that occurred. And I am not a trauma expert, so I’m not going to pretend that I am, but I am going to say that there was collective trauma and there was individual trauma depending on your, individual circumstance that might look different, but I can pretty much say that across the board, in the entire world, that was a traumatic experience.

Robyn Conley Downs: (04:51)

And what I also know is that the body keeps score. Here’s a book by, by that title recommended actually the body keeps score of trauma so we can move on and pretend like it didn’t happen. And maybe that’s the best thing to do. But I also know that it did happen. And so I’m just like in this place, I’m not offering advice and I’m not offering even an editorial necessarily, but I can’t talk about April without acknowledging and holding the space for the fact that the, that happened. And like I said, I don’t have like a step-by-step process for you and I’m not writing an op-ed about whether I think we should just move forward and forget it, or whether we should try to do healing or any of those things. I’m just saying it did happen. And I wonder what happens if we all move forward and don’t do any healing.

Robyn Conley Downs: (05:44)

As for me, I think it’s a mix of just wanting to like, never think about the pandemic again, but also being aware that the trauma’s there. And I shared this the other day on Instagram, like I was in Costco recently. I go, every other month, some people were shocked that I only go every other month. Some people never go. It’s always, there’s always discussion about every possible thing that you do if you share it on social media. But I, I go and do my big stock up. So I buy all the staples that we need in multiples, because I don’t actually like going there the, that much. And just to rewind a bit when the pandemic first started. So mid-March, and then into April, I was our family’s designated shopper. I went once a week and that was the phase of like the wiping, the groceries with bleach phase and during March and April of 2020, I found myself in Costco quite often. And the vibe, if you happen to be a Costco in those months, you know, it was not a good vibe. And it actually got to the point where I couldn’t go in there anymore without feeling like I was gonna have a panic attack. And this is just me being honest. I think some of you share this experience that some of you have no idea what I’m talking about. And I think it’s hard to talk about any time during that year, without a lot of like judgment and anger that it can bring up for people, but this was my experience. And so I stopped going to Costco cause I just felt like I was gonna have a panic attack walking in there now in the last year, like mid 21 into now, 22, I go to Costco on a regular basis without few. And like, I’m gonna have a panic attack. But interestingly, last week in March, I walked in and I felt that feeling come up and I had an honest to goodness flashback of being in the store during a toilet paper and a real toilet paper fight, not like a pretend nice toilet paper fight, an aggressive toilet paper fight. It’s not funny. It wasn’t funny then I don’t think it’ll ever be funny. And so I just had to acknowledge that, like that was still there for me, even though I’ve been fine to go to Costco the last like year I’d been totally fine. But then something about this time of year brought that back.

Robyn Conley Downs: (07:56)

Um, same thing happened to me a couple weeks ago. Like right at the end of March, I was on a walk in my neighborhood, the same neighborhood I’ve been walking for years, but I think I’ve mentioned I had a very aggressive pandemic walking schedule that I did to kind of deal with everything. And, um, during the early part in March and April, one of the things I used to do to kind of deal with that time as I would post, good morning, I love you every morning on Instagram. And every morning I would try to take a photo of the flowers that were blooming cuz in Oregon, um, Portland, the flowers start to bloom at this time of year. And so I knew like every place along my walk where the flowers bloomed, because I would, that’s all I was doing was walking and then homeschooling and work. Right. So I knew all the places and I, this year 2022, I was doing that same walk and I noticed this beautiful tree blooming with these little cherry blossoms, like beautiful, like breathtaking stop you in your tracks, kind of beauty. And I had another flashback to seeing that same tree at the same time of year in 2020. And it brought me right back to that place, like in my body, I could feel it and it was not a good feeling. So I’ve been just thinking about that. I’ve been thinking about April as a time of renewal and a time of faith and also a time of collective trauma and all of those things can exist at the same time. So I will likely pursue the healing path as opposed to the forget it happened path. But as for now, I am just kind of enjoying being able to go into stores and mostly enjoy the flowers and to feel the sense of waking up and light and renewal that April can bring for us. So that’s how I’m framing out the mud. That’s the context I’m heading into it. And now let’s talk about meals, mind, and movement, or some really specific habits that you can focus on for health and wellbeing this month.

Robyn Conley Downs: (10:02)

So let’s start with movement. I usually start with meals. I just think about food more than anything else, but let’s start with movement because I have a fun one for you. So this month I invite you to try or come back or dive deeper into a yoga practice.

