Happiness Project

We have to Practice Gratitude. Ugh. I know. It can sound “played-out”. I’ve heard it in every yoga class, too. But seriously, that’s why I adore yoga… if someone keeps saying it to me in just the right way, at some point I’ll understand it. There was one instruction that always seemed to be missing, or I just wasn't listening...but either way, I realized I needed to practice actually feeling gratitude.

So once that epiphany hit, fostering Practice felt more attainable. I don’t feel gratitude on accident. Don’t get me wrong, I am endlessly grateful for all the love and support in my life…but on a regular, run-through-my-day basis? Sometimes I get caught doing all the things and, well, running through my day! I have to purposely PAUSE and clear my mind-table and then focus on something I appreciate in life. There is gold in that practice part. That, my friends, is where the juice is at.

It’s a rush of everything yummy. That feeling when someone gives you the most unexpectedly thoughtful, perfect-for-you gift…grateful to be loved, heard, seen, known. That feeling after an accident when you realize you are OK…grateful for to be alive, safe, held. That feeling you get when you get promoted or awarded…grateful to be given opportunities, guidance, support. Through receiving, we have a chance to see and love ourselves how others do.

You know what else feels exactly the same to me? Giving.

That feeling you get when you help a stranger, feed someone who is hungry, hold a hand that is alone…grateful for being such a gift of this planet that you can genuinely be of service to others through nothing else but your heart. It’s really the best, right? It echoes a sensational resonance of feeling loved, valued, honored, and humbled all at once.

That feeling runs through the body, nourishing every cell, but can just as quickly get buried beneath the to-do lists, daily tasks, obligations. Yet, the memory is still vibrating in your physical body. And all it takes to feel it again is remembering.

I personally need structure to have discipline. And if we are creating a practice, discipline is at the very core of its authenticity. So my structure is to check-in with a journal each day. I don’t hold myself to a Top 5 Things I’m Grateful For list, although also a wonderful idea. I sit down and think of one interaction or sentiment; then I write about it for a few lines. Once a few words splash onto the page, I reconnect to the story, and then close my eyes and genuinely try to recreate every detail in my mind's eye so I can feel it again.

Once you find the thing, the person, the situation, the kind-hearted moment--close your eyes and relive the story. Play it over in your mind and feel the rush of gratitude washing through your body. Simply settle into that feeling and allow yourself to experience it again. Feel the smile on your face, the fullness in your heart, the release of your belly, throat, face. Boom! You’ve just put in a Gratitude practice sesh. No big deal. And you got to feel good in the process. My body LOVES that feeling. I don’t want to rely on outside sources to be the only possibility of feeling "the feeling". If I practice remembering, I shower myself in that nourishment, love, and support all on my own. And the more used to it my mind and body get, the more naturally it will flow my way. It’s like raising vibrational standards. It’s not worth it to practice small anymore. And while I will still visit that territory, harnessing a practice in Gratitude has secured a pretty decent exit strategy.

Here’s the way I look at…

Pulling gratitude into your body is like tuning into the Abundance vibration. When I am busy appreciating, there’s less mind-body capacity to experience wanting/craving or compulsive sensations. I’d call this other end of the spectrum a Scarcity frequency. We see severe wanting express itself through a character like the super greedy business-owner who never looks like they “have enough”. That wanting vibe—it’s competitive, defensive, it would take your wallet if you left it.

I certainly don't want to live on that frequency, but the truth is, I do wantcertain things I don’t have. I have big dreams that I’d like to see come to fruition. And I also have less important goals, like drop that 5lbs I earned over Christmas. I want to believe and trust in my desires, but It is easy to get sucked under by the wanting feeling. And because it’s so easy, I would bet my brain has traveled that Scarcity loop for much longer roadtrips than the Gratitude loop. This state tends to outfit me in Anxiety and is not the best look.

Tuning into a different frequency...

