Health

R-E-L-A-X Some More!

 

Last week I shared 15+ ideas on how to relax almost anywhere in just a few minutes. Here are 15 more. Feel free to combine things! For example, if you need to talk and you feel like you want to move your body, invite a friend to walk and stretch with you. Try listening to soothing music while you sip a cup of tea—sitting outside if it’s nice! Sometimes we just need to give ourselves permission to make self-care a priority. Ready? Here are some worthwhile ideas:

Try a relaxation exercise. Take some deep breaths. Imagine that as you exhale, you are releasing negativity, baggage—anything you no longer wish to carry within you. You allow it to drain out of you, into the earth, where it will sink down to the core and be safely burned away. There are apps you can download with other guided visualizations.

Daydream. Allow yourself a moment to think of something that makes you feel happy. It could be meeting your idol! Or, remember a perfect moment in time and allow yourself to feel that contentment. Or, think of something you are looking forward to (exciting!) or someone you can’t wait to see (joy!). Instant mood booster.

If you like to travel, start planning your next trip.

Listen to music. Mellow music is great if you like it. Anything upbeat that makes you smile will work! Dance around a little bit if you need to discharge some negativity.

Roll a golf ball around under the bottom of your feet. And/or, scrunch and release your toes.

Brush your hair. Or give your scalp a little massage.

Squeeze a stress ball. Or putty. Or punch a pillow if you need to.

Organize something. If your desk or messy sink is bugging you, take a minute and tidy up. You’ll feel better and more in control.

Laugh. Have a joke book handy, or watch a short, funny video. Have you ever been in a “train” of people lying on their backs with each one’s head on someone else’s belly? Pretty soon one person starts laughing, and it makes someone else’s head bob, and they start laughing, etc. Even fake laughter can get real laughter started!

Write it down. Just the act of writing “I feel STRESSED” can dissipate the emotion’s intensity. You could journal, stream-of-consciousness style without editing yourself, to let it all out. And when you’re ready, you might also write down 3 things that went well in the last 24 hours, or one thing you feel grateful for each day. Keep things in perspective.

Work on a puzzle. A few minutes with a crossword or sudoku or jigsaw might help your mind shift and relax. Or doodle, or draw.

Read—something for fun! Not news or current events.

Cuddle with a pet. People are great, but there’s just something about a furry friend. They love us unconditionally, and they truly live in the moment. Petting them can actually lower our blood pressure.

Talk to a friend. Sometimes we need to vent, or we may need help changing the subject.

Do something nice for someone else. Reaching out, interacting, fostering kindness feels wonderful.

Be kind to yourself.

Practice self-compassion.

Do something just for fun.

Be silly.

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

R-E-L-A-X

 

Recently I was asked to give a brief talk on how to relax to a civic group that is feeling very stressed about current events and political developments. I figured the last thing anybody needs is pressure to add lengthy, complicated tasks to their to-do lists! So I came up with 30+ things that we can do in minutes from almost anywhere.

I’ll share half this week, and half next week. Some are geared toward breaking tension in a moment of anger or frustration. Others deal with more long-term, chronic feelings of being generally “stressed out.” Enjoy, let me know if you have any questions, or if you have another strategy that works well for you!

Breathe. This is the simplest and most effective thing we can do. Take a deep breath in, hold for a second, let a longer breath out. Exhaling engages the part of the nervous systems that calms and slows things down.

Step outside. Fresh air, sun, natural beauty—a change in perspective. Get out of your head! If you can’t get outdoors, look out a window—one with a nice view.

Go for a walk. If you can take a quick walk outside, even better. Or walk around indoors—get blood and lymph flowing, and change your focus for a moment.

If you feel especially aggravated, run in place for a minute. Or do some jumping jacks. Or jump rope!

Stretch. Reach up, breathe deep. Make gentle circles with your neck, shoulders, arms, hips—whatever you can comfortably manage.

Don’t make pain.

