Lifestyle Solutions for a Happy Healthy You!

Archive for January 11, 2011

Healthier Food For the New Year

Healthier Food For the New Year

Healthier Food For the New Year

As I have written about before, the simplest way to support a healthy food system is to eat food grown by sustainable farmers or growers. This means buying from them and supporting them to keep them in business.

Sustainable farming not only improves an individual’s health, but also the health of our planet and even the economic health of a local community. What exactly is sustainable agriculture?

A simple definition comes from one of the preeminent organizations in the field, the University of California’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program.

“Sustainable agriculture integrates three main goals–environmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity.” For them, this means meeting the needs of the present without comprising the needs of future generations and stewardship of natural and human resources.

A great place to start is to think about what foods are in season, and where certain foods are grown. Whenever possible, eat seasonally and locally, like our ancestors did, by eating fresh fruits and vegetables when they are in season in your area or region. Locally grown, seasonal food doesn’t have to be transported as far as nationally or internationally grown food, so it cuts down on gas emissions, especially food that is transported by air, which releases tons of global warming emissions.

A great place to find out all about seasonal produce is Sustainable Table. They offer a guide that provides information on food miles and local eating from the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The great part is that they list every state and seasonal availability. A search on this tool found that even for the state of Wisconsin, where there is no winter produce available, there is produce available from neighboring states such as apples, carrots, lettuces, and more from Iowa and Minnesota.

One of the easiest ways to eat seasonally is to shop at a local farmers’ market. There are over 4,900 farmers’ markets in the United States, and you can find your local farmers’ market via several web sites including the USDA site, or at Local Harvest.

While it might not be possible for everyone to directly buy at a farm or farm stand, or farmers’ market year-round, you can help support a sustainable food system when you shop at your local supermarket. Ask for the kinds of fresh food that you want. Ask where your food is grown, who grew it, and when and how it was grown. Look for “Buy Local” campaigns and signs at your local supermarket, showing that the food was made in your region or state.

For those lucky enough to live in an area with farms and farm trails, go to them and take your children to teach them where their food comes from. Initiate a farm day at your school, or invite a farmer to talk at your school or community organization.

You can also join American Farmland Trust’s “No Farms No Food” campaign and support their work in preserving farmland and local food.

by Judi Gerber
Judi Gerber is a University of California Master Gardener with a certificate in Horticultural Therapy. She writes about sustainable farming, local foods, and organic gardening for multiple magazines. Her book Farming in Torrance and the South Bay was released in September 2008.

Top 5 Reasons NOT to Drink Soda

Top 5 Reasons NOT to Drink Soda


Talk of a “sugar tax” on soda has people all abuzz about whether it’s an American thing to financially punish people for drinking soda or not. I say go ahead and tax soda, and here are five good reasons why:

1. Soda is one more cause of the climate crisis. We have exported our carbon dioxide addiction all around the world. Just think of the costs in fuel to ship it—and the emissions produced. Maybe if we stop drinking so much of it, the appeal of American sodas will decline elsewhere. And at least in most other countries, the local soda is still made with real sugar!

2. Yeah, yeah, yeah…high-fructose corn syrup. HFCS is only cheaper than sugar because our government subsidizes the toxic, poisonous farming of corn in order to keep chemical companies (and maybe big tractor companies, too) in business. Plus, studies have shown that high-fructose corn syrup has mercury in it. So all those moms who think (incorrectly) that mercury in vaccines causes autism had better not be giving their kids soda!

3. Diet soda causes people to make poor decisions. According to a recent study, people who drink diet sodas think they are getting some energy, but their bodies still feel starved, so they kick into famine mode. Which basically means that the future doesn’t matter, all that matters is getting a next dose of fuel—hence, impulsive, short-term thinking. Amazing.

4. Soda isn’t really thirst quenching anyway. Did you ever really, really pay attention to how your mouth feels when you drink a soda? All that sugar kind of sucks out the liquids from your mouth and leaves a taste that is so icky you have to eat something to get rid of it. So not only are you getting empty calories from your drink, but you are urged to snack, too.

5. Fountain soda has fecal matter in it! It’s been a bad couple of weeks for soda in the news. Another study just this past week found that more than 40 percent of all fountain sodas have traces of fecal matter germs in them. It’s not in the ice, it’s in the soda itself. This was highly disappointing to me personally, since when I do have soda, I really like to have fountain soda with lots of ice in it to water it down and make it somewhat more thirst quenching. Now even that is off limits to me. I look at that cup of Coke with a lid and a straw and think, fecal matter? No thanks.

The only time I really bring soda into my house is when we are sick. There is nothing quite like a real coke or ginger ale to soothe an aching stomach. It’s medicine, really, and frankly, I think it should be treated as such. Think of all the plastic bottles, sugar, and toxic GMO corn we can keep out of the waste stream (and our bodies) if we stop drinking soda routinely.

