Archive for March, 2015

How to ground yourself when times get tough

We all have bad days. Some of us have bad weeks or even months. Recently, I went through a tough period of time—twice—during treatments for breast cancer. One thing I’ve learned over the years is the importance of learning how to ground myself so I can stay strong, especially on my down days, the days I need it most. Here are three rock-solid techniques for staying grounded (even on your worst days):

1. Connect with nature. One of the best things you can do for your well-being every single day is to go outside. So … ditch the treadmill and make a point to connect with nature. Breathe in fresh air. Feel the sun on your skin. Take in the beauty of the natural environment all around you. Do some gardening if that’s your thing. This simple step (which also happens to be supported by science) instantly helps us to feel better and is known to lower stress, reduce depression and even boost your immune system. Sunshine, too, also has its share of health benefits, including a wonderful endorphin surge. If you’re like me and you love the sounds of water—crashing waves, trickling streams—it could be you’re feeling positive vibes from all the negative ions being released. (For more, read up on forest bathing.)

2. Meditate. I like to sit with my animals and meditate, but you can meditate any way you wish. It also doesn’t have to take a lot of time, though daily practice definitely provides positive effects on our bodies and minds. The best part is, according to various studies, meditation helps us manage anxiety, depression, stress and the like, all the while improving blood pressure, cellular health, our immune system and more. Next time you find yourself stressed, try these tips for achieving peace through meditation.

3. Work up a sweat. When you’re feeling down, finding the motivation to exercise can be really hard! But sometimes we just have to force ourselves. Find your motivation (perhaps cute new jogging sneakers or the excited tail wags of your pooch) and make it happen. Keep in mind exercise is most likely to happen if you’re doing something you enjoy. So take your dog for a walk, do some yoga poses, go jogging, join a Pilates class, ride your bike to the store or coach your kid’s softball team. Just get those endorphins flowing!

These techniques work great for me. But please share: What are your secrets for staying grounded when times get tough?

5 reasons my cat wins my heart every time

My sister Kathleen and I were talking the other day about all of our cats over the years—and their very unique personalities. Her first cat, a spunky tortie, ultimately gave birth in our garage to my first cat, a tender-hearted orange-and-white tabby. Oh how we miss them! There have been other special kitties over the years, too—each one unique in his or her own way.

Like my own cat right now, a big ball of fluff tabby Persian named Paddington. No matter what else is happening in my life, no matter how busy I am, he always manages to win my heart! Here are five of his heart-winning habits. Any of them familiar? I’d love to know how your cat wins your heart!

1. Chill factor: Paddington is always super chilled out and relaxed. Nothing seems to make this cat nervous. Whether I’m walking him around the yard on a leash, putting his carrier in a wagon and taking him on long walks around the neighborhood, letting toddlers loose to poke and play with him, having large groups to dinner or even flying him under my seat on an airplane, nothing ruffles Paddy’s stripey fur. He’s always open to new experiences and people, and I just love that about him!

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2. Hunter extraordinaire: Even at age 6, Paddington still loves to play. He loves to chase me, my hubby and son around the house and will always follow a piece of string if I drag it behind me. To Paddy, everything is a toy to be explored—including snowflakes falling from the sky, which he tries to attack from the closed window.

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3. Sweetness overload: Without a doubt, Paddington is the sweetest cat I have ever known. He’s never in a bad mood. He loves making biscuits, is a complete purr-monster and is always up for cuddles. He gives lots of “head butts” (kisses) to everyone in our family, follows me around the house all the time, and keeps our bed warm at night, too. He is happiest when snuggled up on my lap.

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4. Athletic like a pro: If Paddington were human, he would be the star goalie for any soccer team. He will catch any and every ball thrown his way, no matter how fast or high. Nothing gets by this cat. In our last house, when we used to let him loose in the yard for some supervised sunshine time, he pretty much every time ended up jogging by with a huge lizard in his mouth. (And lizards are difficult to catch!) He looks like a calendar kitty, but Paddington definitely has that tough hunter cat DNA.

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Photo copyright Jenner Rose Photography

5. Watchful guardian: Paddington keeps tabs on everything in this house. He knows whenever any of us is sad and immediately pads over to offer emotional support. This was especially sweet to witness as my baby grew up into a toddler; anytime he fell or bumped his head, Paddington was always there to make sure everyone was OK. He also has an internal clock and knows exactly the moment the clock turns to 7:30 for dinnertime. Even when the clocks change for daylight savings, it just takes him a day or two to adjust. If you’re even one minute late, he’ll jump onto the counter (in your face) and meow like a starving kitten!

