Goal Setting – Part 2

So now that you have decided what you really want and made a list of measurable goals (maybe even with some specific deadlines), the next step is to determine all of the individual action steps you will need to put in place to achieve those goals.

Mark Twain said,  “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.  The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”  In order to achieve a goal, it is best to chunk it down.  Even when we think we know how to get from point A to point B, it can be very helpful to see things on paper, clear and concise.  For example, if your goal is to upgrade your diet and eat healthier food, you must ask yourself specifically how you will go about doing that.  Maybe determine things like:  What day will you shop?   What specific items will now be on your grocery list?  How can you readily incorporate these foods into your daily life?  Will you need to set aside a specific day to prep and cook?  Are there any foods you need to eliminate from your diet?  Write those things down.  

Here’s another example.  Say you want to see specific improvements at the gym.  When breaking that goal down, perhaps ponder things like:  Will reaching your goal involve adding another work out day?  Where could you fit that in?  Does it involve asking for guidance around a specific lifting plan?  Does it require simply dedicating more time to mobility?  Could you possible benefit from running more?  Figure out what it is that will help you achieve whatever goals you have set for yourself, and write it down. 

Once you have clear actions steps for each of your goals in place, it can be helpful to plan your day the night before by making a physical and mental to-do list (that will include these steps).  By physically writing a to-do list, you can get up and start your day off on the right foot.  You know exactly what you need to get done, and in what order.  You can also prep any materials the night before to make your day run even smoother…i.e. have your food portioned out and ready to go, have phone numbers ready to make important calls, or have your bag packed and ready for the gym.

By reading over your to-do list before you hit the sheets, you can mentally visualize how you would like the next day to play out.  It gives your subconscious mind a chance to work on these tasks all night long.  Who knows, you may even wake up with a creative solution to what appeared to be a problem the night before!   These things happen:)

Finally, after writing out all of your actions steps, anticipating how you will make them work, and planning around them for each new day, the most important part in achieving your goals is to begin to take action!  Get started, and get into motion!  Even if you don’t start perfectly, you can begin, learn what works best, make the necessary adjustments, and keep going.  The point is, you have now started the momentum going toward what you would like to achieve.  Thinking and planning are necessary steps, but ultimately, you have to believe in yourself and in the goals you have set forth, take a leap of faith, and jump in with both feet.  Don’t “wait for your ship to come in” as they say…”swim out and meet it!”

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:   “Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.”  Abraham Lincoln 

 

Reference:  The Success Principles by Jack Canfield

2014 – Bring It On!!

Hey everyone!  I hope you all are enjoying a healthy and happy holiday season.  As we head toward the New Year, I have a little exercise for y’all.  Don’t worry…it’s fun!  It’s time to set those health and wellness goals for 2014!!  

This is a REALLY important exercise.  Notice I said “goals” not “resolutions”.  Resolutions can sometimes have a negative connotation, making people feel like they have to change something immediately on January 1st.  Goals are different.  Goals give us direction, vision and purpose.  They help us stay focused and accountable for our actions.  Experts on the science of success know that the brain is a goal-seeking organism.  Whatever goal you give your sub-conscious mind, it will work day and night to achieve.  So take the time to really dig deep (and be careful what you wish for! Ha).  Here’s the framework to get started:

  1. Grab a piece of paper and a pen and find a quiet spot to have a seat.
  2. Now really reflect on the past 12 months.  Think about what occurred throughout the year in your life.  What decisions and commitments did you make?  What worked for you and what didn’t?  How have you changed?  Are you where you want to be?  If not, how can you get there?
  3. Based on those thoughts, decide on some new and exciting goals for yourself in the coming year.

When writing goals, here are a few things to consider:

Goals have to be measurable – in other words, just saying “I want to change my eating habits” is a lot different than stating “I want to be grain-free by March 1, 2014.”  The latter is specific and time-based.  A vague statement will bear a vague result.  So be very specific and very clear when writing your goals.

Write your goals in detail – have fun with it and be creative!   Maybe you want to start a healthy bakery or open a yoga studio.  What will it look like?  Where will it be located?  How many people will you have on staff?   WRITE IT DOWN.

 Don’t be afraid to think big! – it’s ok to set a lot of goals as well as some really big ones for yourself.  Why not?  Wouldn’t something life-changing be worth pursuing with passion?  Wouldn’t it be amazing to to reach those health and fitness goals (or any other goal) you never before dreamed possible?  It all starts with a willingness to think big.