Robyn Conley Downs: (10:23)

And it’s something I don’t talk a lot about here, which is kind of interesting to me. I am a certified yoga teacher. I don’t teach in-person physical yoga anymore. Maybe I will someday. I don’t know, but for now I don’t, but it’s something for me that really got disrupted by the pandemic. I was a regular at my yoga studio, had an amazing community. There was very, very beneficial for me in mind and body. And when the pandemic started, that completely disappeared for obvious reasons, the studio had to close and then I didn’t go back and I didn’t adopt a home practice and there’s like a whole bunch to unpack there. I don’t think we need to, but it just made me sad, frankly, to try to do it on my own. It just made me miss too much. What, what wasn’t there anymore? So I, I filled it in with lots of other kind of movement that make me feel really good. I’ve talked about that a lot bar and Pilates. And, but if you have ever stopped doing something that you did on a regular basis, physically, whether it’s running, walking, yoga, weightlifting, anything like skiing, anything that you did a lot, and then you stop doing, you know what I’m gonna say next, which is it’s really hard to go back and get started again because it’s a, a mental game and it’s a physical game. And what you immediately notice mentally is how much you’ve quote unquote lost physically. And that’s where the mental game comes in. Cause the whole point of yoga is not about the physical practice anyway, but that doesn’t mean that my mind doesn’t say like, oh my gosh, look how much weaker you are. Look how you used to be able to do this pose. And now you can’t. And the whole like mental drama that happens. All of those thinking habits that can occur that I think are a lot of the reasons that we don’t move as much or we don’t, you know, adopt a practice of yoga or pilates or some of these like more restorative or connect is probably a better word kind of practices. Cuz our mental habits are just telling us like all these things that aren’t even true. And I do have some other injuries that have made it kind of difficult for me.

Robyn Conley Downs: (12:24)

So I decided to do a 30 days of yoga and I invited Elle to do it with me, who is my 10-year-old. And that’s been the best thing ever because she is a very much an upholder. So those of you who know the Gretchen Ruben upholder, she is like a whole upholder through and through. If she commits to something, we will do it. And so we’ve been doing that after dinner. I’ve talked before about finding, you know, time for movement in the evening. After, after and digesting, I’m not gonna ever recommend doing something super, um, that gets your heart rate way up or gets your cortisol spiked right before you try to go to sleep. But uh, we chose something a little more in the middle. I would say, if not on the restorative side, there are tons of yoga options out there.

Robyn Conley Downs: (13:12)

And if you live in a community that you have a favorite studio, I highly recommend going there. The studios got hit so hard by the pandemic. All, you know, workout facilities did. So if you have a studio and you feel good about going there definitely go there. There’s so many amazing individual teachers who offer classes.

Robyn Conley Downs: (13:30)

We did a free YouTube 30 day challenge. Adrian. She’s probably the most well known yoga instructor on YouTube. I do like her style and I think it’s pretty accessible to most people. And I wanted to do something I could share with you that was free. So if you wanna check that out, we can put a link in the show notes. I don’t have any affiliation with her at all, but if you wanna check that out, you can go to yoga by Adrian and on YouTube. She launched that challenge at the beginning of this year. So January, 2022, there are literally 30 yoga videos that are each, between like 20 and 30 minutes. I would say it’s all levels. Some of the classes are physically more difficult than others. I think she could definitely do a better job of showing modifications. So that’s something that if you’re very, very new to yoga or if you are working with injuries, you might wanna find an instructor that’s better at showing modifications, not just quickly mentioning them, but that’s my movement invitation to you this month. I think yoga is a beautiful thing to do this time of year to get in touch with your breath, to get in touch with this concept of renewal and of rebirth and of light and of turning toward the sun. Also for those of you who are gonna start walking and running more this time of year and the spring into summer, balancing that out with yoga or some other kind of breath-based, mobility-based, flexibility-based practice, highly highly recommend. Like if we start walking and we don’t balance that out a lot of times, that’s where injuries come in.

Robyn Conley Downs: (15:04)

Obviously I’m not giving medical advice, just some food for thought. And also if you have pandemic, but if you’ve been sitting on your butt way more than you used to, a lot of that lower back pain, again, not a medical professional, but just for your own information, educational information that lower back pain can really be related to glute weakness and tight hamstrings. So doing something on a regular basis, that’s building up that cleat strength. That’s helping you build the core strength and the flexibility and the back body is gonna actually really help, uh, back pain, which I know a lot of people are experiencing in the last couple years. So that’s my big yoga plug is try it out this month. Or if, if you’ve been away, maybe come back or if you’re, and if advanced practitioner finds something to kind of dive deeper into whether that’s like a more and that’s not necessarily like doing a harder physical practice, like maybe it’s trying some yin yoga or restorative yoga or something where if you’re like always pushing and trying to do more and like harder postures my invitation, be trying slowing down and doing something slower. Cuz maybe that’s what you need. It’s been really interesting doing it with my 10-year-old and I’ll save that story for another time, but it definitely is like a mental practice just as much as it is a physical. So that’s my movement. Goal or challenge or habit for you this month is to, is to try yoga.

