Sunday, December 29, 2013

Multi-Vitamin Reports and Studies are Multi-Limited

I don't know who I should be frustrated with - the authors of these recent multi-vitamin studies or the media reporting.  Maybe both.  I am not saying we should or we shouldn't take vitamins.  I just would like the information to be clear, fair, and balanced.  In this case, with both studies, the reports are none of the above.  Not only that, but the study printed in the Annals of Internal Medicine is titled: "Enough is Enough:  Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements."  Wow!  That is a pretty extreme title.  The research they gathered must be strong!  Not so.

First off, the studies are focused on multi-vitamins.  A multi-vitamin is a very different kind of vitamin and/or mineral than taking specific vitamins, minerals, and supplements on their own.  For example, it is not necessary for anyone to take iron, a mineral, unless specifically diagnosed as deficient.  So, a multi-vitamin might provide what is NOT needed and could actually be more harm than good.  Same is true with beta-carotenes found in some multi-vitamins.  That is a waste of money.

Typically, those of us diagnosed as deficient in any area - calcium, Vitamin D, iron, etc. are prescribed or told to take that supplement alone with a certain measurement of IUs  (International Units) or grams (g. or milli- mg, etc.).  Try to find that measure in a multi-vitamin and you could be short-changed.  Best to buy what you need in it's pure form, void of other vitamins and minerals. In addition, as the studies do indicate, we can metabolize only certain amounts of substances in a particular amount of time.  The rest, well, it gets literally flushed.  So, buying smaller amounts of exactly what you need and taking twice a day will allow the body to get what it needs and stop you from flushing away your money.

You can do the math on this.  Many authors write about how many mgs or IUs the body can handle and how much to take at any one time.  Creating a blanket statement of waste is just short-changing the public's ability to handle good information.  It is true, however, that the general amounts allocated in a multi-vitamin are going to create waste.  Some vitamins and minerals are water soluble - they come out in the urine, if not absorbed and used.  Others are fat soluble and can become toxic in the wrong dosage.  Multi-vitamins make this tricky, because everything is lumped together in one pill.  So, it might be that taking things separately, as needed, in amounts that work for your size and lifestyle, is the best bet for the money.

The reason I would not take a multi once I reached adulthood (I did love those Flintstones vitamins as a kid), is that I knew some did not get along well and others get along really well.  For example, take iron with vitamin C helps make them available to the system.  Don't take Vitamin C with zinc, etc.  What's right and what's wrong?  What goes together and what doesn't?  I just decided to do my research, look at what might be deficient in my diet or during particular times of the year, what I'd like to increase and take those individual vitamins and minerals with some intentionality.  It is clearly more complicated than just wadding all the vitamins and minerals up into one and taking that horse pill each and every morning.

How can these researchers say with clarity that all supplementation is a waste of money when the studies were based on one vitamin brand and only a multi-vitamin?  Some argue that the brand was a low-potency brand and the results wouldn't be strong with such a poor quality multi-vitamin.  In addition, there are multiple studies that show specific vitamins are beneficial.  The vitamins B-12 and B-6 are shown to be beneficial, but in this multi-vitamin there wasn't the same beneficial amount as in previous studies.  Other studies show vitamin E is beneficial - in its gamma tocopheral format.  Well, a multi-vitamin can't hold gamma tocopheral well, so the vitamin usually contains alpha tocopheral which is not beneficial to cardiovascular health.  This is complicated!  Making a big statement like that title - Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements, is just plain irresponsible.

The second problem I have with the studies is they are reporting and studying disease prevention rather than healthy lifestyle.  Most people taking vitamins and minerals hope there is some preventative benefit in the long term, but in the short term they are doing something healthy for themselves. Making life -body and mind - better.  Do vitamin and mineral supplements make life on an everyday basis better?  Do we have more energy?  Do we feel happier?  I don't want to live a life where all I do is prevent disease.  I want to live a life that is active and happy, a life in which everyday is enjoyable.  It's not all about disease - it might be that vitamins and minerals make life better!  Where's that study?  Did researchers include that in their I am wasting money assumption?

My biggest peeve about the reports is that no one is saying that the first study was done only on men.  It was!  I thought we were past this ridiculousness in the medical field when we discovered that women have very different kinds of heart disease, stroke and age-related decline than men do, so we'd better start doing studies on both sexes in order to have good information.  I don't know if this is good information for me, because I am a woman and the study was done only with men.  Not to mention the men were older - they were taking Centrum Silver.  May or may not be applicable to for sure 53% of the population, not to mention all those under 50, male or female.

Finally, the studies were only  about cognitive decline (the first one reported which was the all-male study) and heart disease (the second, with unknown percentages of males to females and age levels on this one).  What if mult-vitamins are good for cancer prevention?  Awwwww shucks, we threw them all out, because you told us to!  Classic throw the baby out with the bath water!

Here's the best true statement that can be made, in my opinion: If you are taking your multi-vitamin only to prevent cognitive decline and you are male and around 50 or older, then ok, throw it out.  If you are taking your multi-vitamin to prevent heart disease alone, then you might be on the right track in chucking your multi as well, it might not be doing much good.  However, there was NO evidence that it was doing harm.  In fact there was insignificant evidence that small improvements were present.  For everybody else, the evidence is just not there....yet.  Educate yourself, make decisions based on you as an individual, your health history, your family's health history, and your current lifestyle (which includes what you eat and drink).  This is up to you.  Research is biased and the media just up for a good hype on a very extreme title to a very poorly executed study and research article.

I, personally, change my supplementation periodically.  I take B-12 regularly, because I am vegetarian and nearly vegan.  I take Omega-3 supplements sometimes, but not regularly.  In the winter, I take some zinc, vitamin D and magnesium for the immune system and the lack of sun exposure.  I look at my lifestyle, my needs, my current health, my age, all of it.  Sometimes, a lot of the time, I take no supplements. I don't need them or I can't afford them.  All of this is important, so please educate yourself and take yourself into account, then do what's best for you.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Harvest Time

It's the harvest moon, so named for it's temporal location on the calendar - when the harvest in many areas is most plentiful.  Brings the Neil Young song, Harvest Moon, to mind.....  I digress.  Yes, there are plenty of local harvested delights available now.  Maybe some from your own garden?  We all understand the process, in spring or late winter, we plant a seed or a root or a seedling. We then tend it all spring and summer with watering, weeding, and fertilizing.  There will, after an appropriate time for this plant, be fruit - perhaps the true fruit of the tomato, maybe the root of a carrot, the seed pods of the string bean, or the leaves of the kale plant.  What we sow, we reap, as the old saying goes.

