All posts in Mindfulness

Think Positive About Aging


Are you worried about the aches and pains of getting old?  If you do, then don’t.  It could make you lose your mind.

Individuals who hold negative beliefs about aging are more likely to have brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new Yale University study.  Figuring out a way to think positively about growing old could be a good way to lower the rate of Alzheimer’s disease, according to the findings.  Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating neurodegenerative disorder that causes dementia in more than 5 million Americans.  The findings were published online Dec. 7 in the journal of Psychology and Aging.

“We believe it is the stress generated by the negative beliefs about aging that individuals sometimes internalize from society that can result in pathological brain changes,” said Becca Levy, associate professor of public health and of psychology. “Although the findings are concerning, it is encouraging to realize that these negative beliefs about aging can be mitigated and positive beliefs about aging can be reinforced, so that the adverse impact is not inevitable.”

Based on MRIs, the researchers found that long-time participants who held more negative beliefs about aging showed a greater decline in the volume of the hippocampus, a part of the brain crucial to memory. Reduced hippocampus volume is an indicator of Alzheimer’s disease.

Then researchers used brain autopsies to examine two other indicators of Alzheimer’s disease: Amyloid plaques, which are protein clusters that build up between brain cells; and neurofibrillary tangles, which are twisted strands of protein that build up within brain cells. Participants holding more negative beliefs about aging had a significantly greater number of plaques and tangles. The age stereotypes were measured an average of 28 years before the plaques and tangles.

So, for those who worry about getting up in years, it’s time for an attitude adjustment.  And for those who need help with positive thinking, it’s important that you talk to your doctor about taking care of the problem.

That’s where a trained wellness coach might come in.  Wellness coaches work with doctors and patients on an integrative approach to becoming healthy physically, mentally and spiritually — and staying that way.


New Year, New You


Are you one of the many who start the New Year with resolutions about improving your health? If so, congratulate yourself. Wanting to make things better is an excellent start. But it’s the follow up that is too often lacking. Accountability is critical, and that’s where a health and wellness coach can help.

A qualified integrative health coach focuses on you as a whole being. She understands the science and psychology behind successful behavior modification. Through a mutual partnership she works with you to understand your personality as well as your past successes and failures. She helps you to turn good ideas and aspirations into reality.

Wellness Beyond Fifty works closely with you to transform resolutions into solutions— pain free.


Do Yourself a Favor: Practice Gratitude


Are you a happy person? If so, beyond any doubt, you should be extremely grateful. Are you a grateful person? If so, you should be extremely happy. You can’t have one without the other.

Write this down: “Happy = Grateful, and vice versa.” Stick it on your refrigerator, in your journal, at the top of your to-do list. Share this with your spouse, your children, close friends. It’s one of the most important things to remember upon starting your day.  It’s precisely what Thanksgiving is all about, so when you celebrate the holiday, include it in when you say grace. If you are not the one who is asked to bless the turkey (or fish or tofu or whatever), offer it up as an addendum.

Indeed, being thankful is critical for good health and general well being. It also clears the mind of clutter, tamps down the ego, relaxes the body, reduces panic, opens hearts to the good things in life and helps creativity.

People are not born to be grateful. Those of you who have children are quite aware of this. It’s a learned skill that is well worth developing. “Developing,” of course, means, “practicing.”

So try each day to be grateful. Once you get good at it, wonderful things happen. Your problems are easier to define when you can see both sides of various issues. And once defined, problems can be solved. Besides, if you make a conscious effort to be thankful for the good things you have, you won’t be driven to want more, more, more — which is a never-ending trap well worth avoiding.

And, perhaps most important, being grateful strengthens your relationships not only with other people but also with your own body. The power of positive thinking is incredibly strong.  Life changing. Miraculous. The most important key to unlocking happiness, thank Goodness!


Curiosity Feeds Your Brain


Curiosity does not kill the cat. Curiosity does just the opposite, and same goes for humans. The more someone knows about the world, the more likely they’re able to survive.  So do yourself a favor. Ask questions, get answers and stay curious. Keep your brain active and you will be happier, healthier and stand a better chance of living a long and productive life.

All of which might make you wonder: Why are some people more curious than others? Does the answer have anything to do with aging, stress, diet, use of drugs (prescribed or otherwise)? Do genetics matter?

The answer is “yes” to all of these questions, they all have something to do with the release of a chemical compound in the brain called “dopamine,” which transmits nerve impulses and plays a role in the formation of adrenaline. Adrenaline subsequently raises blood pressure, speeds up heartbeat and warns you something big is about to happen.

The reaction traditionally is known as the “fight or flight” response — which at first thought doesn’t seem very healthy. But adrenaline is vitality. It lights up your brain, so to speak. It sparks curiosity, keeps you engaged, and helps you gather and retain information that is especially important for living a good life. When curiosity is piqued, the parts of your brain that regulate pleasure and reward respond positively.

All of which is worth remembering.


If you want to be happy for the rest of your life…


Being blessed has everything to do with being happy. Christians and Jews especially understand this, as well as members of most other major faiths and persuasions. But happiness often requires an attitude-adjustment technique.

Here’s how:

  • Sleep in a comfortable bed. A saggy mattress will not do.
  • No matter what, make it a point to wake up each morning thankful you’re still alive. You have lots of good things to do for others as well as yourself.
  • Your home, apartment, room or wherever you live is your castle. Keep it clean. There is no room in a happy life for confusion.
  • Surround yourself in light. Flip on the switch, open the curtains, lift the shades, step outside.  Light is energy.  Darkness is depressing.
  • Keep a fresh coat of paint on your walls, and decorate them with beautiful art. And make sure each piece means something positive to you.
  • Same goes for music.
  • De-clutter your house and your mind will follow. But remember, one room at a time.
  • Count your blessings. Your life is full of them.  It’s all a matter of attitude.

Drinking Causes Hangovers; Effect is a Matter of Degree

Friends Eating An Al Fresco Lunch, Holding Wineglasses
If you drink alcohol — which includes beer, wine and liquor — you WILL have a hangover. The difference in severity is a matter of degree.

The human body is a well-oiled machine, built to last well into old age — an average of 81 years for American women and 76 for American men. The introduction of any amount alcohol into the body throws your system out of whack. (Note: this includes red wine). So the best advice for folks who wonder about alcohol consumption is “don’t drink.”

But for those who do decide to take the risk, it’s best to remember the following advice:

  • One drink (4 ounces of alcohol content) is enough, two is chancy, three is dangerous and four is insane.
  • Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Food slows the effects as alcohol, an alien substance, moves through your system.
  • Drink plenty of water. (Same as above).
  • Alcohol poisons your body, especially your brain.
  • There is no cure for a hangover. Absolutely none.

Some studies indicate that moderate use of alcohol may be of benefit to older consumers who run the risk of heart disease. But those findings are debatable. What is not debatable is there are other ways to avoid heart problems. These include proper diet and exercise.

But what is proper?

There is a lot of information out there about alcohol consumption, dieting and exercise, and it is wise to study them. And once you have a plan, be sure to run it past your family physician. This is especially true for anyone more than 50 years of age.

Once you do have a doctor-approved diet and exercise regime, you should consider another factor that is essential for your success: Who will hold you to it? That’s where a health and wellness coach comes in. Certified health coaches will discuss your situation with you (and your doctor if need be), review your diet and exercise plan, help you understand your personal benefits and then hold you accountable.



Make Life Meaningful

Silhouette of hiking man in mountain

Make Life Meaningful

Happiness, resilience, connection and kindness — the key ingredients for a good life — do not come naturally for everyone. They thrive with practice. Here are two simple ways to stay in good shape:

  1. Live in the present. Stop fretting over the past and quit worrying about the future. Be mindful of what you are doing in the present. Mindfulness helps each of us to tune into our own senses. So practice paying close attention to your thoughts, feelings and sensations in a non-judgmental way. This reduces stress and opens the mind to the good things in life.
  2. Practice mindful eating. This fosters a healthier relationship with food. Hold a single raisin between your thumb and forefinger. Focus on it. Turn it in gently, notice the folds and ridges and the areas that shine and those that are dark. Roll it at your fingertips, exploring the texture. Close your eyes as you hold it and imagine how it tastes. Bring it close to you nose and appreciate its fragrance. Bring it to your lips, then gently place it in your mouth. Enjoy the initial taste. Bite it in half. Note what is happening in your mouth as you slowly chew. Now slowly swallow. Feel it moving downward into your stomach. Consider the next one and start again.

By increasing awareness of internal and physical states, you are practicing mindfulness. You are living in the moment. You are practicing control over your thoughts, feelings and behavior right now. You are also becoming more attuned to hunger and fullness, and therefore eliminating emotional eating.

“When we taste with attention, even the simplest foods provide and universe of sensory experience,” notes mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn. So take time to practice this everyday and at every meal. And enjoy!


One Productivity Myth You Can Ignore

One Productivity Myth You Can Ignore

True or False?  A key to being successful and doing more important work is to be an early riser.  Early risers do their best work before everyone’s awake and the distractions of the day take over.

False!  Rising early is is not a requirement for success.  Don’t take this the wrong way.  Generally speaking, becoming an early riser is good advice.  It applies to a lot of people.  But the truth is that good, general advice doesn’t apply to everyone and there are far too many people trying to force themselves into this mold when a number of alternatives would might work much better.

There are 24 hours in every day, and it doesn’t matter which ones you choose to use so long as you use them effectively.  Everyone has their own set of hours when they’re most creative, and the key to doing great work is recognizing when they are and leveraging them.  Maybe you fall somewhere in between the extremes and you’re not quite sure where you fit.  There are a few questions you can ask yourself to get closer to finding your most productive time:

What time do you naturally wake up and go to bed?

If you can, spend a few days without an alarm clock and see what time you naturally wake up at.  When do you get tired again and go to sleep?  If you let it, your body will tell you what your natural rhythm is. You might feel tempted or pressured to wake up earlier, but don’t.  There’s no reason to mess with your natural schedule.

What time of day do you feel most alive?

This is your productive time and it’s the greatest opportunity you have to crank out your best work.  If you don’t feel like you’re very productive, it’s probably because you’ve been out of sync with your natural energy levels.  Pay attention to when you really come alive each day and use that window to do your most important work, not check email or surf the web.

The problem a lot of people run into is that there are too many distractions during their productive time.  Maybe you have to be at work or have some other commitment you’ve made.

If that’s your case and you’re trying to juggle other commitments with your most important work, then try out the early riser routine.  It’s popular because it works.  It’s just not the best option for a lot of people.

So, try to make your most important work the primary commitment during productive hours.  That may seem like a lot to ask, but the truth is, you eventually have to make the shift anyway if you want your best work to become your life’s work.  You can only hold those conflicting ideals for so long before you either take a big leap or resign from your best work.

Productive Productivity

Assuming you’re ready to let go of the early-riser myth and start doing your most important work when it’s right for you, here are a few things I do to make sure I get the most productivity out of my own time:

  • Stick to a schedule.  Figure out when you’re most productive and set it aside for your most important work.
  • Pick one task.  Don’t get bogged down trying to do 10 “important” things at once. Pick one and do it with focus.
  • Eliminate distractions.  If I want to do my best work, I need to focus.  That means I turn off the computer, the phone, even the stereo.  One-hundred percent of my attention goes toward the work that needs to get done.
  • Find back-up work locations.  I have a primary work space and routine, but occasionally that can cause things to get a boring.  If I feel stifled, I have two or three other places I can go to get things flowing again.  A change of scenery can make a huge difference for me.

Start getting used to doing your best work during your most productive time and you might notice less and less of a need to get up extremely early to keep up with your schedule.

What are your productive hours? Are you getting the most out of them?


Are Health Coaches The New Shrinks?

Are Health Coaches The New Shrinks?


Weekly visits with a shrink used to be a popular strategy for getting a grasp on life.  But now health coaches are becoming more recognized as allies in getting lives healthier and back in sync.