Do a few yoga poses if you know them. If you don’t know any, try this one: lie with your butt close to a wall, and put your legs straight up the wall. Rest your heels on the wall, and let it support the weight of your legs. Just lie there and breathe for as long as you like. It’s amazing how good this feels!

Try progressive relaxation. Start at one end of your body and purposely squeeze muscles in one body part at a time; then very deliberately release all that tension. Move on to the next part and slowly contract and release everywhere until you’re more completely relaxed all over.

Give yourself reflexology/massage your hand. Press around in the fleshy part between your thumb and index finger. “Thumb walk” down toward the base of the thumb. When you find a point that’s tender or sensitive, hold comfortable pressure and take a few deep breaths. And/or pull on and massage your outer ears.

Chew gum. It’s centering and can be calming for the brain.

Splash some water on your face. Rinsing your face is calming to the vagus nerve, a cranial nerve that is involved in calming internal operating systems down.

Enjoy some aromatherapy. Lavender, chamomile, and fruity/citrus (orange, lemongrass, bergamot, neroli) are good essential oils to use, or something warming and earthy like frankincense. Use what YOU like! Put a drop on a tissue and smell it; don’t put it directly on your skin.

Sniff some favorite flowers or herbs or citrus fruit if you don’t have essential oils handy. Peel an orange or a tangerine and enjoy the freshness!

Sip something soothing. Green tea is said to contain L-Theanine, a chemical that helps relieve anger. But it can also contain caffeine, and that is not so relaxing. An herbal tea might be better. Or warm milk. Hot cocoa might be ok, but we don’t want to overdo sugar—it can make us more irritable!

Take a warm bath. Add bubbles or Epsom salts if you like.

Meditate. Take 5 minutes to sit or lie down quietly and focus on your breath. Free apps offer short guided meditations that are easy to follow.

More ideas next week. Be well!!

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Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth &Reflexology

Why Do We Sleep?

 

Would it surprise you to know that our bodies and minds are just as active when we sleep as they are when we’re awake—maybe even more so? We’re not aware of it because we’re asleep, but critically important things happen in this “second state.”

The website howsleepworks.com states, “Sleep appears to be an essential physiological process for humans and for most other animals. When deprived of sleep, we function less effectively, feel tired and irritable, make more mistakes, are less creative and, if taken to extremes, ultimately die. In the same way, as a feeling of hunger reminds us of the basic human need to eat, a feeling of sleepiness reminds us of our essential need to sleep.”

Here’s a partial list of what we do when we’re asleep:

We shift into “rest and repair” mode. Our central nervous system has an autonomic mode that takes care of the internal processes that keep us alive. In our waking hours, we are largely in “fight or flight” mode, aware of potential threats to our wellbeing and worn down by daily stressors. During sleep, our bodies can focus on stabilization and maintenance: repairing and renewing tissues and nerve cells, neutralizing toxins, and restoring normal levels of chemicals throughout our bodies.

Wounds heal. Laboratory rats deprived of sleep show inferior healing capability, develop skin lesions, lose body mass, and struggle to maintain their body temperature, ultimately dying of sepsis or “exhaustion.” In humans, sleep is now associated with increased levels of growth hormones that contribute to tissue repair and regeneration (healing small muscle tears, for example).

The immune system gets a boost. It’s actually sage advice when folks tell us to get lots of rest when we’re sick or injured. Sleep-deprived rats had substantially fewer leukocytes—the while blood cells that help fight infection. Sleep deprived humans had less than half of the protective antibodies after receiving an inoculation as compared to people who had a healthy amount of sleep.

Brain power increases. Sleep is credited with increasing our brain plasticity—our ability to change and reorganize neural networks. REM sleep is so important, that when babies don’t get enough of it, it leads to developmental abnormalities later in life. During REM, we experience muscle “atonia,” a temporary paralysis of our muscles. It’s believed that this allows our brains to form new synaptic connections without risk of hurting ourselves by accidentally moving the wrong way. In other words, sleep allows conscious thought and motor activity to take a break so that the brain can work on other important functions.