Read and re-read your goals daily  – keep a copy of them next to your bed, in your car, on your phone or computer, or in your purse or wallet – anywhere you can see and read them at least twice a day.  When Olympic decathlon gold medalist Bruce Jenner asked a roomful of Olympic hopefuls if they had a list of written goals, everyone raised their hands.  When he asked how many of them had that list with them right that moment, only one person raised their hand.  That person was Dan O’Brien, who went on to win the gold medal in the decathlon at the 1996 Olympics.  Don’t underestimate the power of constantly reviewing your goals.

Be prepared for the “I can’t”, the ”That will never work for me”, the “I have no willpower”, the “I don’t have the money” – these thoughts will usually pop up the second you start to initiate change in your life.  They will always be there, and they serve an important purpose.  Like every obstacle, they help you grow by overcoming them.  Be willing to face them, deal with them, and move past them.  That’s where your potential for development lies.

Feel free to set goals for every other area in your life as well (relationships, career, family, etc.)  Obviously this list is going to look different for everyone, but the purpose behind it is the same.  Taking the time to write down specific, measurable goals, and reading them frequently, sets into motion the creative power for making them a reality.

In my next post, I will be discussing how to take the goals you’ve created, and develop the action plan necessary to achieve them.  So get excited and get going on your list!  Let’s make 2014 the happiest and healthiest year yet!

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:  ‘If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspires your hopes.”  Andrew Carnegie

 

References:  The Success Principles by Jack Canfield

Healthy Through the Holidays! Part 2

In my last post, I mentioned some important immune boosting foods to eat to stay healthy.  Here is another strategy to keep you feelin’ great through it all.

With the holidays quickly approaching, some of us may find ourselves pretty stressed out.  We are out shopping, wrapping, planning, partying – on top of everything else we normally do on a daily basis.  Not that the holidays aren’t fun, mind you.  It’s just that even having fun can be exhausting!  And the one thing we don’t want to sacrifice this season is the most important thing of all – our health – mind, body and spirit.  Believe me, I know it’s a juggling act.  The first step is to take the time to prioritize our values and goals.  What is most important to us?  If vibrant health and peace of mind are most important, are we honoring that on a daily basis?   Are we getting enough rest?  Fitting in our workouts?  Meditating?  Prepare healthy food each day?  Making time for some fun?  It sounds like a lot, and with the overstimulation of the holidays, it can be hard to stay focused.

In every moment we have a choice – to either do what will add to our health and wellbeing – or not, and end up feeling off-balance and unhealthy.  Even simple choices count, like deciding to go to bed a bit earlier, or giving yourself permission to say no to that third invitation out during the week, or choosing to prepare and drink a green smoothie each day.  These things may seem less important than deadlines, or the endless emails to answer, or what the crowd is doing, or eating something convenient.  But these choices are actually quite big if you are living in line with the values and goals you have set for yourself and your health.  It’s not always easy –  especially around the holidays.  It takes some fortitude,  but making the conscious and sometimes tough choice to be healthy always pays off in the end:)

Here’s a powerful visualization experiment.  What if we tell ourselves everyday that we have more than enough time to do everything we need to, INCLUDING taking excellent care of ourselves.  Before our day starts, we envision ourselves eating delicious and nutritious food, working out and feeling great.  We see ourselves gliding through the day with ease and fulfillment.  We imagine ourselves as healthy, vibrant and enjoying the season to the fullest.  We picture a long, and healing night’s sleep at the end of our day.  Performing this experiment actually makes it all more likely to be true!  How?  The theory behind it is quite simple… what we think, we become:)

So stay true to yourself, and enjoy the gift of amazing health this holiday season – you deserve it!  It’s the gift that keeps on giving, after all!!

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:  “There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”  Nelson Mandela

Let it SNOW!!!

Snow Day!!  Yipee!  I love snow…it’s so pretty and peaceful.

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But as beautiful as the winter months are, they unfortunately come with the threat of those dreaded colds and flus – something none of us have time for!  So today, I want to mention a few foods that can help keep us healthy by supporting our immune systems throughout the season.  Some of these foods are actually considered “anti viral” so make some room for them in your diet!

These foods include:

Garlic and onions – this duo is AWESOME for your immune system.  They both contain sulphur rich substances that are responsible for their antiviral, and antibacterial properties.  They are most effective when eaten raw, but if you prefer them cooked, just throw them into your favorite soups, stews, spaghetti sauces, marinades, etc.

Mushrooms – Humans actually share the same bacteria and viruses as fungi.  As a defense against bacteria, fungi (or mushrooms) have developed strong antibiotics, which are effective for us as humans when we eat them.  Shitake, maitake, and reishi are your best choices.  A blend of mushrooms is even better.  Again, throw them in everything from soups to casseroles, to sauces to salads.  Be sure to eat organic mushrooms, if possible, as they absorb whatever they are grown in.

