Why I run (and why you should to)

I am a go-getter. I’ve worked two jobs simultaneously since the age of 18, paid for my post-secondary schooling out of pocket and went to four different countries in the span of a year (oh how I miss 2015). I work a lot. Having spent the last 6 years extending myself between two jobs and school, I’ve learned that focusing on your personal well-being is just as important, if not more so, than all of those things. 

When I started running, it was mostly for health reasons. I was overweight, eating horribly, perpetually stressed out (thanks Ryerson!), and could barely do 2 minutes without needing to stop to catch my breath. Fast forward a year later and I can run a 10K comfortably, workout regularly, and am currently training to run a marathon next spring. In the year that I have dedicated myself to running I’ve seen myself grow in ways that I could never imagine, and to my surprise, it has improved my work life tremendously.

Get uncomfortable

When I first started running I could only run for a couple minutes at a time, but after a couple weeks I was up to about 5 minutes of continuous running, then 10, then 20 and now 5K on a daily basis. Running is hard, mentally and physically, and there are times when it makes you regret all of your life decisions. But it pushes you out of your comfort zone, and that is a quality you can apply to anything in life, including work. Just remember, the end result is only great because of the struggle that came before it.

Once you're dedicated, consistency is easy

Being able to run long distances takes a lot of cardiac ability, and that does not come easy; it’s something you have to dedicate significant time and energy to. Having two jobs and going to school made it easy for me to justify skipping a run because I was tired or had no time. But, when you truly decide to dedicate yourself to something, you make time for it, no matter what. And so, I started getting up at 5:30am every morning to go for a run. Not only did it teach me about dedication, but also how dedication and consistency go hand in hand; you can’t have one without the other. Whether it is with running or work, putting in the work every day is essential for your success.

You're forced to put yourself first

There is no shortage of studies on the importance of exercise on mental health. Regular exercise has been proven to reduce levels of stress, anxiety and symptoms of depression, in addition to improving your physical health and sleeping habits. As start out in your career, it is important to establish healthy routines early on that will last. In the past year that I’ve dedicated myself to running, I’ve noticed a change in my work habits resulting in improved productivity because I am more rested, focused, and my stress levels are at an all-time low. Running has forced me to put my mind and body first; if you can do that, everything else will become a lot easier. 

It’s the purest form of happiness

I cannot express how important it is to find something you enjoy that you don’t get paid for. Whether it is volunteering at a non-profit organization, pole dancing, knitting or painting, having something that gives you genuine enjoyment really is important. When you take money out of the equation, it makes doing something so much more special because then it is truly for you.  

Find something that makes you happy outside of work. I recognize how easy it is to lose yourself in the job; I myself have spent the last six years doing just that. What I’ve come to realize, however, is that work isn’t everything. Fifty years from now, when you're retired with no more work to speak of, what will you have? As Hillary Clinton proclaimed, "Don't confuse having a career with having a life."

Written by: Ashleigh H.

League of Extraordinary Young Women: The Better Life Project

Erin & Natasha make up the co-founding team of the Better Life Project. They go into further detail about the project, how it fulfills them, and some advice for young professional women!

Erin is a Graphic Designer with a passion for branding, typography, illustration and, of course, the path to a better life!

Natasha is an enthusiastic educator who has dedicated her life to expediting the growth of high performers through positive psychology.

Describe what/who you're working on/for and why it's important to you

After the success of our first product, the Better Life Planner 2017, we're now working on a Student Success Planner that will launch this summer following a Kickstarter campaign for the planner. Students are at a pivotal point in their growth—mentally, emotionally, socially, etc.—so positive habit formation is key at this stage of their lives. We want to launch a Kickstarter campaign so that we can reach as many students as possible, helping transform the future generations. The job market is more competitive than it's ever been, and we want to give all students access to this tool so they can have a competitive advantage.

How does your role empower you?

Together, our business empowers us by being able to connect with our customers, receive feedback, and design our future products with real people in mind. We are touched, moved and inspired every time we hear how a Better Lifer is transforming through the use of the Better Life Planner 2017 and the Better Life Book Club. 

What advice do you have to other young women looking to get involved in your field of work?

Buy our planner! LOL. In all seriousness, our advice to a young woman looking to enter the world of self-development and goal-setting: have accountability partners and surround yourself with a support system of people who care enough about you to not let


get in the way of achieving your goals.