When I notice static in my thoughts or life, I can pretty much assume my tuner is jammed on the Wanting station. How can I help myself not feel like I don’t have something?

By receiving something. Anything.

And I don’t mean go buy something. In a moment caught thinking about not having or being enough, they are only thoughts killing your vibe. So tuning into some higher vibe thoughts should be no less powerful.

So back to receiving. Think of anything you can remember receiving. I can think of hundreds of somethings I’ve received—gifts, opportunities, lessons, relationships, sweet moments. It is never too late to honor any of it, again and again and again. Voila, that’s how I start. Once I find “the thing”, and pull in the just-received-appreciated feeling, I practice staying there. I run it through my body like I’m drawing a map. Sensing, Tasting, Smelling, Experiencing, Remembering my way back to this space.
Practicing the feeling of gratitude, reminds me how to be. It reminds me I am not without. It reminds me of fulfilled desires. The more Gratitude Practice Reps I accumulate, the more time I get to spend in this nurturing environment. And here, I show up brighter in the world around me. Journaling is just one of the many ways to open a beautiful gratitude conversation. I don’t say this because I’m absolutely crushing this gratitude thing. I say it because I can totally suck at it sometimes. And I know, in my bones, the glaring difference. Thinking myself out of a dark spot doesn’t really work. Finding a way to feel good always wins…even if it takes a little mindful discipline to get there. As I mentioned before, my body LOVES the flavor of gratitude, so why not dose with little more of it? All it takes is me.


I treated myself to a pedicure on Saturday and realized it was the first time in months that I had made time.  And my second, not-so-startling realization—every time I had carved out time, I would work on the computer the entire appointment.   I couldn’t possibly check out to myself for an hour when productivity beckoned, right?!  So I promised that I would not think about work, what I was going to do next, or any of the conflicts/excitements stimulating the surrounding week.  I was going to tune into nothing but the pleasure of relaxation.

How did this go?  It was freaking HARD.  I had my computer with me and thought (oh silly mind!) that I wanted to work.  I had to remember my commitment; I had to challenge my own thoughts… Do you want to do this?  Or do you feel you should do this?

Who is going to tell you to take a break EXCEPT YOU?

I, like many chronic multi-tasking sufferers, can go NUTS if I am not being productive in some way.  We have to step outside of routine.  We have to step outside of the day’s tasks.  Everything we want to work toward or do, even just laying around, will be there waiting for us; so take a true NOURISHMENT break!  I don’t care what it is… I DARE you to TREAT YO’ SELF in the next 3 DAYS.  Not week, not month…you have 3 days to give yourself some quality attention!

Schedule a massage.  Go for a long walk UNPLUGGED.  Sit in a park with a book you've been meaning to read.  Concoct your own green juice.  Prepare an exquisite dish for yourself.  Go to a restaurant ALONE and let someone ELSE make you a gorgeous meal…it doesn’t matter what it is—but do it by yourself.  This is just for you.  While surrounding ourselves with loving souls can be pure medicine, it's important to feel that sanctuary within yourself, too.  Don’t let nurturing get tangled up with the notion of a "guilty pleasure"…like not indulging in dessert unless friends are “doing it with me”. Drop that nonsense!


I think women, especially, are innate nurturers; and in this, we can always find someone who we need to help and something we need to “take care of”  before circling this love back to ourselves.  But this people-pleasing paradigm has blanketed us all, well beyond gender lines--it is full-blown epidemic, in my opinion.  It is up to us, to strategize a more consistent attuning into our own desires.  

I used to say this busy-bee nature is just how I am and there’s nothing I can do about it.  This is not false or bad.  BUT, it’s up to me how I meet myself.  Because any part of our nature can get over-amplified…and what IS a beautiful characteristic can sadly veer into an over-stressed, over-obligated, under-nourished spirit. 

Caring for other people and devoting your gifts to helping them could never be a bad thing, though, right?  Good or bad…I am not as valuable to ANYONE if I am not taking care of myself first.  And that means in every ounce of fullness I require in that moment. 

