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Be a Kindness Ambassador

 

Two thoughtful friends of mine have established a challenge: 50 Days of Kindness. Whoever would like to participate is tasked with deliberately doing something kind for 50 days (the number of repetitions needed to establish a new habit), sharing ideas and experiences with a like-minded Facebook group, and noticing how being intentionally kind feels (emotionally and even physically).

The idea has great merit. Even if you’re a generally nice person, committing to this challenge brings kindness into specific focus—sort of like keeping a gratitude journal enhances thankfulness more than just being a grateful person in general.

The day that I was invited to join the challenge, I reflected on a simple kindness I had shown someone the day before. I had run into Target for a few things, and the checkout clerk shared with me that it was her last day. I asked her, do you have another job lined up, or are you going back to school in the new semester? No, she replied, I’m seasonal help and this is just my last day. She was looking for another job.

So I said with a smile, “Well thank you for being here, and all best wishes for whatever your next chapter will be!” She seemed genuinely pleased to have been heard and acknowledged.

I thought about how my kindness was so ordinary, that I would actually feel sort of funny about sharing it on the group’s Facebook page. I don’t need to receive praise for it, and I don’t think it’s particularly inspiring.

But, one of the other group members posted how she finds grocery stores to be great places to share kindness, even if it’s just giving someone an uplifting compliment, or passing up a great parking space so that the person behind you can have it. Simple, right?

Sure enough, later that day I went to a grocery store, and there was someone right behind me as I drove down my chosen parking aisle. Because of what I had read, I was inspired to pass up a primo parking space so that the person behind me could have it. I parked a little farther away, which helped me get some extra steps in for my fitness—a win-win.

I hope the person behind me felt lucky to score a parking spot so close to the entrance. I felt pretty good about performing a random act of small generosity. I always try to do something nice when I have a chance. But now, I will try harder to do a least one thing every single day.

What if everyone we knew joined in this challenge? The world would be a kinder place. At least each of us would experience 50 extra acts of thoughtfulness—whether we give, receive, or observe others, we all benefit!

If you’d like to be a kindness ambassador, here’s a link to the Facebook group. www.facebook.com/groups/177744486156215/

The challenge officially started on January 1st, but don’t worry—you can jump in at any time. The world needs more kindness every day!!

 

Category : Blog &Personal Growth

Let’s Stop Wasting Food!

 

The first time I went to Trader Joe’s, I was so drawn in by the variety and the cute packaging and the great prices, that I bought and bought and bought.

Now, YEARS later, I still have some of those cute packages in my pantry. What was I thinking?

Truth is, I wasn’t. Those impulse buys led to a lot of food waste, and according to experts, we all do it. In fact, in our country, some 40-50% of the food we buy gets thrown away. And grocery stores reject food before we even have a chance to buy it, because it’s too “ugly.” Restaurants, hospitals and schools are notorious for throwing food away—more than we ever see.

This is, obviously, a waste of food. It’s also a waste of energy in growing, harvesting, packaging, shipping, pricing, displaying it, etc. We add to the deforestation of our planet to grow more food we don’t need. And the wasted food breaking down in landfills adds to the greenhouse gases that are heating up our planet.

But, there’s good news: we can all make some fairly easy changes and help eliminate food waste. Here’s how to start:

1. Buy ugly! Some grocery stores have started offering perfectly good but less-than-perfect-looking produce in discounted bins. Maybe we can pressure our local grocers to do that!

2. Shop smart. We can also do more to grow our own food, and shop at farmer’s markets to support local growers and cut down on packaging and shipping. But wherever we shop, we need to have a plan and stop buying more than we need. And start USING what we buy.

Think about the week ahead—could you use half of a roast cauliflower in an Italian dish tonight, and the other half in an Indian curry tomorrow?

3. Eat leftovers. Store things in airtight containers and keep them toward the front of the fridge. And then don’t forget to eat them—such easy and delicious lunches or dinners for busy days!

4. Store properly. Some fruits and veggies do better on the counter than in the fridge. Keep fruits and veggies where you can see them in the fridge so you don’t forget to eat them! (By not over-buying, we can avoid clutter.)

5. Check expiration dates. Usually “best by” dates are for freshness, not safety. Use common sense. Of course it’s not worth getting sick by eating spoiled food, but it’s also a waste of money to toss something before its time.

6. Make soup. If some produce is just a bit past its prime—maybe a pepper whose skin is starting to wrinkle, for example—toss it in a pot to make a nice soup or veggie broth. If you can’t eat a whole carton of fruit before it goes bad, freeze it and keep it for a future smoothie or baked delicacy.