Thirsty? Buy bottled water instead. YES, bottled water. It’s thirst quenching, has zero calories, and is damn good for you. Of course, you can fill your reusable water bottle with local tap water for free, instead of paying too much for water that’s been shipped and is probably municipal water anyway. And you should. But if you are at a gas station and need something to drink, pass over the soda and don’t feel guilty if a cold bottle of water hits the spot. (Just recycle that bottle.)

by Maria Rodale

5 Surprising Ways to Keep Inflammation in Balance

5 Surprising Ways to Keep Inflammation in Balance

We all need inflammation — the biochemical process that starts right at the cell level to fight damaging invaders. Just not too much inflammation. That’s where diet and lifestyle choices come in, researchers say. Among the more surprising anti-inflammatory activities:

Consider an aspirin a day

Aspirin and NSAIDs (Aleve) are anti-inflammatories. A daily aspirin curbed the incidence of cancer by more than 20 percent among those who took it, according to a 2010 study in the journal Lancet.

But the pills may have unintended consequences and aren’t yet recommended for everyone. Be sure to talk to your doctor before starting daily aspirin.

Drink red wine and green tea

The single best alcohol type is red wine, thanks to its anti-inflammatory phytochemicals, including resveratrol. Men who consumed four or more four-ounce glasses of red wine each week had a 60 percent lower incidence of aggressive prostate cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute (although this research is preliminary). (Leesa recommends organic red wine and organic green tea!)

Just . . . walk

Regular exercise three to four times a week helps reset the inflammatory process. What you do doesn’t have to be extreme, though; just make sure it’s vigorous. Brisk walking is ideal.

Have lots of sex

Orgasm is known to increase the production of antiaging hormones. And the workout involved in vigorous sex (see above) doesn’t hurt.

Eat less wheat

Even “100 percent stone-ground” wheat, the kind Americans have now been trained to favor, may not be helpful to the millions with undetected gluten sensitivities. Beware of wheat in crackers and other packaged snack products, too. Look for alternatives like millet, quinoa, barley, oats.

By Paula Spencer, Caring.com senior editor

Caring.com was created to help you care for your aging parents, grandparents, and other loved ones. As the leading destination for eldercare resources on the Internet, our mission is to give you the information and services you need to make better decisions, save time, and feel more supported. Caring.com provides the practical information, personal support, expert advice, and easy-to-use tools you need during this challenging time.

15 Foods To Banish From Your Kitchen

15 Foods To Banish From Your Kitchen

Vowing to lose weight, eat better, and start an exercise program come the first of January? Good for you. This is a great time of year to shift away from processed, sugar and fat heavy foods, and raise the quality of your meals. I have found the best way to begin is to clear the temptation foods off the pantry shelves and out of the refrigerator and restock with just what you need to achieve your goals. To this end I have provided a list to identify the foods you should eliminate. You can donate the discarded foods to a local food pantry that will be thrilled to pass them on to families in need. With the shelves empty you can now fill them with the following suggested alternatives.

1. Pasteurized, Homogenized Milk: there’s a raw milk movement steam rolling across this country because of the health issues caused by commercial milk. Buying organic is a better choice, but eliminating milk from your diet would be ideal.

2. White Bread: with nothing to commend it nutritionally, buy organic whole grain bread made without enriched flours and do your intestines a favor.

3. Vegetable Oils: blended from seeds and plants, oils are an important part of your daily diet so choose ones that are non-GMO and grown organically. A few examples to buy are: extra virgin olive oil, sesame oil, coconut oil, grapeseed oil, and ghee (clarified butter).

4. Mac & Cheese box: an inexpensive and quick favorite for children and adults alike, but opt for the organic whole grain or dairy-free version of M&C. Better still make your own from scratch.

5. Canned Soups: most are loaded with sodium and questionable oils. Go instead with low sodium, organic soups in aseptic containers.

6. Peanut Butter with additives: with 16 grams of fat per 2 tablespoons why indulge your senses in dangerous partially hydrogenated fats when you can enjoy real nut butters without the added sugars and salt.  Explore the raw nut butters for a nutritious treat.

7. Breakfast Cereal: mostly a waste of time, yet people insist on their morning bowl, so best to buy a whole grain cereal containing little or no sugar and sweeten to taste at the table.

8. Refined White Flour: the refined gluten becomes glue in your intestines causing a huge traffic jam down below. Instead buy whole wheat, spelt, and rice flours or try a packaged gluten free flour mix when making your next batch of pancakes.

9. Velveeta Cheese: anything is better than this pseudo-food product, and if you must eat cheese than opt for a raw, organic variety that retains the natural enzymes. It is good to note that humans can digest a sheep or goat’s cheese better than pasteurized cow’s cheese.

