Lifestyle Solutions for a Happy Healthy You!

Posts tagged ‘Self-Help’

15 Tips For Living To 100

15 Tips For Living To 100

Living to 100 is not rare anymore. In fact, a local billboard forecasts, “The  first person to live to 150 has already been born.”

I don’t know if or when people will live to be 150, but I do know that living  to be 100 is something that we can strive for. In fact, the number of 100 year  olds in the United States has roughly  doubled in the past 20 years to around 72,000 and is projected to at least  double again by 2020, making it the fastest growing demographic in America.  According to the 2010 census data, about 1 in 4,400 Americans lives to age  100.

Since we all get older every year, it raises an important question, “What  should I be doing if I want to continue my annual renewal and stay healthy so I  can continue to enjoy the journey.”

In general, your genes will neither kill you nor save you.  Our genes  dictate only about 10% of how long we live. People with “terrible” genes can  make lifestyle changes and improve their odds significantly, and people with “designer” genes can run them in into the ground. So a lot of it has to do with  what you do with what you have.

So how do we protect the 35 trillion cells that we call our body to make them  last for a century? In his book Blue  Zones, Dan Buettner has explored lifestyle changes that increase longevity.  I’ve incorporated his views and expanded on them to include my own. Here are my  personal thoughts on how to live the longest, healthiest and happiest life.

  • Start planning for longevity today. If you wanted to have  an adequate retirement savings account, you probably would start saving early.  The same is true with your health. Start implementing the things we’re going to  discuss below today.
  • Eat healthy. This is very confusing today because it seems  what is healthy keeps changing. But the basics are pretty consistent: avoid junk  food; limit prepared foods (restaurant and take out), sugary drinks and sodas;  eat lots of fruits and vegetables. If possible, eat organically grown fruits and  vegetables to minimize exposure to pesticide. If you haven’t heart about the  clean 15 and dirty dozen (12 highest pesticide laden fruits and vegetables), click  here.
  • Control your weight. It’s really simple; the fatter your  body, the harder your heart has to work to supply it with blood and the harder  your knees have to work to keep it moving. Some simple tips include don’t go  back for seconds (keep the food off the table and on a serving counter so people  have to physically get up to grab another spoonful), keep only healthy snacks in  the house or with you at work, chew your food at least 30 times per bite and put  your fork or sandwich down between bites so your meal will take longer and your  stomach will have time to tell your brain you are getting full. This will allow  you to stop eating before you overeat.
  • Don’t add salt to your food. Salt  is a growing health problem in the United States and is contributing to high  blood pressure and heart disease. There is so much salt already in the food we  eat that adding extra salt is unhealthy.
  • Take a multivitamin and fish oil daily. (Leesa recommends Chews4Health!
  • Maintain Family Units. In today’s fractured world, many  families live far away from each other. Yet in places such as Sardinia, Italy  where there are ten times the centenarians as in the United States, families  typically live together in units that include the grandparents. They call it the  grandmother affect. Interestingly, in a recent study of killer  whales reported in Science, in which the grandmother whale survived and  continued to live with the pod, the effect on her adult male offspring was a 14  times greater likelihood of his survival one year beyond the loss of his  mother.
  • Eat on A Smaller Plate. People in Okinawa, Japan use plates  about the size of a salad plate.  They live seven good years longer than  the average American and have 1/5 the rate of breast and colon cancer and 1/6  the rate of heart disease. Centenarians stop eating with they are 80% full.
  • Remain Active. It’s not about running in the Boston  Marathon. It’s about staying active and moving. Hardwire some type of physical  activity into every week of your life. Walk in nature, take the stairs, do yoga  or tai chi, garden. Do this at least two to three times per week. I do  resistance training with a personal trainer twice a week and walk almost every  other day.
  • Stay Connected. People live longer who have ongoing social  interactions, who are able to share their happiness and sorrow and who have  companionship. This does not mean chat rooms and Facebook. It means sitting in  the room with real people. Volunteering, participating and sharing are life  extenders.
  • Have a purpose. People who have a reason to wake up in the  morning live longer, healthier, happier lives. What’s yours? If an answer  doesn’t pop into your head, search for one. It could be playing with your  grandchildren, gardening, adult education, volunteering at your favorite charity  or school, or any of a thousand other reasons. Find yours. According to Dan  Buettner it’s worth about 7 years of life expectancy.
  • Have a day of rest. Having one day a week where all you do  is relax, abstain from work and any stress related activity, and/or pray has  been shown to increase longevity. Even God rested on the seventh day. There is a  reason that is part of every major religion. Enjoy this Free  relaxing instrumental music while you rest and relax.
  • Remain Spiritual: People who are part of a faith based  community who pray at least 4 times per month live between 4 and 14 extra  years.
  • Choose friends wisely. People tend to become who they hang  out with. The Framingham  Study showed that if your 3 best friends are obese, you are 50% more likely  to become obese. Friends with healthy habits increase your chance of remaining  healthy.
  • Smile More: People who are happier and have a more positive  attitude live longer. Happiness lowers stress, strengths your immune system and  keep the tips of your chromosomes, called telomeres,  longer, preventing cancer and disease.

By Mache Seibel

Dr. Mache Seibel

Health expert and guest speaker Dr. Mache Seibel addresses consumers’  critical needs from weight  control to HRT, menopause  and beyond. He served on the Harvard Medical School faculty for 19 years and is  a pioneer in many areas of women’s health. He works with companies and  organizations to bring exciting educational content to consumers. Visit his  award-winning website DoctorSeibel.com  to sign up for his  free monthly newsletter.

The 5 Healing Colors

The 5 Healing Colors

According to Chinese medicine, the “Five Healing Colors” can purify and heal  all the pathways in the body, and the colors are traditionally used to harmonize  the organs. When you visualize these universal energetic color forces, the  organs become purified.