7. Eat leaf to root. Carrot, celery and radish greens, for example, have nice flavors for salads and sauces. Crush extra herbs and add a little oil; store the mixture in the fridge to extend their shelf life.

8. Monitor what you throw away. Literally, make a list. Put a value on what you’re tossing with a $, $$, $$$ system. This can be very motivating to change our buying and eating habits!

9. Eat it up. Make one meal per week a clean-out-the fridge challenge. You can do an internet search for recipes using ingredients on hand. Be creative! Isn’t that how meatloaf was born?

10. Donate. If you find stuff in your pantry you know you’re probably not going to use, give it to a food pantry. Ask local farmers if they can take any types of scraps to feed to their livestock or use for fertilizer.

11. Compost. I learned how to make compost buckets—it’s easy, the food scraps break down super fast in our Florida heat and sunshine, it doesn’t smell, and it’s simple to use the wonderful rich soil for fertilizer. If you want to learn how, just ask me! See pics below!

The St. Augustine Amphitheatre recently showed Anthony Bourdain’s inspiring new documentary “Wasted: The Story of Food Waste.” Here’s a link to the trailer; hopefully the film will be available to all of us at home soon!

 

 

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Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Medical Arts: Alternative, Complementary, Quackery? Part Two

 

Last week I wrote about a perceived disparity between mainstream healthcare and “alternative” remedies. I was troubled by an opinion piece posted on NBCnews.com that lumped every approach outside of conventional Western medicine into an ineffective and irrational “wellness industrial complex.” The conclusion was that celebrities who know more about marketing than medicine bash science to get gullible consumers to purchase overpriced approaches to wellness that don’t work, and a better strategy would be to put all our trust into conventional medicine because it is based on science.

I’m a firm believer in wellness care that includes things like massage therapy, reflexology, acupuncture, chiropractic, and meditation. I’m also a firm believer in going to the doctor for regular checkups and taking medicine when you need it. I believe that different strategies work better for different ailments, and that what works best for me might be different from what works best for you or someone else.

So, I propose that there is room for all kinds of approaches!

Would it surprise you to know that under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services there is a National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health? That’s right, even our own egg-headed GOVERNMENT scientists have figured out that there’s room in our health-and-wellness world for both mainstream doctors and practitioners like me.

Western-trained doctors are referred to as “conventional.” (NOT “traditional,” because some eastern healing traditions go back thousands and thousands of years!) Their website goes on to explain:
▪ If a non-mainstream practice is used together with conventional medicine, it’s considered “complementary.”
▪ If a non-mainstream practice is used in place of conventional medicine, it’s considered “alternative.”
“True alternative medicine is uncommon. Most people who use non-mainstream approaches use them along with conventional treatments.” (link provided below)

And that leads us to “INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE,” which is what maybe 90% of us subscribe to: bringing conventional and complementary approaches together in a coordinated way.

The website explains, “The use of integrative approaches to health and wellness has grown within care settings across the United States. Researchers are currently exploring the potential benefits of integrative health in a variety of situations, including pain management for military personnel and veterans, relief of symptoms in cancer patients and survivors, and programs to promote healthy behaviors.”

There are so many wonderful options for us to employ to support our own health. If your appendix ruptures, you might want a skilled surgeon. If you’re in a car accident, you might seek out a chiropractor help you recover. When I injured my hip, I needed the expertise of a physical therapist. For ongoing health maintenance, you could see a massage therapist, and a reflexologist, and an acupuncturist, and a medical doctor—and none would take anything away from what the others had to offer!!

https://nccih.nih.gov/health/integrative-health

Category : Blog &Health &Massage Therapy

Medical Arts: Alternative, Complementary, Quackery? Part One

Sometimes people ask me what I think about remedies like “rainbow therapy,” or suggest that I consider selling a pyramid marketing brand of essential oils.

I have to be very diplomatic when talking about specific approaches to health. Of course, I have my opinions about detox cleanses, or eating according to our blood type, or gemstone healing—but they are only my opinions. It’s important for each of us to do our own research and decide for ourselves.

In his somewhat cynical article “Wellness Brands Like Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP Wage War on Science,” Timothy Caulfield pits the wellness industry against mainstream medicine (link provided below). In case you read it, for whatever it’s worth, I would like to diplomatically share my humble opinion about a few points for your consideration.

Full disclosure: I don’t know anything about GOOP or other specific high-profile health brands. Somehow I was (happily) unaware that Gwyneth Paltrow was in the business of bashing science or that it had become popular to make fun of her for it. The first thing that bothered me about Caulfield’s article is that it takes an extreme all-or-nothing stance: you either completely buy into trendy wellness gimmicks (which in his estimation are ALWAYS hooey because they lack scientific foundations), or you are fully entrenched in a “science-informed approach to health.” I don’t know anyone who has jumped on the alternative bandwagon to the extent of completely turning away from science. Who among us is gullible enough to believe every far-fetched gimmick that comes along?

But secondly, and all kidding aside, not every “alternative” approach is new, and not every offering is phony. Caulfield makes reference to a “life force energy that runs through mysterious meridians,” but these meridians are not mysterious to physicians who have been practicing Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. In fact, we can now explain a lot of these phenomena in western medical terms as we learn more about a connective tissue called fascia, and discover just how complex all the cells of the body really are in their communication to and cooperation with each other (via chemical and/or electromagnetic energy, for example—life force energies indeed!).

Western medicine is the young science. Are there snake oil salespersons out there? Most definitely. But just because we can’t explain something (yet), doesn’t mean it can’t work. Sometimes the proof is in the outcome.

Caulfield makes some very good points about how eating healthy these days sometimes feels like it has to include specific (expensive) components, and how an unintended consequence has been making “healthy” too confusing or so expensive that some people might avoid produce completely if they can’t afford just the right organic varieties.

Still, Caulfield concludes that the answer is ALWAYS looking to science and completely dismissing the trendy “new” alternatives. But I would contend that sometimes “science” gets it wrong. Sometimes conventional doctors really do just treat symptoms rather than taking a more holistic look at big picture/root causes. Sometimes alternative strategies may really be the better path to health and wellness.

Next week, I’ll look at how we don’t even have to choose between mainstream and alternative—these two seemingly different approaches really can play nicely together!

https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/wellnes-brands-gwyneth-paltrow-s-goop-wage-war-science-ncna801436

Category : Blog &Health

Happy Holidays!

I think most of us, at least in theory, love “the holidays.” What a wonderful season! Starting with Thanksgiving at the end of November, December celebrates Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve and many others. So many opportunities to celebrate love and friendship and family and gratitude!

Sadly, our culture has put so much emphasis on more, especially shopping and especially for Christmas, that “the holidays” have almost become a stressful time of the year. We feel like we are failing if we don’t get more decorations, more gifts, more special foods “for the season,” more parties and pageants and festivities, etc.

Perhaps the best strategy is to simply tune out all that noise to the best of our abilities, turn a blind eye to the endless ads, let go of other people’s expectations, and create space to focus on what is really important to each one of us.

The best present of all is simply to be present. Breathe. Relax, even if you think you don’t have time to. Go outside for a walk with a friend. Play with your children and give them the gift of your time, even if the house is a mess and the meal is not planned and tree is not perfectly trimmed. Call a loved one you haven’t seen for a long time and give yourself this moment to talk and laugh and get caught up.

I read an article in early November about the “holiday season” as it relates to retail—what people will be selling and buying: trends, strategies, predictions. Of course, that’s what business analysts do. But we don’t need to buy into it. We don’t need to start thinking about Christmas in November. We really can just enjoy November in November, right?  And I hope we can enjoy December in December. One day at a time. One holiday at a time. One moment at a time. My wish for you is to that you may be fully present, peacefully celebrating love and gratitude and all our many blessings.

Happy holidays to you!!

Category : Blog &Personal Growth

Supporting a Healthy Back

 

 

Back pain is common, and while a certain amount of wear and tear is part of life, some mindful maintenance can go a long way in staving off strains and aches.

Everything we do every single day impacts our back health. It basically comes down to posture and body mechanics. It’s so easy to neglect! Here are some helpful reminders:

Sitting. Sitting in the same position for long periods stresses tissues and can diminish blood flow. It’s very important to get up and move around every 30-60 minutes. Set a timer on your phone if you must! When sitting at a desk, make sure both feet are on the floor and your weight is evenly distributed between your hips.

Standing. Think about your alignment: ears, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles should be pretty well lined up and facing forward in a centered, neutral way. Do you put more weight on one side? Do you hold your head forward? Not good. Do you hold your shoulders too high toward your ears? Set an alarm to check yourself a few times a day. Take a deep breath, and deliberately drop your shoulders down and back as you exhale.

Lifting/Carrying. I set myself up for hip trouble by always carrying books, babies, etc. on one hip jutted out supporting all the weight. As much as possible, it’s far better to divide a load (groceries, laundry) into two totes and carry equal amounts on both sides. For things that can’t be divided (babies!), a backpack is best. When lifting, we need to bend at the knees, avoid twisting, and engage our abs to make sure our backs aren’t doing more than their fair share.