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{Photos © Charlotte Jensen unless otherwise noted}

Get inspired by these 6 smart superstars for animals

You may not be familiar with everyone on this list, but to me, they’re all superstars for animals in their own right. Read on (and get ready to be inspired!) by these truly influential heroes for the animals:

1. Jenny Brown, co-founder and executive director of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary: Brown left her successful TV career behind after witnessing the plight of factory farm animals while volunteering as an undercover videographer for an animal rights organization. Today more than 200 rescued chickens, cows, pigs, turkeys and other animals call WFAS home. In her 2012 memoir, The Lucky Ones: My Passionate Fight for Farm Animals, Brown shares the inspiring story behind her journey from childhood cancer survivor to vegan animal rights activist. WFAS is currently moving to a new New York location that will expand the sanctuary from 23 acres to 150!

This elephant news will make you cry with joy

Finally, some good news for elephants: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus announced last week it will be retiring all elephants from their acts by 2018. Although this is just one small step, and three years is a very long time to wait, I am grateful Ringling Bros. has finally caved into the pressures from the public and the animal welfare world. Let’s hope this is just the beginning, and that someday in the future all animals will be removed from senseless circus acts and other entertainment venues!

Speaking of elephants, a few years ago I had the amazing opportunity to meet Carol Buckley, one of my personal heroes and founder of Elephant Aid International, a nonprofit that creates elephant management systems to help caregivers ensure the best care for rescued elephants. Carol is the grandmother of elephant rights. She was forging a new, progressive way forward for elephant care even when it wasn’t cool, and even when people called her positive, non-coercive methods “crazy.” Guess what, now people all over the world are asking Carol to come and teach them! Carol is also very holistic in her approach; I was honored to teach her Reiki 1 in 2002. You can follow Carol’s inspiring work here.

If you love these gentle giants as much as I do, this YouTube channel is a great destination for news on elephants, their behaviors, rescue organizations and more. This is just one of their countless videos; it features amazing elephant movements in slow motion!

I am so grateful for all of the elephant sanctuaries around the world, and the volunteers who dedicate their lives to helping them. One example is Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand (named in memory of a baby elephant who used the world’s first elephant wheelchair), which does wonderful work creating safe and natural habitats for elephants, as does the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

On a parting note, here are some amazing pics of a baby elephant learning to walk for the first time! These pictures will warm your heart.

Have you worked with elephants at sanctuaries in the past? I would love to hear about it; please share your stories here!

10 ways to live a more mindful life, in quotes

Do you ever feel that living a truly mindful life, each and every day, is a struggle? I hate to admit it, but I do! Sometimes the stresses of daily life weigh me down … and I forget just how important it is to live each day for today. (Animals are masters of living mindfully!) But then, just when it seems I’ve lost that all-important connection my inner state of peace, I read a beautiful, inspiring quote and it helps to pick me up again. Here are 10 of my favorites that I’d like to share with you:

1. On finding beauty in the present moment:
“Mindfulness helps you go home to the present. And every time you go there and recognize a condition of happiness that you have, happiness comes.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

2. The importance of meditation:
“Meditation can reintroduce you to the part that’s been missing.” ~Russell Simmons

3. On seeing things as they really are:
“If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.” ~William Blake

4. Remembering that every day is a gift:
“In today’s rush we all think too much, seek too much, want too much and forget about the joy of just Being.” ~Eckhart Tolle

5. Don’t carry the world on your shoulders:
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” ~Theodore Roosevelt

6. We should be living peaceful, not chaotic, lives:
“No price is too great to pay for inner peace.” ~Sri Chinmoy

7. The secret to finding happiness:
“Research has shown that the best way to be happy is to make each day happy.” ~Deepak Chopra

8. Remembering that every journey starts with one (sometimes tiny!) step forward:
“The future is always beginning now.” ~Mark Strand

9. On remembering what’s most important in life:
“We spend precious hours fearing the inevitable. It would be wise to use that time adoring our families, cherishing our friends and living our lives.” ~Maya Angelou

10. The importance of letting go:
“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” ~Joseph Campbell

What are your favorite quotes? Please share them in the “comments” section below!