10. Enriched Pasta: if it is enriched it is also refined flour, meaning more glue for your intestines. With so many delicious whole grain pastas now available have fun trying a rice fettuccini or a spelt angel hair for your next dinner.

11. Coffee: this crop is so highly sprayed with toxic pesticides, plus you drink a cup of Joe at least once a day, that you are much better off spending a bit more and buying a fair trade organic brand.

12. Chicken Eggs: begin by watching the documentary Food Inc. and you’ll understand why buying free range, organic eggs from a local farmer is so much better for your health and the health of the laying hens.

13. Instant Grains: actually instant anything should be bagged and put out on the curb for the garbage men to pick up in the morning. Preparing whole grains from scratch is so much easier when you use a rice cooker, a pressure cooker, or a Crockpot.

14. Frozen Dinners: if you are depending on these processed, nutrition depleted meals to see you through the day then wear blinders when shopping. The time it takes a frozen dinner to bake in a real oven (no microwaves, please), you can create a nutritious meal from scratch. If you are not convinced read the ingredients list.

15. White Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners: you won’t have to suffer sugar withdrawals when you replace the sweet taste with raw honey, maple syrup, rice syrup, and the herbal sweetener stevia. And if you don’t know how destructive artificial sweeteners can be for your brain click HERE to be enlightened, then throw what you have in the trash, period.

Delia Quigley is the Director of StillPoint Schoolhouse, where she teaches a holistic lifestyle based on her 28 years of study, experience and practice. She is the creator of the Body Rejuvenation Cleanse, Cooking the Basics, and Broken Bodies Yoga. Delia’s credentials include author, holistic health counselor, natural foods chef, yoga instructor, energy therapist and public speaker. Follow Delia’s blogs: brcleanse.blogspot.com and brokenbodiesyoga.wordpress.com. To view her website go to www.deliaquigley.com

10 Cancer-Causers to Remove From Your Home

10 Cancer-Causers to Remove From Your Home


Given poor government regulation, many of the cleaning products available on the market contain “everyday” carcinogens such as formaldehyde, nitrobenzene, methylene chloride, and napthelene, as well as reproductive toxins and hormone disruptors. Not to mention other ingredients that cause liver, kidney and brain damage, allergies and asthma. I really am a happy person–not your basic Eeyore type, but toxic cleaning products seriously get my goat. One of the best things you can do to detox your home is to create one of Annie’s simple non-toxic cleaning kits to use–most of the ingredients you probably already have on hand.

But there are a host of products, other than those used for basic cleaning, that often contain carcinogenics. This list, from Cancer: 101 Solutions to a Preventable Epidemic (New Society Publishers, 2007) by Liz Armstrong et al, cautions against 10 household products, in addition to cleaners, that you should avoid having in your house.

1. Air fresheners: Often contain napthelene and formaldehyde. Try zeolite or natural fragrances from essential oils. For more information, see Easy Greening: Air Fresheners.

2. Art supplies: Epoxy and rubber cement glues, acrylic paints and solvents, and permanent markers often contain carcinogens. For more information, see Arts and Crafts: Make it Safe.

3. Automotive supplies: Most are toxic. Keep them safely away from the house and dispose of at a hazardous waste disposal center.

4. Candles: Avoid artificially scented paraffin candles that produce combustion by-products, including soot. Beeswax only, with cotton wicks. For more on beeswax candles, see The Brilliant Beeswax Candle.

5. Carpet and upholstery shampoos: Use only wet-clean, natural ingredients. For DIY carpet cleaning, see how to Remove Stains and Pet Odors from Carpets.

6. Dry-cleaning: Choose clothes that don’t need perchlorethylene to clean them. Ask for the wet-cleaning option at you local cleaners, or seek dry-cleaners that use liquid C02 or citrus juice cleaners. For more information, see Healthy and Green Dry Cleaning.

7. Flea, tick and lice control: Avoid lindane-based pesticides. For more information, see Natural Flea and Tick Control.

8. Paints and varnishes: Always chose low- or no-VOC finishes. For more information, see Is Your Paint Making You Sick?

9. Household pesticides: Go natural. Make a Sugar Ant Hotel.

10. Microwaves: Never microwave or heat food in a plastic container. For more information about the dangers of food and plastic, see Kitchen Plastic: Easy Greening.
by Melissa Breyer

Top 10 Sleep Mistakes and Their Solutions

Top 10 Sleep Mistakes and Their Solutions


Although we may not like to admit it, many of the sleep problems we experience are the result of bad habits and behaviors. We stay up late or sleep in late. We eat foods that disagree with us or enjoy a drink late at night, oblivious to its disruptive impact on our sleep rhythms. Over time, we teach our body not to sleep. For relief we often turn to sleeping pills, which mask rather than solve the problem, and can lead to addiction. Ultimately for real success, with insomnia as with any chronic problem, one must look for the underlying imbalances and root causes and address those.

Here are the common sleep “mistakes” I see in my practice and their solutions.