Even if you don’t have organs in stress, this is a wonderfully cleansing and  preventative exercise for your whole body:

Use this guided meditation using any one of the organs using the appropriate  color:

1.  Sit calmly but alertly.

2.  Pay attention to the calm place behind  your mid-brow.

3.  Think of something you love, and relax.

4.  Bring  your attention to the organ in need of attention.

5.  Picture the organ,  feeling the love you experienced in #3.

6.  Picture the organ as a rose that  is the color required, and imagine the rose slowly opening. Repeat until the  color radiates through and from the organ.

7.  Breath out the colored light

 

Blue:  The healing color of the kidneys.

Red:  The healing color of the heart.

Green:  The healing color of the liver.

White:  The healing color of the lungs.

Yellow:  The healing color of the spleen.

Adapted from The Secret Teachings of the Tao Te Ching, by Mantak Chia  and Tao Huang (Inner Traditions, 2005). Copyright (c) 2005 by Mantak Chia and  Tao Huang. Reprinted by permission of Inner Traditions. Adapted from The  Secret Teachings of the Tao Te Ching, by Mantak Chia and Tao Huang (Inner  Traditions, 2005).

By Annie B. Bond

Annie is a renowned expert in non-toxic and green living. Named one of the  top 20 environmental leaders by Body and Soul Magazine, Annie has authored four  books, including “Home Enlightenment” (Rodale Press, 2005) and “Better Basics  for the Home” (Three Rivers Press, 1999).

8 Healthy Habits for the New Year

8 Healthy Habits for the New Year

 

Happy almost new year! It’s that time when a lot of us are looking ahead and  thinking of what resolutions we’re going to make for the coming year. Instead of  vague or short-term goals this year, why not resolve to start a healthy habit  that you really want to stick with?

Have you ever noticed how the gym is extra crowded that first week in  January? By mid-January the wait time for that elliptical trainer is a little  bit more reasonable, and by the end of February things have pretty much settled  back to normal. That surge in gym-going is a great example of how new year’s  resolutions often work: we set out with the best of intentions, but our  resolutions are too big or too vague to really follow through with them all year  long.

Starting a healthy habit takes time. I’ve read a lot about starting habits,  and depending on what source you’re looking at, it can take anywhere from 21 to  66 days. That means that you need to practice something regularly for anywhere  from a few weeks over two months to really make it part of your routine. And  that’s if you’re practicing every day.

If your healthy habit is doing something once a week or less, it’s going to  take longer. Going into this with reasonable expectations is key to building  healthy habits that stick!

What’s great about starting a habit is that once you establish it as part of  your routine, it stops being a chore and starts being part of your routine.  Brushing your teeth in the morning is a great example of a habit. We wake up  bleary-eyed, and for many of us the first thing we do is stumble into the  bathroom and grab that toothbrush. It’s almost a reflex, right?

New years resolutions so often are something vague – like “get in  shape,” but vagaries are hard to stick to. Check out these ideas for healthy  habits that you can form in 2013, and remember: practice makes  perfect!

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gratitude: you're great!

1)    Start a  Gratitude Jar

Practicing gratitude is such a great habit to get into, and turning that  practice into something physical can help you remember to be grateful for what  you have every day. Get yourself a mason jar or a small vase, and every day,  write down something that you’re grateful for and stick the paper in the  jar.

Your moment of gratitude can be as simple as something like, “Made an amazing  pot of coffee this morning!” to bigger things like, “Got a promotion at work  today!” Remember to date your moments of gratitude, so you can jog your memory  about them later on.

At the end of the year (or when times are feeling a little rough), you get to  sort through the jar and enjoy all of the little blessings from the past year.  It’s so easy to take those small things for granted, and having them all in one  place helps remind us of how lucky we are. (Leesa recommends a gratitude journal to write down at least 5 things you are thankful for each day! When you focus on all that is good in your life, you change and your life will change!)  

 

learn a skill: making sushi

2)    Learn a New  Skill

Have you always wanted to learn how to make pottery or cook Indian food?  Instead of just resolving to do those things, sign up for a class!

I know, pottery and cooking classes can be expensive. If you don’t have the  money in your budget for a class, spend some time googling and see what  resources you can find online. Then, create yourself a structured schedule and  block out time each week to practice whatever it is you’re trying to learn. For  the Indian food example, maybe you can bookmark a dozen recipes, and try making  one or two a week, starting with the ones that seem simplest.

You can also invest in a book, which can be very helpful. Sometimes having a  tangible item can help keep you motivated.

get regular exercise

3)    Getting Regular  Exercise

As cliche as it sounds, a lot of us do want to lose some weight in the new  year, and that’s OK! Focusing on weight loss tends to be ineffective, though.  Instead, try focusing on getting regular exercise.

One of the best ways I’ve found to incorporate exercise into my schedule has  been…incorporating it into my schedule! Literally. Whether you use a day planner  or a digital calendar to keep up with appointments, schedule those workout just  like you’d schedule a work meeting or a lunch date.

You can join a gym, but you can also just buy a pair of tennis shoes and head  outdoors for your workouts. Walking and jogging outside are totally free  activities that almost anyone can do. It can also help to pick up a program,  like Couch to 5K, or sign up for an event like a race. Training towards  something specific is very motivating!

cooking at home

4)    Cooking at  Home

“Eat healthier” is another common resolution that’s hard to keep. Instead of  just resolving to improve your diet, try focusing on something more concrete.  When we cook at home, we tend to eat healthier food than when we go out or order  takeout.

That doesn’t mean you have to toss your favorite Chinese delivery menu in the  recycle bin! If you eat most of your meals from restaurants now, try cooking at  home once or twice a week to start, and add in more meals as you get more  comfortable in the kitchen.

Related Reading: 5  Essential Vegan and Vegetarian Cookbooks

When you choose your recipes for home-cooking, look for ones that have  healthy doses of fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean protein. You can  grab a couple of healthy cookbooks to get you motivated or search online for  recipes. Cooking  Light and Epicurious  both have searchable recipe databases, and you can even look for specific  ingredients, if there’s something in the fridge that you need to cook before it  goes bad!

quit smoking

5)    Replace a Bad  Habit with a Good One

Are you a smoker? Is sugar your weakness? Do you love diet soda? We all have  vices, and cutting back or cutting out one of yours can mean a healthier,  happier 2013.

