If I told you that the secret to improving your physical and mental health and well-being can be found in an ancient Hellenistic philosophy dating all the way back to the third century B.C., you’d probably say, “Are you high?”
On the contrary, I’ve stopped using mood-altering substances like Xanax as a direct result of this philosophy I’m referring to. I’m talking about Stoicism, a remarkably old practice that’s currently enjoying a modern revival thanks to high-profile devotees ranging from self-help gurus like Tim Ferriss to celebrities like Anna Kendrick and Michele Tafoya.
What Is Stoicism?
For most people, Stoicism is greatly misunderstood. The word itself often conjures up images of an emotionally constipated individual who represses her feelings, is indifferent to pain, suffering and even joy, and is, well, stoic in the face of everything life throws at her.
Modern practitioners of the ancient philosophy, however, know just how silly such characterizations are.
At its core, Stoicism is a simple and logical idea. At the risk of sounding like an idiot, here’s a Netflix-style plot summary of a system originally founded by Zeno of Citium: Most things in this life are out of our control. What we can control, however, is how we react to all the out-of-control things that happen to us during our time on this planet. Therefore, how we react to all the things we can’t control, not the things themselves, ultimately determines how happy and fulfilling our lives will be.
Of course, even those wise, ancient Greeks and Romans recognized just how difficult this simple idea was in practice. That’s why stoics from Seneca to Epictetus put together a small library of practical tips and techniques to help.
And those very same techniques are precisely what modern Stoics swear by.
Imagine the Worst-Case Scenario
One of the most popular Stoic strategies is something called “premeditatio malorum” or, if you’re not one of the few people left who speak fluent Latin, “the pre-meditation of evils.” Basically, with this practice, you visualize all the worst possible things that could happen to you in any give situation.
For example, say you’re a runner. Running is your passion; you live to run. You have a 13.1 or 26.2 bumper sticker on the back of your Subaru, you have a winged foot tattooed on the middle of your thigh, and you devour Runner’s World with a religious zeal bordering on fanaticism.
Try a little pre-meditation of evils right before an evening run. What’s the worst thing that could happen to you? As you’re running on a public road, a car fails to see you in time and drives right into you at a high rate of speed. You survive the collision but lose feeling from the waist down and are told you’ll probably never walk again—and running, well, that’s out of the question. It would be horrible and tragic, but you’d find a way to survive and adapt.
Why on earth would someone willingly subject themselves to something like that?
For one thing, research shows that if you practice these negative visualizations regularly and with enough fervor, you’ll learn to appreciate what you have more. After all, if you can truly envision your life without working legs, just think how relieved and blessed you’ll feel when the visualization is over, and you’re back to having the legs of a runner again. This practice will also prepare you mentally for all the negative circumstances you’ll face at some point down the road.
Focus on What You Can Control
Another simple practice that can improve your physical and mental health revolves around focusing on the Stoic principle of control, or lack thereof.
Let’s use health as an example.
When it comes to our health, we spend so much time and energy worrying about factors that are beyond our control—why doesn’t my body look like [insert name of co-worker, celebrity or ex’s new foot model partner here] or what happens if I get [insert name of incredibly rare condition or disease I just found out about here]?
Remember, stoicism is all about accepting that many things are beyond our control and working to make the most of the few things that are. If you can learn to focus your efforts on making the body you were given look, feel and operate as efficiently as possible, without getting bogged down in the many, many aspects of the human condition that are beyond your control, well, then, you’ll be taking a Stoic approach to your health.
And chances are, you’ll be happier because you did.
You know that feeling of calm you get when you sit at the beach, allowing the sand to slide effortlessly between your toes? How about letting all your troubles fade away as you walk barefoot on a dewy lawn on a spring day? Turns out, those moments may not only bring you bliss; they could benefit your overall health, too.
What Exactly Is Earthing?
Earthing, or grounding, is the practice of absorbing electrons from the Earth into your body. By absorbing these electrons, you can improve everything from sleep issues to hormone levels to better blood circulation, according to the experts.
So how exactly does all this work?
“The Earth has a natural electric charge, based on lightning strikes and other meteorological phenomenon,” explains Martin Zucker, coauthor of “Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever?” “Humans are highly conductive, and when the skin of our bodies contacts the Earth, we create a mind-body-Earth connection.”
Zucker says that the Earth has an “unlimited reservoir of electrons” that are critical to “the operation of our cells and ourselves.” These electrons from the Earth are able to neutralize free radicals in the body that contribute to health issues such as inflammatory conditions and diseases.
In other words, the electrons from the Earth have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and we can apparently harness this energy by making direct contact with the Earth’s surface, either by going barefoot outdoors or by using grounding products, such as blankets, wristbands and floor mats.
Indoor grounding products are made of conductive materials and used via a grounded wall outlet or an earthing ground rod that’s placed outside, Zucker describes.
Since not everyone has access to safe outdoor space, Zucker says these products provide a way for people to reap the benefits of earthing from their desk, their couch or even their bed.
Benefits of Earthing
Integrative pain and rehabilitation specialist Tina Michaud-Gray not only practices earthing with her family, she also uses it for her patients. “It really helps accelerate the healing process,” she says.
Earthing cannot only be used as an anti-aging remedy, but also can assist people who have been living with illness or chronic pain, Michaud-Gray adds. Being one with nature, whether it’s outdoors or via other earthing methods, is a “primal need….our bodies, minds, and spirits require it,” she says.
While results vary from person-to-person (one person may see rapid changes within a week, while another may see subtler health benefits over a longer period of time), Zucker says that earthing “creates a new normal in the body.”
Though there are some skeptics to the practice, there is evidence to back up these claims. “Emerging evidence shows that contact with the Earth—whether being outside barefoot or indoors connected to grounded conductive systems—may be a simple, natural, and yet profoundly effective environmental strategy” against issues like chronic stress, inflammation and pain, as well as common health disorders, such as cardiovascular disease, a 2012 study concluded (1).