But this progression also plays out throughout life.  When I began my days in the mental health profession, I worked exclusively with women.  Women who were addicted to substances, diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder or other anxiety/depressive disorders, and mandated to be in treatment for these conditions.  Not a great scenario for success.  After my 3rd year or so, I found myself disheartened as I saw women returning who had previously completed or quit treatment.  It was a cycle with very few actually getting themselves out.  I still can count on my 2 hands the number of women who went through that program in 8 years and did so successfully.  The rest are still struggling and some are gone from this earth.

Geez, I began to think, how do I continue to have any motivation or hope for what I am trying to help these women do?  At that same time, I saw something and I read something, can't tell you what either was, because I don't remember, but I know they both sent the message - plant the seeds, water, fertilize, do what you can to tend, but that is the extent of my responsibility.  All I can do for others is tend to what is positive and healthy in their gardens and stop tending to the negative.  The true work of the garden within is then theirs to do.

For one's self the analogy plays out well and is now backed up by science.  Neuro-science is now proving that what you tend in the garden of your mind gets stronger and grows.  This means that what you spend time on is what your brain becomes best at doing.  Spend time complaining?  The brain gets good at complaining.  Spend time practicing the piano?  The brain gets better and better.  Spend time looking around at the greatness and wonder of life?  The brain sees more and more of that.  What we sow, what we tend, we reap.

Start paying attention to what you are planting in your life.  If you want happiness, stop looking for all that sucks in the world, stop complaining, stop playing the victim and start looking for happiness, start feeling grateful for small things, start being a survivor.  If you want peace, cultivate peace through meditation or prayer.  Decide what it is you want to harvest, plant it, and tend it.  Catch yourself tending the weeds and the poisonous plants and stop.  This might take some time.  It's a habit the brain has grown used to.  We might unconsciously find ourselves out there in the weed patch and need to pull back.  Every time you switch from behaviors and thoughts you don't want to those you do want, you are tending your new garden and in time, it will grow stronger and you will reap your intended harvest.

Happy harvest!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Stress! Be in Control.

Let's start off by looking at a simplistic version of what happens when you face stress. The nervous system which I will separate into 2 parts - the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic is made up of the brain, spinal cord and nerves which are all communicating with the body via neurotransmitters, bio-chemicals, essentially what I will from now on call hormones. 

The sympathetic nervous system is the first responder: The brain decides there’s a danger, it sends nerve signals down your spinal cord to your adrenal glands and they release the hormone adrenaline. Adrenaline increases the amount of sugar in your blood, increases your heart rate, raises your blood pressure, causes you to sweat, and increases muscle tension – getting you ready for fight or flight.  Signals are also sent to your pituitary gland, telling it to release hormones that within a few minutes have traveled through your blood stream and stimulated your adrenal cortex to produce a stress hormone called cortisol.  This process also shuts down unnecessary systems such as digestion, reproduction, immune protection, and cognitive (rational thinking) processes.  These systems are unnecessary in the immediate presence of danger.  Problem is, we perceive life’s stressors as continual and our nervous system is unable to regulate itself properly and turn these systems back on to ideal levels of functioning.

The parasympathetic nervous system is the adjusterthis is what we have to learn to control and in controlling it, we get the systems of long term survival (digestion, etc.) turned back on to normal, healthy functioning and get the muscles, blood pressure and that fight or flight response back to a normal level.  The parasympathetic is meant to adjust the initial stress reaction to an appropriate level once it's no longer needed.  At bedtime, the brain should be telling the parasympathetic that all is well and we can sleep now.  Instead, we are still fuming about the incident at work, or worrying about the next day's schedule.  The parasympathetic doesn't know what's real and what's perceived danger, so the stress response continues.

So, how do we communicate better with the parasympathetic nervous system?  It's not that hard really, but you have to actually DO it - regularly and maybe, probably, every single day.

·        Breathwork - Breathing is a process you have to do and yet you pretty easily can have some control over. Deep breathing stimulates the relaxation response, triggering the parasympathetic nervous system.  Belly breathing:  Breathe so far into the lungs that the diaphragm drops into the belly, expanding it.  If you place your hand on your belly, it moves outward as the belly expands.  Full yogic breath:  Belly breath + breathing all the way up to the collar bones. After breathing into the belly keep inhaling, feel the rib cage lifting up and then expanding outward toward the insides of the arms as the breath fills the lungs.

      Visualization – Learn to control the mind with visions of calming places and/or memories.  It's easy to think about how worried we are about something, how we dread the stress of the work day, the irritating drive through rush hour traffic, etc.  This thinking is what causes the stress reaction in the first place.  So, why don't we then think about the beauty of the sunrise, the calm color of the sky, the peaceful sound of a favorite song?  Taking your mind to a calm place should be the automatic opposite reaction to stress.  And yet, it isn't.  The mind doesn't know the difference between the real thing and a vision or memory.  Sports psychology has used this method for years.  Before a race, skiers visualize the slope they have only practiced on 5-6 times.  Going over the activity in the brain, makes the brain better at it. Visualize calm and peace and train your brain toward calm and peace!

Meditation – Meditation is like weight lifting - it teaches the brain to focus and teaches it to ignore distractions, so it gets stronger.  If I want to make my bicep stronger, I do bicep curls.  And yet, we don't do exercises to strengthen the brain!  What the brain spends the most time on, it gets good at doing.  Thinking over and over about stressful situations, makes the brain really good at stress.  Meditating allows us to control what the brain pays attention to and makes it stronger at thinking about what we choose.  A simple meditation technique is mindfulness.  Mindful breathing is simply focusing on the breath.  Any other task such as cleaning, driving, playing, walking, etc. can also be mindful meditations.

Relaxation – We often think that flopping on the couch in front of the TV with a bowl of chips and a beer is relaxation.  But, it isn't usually.  Because what we watch is often stressful - the news, crime dramas, etc. tension continues to exist in the body.  In addition, we are putting stressful substances into the body.  Learning to identify when tension is present in the body and letting it go, is true relaxation and is the response the body and the mind need to make sure we've turned stress off. 

Yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong, etc. – Conscious/aware movements that combine breathing, movement, relaxation, and focus and teach the body and mind to function in a state of ease.  These activities require the mind and body to connect through movement which makes for a meditative state.  Many other forms of exercise can do this as well, but only if done so mindfully.  If running with an iPod is your normal way to go, you are not being conscious and aware of the exercise.  The benefits will not be the same. In most, but not all, Yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong, etc. classes teaching how to breathe and when is part of the class, as is relaxation.  There is also a certain focusing of the mind for many of the movements.  This combination teaches the mind and body to work together in a state of ease sometimes known as flow.

      Start training your nervous system away from the stress response and reap the benefits in improved physical and mental health!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Theme of Perfection

There's a theme in my office - client after client after client comes in with a mentality of perfectionism which then equates to an all or nothing pattern of thinking and being.  There's a spectrum here that goes from controlling certain aspects of one's environment to obsessive-compulsive disorders.  Most of us are somewhere in the middle or toward the controlling side of the spectrum, but others are more severe.  In addition, many suffer with anxiety, depression, and addiction due to this mentality. What's going on and what can be done about it?

There's an aspect of control in each case of perfectionism.  A client seeks to control outcomes, to control the external environment, and even to control the behavior and thoughts of other people.  We can all see how this is not going to end well and yet I bet each of us can admit to doing this in some or many life situations.  Logically, realistically, we know we can't have this level of control and yet, we keep trying.  Likely, this comes from some childhood experience/s of trying to please others, or create calm in a home full of chaos, or some traumatic event or recurring events.

There's something commonplace about this - many of us do it with some aspects of our lives.  Not usually a big deal.  However, it's a debilitating problem for others.  Nothing is ever good enough.  Many of my clients fail to meet their own expectations on a daily basis.  Every mistake, every failure, every misstep becomes a tragedy of shame and blame and often overwhelming perceptions of failure.  "Why am I like this?!" I hear. Successes are ignored, seen as a fluke, and/or chalked up to some external source.  They may think the same way about other people - behaving judgmentally, criticizing, and creating anger and impatience with every personal interaction. 

What this might look like for some is a daily existence of overwhelming anxiety - days full of tasks that need to be done just right.  The anxiety of fulfilling expectations is too much to face each day. The result of which might be substance abuse, over-eating, other addictions such as sex or shopping, depression and more.  Each person chooses coping mechanisms and many of them aren't particularly healthy.

For others, it looks like anger, rage, and frustration.  Someone working to the point of frustration going over and over a task, nit picking over every detail, over-thinking every aspect of a task.  This often coincides with an over-critical look at other people - no one is ever good enough, no task ever done the way it should be by others and a need to do things over.  Every day just becomes tedious and frustrating.  Some days they just give up, completely overwhelmed or turn to unhealthy and sometimes dangerous coping mechanisms.

It may also look a bit like obsessive-compulsive disorder or what was once commonly known as being "type A."  True obsessive-compulsive disorder doesn't just involve thinking obsessively, but also involves a need to do something compulsively with repetition in order to relieve the anxiety. What I am referring to here with perfectionism is a need to get something done so it looks or seems a certain way - trying to control the outcome, to create a level of pride or validation to the point of obsession.  Unfortunately, nothing ever seems to be enough.  What looks to others as success, to this type of person is still not right.  Life is a struggle toward a constantly shifting goal.  And, again, it leads to poor coping skills.

This almost always turns into "all or nothing" thinking and behaving.  The person with overwhelming anxiety gets up and gets going and has a great day one day and the next is so overcome with anxiety, that she can't leave the house. So it goes back and forth, up and down.  Exhausting!  The person working to the point of frustration, works too hard and then parties too hard.  The ups and downs of this lifestyle become unsustainable.  The obsessive-like person lives unsatisfied, trying to find that place where all will be as he sees it in his mind and anything but that ideal is equal to nothing.  They have their perception of "all" and anything less is the same as nothing - no balance, no in between, no exceptions.

So what is the solution?  No one solution can fit all, but to start, finding a sense of balance is necessary.  The extremes of life are always incredibly difficult.  Being the best at anything can be just as hard as being the worst (ask successful musicians, athletes, etc.).  The extreme ends of the spectrum are too difficult to manage.  So, balance is needed.  Find somewhere in between with some variation up and down from that in-between state.  Talking to one's self about accepting balance, about letting go of perfection will be needed to train the brain away from the all or nothing mentality.  Clients come to me unwilling to accept that this is true, but gradually, I help them to see that they are ruining their lives and their relationships by being perfectionistic in their thinking.  All or nothing thinking, does not lead to"all", it leads to "nothing", to failure, to addiction, to unhappiness, and more......

Another way to change our thinking is in the science. Success= learning from mistakes and from experience.  It's proven by science and studies on human behavior that we learn more from mistakes than we do from success.  If we can just take each mistake, each failure and look at it as a learning opportunity, we'd be on our way!  The next time you make a mistake, open yourself to the opportunity rather than condemning yourself as a failure and a screw up.  In that opening, comes the chance to see what's possible, what went wrong, to create new outcomes and better understanding.  Life is like a science experiment.  Try something, it doesn't work, learn from that, try something else.

Finally, shame does not help with learning or growth.  Period.  We learn least from punishment and more from modeling and encouragement.  Study after study since B. F. Skinner's time of in-depth study on human behaviors has shown that to go in a positive direction, create a positive consequence or learning situation.  Shame and embarrassment are meant to be indicators - "hey, this is not ok, this is not right, do it differently!"  Instead, we drag that shame around and repeatedly beat ourselves up with it.  Not helpful, so stop, now.

Breathing and meditation can help with this.  Breathing helps the body relax.  Relaxing the body releases tension and this will help us to work with the mind.  Easing the stress reaction in the body, turns off our simplistic, survivalist brain mechanisms and let's the reasoning faculties be more in charge.  This will then allow us to talk ourselves out of the all or nothing pattern.

Meditation teaches the brain to focus.  It teaches us to control our thoughts.  So, doing the work suggested above can happen, because your brain is ready, willing, and able.  Meditation can literally make us better at thinking!

A combination of the cognitive - thinking- skills suggested above with a meditation and breathing practice each day can turn this perfectionistic thinking around, creating balance and a greater level of success and happiness.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Take a Hike, Go for a Bike!

It's been hot, right?!  Hopefully. wherever you are is now moving into a cooler phase of summer weather once again like it is here in Wisconsin.  So, it is perfect weather for getting outdoors.  Time to find a trail and hike it or bike it.

Hiking always involves an element of nature and that means good health.  "Vitamin N", as enjoying nature is sometimes called, is a bit of a mystery, but the evidence is there.  It's more than your mom turning off the TV and telling you to get outside and get some fresh air.  Our need for nature might be evolutionary.  We might be hard-wired for a deeper connection to the great outdoors simply because we once existed there.  When green spaces are available to people in urban spaces, people are healthier.  Might be that we need exposure to the diverse bacteria available in nature.  Might be that the air is different.  No one knows for sure.  However, it is clear that exposure to nature reduces the risk for obesity, cancer, heart disease, anxiety, and depression. 

Walking in nature versus walking in the city shows greater benefits in regards to stress hormones and general mood alteration.  Walking either way is a mood booster, but the addition of what the Japanese call  "forest bathing" creates even more benefit - blood pressure lowers, heart rate decreases, and immune function improves.  Hiking combines nature, walking, and aerobics (especially if you've got some hills involved).  Add in some mental activity such as identification of plants and birds and it's a pretty well-rounded exercise!

A study of hikers who spent 4 days in nature showed a 50 percent increase in creativity and hour long hikes through an arboretum improved memory and attention span.  Even self-esteem is reported to increase!  Just 15 minutes in nature can have positive effects. 

I was pretty excited to find a blog completely dedicated to biking for transportation.  As someone with a bumper sticker that says "My other car is a bicycle," I love that someone is taking the time to encourage others to use a cleaner/healthier form of transportation.  What I see as the very best benefit to biking is that I get two things done at once - exercise and getting from point A to point B.  I am super excited to see that the number of people biking to work almost doubled in the first decade of this century.  Some of the same benefits I listed above apply here: reduction of stress and mood boosting.  Commuting by bike increases life span, even compared to those who drive as their commute and are then active otherwise.  This came from a study that spanned 14 years.  Reduced rates of diabetes, cancer and cardio-vascular disease were found in yet another study.

Also, biking can be a social event.  There are communities of all levels of bikers out there - biking to social events and enjoying each other's company.  There is the benefit of decreasing pollution.  Be careful, however, choose less polluted routes as far from car fumes as possible.  Some studies have shown that breathing in the exhaust of fellow motorized vehicle commuters is not beneficial!  Having been behind a bus multiple times, I can concur - very unpleasant.

Both of these activities are perfect for summertime.  They can include picnics, stops at the beach or pool, alone time or group/family time, and adventures to new places.  Check your state, county or city parks websites.  Most will have icons for hiking and biking trails available to you.  Get healthy and enjoy life!

Check out places in the Madison, WI area for hiking with me in my blog Making My Way to the Appalachian Trail.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Start Doing What You Deserve This Summer!

How much time do you spend sitting?  Count it all - work time, TV time, driving time, sitting around the dining room table time - ALL of it!  Wow, right?  We spend a heck of a lot of time on our butts.  Then, when we want to relax, we "just want to sit down!"  This might be the least effective way to get what we need and deserve after a long, stressful day.  Some movement or activity might better serve the body and the mind.  Summer is the perfect time to make some changes and feel the way you deserve to feel!

Mayo Clinic says that too much sitting is linked to some pretty serious health concerns.  Now, a link isn't direct causation, but why not pay attention, if you can do something about it and feel great at the same time?  Too much sitting is linked to the risk of cardiovascular disease which makes sense - the heart is a muscle and needs some exercise to be at it's strongest.  Too much sitting increases the risk of cancer.  Not exactly sure why on that one, but some good theories are that sitting decreases the effectiveness of the immune system, increases exposure to hormone and neuro-transmitter combinations that aren't healthy, and/or increases weight around the middle.  In medicine, this new phenomenon addressing the amount of sitting we do is sometimes known as "sitting disease" and is studied as inactivity physiology.

There's a metabolic aspect to all of this sitting that just isn't good for us.  Long periods of sitting, cause slower circulation and less calorie use.  Leg muscles and gluteus muscles work when we stand, so even standing still is better for circulation and calorie use.  Metabolically, the fat burning enzymes turn way down the more we sit.  In addition, those sugars you ingest are not used up.  Then, we are looking at weight gain, diabetes and a general increase in risk factors for heart disease and cancer.

Not to mention our lack of core strength and spinal health that comes with sitting.  Those psoas (a big group of muscles connecting the upper body to the lower body) and hamstring muscles,  are getting weak and in this case they usually tighten up causing back pain and hip pain.  The amount of back and hip pain being reported to doctors has increased 3x in the last decade!

What's needed is not a trip to the gym for a workout 2-3 times a week, but an every day overall increase in movement and decrease in sitting.  Standing, walking, a bit of stretching here and there can go a long way toward changing your health.  How does a 60 minute workout combat the effects of 9-10 hours (for most of more!) of sitting?  It can't.  So, keep your workouts or even increase them, if you can, but also add some breaks from sitting throughout the day.

It's summertime, so this is easy right?!  Take a break regularly from your desk and just walk around the block or the building.  Instead of sending an email to a co-worker, get up and go to his/her desk.  If you have more flexibility in your day, schedule seated tasks for an hour, then switch it up and run some errands, go for a walk with the dog, etc.  Every time you are on the phone, stand up.  You get the picture, right?

When you get home for the evening, instead of relaxing with a cocktail, take a walk, go through the garden and do some light weed pulling, walk across the street and chat with the neighbors, take the dog on a short walk rather than just letting him out into the yard.  How about getting on your bike?  Commute to work, run errands on your bike (some communities have bike benefit programs that give discounts for bikers), or just head out to an outdoor concert or event on your bike.  Go out to see the sunset. Is the moon full?  How about a moonlit walk?  Or, even better a kayak or canoe paddle?

I know this seems counter-intuitive.  In order to relax, I need to just sit, right?  No.  I guarantee, your daily energy and ability to tolerate the stressors of the day will improve!  Your sleep will improve.  Your metabolism will improve.  Your health will improve.  All this improvement will cause you to feel better and look better which is really what you deserve!  You deserve to be happy, energized, active, and to enjoy life.  Getting up and off your butt is one of the best ways to do it!

Friday, May 31, 2013

More on Meditation

OK, so maybe you have decided it's time to try meditation.  Multiple health benefits come from meditation.  Cognitive benefits are plentiful.  And, the joy that becomes possible is hard to resist.

Now that you've decided, what exactly do you do?  Good question.  There are hundreds of ways to meditate and no right or wrong method.  Although, some methods will say there is a right way -their way and always do the same each and every day forever.  I don't follow this way of thinking, perhaps because I am so very aware of how different people can be and in order to get these folks to commit, I want to find a good fit.  Also, different types of meditation can have differing benefits.  We can pick and choose to fit what is needed.  However, there is something to be said of sticking with one type of meditation through thick and thin.  There is a depth of practice, understanding that can be achieved just by suffering through difficult days or days when you are tired of the same practice.  There's the joy of a ritual and knowing what to expect.  So, you decide. You try.  You experiment.  Maybe, like me, you will practice various types of meditation through your lifetime (my practice can vary day to day or week to week).  Or, you will find the practice that best suits you and stick with it.

Here are a few to get you started:
The most basic form of meditation is mindfulness.  This simply means to focus on whatever is in the present.  Mindful breathing is sitting and focusing on the breath.  Mindful eating is focusing on the sights, sounds, smells, and textures involved in eating.  Mindful walking is a slow deliberate pace, focusing the mind on each and every step.  Mindful meditation practices are well studied and researched.  The benefits are many - physical and mental.

My favorite form of meditation is loving-kindness or meta meditation.  There are 4-5 specific phrases involved with meta meditation meant to create a sense of compassion for self and others.  It can be a challenge, because it does involve someone who is difficult for you and it does involve self (sometimes the most challenging person to love!).  However, the benefits are a deep sense of trust, understanding and yes, love for self and for everyone else.  Minor differences and irritations with other people fall away and it gradually helps us to work through major difficulties that we have with others as well.

Mantra meditation involves a specific word, phrase or even a prayer that is repeated either out loud or silently.  It can be chanted as well.  Some meditation teachers give a mantra specific to the student who then uses that for meditation.  However, you can choose whatever fits best and practice on your own.  The mantra does not need to be a Sanskrit word or a Buddhist prayer.  It just needs to be something meaningful to you.

Visualization is a form of meditation using the imagination.  Oftentimes, it follows a general pattern of walking into a tunnel or an elevator which then can transport you somewhere, a garden, safe space, mountaintop, etc.  Once there, the senses take over.  Visually see the space, hear the sounds, feel, taste, etc.  This gets the part of the brain most often involved with the senses engaged.  Then, be purposeful with the rest of the meditation.  If you are working through a problem, bring aspects of the problem to the visualization.  If you are trying to feel a certain feeling like confidence in preparation for a job interview or other performance, that can be brought in.  If you are seeking faith or trust, that can be brought in.  Next time you meditate, the process can be exactly the same or there can be some differences or a completely new visual.

I have only touched on a few here and already you have your work cut out for you.  Start for just 5 minutes, if that's all you can manage.  Set a gentle timer or a piece of quiet flowing music that is about 5 minutes long and sit.  Don't worry, you will have thoughts coming in, sounds interfering, worries rearing their ugly heads.  And, that is what meditation is!  It is the process of learning to focus, of learning to ignore the external and internal disruptions.

Yes, sometimes it is really hard and other times it just flows and seems magical.  In the beginning, mostly it will be hard.  It's like training a muscle.  If I want to bench press 100 lbs., I can't start with the 100, I have to build up to that.  On some days the 20 lbs. is easy and other days it is hard.  Then, I feel ready to move up to 30 lbs.  it just keeps going like this until on most days I try, 100 lbs. feels pretty darn good!  All along the way, the benefits start to become more and more obvious, but they are gradual and they are profound.  Some you will notice and others you won't until the day or 2 when you don't meditate and you know it's serving you really, really well!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Meditation for Your Health

I recently saw the Dalai Lama which, for me, was an inspiring experience on many levels.  However, what strikes me about this visit (the Dalai Lama has been here 9 times) is what I am reading and hearing about the visit.  Yes, this is about Buddhism - he is the spiritual leader of his people after all.  But, it is a lot about science. 

I read in Dr. Richard Davidson's book, The Emotional Life of Your Brain, that the Dalai Lama once asked Dr. Davidson why there are so few scientists studying the positives of how the brain works.  In an article in Madison Magazine, Dr. Davidson says that the Dalai Lama has made it his mission to get involved with scientists.  He knows first hand that his meditation practices and his regular spiritual studies make him a happier, more compassionate man.  He knows from seeing his peers in the practice as well.  He wants science to show the rest of us, so we will join in on this healthy habit.

I have covered much of the benefits to meditation in previous blogs and yet, it seems people aren't really seeing it, believing it, or finding it accessible to them.  Is it some foreign practice that only monks or spiritual types get into?  There are literally hundreds of meditation practices and they can follow any or no religious teaching you prefer.  All it takes is sitting and learning to focus, then quiet the mind for a period of time.  You choose your focus.

One purpose of Dr. Davidson's work is to show that it is not the case that only dedicated hour long practitioners benefit from meditation.  A recent study he did involved folks that have never before meditated.  He looked at their brains before the study practice and after 2 weeks began to see changes.  This is after just 2 weeks of daily 30 minute meditation!  We now KNOW without a doubt that meditation changes your brain.

What else?  A not yet published study will show that meditation changes the expression of your genes!  This is going to revolutionize our medical futures.  The days of Angelina Jolie's double mastectomy might be over.  If we can find out how exactly to change gene expression through meditation in those whose genes show a proclivity toward breast cancer or colon cancer or others....., then the need for such painful, invasive preventative measures becomes completely unnecessary.

If the effects of meditation range from changing the brain to the depths of changing our genes, why not start now?  In June, start my meditation challenge and get in your daily dose of good mental, physical, and spiritual health!

Friday, May 10, 2013

What to Plant?

With limited space and resources we all go through the process of trying to decide what to plant now that the gardening season is upon us.  Inevitably, most novice up to expert gardeners put in tomatoes, whether in pots or gardens.  After that, it seems there are many choices being made.  How do we decide what to plant or what not to plant?

Here's the process I follow:  The number one deciding factor is what I like to eat.  Pretty obvious, of course.  But, it may be more complicated than simply I like it, therefore I shall plant it.  For example, tomatoes freshly grown, picked right off the plant in your own back yard are so much more tasty than anything you will ever buy.  Same with herbs of any kind.  The flavors are unsullied by transportation, washing, or early harvesting.  The freshest of flavors possible!

The second deciding factor goes along with the first.  I like to eat it, but how much of it can I actually plant?  How much room have I got?  If you really love the taste of a nice fresh tomato right off the vine, but you only have room for a plant or 2, then a high yield producing tasty cherry tomato is your best bet.  But, if you are going to make big batches of salsa, you'll need more plants that yield often and take more space.  If you haven't got the space, then it's best to find yourself a good outside source of tasty tomatoes.  Or, maybe you have pots and can put in some tomatoes or even peppers?  Look into the kinds of plants that like pots and be sure to check soil requirements for each.

Next, I go with nutritional value.  I can plant a row of kale and get more nutrients from that row than most others.  Peppers are another super food that is worth the effort.  Consider taste and your nutritional bang for the buck!

The next factor is ease in growing and yield.  I love edamame or soy beans, but have a terrible time growing them, because someone else (someone short and hairy who steals from gardens at night!) eats my plants before I get a chance to harvest.  Tomatoes can be tricky for some of us - blight or fungi take over before we get to enjoy much of our efforts.  I say let someone else do it and find something else to plant in that case.  Green beans are yummy, plentiful and easy to grow.  Same with chard and kale. All three will yield multiple times throughout the season, so once you harvest, the plant produces more - sometimes up to 3 and 4 times!

That then speaks to investment vs. yield cost ratio, another deciding factor.  If I can throw in a seed, and harvest multiple times from the plant that comes up, that's a great ratio!  If, on the other hand, I am buying a plant, then what will make it worthwhile as far as the harvest to cost of plant ratio?  Then, what if the plant dies or doesn't produce much?  What are the chances of me getting my money back and then some?

Let's go back to that outside source.  It could be a farmers market, CSA, or other resource.  I can buy from the local co-op here for less than the same farmer will sell at the farmer's market.  So, oftentimes I watch for a sale and get things I don't grow then.  a good example is garlic.  Now, a lot of people like to plant garlic.  To me, it is a waste of space.  It is easy to buy year 'round, because it stores well.  I can literally buy it for pennies.  It requires some knowledge and some investment as far as when and how to plant, the cloves, the straw or mulch, etc.  To me, not worth the effort.  Potatoes and corn are others.  Very tricky to grow and other farmers are really good at it.  I let them do the work for me.

My final deciding factor is the curb appeal of the plant itself.  I grew Brussels sprouts one year and while those little guys were tasty, the plant was really pretty ugly.  Broccoli is kind of the same to me.  I don't want to look at it.  Herbs and greens and vines are really beautiful and can be part of my landscape with some planning.

I hope this helps you to expand your ideas and your garden planning!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Good For Me, Good for You, Good for the Bottom Line

There is a lot of good research and new information available to us right now telling the benefits of yoga and meditation.  And yes, we often take these kinds of information with a grain of salt, because as it often happens, they change the information.  Remember eggs?  Good for you, not good for you, now they are good for you again.  It gets confusing and irritating to say the least.  What are we supposed to believe or follow?!

One way to know what has something solid behind it is to watch what big business is believing.  Businesses don't part with their pennies very easily, so when they do, it must be something worthwhile   Recently, insurance giant, Aetna made yoga available to all it's employees.  Why?  Because studies find and in particular a Duke University study found that yoga substantially decreases stress levels which, in turn, decreases health care costs.  Aetna wants to avoid the costs of employee absences, so it wants to make sure yoga is easily accessible to its employees.

What exactly is yoga doing to create this increased health?  That's complicated and it should be.  Human beings are complicated -lots of systems at work.  Yoga works with many aspects of being human.  It helps us regulate stress and emotions.  It helps us become aware of how the body's systems are working together (or not), what reactions emotionally and physically are occurring, it teaches us to breathe, it teaches focus, it creates strength and flexibility, it teaches tension release, and so so so much more!  Some of the benefits are obvious, but what growing research is beginning to understand is that the chemicals - hormones and neurotransmitters,  of the body are having a huge effect on our health.  This is where all of the breathing, the centering, the focusing, the awareness, and the relaxing of yoga practices are creating our health benefits.  We are literally able to change the messages the brain sends to the body and the body sends to the brain, in a healthy way.

Sometimes forgotten as a part of the yoga practice is meditation.  In the west, we forget that the purpose of yoga was to enhance the meditation process.  In order to be able to sit and meditate for long periods, one needed physical yoga.  Most often here in the states, yoga classes don't even include a short mindfulness meditation or centering time.  However, as the evidence supporting the benefits of meditation pile up, this will change, I hope.  Meditation improves mental health and physical health and in many ways.  More ways are being discovered on a regular basis now that neuroscience and FMRI machines have gotten into the game.  The benefits of meditation are clarity, focus, creativity, and contentment, to name a few.  These are not just mental benefits, they equate to huge physical benefits as well.

And, these benefits could change big business.  The World Health Organization estimates that stress costs US businesses about 300 billion dollars a year.  I don't want big business and the bottom line to be the impetus behind what we do or don't do, but unfortunately, it seems that the almighty dollar factors in powerfully in this culture.  I'd like to see that this time, our desire to save money and make money  equates to truly more happiness and better health and wellness.  If you haven't incorporated a regular yoga and meditation practice yet, you can't afford not to.  And, if your employer or insurance company isn't making yoga a part of your health and wellness plan, then tell them they can't afford not to either.  The dollar ratio estimated is that for every dollar put in to a program for wellness, the company gets $3 back in productivity, decreased absences, and general employee happiness on the job.

The bottom line here is, why aren't you doing yoga?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Spring Clean Yourself!

The spring equinox is just a day away.  No matter what the weather, are you ready for some spring cleaning?  Yes, it's good to clean up the house, the garage, and the garden, but what about you?!  How about a little self spring clean this year?

There are detoxification plans out there - on the internet, in magazines, at your health club.  Some use a bunch of supplements that are filled with who knows what.  We've got good, healthy food with all the nutrients we need available to us with no expensive pre-packaged powders or pills. Detoxifying is a method of freeing your body and your mind of the things that no longer serve your health and well-being.  The problem is with all of the input our bodies and minds tolerate in a day, it is hard to know which things are no longer serving our health and wellness.  This is why we do the spring clean!

Detoxifying is an excellent way to solve the mysteries of all those symptoms you no longer want to tolerate.  Some of the mysteries you might need to solve:  Why am I so bloated and gassy?  Why can't I sleep?  Why don't I feel full?  Why can't I focus?  Why do I feel so much anxiety each day?  Why am I so irritable?  Why do I always seem to get sick?  Why do my skin/hair/fingernails appear so depleted? Why do I have no energy?  Why do I have trouble going to the bathroom?  Why am I always on a mood swing roller coaster?

When I do a detox my goal is to clear out my system and then notice what changes.  If I give up caffeine does my sleep improve?  If I eliminate sugar do my cravings and mood swings throughout the day decrease?  When I limit my intake of wheat and gluten, do my bloating and digestive issues decrease?  If I stop watching the news does my anxiety go down?  When I journal before bed, does it help me get to sleep?  If I decrease screen time, do I make time for family and feel more connected? This is what we need to know!

So here's what you can do food-wise:  eliminate one food group at a time.  Suspicious characters are - caffeine, sugar, wheat, dairy, soy, trans-fats, artificial colors and flavors (includes sweeteners), and meat.  See what happens when you give up a food group for a week or so.  Make sure it is eliminated by reading food labels.  Or, do a full detoxification week.  With this, you will need a plan.  Check out the WholeLiving detoxification plans or contact someone like me who has experience doing detoxifications and guiding others through them.  The idea is to spend some time clearing everything out and then bring in one thing at a time afterward to see if that one thing is a culprit.  Then, make a plan to decrease or completely eliminate the food that no longer serves your good health - for GOOD!

Do the same with activities and people that are not serving your well-being.  Eliminate or decrease and see what the result is.  Ways to do this are to stop watching or reading the news for a week. Eliminate or decrease any screen time at all for a week.  Reduce the toxic patterns of your thoughts by writing them down and leaving them on the paper.  Meditate, relax, visualize....make space for what you really need in life!

It's like a spring clean of the closet.  You get rid of those old clothes you never wear, organize and make room for what you want.  You don't go hunt down the old stuff and put them back in the closet!  Same with the detox.  Once you discover a food or activity that really isn't making your mind or body feel its best, don't bring it back in!  Or, at least, limit how often you indulge, knowing there will be consequences, but those consequences will be short term.

Try one thing or many things for just a week and see how it goes!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Yoga for Women

For most of us the experience has been that when we attend a yoga class, we see mostly women in the room.  Yes, men are attending yoga classes, but still, the majority of yoga students are females.  So, it seems then, that yoga classes are already for women, right?!  Not necessarily.

There are many ways for a teacher to create, sequence, and plan a class.  It involves training, philosophy, studio requirements, experience and much more.  Many of the great yoga styles that influence the majority of classes in the West were created by males in the East.  On the surface and in the actual experience of a class, this might not seem to be a problem.  But maybe it is.  It is likely that the teachings of men are not the same as the teachings of women in all areas of the practice.  It is even more likely that the physical needs of men and women are not the same and so the physical practice alone should be different, at the very least!

Without continuing on in this argument of the big picture, what I'd like to do at this time is discuss some of the practices women can utilize to benefit their own specific needs.  Let's start with attention.  Women, in general, are less able to focus on one thing, to break problems down and take care of component parts - women tend to see the whole picture and find homing in on one aspect of a problem difficult or impossible.  There are positives and negatives to each way and, of course, I am generalizing and sticking folks into stereotyped groups. But, there is research to back up this claim.

Ok, what does this mean for a yoga practice?  It means women need to learn to focus their minds, to learn skills for centering, for being mindful of the breath, and for moving back out to see the big picture, as needed.  In other words, women need to be able to turn off the big picture thinking when it isn't beneficial.  An example, it's good to see the big picture, set a plan for the day of all that needs doing, but then, let go of that big picture and see one thing at a time.  The thing I am doing now is all that matters, the stress of all the other things coming up causes problems.

Next, there are hormonal differences between men and women - duh!  We know this, but are we addressing it?  There are hormonal and bio-chemical processes that we have no control over and yet there are so many that we can influence and can control.  It would serve us well to know what we can change, influence and affect with our practice.  There are breathing techniques, poses, stretches, and ways to focus the mind to affect the hormones and chemical messengers floating around in our systems.  We can't do it 100%, but there are many very effective techniques to change hormonal effects such as mood, energy, metabolism, and again, stress.

There are physical differences between men and women.  Women tend to carry stability and strength in the hips and core of the body, men in the shoulders and upper body.  I am going to generalize again here, but I have so many men in my classes simply unable to sit in a safe cross-legged position on the floor.  The pelvis is tight and unforgiving.  There are a few women as well, but, for the most part, female students have no problem with a cross-legged seated position. Athletic women and girls tend to have 5-6 times more knee injuries than boys and men.  The differing body mechanics and muscle mass is obviously important to note.  We can't just coach, teach, and lead groups of female athletes and students the same way we do male athletes and students.  Women and girls need to have a practice focused on the support muscles around the knees.  Women who wear impractical shoes, need poses benefiting the feet.  Women need to work on connecting the core strength of the pelvis to the leg muscles and the upper back and shoulders.  There is much more I can say here, but I think I've made my point.

Yoga classes have to be generalized to fit a good medium-range of students, but is that happening?  Are the needs of the majority of students - numbers range from 70-80% female yoga students - being met?  Are you attending classes to address the needs I have mentioned above?  They should and can be met through a regular practice!  Look around.  With so many yoga options available, are you in the right class for you?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Stop Spreading, Keep Washing!

One of the dumbest and funniest comments I recently read on Facebook was a guy who when asked why more of us aren't sneezing into our elbows replied, "Because elbows are harder to wash than hands!"  Was he being real?  I don't know.  He could have been making a silly joke.  But, the comment hit me.  People are always commenting to me - "Oh, you are one of those!"  One of what?  "One of those who sneeze into your elbow!"  I have also been part of heated discussions about when and how to wash your hands.  I am going to share my personal practices here, not because I know I am right, because I have no idea how many germs I am touching, avoiding, washing away, or keeping from spreading, but because I do know that I don't get sick very often anymore when I once was sick multiple times a year.  All I know is something works and if my sneezing and hand washing practices are part of that, I am going to spread the word - NOT THE GERMS!

Let's talk sneezes and coughing first.  Being a visual person, this is what I imagine.  Someone lets out a big sneeze or cough- there's a cloud of gray mist that spews out from his mouth, widening and spreading as it gets further from his face until it is a fog of germ-laden mist slowly dropping and spattering on everyone and everything in its path.  Imagination?  Exaggeration?  A little, but only a little.  Studies have found that a sneeze can travel 100 mph.  Pretty sure mine are that powerful!  For the small, quiet, mumbling voice I have, people are always shocked at the loud force of my sneezes.  That's a lot of ground and surface coverage, no matter how big a sneeze or cough it is!

Ok, so we know we should cover that sneeze or cough.  But, why the elbow?  Well, it turns out germs like to hang around, lingering on surfaces much longer than we thought possible in the past.  Depends on the germ/virus, of course, but these little one-celled beings are so darned good at evolving to fit the environmental requirements for survival why be cavalier about how long they will last on that door knob?  If we sneeze into our elbows, we won't then touch our money, the door handle, the phone receiver, the desk, etc. with the body part that's full of germs.  Just try to answer the phone or turn the door knob with your elbow!  It's simple, the elbow spreads fewer germs.  I also like how muffled those big giant sneezes of mine sound in the elbow versus my hand! Not sure how to do this?  Let Elmo show you.  Anytime, I can get The Muppets involved, I'm happy !

Ok, so you only managed to sneeze or cough into your hand.  It happens. We can't all be perfect.  How to wash so you don't contaminate everything you touch and grab hold of a few extras left there by your co-worker or family member:  I grab a clean tissue, if I need to open a door or touch something with my germy hand. Once at the sink, I get my towel first.  I use the toweled hand to turn on the faucet.  This is the same thing I do after using the restroom.  Towel first, turn on the sink.  I've seen other people supposedly wash their hands - not much effort and likely not much result.  So, if I am making the effort to wash my hands, then I am not going to touch the surfaces these not so conscientious folks have touched.  If the sink is automatic, I still grab my towel first.  That way once my hands are clean, I am not touching the towel button.

Washing the hands is just 15 seconds of water flowing and rubbing.  Warm water is best.  Soap is helpful.  But, the true benefit comes from the rubbing and the flowing - think of it as clearing away those germs! I then use a towel to open the door or my hip.  No need to touch my now pristine hands to a questionable surface. Do this many times throughout the day.  Those alcohol-based gel hand cleaners are NOT as effective as a good hand washing.  Really!  And, the anti-bacterial based gels are actually creating stronger, resistant germs.  Please stop using them!

I read through this and start to think I sound a bit like a germophobe.  I'm not really.  In general, I try to just live through the day with as few worries as possible, taking good care of my body, so it can just fight those things I am exposed to in normal activity.  However, there is always someone in our midst with a cold or the beginnings or endings of a flu bout, touching things we touch, sneezing or coughing into our space.  With a small amount of time and a little conscientiousness, these are the germs we can avoid spreading.  And, these are the germs we can wash away!

Monday, January 21, 2013

The "V" Word- Vaccinate!

I am going to admit here that I have not yet gotten a flu shot this year.  Nor did I get one last year. The last year I truly remember getting a flu shot was in 2009. I do know that the last time I had the actual flu was in the spring of 2010.  It lasted about a week and I remember I was really, really miserable and missed 2 days of work.  Because I am independently employed, when I am sick, I don't work and when I don't work, I don't get paid.  So, you'd think I would rush out and get immunized immediately right? well, maybe not... Let's weigh the pros and cons.

We'll start with the cons.  I am not one of those that fears the possible side effects of vaccines.  Although, there is plenty to fear - seizures, brain swelling, fever, rash, pneumonia,  hepatitis, and more, according to the CDC.  However, all of these are rare and all are usually not serious.  I do not believe vaccines cause autism or other such claims, but you will find these claims on the internet and in publications.  I don't completely discredit the claims, but it seems very unlikely. However, when one rarely gets any type of illness (colds or flu in my case), these side effects seem an unnecessary risk or possible annoyance.  Is it really necessary? I guess the question here is, is the risk of the side effects greater or less than the risk of actually getting the flu?

Then there's cost.  My insurance doesn't cover my flu shot.  Not sure why.  So, I have to go to the clinic or to the local pharmacy and pay for my vaccination.  Alright, it is $30 and I can most likely manage that, especially if it prevents the loss of  income for a day or 2 of work, right?  Maybe, but there seems to be a bit of a gambler in me and the odds of NOT getting the flu are in my favor, according to the history of my past 10 years.

Finally there's the pain.  Sometimes there's not much to it and other times, I feel it every time I lift my arm!  I really have to steel myself for the actual shot which is way more effective than the nose inhaler and much more available.  Rumor has it that the inhaler is no longer available in my area anyway.  Something inside me, maybe that 2nd grader who had to stand in lines at school with the talk and the fear and the distress, is saying NO!  Maybe it's time to let that 2nd grade fear go....

The pros are pretty well balanced with the cons.  There is little chance I will get the flu this year, if I am immunized and little chance of any side effects.  Of course, various strains are out there and they have to predict what's possible and make the vaccine months in advance to have enough supply, so this isn't an exact science.  I still could get some other strain.  If I don't get sick, I don't miss work, I don't lose income.  Plus, I don't have the misery of being sick!  It goes back and forth like this in my head.

Where things go astray on my pros and cons is that vaccines prevent the spread of the flu.  This isn't just about me, my health, and my income.  Thousands die every year from the flu.  This number ranges from 3,000 to 49,000, according to the CDC.  The severity of the strain varies each year.  Those with compromised immune systems due to illness and chemotherapy, plus the elderly and infants can not get immunized.  Preventing the flu from being contracted, prevents its spread.  This means one person at a time.

There are various ways to boost the immune system through supplements and healthy foods. Supplements are pricey and so might undo the cost factor argument I made earlier.  Healthy food is a definite must, but how much is enough?  Washing your hands also works, but make sure you are 100%.  It just takes one exposure.  Dr. Andrew Weil recommends weighing the risks, the lifestyle factors, and the concerns each individual has and make your decision.

I am still undecided, but I feel like I am leaning toward yes, I will get myself immunized.  If you have yet to get your flu shot, ask yourself these same questions and make a decision that is best for you and those around you!


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A New Resolution for Intention

What would happen if you were to begin each day, each activity, each special event, each New Year in your life with an intention?  Not a to-do list, not a goal, not a resolution, but an intention……..

What the intention does is set a purpose. It lets you know a direction, an idea of what's to come in your day, your year, your life.  It is like an introduction to a paper or a book -"here is what I plan to share with you in my writing......." it creates the feeling and the mindset right off the bat.

An intention is like a resolution or goal in some ways, but very different in 2 important ways. A resolution or goal requires strong acts of will toward a purpose, while an intention is a strong, but gentle, state of being.  A resolution is focused on a future outcome. An intention is focused on the present.

When you set an intention, you create the mindset or state of being you wish to cultivate, you create the emotion you want to feel, you find the connection to spirit you desire. If you desire a happy life, you set the intention to be happy - right now, you create the mindset immediately. What we create in the present then creates the future.

Arguments with that:  But I can't be happy the way my life is now, I will be happy when...... I lose 15 lbs., I get a new job, I am done with this training and get that promotion...... It goes on and on. The problem is we don't get happy. We find another requirement to our happiness and always a new requirement after that.

An intention comes from an internal space. When we create what we are seeking from within - without requirements from the outside world - we won't be disappointed. Yes, we are human, so we will fail sometimes and lose track of our intentions, but continually practicing, continually setting intentions trains our brains, our nervous systems, our spiritual presence, and our thinking patterns into an automated mode that returns to the intention regularly and with increasing speed as we practice, until it becomes permanent.

Set your intention daily: Sit quietly with some music that sets the tone for your intention, if desired. Close your eyes and let yourself feel the intention - I want to be happy with my body - don't talk yourself out of it, just feel the happiness, not judging or criticizing. All we're doing here is creating what it is you want to feel and let yourself feel it, know it, soak it in! I want to be successful - let yourself feel success, know it, soak it in! I want to feel happy.  Do this for a few minutes to longer each and every day. If you'd like, you can set the daily intention in the morning and then sit with it at night seeing how the day went. Give the practice a month and notice how life changes for you!