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!
A New Year’s resolution is a tradition in which a person makes a promise for self-improvement. The practice of making resolutions for the New Year is thought to have originated in Ancient Babylonian times, when Babylonians would make promises in order to earn the favor of the gods and start the year off on the right foot. Nowadays, many people, approximately 45% of Americans to be exact, make a plan at the start of the New Year. However, self-betterment is not the only type of New Year’s resolutions that one can make. Other common resolutions include weight loss, stress reduction, better organization, getting more sleep, achieving financial stability, exercising more and quitting smoking. However, picking a resolution and actually keeping it are two completely different things. If you find yourself year after year picking the same resolution and not being able to stick to it, maybe it’s time to switch things up a little. It was the famous Albert Einstein who said, “The value of achievement lies in the achieving.” Below are some tips on how to pick a New Year’s resolution that will work for you.
What To Consider When Choosing a New Year’s Resolution:
- Choose a goal that excites or motivates you. If you have had the same goal for the past couple of years, such as losing weight, it is most likely that this goal no longer excites you. Try selecting something that gets you excited, and that way you’ll be more likely to stick with it.
- Pick something that fits your current lifestyle. Researchers have found that one of the major reasons we aren’t able to stick to our goals is because we choose goals different from our current lifestyle. Pick one that fits within your lifestyle so achieving it doesn’t become even more difficult.
- Choose a goal that fits your budget. Don’t stress yourself out financially because of your resolution. Choose something that fits your budget so you won’t have excuses not to achieve it!
- Reflect on what has worked for you in the past. Take this into consideration as well as what matters most to you for the upcoming year. By doing so you may more easily be able to set goals that are well within your reach.
- Focus on one goal at a time. Change doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time. So it makes sense that you shouldn’t try to change everything about yourself at once and should only focus on one goal at a time.
- Choose behavior-oriented goals vs. outcome goals. Instead of saying you want to lose weight or drop 10 pounds, say you are going to get to the gym 3 times per week, take the stairs more often or prepare healthier lunches throughout the week. Phrasing your goals in this way allows you to have something easier to achieve and measure yourself against.
- Be specific and choose a clearly defined goal. Research has shown that you are more likely to succeed at accomplishing your goal if it’s clearly defined. This gives you clear direction for what you need to do to achieve your goals.
Tips For Keeping Your New Year’s Resolution:
- Tell others
- Pick one resolution at a time
- Have a back-up plan
- Plan, plan and plan some more
- Reward yourself for all your hard work
- Anticipate set backs
- Believe in yourself
From all of us at LuckyVitamin, we wish you a joyous holiday season and a peaceful and prosperous New Year!
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.