Whether you’re hoping to gain more energy, heal a wound or combat an illness, earthing may just help improve your overall well-being. As Michaud-Gray puts it, “It’s right there at your feet…literally.”
Have you ever felt a little bit too connected to the rest of the world? Do you wake up and immediately disappear into a cycle of social media apps, news sources and targeted advertisements that seem to follow you throughout the day? If so, you’re not alone.
Technological advancements are happening faster and faster with each passing year, integrating gadgets like smartphones and tablets further into our everyday routines. While there are countless benefits to these inventions (1), people are becoming more aware of the cost of always being connected.
Internet addiction is very real (2). Well before Twitter and iPhones began to dominate popular culture, researchers, academics and behavioral therapists started recognizing a problem (3). When the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders was published in 2013, psychiatrists listed internet addiction disorder as a condition recommended for further study (4).
You might not feel addicted to the internet per se, but there are plenty of reasons to think about a digital detox. If you need some help unplugging, consider these tips.
1. Cut Back in Small Increments
Depending on how ingrained your devices are in your everyday life, you might experience a bit of difficulty getting the process started. You might find yourself saying, “I’ll start tomorrow,” so many times that you feel like you’re never going to switch off. This is because suddenly breaking free from sites like Facebook and the 24-hour news cycle can fill you with a sense of something missing from your life. Cold turkey might be an effective method when you’re looking to quit smoking, but this is slightly different. Baby steps and small cuts will go much farther (5).
While you might not believe you are addicted to the internet, cutting everything out at once might be too much of a shock. It may sound strange, but there are documented cases of people entering states of psychosis due to unplugging (6). Whether you’re afraid of having a bad reaction or you worry that FOMO levels will shoot through the roof if you’re not glued to your phone, you should introduce changes to your digital habits at a pace that works for you.
2. Deactivate or Delete a Social Media Account
Social media is one of the biggest issues people have with the internet these days. When first introduced in their current form a little over a decade ago, social media websites seemed innocuous enough. Cut to the present, and the news is flooded with politicians fighting on Twitter (7), Snapchat getting into one PR nightmare after another (8) and Facebook essentially mining and selling off user information in secrecy for years (9). When looking for a digital detox, you undoubtedly have considered removing yourself from the social media equation altogether.
Here’s the truth: there is no such thing as “limiting social media usage.” Sadly, it’s all or nothing. If you hold an active account, research shows you are going to log back in even if it is a subconscious action of habit. What’s worse, being depressed can increase the odds of you caving and logging back in (10). In order to break free, you need to commit to deleting an account. Luckily, with so many different sites out there, you can easily get rid of most and hold on to one to check at your leisure. Cutting back on how many accounts you have can lower the pressure to stay socially connected that these apps have instilled.
3. Get Rid of Non-Essential Apps
Take a broader look at the programs you run on your phone, computer or tablet each day. Which of these applications do you feel are essential to going about your routine? You might need to use your email app frequently for work, making it more essential than an app you use exclusively to shop. In order for you to appreciate a digital detox, you should limit yourself to apps you absolutely need.
When all is said and done, you actually don’t need any of your apps to survive. Until a phone can provide shelter, sustenance and improved health, it remains a tool for making other aspects of life easier. In determining which apps are essential, you will have an easier time cutting out any programs that only serve to distract, agitate or waste your time.
4. Read a Book Before Bed
A number of academic institutions have been putting intense research into how daily smartphone usage impacts basic functions of the body. One study that made a lot of waves revealed that the soft, blue light emitted by smartphones actually “tricks” the mind into thinking it is receiving sunlight. This confuses the body’s internal rhythms and can easily cause insomnia and other sleep issues (11).
Though you might enjoy looking at your phone while hanging around in your bed before slumber, you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor by cutting out this habit. Instead, grab a good old-fashioned book off the shelves. Even if you aren’t an avid reader, looking at a paper with words on it instead of a glowing box can help lull you to sleep without messing with your circadian rhythm.
5. Improve Short-Term Memory
Another great way to begin detoxing from the digital world is by actively working to improve some of the areas where technology has an adverse effect. Research in this area suggests smartphones and similar devices impair an average individual’s attention, which, in turn, compromises short-term memory storage (12). In other words, it is much harder to remember details of your day and get tasks done when you’re constantly looking at your phone.
By removing your phone from the equation for a few hours each day, you can give yourself a bit of time to restore your mental faculties to a place you’d prefer. Play brain games or write in a journal for a bit to get your mind working. A cup of green tea is packed with antioxidants and can also help to improve how your mind functions in relation to memory (13).
6. Dedicate Time to a Hobby
The idea of “free time” is kind of funny. When your life feels overwhelmingly busy, you might imagine you don’t have a second to spare. Now, try and think about how many hours you waste aimlessly scrolling through the same posts online. Adding all that time together might reveal some startling findings about how much time you would actually have for your passions if you unplugged.
Dedicating time to a hobby or skill you want to hone is the only way to get better at it. If you’ve been dying to learn a new language, play an instrument or take a painting class, this is the opportunity you’ve been waiting for. The minutes you free up by removing yourself from the digital world can help you chase some of the dreams you’ve left sitting on the backburner.
7. Experience the World
Finally, there is a lot to be said about leaving your phone in the house and taking a long walk, run or ride (14). Often, it is far easier to lose oneself on Wikipedia than in nature. The world is a vast and varied place filled with wonders and oddities. Instead of reading about it on the internet, unplug and get out there for a bit. Though you might find yourself reaching for your phone to take pictures of everything you see, remember your mind is also a wonderful place to store a treasured moment or image.
A digital detox might seem more like a lifestyle choice, but overwhelming evidence suggests it is a great move for your health. Discover which tactic works best for you, and get ready to unplug and relax.
For anyone who has suffered a panic attack, you know that while the episode may only last a few moments, it can feel like an eternity.
No matter what triggered you, whether it was bumping into an ex at a party or feeling overwhelmed in a crowd at a concert, the overwhelming feeling of shortness of breath, the tightness in your chest and the overall sense of doom can be terrifying.
“A panic attack is the stress response going into overdrive due to a perceived threat, and that can take all kinds of forms,” explains psychotherapist and meditation instructor Ralph De La Rosa.
Once you know what your triggers are and can sense a panic attack coming on, there are steps you can take to stop one in its tracks. Symptoms of a panic attack may also include hallucinations, claustrophobia and a sense of surreality.
By catching a panic attack in its early phase, De La Rosa says, “we have the agency to impact our emotional state.”
“The first order of business is awareness,” he says. By acknowledging what (or who) has the potential to set off a panic attack, you can work from there to derail it.
Breathing Exercises for Anxiety
Once you feel the onslaught of distressing thoughts and emotions, it’s time to practice your breath work, De La Rosa explains. “The simplest breath work is big, deep belly breaths in which you inhale low beneath the belly, to the navel, and slowly exhale through the mouth.”
Mindfulness breathing can also be an incredibly helpful tool for those who suffer from panic attacks. This form of breathing entails “little by little, letting go of all effort with the breath and elongating the space between breaths,” De La Rosa explains.
In fact, the spaces between the breaths become more important than the actual breaths, De La Rosas says. “Let the exhale go out with no pushing…the belly relaxes and goes out and softens. Let the inhale tell you when it wants to come, the next exhale will happen naturally, and it shepherds the inhale and exhale.”
This type of breathing, he says, “slows the heart rate, regulates the nervous system and halts anxious thoughts. “
Reframing Your Thoughts
But breathing isn’t the only aspect of stopping panic attack: there’s also your perception of the moment itself. “How you talk to yourself and frame or perceive the situation is huge,” De La Rosa says. “We can re-frame a situation however we want.”
In the case of a panic attack, De La Rosa suggests using it as a moment of growth and learning. When you feel a panic attack beginning, frame it as an opportunity to practice how you use your skills in combating your disorder. “Re-frame the cognition around the attack from stressful, irritating and fearful to one of interest, curiosity and meaning,” he says.
When you find meaning or purpose in something like a panic attack, you take away its power over you.
Getting Through a Panic Attack
But let’s say even with this knowledge, a panic attack still gets the better of you? Well, remember, that’s OK, and you can work through that episode by allowing it to happen and by being kind to yourself in the process.
“When we fight our negative emotions, especially something like a panic attack, it can add a second layer of stress,” De La Rosa says. “Relate to the emotion, hold the emotion and look at it with some level of empathy, gentleness and kindness. The emotions pass along much quicker when we add that ingredient to the mix.”
Even though you shouldn’t try to avoid a panic attack while it’s occurring, you can excuse yourself to the restroom to regain your composure and have some privacy, De La Rosa recommends.
Most importantly, whether you’re working toward stopping a panic attack before it starts or you’re enduring one, De La Rosa says the key is to “look at the panic and feel compassion for yourself and your situation.”
Article written by Joe Palinsky
Once the dazzling colors of autumn have faded and the temperature has begun its shift in colder directions, it means winter has arrived. While the end of the year tends to get people all caught up in the excitement of the holidays, the winter also has a way of taking away a person’s motivation. Whether you are someone who suffers from seasonal depression or you can’t seem to find the mental energy to be productive on a bitterly chilly day, it can be almost impossible to get anything done.
If you are trying to break the mold this winter and be the most productive version of yourself, you might need a bit of help. Follow these suggestions to stay as motivated as possible this season.
1.) Consume Quality Foods
What you eat plays a huge part in the way you feel throughout the season. The short days and freezing temperatures of the winter tend to push people towards specific food groups. “Comfort foods” are popular at this time of year because they can make a person feel safe and content. Unfortunately, these dishes are usually packed with butter and fat. Though you might feel inclined to make a huge batch of macaroni and cheese every night, your motivation requires something a bit more nourishing.
Maintaining a productive lifestyle is a challenge in the winter because many people face depression or decreased moods. For some, this comes from a lack of exposure to sunlight. To counteract this, it can be in your best interests to eat meals loaded with Vitamin D. Salmon, yogurt, and tofu are all excellent choices. By consuming a healthy amount of Vitamin D throughout the winter, you are more likely to feel motivated, have a strengthened immune system, and keep your metabolism running efficiently.
2.) Life is Company
Feeling less motivated in the winter can be detrimental to your life in a number of ways. For one, you are not going to want to take on personal projects or engage in hobbies you normally find appealing. It also stands to reason you’ll want to stay home and limit your social interactions. This is no coincidence. According to several studies, people feel less social when there is an absence of warm light for extended periods. Though it might be natural to limit your social interactions at this time of year, it actually adds to depression.
Winter can be isolating. Since you might not be planning on going out after work as much as you did in the summer, you need to find ways to interact with others whenever possible. Small steps like making the decision to meet with friends for lunch on a Saturday or spend some extra time talking with coworkers at the start of the workday can be great moves. The more you interact with other people on a daily basis, even if it is only your local barista, the more likely it is you will feel motivated to be productive.
3.) Fight the Sickness
A lack of motivation is not the only issue people deal with in the winter. Colder weather also makes it far easier for germs to spread, with influenza and the common cold being most prevalent between December and March. Since coming down with a cold can easily ruin any motivation you have drummed up, you want to go above and beyond to stay as healthy as possible. A bowl of oatmeal each morning can provide your body with fiber and zinc, both which aid in keeping your body regular and well.
Foods high in Vitamin C should also make appearances on your plate throughout the season. Broccoli, brussels sprouts, oranges, spinach, and tomatoes are all practical choices.
4.) Get Out and Move
Finally, nothing beats exercise when it comes to staying motivated. Getting off the couch and heading to the gym for a workout might feel like an impossible feat in the winter but it can make a huge difference in your mood. The more you engage with your body, the less likely you are to feel stuck in a rut. Exercise releases endorphins, allowing for an improved mood and a newfound feeling of self-worth.
Winter can be harsh and unforgiving. To stay one step ahead of the blues that come from this time of year, remember to motivate yourself in the right ways. Eat foods rich in both Vitamin C and D, exercise regularly, and keep social to make it through the winter in one piece.