Robyn Conley Downs: (16:33)

Meals. I’m going to suggest that you try to make a sauce, a homemade sauce. This might just be one of my number one healthy habit hacks. If you’re trying to eat healthy is to have some good sauces on hand and you don’t have to make it. Of course you could also take this as like find a few sauces at the grocery store that you like check out the ingredients. Do those look good to you? Does it not have a bunch of non unnecessary ingredients? That’s like a actually a really good place to start is just auditing the sauces that you buy and looking at the ingredients, making sure there’s nothing in there that you don’t actually wanna be eating.

Robyn Conley Downs: (17:12)

So nothing wrong with store. But I will say I think a really easy, healthy habit hack to start with whether you’re trying to eat healthier or whether you’re just trying to add variety to the foods that you are already eat is to have an arsenal of go-to sauces. Now here’s the good news. I have some for you. I have written them. They are recipes. They are on the website, real food, whole and sauces, or it’s actually recipes slash it’s a whole long URL. Just go to www.realfoodwhole, go to recipes and then go to dressings and sauces. A few of my favorites are an avocado vinegar that you can make in a blender miso tahini dressing. Oh, so good. Just put it on everything I’m telling you. Creamy balsamic dressing, a three-ingredient hummus dressing, which is literally hummus and two other ingredients that you probably have in your fridge or pantry.I’ve got a pomegranate vinegar, a three-ingredient pesto, uh, switch is with store-bought pesto, a Chipotle honey vinegar that one highly recommend lemon Dejan dressing, a easy ball. So vinegar and then an apple cider vinegar, which goes so well with our show last week with the glucose goddess. And um, you could put that on everything and like do two hacks in one, you could get a veggie starter and apple cider and you’re just winning the glucose game right there. If you’ve never made a dressing or a sauce, I think you’ll be shocked at how easy it is and you can customize it to your own palette. So if you like it a little more tangy or less tangy, salty or less salty sweeter, or no sweetener, you can completely customize it.

Robyn Conley Downs: (18:46)

All of my dressings are in mason jars, so you can make them shake and store them all in the same container. So we don’t have nearly as much mess in the kitchen, which also makes our life so much easier. And this is one of my favorite one-minute meal prep hacks is to make a sauce in a Mason jar. And it probably takes five minutes for real, maybe 10 at the most. And then you have a couple options in your fridge. So if you only do one thing on the weekend or on like quote-unquote meal prep day is if you make one or two sauces, then you can put it on anything. You can put it on protein, chicken, fish, tofu. You can use them as marinades. You can use them as salad dressings. You can use them on a rice bowl or a grain bowl or a veggie bowl on avocado toast on eggs. It really, you can stir them into soups. It really makes what you’re eating so much more flavorful.

Robyn Conley Downs: (19:36)

And I think if you are trying to eat healthy and you don’t have the flavor, you’re not gonna keep doing it. It’s not rewarding. And that habit loop isn’t gonna close. So I think sauces are where it’s at. It couldn’t be easier. And that’s an awesome goal or habit for this month to try is make a sauce or make you, you can find recipes on other people’s sites too, but you know, of course I’m gonna mention mine cuz I have done the work for you. And I think they’re pretty good.

Robyn Conley Downs: (20:05)

Last step is mind. So I have a question prompt for you. A journal prompt as always this one comes from a, I got asked the other day and the question was, how do I know what’s true for me? It’s a good question. Right? I think it’s at the heart. A lot of what we talk about here.

Robyn Conley Downs: (20:20)

And I think if you’re going to create healthy habits and you’re going to start from asking that question, how do I feel? How do I wanna feel this additional piece? It’s true for me, what’s right. For me goes right along with it. I would even go so far as to say, if you’re going to try to create healthy habits and you can’t answer the question, what’s true for me. Maybe you should stop and figure out the answer to that question first. So you can use this as a journal prompt. What’s true for me and you can make it specific. Like what’s true for me related to food. What’s true for me as a parent, what’s true for me in movement. What’s true for me in relationships with my partner, with my friends. What’s true for me in my work, in my hobbies in my free time.

Robyn Conley Downs: (21:12)

Now I cannot answer this question for you at all, but I can tell you that asking and answering this question for yourself is a thinking habit. And when you develop that thinking habit, you will get better at it. It will will become more automatic. And so you won’t have to spend so much time pondering it, but the only way you get there is to practice it is to turn it from a behavior into a habit. And I would say journaling on it or having some other prompt that like forces you to analyze it. Systematically is gonna be really valuable. I mean, imagine what would happen if we started from a place of asking, is this true for me? Is this right for me? And how does this make me feel? How would your life be different than looking around at what everyone else is telling you to do? And all the shoulds that are dragging you down? So that is my invitation for you. This month is asking what is true for me and developing that thinking habit. So it becomes more automatic as always.

Robyn Conley Downs: (22:17)

I wanna thank you so much for listening for giving this time for yourself and being part of this Feel Good movement. Until next time, here’s to feeling good.

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