Who is your biggest role model, why?


Oprah, because Oprah. 


Tony Robbins because he tells people how it is, and while it can come across as brutal honesty, it also comes from a place of genuinely wanting people to transform their lives.

What book do you recommend every young professional should read?

Every book teaches you something, so instead of settling for just one, 

join our book club

and transform with us! Search for the Better Life Book Club on Facebook to see what we've read so far.

If you could go back to your 16 year old self, what would you say?


"Caring for and empowering people will get you much further than any to-do list can take you."


"You have no idea what you're capable of until you take action!"

Why do you think groups like YWiB are important?

Groups like YWiB are important so that women can have access to an empowering support system of other women. It's a foundation of collaboration, inspiration and accountability so that women can be their best selves.

What can our readers do to help you?

Stay tuned for our Kickstarter campaign coming

May 1st

, and back us however you can and share us with your friends and family!





Instagram & Twitter: @blifeproject

Running a space for healing and discovery: Meet Temple 23

We're so thankful to have been hosted by Temple 23, a space owned and operated by Sarah Hauch and Kristine Vanderplas, for our Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds workshop two weeks ago! I got a chance to chat with Kristine between her yoga classes about what it is like to run the venue and learn more about the space.  

What is Temple 23?

Temple 23 is a spiritual healing centre. It's a space for people to be themselves and express what they want to do. We are primarily focused on spirituality and self-expansion and curate the events we hold, but we've hosted lots of different events from workshops to music nights. We also run some events ourselves, Sarah ran a Sober Bar [on July 16], for example, and I host Meditation Mondays every week. Our goal is to make it an accessible space which honours integrity and authenticity which also means it is a dry space.


How did you two get started running an events venue?

Sarah and I met two years ago through mutual friends but really bonded over the Empower Thyself course at the Modern Mystery School. Around that time we became close and the opportunity came up. I was already teaching yoga and guiding meditation sessions, it was really a matter of timing and being willing to adapt. We moved in January 2015. [The building is] a converted warehouse so it was a blank space with white walls that we could really make our own. We put in a floor and decorated some but it wasn't until one woman from the Aerie Collective approached us about using the space for hosting urban retreats, and she was really interested in using it, and said "Look, if you give me a budget I can make it look more like what you want."  That really shaped it more into what we envisioned. We both have jobs outside of Temple 23, so it's not like we spend all of our time on it but we've had steady interest from the beginning, just really positive feedback, and a good uptake. Our primary business is offering healing to individuals.

You mentioned a Sober Bar earlier, do you want to explain what that is?

That's really more Sarah's project than mine, but a Sober Bar is basically a place where you can go to be in community, like a normal bar, but without alcohol. It's a concept that's become pretty popular on the West coast, you hear about them having these long lines. Our first one was last Saturday and we had a decent turnout. People are very appreciative of having access to events where no alcohol is involved. We hear from people who have struggled with addiction, and it's very hard to get back out there when the main places to do that are bars. There's also people who are just outgrowing the bar scene but still want to be able to go out on some nights. Some people are skeptical at first, we hosted an art show not too long ago and there was a lot of back-and-forth with the organizers because it's an art show. "You have to have alcohol, it's an art show!" they said, but we just said sorry it's a dry space. And you know, the show went really well. The organizers were happy and they were impressed. Nobody got sloppy drunk and everyone was just present. So there can be benefits!

Why did you choose to partner with YWiB and give us the opportunity to use Temple 23?

We're interested in reaching people beyond the spiritual community. [Temple 23] has gained a good reputation and Toronto has a fairly big spiritual community which knows about it. We want to be able to reach people who wouldn't come across it naturally now, people who are maybe outside the community but still align with our focus. Your Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds event actually strikes home for me because I'm really interested in wellness in the workplace. It's important to take time for yourselves, especially young women who often work more hours than most. People seem to just be working longer and harder and that focus on wellness is so necessary.

How to fit yoga into a busy work schedule

Lara Cupido led the Yoga session at the Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds event hosted by Young Women in Business, Toronto chapter. We caught up with her to hear more about her and learn about the benefits of yoga, especially for young and busy professional women.

What do you think the biggest benefit of practicing yoga is?

That’s a great question – though since there are plenty of benefits of practicing yoga, it’s a tough one to answer!

Everyone has their own reason to practice, which is one of the very reasons why I love yoga so much. That said, there are two benefits of practicing that I believe are the greatest: not only does yoga strengthen your body (yoga teacher training put me in the best shape of my life!), but it strengthens your mind as well. It helps you get in tune with your body so that you can better understand why different pain occurs both physically and mentally, and how to avoid or ease any tension. Mentally, it teaches you to focus: focus on your body, your practice, and on the present moment.

What about benefits specifically for working women in offices?

Since yoga helps you get more in tune with your body, you can learn specific postures that help open up areas that you may be tightening due to your work life. For example, there are weeks that go by where I am sitting in front of my laptop for 8+ hours a day. Naturally, my back wants to hunch over, which closes up your chest area and shoulders. Thus, soft back bends that help open up the chest and shoulders truly aid in balancing your body and maintaining alignment.

What drew you to yoga and what inspired you to become an instructor?

I’ve taken dance lessons my whole life and used to work out at a gym. However, I never really liked yoga. I always thought it wouldn’t be an intense enough workout (boy, was I naïve…).

Five years ago I decided to join my family at the weekly yoga class they regularly attended. After the class, I felt good. I can’t really explain or pinpoint exactly what it was, but I loved how I felt. And I knew the instructor’s perspective, helpful attitude and radiating energy, aided in this feeling. She truly wanted the absolute best for her students, and helped them be the best they could be. She singlehandedly altered my idea of yoga.

On her last day at the gym, I decided it was mine as well. I joined a yoga studio so that I could learn different techniques and practice more often. Shortly after, I decided that the only way to further deepen my knowledge of the practice was to become an instructor myself. In becoming an instructor, I would be able to help others feel good about themselves, just as Karin helped me do. That is what truly drove me to search for a teaching program in the city.

I then turned to Yoga Tree Studio, which offered a great teaching program composed of elements such as physical training, anatomy, and meditation. To my surprise, I found out that Karin was one of the lead instructors who would be teaching the training program. After one quick phone call to Karin, I recalled the energy that she exuded through practice, and I was sold. Needless to say, the Yoga Tree training program was one of the best experiences of my life, both physically and mentally.

Looking back, I now wish I could go back to when I was younger, during my dance years, and do physical activity properly. Yoga teaches you how to breathe properly, how to align your body, how to strengthen your core, how to stretch properly, and the list goes on.

What is your advice to those who are new to yoga?

Be open. Truly be open. With your eyes, ears and mind. Losing any premeditative judgments, or judgments that arise in your mind through practice, is critical. I often hear two things from new students: 1) Yoga is too hard, I’m not flexible! Or 2) Yoga is not intense enough of a workout. And here are my thoughts to those two misconceptions:

1) Many people tell me that they cannot practice because they are not flexible, but my response always is “that’s why you should practice! See you Sunday morning!”. Everyone is on different levels and that is OKAY. That is normal. That is how the world works! Everyone, at any given moment, is at different stages of their life, they learn at different times, and progress in different ways. However, what is important to you is what YOU are feeling, where YOU are at, how YOU can improve. And that is something that can be taken from the mat into your everyday life.

One of the biggest teachings in yoga is to lose judgements on things, on others, and on yourself. So ultimately do what makes YOU feel good on the mat. If you keep that mentality, you’ll notice progress quicker than you ever expected.

2) As I mentioned earlier, there are many misconceptions that say that yoga isn’t hard core enough. Actually, yoga is a full body work out. Many different muscles are targeted in each posture. It’s about learning how to use those muscles so that you can strengthen them. Almost all of my new students who say that yoga is too “easy” tell me after class that it is “actually really hard!” Again, be open!

Do you have any suggestions for how young professional women can fit yoga into their busy schedules?

I completely sympathize with women who feel as though there are not enough hours in one day – so much so that there have been months where I lose my own practice. I’m an interior designer by day, so my schedule is super hectic as I am often running around the city to meet clients, suppliers, and contractors, while teaching nights and weekends. By the time my work day is over, I feel as though I don’t have any energy or time to practice. What’s funny and ironic about that is that when I do fit in a yoga practice, I have so much energy. Yoga improves energy, respiration, and vitality.