Greens – greens and dark leafy veggies are awesome at keeping illness at bay.  They are loaded with vitamin A, vitamin C, chlorophyll, antioxidants and essential fatty acids.  Enough said. They’ve got it all.  Try to add a new green to your diet or bulk up on the favorites you usually prepare:)

Berries – Berries such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, cranberries are also beneficial to your immunity.  They contain high levels of vitamin C, (which is crucial for proper immune function) and antioxidants called anthocyanins, (which give them their deep blue or red pigment).  These actually help produce natural killer cells that fight off infection in the body.

Sweet potatoes – we sometimes forget that our first line of defense agains germs is our skin.  It is a crucial part of our immune systems!  Your skin needs vitamin A to stay strong and healthy.  So eat foods containing beta – carotene (which your body turns into vitamin A), like sweet potatoes, carrots, squash,  and pumpkin.  So delicious and good for you!  Simply roast them or prepare them in soups, casseroles, baked goods, or my current favorite – breakfast hash with 2 or 3 eggs on top…yummy!

Citrus fruits – citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes are stellar for fighting off colds and flus.  Obviously for their vitamin C content, but also for  their phytochemical and flavonoid content…both of which help  fight off chronic diseases.  Eat fruits on their own, throw segments into salads, or squeeze juice into marinades or over fish.

Beef – beef contains zinc, which is an immunity bolstering mineral.  It’s found in every tissue in the body and is important for the development of white blood cells, and in cell division.  Its a powerful antioxidant and involved in the maintenance of ideal hormone levels.  Many Americans are zinc deficient, so you may also look to down a dose from oysters, pork, lamb or pumpkin seeds.

Fish/Shellfish – Fish like salmon and mackerel are rich in Omega 3s – that not only reduce inflammation, which can help protect your lungs from respiratory infections, but have also been shown to promote the function of a white blood cell called a B cell – which is important to immune health.  Shellfish like lobster and crab contain selenium which aids in clearing flu viruses out of the body.

Healthy Soups – broth bases soups, chicken in particular, can help block the migration of inflammatory cells in the bronchial tubes.  Add in some onions and garlic and you’ve got an even bigger bang for your buck! It’s good for prevention and onset of colds and flus.  And it doesn’t just have to be chicken soup.  Whip up some vegetable soup, onion soup, mushroom soup, kale and sausage soup – the combinations are endless!

Hydration – Staying hydrated is so important for our immune systems.   In the colder months, most people say they aren’t as thirsty and they drink less.  But so many people are walking around chronically dehydrated.  And that can start to wreak havoc on your body and your adrenals, in particular.  Water flushes toxins from the body and ensures that all of your cells are getting adequate oxygen.  Oxygen helps keep all of your body’s systems (including your immune system) functioning properly.  Also, water aids in your digestion.  What good is eating all of these immune enhancing foods if we can’t absorb and digest them properly?  Here’s a bonus tip:  Squeeze some lemon in with your water for an extra boost.  I mentioned the benefits of citrus fruits themselves, but lemons in particular can be really healthy.  Squeeze some juice in a cup of hot water to help with indigestion, boost your energy level,  and even enhance your mood.   Aim to drink half your body weight in ounces per day – hot, cold or room temperature.

Stay healthy and have fun!!

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:  “When it snows, you have two choices; shovel or make snow angels.”  Author unknown

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Pomegranates – A Super Fruit Revealed

I want to share a few of the health benefits of a delicious, in season, slightly peculiar fruit…the pomegranate.  One of the oldest known fruits, pomegranates look a little off putting from the outside, and down right intimidating when you cut into one!  But fighting to get to those little ruby-like seeds may be well worth it.

Pomegranates are native to Persia, and have been thought to hold legendary powers for centuries.  They represented health, longevity, and in some cultures, eternal life.

The pomegranate is a nutrient dense food which contains impressive levels of vitamin C and potassium.  They also contains high levels of flavonoids and polyphenols – potent antioxidants which help protect the heart and ward off cancer.  FYI…A glass of pomegranate juice contains more antioxidants than red wine, green tea, blueberry or cranberry juices.  However, if you eat the seeds, you’ll get the added benefit of some dietary fiber as well.

The superior antioxidant level of a pomegranate also protects our cells from free radical damage.  They also slow the aging process by limiting the damage of UVA rays and increasing collagen production in the skin.  Pomegranates are an anti-inflammatory food as well.  They reduce inflammation and stop the breakdown of cartilage in the body.  For those suffering from arthritis, this can be particularly helpful.

