Tag Archives | health

The #1 Reason to Get in Shape Will Surprise You

Photo courtesy of Ms. PhoenixEvery year around this time it’s very common to hear people getting down on themselves about not being in better shape. In fact, New Year’s resolutions have already begun in earnest, or at least the planning of them, giving everyone a chance to promise to do better in January. “Just two more over-indulgent weeks!”

Unfortunately, along with healthy eating habits, exercise routines often slow down or even come to an abrupt halt around the holidays. Once the diet goes out the window, the motivation to stay fit goes right along with it. As with many things in life these days, the common approach to living a “healthy lifestyle” means restrictive dieting that is impossible to maintain. Several small slip ups can lead to a feeling of failure, and with a shrug of the shoulders, pure gluttony ensues.

In order to keep your diet and exercise routine from slipping away from you, make it part of your ever-increasing healthy lifestyle. As Savor author Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us, “We have more possibilities available in each moment than we realize.”

Every moment presents us with the opportunity to make a good decision or one that might lead us away from the life we want to live. The foundations of living mindfully include paying attention to ourselves and living consciously in order to improve our satisfaction with life. If we are living by the ideals of mindfulness, we should try to be present and aware of our food and fitness choices and how they will help us or harm us.

By choosing to be mindfully aware of your body, you become more in tune with yourself. You’ll find that you crave foods that nourish your body and that physical exercise feels good.  It feels good to be so connected to yourself! Not only will you be more self-aware and balanced, but your physical being will display the results of your mindful approach to eating and moving.  You’ll look healthier. Excess weight will come off. Skin conditions often disappear. Insomnia usually improves dramatically.

I’ve adopted a mindful approach to life. In fact, you might say I’ve embraced it with a zealous fervor. I was highly motivated to change my lifestyle because I was not physically healthy. My decision to switch to eating mindfully and following a regular exercise regime has vastly improved my body’s ability to keep excess weight off. I also sleep better and feel less pain than I have in over twenty years.

However, the most surprising benefit of becoming more aware of what the body needs actually has nothing to do with the physical being at all! Adopting a mindful fitness plan has been proven to make impressive physical changes…to the brain. The brains of people practicing regular, mindful fitness plans (and eating healthy foods) have higher levels of tryptophan hydroxylase, which is the rate-limiting enzyme of serotonin biosynthesis. Essentially, that’s our brain’s self-made anti-depressant.

In short: if weight gain, and more importantly your overall physical health are bringing you down this year (or at any time, for that matter) – put the concept of mindfulness to the test. Tune in to your body and learn what it needs. It’s highly likely that you’ll watch the numbers on the scale get smaller and smaller, while your grin grows exponentially.

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The REAL Reason You Shouldn’t be Eating at Chik-Fil-A

It’s amazing to me the number of people who have completely given up eating at a popular fast food restaurant based purely on a principle that has nothing to do with food.

Whether or not your opinions on gay marriage line up with Dan Cathy’s is totally up to you, of course, but personally I’d like to see more people deciding what to eat based on whether or not the food lines up with what the body needs.

It can be easy to make mindless choices when it comes to eating when the rhythm of daily life seems to demand it.  You can become zombified, mindlessely shoveling in food ordered through a window. You’ve got places to go, things to do.

Since food is what fuels the body and mind, you’ll soon have no place to go at all if you aren’t more mindful about how and what you eat. Reckless bingeing followed by disastrous dieting has led to copious amounts of obesity and a real lack of nutrients that healthy bodies need to succeed.

Mindful eating involves slowing down and checking in with yourself before diving in. Does your body actually need fuel right now or are you just bored, sad, or angry?  Making sure that you are eating for the right reasons is the first step to mindful eating.

If you have checked in with yourself and have decided that your craving for food is due to a mind/body need, the next step is to make mindful choices about what type of fuel you put in your engine. Make thoughtful decisions so that you eat a variety of foods every day, including fruits, vegetables and plenty of protein. If your check-in shows that you’re regularly craving sugar or fat, you’ll have to look into the reasons or factors for that and make some life changes accordingly.

Lastly, once you have made a wise food choice, spend extra time enjoying it. Eat slowly, and really contemplate the flavors, textures, and spices that exist in your food. Eating mindfully involves turning off outside distractions. Don’t eat in front of the TV or computer – the distractions keep you from knowing when you are adequately full. Eating in relative silence is actually the best idea. It allows you to focus only on the task at hand, and when your body is properly fueled, you will be able to recognize it.

Chew slowly while you eat, and spend time tasting each bite. Try to really appreciate the taste and sensation of each morsel before swallowing. Avoid having the next bite ready and waiting on your fork. Enjoy a bite fully, contemplate it, and then take another thoughtful taste.  I have to tell you – as research for this article, I began mindfully eating this past weekend. It was absolutely mindblowing. I have never enjoyed a meal so much, and I stopped with half of my plate still full. Amazing!

You don’t have to have an hour-long silent meal every day of the week – that’s just not practical for most people, but you can aim for a once-weekly mindful meal and begin making better overall choices before stuffing your belly. Only this time, make your choices based on the issue at hand – your health.

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As a Thank You to all of our loyal readers, this week we will be doing our first ever FREE GIVEAWAY!  To be eligible, you must be subscribed to DailyPath, and you can do that by clicking the sign up box on our Home Page. There will never be a cost to you and we will never try to sell you anything (unless we write a book, of course.)   :)

The winner will be mailed a brand new copy of the book Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food by Jan Chozen Bays. It’s a fantastic book and we wanted to be able to share it with a lucky reader. We’ll be drawing the random winner next Monday morning and the results will be announced here on the blog.  Good luck and thanks for reading.  We’re all in this together!

 

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How a Puppy Helped Me Recover From a Hysterectomy

Photo courtesy of LipBomb

In June 2011 I took my puppy to a local vet to be spayed. I had no idea that watching a puppy heal after her surgery would be so pertinent for me in just a year’s time.

When the puppy came home after surgery, she didn’t move much, and she slept a lot. She was not eating much – only small portions of soft food.  The vet told us she shouldn’t play hard for a few weeks to avoid injury.  The puppy curled up and protected her abdomen much of the time and stretched carefully before taking any steps. When attempting to move, she would whine so that I would help her.  One week after the surgery, she was moving better, but I noticed that when we had more commotion in the house, she moved into a quieter room to be alone.

As I write this, I am recovering from a Laparoscopic Subtotal Hysterectomy with a Salpingo Oophorectomy, which means that I was spayed just like the puppy. My uterus and fallopian tubes were also removed. It has been a year since the puppy’s procedure. I am reclining with a pillow protecting my abdomen, trying to finish a few ounces of a protein shake.  The pain killers are wearing off and I need to go to the bathroom.  When I first try to get up, the puppy, who is now bigger, begins to whine so that my friend will assist me.  I remember how the puppy stretched gingerly after her surgery, and now I completely understand why.

After a week, I am fatigued as I cannot sleep on my back without erupting into painful coughs and the incisions are on my abdomen and sides, preventing me from lying prone.  I am antsy and achey. I’m tense most of the time, bracing against anything that might use my abdominal muscles. After the second week, I am well enough to attend a Fourth of July party, but called it an early night so I could curl up and sleep – I couldn’t take the all of commotion.  The doctor tells me this is normal, but I feel like I’m missing something.

I finally realized I have been neglecting my wellness routine since the surgery! I was amazed at how much better I felt overall after just two days of starting it up again again. Here, I will share with you what keeps me feeling well as I continue to recover:

1. Restraint.  Just because you have a ‘good’ day does not mean that you should do more than the doctor ordered!  It takes a few more weeks for the incisions to heal all the way through, so try to be a patient patient.

2. Asking for help.  Prepare your friends and family what you will specifically need their help with.  You may need to prepare yourself to ask for help if this is something that is difficult for you.

3. Daily meditation.  I have a reminder set on my calendar to take a break and meditate for an hour every day.  In the past, this has increased my productiveness and energy levels tremendously.  After surgery, I didn’t have to be productive so I let my meditation slip. However, my body is working harder than ever, and meditation helps healing too.

4. Drinking water.  I normally drink at least a gallon every day.  After surgery, I just wasn’t drinking it.  As soon as I increased my water intake, I was much less fatigued and the pain seemed to decrease more quickly.

5. Eating every few hours.  Try to eat every 3-4 hours. Make sure to get lots of protein. Over-eating right after surgery makes your body work too hard for digestion when it should be focusing on healing. Balance your diet as much as possible, and include acidophilus if you’re taking antibiotics.

6. Maintaining a calm environment.  Friends and family will want to help, but if they bring drama, commotion, or unhealthy foods that aren’t good for the healing process, they’ll cause more harm than good.  Feel confident telling people you need to be alone to rest.  Friends who really care will understand and won’t be offended.

7. Reframing your thoughts.  Instead of thinking, “It has been TWO FULL WEEKS since my surgery! Will I ever heal?” try thinking, “It has ONLY been two weeks since my surgery and my body is still in the beginning stages of the healing process.” Mentally prepare yourself to ease back into your activities very slowly.

