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! 🙂

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!

Taking a Little Break

I can’t believe it’s been eight months since I wrote a post. I needed a break from a few things and gave myself permission to do so, without guilt or pressure. It’s freeing to do that once in a while.

I felt compelled to write today because I discovered something recently that has been life-changing for me. It’s a very small thing with a big impact.

My work is busy (who can’t related to that??) and life sometimes gets crazy as well. I have found a technique that has helped me to reduce stress and feel less overwhelmed by responsibilities.

I take mini muscle relaxing breaks. I focus on a muscle (often my jaw muscle which seems to be tense a lot) and purposely let it relax. I wiggle it a bit, take a breath and consciously let the muscle go limp. It’s something easy to do any time because it literally takes a second or two.

I do this throughout my day. Over time I have found that my jaw and shoulders muscles (which I also focus on) have become more relaxed.

In fact, my whole body has become more relaxed. These mini muscle relaxing moments have extended beyond my physical and triggered a mental relaxation as well. I’m calmer and more relaxed in the busyness of life.

I love how simple things can make a difference.

Namaste

Daily Heart Practice on the Road

Our lives are often so busy that we run through our days without a care about what is going on inside our bodies… until there is a need to feed it or take care of it in some way. What would our lives be like if we took just a moment each day to do something that benefited one of our most important organs, our heart.

I’m talking quick and easy here.

Most of us travel every day either for work, recreation or to fulfill home tasks. When we are in a hurry, the most stressful parts of traveling  is the wait time. We can use that time to our benefit.

Next time you are sitting at a traffic lights waiting for the light to turn or moving slowly through rush hour traffic or on a long ride in public transportation, notice the anxiety in your body. Really pay attention to it. Then breathe.

Purposely take three long deep breathes in and out. As you do this, relax your body and send love to your heart. Then smile.

That’s it. Simply, quick and easy to do even in traffic. Your body will appreciate the mini break from stress and your heart will thank you.

Understanding the Gut

I’ve recently read a book that was both entertaining and informative, covering a topic that most people don’t talk about – specifically our gut. More specifically, poop.

Ok, before you get all grossed out and leave, think about it.

Do you actually know how it all works? I didn’t. Not really. But I have a much better idea now and all I can say is… it made a difference. 😉

This book covers more than the physical side of the gut. It also covers emotions and gut feelings. It also shows how important it is for us to not be squeaky clean about everything. It is truly remarkable how important our gut is to our overall health.

The book is GUT, The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ by Giulia Enders, a student of medicine in Germany.

Giulia had been working on her Ph.D in Gastroenterology when her presentation on the gut won her the Science Slam prize in her native Germany. The video of her presentation went viral and the result is her best-selling book.

Here is that original video, which pretty much gives you a sneak peek into the book. The illustrations, by the way, were created by Giulia’s sister Jill Enders.

Yes, it’s in German but the English subtitles work very well.

Giulia’s book is well worth reading. Not only will you be entertained, it will open your eyes to a whole other world that exists… in our guts.

Now what is your gut saying?

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