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:
- 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.
- 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!
You are your wrinkles, so shape up!
You’re over 50 and you look in the mirror, and a wrinkly old woman stares back at you. What to do?
Grab a pen and a pad and record your daily routine. What time did you turn in? Did you turn your TV off? How about your phone? What did you eat and drink last night? What did you eat? How many hours was it between your evening meal and lights out? If you want to get rid of wrinkles, you need this information. Your bad habits will wear you out, and the only way to reverse the aging process is to define the problem, then act.
First things first
Exercise is critical for keeping your body youthful. And exercise in the morning is best. First make sure you are hydrated. Drink at least an 8-ounce glass of water. Do you live in a building with stairs? Then walk them up and down for at least 20 minutes. Have you marked off a mile on the streets of your neighborhood? Then walk it, starting at a slow pace and gradually increasing speed for at least 20 minutes. When you get home, drink another 89-ounce of water then take 15 minutes for a set of sit-ups (at least 15 repetitions, 3 times) either on an exercise ball or with your feet tucked under the bottom of your couch.
- Eat breakfast: Whatever you like but in moderation. And don’t forget to have at least two cups of coffee without artificial sweetener. (That stuff could kill you). Take a warm shower and enjoy your day.
- Set exercise goals for yourself each day. How many miles will you walk? How many times will you stretch every muscle you possibly can in your body. How many times will you take a 15-minute break during which you will sit quietly and meditate?
- Enjoy a well-balanced lunch either alone or with friends and family. You should know by now what a healthy meal is about, so stick with the program.
- Everybody knows the dangers of a sedentary life style. So get off your behind and move. When you sit more than 30 minutes at a time, your body begins to deposit sugar into you fat cells. Once you make a deposit, it becomes very difficult to make a withdrawal.
- People who spend most of their days sitting on their read ends are at increased risk for kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer and obesity. And if you don’t believe it, take a look in the mirror. You will see the difference!
- If you work, leave as early as possible so you don’t get stuck in afternoon traffic. Nothing is more stressful than being in a hurry and not able to move. Use alternative routes if necessary. You may save time in the long run.
- If you drink alcohol, never do so alone. When you do have company, limit your drink to one glass as the evening meal is prepared and served. One more glass of wine with your meal is acceptable.
Remember, every body needs approximately 8 hours of restful sleep nightly, so plan accordingly. Part of than plan requires that you eat your supper at least one hour before you go to bed. Skimping on sleep results in dark bags under your eyes. Lack of sleep also shortens you life. And do not try to sleep with the television on. For every hour of television watched in the evening hours, adult viewers are estimated to lose 22 minutes of their lives! Think about it. Those minutes do add up.
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.
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?
Natural environments promote physical, mental and spiritual healing. People can obtain health benefits by spending time outside in remote places to “get away from it all.” Green and blue spaces are especially beneficial for healthy aging in seniors.
Effects of blue and green spaces for older adults demonstrates that, by incorporating smaller features such as a koi pond or a bench with a view of flowers, public health and urban development plans can enhance nature as a health resource for older adults. Green and blue spaces promoted feelings of renewal, restoration and spiritual connection. They also provided places for multi-generational social interactions and engagement along with planned activities with friends and families, and impromptu gatherings with neighbors.
A relatively mundane experience, such as hearing the sound of water or a bee buzzing among flowers, can have a tremendous impact on overall health for seniors. Accessibility to everyday green and blue spaces can encourage seniors to simply get out the door. This then motivates them to be active physically, spiritually and socially, which can offset chronic illness, disability and isolation.
Importance of everyday contact with nature
While younger generations may use green and blue spaces more to escape and rejuvenate from their busy work life, participants in a special study used nature to be active physically, spiritually and socially in later life. Many overcame barriers due to chronic illness, disability and progressing old age to connect regularly with green and blue spaces.
Natural environments empower older adults to uphold daily structure in retirement and provide opportunities for varied activities outside the home, according to the study. This is important to quality of later life by decreasing boredom, isolation and loneliness; as well as boosting one’s sense of purpose and accomplishment. Blue space provides opportunities for non-weight bearing physical activity and physiotherapy including walking, swimming and hiking. Waterfront areas are comforting sites for spiritual connection and relaxing places to escape the strains of life.
Building communities that serve people throughout their lifetimes is important. They don’t just need a playground for children, they also need sheltered benches for the grandparents to watch them. Hopefully urban planners and developers start and continue to build communities that span a lifetime, according to the findings.
Three tips for healthier aging:
1. Focus on your overall well being: mental and social health are just as important as physical health when aging.
2. Get out the door regularly, even if it’s just to the end of the block and back.
3. Prioritize everyday contact with nature whether it’s sitting in a park, listening to a water fountain or looking at potted plants on a windowsill.
It’s been said before that eating chocolate can improve declining memory loss, and now it may be good for our heart as well. Former “no-nos,” could actually be a “yes” for heart health.
Eating up to 100 grams of chocolate a day is linked to lowered heart disease and stroke risk. There also doesn’t seem to be evidence for cutting out chocolate to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Higher chocolate intake is associated with a lower risk of future cardiovascular events.
Contrary to popular belief, milk chocolate and dark chocolate may have similar benefits. Not only flavonoids, but also other compounds such as calcium and fatty acids, provide proof for the association between milk and dark chocolate.
Moderate consumption of chocolate doesn’t appear to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. A common and considerably healthy daily consumption of chocolate is around 7 grams.
Higher levels of consumption are often associated with younger age and lower weight (BMI), waist: hip ratio, systolic blood pressure, inflammatory proteins, diabetes and more regular physical activity — all of which add up to a favorable cardiovascular disease risk profile.
Eating more chocolate was found to be associated with higher energy intake and a diet containing more fat and carbs and less protein and alcohol. Those who have a higher intake of chocolate have a much lower risk of cardiovascular disease, around 11 percent, and a 25 percent lower risk of associated death. Those eating the most chocolate seem to have an 18 percent lower risk of disease than those who ate the least.
Researchers have found a significantly lower risk of both conditions associated with regular chocolate consumption. A 25 percent lower risk of any episode of cardiovascular disease and a 45 percent lower risk of associated death.
Reverse causation — those with a higher cardiovascular disease risk profile eating less chocolate and foods containing it than those who are healthier.
So, enjoy that scrumptious, delicious bite of chocolate! Me, I go for the dark stuff. What about you?
We’re used to seeing pancakes piled high, topped with butter and syrup, but there’s a much lighter way to enjoy these treats. The simple solution is pancakes that have flourless batter consisting of old-fashioned oats, egg whites, grated apple and a dash of cinnamon. The key is to let the mixture sit for 5 to 10 minutes before cooking, so the oats plump up from the moisture in the egg and fruit. Also heat some canola oil to keep pancakes from sticking. Ladle spoonfuls of the batter onto a griddle, flip them when they start to bubble, put them on a plate and eat them with fresh berries. The cakes are high in fiber, protein and vitamins, and will keep you full all morning.
Broccoli (Yes, Broccoli)
Eating broccoli everyday can be very beneficial since it contains a phytonutrient that converts to an antioxidant when consumed. Try to add a serving of frozen broccoli to a smoothie (it’s great with peach, mango or banana along with a small handful of cashews or hazelnuts, water, ginger and protein powder). Or, you can sauté the florets and leaves in avocado or coconut oil, then cook an egg, scrambling it right in with the veggies.
Breakfast Food With A Lunchtime Twist
Stuffed French toast may sound fancy or fussy, but nutritionists swear it’s simple. It is a tasty, high-fiber and protein-rich meal. First, prepare an almond-butter-and-pear sandwich; then, plunge it into a mixture of milk, egg, vanilla extract and lemon zest. The final step is to sauté the soaked sandwich until it’s golden and crispy on both sides.
A Parfait That’s Not What You’re Expecting
Try making a layered parfait — but instead of using the usual yogurt, granola and berries, mix up you own puree in a blender, consisting of pitted dates, berries, coconut milk and protein powder. The dates add sweetness and fiber, plus they give the mixture some heft. Then layer the mixture with nuts, seeds, fresh berries and shredded coconut (yogurt optional!).
Eggs With A Kick
Nutritionists love vitamin- and fiber-rich green smoothies. You can make one they would approve! Use a whole bag of spinach, plus water, whatever fruits you have on hand and flax or chia seeds. But if you don’t have time to pull out the blender, you can use a few hard boiled eggs. Peel them, slice them in half and top each piece with whole-grain mustard and pepper; both add great flavor with very few calories.
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.
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.
The exercise of gratitude as a tool for happiness has been in the mainstream for years. Studies support its effectiveness, suggesting that a positive, appreciative attitude contributes to greater success in life. While many acknowledge gratitude’s list of benefits, it can be difficult to sustain. Many of us are trained to notice what is lacking in our lives. For gratitude to meet its full healing potential, it needs to become more than just a one-time thing. We need to find a new way of looking at things and create new habits.
Practice makes perfect. If we practice giving thanks for all we have, instead of complaining about what we lack, then we give ourselves the prospect to see all of life as an opportunity and a blessing.
Gratitude focuses on where we put our effort and attention. Gratitude balances us and gives us hope.
Some Ways to Practice Gratitude
• Keep a gratitude journal in which you list things for which you are thankful. You can make daily, weekly, or monthly lists. Greater frequency may be better for creating a new habit, but just keeping that journal where you can see it will remind you to think in a grateful way.
• Make a gratitude collage by drawing or pasting pictures.
• Practice gratitude around the dinner table or make it part of your nighttime routine.
• Make a game of finding the hidden blessing in a challenging situation.
• When you feel like complaining, make a gratitude list instead.
• Notice how gratitude is impacting your life. Write about it, sing about it, express thanks for gratitude.
As you practice, an inner shift begins to occur, and you may be delighted to discover how content and hopeful you are feeling. That sense of fulfillment is gratitude at work.
Sometimes all it takes is a hug to make you feel better, according an article in Nature’s Communications that was cited in the Huffington Post. You may not be sure why, but you know that it is comforting, especially after a stressful day.
Studies conducted by the University of California, Berkeley show this comforting feeling has reparative and anti-aging benefits. The “love hormone” known as oxytocin is accountable for those incredible feelings you get from giving and getting hugs.
As we age, our hormone levels drop, and research suggest it may be a factor in our bodies’ natural deterioration. We lose up to five percent of muscle mass each decade after our thirties.
In the study, researchers injected oxytocin into older mice with muscle damage and deterioration. The older mice had lower levels of this hormone than younger mice initially. But after nine days, the older mice were given the hormone and healed faster than those that were not. Their ability to repair muscle damage was up to 80 percent than that of the younger mice.
The study provided fast results and offers hope for the future use of the hormone in anti-aging regimes. The extra oxytocin boosts aged tissue stem cells without simultaneously deteriorating muscle stem cells. Researchers also believe that previous fears of oxytocin anti-aging molecules being associated with higher cancer risk have been dismantled.
So do yourself a favor. Reach out and hug somebody!