Phoning. Tilting our heads forward to see our phone screens places way more pressure on our necks than you might think. It’s far better to raise our arms and hold the phone up closer to eye level. Use voice commands to send texts when possible, and earphones for long conversations. If you’re reading a tablet or a good, old-fashioned book, see if you can prop it up on pillows to avoid looking down for prolonged periods.

What to do when your back does hurt? OF COURSE, I would recommend massage therapy and reflexology to relax tight tissues and improve blood and lymph flow! You can also try:

You can also try:

Ice, to reduce inflammation.

Heat, to relax muscle fibers.

Alternating between heat and ice (up to 20 minutes of one, enough time to let your tissues to get back to normal temperature, then up to 20 minutes of the other; always end with ice at the end of the day).

Gentle exercise. For an acute injury, a day of rest probably is advised. But then it’s important not to rest too much! Walking a little bit if you can comfortably do so keeps blood and lymph flowing, which is important for healing.

Ongoing supportive exercise, such as yoga or Tai Chi enhances balance, flexibility and good posture long term.

Other “alternative” approaches such as acupuncture and chiropractic can help maintain optimal functioning. Physical therapy can target problem areas, and PTs usually give specific exercises to develop strength so strains don’t reoccur.

Cope with stress. Chronic stress causes tension that causes pain. It’s important to do mindfulness “exercises” like deep breathing, meditation, walking outside in nature, and positive self-talk.

Mindfulness is always a good practice. Most injuries are from misuse or overuse. If we stay aware of how we sit, stand, walk, lift, etc., we can avoid a lot of problems. An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure!!

Source: “We’ve Got Your Back,” by Alyssa Shaffer, “Better Homes & Gardens” October 2017.

Category : Blog &Health &Massage Therapy &Reflexology

Happy Thanksgiving!!

“When asked if my cup is half full or half empty, my only response is that I’m thankful I have a cup.”

Thank you for your business, your referrals, your trust in me, your support, and your friendship. I hope you have a peaceful, joyful, healthy Thanksgiving!!

Category : Blog

Learning a New Way to Support Health

 

I had the privilege of taking a continuing education course last weekend on “The Hidden Messengers”—silent, behind-the-scene centers of energy that work together to keep our bodies balanced and functioning optimally.

In our western understanding of anatomy, we talk about our endocrine system—those glands (think pituitary, thyroid, adrenal, etc.) that produce hormones to regulate our sleep, appetite, stress responses, sex drive and more.

In ancient Indian practice, energy centers called “chakras” closely parallel the endocrine glands. Each chakra is aligned with a nerve plexus (a bundle or network of nerves) that is responsible for a specific area of the body. So while some in our culture might think chakras are too “woo woo” to be seriously considered, there’s actually a lot of overlap with western scientific models of medicine.

Our class also covered a principal of traditional Chinese medicine: that each of us is most strongly governed by one of the five elements of nature (water, earth, fire, wood or metal), and that these elements influence our health including, you guessed it—the health of our endocrine glands.

When any of these systems—endocrine, chakra or elements—is out of balance, our health can suffer. It can change our behavior and attitude as well. And/or, our behavior and attitude can change the balance of these systems!

Whichever way you prefer to think about it, reflexology is a very effective way to restore homeostasis—or balance of our internal environment—and improve the healthy function of all of these systems. As we make contact with each reflex point in the foot or hand, we activate the nervous system and communicate to all the parts of the body. Everything benefits, whether it’s hormonally, energetically, mentally or all of the above!

Category : Blog &Massage Therapy &Reflexology

Five Ways to Thrive Each Day

 

 

More and more workplaces are emphasizing healthy habits for their employees. It makes sense, because workers are happier and also more productive.

While these tips originally were written with worker bees in mind, I think they’re great tips for all of us to employ wherever we are.

Take fun breaks. Google offers on-site kickboxing, swimming pools, and a slide to shortcut getting from one floor to another. Zappos has wellness coordinators who randomly pull people away from their desks to jump on a trampoline, play laser tag, or take a quick golf lesson. They even have Recess Tuesdays. What fun could you have in order to energize yourself once a day or once a week?
Stand up! Many doctors recommend adjustable desks and “standing stations” to take a break from sitting all day. Treadmill desks may be even better. Chick-fil-A has treadmill desk rooms where people sign up for time and go in with their laptops to walk while they work. We can take a cue and stand up and even walk during phone calls. What else could you do to mix up your position throughout the day?

Catch some Zzzzs. Bosses used to frown upon falling asleep at your desk, but studies are showing that people are actually MORE productive if they take a quick power nap (20 minutes is optimal). Some hipper companies including Capital One now offer sleep nooks, nap pods and relaxation/meditation rooms. Do you allow yourself some down time if you start to feel super sleepy during the day? Your body is trying to tell you what it needs!