MISTAKE #1 Not keeping a consistent sleep schedule.
We often think we can make up for lost sleep by going to bed extra early another night, but the body clock’s ability to regulate healthy sleep patterns depends on consistency. We stay up late on weekends, expecting to make up sleep later or use the weekend to make up for lost sleep during the week. Both practices disrupt bodily rhythms and late-night weekends in particular can cause insomnia during the workweek.

SOLUTION: Create a routine and stick to it.
Getting up and going to bed around the same time, even on weekends, is the most important thing you can do to establish good sleep habits. Our bodies thrive on regularity and a consistent sleep schedule is the best reinforcement for the body’s internal clock.

Waking and sleeping at set times reinforces a consistent sleep rhythm and reminds the brain when to release sleep and wake hormones, and more importantly, when not to.

MISTAKE #2 Using long naps to counter sleep loss.
Long naps during the day especially after 4 p.m. or even brief nods in the evening while watching TV can damage a good sleep rhythm and keep you from enjoying a full sleep at night.

SOLUTION: Nap for no more than 30 minutes.
If naps are absolutely necessary, make sure you only nap once a day and keep it under a half hour and before 4 p.m. In general, short naps may not hurt sleep and in fact a short siesta for half an hour after lunch or a 20 minute power nap before 4 p.m. works well for many people.

MISTAKE #3 Not preparing for sleep.
Expecting the body to go from full speed to a standstill without slowing down first is unrealistic. Our bodies need time to produce enough sleep neurotransmitters to send feedback signals to the brain’s sleep center, which will result in the release of sleep hormones to allow you to sleep.

SOLUTION: Take the time to slowly shift into sleep.
a) Create an electronic sundown. By 10 p.m., stop sitting in front of a computer screen (or TV screen) and switch off all electronic devices. They are too stimulating to the brain and will cause you to stay awake longer.
b) Prepare for bed. Dim the lights an hour or more before going to bed, take a warm bath, listen to calming music or soothing sounds, do some restorative yoga or relaxation exercises. Getting your mind and body ready for sleep is essential. Remove any distractions (mentally and physically) that will prevent you from sleeping.

MISTAKE #4 Not giving your body the right sleep signals.
Our bodies depend on signals to tell them when to fall asleep and wake up, the two most fundamental ones being darkness and light. But we live and work in artificially lit environments and often miss out on the strongest regulatory signal of all, natural sunlight. When we do go to sleep and our bodies need complete darkness for production of the important sleep hormone, melatonin, our bedrooms are not pitch dark, thereby interfering with this key process.

SOLUTION: At night, keep the room as dark as possible.
Look around your bedroom: the alarm clock read-out that glows in bright red; the charging indicator on your cell phone or PDA, the monitor on your computer, the battery indicator on the cordless phone or answering machine, the DVD clock and timer. Even the tiniest bit of light in the room can disrupt your pineal gland’s production of sleep hormones and therefore disturb your sleep rhythms.

Conceal or move the clock, cover all the lights of any electronic device and use dark shades or drapes on the windows if they are exposed to light. If all of that is not possible, wear an eye mask.

If you get up in the middle of the night, try keeping the light off when you go to the bathroom. Use a flashlight or night light.

MISTAKE #5 Having a bed time snack of refined grains or sugars.
These are metabolic disruptors which raise blood sugar and overstress the organs involved in hormone regulation throughout the body. This hormone roller coaster can affect sleep cycles by waking you up at odd times during sleep as the hormone levels fluctuate.

SOLUTION: If you have to eat, have a high-protein snack.
It is better not to have anything before bed but at least a high protein snack will not only prevent the hormone roller coaster, but also may provide L-tryptophan, an amino acid needed to produce melatonin.

MISTAKE #6 Using sleeping pills to fall and stay asleep.
Sleeping pills mask sleep problems and do not resolve the underlying cause of insomnia. Many sleep studies have concluded that sleeping pills, whether prescription or over-the-counter, over the long term, do more harm than good. They can be highly addictive and studies have found them to be potentially dangerous (see references, below).

For short term use, there may be indications for sleeping pills, but over time, sleeping pills can actually make insomnia worse, not better. If you have been taking them for a long time, ask a doctor to help you design a regimen to wean yourself off them.

SOLUTION: Learn relaxation techniques.
Aside from physical problems, stress may be the number one cause of sleep disorders. Temporary stress can lead to chronic insomnia and circadian rhythm sleep disorders. Many people tell me they can’t switch off their racing minds and therefore can’t sleep.

Do some breathing exercises, restorative yoga or meditation. These will calm the mind and reduce the fears and worries that trigger the stress.

MISTAKE #7 Using Alcohol to fall asleep.
Because of alcohol’s sedating effect, many people with insomnia drink alcohol to promote sleep. Alcohol does have an initial sleep inducing effect, but as it gets broken down by the body, it usually impairs sleep during the second half of the night leading to a reduction in overall sleep time. Habitual alcohol consumption just before bedtime can reduce its sleep-inducing effect, while its disruptive effects continue or even increase.

SOLUTION: Take nutrients that calm the body and mind, getting you ready for sleep.
Don’t drink alcohol to help you sleep. Look for a calming formula that has some of the following: amino acids, L theanine, taurine, 5 HTP and GABA, and herbs like lemon balm, passion flower, chamomile and valerian root. Taking the minerals, calcium and magnesium at night is also helpful. For some people, especially those of us over 50, melatonin can be helpful too. This is because the body produces less melatonin with advancing age and may explain why elderly people often have difficulty sleeping and respond well to melatonin.

MISTAKE #8 Watching television to fall asleep.
Because we have no trouble at all falling asleep in the living room in front of the TV many of us watch TV in bed to fall asleep. But when we fall asleep in a bed watching TV, we invariably wake up later on. This sets up a cycle or conditioning that reinforces poor sleep at night. I have had many patients over the years develop insomnia due to this type of conditioning.

SOLUTION: Get the TV out of the bedroom.
Don’t watch TV in bed. The bed should be associated with sleep (and sex).

MISTAKE #9 Staying in bed hoping to fall asleep.
If you can’t fall asleep within 30-45 minutes, chances are you won’t for at least another hour, and perhaps even longer. You may have missed the open “sleep gate” or missed catching the sleep wave. A “sleep gate” is the open window of time your body will allow you to fall asleep. Researchers have found that our brain goes through several sleep cycles each night where all sleep phases are repeated. These cycles last from 90 minutes to two hours, and at the beginning of each cycle, the body’s “sleep gate” opens. You won’t be able to fall asleep when your sleep gate is closed.

SOLUTION: Catch the sleep wave.
If you find you can’t fall asleep within 45 minutes, get up and get out of the bedroom. Read a book, do a restorative yoga pose or do some other calming activity for another 1 -1 1/2 hours before trying to sleep again. Staying in bed only causes stress over not sleeping.

It is like surfing; you need to catch that sleep wave. Have you ever been exhausted and yet you avoid going to sleep and then a few hours later when you are ready for bed, you are suddenly wide awake? You missed the wave.

MISTAKE #10 Making sleep a performance issue.
Often just thinking about sleep affects your ability to fall asleep. What happens frequently is that the way you cope with the insomnia becomes as much of a problem, as the insomnia itself. It often becomes a vicious cycle of worrying about not being able to sleep which leads to worsening sleep problems. Like so many things in life, it is about letting go, going with the flow. Sleep needs to become a natural rhythm like breathing, something that comes automatically and you don’t think about.

SOLUTION: Let go and go with the flow.
Use the time to practice breathing exercises or meditation and to become aware of how what you eat, what medications you take, what behaviors or certain activities can affect your sleep cycle.

Increase your awareness by paying attention to your body and becoming conscious of how you react to different foods and situations. Use this time productively, instead of getting upset that you can’t fall asleep.

One final point.
For chronic insomniacs, especially if you are a heavy snorer, make sure Sleep Apnea is not the cause. This is a serious condition that affects at least 12 million Americans, many of whom have not been diagnosed. Usually they are heavy snorers. What happens is that the tissues at the back of the throat relax and in so doing block the airways. The brain senses oxygen deprivation, and sends wakeup signals. There is a release of adrenaline and cortisol, the stress hormone. Not only does this interfere with sleep, it can increase blood pressure, raising your risk of heart problems and stroke. It can also interfere with insulin sensitivity, and increases your risk of diabetes.

REFERENCES

1. What’s wrong with prescribing hypnotics?“. Drug Ther Bull 42 (12): 89-93. December 2004. doi:10.1136/dtb.2004.421289. PMID 15587763. http://www.nelm.nhs.uk/en/NeLM-Area/Evidence/Drug-Class-Focused-Reviews/498264/.

2. D. Maiuro PhD, Roland (13 Decemember 2009). Handbook of Integrative Clinical Psychology, Psychiatry, and Behavioral Medicine: Perspectives, Practices, and Research. Springer Publishing Company. pp.128-130. ISBN 0-8261-1094-0. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=4Tkdm1vRFbUC

3. Lader, Malcolm Harold; P. Cardinali, Daniel; R. Pandi-Perumal, S. (22 March 2006). Sleep and sleep disorders: a neuropsychopharmacological approach. Georgetown, Tex.: Landes Bioscience/Eurekah.com. p.127. ISBN 0-387-27681-5.

4. Authier, N.; Boucher, A.; Lamaison, D.; Llorca, PM.; Descotes, J.; Eschalier, A. (2009). “Second Meeting of the French CEIP (Centres d’Evaluation et d’Information sur la Pharmacodependance). Part II: Benzodiazepine Withdrawal.” Therapie 64 (6): 365-370. doi:10.2515/therapie/2009051. PMID 20025839.

5. Glass J, Lanctot KL, Herrmann N, Sproule BA, Busto UE (November 2005). “Sedative hypnotics in older people with insomnia: meta-analysis of risks and benefits“. BMJ 331 (7526): 1169. doi:10.1136/bmj.38623.768588.47. PMID 16284208. PMC 1285093. http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/331/7526/1169

by Dr. Frank Lipman

Frank Lipman MD is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of Integrative and Functional Medicine. A practicing physician, he is the founder and director of the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in NYC, where for over 20 years his personal brand of healing has helped thousands of people reclaim their vitality and recover their zest for life. To bring his approach to a wider audience and not just his NYC patients, he recently created Eleven Eleven Wellness, Guided Health Solutions, leading edge integrative health programs and supplements to get your health on track. He is the author of REVIVE: Stop Feeling Spent and Start Living Again (2009) (previously called SPENT) and TOTAL RENEWAL: 7 key steps to Resilience, Vitality and Long-Term Health (2003). To hang with Frank, visit his blog, follow him on Twitter or join his Facebook community today.

The Greatest Gift You Can Give Your Stress

The Greatest Gift You Can Give Your Stress

The Greatest Gift You Can Give Your Stress

Shocking as it may seem, there are probably very few people who have never experienced stress. Stress can happen in a minute or it may build over time. It can spur creativity but is more likely to leave you irritated, depleted, and even physically ill.

The word stress is a derivation of the Latin word that means to be drawn tight, which is pretty much how most stressed-out people feel. The words meditation and medication have the same prefix derived from the Latin word medicus, meaning to care or to cure, indicating that meditation is an effective and efficient remedy for a busy and overworked mind. Which is why meditation is the greatest gift you could give your self.

In essence, meditation is simply about calming our chattering monkey-like mind and being aware and present in this very moment. This is easier than we may think, yet so many people say to us: My mind is too busy; I can’t sit still; I can’t possibly meditate; I just fall asleep. This is because our mind tends to be all over the place chasing different scenarios, so that our ability to be completely here and now is challenged. Although being aware of the present moment is simple, we have spent so many years covering it up with all sorts of distractions that now we have to practice being still in order to reconnect with it.

During meditation we gently let go of distractions so we can genuinely be present. Like a child watching an ant walking down the sidewalk carrying a crumb, that is all that exists in her world at that moment. She is not thinking about what she had for breakfast, or what she will do with her best friend at her next playdate. She is only watching the ant.

Meditation enables us to stop trying, to let go of the story, the dramas, our stressed mind, and to discover an inner easefulness. Some people describe this as a sense of coming home, as if they had been away or out of touch with themselves without having realized it; others experience it as a huge relief as there is a release of anxiety and self-centeredness and they enter into a more peaceful state of being. The inner joy and happiness is incomparable. Personally, we don’t know how we would function in this mad, mad world without it!

Here is a simple and effective practice that can be done anywhere and at anytime of day. Practice for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, or longer:

Sit comfortably with your back straight. Take a deep breath and let it go. Eyes are closed, breathe normally. Begin to silently count at the end of each out breath: Inhale… exhale… count one; inhale… exhale… two; inhale… exhale… three. Count to five, then start at one again. Just five breaths and back to one. Simply follow each breath and silently count. So simple!

(For step-by-step instructions for meditation and a guided video, click here.)

by Ed and Deb Shapiro

You can learn more in our book, BE THE CHANGE: How Meditation Can Transform You and the World, forewords by the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman, with contributors Marianne Williamson, Jane Fonda, Ram Dass, Byron Katie and others. Our 3 meditation CD’s: Metta—Loving kindness and Forgiveness; Samadhi–Breath Awareness and Insight; and Yoga Nidra–Inner Conscious Relaxation, are available at: www.EdandDebShapiro.com

Resolutions for Each of the 7 Chakras

Resolutions for Each of the 7 Chakras

The beginning of a new year is an opportunity for transformation. Life patterns that no longer assist our highest potential such as poor foods choices or unhelpful habits can be replaced with positive and healthful actions. What better time than now?

A journal can be an excellent tool and partner along life’s path. Write down what you want your life to look like in a year and what steps you are willing to take to achieve those goals. Write ten things you want to accomplish this year. Write down 100 things you wish to do in your lifetime. Putting goals on paper is a first step to achieving them.

Take a picture of yourself now. Do another next year at this time. If we keep doing the same things, we are likely to get the same results. Replace a negative habit with a positive one — getting a manicure (preferably with more natural products) rather than biting your nails, for example. Make this the best year ever!

Every year I make a resolution for each chakra. Here are some suggestions where you might find a few ideas to give you inspiration to choose your own New Year’s resolutions.

(The word chakras comes from the Sanskrit word meaning “wheel.” They are considered energy centers and each chakra corresponds to a color, action and part of the body.)

Perhaps in grade school you or your friends had a chart on the fridge listing chores. Across the top might be the days of the week. After completing a task, and perhaps receiving a star one enjoyed a sense of accomplishment. It’s still a good idea.

Make a list of all the healthy chores (or pleasures!) that would be helpful to you. Include body, mind and spirit things like taking an aromatherapy bath, taking an herbal supplement, eating a salad daily, getting outdoors, or attending a yoga class. One might have as a goal being sugar, alcohol or wheat free all day. Since you most likely couldn’t fulfill all of your goals every day, try for at least seven things daily.

Rather than going to bed at night, saying, “Darn, I forgot to do my eye exercises,” we can affirm we did many healthy things today and tomorrow there will be others!

RED: The first chakra is located at the base of the spine. It corresponds to survival, elimination, and action. Waking one half hour earlier gives you more time for yourself. Stretch before getting out of bed, like babies and animals. If you prepare for morning the night before by packing a healthful lunch, laying out clothing, and whatever papers you need for the day, you can have a more serene day. The best time to exercise is in the morning, when the air is cleaner. Exercise increases endorphin production, enhancing cheerfulness, energy, circulation, digestion, immunity, posture, and elimination. Exercise in open air, or at least with the windows open when possible. Walk or ride a bicycle, taking the less polluted route. Provide back up plans, such as a dance video when inclement weather keeps you home.

Get rid of clutter. Make someone’s day and what can’t be used give away, have a yard sale, donate to a charity, recycle or reinvent. Red ray foods to include more of are beets, pomegranates, apples, watermelon, radish, hazelnuts, and tomatoes.

ORANGE: The second chakra corresponds to the reproductive organs, kidneys, and adrenals. It is the center for relations, partnerships and sexuality. Connections with friends can be positive. Invite a few friends over. Have healthy potlucks at rotating homes and give everyone the opportunity to put a business card into a hat. Each participant can draw a card and commit to offering an exchange. You might find yourself trading a massage for a feng shui consultation, or a landscaping consultation for a facial. By learning more about the talents of those around us, we create friendships and expand our business. If there is anyone in your life that you need to forgive, owe an apology to, or need to return a borrowed item, do what you can to make it right, if possible. If you are blessed to have found a partner, get healthy together, by exercising or preparing food as a team. Learn about tantra by reading a book such as The Art of Sexual Ecstasy by Margo Anand or taking a workshop together. Keep learning about love and relationships your entire life. Pumpkin and other winter squashes, sweet potatoes, carrots, cinnamon, and oranges are foods to bring the orange ray into our lives.

YELLOW: The third chakra corresponds to the solar plexus, naval area, digestion and our center of material comfort. Keeping a food journal and recording what one eats and drinks encourages insight about what is going into our bodies. Do your choices support ultimate health? Say a blessing or take a few deep breaths to get calm and present before eating. Put your fork down between bites. Some people find that using a smaller plate, cocktail fork or chopsticks to dine reminds them to appreciate each bite. We require fuel more so at midday than at night. Some may find that lunch rather than dinner as the main meal may work best. Rather than snacking into the night, right after dinner, floss and brush your teeth to discourage food consumption. If you must eat something choose celery or raw carrot. This year, equip your kitchen with what is needed for healthier living: a blender, food processor, dehydrator, juicer, etc. Cravings are more likely to occur when we are hungry. When craving sweets, choose something crunchy such as an apple. Craving salty foods may indicate that minerals such as those found in sea vegetables are needed. When craving fats, a tablespoon daily of flax seeds or hemp seed oil provides essential fatty acids. Put all of your vitamins and herbal in an easy access place. They don’t work unless you use them!

Find other ways to reward and comfort yourself other than food. Make a list in your journal. Enjoy the sensual delights of an aromatherapy bath, foot massage, or walking in a beautiful environment be it nature or an art museum. Yellow rayed allies include lemon, banana, almonds, ginger and pine nuts.

GREEN: The fourth chakra corresponds to the heart and lung center. It is the seat of love, forgiveness, and compassion. Breathing more deeply and fully increases the amount of oxygen in the blood. Good posture encourages deep breathing, good circulation, a calmer mind, improved concentration and mood, and better function of all the organs. Wear comfortable clothing that promotes circulation without binding. Take walks in the pine forests or along the beach and breathe the air.

Live a greener life. Support organics. Go vegetarian, or even raw food vegan pedestrian. Recycle more than you already do. Vote with your dollars. Buy that which supports good cause and do your best to consume less that is harmful or polluting to the planet. This may be the year that you stop buying things that require dry cleaning and buy some organic cotton or hemp clothes. We can’t just talk about saving whales and rainforests. Put your money where your mouth is and be willing to donate to at least some good causes. Gardens affirm our belief in the future, even if it’s only on the balcony, or a sprout garden on the kitchen counter. Start or join a community garden. Plant fruit trees. “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The next best time is now.” Learn about wild edibles instead of spraying them. Be a steward of the earth and help recreate a paradise. Have an attitude of gratitude. Dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, arugula, watercress, and avocados give us the green ray. Super foods like barley grass and wheat grass juice, blue green algae, spirulina and chlorella can be highly energizing, alkalinizing and help support us when letting go of addictions.

BLUE: The fifth chakra corresponds to the base of throat, thyroid and parathyroid. It is the center of the spoken word and communication. Speak out more. Take time to sign petitions or write letters to the editor about community concerns. Is there something that you might like to teach others or give a class on? Before I taught at a university, I gave herb walks for my daughter’s Brownie troops. It all starts somewhere. Have a hobby you love as a form of self-expression. Hand activities keep our brains alert, and hands out of the snack bowl. Drawing, playing a musical instrument, knitting, crochet, sketching, sewing, woodworking, origami, and beadwork can all make our realms more enriched. Let your projects be an expression of your love and positive thoughts. Blueberries, blue corn, and plums are foods to bring in the blue ray.

INDIGO: Between the eyebrows, deep in the brain, the pituitary regulates the glandular function of the entire body. This is the center of intelligence and intuition.

Perhaps some old habit is getting in the way. Be clear that you want to give up your addiction. Write down all the reasons you want to let go of an addiction and post it in several places where you will see it daily. Find support with a qualified practitioner, on the net or with a group for your concerns. Supplements such as GTF chromium (which helps stabilize blood sugar levels), B complex and calcium magnesium (which calm and nourish the nervous system) all can support one letting go of addictions. Learn about getting more alkaline. When our bodies are in a more acidic state, it is easy to feel overwhelmed with unhealthful cravings.

Keep learning new things your entire life. Is there something you have always wanted to learn? Make a commitment to read a least two books on the subject and/or take a class on it this year. Listening to motivational tapes put your consciousness where you want it. Rather than playing video games about destruction, check out some of the tools at wilddivine.com that have video games that inspire higher consciousness.

Black sesame seeds, elderberries, currants, and raisins all represent the indigo color.

VIOLET: The “crown” chakra corresponds to the pineal gland at top of head. It is the center of divine consciousness and spirituality. Do you have a path that helps you feel connected to Divine Source? This might be the year that you visit a place of worship, remember to pray, learn to meditate, join a spiritual study or discussion group, create an altar or place for contemplation in your home, or read books that are spiritually uplifting.

Acai fruit, grapes, and purple cabbage, are reminders of the violet ray.

May this New Year be filled with truth, beauty, goodness, and health!

by Brigitte Mars

Raw Food Certification with Brigitte and Rainbeau Mars, January 17 to 23 in Los Angeles, (323) 9335118, info@rainbeaumars.com

Brigitte Mars, a professional member of the American Herbalist Guild, is a nutritional consultant who has been working with Natural Medicine for over forty years. She teaches Herbal Medicine at Naropa University, Boulder College of Massage, and Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts and has a private practice. Brigitte is the author of twelve books, including The Country Almanac of Home Remedies, The Sexual Herbal, The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine, Beauty by Nature, Addiction Free Naturally, Healing Herbal Teas, and Rawsome!. Find more healthy living articles, raw food recipes, videos, workshops, books, and more at brigittemars.com. Also check out her international model yogini daughter, Rainbeau at rainbeaumars.com.

Meditation Affects Blood Flow to the Brain

Meditation Affects Blood Flow to the Brain

Meditation Affects Blood Flow to the Brain

Exciting new research that will appear in the January edition of the journal, Psychiatry Research, shows that meditation affects the flow of blood to the brain.

Scientists at the Almanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center at the University of California Los Angeles studied the effects of meditation on the “stress” circuits of the brain.  Ten experienced meditators performed two types of meditation:  a focus-based meditative technique and a breath-based practice.  The meditators’ brains were scanned using MRI technology before starting, during the meditation practices, and following meditation.

Researchers found that four regions of the brain were affected during meditation and there were different patterns of blood flow to the brain between the two types of meditation states; however, both techniques improved blood flow to the brain.  Some of the brain changes continued even after meditation stopped.

While research in this area is still in its infancy, this positive impact of meditation on blood flow to the brain may have applications in brain disorders or stroke.

By Michelle Schoffro Cook, BSc, RNCP, ROHP, DNM
 
Michelle Schoffro Cook, BSc, RNCP, ROHP, DNM, is an international best-selling and seven-time book author and doctor of natural medicine, whose works include: The Life Force Diet, The Ultimate pH Solution, The 4-Week Ultimate Body Detox Plan, The Phytozyme Cure and HealthSmart News. Learn more at www.DrMichelleCook.com.

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