It may not seem like it, but you will make it to the end of the healing process. Make it a little less painful by following the above 7 steps. Having a four-legged friend by your side helps too. :)

Laurie Sherazee is a woman in the middle of a journey in search of her Authentic Self.  In her day job, she works as a Lead National Deployment Engineer for a major cable company. She also runs an eCommerce business. Laurie is constantly striving toward self-improvement, which led her here to DailyPath.

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Can Taking a Mental Health Day Get You Fired?

Photo courtesy of Jinx!

Taking a sick day when you’re feeling physically horrible is generally considered acceptable by most employers, as long as it doesn’t happen all the time. However, tending to your mental health can be slightly more controversial if not handled correctly.

Nearly every job entails some amount of stress.  Add to that the high paced personal lives that many Americans are living, and you end up with a very mentally weary workforce, pushing themselves day after day to make it to their jobs. If you’re not physically ill –  is it ok to call in “sick?”

The answer doesn’t seem to be very cut-and-dried in very many employee handbooks.

If you’re feeling mentally drained, your workplace probably won’t benefit from your presence anyway, so taking an unscheduled day at home recovering your brainpower might be really beneficial. Just keep a few things in mind:

  • Remember to call your boss.
    Forgetting to let your superiors know that you won’t be at work is definitely not a good start to a relaxing day off. Call (don’t text) any and all management who need to know of your absence.
  • Use generalities.
    Explain that you are just not feeling well and that it would be best if you did not come in to the office that day. Avoid saying that you are sick so that you aren’t actually lying and to avoid the day after ”How are you feeling?” conversations.
  • Choose your day appropriately.
    Taking a day off when the office is already understaffed or super-busy will irritate co-workers who have to pick up your slack. Choose a slow day to take a mental rest.
  • Plan ahead.
    Avoid anything stressful on your mental health day - figure out how you’re going to spend your time before the actual day. Rent movies, borrow books, buy that ice cream you want to indulge in. Have everything on hand so that you don’t even have to leave the house.
  • Unplug.
    If you must, give yourself 30 minutes to answer personal emails, and then disconnect from the outside world. Turn off your computer and cell phone in order to focus entirely on relaxation.
  • Choose your company wisely.
    Spending your mental health day with a friend might possibly lead to drama or conflict. Don’t take that chance on your day off. Go solo and make all of the decisions yourself.
  • Don’t be seen in public.
    Why take the risk of being spotted by a coworker or superior? Stay at home, where you can recover your mental clarity while staying out of the spotlight.

The bottom line is this: your mental health is just as important as your physical health, and although a small number of managers still expect their employees to tough it out, many employers today understand the value of a mental health day. In order to limit your need for excessive absences, though, make sure you are constantly making tiny improvements in your everyday life, leaving you better equipped to handle stressors without becoming overloaded.

 

 

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Why the Crazy Cat Lady Might be Saner Than You Think

Photo courtesy of Adrienne McGuire
Last month, our family bid goodbye to our beloved 12-year-old pug, Bruno. That’s him in the picture. He was quite an amazing dog, full of personality and attitude. He demanded attention and would howl in sadness anytime we left the house without him. My children never knew a life without a fluffy, pug-nosed friend following them around. He lived a good life, but last month his health quickly deteriorated. Losing our two-foot tall faithful companion was extremely sad, indeed.

I admit that having a pet is a huge responsibility, but the rewards are definitely worth it. Pet owners put a lot of time and effort into ensuring that their pets are healthy, well cared for, and happy. What they might not realize is, that time and effort will be returned tenfold because of the positive effects of bonding with their pet. Spending only 15 minutes cuddling with a furry friend causes the level of cortisol (a stress hormone) in the body to drop, and boosts serotonin (a happy hormone). Blood pressure and heart rates are lower in pet owners too.

I know that spending time with Bruno definitely helped me when I was feeling sad, because I always had a really good listener to talk to. Pets love us unconditionally, and will offer us emotional support no matter what life throws at us. Also, the act of caring for and walking our pets forces us to move around and stop brooding, and, in fact, studies have shown that dog owners actually have a much easier time recovering from both physically and emotionally traumatic events.

A dog who gets walked everyday undoubtedly has a healthier human holding the leash! And, cat owners have great circulation and fewer strokes than the rest of us. It seems that cat owners, while lavishing their kitty with love and attention, divert themselves from other stressful triggers. Additionally, pet owners usually enjoy talking with other pet owners. This leads to more healthy interaction with other people, which is essential for keeping a healthy mind and can lead to improvements in other areas of life as well, professionally and personally.

Since my children grew up with Bruno, they are less likely to develop allergies, and more likely to have a stronger immune system. This will ideally lead to less sick days for them when they reach adulthood, which, for at least one of my children, might entail working with animals! He says he would like to help sick animals or teach service dogs how to help sick humans. (Animal lover through and through.) Service dogs can be trained to pick up dropped items, open doors, and warn their owner about impending dangers.

It’s clear that adopting a pet benefits both animals and humans. They help us to stay physically active, mentally balanced and happier overall, which makes finding success in other areas of our lives that much easier. If you have ever considered bringing a pet into your home, maybe now is the time to go for it. I know Bruno and I were both much better off for having known each other.

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How to Play When the Deck is Stacked Against You


Photo courtesy of ccarlstead

During my chiropractic appointment today, I got to talking with the good doc about the condition of my spine and the fact that most of the joints in my body are degenerating prematurely due to Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. After we briefly discussed my diagnosis, he sat down quite abruptly and said, “I can always tell within 5 minutes of meeting someone whether they are going to let their problems overtake them or if they are going to rise up and live life in spite of them. Adrienne – you are a determined person and you have a realistic attitude toward your condition. Embrace your problems and resolve to enjoy your life anyway.”

Of course, he’s right, but it is easy for anyone to lose focus when any part of your life is dragging you down and it seems like the world is against you. Regardless of the nature of your struggles, there is a lot you can do to move toward enjoying your life again, and it’s not as simple as having a good attitude! Although it can be difficult to stay motivated and engaged in life when faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges, one thing you definitely do NOT want to do is to adopt the “woe is me” approach. You might not always feel positively thrilled with the circumstances of your life, but try to steer clear of drowning in self-pity. This step alone will keep you afloat while you try to adapt your life accordingly.

Be proactive. Make a clear plan that sets out the goals you hope to achieve, whether personal, physical, emotional, or professional.  Be sure that you have specific goals and a clear plan of action that will allow you to accomplish them. Difficult times test our motivation levels, and staying focused on the end game will push you to persevere even when you really don’t want to.  Choose to spend your time with people who buoy your self-confidence and don’t bring you down further.  Eliminate “problem people” from your life and surround yourself with those who make you feel understood and encouraged during hard times.

As I have learned, sometimes life is less about trading in your cards and more about accepting the hand you have been dealt.  No matter what life has thrown at you, believe in yourself.   Have confidence that you can move through life and enjoy the awesome parts to the fullest. And, instead of battling your inner demons, hold hands with them and invite them along for the ride.

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How Your Health is Affecting Your Professional Success


Photo courtesy of idovermani

Once I decided to start working for myself from home, my diet admittedly became less than optimal.  I mean, the kitchen is right there. That delicious Easter candy is so close I can smell that Reese’s peanut butter cup. I began eating whatever was appealing to me on any particular day, instead of being forced to eat the healthy lunch I had packed for my previous office job. I began to realize that this whole “working for myself” thing, while ultimately the best choice for my particular situation, might be taking a toll on certain aspects of my health.

Bloggers, writers and other work-from-home entrepreneurs tend to do a lot of activities that can cause us to be less active than most people. We spend many hours a day coding, typing, reading, proofreading, emailing, posting, marketing, editing websites….and although we love what we do, it is extremely important to keep our bodies running well so that our minds can continue to produce the creativity that makes what we do possible. Additionally, our businesses could possibly skyrocket to a whole new level if we work on optimizing our overal general health.

We can take a look at the foods that we are fueling our minds with, and make some easy changes by cutting out sugary drinks and processed foods all day long. These will sap our energy and our creative levels will plummet.  Taking regular breaks to eat healthy meals and snacks is vital and can really energize productivity levels.  Making time during the work day for brief exercise breaks is a good idea too.  A benefit of working for yourself means that you don’t have totally set hours! Take a half hour in the middle of your work day for a yoga session or a walk around the neighborhood.

Of course, this applies to everyone who is employed, no matter what your job title is, and regardless of who is the boss.  However, working for yourself means that you have to impose many rules and routines onto yourself, without someone telling you, “You will now take a break and eat.” We have a lot to be in charge of as entrepreneurs, and sometimes we put our physical health on the back burner.  Put your health on the front burner! You’ll see a rise in your motivation level, your productivity will increase, and your business will be more successful than ever.

 

 

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How Full Catastrophe Living Can Change Your Life

Photo courtesy of Hape_Gera

A few months ago, I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Type III, a painful connective tissue disorder that makes many everyday activities impossible, including working outside of the home. I had to resign from my well-paying office job and I began to feel that my life as I knew it was over. I didn’t know what I was going to do, if I could pay my bills, or if I could still manage to be a good enough parent. I was also in quite a great deal of physical pain which just kept getting worse. I spiraled downward into a pit of self loathing and despair until I hit a hard rock bottom and realized there was nowhere left to go but up.

I clawed my way out of my depression long enough to crawl into the lap of my new therapist, who recommended that I read the book Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn. I began reading it as soon as it arrived at my front door in that familiar brown packaging I have come to love. In the book, Zinn describes the experiences of his patients during his ten years of teaching an eight-week course called the Stress Reduction and Relaxation Program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. Over 4,000 people ultimately took the course, which teaches mindfulness as an effective way to develop control over our own lives, despite all of the catastrophes we may be presented with on a regular basis.

During my reading of the book, I began to put some of his suggestions into practice in my own life and I started to see a change in the way I faced difficulties. Mindfulness involves using our inner capacities for relaxation, paying attention, awareness and insight, and becomes a form of ‘walking meditation’ as you move throughout your daily activities. Your focus moves from “doing” to “being” as you learn how to concentrate on the foundations of mindfulness: non-judging, patience, trust, non-striving, acceptance and letting go. This transformation is reached through a combination of breathing, various forms of meditation, body scans and yoga.

Throughout my experience with practicing full catastrophe living, I have learned how to watch my thoughts rather than getting caught up in them. By allowing my body and mind to rest in the moment I have become more adept at tuning into life’s basic experiences. I am now able to be in the moment with everything exactly as it is, without wanting to change a thing. Daily, I have been practicing mindfulness by concentrating on what is happening now rather than things in the past or future, and I have gained a deep appreciation for the present. I have realized that I have a limited time on this earth and in this body, so I’m taking it all in. Every. Single. Moment.

If you’re anything like me, and have been dealing with an increased amount of stressors in your life, give the concept of mindfulness a try.  You’ll be surprised at how much of life you’ve been missing.

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How to Use One of the Seven Deadly Sins to Your Advantage


Photo courtesy of Ricardo Vacapinta

Several months ago, I spent an entire day in my bathrobe, doing absolutely nothing aside from playing computer games. I literally did not leave the sofa except for trips to the bathroom and trips to the fridge. This was very unusual for me, and occasionally I felt a pangs of guilt when I thought of all the things I “should” have been doing. Those feelings, however, were never quite strong enough to wrench me away from killing a few more zombies with peashooters.

The week following Robe-a-palooza was the most productive I’d had in recent memory, more than enough to make up for the time off, and yet I still felt guilty about “losing” that one particular day.

My point is not to assert that a day or two off from your regular schedule can lead to rejuvenation – you already know that. That’s the whole idea behind weekends, after all. However, I think we (me included) tend to downplay the value of using at least some of our time off as an opportunity to get disgustingly sloth-like and really shut down, at least for a few hours.

When people say they want to make the most of life, usually what they mean is they want to cut down on the number of things they do that don’t apply directly to their main life goals.  Even on their days off, they train themselves to feel bad if they’re not constantly accomplishing something “useful.” Weekends are seen as a time to get all the errands done that didn’t get done during the week, or to participate in a hobby that will make them a more educated or well-rounded person.

And that’s fine, errands and hobbies are great. But sometimes watching DVDs and eating ice cream can be just as worthwhile. That doesn’t mean you have to be a couch potato every weekend – for most of us, that would get pretty boring. It just means that you don’t have to have an “acceptable” justification for occasionally taking a complete day off and doing nothing at all.

Psychologically, this can be difficult to get used to, especially if you consider yourself an active, ambitious person. I’ve been making an effort to schedule a complete rest day at least twice a month, but it’s been hard to embrace the idea, even though physically I feel much better and overall I’ve been getting more done. When people phone me on one of my sloth days and ask me what I’m doing, my first impulse is to hide the fact that I’m watching trashy reality TV marathons in my underwear. I feel like I should say, “I’m catching up on my Italian lessons,” or “I’m just heading out the door to go rock climbing.” Over time, I’m hoping I will adjust to the frame of mind where I don’t feel slightly embarrassed at doing nothing, because I think in general it’s doing me a lot of good.

In a society where we’re constantly bombarded with the ideas of pushing forward and achieving, it’s more important than ever to make sure there’s some balance. Try scheduling in a sloth day or two next month and see what positive changes happen for you.

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