When I am burning the candle at both ends, I start to bud tiny resentment seeds that can unfortunately sprout in the most unnecessary places.  And if I hold it in, I can feel even “sicker”.  When I am doing all the time, I am no longer feeling.  We can only “hear” the body through feeling, sensation, subtle observation.  So when I'm not listening, I will not genuinely understand how I am needing to be supported.

A nurtured body will nurture the mind, NOT the reverse.

Catering solely to the mind IS the disconnect.  I don’t know about you, but my mind can be a real salty bitch! The mind is a beautiful thing but entirely too controlling.  It talks louder than the body, overruling our intuition gateway.  Can you hear your intuition?  Are you listening to someone else’s? 

What do you REALLY want in this moment, and the next…and the next?  

One little pedicure set the stage for a full day of ME--letting go of rules or obligations and floating freely with my authentic desires.  Saturday came and went…clarity getting hazier as interactions, situations, and days went on.  But I had a clear understanding I didn’t want to lose.  I, me, Katie Petersen, NEED to focus on nurturing myself MORE.  

Because I feel this grand importance for myself, I know it must be important for others, as I am not so unique.  And while many aspects of my day might "qualify" as "self-care", it is already too routined.  It is expected, obligated to a point of feeling guilty, if I don't do X.  The challenge I am presenting is to do something NEW, out of the ordinary--corrupt your own monotony and find freedom on the other side.  

How have I nurtured myself today? 

I started asking myself this by Tuesday.  As the week went on, I realized how different I felt from Saturday.  The sweet, lovely plans I made for this upcoming weekend was all that I could come up with...and that has NOTHING to do with today, this moment, the only space Iactually exist.  Try asking yourself those 6 words each and every day "how have I nurtured myself today?"  And write this one down.... because in forming a new habit, we MUST have consistency to our strategy.  My inability to answer my own question tells me so.  My Saturday epiphany had dispersed from view in only a matter of days!  Invoke this important question into your daily self-care checklist--right up there with brushing your teeth. Set an alarm in your phone; put a post-it on your bathroom mirror; make it your new password--whatever it is, don't just rely on reading this step here, hoping you'll repeat it.  Commit to yourself right here, right now, to be accountable and honest with yourself.  

By Thursday, I had taken noticeable measures to be gentler with myself but hadn't “treated myself” in the way I propose we do.  So I shifted the question, "How CAN I nurture myself" in a new way?  Step 2, if you don't have an answer to "how have I?", ask "how can I?".  I barely knew what I was doing when I began driving out to the Boathouse Cafe in Humboldt Park.  I had seen a stunning photo on Instagram and for whatever reason, that image popped into my mind when I asked this question.  If I waited even 2 minutes, I might have talked myself out of it because the mind LOVES a predictable routine.  Don't question yourself...GO! 

As you can see in this photo, I found myself lounging on a beautiful patio surrounded by trees, water, and and even a live calypso band…speaking to my own heart as much as yours.  In this haven, an escape from the city bustle, I am immensely inspired to pour my gratitude onto paper.  Gratitude for the abundance I experience when I allow myself to just BE.  I needed a break to check-in...to practice capturing this love within myself.  And only in doing so for me, can I even hope to share it with anyone else.  Metaphorical reality across all patterns.  I unapologetically honored my desire for solitude, nature, writing, and non-outcome-based expression.  I feel unconditionally held in this moment.

Where is your haven?

I am blessed to have had that drop of clarity on Saturday…and so grateful it didn't disappear for weeks but merely muted for a few days.  When commitment faded from view, those two simple questions became the litmus test on my follow-through.  Use them.  They are valuable.  And don't get down on yourself if you slip.  The ebb and flow is inevitable.  We each have these profound moments at different times.  It is our DUTY to share them.  I can sometimes feel, if I don’t hold this space all the time, I have no business talking about it.  But the more we share, the more we can believe and harvest this nourishment for ourselves and everyone around us at a greater frequency.  