The trouble with a resolution like “quit smoking” is that on its own, it’s a  pretty daunting task. Instead of just resolving to give up a bad, try replacing  it with a good one. Quitting smoking is hard, but what if you’re trying to start  a running regimen at the same time? Suddenly, your smoking is holding you back  from another goal, which makes it a little easier to say no to the bad  habit.

For something like diet soda or sugar, replace those unhealthy treats with  healthy ones. Next time you want to reach for a diet coke, grab a fizzy water  and sass it up with a squeeze of lemon or a shot of juice. Put down that cookie  and grab a tangerine instead.

The other key to ditching bad habits is not beating yourself up if you slip.  So, you had a few drinks at the bar and smoked a cigarette last night. You can’t  change that. Just don’t smoke today! Or tomorrow. Go easy on yourself, and  remember that your goal is a long term one.

yoga

6)    Practice  Mindfulness

It’s easy to make snap decisions – sometimes ones we regret – in stressful  situations. When that happens, we just end up even more stressed out! This year,  resolve to try being more mindful in tough situations. Try to remember to take a  step back and look at the big picture. Whether you’re faced with a time crunch  at work or a family emergency, I bet you’ll find yourself making better choices  and stressing less.

The key is finding better, concrete ways to deal with your  stress right there in the moment. Try taking a deep breath and slowly counting  to five when you feel things getting out of control. Or even learn when it’s  time to remove yourself from a situation to give yourself a little  perspective.

Mindfulness can also be about celebrating what’s good in our lives. Pairing  up this resolution with another one, like the  gratitude jar, can help you remember what’s important in life when times get  a little stressful.

self care: take a tea or coffee break

7)    Practice Self  Care

Self care is all about taking the time to care for your own emotional needs.  We can get so caught up in the day-to-day that we neglect our own mental health.  When you practice self care, you not only improve your own happiness, but you  set yourself up to approach the rest of your day with a more positive attitude  and more energy.

Practice a little self care every day, and when you make this resolution decide what that means to you. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time.  It could be as simple as taking the dog for a walk while you listen to your  favorite podcast or spending 20 minutes one evening painting your nails. Just do  one small thing for yourself.

Whenever I talk about self care, I like to share this video from Twin Peaks.  It’s a little bit cheesy, but I think the point he makes is spot on. Treat  yourself every day, and you’ll be happier and healthier.

volunteering at a soup kitchen

8)    Volunteer Your  Time

One of the best ways that we can improve ourselves is by giving back to  others. Try signing up to walk dogs at the local shelter or help out once a week  at the local food bank. Giving back improves your community, and you get to go  home feeling warm and fuzzy. Everybody wins!

We are all blessed with so much, and taking time each week or even a couple  of times a month to give back can help remind us of how lucky we are.

Do you have a healthy habit planned for 2013? I’d love to hear your  healthy new year’s resolutions in the comments!

Becky Striepe

Becky Striepe is a freelance writer and vegan crafter living in Atlanta,  Georgia. Her life’s mission is to make green crafting and vegan food accessible  to everyone! Like this article? You can follow  Becky on Twitter or find her on  Facebook!

6 Foods That Make You Smell Good

6 Foods That Make You Smell Good

 

Cinnamon: its lovely scent not only suffuses your home, but also lingers on to make you smell good!

Citrus fruit: split open a ripe orange, and you’re greeted with an instant  burst of refreshing fragrance, and a light spray of juice. Eat the orange, and  you’ll feel your mouth feel fresh, too. What’s more, citrus fruit is more  readily absorbed by the body, so you give off a pleasant scent.

Cardamom: the sweet, spicy seeds of green cardamom are a favorite ingredient  in mouth fresheners.  I never buy commercial packets, preferring instead to  simply split open a pod and pop the seeds in my mouth. For a long time after,  the mouth feels fresh. Besides, cardamom is a powerful healing spice that boosts  immunity.

Fenugreek seeds: they are a wonderful aid to smelling good. They are also  excellent for strengthening bone health. Soak them overnight in clean water, and  munch on them in the morning. At first, they taste slightly bitter, but as you  chew, the flavor sweetens and feels wonderful in your mouth.

Milk: tone down the strong odor of garlic by adding milk to your menu.  Low-fat or whole fat, either version of milk improves the way you smell.

Jasmine tea: if you’ve been in a lift with someone who has just had coffee,  you know what that smells like. A cup of pleasant, floral jasmine tea, on the  other hand, leaves you smelling good. If you drink herbal tea often, your  digestive system works better, which in turn helps your body smell good.

In general, avoid red meat, which are proven to cause unpleasant body odor. A  plant-based diet consisting of fresh produce, whole grains, sprouts, nuts and  seeds cleanses you from within and keeps you smelling fresh.  (Leesa recommends choosing organic when possible!) 

By Shubhra Krishan

Shubhra Krishan, Writer, editor and journalist Shubhra Krishan is the author of Essential  Ayurveda: What it is and what it can do for you (New World Library, 2003),  Radiant Body, Restful Mind: A Woman’s book of comfort (New World Library, 2004),  and The 9 to 5 Yogi: How to feel like a sage while working like a dog (Hay House  India, 2011).

7 Foods that Help You Sleep Well

7 Foods that Help You Sleep Well

“Eat healthily, sleep well, breathe  deeply, move harmoniously.” ― Jean-Pierre  Barral

If you find yourself staring at the ceiling late into the night, try these  foods to help you drift into blissful sleep.

A cup of chamomile tea. For centuries, chamomile has been  harnessed as a herb that alleviates anxiety and promotes relaxation.

A handful of almonds: soak almonds in clean water in the  morning. At bedtime, slide off their skins and munch on them slowly. The  magnesium in almonds relaxes muscles and their protein content keeps your sugar  levels stable while you sleep.

A bowl of oatmeal: Every now and then, I stir up oatmeal for  dinner because it feels so warm and comforting. Only recently, I learned that  I’m actually helping myself sleep better by doing so. The fiber and minerals in  them do a wonderful job of easing the body and mind. Do avoid sugar in your  oatmeal, though.

Half a cup of cottage cheese: the slow-digesting proteins in  cottage cheese/paneer keep your digestive system relaxed all night long.  Besides, it contains tryptophan, the amino acid that plays a key role in  promoting better sleep.

A bunch of grapes: I was surprised to know that grapes are  the only fruit that contain melatonin, the hormone famous for coming to the  rescue of those who cannot sleep. Just munch grapes on their own or stir them  into a bowl of yogurt for a lovely and soothing bedtime snack.

A banana: the secret here is three-fold—potassium, magnesium  and tryptophan, which combine in one wonderful fruit to help you say ‘goodnight.’

Toast: it’s hot, filling and comforting. And surprise, toast  actually helps you sleep well, thanks to its being a trigger for insulin  production, which in turn boosts the sleep-friendly brain chemicals serotonin  and tryptophan.

(Leesa also recommends Good-Night™.   Are you getting enough sleep? Even when you do, are you still waking up feeling tired? Do you toss and turn all night? Does your brain seem to never shut off allowing you to relax?  Finally there’s an all-natural, fast-acting solution to your problem! Fall asleep faster, sleep through the night and wake up refreshed with Good-Night™. Good-Night™ is a fast acting formula that works in harmony with your natural sleep cycle to support a sound, tranquil sleep so you can awaken refreshed and energized without any grogginess.*  Good-Night™  helps relax the mind, combat stress and optimize neurotransmitter production which is crucial to getting a good night’s sleep.* )  (*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.)

By Shubhra Krishan

Shubhra Krishan

Writer, editor and journalist Shubhra Krishan is the author of Essential  Ayurveda: What it is and what it can do for you (New World Library, 2003),  Radiant Body, Restful Mind: A Woman’s book of comfort (New World Library, 2004),  and The 9 to 5 Yogi: How to feel like a sage while working like a dog (Hay House  India, 2011).

6 Ways to Combat Depression

6 Ways to Combat Depression

 

According to the latest research, about one in four Americans — more  than 70  million people — will meet the criteria for major depression at  some point in  their lives. The rate of depression in industrialized  societies has been on the  rise for decades — it’s roughly 10 times higher today than it was just two  generations ago.

How can you  make sense of the fact that even though antidepressant use has  skyrocketed in recent years, the rate of depression in the United States hasn’t  declined, but rather increased?

As a clinical psychologist, I believe the answer is rooted in our way of   life. I say this because researchers have assessed modern-day  hunter-gatherer  bands — such as the Kaluli people of the New Guinea  highlands — for the  presence of mental illness, and they found that clinical depression is almost  completely nonexistent among such groups.

Despite being much more likely to experience tragic events like the death of  a child or a crippling illness, and living with none of the material comforts or  medical advances we take for granted, they’re  largely immune to the plague of  depressive illness.

But how are hunter-gatherers able to weather life’s storms so effectively?  Based on the available research, it seems that the  hunter-gatherer lifestyle is  profoundly antidepressant. As they go about  their daily lives, they naturally  wind up doing things that keep them  from getting depressed, things that change  the brain more powerfully  than any medication.

My  colleagues and I at the University of Kansas have developed a treatment   called “Therapeutic Lifestyle Change,” or TLC. It incorporates six major   protective lifestyle elements we need to reclaim from our ancestors: dietary  omega-3 fatty acids, mentally  engaging activity, physical exercise, sunlight  exposure, social support  and adequate sleep.

1. Feed Your Brain

The hunter-gatherer diet typically includes wild game that feed on  grass,  and fish that feed on algae — both abundant sources of omega-3  fatty acids.  Conversely, the extraordinary rise in depression rates over  the last century  has closely mirrored the disappearance of omega-3 fats  from the Western diet,  which has come to rely more on grains (and  grain-fed livestock) than wild game  and plants. In countries where  people still get a better dietary balance of  omega-6s from seeds and  omega-3s from grasses, leaves and algae, depression  tends to be  substantially less common.

But how, exactly, does an imbalance of the fats we eat make us more   vulnerable to depression? Neuroscientists have identified three  mechanisms that  play a role:

Serotonin: Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps  turn  off the brain’s stress response. But when brain cells don’t have  enough omega-3  fats, they have trouble understanding the message of  serotonin, increasing a  person’s vulnerability to the kind of  out-of-control stress response that leads  to the onset of depression. Dopamine: Lack of omega-3s  also scrambles the messages of  dopamine, a neurotransmitter that activates the  left frontal cortex — the part of the brain that puts us in a good mood and  pushes us to go  after the things we want.

Inflammation: When unchecked by a balance of omega-3s,   omega-6 fats promote inflammation throughout the body. Over time,  chronic  inflammation triggers a reduction in the production of  tryptophan, the primary  building block of serotonin. It also impairs the  hippocampus, which is critical  to memory function. And it triggers the stress hormone cortisol, which has its  own set of depressive effects on the brain.

A key element of the TLC protocol is to begin taking a daily omega-3   supplement. The easiest source is fish-oil capsules. Fish oil is the  richest  natural source of both EPA and DHA, the two omega-3 molecules  that play an  important role in the brain. I recommend starting a daily  dose of 1,000  milligrams of EPA and 500 milligrams of DHA to all of my  patients.

If you currently have symptoms of depression, or if you want to help  prevent  the onset of illness in the future, this is the dose I suggest  you begin with,  as well. (If you are taking any medications,  particularly blood thinners, check  with your doctor first.)

2. Don’t Think — Do

Unlike hunter-gatherer societies, where people are usually busy  either  chasing dinner or lingering with the community after the meal,  people in  industrialized societies often find themselves alone, without  any kind of  activity that absorbs their full attention — conditions ripe  for  rumination.

Rumination appears to be an instinctive human response when something  goes  wrong. It’s as if we’re hardwired to replay our trials and  tribulations over  and over — perhaps to figure out what might help us  prevent similar negative  outcomes in the future. But after a brief  period of intense pondering, we  usually hit a point of diminishing  returns, when any more dwelling is a waste  of time — and a real source  of stress.

If you find yourself locked in the vise grip of rumination, I can offer  some  words of reassurance — breaking the habit may sound difficult, but  the process  is surprisingly straightforward. The first step involves learning to notice when  it’s happening.

One helpful strategy is to start monitoring your thought process every  hour  or so, just to see where your attention is. Set an alarm on your  watch or phone  to remind you to take note of your state of mind. Then,  when it goes off, jot  down any worries or negative thoughts you were  entertaining at the time.

As you become increasingly tuned in to your mental life, you’ll notice  that  some situations are particularly risk-prone. The research on this  point is  clear: People typically ruminate when they have nothing else to  occupy their  attention.

This leads to the second step: Learn to redirect your attention. In most   cases, it just takes a few minutes of immersion in a good alternative  activity  before the spell is broken.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all formula when it comes to finding  engaging  activities, some things turn out to be anti-ruminative for just  about  everybody. These include participating in shared activities,  whether it’s  building a fence or playing a game of pickup basketball, or  getting involved in  an active conversation — especially if it’s about  something other than what’s  bothering you.

If you’re engaged in a mindless activity that itself leads to  rumination,  listening to upbeat music or books on tape can give your  mind somewhere else to  go.

3. Move Your Body, Shift Your Brain

Even though everyone knows that exercise is a key to maintaining  physical  health, few realize that it’s equally important for preserving  mental health.  Like an antidepressant medication, exercise increases the  activity of brain  chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. It also  stimulates the brain’s release  of a key growth hormone (BDNF) that helps  reverse the toxic, brain-damaging  effects of depression. It even  sharpens memory and concentration, and helps us  think more clearly.

That said, motivation to exercise can be hard to come by. One reason  might  be that our hunter-gatherer forebears got so much physical  activity in the flow  of daily life that they actually avoided extra  exertion whenever possible. They  followed a simple rule: Spend your  energy only on activities that have a clear  purpose or offer immediate  reward. This rule was so important to people’s  survival that it became  part of our genetic legacy.

Many people discover this when they approach a treadmill or stationary  bike  and feel as if a part of their brain is screaming out, “Don’t do  it! You’re not  actually going anywhere on that thing! Conserve the  calories!”

Fortunately, there’s a way out of this dilemma. Yes, we’re genetically  wired  to avoid extraneous exertion, but what about necessary or  pleasure-producing  activity? As it turns out, whenever we’re caught up  in enjoyable, meaningful  activity, our tolerance for exercise goes up  dramatically. So when you make  activity purposeful or pleasant (riding  your bike to work, dancing, playing a  team sport, walking to the store  instead of driving), you’re much more likely  to do it.

When it comes to hitting the gym, it can really help to work out with   someone else. Spending time with others tends to be highly absorbing, so  it  makes the workout pass quickly; it also gives you the mood-elevating  benefits  of social support. Finally, a workout partner can provide the  initiative that  depression steals away.

How much exercise is necessary for an antidepressant effect? Incredibly,  a  Duke University study found that a brisk half-hour walk three times a  week  proved to be more effective than the antidepressant medication  Zoloft. So 90  minutes of heart-rate-elevating exercise is enough to feel  a difference. As one  personal trainer told me, “I don’t think I’ve ever  seen someone leave the gym  in a worse mood than when they arrived.”

4. Let There Be Light

Our hunter-gatherer ancestors were outside all day, every day. As a  result,  our eyes have special light receptors that respond only to the  brightness of  natural outdoor light, which is 100 times brighter than typical indoor lighting.  If you’re like most people who spend most of  their time inside, your eyes’ light receptors simply aren’t getting the  stimulation they need. And that can  have a major effect on both your  brain chemistry and your body clock.

Bright light stimulates the brain’s production of serotonin, that  crucial  chemical emissary that boosts feelings of well-being. According  to the latest  research, people usually feel some elevation of mood  within an hour or two of  exposure to bright light. One recent study  showed that people under the  influence of bright light are less likely  to argue or fight with others.

When we’re deprived of ample light, however, serotonin can fall and the   light-sensitive body clock falters: Hormone levels get out of whack,  sleep  grows erratic, and energy ebbs and flows at all the wrong times.  So resetting  the body clock each day is important, and it all hinges on  those specialized  light sensors at the back of the eyes.

How much bright light is required to keep the clock running on   time? Fortunately, it’s not that much. For people suffering from   depression, 30 minutes of light exposure each day is all it takes to  provide an  antidepressant effect. However, the light needs to match the  brightness of a  sunny day — an intensity of at least 10,000 lux — in  order for the 30 minutes’ worth of exposure to do the trick.

Getting your bright light exposure by spending some time outside has  some  clear advantages. Mere exposure to a natural setting can lower  stress hormones  and reduce feelings of anxiety; this holds true even  when we’re enjoying an  urban park or suburban backyard. We can also  easily combine time outside with  other antidepressant lifestyle  elements, like exercise and social  interaction.

For those in less-than-hospitable climes, however, using a 10,000-lux  light  box during the winter months has advantages of its own. As long as  you have  access to a power supply, it will give you all the light you  need with the  flick of a switch.

5. Get Connected

For hundreds of thousands of years, our ancestors lived in small,  intimate  social bands, facing together the relentless threat of  predators, the forces of  nature and hostile neighboring clans. Such a  clannish sensibility is still  keenly present among modern-day foraging  bands and other traditional,  pre-agrarian societies. According to  anthropologists, “alone time” is virtually  unknown among such groups.

In the industrialized West, on the other hand, we’ve strayed far from  this  sensibility. According to the latest research, 25 percent of  Americans have no  intimate social connection at all, and countless  others spend the bulk of their  time by themselves. One recent study  found that half of all American adults  lack even a single close friend  they can rely on.

Isolation is a major risk factor for depression. Those who lack the  benefit  of a meaningful social connection are highly prone to becoming  depressed,  especially in the face of severe life stress. And, sadly,  once people start  experiencing severe depressive symptoms, they tend to  withdraw even further  from the world around them. In large part, this is  because the brain responds  to depression as it does any other serious  illness, directing us to avoid any  activity, especially social activity,  so the body can focus on getting  well.

Depression can also take an enormous toll on friendships, because the   depressed person feels as if he’s doing his friends a favor by pulling  away,  and his friends, in turn, feel rejected.

It can be helpful to start by disclosing your struggles: Honest  disclosure  is essential to maintaining the health of any friendship. It  can also be  helpful to do a little educating. When your friends  understand that depression  is an illness and withdrawal is a symptom,  it’s easier to take your  disappearance less personally.

The most useful thing for treating depression, by far, is to spend  regular  time together in shared activities: walking, working out,  playing games, going  to a concert, attending a play and so on. Such  activities are especially  effective in combating depressive rumination,  and they promote activity in the  brain’s left frontal cortex, which  itself provides a direct antidepressant  effect.

We ask each patient in the TLC program to adopt the goal of scheduling  at  least three such activities a week with friends or other close   acquaintances.

6. Sleep Well

It’s hard to imagine a hunter-gatherer chasing a lion deep into the  night;  most traditional societies sleep when it’s dark and work when  it’s light.  Meanwhile, the average American stays up well past dark and  gets only 6.7 hours  of sleep a night.

Because sleep is so essential to our well-being, it takes only a few  nights  of deprivation before adverse effects start piling up: Memory and  concentration  wane, mood turns irritable, judgment grows poor,  coordination deteriorates, and  immune function declines.

Sleep disturbance and depression go hand in hand. The loss of slow-wave   sleep — the most restorative type of slumber — can directly account for  many of  depression’s most debilitating features.

Several elements of the TLC program are aimed at enhancing sleep.  Physical  exercise leads to more restorative slow-wave sleep. Daytime  bright-light  exposure strengthens the body clock, making it easier to  fall asleep and stay  asleep. But if you find you’re still not getting  quality sleep because of  insomnia, here are some suggestions:

*Use your bed only for sleeping (not reading, working or watching TV).

*Get up and go to bed at the same time every day. This helps keep your  body  clock on track. Avoid napping during depressive episodes. It can  reduce your  sleep drive, and evidence suggests it can cause a reduction  in slow-wave  sleep.

*Avoid drinking alcohol before bed. Using alcohol (even a drink or two) to  relax and fall asleep can produce frequent awakenings throughout the  night.

*Turn down your thermostat at night. Our remote ancestors always slept   outside or in open huts, where it got noticeably colder around bedtime. A  nighttime dip in temperature sends a primal signal that it’s time to sleep.

If you are currently being treated for depression, consult with your  health  professional before adjusting your regimen or treatment plan. But don’t  underestimate the positive impact that lifestyle shifts like  these can have.  Beating depression may begin with recognizing that we  were simply never  designed for the frenetic pace of modern American  life. By reclaiming the  protective features of the past and integrating  them into the present, I  believe we can overcome depression, once and  for all.

By Stephen Ilardi, PhD, Experience Life

Experience Life magazine is an award-winning health and fitness  publication that aims to empower people to live their best, most authentic  lives, and challenges the conventions of hype, gimmicks and superficiality in  favor of a discerning, whole-person perspective. Visit experiencelife.com   to learn more and to sign  up for the Experience Life newsletter, or to subscribe  to the print or digital version.

 

 

 

By Megan

Megan, selected from Experience  Life

Experience Life magazine is an award-winning health and fitness  publication that aims to empower people to live their best, most authentic  lives, and challenges the conventions of hype, gimmicks and superficiality in  favor of a discerning, whole-person perspective. Visit experiencelife.com   to learn more and to sign  up for the Experience Life newsletter, or to subscribe  to the print or digital version.

5 Sure-Fire Ways to Increase Your Energy

5 Sure-Fire Ways to Increase Your Energy

 

There  were very specific times in my life when I would hit a wall at 3:00  and  my energy was drained. There were also some very specific things  happening  at this time in my life that I can see very clearly were the  causes of my  energy walls.

There are some very easy tweaks you can make in your day so that you  don’t  hit the wall at some point. You CAN feel vibrant and full of  energy each and  everyday. And the best part – and I know this might be a  shock to you all – the  way in which we increase energy is not what you  may think.

Learn 5 Ways to Increase Your Energy

Operate with Passion: The biggest reason I was hitting a  wall at  3:00 is because I was no longer passionate for what I was doing with my  work. I knew I wanted to step up and I was afraid to take that step. So   everyday I was going through the motions wishing it was different. Your  body  can sense this feeling of lack of enthusiasm. It’s basically  choosing sleep  over life. If you aren’t living a vibrant life… might  as well go to sleep! What  do you need the energy for?

Find Your Purpose: We were all put here on the planet for a  reason.  We all have a purpose and a mission from spirit. If you are not living   your purpose or don’t know what it is, your energy will diminish until  you  connect to it. Once again, why do you need to last all day if you  aren’t even  living out your purpose for coming into this life? Your body  is asking you to  change and as soon as you begin operating from this  space you will be surged  with energy and you won’t want to stop.  Therefore, you will be supported in  that energetically.

Create Your Own Beliefs: One of the most draining things is  living  out of someone else’s belief systems. You are unique, and you have a   unique path in your life. It doesn’t matter if your mother believes what  you  are doing is impossible or your sibling believes it’s stupid. You  must operate  from your own empowering beliefs that bring you closer to  where you want to go.  Napoleon Hill said that the only beliefs or  thoughts you should keep are the  ones that align with your desires – all  the other ones have got to go!

Enjoy the Dining Experience: Take a time out for meals and  be  present with your meal times. Enjoy the food, taste the herbs and  spices,  sit down, and breathe with your food. This is a nourishing  experience; you are  taking care of yourself when you put food into your  body, so give yourself time  in these moments.

Check In and Get Quiet: Throughout the day ask yourself how  you are  feeling or what you want to do. Sometimes when I check in I notice that  I  might need a nap, or maybe I am thirsty. Perhaps my body is asking for a   break or a walk. If you never slow down and get quiet you will miss the  signals  from your body and therefore your body has no choice but to go  to an extreme  wall to get you to stop. Always check in the way you would  with a newborn baby – you are worth it!

By Michelle Hastie, DivineCaroline

At DivineCaroline.com, women  come together to learn from experts in the fields, of health, sustainability,  and culture; to reflect on shared experiences; and to express themselves by  writing and publishing stories about anything that matters to them. Here, real  women publish like real pros. Together, with our staff writers, they’re  discussing all facets of women’s lives from relationships and careers, to travel  and healthy living. So come discover, read, learn, laugh and connect at DivineCaroline.com.

 

Feeling Overwhelmed? 5 Tips to Help

Feeling Overwhelmed? 5 Tips to Help

Feeling overwhelmed? You’re not alone! It’s a natural response to the  ever-increasing demands on our time. Even with all of the great technology and  time management tools we have, 24-hours can still seem like not enough time to  get a day’s work done. When you feel you are drowning in a sea of too many  commitments and not enough time to honor them, remember to keep these thoughts  in mind:

1. Everything will be okay. As overwhelming as this moment  may feel, everything will work out eventually. Perhaps the end result will not  be what you hoped or imagined, but you will be okay. What you are feeling now  won’t be how you will always feel. Ask yourself if what you’re fretting over  will be important one year from now, five years from now, or even ten years from  now.

2. Remind yourself of why you’re doing what you’re doing. It  can be tempting to procrastinate or want to give up, but think about the bigger  picture. This can help if you tend to get bogged down in the smaller, more  insignificant details. Think about the end result that you want to achieve and  use that as motivation to keep going despite your feelings of uncertainty or  inadequacy in handling certain steps of the process.

3. Believe in yourself. When you’re overwhelmed, it’s easy  to get down on yourself or start to doubt your own abilities. But studies have  shown that thinking positively actually leads to more creativity (meaning your  brain is able to come up with more possibilities and solutions). Instead of  using what little reserves of energy you have concentrating on why you think you  are inadequate, use that energy to believe that you can do it. Visualize your  success when you begin to doubt.

4. Taking a break may be just what you need. When you’re up  against a deadline, it can seem counterproductive to take a break — but if  you’re overwhelmed, it may be just what you need to re-energize yourself and put  a renewed, fresher effort into what you are doing. Sometimes doing something  unrelated to what is your most pressing task can actually help to give you some  perspective and make it better.

5. Ask for help if you need it. A lot of times we feel  overwhelmed because we may have overestimated our ability to handle something.  Let go of your pride and ask for assistance — whether that means extending a  deadline or having someone take over the some of the simpler, yet time consuming  tasks of your project. There’s nothing wrong with delegating; in fact, that’s  the sign of a great leader.

Remember that feeling overwhelmed is normal when you care a lot about the  outcome of something or have a lot on your plate. But try to stay calm, breathe,  and know that giving your best is all that you can do. Keep your resources in  mind and use them to help you manage your projects. Be proactive, take  initiative, and ask for help if you need it.

Image Credit: Helga Weber / Flickr

Erika Oglesby

Erika Oglesby is a freelance writer and wandering nomad currently located in  Grand Rapids, MI. She is dedicated to helping people better their lives through  self-knowledge and alternative therapies —  especially women of color and women  diagnosed with autoimmune diseases. Visit her website at http://www.erikaoglesby.com.

9 Feng Shui Tips for Work

9 Feng Shui Tips for Work

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that if you love working in  your office, you will spend more quality time there. And, if work feels like  play, you will be more creative and prosperity will naturally flow.

In Feng Shui, the “Career” area is about doing our life work. It is not about  work as drudgery. It is about doing vibrant work that flows from our deepest  core.Feng Shui offers some simple, practical, and  inexpensive solutions that    will support you in arranging a work space that  inspires creativity,    productivity, and prosperity.

As a Life Coach as well as a Feng Shui Consultant, I work with many people who want to  make a difference in the world. Whether they provide coaching services, sell  health-related products, or are a holistic health practitioner, their vision  encompasses enhancing the health and happiness of others and the planet. This is  why arranging an office that encourages you to spend time there is directly  connected to your vision.

Make sure your office reflects your passion, incorporating objects, words and  symbols representing that represent them and eliminating anything that does  not.

This is not the place for lots of family photos, objects from other hobbies  or past rewards not related to your current work.This is your palette for  creating the work that is uniquely you. Treat it as your sacred space.

1. Clear the clutter: Often home offices are a dumping ground of  all of those bits of things you can’t find a place for. Be diligent and don’t  allow anything in the space that does not support your vision, uplift your  spirit, or is necessary and functional to your current work. If you work at a  company, the shape of your office is broadcasting a message about your  competency. Make sure it is sending the message you want!

2. Get organized: If you are spending half your time looking  for things, you are losing precious time. If you are not good  at this, hire an  professional organizer to do the  initial set-up – budget permitting. If you  can’t pay for it, offer a trade of services to a  friend, colleague or  family member who has good organizing skills.

3 Arrange your desk so that it is in the empowered position:  This is where you can see the door from the desk but are not in direct alignment  with the door. This will make a huge difference in your ability to feel in  control of your destiny. If you can’t move your desk, get a mirror and place it  so that you can see who is coming in the door. These look like rear-view mirrors  and stick right to your monitor and  can be found at auto parts stores.