Reduce sensory overload. Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute recommends improving the physical comfort of the workspace with regards to factors such as noise, air quality, lighting, and basic office ergonomics. When we are uncomfortable, it increases stress, weakens physical and mental health, and lowers our productivity. How is your work environment? Your home? Your car?

Go green. Indoor plants purify the air and can have a calming effect. Some easy-to-grow choices include spider plants and philodendrons.

Do you have other ideas for reducing stress, boosting energy or increasing productivity?

Source: “5 Ways to Thrive at Work,” by Nicola Bridges, PARADE Magazine, Sunday, November 5, 2017

 

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Category : Blog &Health

Gratitude Is Good for Us

 

We all know that saying “thank you” is good manners. But did you know that being truly grateful is actually good for your health?

Needing to give thanks and be thanked is as vital to us as needing to be respected and feeling connected to others. In fact, gratitude helps build community, experts believe, because when we appreciate the goodness we receive, we feel compelled to give back.

Establishing an actual gratitude ritual improves our outlook and even our physical health in numerous ways:

We feel happier. Robert Emmons is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, and is a pioneer in the field of gratitude research. In one of his studies, subjects who wrote down one thing they were grateful for every day for just three weeks reported being 25% happier for six full months afterward. In another study, people who wrote thank-you letters to someone who had done something important for them (but were never properly thanked) reported significantly decreased symptoms of depression for as long as a month later.

We enjoy better health. A gratitude practice has been linked to improved kidney function, reduced blood pressure, a drop in stress hormone levels, and a stronger heart. This is likely because when we truly appreciate our health, we take better care of ourselves. Grateful people avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, exercise an average of 33% more, and sleep an extra 30 minutes per night.

We have more energy. In Emmons’s gratitude journal studies, participants who regularly wrote down things they felt thankful for consistently reported feeling increased vitality. (Control subjects who kept a general diary enjoyed no such increase.) No solid conclusion was reached as to why this is, but it may have to do with their increased physical health. When we feel better, we have more energy. I personally think our mental state has as much to do with it as physical health. It’s very common for people with depression to feel lethargic. On the other hand, being in a great mood is very energizing!

We’re more resilient. When we consistently appreciate kindness and the good things around us, we rewire our brains to seek out the positive in any situation, even dire ones. That makes us better at recovering from loss or trauma. “A grateful stance toward life is relatively immune to both fortune and misfortune,” Emmons says. We truly count our blessings instead of only seeing the negatives.
We are nicer. When someone expresses appreciation, the recipient experiences a surge of dopamine. When we feel good about doing good, it makes us want to do more good! So when we thank a loved one, a neighbor or a coworker, he or she feels grateful in return, and the back and forth continues. We almost can’t help but pay gratitude forward!

We improve relationships. Similarly, a large study showed that people in a partnership who felt appreciated were more likely to appreciate their partner in return, and enjoyed longer lasting relationships. If we are grateful for the things that are going well, we are calmer and less likely to fly into fight-or-flight mode when something challenging comes up. We can’t be thankful and resentful at the same time.

How to Journal

One of the best ways to experience the rewards of being grateful is to write a gratitude journal. Emmons says that recording our thoughts, whether by hand or electronically, helps us focus on them. That which we focus on grows. Here’s how to grow the goodness of gratitude:

Create a journal that’s specifically for reflecting on gratitude. Have a special notebook or a separate file/document on your computer.
Write consistently. It doesn’t have to be every day, but it does need to be at least once or twice a week.

Be a little deep. A simple list of nice thoughts is not very inspiring, and those types of journals are easy to abandon. Give some thought to what you truly appreciate, write a bit about it and really savor it.

Write freely. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling. This is just for you to express your appreciation.

Think about others. This is an opportunity to think about nice things other people have done to support us. Emmons says, “It’s not all about us. This may be the most important lesson about trying to become more grateful.”

My challenge to you (and myself!) is this: in the spirit of Thanksgiving, let’s start a gratitude journal. I intend to write a little each day between now and Thanksgiving (November 23) about people’s kindness and life’s gifts that I’m truly grateful for.

It doesn’t have to be much—just a sentence or two each day unless you feel particularly inspired on a day when you have more time. Are you up for it? I know it’s a busy time of year, but the benefits are many. And then we’ll have even more to be grateful for!

“Talking about our problems is our greatest addiction. Break the habit. Talk about your joys.” —Rita Schiano

Source: “What Gratitude Can Do for You,” by Louisa Kamps, in TIME Special Edition: “Mindfulness: The New Science of Health and Happiness”

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Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth