Choose Joy

It may feel like we don’t have a lot of choices right now with so many restrictions on what we can and can’t do. But there are important choices that we always have control over.

It is always our choice where we place our focus, how we respond to a situation and while feelings come as they do, we can influence those too.

If you are anything like me, you spent the first part of the pandemic watching the news, searching the internet for stats and generally living in a state of fear and anxiety. Perhaps you are still doing that? While it’s important to stay informed, it’s equally important to live life as well.

I choose joy.

You may say that is impossible as tragedy has come to your home. It has with us too with the death of a beloved family member and others fighting cancer. Of course we grieve. But then we choose to connect with each other, share loving stories and photos and help where we can.

I realize that sometimes it’s hard to stay positive, and we may need a little help. That’s where the choice of focus comes in. There are a few things we can do that make a huge difference in our mental state.

These may feel too simple to make a difference, but I encourage you to give them a try and see for yourself.

  • Get out in nature (even if it’s your own backyard)
  • Go for a walk and listen to the bird’s sing
  • Play your favorite music
  • Sing as you do your daily tasks
  • Move your body – stretch, lift weights or dance!
  • Watch a funny movie or video
  • Do something fun every day
  • Connect with a friend
  • Read a good book
  • Share something funny or uplifting on social media
  • Smile (it activates neural messaging that elevates your mood)
  • Sit quietly with your eyes closed and take a few slow deep breaths
  • Remember how strong you have been in the past
  • Make a list of what you are grateful for in life

Most of all, give yourself permission to feel joy.

Meditating for Health

You may have heard of the incredible benefits of meditation – from improved emotional well-being, to increased mental focus to a healthier body. It really is good for your health. I’ve been meditating for many years and can attest to how much better I feel.

Over time I’ve heard people say they can’t meditate – that sitting still for any length of time is too hard or their brain won’t shut up or outside distractions bring them out of it too easily. My reply is always the same.

Meditation is a practice.

The goal isn’t to do it perfectly. The goal is to simply do it. If you get distracted, simply start again. If you miss a day, start again. Let go of any judgement around this. Simply relax and start again.

If you are new to meditating, allow me to share a few tips:

The most basic technique is to sit quietly. It can be on a chair or cross legged on a pillow on the floor. Close your eyes. If you prefer, you can leave your eyes open and stare at something, such as a candle flame or nature. Place your hands in a relaxed position on your lap.

Let your mind move from outside distractions and start to focus on your breath. Feel the air come in, then out. Over and over again. If you can do this without the mental chatter we all have, then go for it. Silence is golden!

If you are like me and find the brain sometimes won’t stop chattering, then repeat a word or phrase to focus the mind. It can be anything from a simple word like “relax” to a sacred mantra such as “Om” or “Namaste.” Simply say it over and over again, either out loud or quietly inside.

Relax. Check in to see if you are holding any part of your body tight and let it soften. I often find my jaw is tight. Loosening it relaxes my entire body.

Keep going for as long as you like. You can meditate for three breathes or three hours. It’s all good!

Whenever you forget to focus on your breathe or your word (and trust me, you will), simply start again. Remember this is a practice.

Oprah and Deepak Chopra are starting a free 21 day meditation experience called “Perfect Health” tomorrow (February 3). You can sign up or try out a sample meditation on Chopra Center Meditation.

Namaste!

Healthy Eating Tips from Mom

I have been an advocate of healthy eating my whole life. I give my mom full credit for this. She was into health foods and yoga during my teen years and her influence has stuck with me to this day.

Recently, my son (a University student in his 20’s) asked me for healthy recipes. What mother doesn’t love to hear that?! It was my pleasure to send him not only the recipes but my three simple rules for eating healthy:

  1. Eat mostly plants (vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans)
  2. Keep animal/poultry/fish protein to the size of a deck of cards
  3. Eat until you’re no longer hungry rather than until you’re full

To further expand on each rule, here is what we do in our home:

  1. Eat many different colored veggies, especially dark leafy greens
  2. Eat mostly fish, poultry and vegan for protein
  3. Eat slowly and stop when 80% full

I’m by no means perfect with this. Like many people I overdid it on the holidays and I definitely love my dark chocolate and snacks. I just keep it to an occasional treat rather than a daily practice.

Canada’s Food Guide gives an excellent visual of what our plates should look like. This is what we strive for on a daily basis.

Here’s to healthy eating. And thanks Mom! 🙂

Changing our World View

I’ve been thinking. Thinking about the Amazon rain forest fires, polar ice cap melting, plastic in our oceans and numerous other contributors that are destroying our environment. Thinking how our advancement in science and technology are now needed to fix the problems our progress created.

I think it is time. Time to change how we view our planet, people and nature.

I have a passion for learning about (and from) the Indigenous people on our planet, especially in Canada, where I live. The more I learn, the more I see that they have a very different world view about land, water, plants and animals.

We need to start listening.

I had the opportunity this summer to hear Elder Adrian Wolfleg of Siksika Nation speak at the Closer Look Tour: Niitsitapiisinni: Our Way of Life at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary. He spoke about the history, traditions, and values of the Blackfoot people who have lived for thousands of years on the plains of Alberta and Montana.

At one point Elder Adrian Wolfleg explained how tipis were built. Whenever they cut down a tree for the frame, they planted a new tree to replace it. I commented how our world would be very different if we adopted that practice. He agreed and said that for every house we purchase, every piece of furniture we buy or make, we should replace the resources we have used.

Can you imagine? What if our government, businesses and communities thought that way? We purchase a chair or table or house, then we (the manufacturer, suppliers, sellers and us personally) contribute back to the environment by planting the appropriate number of trees, etc.?

I had a similar moment of enlightenment speaking with Dr. Patricia Makokis, Ed.D. from Saddle Lake Cree Nation this past year when I participated in the Walk for Common Ground and Treaty Talks. Dr. Makokis shared they are teaching her grandson that all life is sacred, and all animals, including insects, are his relatives – to be cared for and protected.

Indigenous people in the Amazon are saying the same thing and fighting desperately for their own survival in the rain forests and for our planet as well.

We need to start listening to the Indigenous people of this world. It is time to embrace a similar world view. To see our planet and all life as sacred.

Are you ready?

Blue Zone Basics

The community in which I live is set to become Canada’s first city to adopt the Blue Zone lifestyle and I couldn’t be more excited! The principles behind this movement have been around for a while. I actually wrote about it back in April 2014 in How to Live to 100 and Stay Healthy.

If you haven’t heard about Blue Zone or aren’t sure what it is, here are a few basics:

What are Blue Zones?

  • A term to describe various regions of the world where people live active, healthy and much longer lives (more).

Why is it called Blue Zone?

  • During research, regions with the highest concentration of centenarians were (literally) circled on a map with a blue marker and then referred to as “Blue Zones” (more).

What is a Blue Zone lifestyle?

There are nine healthy lifestyle habits practiced by active, healthy, long-lived people:

  1. Move more by adding moderate, regular physical activities throughout your day (walk everywhere, garden, hike, etc.).

  2. Have a life purpose, something to live for beyond work.

  3. Slow down at times by adding stress-free routines into your daily life (meditate, pray, nap, happy hour).

  4. Eat (a lot) more plants and vegetables and lower protein intake (beans, whole grains and garden vegetables). If you do eat animal protein, keep your portion to the size of a deck of cards.

  5. Eat in moderation by practicing portion control (eat until you’re no longer hungry, rather than until you’re full).

  6. Drink alcohol moderately limiting to one or two glasses a day, preferably with friends and food.

  7. Incorporate a regular spiritual or religious community into your life. The choice of denomination doesn’t matter.

  8. Join a social circle or build a group of friends for companionship and to support each other.

  9. Make loved ones a priority by spending time with your children, spouse and elders. Show them your love.

If you already incorporate Blue Zone habits in your life or this inspires you to make a few simple changes towards a healthier and happier lifestyle, I’d love to hear about it!

Buying Bulk Without Plastic

I’m continuing on my mission to eliminate single use plastic in my life.  One area that has stumped me until fairly recently was buying in bulk.

Bulk Spices from Community Natural Foods

A few months ago I discovered that Community Natural Foods allows people to use their own jars for bulk items. You simply bring the empty jar to customer service or any cashier to have it initially weighed (they write the weight on the lid). You can then go ahead and fill it and check out, where it will be weighed again. Since we buy a lot of our organic spices from this health food store, it works really well for us. They also accept cloth bags for bulk and encourage you to bring your own containers to their cafe. Read more in BYOC – Bring Your Own Container.

I recently noticed an ad for Bulk Barn Foods promoting Plastic Free July, offering 20% off all purchases made with reusable containers or cloth bags between July 11 and 24. They even have a Reusable Container Program where you can learn more. Good for them! I don’t typically go to Bulk Barn but I think I will check them out now.

It’s time that all grocery stores make the switch to offer plastic free alternatives. If you agree, mention this to your local store manager. I know I certainly will.

More Bees Please

For such a small creature, bees truly make a big impact. It is estimated that one out of every three bites of food that we eat is only possible because of pollinators like honey bees. It only makes sense that we do everything in our power to keep local bees strong and healthy, so they can keep doing what they do.

Did you know that it takes about two million flowers and 556 honeybees to make one pound of honey?

What bees need most is pollen and nectar. Here are a few things you can do to help:

  1. Plant a variety of wildflowers, perennials and trees ensuring that you have blooms from April to October.
  2. Avoid using any kind of pesticides (they kill insects).
  3. Only use herbicides when plants are not in bloom and so that it doesn’t touch any standing water (bees need clean food and water supplies).

Articles that may spark even more ideas:

  1. Spare the dandelions, save some bees
    Dandelions are an early source of food for bees so leave them on your lawn all summer or at least until other blooms appear.
  2. Feeling lucky? Plant a clover lawn
    Replace grass with bee-friendly plants such as creeping thyme, self-heal and dutch white clover.
  3. Buy local honey
    Supporting beekeepers in your area not only keeps the local economy strong, it provides you with the purest form of honey.

I’d love to hear what you are doing to help our amazing bees.

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