4. Create an ergonomically comfortable work station: Your  body must feel comfortable working there. Make sure your desk is the appropriate  height, have a comfortable chair, and arrange to have copy machines and other  chemical-emitting machines away from your work station. If your body hurts, or  you are smelling fumes, you are not only harming yourself, but it will create  another aversion to spending time there.

5. Balance open spaces with filled spaces:  This is called balancing the Yin and Yang. You need places for the eye to be engaged as  well as for it to rest. Organize all of the bits of office things such as  staplers, tape, etc. into colorful baskets. The eye will see one object rather  than many, creating a sense of organization, and peacefulness.

6. Make it a bright and happy space: This should be an  active space. You don’t want it to be so calming that you want to take a nap.  Bring in vibrant colors as well as art and objects that make your heart sing.  Replace fluorescent lighting when ever you can. Bring your own floor and/or desk  lamp to work, if possible. It will make a huge difference in your energy level  at the end of the day.

Use baskets to organize all of those “bits of  things”

7. Organize those snake-like computer cords so that you are  not looking at a  jumble of chaos. Radio Shack has cord organizers which allow  you to group them into long, wide tubes. Or roll them up, put a twist-tie on  them and drop them all into an attractive basket.

8. Make it inspiring: Bring in nature and collections that  you love. This is called balancing the Five Elements. Use book shelves to display a  beautiful vase, work of art, a shell, or a few objects from favorite  collections, and intersperse them  with your work books. (Use plants, water  fountains, and nature art; See Feng Shui Chi Enhancers.) Make it beautiful and inspiring  but don’t over do the collections.

9. For Feng Shui believers, arrange objects according to the Bagua  Map. (Click here for your Free Bagua Map.) The Bagua Map locates  the key energetic centers of a home or room. We then bring in environmental affirmations to enhance these areas. When we  strategically place objects that represent what we want to bring into our lives,  we set the intention for the chi or energy to flow in that direction.

We can use a “mini-Bagua” in our office by orienting the “entrance quadrant” from the direction we enter the room. Divide the room into nine equal sections  and put your affirmations (objects, words, artifacts, vision boards)  representing what it is you want to bring into each of these areas of your work  life into these quadrants.

An example of how to use Bagua enhancements in the  office:

  • Use a purple amethyst or favorite crystal in the Wealth area.
  • A water fountain, something made of glass, or a picture of flowing water in  the Career area.
  • Books pertaining to your work in the Knowledge area.
  • A lamp, an award, or a framed article about you or your company in the Fame area.
  • Pages of the book you are writing or projects you are working on in the Creativity area.
  • A green plant in the Health area.
  • A picture of the people you want to partner with in your Partnership area.  Note: when using the Bagua for business, substitute the word Partnerships for the Love and Marriage area.
  • Pictures or objects that represent helpful people in the Helpful People area. This area is also for travel, so don’t  forget all of the exotic places you want to travel to where you will be sharing  your gifts with the world!
  • Desk in the Center area, representing a grounded and balanced work life.  If this is not possible, just make sure the center is open and  clutter-free.

Make it up, make it fun, make it personal to what you want to bring into your  career, and enjoy the productivity that will come from being in an inspiring,  organized, and clutter-free space!

For your free Color Bagua Map click here.

By Erica Sofrina

Erica Sofrina is a  motivational speaker, author and life coach specializing in connecting people to  their spiritual essence. She is also an Internationally recognized Feng Shui  speaker, green living columnist, teacher and the author of the book Small  Changes, Dynamic Results! Feng Shui for the Western World and the Founder of  the West  Coast Academy of Feng Shui.  She is also the founder of Earth Spirit  Adventure Travel which takes people on retreats to powerful energy vortexes such  as Bali and Hawaii to facilitate their deep earth/spirit connection. Find out  more at www.ericasofrina.com

Know Yourself, Accept Yourself

Know Yourself, Accept Yourself

 

If you’re very self-critical, you can often times find yourself apologizing to others about the way you are. It can be demoralizing when who you are doesn’t match up with who you want to be. But the way of getting from point A (who you are) to point B (who you want to be) isn’t through negativity or self-defeat, but rather: acceptance.

Accepting who you are now doesn’t mean that you will never change. Accepting who you are now doesn’t mean that you are dangerously overlooking your flaws or your areas of weakness. But if you do accept who you are, it means you are better able to acknowledge those aspects of yourself that are less than perfect and compensate for them if needed.

You can spend your time lamenting the fact that you weren’t born perfect or you can use that energy to work with how you are right now. So, you need an extra push to get your to-do list done? Instead of trying the same things over and over again and failing (making a to-do list then getting overwhelmed at the sight of it and procrastinating to the point that you don’t get anything done), use your resources to do things differently. A resource could be anything: a book, a website, a friend, a co-worker or even a rewards system. The key is first knowing who you are, then accepting it so that you can work with it (rather than against it) to get different results.

How can you learn more about yourself? One way is by taking inventory of your strengths. It’s been found that we often spend most of our energy focusing on our *shortcomings rather than what we do well. Maybe it doesn’t matter so much that your sock drawer is always a mess if you are the type of person who can turn someone’s frown upside down. It’s important to know what your strengths are so that you can bring the best of you to the world (rather than always focusing on the “worst” of you). A great book that can help you with this is StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath. It gives an assessment of your skills and lays out strategies for utilizing your strengths in your everyday life.

The most important thing to remember is to keep some perspective on what really matters in the long run. Will you really remember that you didn’t make the best bean dip for your best friend’s party? Or will it matter more that you focused on being the best friend that you could possibly be — flaws and all?

Know yourself, accept yourself, and share your light with the world.

Erika Oglesby

Erika Oglesby is a freelance writer and wandering nomad currently located in Grand Rapids, MI. She is dedicated to helping people better their lives through self-knowledge and alternative therapies — especially women of color and women diagnosed with autoimmune diseases. Visit her website at http://www.erikaoglesby.com.

Image Credit: Ivan McClellan / Flickr

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