Every month we'll highlight a reader in the Great Lakes Bay region and learn more about them, their work and their reading life.
No surprise that we are focusing on books related to wellbeing in January especially given the year we've all had. It's time to take inventory, readjust, and make a plan for a healthier and more fulfilling year. I'm excited to share insight from Libby Rapin, who enlightens people on ways to enhance wellbeing through play.
Given the new year is typically the time when people make resolutions and commit to healthier lifestyles, what do you do at the end/start of every year to make sure you start off in a healthy way?
I’m someone who loves to journal, take time to reflect and check-in throughout the year, but at the end and beginning of the year, I always make EXTRA time to do these things. This year I’m actually doing a getaway to the mountains, away from work and other personal commitments, to do this. I find for me getaways are great because I’m away from distractions.
As part of this reflection, I look back on the past year by celebrating my accomplishments (this is a must!!) and then by looking at the goals I set and evaluating where I ended the year. I don’t get caught up on if I didn’t accomplish something I had written down. Instead I think about the things that happened that prevented me from getting there and/or considering what other beautiful experiences happened instead. I have learned to not get too attached to my goals in order to allow for spontaneity, and to be gentle with myself if I don’t reach a goal I set. Life is a learning process!
A few years ago I decided I wanted to choose a word that I would live by for the year, so I always choose that around the new year. My word for 2020 was Integration and 2021 is going to be Connection. Then from there I think about the following categories and set goals for myself: career, financial, travel, spirituality, health, skills (something new I want to learn), family, relationships, emotional health, and service (giving back/volunteering). I try to only have 1-2 goals per category and to make them quantifiable. However, sometimes I realize I want to focus more on how I feel when I’m engaging in certain activities, so some of them are more about emotions or feelings vs something quantifiable.
Throughout the year it’s important to check in and evaluate where you’re at in regards to your goals. It’s totally ok to adjust your goals, and I encourage you to be open to that throughout the year - I adjust mine often. I used to get super stressed when I didn’t reach my goals, but here is the thing - I set the goals, which means I get to change them. So all the stress I experienced was in my head because of my own expectations for myself. Learn from my mistakes and try not to do that to yourself!
What recommendations do you have for people who want to be healthier?
First and foremost you have to get clear on why you want to be healthier. Your why, or purpose, then becomes your motivation, or fuel, on the days you want to make excuses or give up. Always come back to this!
Then get clear on what health means to you. For some it means eating more fruits and vegetables and others getting more sleeping. It could mean learning how to respond to stress vs react, simply feel more energized or a mix of all these things.
Many people think in order to feel healthy all they have to do is weigh a specific number or exercise more, but I would encourage you to think about wellbeing as being more encompassing. In order to feel good, and function effectively, you have to have a positive mindset, feel engaged in your life, have positive relationships, connect to a deeper sense of meaning, feel accomplished, AND focus on your physical health.
Wellbeing is not a one size fits all, so each individual has to figure out what's important to them and determine what will work for their lifestyle and personal interests. This could seem overwhelming, but have fun with it! Getting healthy should be fun, not just something you check off the to-do list. Enjoy the journey!
What are your favorite books related to meditation and mindfulness (or another topic you want to highlight)?
Oh wow - it is so hard to choose. The Untethered Soul by Michael Signer is one of my all time favorites. This book was pivotal in transforming my relationship with myself and how I related to the world around me. It really helped me better understand how my habitual thoughts, emotions and behaviors limited me to reach my full potential. Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn is another great option, especially for people who are just starting the mindfulness journey.
What do books mean to you? i.e. how have they played a role in your life?
Books have opened up my eyes to a world I didn’t know existed. What I mean by this is that books have opened me up to a new way of being. Each one teaches me something new (about myself and/or others), challenges my way of thinking, can bring great joy and even motivation. I read non-fiction the majority of the time, and am curious by nature, so I always love seeing how a book impacts me emotionally and intellectually. I used to want to speed through books just to say I had read them, and now I’m the complete opposite. Sometimes I only read one page at a time because I read the same page several times in order to take it all in. I’ve been known to take months to read one book, or even a year! Books have helped me become mindful in a way because I want to be fully present for the story and they make me slow down and put away all thoughts and distractions in order to do that.
If there was one author you could have coffee with, who would it be and why?
Oh, I would love to meet Elizabeth Gilbert. I was super inspired by Eat, Pray, Love (even did my own little version of what she did by going abroad for several months) and I love everything about how she stands in her truth and isn’t afraid to embody the fullest essence of herself. I follow her on social media and one moment she has me laughing and then the next she brings a tear to my eye with the depth of her words. I just really love that she speaks from her heart and I appreciate her vulnerability. She also loves to dance, so I just feel like we would have a really deep and playful conversation about the silliest, and most serious, things in life. All of which are important to me!
What is your favorite uplifting book?
I read pretty much all non-fiction, but was gifted The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse for my birthday by Charlie MacKesy, and I love it! The pictures are stunning, and the words are so simple, yet profound. It’s a great book to pick up when I’m looking for inspiration, or something where I don’t really have to think to hard.
Is there anything else that you'd like to add?
We can all admit that this year has brought us many surprises. Surprises and challenges that some days seem too massive to overcome, but I encourage you to stay hopeful. Choose to see the good. Choose kindness. Choose compassion. Choose forgiveness. Choose love. When we can shift our mindset to things like positivity, gratitude and joy, miracles happen. I know because I’ve experienced them. So, I encourage you to lean in to every life experience that comes your way in 2021, and beyond, because no matter how challenging, uncertain or difficult life might seem, never forget you will come out stronger on the other end. If you believe this, then it will happen. Your mind is far more powerful than you give it credit for.
I get asked often to speak about self-care and to provide tips on how to improve our wellbeing, but to be honest, I believe only providing tools, without also talking about the power of your mind and the role it plays in self-care, is pointless. I mean this in the kindest way!
The reality is most of us already know what we need to do to care for ourselves, but we still choose not to. Self-care is not rocket science, and I don’t have a secret formula. However, what I do know is that in order to sustain wellbeing, you have to do the mindset work. 30- day challenges only take you so far because, well, then life happens and it’s easy to get sucked back into old habitual ways of being. Cultivating long term habit change starts with awareness. Awareness and understanding things like why you do what you do, how conditioning works and how your limiting beliefs and fears (whether conscious or subconscious) hold you back. Self-care starts with awareness, which helps to shift your mindset, so that “self care” becomes your innate way of being and leads you to vibrant health. This is why for me self-care is more about understanding our relationship to it vs the actions that make up the term self-care.
Where can people find you to get more information?