Other compounds found in pomegranates have been proven to lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and improve blood flow to the heart.  More recently, studies have shown that these compounds can help reduce atherosclerosis – or plaque build up in the arteries.  (It has the same effect on plaque on your teeth!)  Pomegranate consumption even has the potential to stop cancer cells from spreading.  Pretty impressive, huh?

Besides all of the health benefits a pomegranate has to offer, they taste delicious to boot!  You can buy pomegranate juice already bottled in the supermarket.  Look for one that is 100% juice.  Avoid ones with added sugar or other fruit juice blends.  Some stores, like Whole Foods, sell pomegranate seeds prepackaged and ready to munch!  They are a bit pricey, but they are in season for such a short time, they are worth the splurge.

As far as dissecting your own pomegranate, don’t be intimidated.  When you cut one in half, you’ll notice that the seeds are packed into little “pods” surrounded by a spongy white pith (this is inedible).  I usually cut the whole fruit into sections and just give it to my kids to dig out the seeds on their own.  They think it’s fun…they actually get to play with their food!  But a quicker and less messy way (pomegranate seeds stain!) to remove the seeds is by first cutting the woody stem off the top of the pomegranate.  Next, cut the fruit into sections and let it soak in a bowl of cold water for 5 minutes or so.  Then, while keeping the fruit submerged under the water, simply roll the seeds out from the flesh.  The seeds will drop to the bottom of the bowl.  Strain the water, remove any pith or skin, and enjoy!

The seeds are so crisp with just the right amount of sweetness. You can sprinkle them over a salad, or substitute them in any recipe that calls for fruit or seeds.  Use pomegranate juice in marinades, sauces or vinaigrettes.  Try mixing the juice or seeds into your favorite cranberry sauce recipe for the holidays:)  Yummy!

**Important note:  Pomegranate juice may interfere with certain medications the same way grapefruit juice can.  Please ask your doctor about certain drug interactions.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:  “A thriving household depends on the use of seasonal produce and the application of common sense.”  Olivier de Serres (1539-1610)

References:

Yahoo Health

globalhealingcenter.com

drfuhrman.com

Turkey Day!!

November.  What a beautiful month.  The trees are peaking at their prettiest hues, the days are shorter and crisper, and you never know when the first snow of the year could fall!  It’s a time for settling down, settling in, and giving thanks.

November is also a month of culinary delights, as we ready ourselves for the Thanksgiving holidays!  Cooking is actually more fun at Thanksgiving.  Fun, because everything is so tasty, but made even more special by the sentiment behind it all.  Fun, because we pull out some of Grandma’s famous recipes…recipes that are not only delicious, but have more to do with tradition and the bond a family shares.

If we are hosting the big day, we usually have the honor of preparing the turkey.  This requires some serious skill, and precision timing to get the skin that perfect golden color.  This is no joke people, as it is usually the centerpiece of the table!  If we are not hosting the Thanksgiving feast, we are usually given an assignment.  We’re asked to contribute an appetizer, an accompaniment to the main course, or a dessert.  We try to up the ante from last year and bring something amazing to add to the table.  Fortunately, the internet is swarming with healthier versions of some of our favorite Thanksgiving dishes:)  (Check out PrimalPalate.com and Elanaspantry.com for some great suggestions!)

Now we all know Thanksgiving is a time for a bit of indulgence.  Who can resist pecan pie?  So try to keep in mind that balance is the key to feeling our best. Remember to keep up with your exercise regime, stay hydrated, and get plenty of sleep!  Sleep is crucial this time of year to keep your immune system functioning properly.

More importantly, make the most of the month by enjoying every minute of the planning, preparation, and traditions that your family shares.   Or start some new ones, if need be!  Then get in the kitchen, get messy, have a laugh and enjoy creating, and eating some delicious food!  The turkey, gravy, sweet potato casserole, creamed onions, pumpkin soup, pecan pie – whatever will be served at your table this year, savor it.  Truly savor and enjoy the food, but more importantly, savor the feeling of enjoying it with the people you love. That’s the real magic behind the meal.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:  “I am grateful for what I am and have…my thanksgiving is perpetual.”  Henry David Thoreau

Some “Tricks” for handling all the “Treats”!

If you have little ones, you know what this week brings!  Lots of fun and excitement, parties and costumes… and potentially some outrageous behavior brought on by a SERIOUS sugar rush!  LOL.

So I wanted to mention a few things that can help keep somewhat of a grip on the (literally) sticky situation, and ideas for all of that leftover candy!

First, try to relax around the idea of how much candy your kids are actually eating.  I’m certainly not saying let them eat themselves sick, but realize that a little excess for a night or two won’t undo all of your hard work feeding them well throughout the year:)  Don’t be a…wait, what is that my kids have called me?  Oh yeah, a fun sucker.

Make sure to feed them a nutritious dinner before heading out to trick-or-treat.  If they are full, they will be less likely to want to tear into the candy as they get it.

After they’ve come home, and all of the swapping with each other for their favorite candy is over with (my kids do that),  set aside a reasonable amount for a few pieces per day for the next few days.  “See kids?  Mom isn’t a total fun sucker!”

As for what to do with all of the leftover candy, here are a few ideas: 

Trade it in!  Have the kids “bargain” and trade some candy in for other little things they may like…Glow sticks, fruit leather, a coupon for a fun day out.  You can even try having them trade some in for a “better”  version of the candy they have.  Unreal Candy is a brand that is GMO free, contains no gluten, no corn syrup, no hydrogenated oils, no artificial ingredients, no preservatives,  and contains less sugar than typical candy bars.  And, it tastes great!  My sons could not tell the difference between their version of a Snickers bar and the real deal.  And they are some harsh candy critics.  You can find it at Target and Wegmans.  (But remember, candy is still candy!)

If the trading deal isn’t working out, you can always offer to buy some candy from them!  I don’t know about your kids, but mine always seem to respond to cold, hard cash.

Many dentist offices participate in a “buy back” program.  They will pay $1.00 per pound of candy or exchange it for coupons or other creative little tokens,  then donate it along with dental supplies like toothbrushes and floss etc.,  to Operation Gratitude.  60,000 care packages will be sent from this organization to U.S. military deployed in harms way.  A similar organization, Operation Shoebox, is another great option.  For more information, or to locate a participating dentist near you, check out Halloweencandybuyback.com or Operationshoebox.com.

Another idea is to have the kids donate the bulk of their candy to a local nursing home, food bank, or women’s shelter.

Since candy has a pretty long shelf life, you could set some aside to use in a piniata for an upcoming birthday party, or for decorating gingerbread houses during the holidays.

Instead of eating all of the candy, kids can do some science experiments with it!  Check out kidshealth.org for some cool ideas.

And finally,  after most of it’s been donated, traded or munched,  just do like I do, and while they’re at school…THROW IT OUT!  When they come home asking, “Where’s the rest of the Halloween candy?”  You simply reply,  “Candy?  What candy?”  The end.

Happy Halloween!!

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:  “All you need is love.  But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”  Charles M. Schulz

Meditation Technique #1 – Conscious Breathing

The first technique I would like to suggest in the mediation series is simply the act of breathing.  It may sound totally basic and therefore seem ineffective, but don’t be fooled.  This type of meditation can have a big impact on your overall wellness.

Just to review, let’s remind ourselves of the benefits of meditation and why we should be doing it.  It has now been proven that the adult brain is capable of forming new cells and pathways.  Meditation is just the right prescription for bringing about significant physiological changes in the brain that have positive effects on health, mood and behavior.  Studies have proven meditation to be effective in reducing blood pressure and boosting immunity, concentration, memory, and circulation.  It can help people manage chronic pain, and combat stress and premature aging.  But let’s not forget that meditation also strengthens the brain circuits associated with our overall feelings of well-being.  Science has shown that it just makes people happier!  It boosts our resiliency, sense of calm, and our sense of compassion toward others.  Further, through improvement of attention and helping to hone focus, studies have proven it to be beneficial to people suffering from depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

It’s pretty much a no-brainer…we should all incorporate some form of meditation into our lives!  If you are new to meditation, be patient with yourself…it will take some getting used to.  We are so bombarded and overstimulated on a daily basis, that sitting still and breathing for even 5 minutes may feel pretty awkward and even uncomfortable!  The key here, as with anything else, is practice.

The Theory:  Relearning concentration.  Linda Stone, former executive at Apple and Microsoft, says we are living in a state of “Continuous Partial Attention”.  She describes it as…”an artificial sense of constant crisis, living in a 24/7, always-on world… motivated by a desire not to miss anything”.  We scatter our daily energy running around, working like crazy,  worrying about the past or the future.  We can end up feeling stressed, overwhelmed and overstimulated.  So the focus here is on concentration…steadying and focusing our attention and letting go of distractions.  Putting on the brakes and being ok with what is.  When our attention is stabilized through meditation, energy is restored to us.

The Technique:  The basic technique is focusing your attention on the in and out of your breath, and as you become distracted, you start over again.  Simple and manageable.

Many people find it invigorating to meditate first thing in the morning, or relaxing right before bed.  You can choose whatever time or times work best throughout the day, however you will be more inclined to make it a habit if you choose about the same time each day.  How long you sit is up to you.  Your goal should be about 20 minutes or more.  If you are new to meditation, 3-5 minutes, three times per week, may be enough to start with.

Find a comfortable chair to sit in or you can sit on the floor.  Try to avoid lying down since it may prompt you to fall asleep. If you choose to sit on the floor,  cross your legs loosely in front of you.  If you are seated in a chair, have your feet flat on the floor and your spine straight so your breathing will be natural.

Settle into your seat by taking 3 or 4 deep breaths.  Then let your breathing settle into its natural rhythm without forcing or controlling it.  Now notice where you feel your breath most vividly.  It may be at the tip of your nose near the nostrils, it may be in your chest or abdomen.  Rest your attention wherever you notice it and feel any sensations that go along with it.  For example, maybe you notice the air feels cooler on the way in through the nostrils and warmer on the way out.  Or maybe you feel a slight stretching  across your chest on the inhale.  Don’t overcomplicate this and start hyperventilating!   Remember, you’re breathing anyway, just notice it… that’s all.

Here is what will happen next.  You will become completely distracted with everything under the sun!  Important things, like what to have for lunch, or whether you have time to throw in another load of laundry, how you totally don’t have time for sitting and breathing , and the charlie horse that just attacked out of nowhere!  Everyone does this.  The key is that every time a thought comes up – good, bad or indifferent – just notice it. Don’t judge the thought or yourself for having it, just notice that something popped into your head, and let it go.  You let it go by returning your attention back to your breath.  Just go back to the spot on your body you chose to focus on, and breath.  You do this each and every single time a thought, noise or itch on your head distracts you (ok, you can scratch the itch but then it’s back to breathing!)  This may seem monotonous and even frustrating, because you will feel like the distractions during your practice are constant.  But remember, returning your attention back to your breath IS the practice.  It’s not about totally emptying your mind.  That is not possible.  It’s the act of starting over (and over again) without judgement.  That is the art of the meditation.

Here are a few tips to keep yourself focused on breathing:

You can try mentally saying in as you inhale, and out as you exhale.  Or you can try counting your breath.  Say in to yourself on the inhale and count one as you exhale.  Next breath, in on the inhale, two as you exhale and so on.

The Takeaway:  You may be having a hard time believing that sitting and simply focusing on your breathing can have any real affect on your body or life.  Be patient my friends.  Meditation is a mirror for the bigger picture.  The skills we practice when we meditate, however subtle, are transferrable to the rest of our lives.

For example, practicing the act of concentration has many benefits.

  • It teaches us to stay in the moment and focus complete attention on something.  That’s an important skill to have so that awesome moments in life don’t just pass us by without being really noticed or savored.  It also helps when when things seem to be coming at us from all angles.
  • We learn to let go of judgements.  When we practice non-judgement around how we meditate, or if we’re doing it right, or how many/kinds of thoughts come up, we learn compassion for ourselves, and can convey that to others.
  • We become aware of a calm and stable “center” that we can retreat to when our lives get hectic!  We become more self-reliant and realize that when we are drawn into obsessive thinking or worry,  we are just a few breaths away from some calm:)  This is where the healing of the mind, body, and spirit takes place.
  • With true calm comes new energy!  Don’t let the word “calm” fool you.  It’s not that we will be walking around with practically no pulse, and no longer react to anything.  It’s quite the opposite!  The calm we receive when we meditate becomes infused with energy, alertness and interest.  You learn to fully connect to what’s happening in your life with awareness and clarity – while your relaxed!  That’s a good deal in my book.

Why not commit to giving it a whirl for a week and see how you feel?  You may be surprised at the results.  Stay tuned for some more techniques to build off of this one.

Here’s to peace and good health!

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:  “The process of breathing, if fully understood and experienced in its profound significance, could teach us more than all the philosophies of the world.”  Lama Govinda  

 

References:

Real Happiness – Sharon Salzberg

Practice Magazine – Spirituality and Health

breathmeditation.org

Nutrition you just can’t “beet”!

Root veggies… think carrots, beets, sweet potatoes… are another of fall’s most widely prepared comfort foods.  And with good reason.  They are delicious, nutritious, inexpensive, and can be stored for weeks.

The focus today is on beets.  I have grown to love beets.  I didn’t always.  I used to think they smelled and tasted like dirt.  I’m glad my tastes have changed!  Hopefully, if you are not a fan of beets,  yours will change too after you hear what they have going on!

Beets are SUPER healthy.  They became domesticated about 6 thousand years ago.  But for a long time, people consumed only the leaves.  The beet root itself was used for dyes, teas and medicinal treatments.  When beets began being produced with larger and sweeter bulbs, the roots became more appealing, and folks ate less of the greens.

Beets rank among the healthiest of all our most commonly eaten veggies.  They are a great source of fiber, folate and potassium.  They are also rich in B-complex vitamins and minerals such as iron, manganese, copper and magnesium.  They are a “slow release” carb, meaning they won’t do a number on your blood sugar.  But their most impressive feature may be their antioxidant activity.  They rank up there with veggies with the highest levels –  they have fifty times more antioxidant activity than orange carrots!

Beets get their deep pigment from phytonutrients called betalains.  Betalains are good cancer fighters.  Surveys have shown that people who eat beets on a regular basis have not only a lower risk of cancer, but a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and diseases of the digestive tract as well.

Here’s another interesting fact.  The nitrates in beets (sodium nitrate in its natural, vegetable form) can help with athletic performance.  The nitrates can reduce your blood pressure, which increases blood flow to your muscles, and it reduces the amount of oxygen required by your muscles during exercise.  This theory was tested at England’s University of Exeter, and it was determined that volunteers who drank beet juice prior to exercise were able to exercise 15 percent longer versus when they downed a placebo drink.  Another British study determined that fit men and women who ate a serving of whole beets daily for several days, could run faster than if they’d eaten a serving of another vegetable.  It motivated a number of British athletes who competed in the 2012 Summer Olympics to drink beet juice instead of Gatorade before their events…including gold medal winners!  Pretty cool.

So what should you be looking for when buying/storing beets?  Here’s a few tips… 

For the greatest nutritional value, choose the darkest red or purple varieties.  Yellow beets, though not as potent as red ones, do contain lutein, another beneficial phytonutrient.   White beets don’t have much going for them nutritionally.

Another great choice to buy…red “bunch beets” with their leaves attached. (Make sure leaves are bright green and fresh looking, not yellow or wilted.)  Beet leaves are one of the most nutritious greens you can eat (they contain 7 times more antioxidants than romaine lettuce!)  Wash them well, chop and mix them in a salad, or saute them with olive oil, garlic, sun dried tomatoes, salt and pepper.  They can even be juiced.  TIP:  When buying bunch beets, cut and store greens and roots separately.  (This will keep moisture and nutrients in the roots).  The greens will last just a few days, so eat them quickly…the beet root can last several weeks in the fridge.

Canned beets are another great option.  They do not lose their nutritional value as some other canned products do.  Just open, slice and eat!  Or toss them in a quick salad with walnuts and pears!

Here are a few yummy ways to prepare beets…

Note:  Beets become more nutritious when you steam or roast them.  Scrub and cook beets with their skins ON.  This helps keep the good stuff inside the beets.  Once cooked, cool down and remove the skins before eating.

Here’s a way to use the whole plant!  Place whole beets, (scrubbed with skins on) in a steamer pot, and cover.  Depending on size, steam for about 40-60 minutes (or until tender).  Meanwhile, remove beet greens from center rib and tear into pieces.  Saute 1/4c. sliced red onion in some olive oil for 3-4 minutes.  Then add 2 cloves chopped garlic, the beet greens, and toss.  Cover and cook for about 5 minutes.  After beets have cooled, peel and slice them, and top with the wilted greens.  Drizzle warm salad with a balsamic reduction (simmer 1/2 c. balsamic vinegar over medium heat until it’s reduced by half) and crumbled blue cheese (if you like that!)

Whip up some beet hummus!  Roast 4 medium sized beets.  You can do this a couple of ways.  You can wash, cut up into wedges and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes (or until tender, tossing occasionally).  OR you can wash, cut into wedges and place in an ovenproof pan with 1/4 c. of water.  Cover, and bake at 375 degrees for about an hour.  Either way, once beets are roasted and slightly cooled,  remove skins, and place in a blender or food processor with 1/4 c. raw tahini paste; 1/4 c. lemon juice; one clove garlic, crushed; 1/4 tsp. salt.  Blend and serve with sliced veggies or crackers of your choice.

Make beet chips:)  Wash, peel and thinly slice beets.  Toss with some olive oil and arrange on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.   Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until edges dry out and they become slightly lighter in color.  Sprinkle with sea salt and serve!

Golden (or yellow) beets can be combined with chopped carrots, and cubed sweet potatoes (6 cups total), and drizzled with 1/4 c. melted butter or ghee.  Then toss with 1tsp. coarse sea salt; 1/2 tsp. chili powder; 1/4 tsp. paprika; 1/8 tsp. cumin; fresh pepper to taste.  After veggies are all coated with spice mixture, place on a parchment lined baking sheet and roast at 450 degrees for 30-35 minutes.  Oh yeah.

For a major energy boost – Run 5 carrots, 1 beet with leaves,  2 stalks celery, 1 cucumber, 1/4 lemon peeled, and 1-2 inch piece of fresh ginger through the juicer.  Proceed to guzzle. (makes 2 servings)

So let’s not “beet” around the bush any longer!   Dish these gems out this fall in some way, shape or form!  Enjoy!

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:  “Breathe properly.  Stay curious.  And eat your beets.”  – Tom Robbins

References:

Eating On the Wild Side – Jo Robinson

Paleo Magazine – Oct/Nov 2013

Elana’s Pantry.com

Shhh…Quiet, please!

Life is crazy.  It’s crazy good, crazy busy, crazy amazing, crazy stressful.  It can be a combination of “crazies” on any given day.  The question then becomes, how am I responding to it all, and how does that response directly impact my health?

Before you answer that question, let’s all just take a deep breath in and RELAX for a moment, shall we?  Ahh…that’s better.  Today, I want to introduce the topic of meditation to those of you who are unfamiliar with it, and perhaps re-introduce it to those of you who need to get back to it!  Meditation is a simple, yet powerful tool that can have a tremendous impact on our health.  Our overall health…mind, body, and spirit.  That’s big.  Through my own experience I can honestly say, that a meditation practice can be extremely beneficial, if not necessary.

Now don’t get freaked out by the term.  For some, the word “meditation” conjures up images of little old yogis spending hours in painful silence waiting to levitate.  That is surely not at all what I am referring to here!  What I am referring to, is incorporating a simple “practice”  into your daily life that can propel your health and overall sense of wellbeing to new heights.  Did you know studies have proven that meditation can lower your blood pressure, and decrease your body’s production of stress hormones and other nasty chemicals that speed up the aging process?  But that’s not all.  How would you like a boost in digestion, memory, immunity, circulation, even fertility?  Meditation can help with that.  Further, a study done at the Harvard Medical School discovered that long term practitioners of relaxation methods such as meditation, had a change in their bodies at a genetic level..that they actually had more active “disease fighting” genes than non-participants!  Amazing.  But there’s more.  The more you practice, you realize that the sense of peace, calm, and new awareness that meditation promotes can be thoughtfully infused into every situation, decision, and moment of your life.  It’a a powerful ally, folks.

So who should meditate?  Everyone.  And thankfully, it is becoming more and more mainstream – even in the workplace.  A few examples… at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA a weekly meditation class has become popular for its employees, who spend their time working on cutting edge, future technologies.  Employees at AETNA, the third-largest health insurance provider in the U.S., can take advantage of a 12 week, online meditation program aimed at minimizing work related stress and improving work-life balance.  Dial-up meditations (a phone line that offers 3 and 4 minute guided meditations), are now available to employees at Harvard and to employees, students and their families at MIT.  It’s even popping up now at Google:)

Adults aren’t the only ones who can benefit from meditation…kids can too.  Studies have linked mindfulness meditation to better concentration, and increased focus and memory in children.  It’s now being introduced into some classrooms around the country as part of the curriculum.

Now allow me to clear up a few myths about meditation:

*Meditation does not have to be hard.  Some people assume that to benefit from meditation, they have to do it in a specific way.  Not true. There are many techniques that are simple and fun.

*Meditation does not have to take a lot of time.  If you are new to it, 3-5 minutes may be enough to start.  If you get to a point where you have more time, let’s say 20 minutes or so, then great!  There is no right or wrong.  Any amount of time can be beneficial.

*Meditation is not about totally quieting your mind of all thoughts for it to be successful. It is not about stopping or controlling your thoughts, it’s just about how much attention you are going to put on them, and then finding some quiet in between them:)

*Meditation does not take years of practice to reap any of the rewards.  The benefits can be immediate and longterm.  Scientific studies have proven time and again that meditation has a profound effect on the mind-body physiology within a few weeks of starting a practice.

So here’s the bottom line,  whether you’re a professional trying to handle the everyday stress of the job, or a student, or an athlete looking to “get in the zone” during a workout or game, or a stay-at-home Mom livin’ life with little ones…some form of meditation can become your best bud.

In the upcoming weeks I will be featuring a little meditation “series”, introducing a few techniques (such as practicing mindfulness, breathing techniques, mantra meditation, guided meditation, walking meditation) one at a time, so you can experiment with them and see which method may work best for you!  So until then…

Take another deep breath in… relax…and repeat:)

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It is a way of entering the quiet that is already there  buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day.  Deepak Chopra   

Meditation is a lifelong gift. It is something you can call on at any time.  Paul McCartney 

References:

Origin Magazine, Issue 13

foodmatters.com

huffingtonpost.com