In addition to being trained in behavioral change, health coaches have experience in wellness practices including proper nutrition, energizing yoga, sustained weight loss and deep meditation — and they’re popping up everywhere.

A health coach is a new type of health professional who works as a bridge between doctors and nutriontists.

“Like having a therapist, a health coach will work with you as a partner,” she said. “What’s different is that health coaches focus on helping you take stock of all the aspects of your well-being, and develop a map of where you are now and where you want to be.  We acknowledge the role of health in our lives as the foundation of a happy, full, interesting life.” Shelley Wroth, M.D., integrative health coach and physician.

Rooted in Change

Health coaching has grown  naturally from cognitive behavioral therapy and life coaching,  all with one goal:  To create positive behavioral change.  Change is difficult — something that health coaches are extremely aware of.  That’s one reason New Year’s resolutions usually fall by the wayside by the end of January.  But good health coaches take this into consideration, helping you plan for setbacks and to overcome them.

“A health coach will do more than just help you identify bad habits,” Wroth said. “We’ll help you create a plan customized to your own health, life and personal values.  And along the way, we’ll work with you to get to the bottom of what’s really going on if you get stuck.”

Health coach Laura Kraber is a member of a team of health coaches trained in dietary changes, stress-management and physical therapy at Duke University. “Making the changes necessary to support your health are challenging, but making them last can be even more difficult.”

“A health coach can help you deal with quality-of-life issues such as weight loss and stress management techniques, which are often connected.  This in-depth support has empowered many patients to make lasting changes.”

If you’re trying to lose weight, work with a coach to create your own plan — not one that focuses only on calories, but also the quality of food you eat, more nutrient dense and less inflammatory foods are much better according to Kraber. Health coaches can also help clients with advice on supplements by tailoring their use to specific situations.

For some, it may focus on things like digestive disorders or other types of illnesses. For others, it may be quality-of-life issues including sustaining weight loss or stress-management techniques.

Whatever your goals, a health coach’s job is to help you achieve them.

Each session with a health coach is tailored to a person’s needs and schedule. First sessions last from 30 to 90 minutes. Commitments are typically 12 weeks with a session at least every other week, initially, followed by month to month renewals. Sessions range in price depending on where you go, and they are not typically covered by insurance.


How Well Do You Maintain Balance?

How Well Do You Maintain Balance?

If trying to maintain balance in your life makes you feel like a tightrope walker, you’re not alone. Most of us have so many demands on time and energy, life is like a three-ring circus. Take this quiz to see how well you’re handling it.

(True or False)
1. The only way I can successfully manage my life is to take care of myself physically and emotionally.
2. Nurturing myself enlarges my capacity to help others.
3. I eat healthfully and regularly.
4. I get check-ups, go to the dentist and take preventative precautions.
5. I set aside personal, quiet time for myself whether I’m meditating or simply letting my thoughts drift.
6. I experience the gifts of each season: ice skating, sledding, bundled-up beach walks; gardening, hiking, more time outside; camping, swimming, barbecues; harvesting the bounty, gathering wood, spending more time inside.
7. Creativity nurtures me too. I do what I love, whether that’s cooking, drawing, painting, writing, dancing, singing or another creative pursuit.
8. Reaching out to others enriches my life. I spend quality time with my family and friends.
9. Contributing to the world provides connection and purpose, so I give my time, energy and experience where it is most useful.
10. I notice and heed the emotional signals that tell me I’m out of balance: irritability, overwhelm, resentment.
11. If I feel that I’m catching a cold, I realize I may have stressed my immune system with overactivity, so I stop and take care of myself.
12. When I need or want to, I say no to requests for my time.
13. I listen to and honor the requests my body makes for such things as a nap, a walk, green vegetables, hot soup.
14. If I have something planned for myself, I don’t just toss that aside when someone makes a request of me.
15. I’m busy, but I find time to do the things I want to do.
16. I’m happy, I regularly experience well-being, contentment, even joy.

If you answered false more often than true, you may want to take a look at the questions to which you answered false and see if you can incorporate something of its message into your life.