Category Archives: Meditation

Focus Your Energy on Well-being

To live a happy, healthy, balanced life, you must learn to focus your energy on well-being. Self-care on all levels should be an integral part of your lifestyle.

There is an abundance of information available about the benefits of eating well and exercising regularly to sustain a healthy mind and body. In fact, I write about both regularly. But today I want to move in a little different direction.

In addition to those two very basic and critical activities, there are a number of other things you can to improve your mental health and overall well-being.  By incorporating them into your daily life, you will be better able to manage most challenges – including struggles with self-doubt, anxiety, and mild depression.

Practices that Focus Your Energy on Well-being

Accept Your Feelings

Stuffing or ignoring your emotions is more damaging than it is helpful.  Everyone has emotions. They are a natural part of being human. Bottling them up may seem like a good solution in the moment, but when you do it all the time, you are potentially creating a time bomb that will eventually explode.

Unfortunately, you are hurting yourself as you hold them in and you run the risk of hurting those you love when the eruption finally occurs.

Rather than acknowledging what you are feeling and allowing yourself to experience emotions, you may medicate, rationalize, blame, bury, deny, smother, drink, or stuff them (pretend they don’t exist). Emotions have become the enemy and many people will do anything to avoid them – especially the big three: fear, anger and sadness.

It takes a lot of mental, physical and emotional energy to avoiding your feelings and creates high levels of stress and anxiety.

Don’t stuff your emotions!

Let yourself laugh, cry, scream, yell, or pound something (preferably a pillow, grass, sand – not the wall or someone else). Do whatever you need to do, probably in private is the best choice. But, if emotions erupt in public, excuse yourself and let it rip.  This is nature’s way of releasing stress. Don’t beat yourself up afterward!

You must find a safe and sane way to release your emotions (this applies to both men and women). When you continually stuff them, you are endangering your own health and possibly the well-being of others around you.

Stuffed emotions eventually come out – either in the form of a physical illness, a mental break down, or incredible explosions of anger on anyone who happens to be around – including your children, other loved ones, colleagues, and innocent bystanders.

Don’t set up yourself, your family, or friends for these unintended consequences. Consciously begin to let down your guard and experience your feelings – recognize and acknowledge your emotions. Only then will you be able to manage them in a healthy way and relieve the stress that stuffing them is creating.

Be a Risk Taker

Routine and structure are good things. They keep us on track and make life work. However if you are a rule follower to a fault and never do anything spontaneous or out-of-the ordinary, you are missing some interesting adventures that make life more enjoyable.

Don’t let yourself become so regimented and predictable that you may even bore yourself. Life is meant to be lived.  When you are not stretching and doing new things – taking risks on a regular basis, you are not growing as a person. Taking risks – even calculated ones can be exciting, rewarding and are definitely good for your mental well-being

Challenge yourself. Make a point of taking some kind of risk every day. They don’t have to be big risks.

If you are shy – make a point of talking to someone new. Learn a new language, take dance or voice lessons or join Toastmasters and learn to speak in public; and other things – like being more trusting or being more assertive. The goal is to push yourself out of your comfort zone regularly.

Take Responsibility for the Life You Have

Too often people spend their entire life blaming others for the life they are living. Everyone has their own experiences – good, bad and in-between. Those experiences definitely impact the way we view life – but they did not have to cripple us.

If you allow yourself to live in the past, continuously suffering for what you have lost or for what others have “done to you,” you will never be able to completely embrace the joys of life that are available to you. They will be lost in the fog of anger and self-pity.

The only way to truly enjoy life is to take responsibility for what you can control and for what you are creating right now – in the present moment. You are what you think about and you have the life that you create by your thoughts and your actions. Take responsibility for that; and start enjoying it.

The past is gone, the future has not yet arrived – all you have is the present, so learn to live in the moment and make it count.

Develop Self-Awareness

Avoid just coasting through life, being totally unaware of what you are doing – never taking the time to look inside and to assess your behaviors.

Which of your behaviors are serving you and which are not? What factors are driving the behaviors that are not serving you? What is your prevalent attitude about life? What are your thought patterns? Are they helpful and uplifting – or negative and destructive?

What realities about your life are you denying? Bad habits? Self-defeating behaviors? Are you resisting change that would greatly benefit the way you feel?

You do not have to take it on all at once, but a little honest introspection daily – possibly at the end of each day – could work wonders in creating a greater sense of self and well-being.

Laugh Out Loud a Lot

Focus on Well-being
Image by photography33

It is time to start laughing – out loud – a lot! Many people take themselves far too seriously. This seems to be a particularly big problem for highly-intelligent people. And, typically a problem that develops as people grow into adulthood. It doesn’t generally afflict children.

Kids laugh about 200 times a day and adults, only 15 times a day at most. Let yourself laugh openly and freely as children do when they are reveling in life.

Read funny books; develop friendships with people who make you laugh; play games with your kids or grandkids; go to funny movies.  In other words – have more fun!

Laughter is our way of communicating joy. Researchers have found that when people are joyful, there is a sense of well-being that when sustained, contributes to longevity.

Let the laughter flow openly and freely the way a young child laughs. It will be infectious and others will laugh with you.

Laughter not only provides wonderful psychological benefits, it also has many physical benefits, as well such as improving circulation, boosting the immune system, reducing stress, and normalizing blood pressure.

Finding joyful moments and making time for laughter can make a huge difference in the way you feel and the way you live your life.

My simple prescription for you is to laugh unconditionally every day.  It is free – it is fun – there are no adverse side effects – and it will help keep you young (at least young at heart).

Focusing on Your Well-being Is not Difficult

Improving your well-being does not have to be as difficult or complex as you may imagine. By using the five tips here, you can easily discover that you feel better, you are less stressed, and that you are able to enjoy life more.

I am not telling you to ignore the importance of eating well, regular exercise and getting adequate rest.  I am telling you to recognize that there is much more to a person’s overall well-being than those basic components.

A high-level of self-awarenes (how you act and how you feel) can impact your well-being in significant ways.

Triggers for Stress Eating

In my last post, the question was asked, Are you a stress eater?

Today we are going to look at triggers for stress eating.  When you can identify the triggers  that set you off, you will have a much better chance of stopping the binges before they start.

People sometimes joke about being a stress eater and really don’t give it much thought, which is dangerous. It can leads to general poor health, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.  Good enough reasons to stop?  I certainly hope so.

But . . . to stop, you must know what your triggers are.  How do you find out?

Keep a Journal

Triggers for Stress Eating
Image by Seth Sawyer

This one is a pain in the “you know what,” but necessary.  In order to identify your triggers, you must know what you eat and when you eat it.

Keeping a journal is the best way to keep track.  It is more than simply a list of foods you eat. You must also include the thoughts and feelings you were having when you chose to eat – plus exactly what you eat and the time of day that you eat.

For example: You start the day with a quick cup of coffee and a banana that you grab as you walk out the door.  Then, about 9:30, you have a couple of doughnuts in the break room, with another cup of coffee for a quick pick-me-up.

You make it until lunch and manage to eat a fairly healthy salad – good job!

But, at 2:00 p.m. your boss calls an emergency two-hour meeting that leaves you frazzled and facing another couple of hours of work before you can go home.  You make a quick run to the local McDonalds for a cheeseburger and coke, which takes the edge off – and back to work.

Finally at 6:30 you drag yourself out of the office, tired and annoyed.

You get home at 7:00 p.m., eat some cheese with crackers because you are too tired to fix dinner and enjoy a pint of Rocky Road for dessert.  You are tired, alone, and you deserve it.

You must record everything – the time, the food, and the reasons you ate – including anything you told yourself about why you were eating.

BTW,  don’t forget the half bag of chips that your neighbor shared with you around 6:30.

Choose a small note pad that fits easily in your purse or pocket so that it is always with you and you can makes notes throughout the day.

Make a List of Triggers

Be diligent with your journal and after four or five days, study your notes.

Start by looking for signs of binge eating.

  • What did you eat? And, how much?
  • What time of day?
  • What triggered the eating? (A fight? Anger? Disappointment? Fatigue?)

For example, you may have binged at dinner. You had three pieces of cheesecake for dessert.

Look at every detail of the entry to see what was going on in your head and/or the circumstances? Maybe you had a fight with your teenage daughter just before dinner.  Or – you received an overdraft from your bank in the mail when you arrived home from work.

Start a page in your journal for things (situations, circumstances, emotions, specific actions by specific people, etc.) that lead to binge eating – those are your triggers.

What You Eat

After you have looked carefully for triggers, go back and look for the types of foods you eat when you are stressed.  Make a list of your most common stress foods.

For example, you may be someone who can eat a whole package of Mother’s Taffy Cookies or Andes Thin Chocolate Mints  when you are stressed, or you maybe you prefer a bag of Lay’s Classic Potato Chips with large bottle of Coke.  Everyone has their favorites.  What are yours?

Identify Patterns and Primary Stressors

In addition to triggers, you will also find patterns that lead to stress eating.

For example:  Finances are a big stressor for many people.  Anytime you have to deal with financial issues, note differences in your eating patterns – frequency, types of foods, when you eat, what and how much you eat, etc.

The stressors that seem to create the biggest problems, with the greatest frequency are the ones that you want to work on first.

Tackle one at a time.  If finances create major stress for you – that is where you start.  If a relationship is your biggest stressor, start there.

Start paying attention to what happens, how you feel, what you tell yourself about the situation, and what, when, and how much you eat as a result.

The triggers and patterns will become clear after a fairly short time.  Once you have identified them, you can decide how you are going to deal with them.

Test the techniques mentioned in the previous post:  Are You a Stress Eater?  And find the ones that will work for you  Meditation?  Massage? Food replacement?  Or, possibly a combination.

For your peace of mind, and your overall health, start journaling and finding ways to manage your stress other than eating.  You will be glad you

Are You a Stress Eater?

Are You A Stress Eater
Image by Massonforstock

Are you a stress eater? If you are not, you are very lucky. Unfortunately, I have to admit that I am!  If you are too, or think you may be . . . please, read on.

Stress eating is a bad habit that develops over many years. For those who are afflicted, you may or may not be aware of it, because it has been part of your life for such a long time that it seems perfectly normal.

Stress eating involves bouts of over-indulging in foods that are bad for your health –whenever you feel stressed.  You may be doing it because it makes you feel better and it gives you a sense of control at a time when your life feels out of control. It may make you feel better in the moment; but, it is a dangerous habit that should be broken.

 

Important Facts You Should Know About Stress Eating

How It Develops

The interesting thing is that not everyone who deals with a lot of stress eats large amounts of bad food to feel better or to hide from negative feelings.

In fact, some people do just the opposite – they stop eating.

People who overeat generally, or who are emotional overeaters, are at a higher risk for becoming stress eaters, as well.

For other people who fall into this trap when they are  stressed, but, otherwise have fairly normal appetites, there are studies that suggest it may be due to a hunger hormone, which spikes when a person is stressed.

If you actually feel hungrier when you are stressed, and it isn’t just driven by the need for a distraction, the hormone may be the problem.  For me, it’s the need for distraction – so be honest with yourself about this.  When I am stressed, I often eat when I am not hungry at all.

Symptoms of Stress Eating

You may not know that you are a stress eater. You may think you simply have a big appetite; or just not particularly great at controlling your cravings.

It you are not sure, keep a journal.  Make notes of everything you eat (and how you are feeling at the time) that are outside of regular meal times.  Look for patterns of stress eating.

For example, the times when you head to McDonald’s right after you have a fight with your significant other, or the boss has chewed you out for something you did (or didn’t ) do.  Or, the evening when you eat an entire pint of ice cream when you are sitting alone after a hard day of work. Or, you eat two pieces of pie when you were worrying about the big test that is coming up. Those are classic signs of stress eating.

Other signs of stress eating:

  • You always gain weight during stressful times in your life
  • You feel like you deserve to eat what you want because of everything that has happened
  • You feel a sense of urgency in terms of eating certain foods – there may be a compulsion to get in the car and drive to get that hot fudge sundae you want.
  • After a long difficult day, food is the only thing you can think about.
  • You have uttered the words “I need this to feel better.

What You Can Do About It

When you recognize the signs and think (or know) that you are a stress eater; then, it is time to STOP! It may be difficult to stop completely – and NEVER do it again. But, there are some things you can do to slow it down, and eventually stop completely.

Things that Can Help

Acknowledgement – It order to change any habit, the first step is to acknowledge that you have the habit, and are committed to breaking it. If you do not take this step, anything else you do will be temporary. Your efforts may help for a short time, but you will fall back into the pattern at some point.

Meditation – Meditation is a tool used by many to overcome harmful behaviors. It is a great way to ground yourself and empty your mind so that the stress no longer overwhelms you.

Meditation is not necessarily easy in the beginning. It takes practice.  Do not feel discouraged if you don’t “get it” right away.  Stay with it.

Because of the vast number of advocates for this practice and the fact that it has been around for centuries, there is obviously real benefits that can be enjoyed from meditation.

Begin slowly and work up to longer periods of time. Try a few minutes of meditation each day and let your mind clear itself. It may take as long as a couple of months before you are consciously aware of the benefits.

Some people find they do better if they go to a community meditation facility – others prefer to do it in private.

Aromatherapy – This is another relaxation method that has been used for centuries; and seems to work well in managing stress and eliminating stress eating.

Some of the methods of aromatherapy include aerial diffusion (typically with an oil burner), topical application, and inhalation. The scents enhance focus and aid relaxation.

Some practitioners claim that it is important to use only natural essential oils because the synthetics may contain ingredients that can irritate the skin if applied topically.

 MassageThis is the combination of touch and physical manipulation of joints and muscles to release stress and tension – often combined with aromatherapy.  As tension and stress dissipate, the need for stress eating diminishes.

Food replacement – As you become more and more aware of your patterns, try replacing the bad foods you tend to eat when you’re stressed with healthier alternatives. Instead of a plate of nachos, eat tortilla chips with salsa. Replace a pint of ice cream with a low-calorie frozen yogurt bar or a high-protein granola bar in place of a candy bar.  You may be surprised how well this works, but you do have to be prepared.  And . . . remember you don’t eat the whole box of high-protein bars – just one.

The main thing is to recognize that stress eating is a problem – then, do something about it.  Begin today!

10 Crucial Practices for a Healthy Life

We cannot always control what happens to us, but we can control the choices we make that help or harm our health.

Today, I want to share 10 crucial practices for a healthy life.

1.    Eat Healthy Food

Image by klenova
Image by klenova

This is the foundation of a healthy life and a no-brainer, yet many people ignore this one completely.

You must be sure that your body gets adequate amounts of the nutients it needs in order to function correctly

When your diet is made up primarily of fast food, junk food, and heavily processed foods that are filled with sugar, sodium, fat and additives, you are essentially starving your body.  Your organs cannot function well over time when you live on a diet of empty calories.

The human body is miraculous, but it must have the proper fuel (healthy food as close to nature as possible) in order to do its job and keep you healthy.

Eating a healthy diet is critical and it is also important to watch your portions.

Overeating (gluttony) is not good for the body – especially your heart.  Many Americans eat far more than is necessary.

Folow the rule: Eat all foods (even healthy foods) in moderation

2.    Get Plenty of Rest

Without adequate rest (7 to 9 hours/night for the average person), your body will not function as it was meant to function. It will eventually tire out – opening to door to illness and disease.

Adequate rest and quality sleep time enhances bodily functions, reduces tension and anxiety, and sharpens the mind.

Establish a good rest routine. Listen to your body and figure out how much sleep you need. Everyone’s body is different; but, no matter who you are – less than 6-7 hours a night is not good.

A 20-30 minute power nap during the day is good for everyone – whether you are working or not. It will make your late afternoon and evening hours more productive. These are critical if you get less than 6 hours of sleep each night.

3.    Get Some Exercise Every Day

The human body is meant to be active. Continual, long-term inactivity weakens the body in multiple ways and saps your energy. Inactivity is one of the major risk factors for heart disease.

Exercise is a critical component of a healthy lifestyle. If you tend to be a couch potato (or desk-chair potato), now is the time to change. Get up and get moving.

The heart is a muscle. As with all muscles, it becomes stronger as a result of exercise. It works more efficiently as it pumps blood through the body with every beat. Exercise helps the heart work at maximum capacity with less strain.

When you get some daily exercise (at least 15-20 minutes a day) you will be protecting your heart and doing your part to prevent brittle bones and stiff joints as you get older.

Long strenuous workouts are not necessary. In fact, definitely do not start there. Begin with where you currently are physically and gradually increase as your body adapts.

Some options are:

  • Take a 15 – 20 minute walk each day.
  • Stretch when you get up in the morning with some easy arm and leg lifts.
  • Walk up and down stairs rather than take the elevator. Walking stairs a few times a day, even slowly is helpful.
  • Dance to your favorite music in your living room

Work with your body, not against it.

Find a type of exercise that appeals to you and do it. After a week or two with one type of exercise, introduce something new.

Take your time – but EXERCISE regularly.

4.    Drink Water

The human body ranges from 50-75% water with the average adult being 50-65% water. As a result, staying hydrated is critical for good health.

Water flushes germs, toxins and waste from the body. Fluids in general are good, but water is the only fluid that will flush your system adequately. So, drink at least 64 fluid ounces every day.

If you are thirsty, drink water instead of a soda, coffee, or energy drinks. The sugar, sodium, caffeine, and additives found in bottled drinks are NOT good for your health. Even bottled juice is not a good choice. It is primarily sugar water.

Making this simple change will save you money and your health will benefit tremendously.

5.    Be Smart – Be Safe

Imge by iofoto
Imge by iofoto

Wear a helmet when riding a bicycle. Wear a helmet and leathers when riding a motorcycle. Use good safety goggles when using hazardous tools. Have someone stabilize the ladder when hanging Christmas lights.  Need I say more? I think not.

Follow all safety rules for every activity – driving, riding motor cycles or bicycles, cooking, using tools, climbing ladders, cleaning windows, etc. (You get the idea, I’m sure.)

Protect your body and your brain at all times.

6.    Protect Your Skin

Men and women alike should utilize good moisturizers and lotions to protect the skin from too much sun. This is particularly true in the Sun Belt where skin cancers are far too common.

Lotions and moisturizers will help keep skin healthy over the long-term.

As the body matures, skin begins to break down and thin, which requires even more protection (long-sleeved shirts and a hat) when you plan to be in the sun for extended periods of time.

7.    Manage Your Stress

Image by B-D-S
Image by B-D-S

Stress is a silent killer. It not only drags you down emotionally, making it difficult to maintain a positive outlook on life; it also affects you physically, especially your heart and blood pressure.

Find ways to manage your stress, or it will take a serious toll on your health.

Exercise, practice relaxation techniques (e.g. deep breathing), socialize (have fun), enjoy the arts (draw, paint, write), take long nature walks, and daily meditation are just a few things that can help you with de-stressing.

If you are continually worried, short-tempered, rarely laugh, wish everyone would leave you alone, have trouble sleeping, or are constantly exhausted, there is a good chance you are living with extreme stress.

Do something about it!

Look at your life and find ways to relax, let go of stress, and be healthier.

8.    Stop Smoking

This is not news and very little needs to be said. It is an unhealthy, disgusting habit. It has no redeeming graces.  And . . . it is extremely bad for your heart and your lungs.

9.    Limit Your Alcohol Intake (or abstain)

10. Take Advantage of Modern Medicine

Image by wavebreak_media
Image by wavebreak_media

At a minimum, have an annual checkup.  Talk to your doctor and follow his advice.

I am not saying to take pills for every pain or minor problem that appears, but follow the basics to protect your body from illness and disease.

Pay attention to your body. It will give you signals when things are not as they should be.

For example, watch your blood pressure and have your blood tested regularly for signs of conditions such as high blood sugar that can be treated effectively when caught early.

For seniors, it is wise to have a shingles and pneumonia shot when advised, etc.

When potentially serious problems are identified early, they can often be resolved before any long-lasting damage is done.

The old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” carries as much wisdom today as it did when it was first uttered.

It is never too late to start living a healthier life. The practices listed above are all within your control.

Is long-term health important enough to you

that you will  do what you must in order to make it a reality? 

 

High Stress Slows Down Your Brain

High Stress Creates Brain Fob
Image by B-D-S@StockFresh

Are there times when you have trouble remembering someone’s name, even someone you have known for a long time?

Do you go into a room to do something, but once you get there you forget what you wanted in the first place?

Have you had difficulty remembering exactly how old you are?

Forgetting the little things, having temporary memory lapses, feeling confused or out of sorts can be irritating and embarrassing.

Brain Fog May Be the Culprit

When you live with high stress levels day in and day out, it can wreak havoc on your body and mind.  Brain fog is a common result of chronic stress.

Your body increases the production of a hormone called cortisol in order to cope – it maintains homeostasis in your body. It also aids in the short-term memory functions in your brain and contributes to the fight or flight response caused by stress or fear.

But, if your body produces too much on a regular basis, it can cause memory loss, difficulty concentrating, and decreasing your ability to learn new things.

Do Something About It

If you are living with chronic stress, it is time to  take action!

You may be thinking,  “Sure, that would be great, if only I could.”

It may seem like the stress you have is unavoidable and… it may very well be. Stress at work can seem impossible to alleviate. But, you  can learn to manage it. If you don’t, it will continue to take its toll.

An important step is to find ways to relax and enjoy peaceful down times when you are not at work.

Start Moving . . . 

Exercise is a great stress combatant.

It produces endorphins, a feel-good chemical reaction in your brain that leads to a natural high, which relieves stress and produces a sense of well-being.  (BTW – a good belly laugh and chili peppers also stimulate endorphin production.)

Choose your relaxation techniques wisely. They should be good for your mind and body.  Drinks with friends may take the load off briefly, but in the long run, they worsen the effects of your stress.

Consider the following positive, healthy ways to relax:

  • Daily meditation
  • Treat yourself to a weekly massage
  • Walk on the beach/hike in the mountains/drive in the country
  • Practice yoga or tai-chi
  • Have frequent heart-to-heart talks with a close friend
  • Watch a good movie that makes you laugh out loud
  • Learn to live in the moment and appreciate all the good in your life
  • Develop an attitude of gratitude.

I challenge you to implement at least one new practice each month that will lower your stress levels to ensure long-lasting mental clarity.

I know you can do it!

Related Article:  Man’s Best Friend