The goal is refining our doing-ness with our being-ness. Check into yourself.  Be entirely selfish at least once a day in a way that is not already routine.  Set your reminders to do so!  Check into Love.  Self-love.  Easy? No…probably the toughest task we will ever take on.  To quell the mind is a hero’s journey.  And anything heroic that ever happened always took a collective…at least in my interpretation.  So here we are, human beings connecting with other human beings, to learn more about ourselves.  Thank you for listening.  Thank you for caring.  And thank you even more, for caring about yourself.

Now go out there and TREAT YO’ SELF.  If you have read this far, you are already committed!  If you don’t don't know how to do it for you, do it for me, because I love you and I care more than you could know.



Take a break...

You Deserve It!

The Purpose Driven Life

The Purpose Driven Life

I was having brunch with a new friend this past weekend, and we had that instant connection that surrounding yourself with good people seems to harbor.  The conversation expanded very quickly into one of great profundity.  He said something that struck me and has continued to resonate.  It was an analogy he once heard…that there are those who sit in the stands watching the game and those who play it.  Some people sit in the stands their whole lives, just watching, wondering what it would be like, to be on the field--feeling their heart drumming, tasting the salt of their sweat, hearing the internal voice driving strength and motivation into their every move.  Some people might inch closer and closer to the field throughout their lives, and even jump into a game here and there, but ultimately live in detached observation.  Then there are those who live to play.  After an interweaving of each of our life’s work, zest for existence, spiritual connection to music, nature, and people…he looked at me with recognition and awe, and said, “You are someone who is constantly in the game.”

This is the highest compliment I have ever received in such a short period of knowing someone.  I won’t outline the details of his personal life, but he made it clear that he had been inspired by me in the way I led my life.  My work is play and my play is free-flowing.  I have found my present calling by following my heart; at the same time, I am allowing unlimited space for whatever this purpose might expand to become.  I no longer hold myself captive to an idea or a vision I may have pictured at one time, but don’t entirely desire anymore, if it has in fact transformed.   We can look at life with openness and opportunity and not restrict ourselves to the rigidity of a “perfectly-mapped” plan. 

We cannot assume to know how any of the external forces around us will respond, react, or align with our actions.  We can only be responsible for what we set out to do and how we will self-adjust to the constant shifts of an ever changing universe.  The player never knows with certainty whether the current strategy will successfully come to pass.  You can only control how you will assert your efforts to drive toward what you want.  Any number of things can and will disrupt “the plan”; it is up to us to accept this fact and not allow ourselves to get tripped-up.  Whatever your current goal is, be it work-related or personal, you must focus on your supporting behaviors rather than the outcome.  I encourage you to instill purpose in your day-to-day rather than obsess over how you eventually want things to be.  After all, if you drive forward with steady dedication and authenticity, your end goal is a very likely side effect.  Then you can free yourself of worry and fear and just live your life from a place of constant action rather than examination.

There’s all this business about “following your path”…but what if we didn’t have to live in fear about messing everything up and derailing our entire lives?  What if our paths are simply where we walk next?  We create our lives, as we choose.  This is not to say we don’t set goals; I am saying quite the opposite.  It is that we lay out our own goals rather than chase approval from anyone else’s expectations of us.   And much like the players of the game, we follow the framework of a specific play, with the innate acceptance that everything may, and often will, go very differently.  That is the beauty of the game.

Knock Down the Walls of "Comfortable"

There’s a certain amount of stability we develop in our daily routines, no matter how monotonous, that stick our feet into the ground.  While this comfort feels, well comfortable, we can fall victim to believing that we shouldn’t move.  To say I am comfortable at my homebase training facility, HiFi Fitness, would be an understatement.   I know who I am going to see, how I am going to feel, and almost exactly what to expect each day.  Surrounded by brightly painted walls, top of the line equipment, and lululemon everything, I am perfectly at ease.  But was I satisfied?  Not anymore.   After hours of coaching others at a place I call home, I can lack the passion I want to bring, not only my own workouts, but also to expanding my vision for my own business.  While I have justified this position over the past couple of months, I have reached a rut; and I’ve been here before.  The avoidance of “discomfort” became a roadblock.  Winston Churchill once said “This is no time for ease and comfort. It is time to dare and endure”.