Information is sorted and stored. Experts have long believed that new neural connections are made in the brain during sleep when external stimuli are minimal and no new information is being taken in. New research supports that during sleep, we convert short-term memories into long-term ones, and we re-consolidate long-term memories. Different kinds of sleep facilitate specific types of memories: visual memories vs. motor learning, emotionally neutral vs. emotionally charged memories, “declarative” memory (facts and events) vs. “procedural” memory (how to do things). This would explain why we have different sleep stages!

Brain power is boosted. Sleep seems to have a great impact on higher-level cognitive functions such as reasoning and decision-making. Getting enough sleep primes us for learning, “encoding” new memories more efficiently. When we learn something new, we perform the new task much better the next day after a good night’s sleep. By contrast, sleep deprivation leads to poor judgment, more accidents, and injuries.

Our brains clean house. There is evidence that during sleep, we “weed out” unnecessary and redundant memories and information, dumping information overload and keeping and sorting the important stuff.

Our mood improves. By contrast, sleep deprivation increases emotions like rage, fear, and depression. Sleep, especially dreams, facilitates creativity, flexible reasoning, and higher levels of understanding and knowledge.

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Category : Blog &Health &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

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

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

On Being Spontaneous

 

Here in St. Augustine, autumn weather has finally arrived. Refreshing cooler, drier air gives us a much-needed break from the uncomfortable sticky heat of summer.

One day on Facebook, a friend remarked how absolutely gorgeous it was outside, and encouraged everyone to get out and enjoy. A friend of hers replied “I would, but no time. On my way to yoga!”

That same day, another friend posted a photo of her adorable cat curled up on her lap, and asked, “how can I possibly leave to go work out?”

I was struck with a “Seize the Day!” reaction. Maybe you don’t have to leave to workout right this minute, I thought. Maybe if a pet or a loved one is offering us a moment of perfect, genuine affection, we could just allow ourselves the time to take it in with appreciation.

Maybe instead of rushing to an indoor yoga class, on a particularly beautiful day we could go for a nice walk and do some gentle stretching afterward at home. Or do our own impromptu yoga routine outdoors!

I mean, I understand the importance of setting goals and being disciplined. If you’re committed to a yoga practice or workout routine, I’m not suggesting that you consistently blow it off to indulge in whimsical pursuits.

But don’t we all say life is short, and it’s the small, quality moments that count? Can we allow ourselves a little flexibility to be human BEings instead of human “doings”?

My Seize the Day attitude was put to the test about two days later. I was exercising on my garage elliptical, enjoying a pretty good workout thanks to the cooler temperatures. I spied a neighbor across the street who is only in town part of the time. I had a little thank you gift for him, and I hadn’t been able to connect to give it to him in an embarrassingly long time.

He was outside starting to put a piece of furniture together. Then his partner drove up. Now I had a chance to deliver the gift and say hi to both of them! But I didn’t want to interrupt my great workout. Besides, I had a full day planned, and I would have to “ruin” my perfectly ordered schedule if I interrupted myself to go across the street.

Could I be that spontaneous?

I decided yes. If I would advise others to enjoy the small moments that life presents to us, then I needed to be flexible enough to do the same. I paused the elliptical, ran inside and got the gift, and went over and enjoyed a wonderful, short visit with my neighbors. It was actually perfect timing, as they had questions about hurricane damage and roof repair options.

I was able to modify my schedule easily. I completed my workout with a happy heart and rearranged my day a little to accommodate the slightly later finish time.

This is just a small, somewhat silly example of creating time to experience joy. The point is, I always have a to-do list. I often feel anxiety about getting everything done to the best of my ability in the time I have available to me. I feel like I can’t relax and be happy until later, after a sufficient number of items is checked off my list. And that IS silly.

It’s a beautiful day. Whether you’re doing something on your list or modifying your list to allow for spontaneity—I hope you, and I will appreciate the beautiful moments we have in this day.

 

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Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth