With the New Year “write” around the corner it’s time to start thinking about what you’re going to accomplish in 2017. Not surprisingly, many people choose to take this time of year to focus on improving their overall health. One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to assess your health needs is to create a daily personal health and wellness journal. This journal can help you to understand your current health status and inspire improvements to better your overall health. Research has shown that individuals who write about traumatic, stressful and emotional events are more likely to have improvements in physical and emotional health than those who do not.
Combine these experiential writings with a log of other daily events such as what you’ve eaten during the day, how you feel, time slept, sleep quality, medications/vitamins/supplements taken that day, physical activity and overall mood, you have the makings of a personal wellness journal that can help you discover causes or correlations among behaviors, symptoms and health issues. These findings can help you assess your current health and help you form goals on where you would like to be in the coming New Year.
Short Term & Long Term Benefits to Consider of Journaling
- Identify personal habits
- Identify potential allergens/sensitivities
- Personal growth and development
- Problem solving
- Stress reduction
- Better diet
- More frequent exercise
- Improved working memory
- Reduced number of visits to general practitioner or health center
10 Tips for Successful Journaling
- Commit to a journaling schedule
- Keep your notebook or journal where you won’t miss it
- Try using email or calendar reminders so you don’t forget
- Write in a private place, free from distractions
- Stay organized
- Keep it short
- Keep it fun and interesting
- Don’t worry about being perfect – write what comes naturally to you
- Make time for some reflection
- Reward yourself!
How to Keep a Health Journal
There are pre-made health journals that you can use to keep yourself organized, but don’t worry, a general spiral notebook will also work just fine. To start, be sure to note the date and day of the week. You can record your blood pressure and sugar level if necessary, along with weight and body temperature. It is best if these are recorded at the same time each day. Record the total amount of sleep you had for that day including naps. You can also record the number of times you woke up during the night and your overall sleep quality.
Since many individuals feel that their health is affected by changes in the weather, you can note the temperature for the day along with any present weather patterns (such as sunny, cloudy, humid, rainy, snowy, windy, etc.). Log any medications you took as well as any over-the-counter items and vitamins, herbs or supplements. Indicate the brand name, the type of medication or supplement and the dosage or strength. As you get comfortable with journaling, you can simply write “same as usual” to save time and only make notes when changes occur. You should also write down any physical activity that you performed that day, including walking, running, weight training or even vigorous housework, gardening, dancing, etc.
Take note to any pain or discomfort that you feel throughout the day. You can log the area where the pain occurs and number it on a scale of 1-10 in terms of its severity (1 being very mild, 10 being severe). Sometimes pain occurs at the same time of the day, so be sure to take note if this happens. In addition to pain and discomfort, you can also note any symptoms that you felt throughout the day. These may include fatigue, nausea, gas, bloating, watery eyes, diarrhea, heart palpitations, constant hunger, etc. Focus on all the areas of the body (from your head all the way down to your feet) and don’t forget to include any mental or emotional symptoms such as anxiety, nervousness, sadness or anger. You may also want to rate the symptom severity and take note to what time of day they occurred. If you notice any rashes, bruises, bites or other skin conditions take note of these and log them as well.
Finally, log your diet for the day including breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Feel free to note the amount of calories, fat, sodium, protein, sugar and other nutritional information consumed at each meal. Also log your water consumption throughout the day. Keeping track of what you eat may help you discover trends in your day to day health to figure out if you are allergic or sensitive to certain food ingredients. For instance, every morning after drinking milk at breakfast you may have noticed excessive gas and diarrhea, which could identify lactose sensitivity. Leave a final section for comments or to include anything else that comes to mind. Congratulations, you’ve finished day one of your health journal!
Try to relax and reduce anxiety with some of these stress reducing tips!
Meditation – Research published din the JAMA Internal Medicine found meditation can help ease psychological stresses like anxiety, depression, and pain. It’s easy and free. We suggest beginning with a morning meditation for ten minutes daily. To get started find a quiet space and sit comfortable. Start to focus on the breath and close your eyes. If your mind begins to wander, stop yourself and bring your focis back to your breathing.
Coloring – Once associate with an activity for children, coloring is now trending as a therapeutic creative way to combat stress. The e American Art Therapy Association views the process for creating art as an outlet to resolve emotional conflict, explore feelings and relieve anxiety. When we color we focus on the activity itself and not our problems.
Ecotherapy – this relative new form pf psychology also known as green therapy or nature therapy, believes idea that people are connected to and impacted by the natural environment. A growing body of research highlights the positive benefits of connecting with nature.
Supplements – There are a variety of supplements out there to relieve stress but the one we’re going to focus on is magnesium. In today modern diet, our body is depleted in various vitamins and minerals due to poor soil and polluted waters which causes our food to be void of these vital nutrients. One important mineral is magnesium because it plays an important role in many biochemical reactions. It’s basically natural chill pill that has been shown to enable muscle relaxation.
Essential Oils – The beautiful aroma of plants can be a natural solution for stress relief. Aromatherapy has been used for centuries to quiet the mind and promote overall well-being. Essential oils are created using an extraction method utilizing different parts of a plant including flowers, bark, leaves and roots. It’s always best to look for pure grade essential oils that don’t have chemical additives. Our favorites for calling your nerves are lavender, chamomile, ylang ylang and bergamot.
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.
Keep it simple is easier said than done but can really make things less hectic the day of your celebrations. Some things to think about… choose just two colors for décor. Don’t go overboard and make yourself go crazy looking at Pinterest
Creating a signature drink will save you money at the liquor store. A champagne punch or sangria can be elevated with a beautiful rosemary garnish. Lining all the pre-poured glasses up already garnished will save you time when guests arrive. Plus, it really shows off your hosting skills.
If you’re hosting a dinner party, ask guests to bring a side dish or dessert. That way you only need to focus on making the main courses which equals less stress on you. Keep in mind your veg-friendly guests and include a vegetarian main entrée such as eggplant parmesan.
Prevent the build-up of holiday clutter. Most people bring a gift to a holiday party. This year, ask guests to come sans gift but if they want they can donate to a local charity you support. It will keep you kitchen free of sweets, alcohol and flowers that people usually bring to parties.
Last but not least, no one expects perfection from you. Holiday hosting means time to spend with friends and family not spending all day in the kitchen. Be grateful, mindful and enjoy life.
Here at LuckyVitamin, we wish you and your family a happy and healthy holiday filled with peace and joy!
Cranberry-Apple Cider Punch
4 cups local apple cider
2 cups cranberry juice
2 cups champagne
1 cup of orange juice
Garnish with a sprig of rosemary and fresh cranberries
We go through life day by day almost as if we are on autopilot. We wake up, go to work, come home, cook dinner, go to sleep and do it all over again the next day. Maybe your daily routine changes through out the day but the basis for your day is still the same. All of the stress, worry, anger etc. associated with our daily activities can lead to numerous health-related problems. Anxiety and depression are just two conditions that more and more Americans are starting to unfortunately become familiar with. Just because our days seem more and more worse off by the minute doesn’t mean your anxiety and depression has to as well.
In a recent article researchers found that mindfulness for the treatment of anxiety and depression was as effective as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is one of the most frequently used psychotherapeutic modalities. It has also been used worldwide as a stress reduction technique. But what does it mean to be mindful? Mindfulness is becoming aware to what is happening to us moment by moment. In other words mindfulness is all about being present. In order to practice mindfulness you must pay precise nonjudgmental attention to all of your experiences both physical and mental. This means that instead of rejecting a feeling because it is bad or good you learn to cope with this feeling by not labeling it. Mindfulness teaches us to be present for all of our daily activities instead of being on “autopilot.”
With the craziness that the holidays bring into our already stressful lives try looking into meditation techniques that might help reduce some of the stress this holiday season. Also use mindfulness to enjoy the happy moments and be present for all the joy the holiday season may bring into your life.