I had almost forgotten about the place that pushed me outside of my comfort zone only 5 years ago.  I sought out a new goal in an unknown territory, in training for my first figure competition at USA Gym.  I ventured to a place that made me feel a little awkward and unsure of myself at first; but I needed that place where I was told to push harder, move faster, and dream bigger.  The gym itself was anything but comfortable:  In the winter there’s a rubber mat for members to leave their construction work boots.  In the summer, you better dress light or hope for a breeze; AC is a luxury, long-forgotten, but the garage door will be cracked and a firehouse fan will take care of your cool-down.  Bottom line, I might be the only lululemon you’ll see.  The walls are covered with trophies and signs telling you things like “pain is just weakness leaving the body.”  The soldered-off dumbbells always seem to be about 5lbs heavier than what they say—and you’re going to lift them for a few more reps than you’ve ever imagined.   The mentors I found, not to mention the very environment of USA gym, pushed me outside of complacency.  If I wanted more, I had to reach for it.  I learned to be willing to experience some sense of discomfort, if expected to achieve growth. 

This gym began to symbolize my grounds for change.   This pivotal year marked the start of my own business, completion of my first figure competition, and the start of a new relationship.  It’s where I prepared for every competition going forward and created a vision for myself that allowed confidence to permeate everything I did.  This is where I was told I was a star…and after a few years of encouragement, this is where I began to believe it.  This is where I’ve been brought to tears during a military press, thrown-up during a squat-sprint-lunge-box jump and who –can-even-remember- what-else superset, and face-planted on  “one more” push up, more times than I can count.  This is where I broke limits and discovered new possibilities.

As many of you know, I’ve been on sabbatical this year from the competition world.  This decision also took away my trips out to USA Gym.  I did not feel the need to drive 45min each way, if I was no longer competing.   Unsure of whether I’d ever step on stage again, I was excited to coach a client and dear friend, Natalie, through her first bikini competition.  After 12 months of competition-scene absence, I set foot into my old stomping grounds with Natalie this November. 

I could not have guessed what I would feel over that competition weekend.  After about 20 min of feeling detached and like a “washed up athlete” in that world, I threw my self-doubt aside.  The next several hours turned into an energetic dance of seeing old friends, talking “bodybuilding” shop, connecting business partnerships, and yes, considering my own stage revival.  I felt my confidence set fire and remembered what this group of certified gym rats meant to me!  I drove out to USA Gym within four days to train, and realized this place was never just a gym for me, it was my sanctuary. 

I realized, it doesn’t matter whether or not I choose to compete.  The pressure to be at the absolute top of your game can sometimes be debilitating—pushing yourself to be better is not about the deadline; it ‘s about the journey.  I needed to take myself out of my everyday blur and go to the place that reminds me how to dream big.  This can be a living metaphor for anything.  Very simply, after a long day at the office, when you might not have eaten your best and you start telling yourself, “I’m exhausted, so it would be a shitty workout anyway…”, check your excuses at the door.  Reach for a little discomfort.  It might just be the best workout of the week.  Even if it’s the worst, you KNOW you’re going to feel better for showing up.  Let it be a time to wash away the stresses of the day and clear your thoughts.  And on a higher plane, find your USA…that place that opens your mind, be it a location, person, activity…or all things combined.  Take yourself there and let down your walls of excuses or justification of “why not”.  It might be a little uncomfortable at first, but when you start to believe in the greater you, it will become home.

Special thanks to Chuck Sanow, Maurice Black, and the USA Gym crew