Joe Palinsky is a full-time writer and theater professional in Philadelphia. He predominantly works with ensemble-based Found Theater Company, where his writing has been featured in numerous productions. Though primarily a ghostwriter, his work has been published in the now-defunct Spirit News and as a guest on Found Theater’s blog.
Article Written by Jessica Thiefels
“Mindfulness” is a buzzword we can’t seem to ignore any longer because it’s more than just a passing trend. In fact, this concept is rooted in ancient Eastern customs and culture and, when practiced regularly, can have a wide variety of holistic benefits that strengthen the mind, body and spirit.
Greater Good Magazine defines this term as “moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and the surrounding environment.” This mental exercise grounds us in the present, enables us to observe our inner selves without judgment, and keeps our focus off the “white noise” of this distracted, hyper-frenetic world.
I know what you’re thinking: “But I can’t just sit still for 20 minutes; I’ve tried meditation, I just can’t do it.” The good news is you don’t have to sit still to reap the benefits of mindfulness. If you want to experience more balance and peace in your own life, these sports are ideal for practicing mindfulness and getting a workout at the same time.
Cycling engages the mind-body connection in several capacities, from the physical act of steering and pedaling to the mental drill of pushing through challenges, finding your pace and anticipating the route ahead.
“Every aspect of cycling can become a meditation,” suggests Nick Moore, author of Mindful Thoughts for Cyclists. He explains that preparing for a ride “has its own rituals that switch us unconsciously from civilian to cyclist—a mental shift of gears in which we transition from one energy state to another, from the potential to the kinetic.” And after, “giving the bike a rub-down, re-lube and once-over is a chance to decompress and gather our thoughts.”
Take your cycling outside for even greater mental health benefits. If you can only cycle in a gym or your home, stay in tune with your body and your breathing to maintain mindfulness.
The elements of competition and self-awareness that are prevalent in tennis work to keep your attention engaged in the action and energy of the court rather than your mind. According to a discipline known as Mindfulness-Based Tennis Psychology, this practice “enhances overall performance by increasing an athlete’s ability to function ‘in the zone,’ by sharpening concentration” to hone both “accuracy and precision.”
The Huffington Post also reports that tennis champion Novak Djokovic uses mindfulness in this tennis to release self-doubt, anger and worry, a skill he deems “just as important as physical training.”
You can play tennis alone against a wall, or with a partner; in either case, you may not have to try very hard to maintain mindfulness in this game. The game will keep you naturally focused on breath and movement.
Running has a way of giving you clarity and focus as you move to the rhythm of your footfalls and feel the deepness of your breath. That may be why 22 percent of runners said they started running as a natural form of stress-relief, according to a 2017 runners poll by Fit2Run.
This type of movement leaves room for “reflection and exploration,” suggests Runner’s World, making it the perfect way to practice active mindfulness. Tune into the repetitive motion that engages both the upper- and lower-body and listen to your feet as they strike the ground. Take note of how that feels, as your foot flows from heel to toe and back into the air again.
This less popular sport is rooted in the “kyudo” tradition of samurai warriors and has been described as a “moving meditation” to synchronize and bring about a sense of equilibrium to a person’s inner world. “Kyudo [which means ‘way of the bow’] is infused with philosophical influences…making it a ritualistic practice,” explains Archery360.
This unique form of archery eliminates all outside diversions to “symbolize leaving your worries at the door.” Instead, you enter the practice range, uninhibited from stressors with a clarity of “pure heart and mind.” The precision needed to align your stance, engage your isometric muscles, then fixate on the target is both an intuitive and immersive experience.
To enjoy this active meditation, look for a local archery school or class, which you may be able to find at a local college or recreation center.
The breathing sequence of “inhale, exhale, lift, hold, pause and repeat” is a powerful way to activate active meditation during your workout. Tuning into yourself in the weight room, finding stillness in the sound of barbells making contact with a metal rack or the feel of your biceps protruding under a heavy mass, boosts strength, both mental and physical.
Ayurveda expert Larissa Carlson suggests that by noticing the “sensation of muscles contracting and releasing, the roughness of your skin against the weight or the sweat trickling down your back,” it’s possible to achieve a posture she calls “meditation in motion.”
Start Moving Mindfully
Find time for these activities in your regular fitness routine—but don’t expect mindfulness to come naturally. Tune into your breath, make note of how your muscles are feeling, and connect breath with movement as much as possible. Soon, this mindful active state will come naturally, and you’ll leave very workout feeling that familiar post-yoga bliss that comes with focusing on breath and our bodies.
Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than ten years and is currently a full-time writer, ACE Certified Personal Trainer and NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition specialist. She’s also the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Honest Body Fitness, an online health magazine for women who are fed up with being told how to look and how to get there, yet still don’t feel like enough. She’s written for Shape, Reader’s Digest, AARP, Snap Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness and more. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for health articles, workouts tips and more.
Aromatherapy is so much more than cleverly named and pleasant smelling candles. When practiced correctly, and to the fullest, aromatherapy has the potential to not only enhance and elevate moods but positively alter fundamental brain functions in amazing ways.
With another summer firmly in our rearview, and with several months of colder weather and darker days ahead, now is a great time to unlock the full slate of healing and rejuvenating benefits aromatherapy can offer. Whether you work in an office or stay at home with your littles, get through these hectic times with these essential oil blends that will have you feeling laser-focused and ready to conquer the world (or just back to school season).
Memory & Concentration Blend
This blend uses rosemary essential oil which is known for boosting memory and concentration. Throw in some lemon essential oil to heighten the senses and you’ve got yourself a dynamic pairing that will keep you on point all day.
1 tablespoon jojoba oil
3 drops rosemary essential oil
3 drops lemon essential oil
Pour the carrier oil (jojoba) in a glass dropper bottle or a roller bottle. Then add your essential oils. With essential oils it’s important to remember that a little goes a long way. Just add a drop or two and rub on your temples.
Crunchy Concentration Blend
Calling all bohemians! Sandalwood is the star of this earthy blend that provides a sense of clarity and pairs well with the calming effect of patchouli.
1 tablespoon of coconut oil melted
2 drops of sandalwood
2 drops of patchouli essential oil
2 drops of orange essential oil
Pour the carrier oil (coconut) in a glass dropper bottle or a roller bottle. Then add your essential oils. When using, a little goes a long way. Just add a drop or two and rub on your wrists.
Fresh Focus Blend
Knock out brain fog with frankincense. Applying frankincense topically can work wonders for you mood and peppermint puts pep in your step and improves concentration.
1 tablespoon of almond oil
3 drops of frankincense
3 drops peppermint essential oil
Pour the carrier oil (almond) in a glass dropper bottle or a roller bottle. Then add your essential oils. You only need a few dabs to feel the effects. Just add a drop or two and rub on your wrists.
We have all caught ourselves worrying about our busy lives. Wake up, make breakfast, pack lunch, get the kids off to school, go to work, finish the big project at work, pick the kids up from school, take one kid to music lessons and another to practice, make dinner, do the laundry…the list goes on. Whatever fills your day, thinking about the exhaustive list of tasks and chores is likely to cause stress and anxiety, which can lead to health issues. What if we stopped worrying about everything that needs to get done and instead focused our attention on the present moment? The moment we’re actively experiencing. This is mindfulness: being present in your everyday life.
Practicing mindfulness means paying attention to your experiences, both physical and mental, and not judging them. This means instead of rejecting a feeling because it is “bad” or “good,” you learn to cope with it by not labeling it. For example, maybe you are working on a big project at work and you start to feel your heart racing as you realize the deadline is approaching. In mindfulness, you acknowledge the fact that your heart is racing, but don’t judge the feeling. Just acknowledge it’s there and accept it. While mindfulness is most often associated with meditation, the two don’t have to coexist. The best thing about incorporating mindfulness into your daily routine is that you can do it anywhere!
Benefits to consider of mindfulness:
- May help reduce anxiety and depression
- Improves focus and cognition
- Enhances emotional regulation and control
- Helps promote stress reduction while allowing the brain to become more adaptive to stressful or negative situations.
- Lower stress levels are associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, improved immune function, lower blood sugar levels and reduced risk of early mortality.
- Enhanced self-insight, morality, intuition and the ability to modulate fear.
- May help improve sleep and reduce insomnia
- People who practice mindfulness report more positive moods
- May help reduce pain
What’s the difference between mindfulness and meditation?
- There is a lot of overlap between mindfulness and meditation. Mindfulness is specifically the awareness of what is going on that present moment. It can be both a formal or informal practice. For instance, mindfulness is stopping to breathe when the phone rings versus rushing to immediately answer it. Just because you are mindful of your experiences does not mean you are meditating. Just as there are many forms of meditations, there are many ways to define the practice as well.
- Meditation is the formal practice that encourages relaxation and attaining a state of consciousness different from your normal, waking state. One of the most common forms of meditation is mindfulness meditation. In mindfulness meditation, you set aside time to intentionally pay attention to whatever is happening in the moment, bringing awareness to your breath, body and mind without judging any thoughts that come and pass.
Ways to incorporate mindfulness into your life
We all live busy lives. Being mindful doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to stop what you are doing to meditate. Here some ways to bring attention to your daily routines:
- Eating: Focus your attention on your meal. Invoke all your senses. How does the food smell? What is the taste and texture? What does it look like? Take note of all the colors on the plate. Be present at the meal without watching TV or scrolling through your phone.
- Walking: Mindful walking means being aware of every step you take. Take note to how your feet strike the ground and your specific, heal-to-toe rhythm. Notice the muscles in the legs and how your hips move. Is there any discomfort? If so that’s OK, remember not to judge! Take note to your breath, every inhale and exhale. Bring attention to your surroundings.
- Mindfulness meditation (the body scan): There are plenty of ways to meditate. One of my favorites is the body scan. The core of almost any meditation is the breath, so start your focus there, noticing the rise and fall of your stomach and the change in temperature from inhale to exhale. As you relax, bring focus to your head. Note any sensations on the top of your head, maybe there is tension in your scalp or you feel a draft. After a few minutes, shift your focus to your face, then neck, shoulders, arms, chest etc. until you have reached your feet. Always remember your mind is allowed to wander. If you have a thought pop up, simply acknowledge it without judgment and recognize that your mind has wandered off, and then return to your awareness back to your breath or scan. Start with a couple of minutes each day and increase over time.
- Showering: The shower is a perfect time to relax and forget about past and future events to focus on the now. As you stand in the shower, take note the temperature of the water, how does the water feel as it hits your body? Be mindful of the smell of your shower gel, soap or shampoo, the feeling of your hand or wash cloth passing through your hair or over your skin. Listen to the sound the water makes as it hits the shower floor. Take note to any thoughts that come up while you’re in the shower—remembering the importance of not passing judgment on them. Lastly, notice the feeling of the towel as you dry yourself off.
- Teeth brushing: Become mindful of the taste and texture of your toothpaste, the sensation in your arms as they go from side to side. Take note of the pressure of your feet on the surface of the bathroom floor.
In the digital world we live in, there are many apps that can help you incorporate mindfulness into your day. Just like anything else we do, learning mindfulness takes practice. Take some time today to be mindful and see how it can improve your day!
How many times have you gone to bed determined to wake up, early only to hit “snooze” five times before finally getting up and bolting out the door? I am far from an “up-with-the-sun” kind of person, but getting in the practice of rising earlier gave me more time to clear the morning brain fog and get energized for a productive day.
Here are my 8 tips for creating and actually sticking to a morning routine that enhances your mood and focus all day long!
1. Define your “why”
Why are you getting up so early? Defining your purpose is key to finding motivation to get out from under the covers. Maybe you want to clean your room, squeeze in a run or yoga session, or work on the novel you always wanted to write. Whatever your motive, write it down, set a phone reminder and make it a priority so you don’t have to think when the alarm sounds!
2. Set yourself up for success
When you’re half-awake, pressed for time and willpower is low, limiting your morning tasks and responsibilities the night before is helpful. While this seems like a no-brainer, actually making sure our clothes are laid out, lunch is packed, dishes are done and the laundry is folded before hitting the pillow is easier said than done.
3. Write something
Setting aside time to put pen to paper in the morning is the equivalent of a cup of coffee for a creative brain. Believe it or not, creativity peaks in the morning while the analytical side of our mind is still snoozing, allowing for a free flow of thoughts and ideas. Even if you’re job doesn’t demand a ton of creative thinking, giving your brain an early workout will allow you to hit the ground running once you’re at your desk.
4. Create an energizing environment
My favorite part about mornings is waking up and feeling happy in my space and connected with myself. I light a few candles or throw on my diffuser to gently wake up my senses and soak in the aromatherapy benefits. Make your space one that’s clear of clutter and distractions so you can wake up feeling stress-free. Try opening the curtains for some natural light or listening to a podcast or upbeat music while you get ready. Fill your environment with the good vibes you want to exude all day long!
5. If you can’t work out, stretch out
Exercising first thing is a great way to boost energy levels all day long, but if you’re not morning workout person, don’t sweat it (pun intended)! Instead, block out some time (preferably right after you wake up) to stretch out and get your blood flowing. The American Council on Exercise says stretching in the morning can reduce aches, pains and lead to greater amounts of energy and focus throughout the day.
6. Take your time with your coffee
In many cultures, the morning cup is a daily ritual meant to be savored and enjoyed. Don’t settle for blah tasting coffee or tea that’s just a shortcut to caffeine. Pour a cup of superfood spiked coffee to start your day with some essential fats and nutrients as well as a healthy jolt. If tea is more your style, try savoring earthy, herbal teas in the morning to stimulate your senses and help feel more grounded. You’ll be amazed at how the simple luxury of a good morning cup can enhance your mood all day.
7. Break from the screens & set intentions
When you jump right into e-mails, news updates and Facebook over breakfast, it can be over-stimulating and your morning time shifts to the needs of others. I like to silence my phone and set my own personal intentions for the day. I use this time to create to-do lists and write out my goals for the day and week. Taking the time each day to focus on yourself and your tasks puts you in an organized, productive mindset early, and visualizing your goals keeps your days filled with purpose!
8. Reward yourself!
Have one part of your routine that you absolutely love and look forward to each day. For me, sitting down to a podcast over my morning cup of tea and bone broth collagen smoothie is my reward for getting up early and giving myself extra time to settle into the day. Maybe you make time to read, make a tasty breakfast or stop for a good cup of coffee on your way to work. Saving time for little indulgences will boost your mood for the day and create an incentive to do it all again tomorrow!
Remember to keep your morning goals realistic and flexible. While you should hold yourself accountable to sticking to a routine, be patient with yourself and treat it like a practice: it’s okay if you miss a day so long as you get back to it tomorrow!
What are your favorite morning routines and rituals? Let’s talk about it in the comments!
For most of us, New Year’s “resolutions” — those well-meaning actions plans of self-improvement — are, if we’re being realistic here, better off re-branded as New Year’s “intentions”. It may just be a minor semantical difference but a “resolution” implies a solemn pact — a pledge of unwavering commitment that a simple “intention” does not. If you intend to live to 100 it just kind of means that you expect to do so, whereas resolving to live to 100 means that you’re ready to put in the work to make it happen! In that spirit, we’ve laid out some tips on how to make your best New Year’s intentions a reality.
Be realistic – Nothing happens overnight either. Don’t think if you quitting smoking or give up sweets that this will all happen in the same month. Set realistic goals to achieve. Try monthly check-ins with yourself at 1-, 3- and 6-month intervals and track your progress.
Create a Vision Board– Once you set that goal, back it up with a vision board, which helps clarify your thinking and provides some concrete imagery to help inspire and keep you on track. If you’re resolving to lead a healthier lifestyle then seek images of what that looks like to you. A vision board can definitely sharpen your goal-setting focus as well as what success looks like for you.
Don’t Do it Alone – The age old saying is true, “Together Everyone Achieves More.” Having a partner in your quests makes it way more likely that you’ll achieve your goals. Hey, why not host a vision board party where everyone can create their visions of their better selves? This would be a perfect gathering after all the gluttonous holiday festivities.
Practice Self-love – When you feel down and discouraged, remind yourself of how much you’ve accomplished. Turn up the will power and make a list of 10 things you’re proud of. That will get your spirits lifted in no time.
The Power of Imagery – Tufts University psychologist Christopher Willard, Psy.D. explains the craving center of our brain is highly susceptible to visuals. Trying to lose weight? Keep a picture of yourself at your goal weight on your bathroom mirror to remind yourself that you CAN get there.
If you’re feeling restless and wound up after another hectic day of juggling your daily stresses, think about steeping back and relaxing with a warm cup of tea! Feel your stress and anxiety melt away with every sip of one of our favorite types of tea listed below.
Chamomile has been shown in multiple studies to reduce stress and anxiety in patients. How does it do it? One of its potent flavonoids, chrysin, gives it it’s sleep-inducing properties. While another compound, apigenin, helps induce a feeling of gentle, pleasant sedation. Bonus — chamomile is safe for kids too, and could help calm an anxious or overactive child. It has also been shown to help with other ailments such as colds and stomach aches. This tea combines chamomile with lavender for an extra dose of chill.
Valerian’s relaxing nature is why it has enjoyed a long history as a mild sedative. Known as “nature’s valium”, valerian has been shown to really take the edge off. A 2005 study reported in the journal Sleep, showed clinically proven results for sleeplessness. We suggest a trifecta of relaxation with this tea that blends valerian with passion flower and lemon balm. Speaking of…
Lemon Balm has been used medicinally going way back to when the ancient Greeks prescribed it for those suffering from insomnia and anxiety. This culinary herb appears to reduce cortisol – also known as the “stress hormone” — concentrations and helps blunt the effect of enzymes that inhibit GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid) production, a neurotransmitter that helps the brain to self-soothe.
Tulsi (Holy Basil)
Holy Basil, also known as tulsi, is a well-known Ayurvedic herb that grows all over the eastern tropics. Ayerveda medicine says that tulsi can promote overall general health and well-being due to its adaptogenic effects, and a recent study showed extracts of this herb reduced general anxiety disorder along with stress and depression. We really love this brand that uses completely recycled packaging and bleaches their tea bags with oxygen rather than chlorine, which causes less damage to the environment. That’s something you can relax about.
Do you have a favorite tea you use to relax at night? Let us know in the comments!
After making plans to attend a residential course to learn the ancient meditation called Vipassana, I told my friends about it. Their collective response included the words “relaxing” and “retreat”. I let them know that it’s actually intense and challenging – about 100 hours of meditation packed into 10 days – and noble silence, meaning no speaking, writing, gestures, or eye contact. Their encouraging facial expressions twisted as I added that course participants awake at 4am, the last vegetarian meal of the day is served at 11am, and there are no phones or internet. No reading, stretching, yoga, or entertainment is allowed and the accommodations are very modest. I realized it didn’t sound very vacation-worthy, but I knew it offered the possibility of changing my life.
Now that I’m back I can tell you that indeed, it did change my life for the better. And yes, it was different than an average vacation. I didn’t come home tan – or enlightened – but I now understand the choices I make and how they result in happiness or misery. I am now acquainted with this simple non-sectarian technique that has been trusted for over 2,500 years by people of all backgrounds and faiths. The practice helps me stay focused, loving kind, and receptive. I’m more emotionally balanced – responsive, not reactive – and I know how to enjoy life more thoroughly. I now recognize when I’m multiplying a physical pain into a mental pain, and vice versa.
What is Vipassana?
Vipassana is mental training that helps practitioners see things as they really are, not as they would like things to be. This provides groundwork for transformation through self-observation, and liberation resulting in true happiness, harmony, love, and compassion for self and others. The highly concentrated 10-day teaching (as taught by S.N. Goenka in the tradition of Sayagyi U Ba Khin) offers a way to become established in this technique that can provide understanding of the depth of your mind and the way it works – to understand at the experiential level (not just intellectually) – in the framework of your own body – how and where you started generating negativity and multiplying misery. By understanding and using the technique, you can locate the roots of your misery and break free from old habit patterns.
Vipassana is the simplest, yet most difficult form of meditation because it asks so little of the practitioner. There is no visualization, mantra, or breath control. The technique only requires equanimous awareness of bodily sensations and the impermanent quality of all things. Basically, it’s a body scanning process that can be learned intellectually in minutes. However, a concentrated and almost continual practice of at least 10 days is necessary to establish experiential understanding of the technique and its benefits. Awareness is moved systematically through the body while sensations are observed objectively and neutrally. Pleasant feelings are not to be craved and unpleasant feelings are not to be averted.
The course merely provides a Kindergarten-level understanding, yet for many, the subtle sensations experienced are so different than the gross sensations they are accustomed to, they may think they are experiencing enlightenment or bliss. During the 10 days, one learns to sweep one’s awareness of subtle sensations throughout the body, the result of which can feel something like a shower of tingling vibrations. Not all the sensations are pleasant however. Many people have to work through a variety of physical and emotional pains, so it can be cathartic and healing as well. Experienced practitioners explore even subtler sensations, penetrating their awareness through muscles and organs, while more advanced practitioners go even deeper, becoming aware of the subtlest of sensations, even into the depth of the spine.
During the course, one is to consider it as working in isolation. This is the first time that most people will ever be alone with their mind with no distractions. While everyone’s experience is unique, many get a chance to power through internal struggles in a way that makes them stronger.
Session duration is usually 1 or 2 hours long with 10 minute breaks in between. After 3 days of being able to shift position and futilely attempt to gain comfort, participants are asked to resist the urge to move during each 1 hour sitting. This teaches strong determination and practitioners learn they can make it through nearly torturous mental and physical pain. Everything arises and eventually passes away.
There are no charges for the course, food, or accommodations. Expenses are met exclusively by donations from students who complete the course. Donations pay it forward by providing someone else with the opportunity to experience the benefits of Vipassana. About 300 Vipassana centers located globally offer this unique experience to learn the basics of the technique in an uninterrupted, safe environment where one can practice almost continuously without concern for the chores of a householder. Volunteers silently cook, clean, and manage daily tasks so students may focus on learning and practicing.
If you are interested in learning more about the pure, original form of Vipassana and its benefits, visit dhamma.org. There are also many interesting anecdotal videos you may want to explore that have been posted online by individuals who have experienced the 10-day course. If you do not want to commit to 10-day course, know that the simple act of quieting the mind and paying attention to breath is in itself an act of meditation and can be a very beneficial way to begin a meditation practice.
Summer is coming to an end, and the beginning of school is right around the corner. For parents, it’s back to the school-year routine. For a child, it commonly means a new teacher, new classmates, new routines, new thoughts and maybe even a new school. However, all this excitement can unfortunately bring on some anxiety.
While the causes of anxiety in children can differ, anxious feelings are normal and even expected as children make these important transitions in their lives. I have found that when dealing with a fear-driven thought, it’s important to walk through the fear in its entirety to help children problem solve. For instance, if your child is nervous about attending a new school and is afraid they’ll get lost or be late to class, don’t just reassure them that everything is going be OK. Instead, help walk them through the worst things that could happen and go through different scenarios of what to do if they get lost.
Besides talking out fears, I have found that homeopathic remedies may be helpful in calming back-to-school jitters. Below are just a few examples of some of the remedies that may be helpful for anxious children.
Homeopathic Remedies for Anxiety in Children
Here are five homeopathic remedies to consider that may improve anxiety symptoms in children. These remedies can be taken as pellets and dissolved in the mouth. Remember, it is always best to consult with a trained health care provider before starting to more accurately get the correct remedy and potency for your child:
- Pulsatilla: This remedy is appropriate for a child who is very timid, mild and tends to have a yielding disposition. Oftentimes, they have a strong emotional bond with their mother and cling to them. They may display their anxiety by demanding excessive attention, weeping often and crying at almost everything. Generally, their anxiety is worse in a warm room and they seek the open air.
- Lycopodium Clavatum: This is one of the first remedies that come to mind when speaking about anticipatory anxiety. Lycopodium is suitable for children who have an aversion to undertaking new things, yet when they do so, they go through it with relative ease. A lot of the anticipatory anxiety is because they are afraid they will fail and look foolish. Most of these children try to conceal these insecurities with over-confident mannerisms.
- Gelsemium: This is often the first remedy considered when it comes to test anxiety and stage fright. One of the keynote symptoms for this remedy include anticipation of any unusual ordeal, such as appearing in public, public speaking or test anxiety that can bring on diarrhea.
- Phosphorus: This remedy is good for a child who is generally very sharp, alert and desires creative activities yet has many anxieties. In their anxious state, they become fearful when they are alone and, for that reason, strongly desire company. They are very restless and fidgety and desire to be rubbed gently. When they are anxious, they can bite their nails. Lastly, they have a strong fear of the dark and their anxiety is oftentimes worse during thunderstorms.
- Baryta Carbonicum: This is a great remedy if your child is afraid to go to school because of undertaking anything new, such as new people, new classes, etc. This child is excessively shy, they oftentimes hide behind their mother, their hands or furniture so strangers can’t look at them. They tend to lack self-confidence. If this type of child walks into a room with people laughing, they may assume the people are laughing at them. They easily get homesick because they feel a sense of safety in their home. Lastly, this child may also have some problems in the classroom with learning. They tend to be very forgetful and inattentive, and have a hard time learning and remembering new information.
Diet and Emotional Health
Diet may also play a major role in emotional health. While sugar itself may not cause anxiety, researchers have found that it might worsen anxiety symptoms. In one study, researchers found that rats that binged on sugar and then fasted displayed anxiety-like behaviors. It’s important to limit the amount of sugar-laden, processed foods in your child’s diet throughout the school year. This may not only help with keeping their anxiety at bay but also may help improve their overall health and immunity.
Other Tips for Reducing Anxiety in Children
Here are some other ways you can help reduce anxiety in children:
- Role playing can help your children to come up with different plans for different scenarios that they may be anxious about.
- Focus on the positives and help your children redirect their attention from negative worries to positive thoughts. This could be getting to see friends they haven’t seen since the last day of school, focusing on a special snack in their lunch bag, or any other positive experiences you can come up with.
- Pay attention to your own behavior. Remember, children are very aware of how parents react to situations. Even if it doesn’t seem like they are paying attention, they hear and see more then we think they do. Children also learn many cues and emotions from their parents. If you can show more confidence and less anxiety, your children are more likely to follow suit.
While back-to-school jitters are common, there are many ways to help tackle them before they get out of hand. Consider some of these tips the next time you are faced with a child who is experiencing anxiety around school and life. Best wishes for a happy and healthy school year.
They are called essential minerals for a reason. A member of this group, iron is very important for your health
as all cells contain some iron. The majority of iron is located in the red blood cells, responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs to the organs and tissues throughout the body. Iron has a role in creating energy from nutrients but it also contributes to the transmission of nerve impulses, which coordinates the actions of different parts of your body. Maintaining healthy iron levels is essential for good health and we present you 5 reasons you may need an iron supplement
If you have iron deficiency anemia, your body is lacking iron for the red blood cells to effectively provide oxygen to cells and tissues, resulting in fatigue, weakness, and dizziness. Iron supplements are commonly recommended to help prevent anemia. Nearly five million Americans have iron deficiency, by far the most common form of anemia in the United States.
When you exercise, you burn fuel, including iron and other minerals, and replenishing is important to maintain good health. Additionally, people who do regular intense exercise may need up to 30% more iron than less active adults, as iron may cycle through the body more rapidly in people who exercise vigorously.
Recommended by doctors, women who are pregnant or nursing need significantly more iron than the average of 15-18 mg of iron daily. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of iron for pregnant women is 27 mg daily.
Kidneys make an important hormone called erythropoietin (EPO). When you have kidney disease, the kidneys cannot make enough EPO, causing red blood cells count to drop and anemia to develop. Most people with kidney disease will develop anemia and iron supplements can help avoiding that.
Lack of iron may lead to difficulty concentrating and is a common problem among students. Low iron levels can also lead to unusual tiredness, shortness of breath, decrease in physical performance, and learning problems in children and adults.
Check with your health care provider before start taking an iron supplement.
It’s December and the holidays are upon us. We are focused on holiday parties, shopping, spending time with family and friends and many other “end of the year” rituals. Many people enjoy this time of the year and believe December is a month full of joy and happiness
. Others may not share the same feelings and, unfortunately, some people may feel sad even depressed as the year closes out.
Depression affects people in many different ways including mood swings and change of behavior but also affecting physical health. Treatment may vary from person to person but natural remedies may be helpful at this time the year.
Natural supplements for depression have been helping people for years but one particular product has been labeled as one of the best products to treat depression naturally: St. John’s Wort.
St. John’s Wort supplements are made from a wild plant named Hypericum perforatum. Studies have shown that this herbal product may help fighting depression and can be as efficient as standard prescription antidepressants. Moreover, St. John’s Wort has a long history of positive results when used by medical professionals and appears to have fewer side effects than standard antidepressants.
In addition, St. John’s Wort has been studied in the treatment of other mood disorders such as severe depression, anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). For depression, the standard dose for adults is 300 milligrams of St. John’s wort (of 0.3% hypericin extract) taken three times a day. After the initial treatment, some people may choose to go onto a lower maintenance dose of 300 milligrams to 600 milligrams per day.
Talk to your doctor, pharmacist, or health care provider if you are on any medication and before you start taking St. John’s Wort supplements.