I think what is important is to figure out what is the best time that works for you. After trying different class times, I realized that an early 6:30am class helped me to feel accomplished and energized for the day. Fitting it in at a regular time every day (or a few times a week) and thus creating a routine, will help you to stay committed. Once you do a class, you will be amazed at how your time and day opens up. You’ll be able to carry on with your day with a clearer mind, which will be a key factor to your productivity.

Healthy Bodies, Healthy Mind: An interview with Diviya Lewis

Diviya Lewis practices Positive Psychology and makes it her mission to help and inspire others to do the same. I spoke with Diviya to ask a few questions about her journey into the world of Positive Psychology and how it's helped inspire others!  

Can you tell us what Positive Psychology is and talk about your involvement in it?

Positive Psychology has been around since the turn of the century, shepherded by prominent psychologists like William James & Abraham Maslow who've shared their teachings and observations. It emerged as a field when Martin Seligman began presenting the branch of psychology as an alternate way of understanding mental illness. Instead of studying what was 'wrong' with people (i.e. illness and pathology), he wanted to promote studying what was 'right' (i.e. wellness and flourishing). This resonated so much with me! Perspective is key in our human experience - something I've seen through years of research - and I hope to share this message with the world. The movement of positive psychology has challenged the public and academic community to re-frame the way they see themselves and the world.

I've been immersed in the research of positive psychology for the past couple of years, but its principles are ingrained in who I am, as a person. I am incorporating them into my practice while pursuing a Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology, and hope to use what I've learned within organizations in the future from a Psychotherapy perspective. In addition, I facilitate workshops and training sessions called LIFO(R), using a strengths-based approach to behavioural and communication styles. The objective of the workshop is to help teams learn to be aware of themselves and as their colleagues, enhancing rapport and improving employee engagement on a variety of levels.

What does "Choose Gratitude" mean to you? How did you get started with that?

Choose Gratitude is an initiative I started that helps people see the positive in their day-to-day. Essentially, I hand out pocket-sized cards to people who brighten up my day - these include family, friends, and even strangers I encounter. Gratitude has a "spill-over" effect , and it is amazing to witness and hear about the positive impact that giving and receiving a gratitude card has on others.

Choose Gratitude grew from a need to spread the bigger message of appreciation. People often don't take enough time to enjoy the things they have in their lives, and many feel a sense of dissatisfaction and lack of fulfillment. By bringing gratitude to the forefront of people's awareness, I aim to positively affect the lives of individuals and those around them.

What has the impact of positive psychology and gratitude had on the people you've met and speak to about it?

Gratitude is definitely being promoted as a practice that improves wellness, but what you read on blogs can sometimes be misleading. Gratitude is not a cure-all. It is a piece of the puzzle, and a tool that can be used to change the way you perceive and experience your life. While a positive perspective makes a huge difference, positive psychology is not only about being positive. We mustn't ignore hurt, pain, anger or sorrow that we feel in an attempt to 'stay positive'. However, as a daily practice, and as a re-training of our mindset, seeing the silver lining has a huge impact on our life satisfaction, our relationships with those around us, and with ourselves. What's most important to me is that after I've had talks with people, they share the contagion of energy and positive thinking with those around them. It is important that we surround ourselves by people and things that energize us. This has been a personal goal of mine, and it is so uplifting to hear that others have made it their goal, too.

It sounds like positive psychology and yoga's core principles go hand-in-hand. What is about yoga that people love? 

People enjoy yoga for a multitude of reasons: Some do it as a form of exercise while others choose it as a way of life. I've witnessed yoga help people heal from illnesses like arthritis! My mom (a high-school special-ed teacher by day, Hatha yoga instructor extraordinaire by night) uses yoga with her students, and has seen improvements in attentiveness, comprehension and, most importantly, enjoyment in her students. I personally practice yoga for a mix of all of the above. Yoga is also aligned with my aim to pause, slow down, be present and take life as it comes. The mindfulness inherent within yoga practices can extend to your daily life. This is something that is more powerful than any words I can use to describe it.

What has your experience with Young Women in Business been like since you became involved?

My experience thus far has been great. The people make the vision of personal development come alive, and this is a great group of people to work with. Each one brings unique perspectives and strengths, and I am proud to be a part of this organization. After presenting at the launch Conference, I learned of the values and mission of YWiB, and knew I wanted to be involved somehow. Being a small business owner, I have felt and understand the struggle of networking, and connecting with like-minded people in Toronto.