Sunday, December 20, 2009

10 Things You Can Do to Stay Fit and Healthy this Holiday Season

We are all busy and overscheduled, so my top ten list is made to get you healthy and fit by fitting these tips into the time you've got. Enjoy, and please feel free to share your personal tips too. Oh, and Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and cheers to your healthiest year yet in 2010!

1. Take Your Vitamins- An influx of sugars attacks your immune system and traveling means you’ll come in contact with all types of colds and viruses that are new to your immune system. The result? A nasty cold or flu. Taking your vitamins on a daily basis will help reduce your chances of getting sick and decrease the strength of your cold if you do get sick. Here are some of the best vitamins to take to boost your immune system: http://www.mothernature.com/Library/Bookshelf/Books/10/72.cfm.

2. Love a Liquid Diet- Instead on snacking of the endless schmorgesborg of empty sweets that are placed before you this holiday, try one of these tips first:
a. Drink a large glass of water before putting out your snacks if you’re throwing the party. Or drink a bottle of water while you’re en route to your next holiday party. This will give you the sensation of being full so you’ll snack less. Not to mention, water flushes the body of toxins and makes your skin look great.
b. If you’re craving something sweet like pies, brownies, and chocolates, pour yourself a green tea instead. Green tea is sweet in more ways than one. Not only does it taste great, reducing your cravings for a sugar fix, it is incredibly good for you. Check out WebMD to learn more: http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/health-benefits-of-green-tea.
c. Instead of turning to sweets, dangerous leftovers, or even seconds of that delightful Christmas dinner, brew up a nightcap of coffee. The key is to keep it nearly sugar-free and fat-free. So pour in some skim milk or a sugar-free creamer to take the edge off. Coffee is good for you, it tastes great, and as you know, caffeine is a natural appetite suppressant.

3. Be Flexible- You can be flexible in two ways.
a. First, when things don’t go your way or according to plan, don’t stress it; be flexible! Stress is the silent killer. It steals your joy during this most wonderful time of year, and it makes you sick. So, when you feel that tightening in your chest and neck, take a deep breath and remember not to stress about it. This will keep you happy and healthy.
b. Now onto to the next flexible feat. Take time to stretch and move your body. Even if you aren’t adept, a few little moves will do a world of good. Check out http://www.yogajournal.com/ for ways to implement some basic yoga moves into your life. If you already practice yoga, find ways to up your sessions in length and difficulty this season. For the myriad of yogic benefits check this out: http://www.webmd.com/balance/the-health-benefits-of-yoga.

4. Get Moving- Find ways to make your necessary activities work for you. When you go to the mall for your Christmas shopping, park further away (during daylight hours) to up your steps, as 10,000 steps a day are recommended by most doctors. Instead of taking the escalator or elevator, take the stairs. Play some holiday tunes and dance around the house while you vacuum, dust, fold, and do the dishes. You’ll burn twice the calories and still come off looking like Martha Stewart when the family arrives.

5. Skip the Seconds- No matter how wonderful the food is tell yourself that you’re not going to have seconds this holiday season. This way, when you’re putting the food on your plate you’re taking a proper amount that will be just enough, rather than taking some food now because you know you can go up for even more. Seconds aren’t necessary, but they can add anywhere between 200 to 500 extra calories to your daily intake. That means that in a year of “second helpings” you are packing on or maintaining between 20 and 50 extra pounds.

6. Walk it Out- I mentioned to get moving to reach your 10,000 steps. Now, I suggest that you walk it out. After you’re done with your Christmas shopping, drop the bags in the trunk of your car and do a lap or two around the mall to take in the beauty of the lights, decorations, and people. Take deep breaths and let the stress go. You’ve done your shopping; now it’s time to bask in the holiday cheer. After Christmas dinner or other family meals, go for a walk to prolong the quality time and burn off those extra calories.

7. Take Ten- If you can’t find a way to multitask to make some of these other tips work for you, try to at least give yourself 10 minutes a day. In that 10 minutes, try to work up a sweat by going for a quick walk or jog or even running up and down your staircase. Maybe it could be a 10 minute yoga routine or 10 minutes of a program on The Fit Channel. If you can do just this, you will be putting in 70 minutes of exercise that you would have deprived your body of otherwise. That means you are burning anywhere between 350 and 700 calories a week. This helps to shave off those pesky 5 pounds we all complain about gaining during the holidays.

8. Eat In- Eating out is tough on your diet and bad on your wallet. Going on a date? Go out for a drink and then come home to cook! Having a family get together? Do a skinny potluck instead of dining at Olive Garden. Everyone can bring one healthy dish, which is good to everyone’s waist and wallet. In general, whatever you eat at home is going to contain a fraction of the calories and fat that you would consume at a restaurant. Some studies have even pointed out that we eat much more when we go out to dinner because we feel the need to eat our money’s worth and the portions are twice the size of a home meal.

9. Save Time for Sleep- Nothing replaces seven hours of uninterrupted sleep. Nothing! If you skip on it, your entire body and immune system is deprived. Learn more on sleep depravation here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/08/AR2005100801405.html. In a recent article in Men’s Health, Dr. Oz explained that late night television is one of the biggest culprits keeping us from our shuteye. He suggests that you TiVo your shows and play them back the next day while you're on the treadmill or lifting light weights. This way you’re getting your precious rest and getting to workout to your favorite shows. I actually TiVo Doctor Oz’s show and workout as I watch. Making rituals like this helps you get fit without feeling like you're depriving yourself.

10. Turn off the Tech- In this day and age, our televisions, laptops, and phones are going nonstop. This cult obsession takes away from times when we could be spending quality time with our families and friends or getting fit. Make a rule or goal for yourself so that you can find a way to reduce your tech time and increase your health time. I tell myself, “When your battery dies on your laptop, Kimberly, the computer is off for the night.” When it dies, I have no excuse for why I’m not working out or spending time with my loved ones. This tech-free time reduces my stress and gets me active.

So there you have it. Ten tips that are practical and helpful so you can keep your health and fitness on track this holiday season. What are some of your tips for staying healthy and fit over the holidays?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Just Say It! Thoughtful and Inexpensive Ways to Give the Gift of Love This Holiday Season

For many of us, it’s that time of year! It’s Christmas! And if you don’t celebrate Christmas, you’re celebrating your special, religious holiday that is also there to emphasize gratitude and praise for God and our loved ones. We all want to let our loved ones know we love them and value them, but with an economy that is hitting home it’s been hard (and even stressful) for many of us to afford the BIG gifts that have come to communicate how special our loved ones are to us. First, we all should know that BIG gifts shouldn’t represent our love, but our culture certainly tries to convince us this is so. What really matters is that we merely communicate our love and thankfulness in a sincere way. And if you ask, most people will probably tell you that they feel a thoughtful handmade or personalized gift is more touching and special than a big ticket item that was purchased at the last minute or with little thought.

Here are a few things that I am doing this holiday season to tell my loved ones how much I love them with a little money but a lot of thought.


1) Random Thank You Cards-
Cost
: About $5.00 and postage (if needed)
What I Did: I picked up some festive thank you cards from the store the other day. Right before I know I am about to see my family member or friend, I grab one of my thank you cards and jot down things that I am thankful for about them. I make sure I am specific about what I love about them or what I am thankful for. The surprise and the words always bring them a smile.


2) My Christmas News Letter
Cost: Virtually free beyond postage and envelopes
What I Did: Every year, I am sure to write a warm Christmas news letter to our closest friends and family since we don’t get to see them regularly. I update them on our lives and remind them that they are loved by us. A note or news letter is more personal than just a card or picture with signed names. News letters leave people feeling special and included in our lives.


3) Hand Painted Wine Glasses (Candles and Coffee Mugs!)
Cost
: $5.00-$10.00 for a set of 2 or 4 wine glasses and $15 for paint and supplies
What I Did: I am not a crafty person, but when my mother-in-law just visited, we flipped through a Christmas craft book I was given years ago from a dear friend. We were trying to find inexpensive crafts you can make for gifts. Well, we found one! We picked up some wine glasses and glass paint at the local craft store, and this Christmas I am painting wine glasses with spiritual words and art to give to my parents. I also did a hand-painted candle for my grandmother (and she just loved it) for just $6.00! I plain on trying this on coffee mugs next!


4) An Inscription in a Special Book
Cost: Price of book ($10.00-$20.00)
What I Did: A thoughtful book is a great gift that keeps giving over the years, but what puts the book choice over the top is an endearing inscription for your loved one inside. Mitch Albom books (Tuesdays with Morrie, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, For One More Day, and Have a Little Faith) are wonderful books for the holidays since they are very spiritual, family-oriented experiences. Coupling this sort of book with a sincere inscription inside will let your family member or friend know their special for years to come.

Hopefully some of these ideas are helpful to you, but at the very least maybe they’ll inspire you to get creative, save money, and most importantly, tell the people in your life how much you love them!

Please enjoy and share your creative, inexpensive ideas for gifts that say “I love you” this holiday season.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Now Writing For Costa Rica Yoga

Check it out!

The Universal Soul is now writing for Costa Rica Yoga and can be found here: http://www.costaricayoga.org/.

You can fan Costa Rica Yoga's Facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/CostaRicaYoga.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Power of a Good Attitude

C.C. Scott, a writer and reporter, once wrote, “The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it.” And he was right. In life, we will all experience the same rollercoaster ride, with unexpected turns and sometimes thrilling twists, but it’s our attitude as we venture through it that will determine if we enjoy the ride or not. Our spirit is stronger than our tribulations, and it’s a good attitude that will find joy and excitement in the ride, instead of dismay or disappointment. That being said, here are some inspirational quotes on having a good attitude and approaching life with positivity. Please enjoy the quotes and be blessed by the day!

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our attitudes.” ~Charles R. Swindoll

“Our attitude toward life determines life's attitude towards us.” ~John N. Mitchell

“When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.” ~Peter Marshall

“He who has so little knowledge of human nature as to seek happiness by changing anything but his own disposition will waste his life in fruitless efforts.” ~Samuel Johnson

“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful.” ~Buddha

“I don't think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains.” ~Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

“Say you are well, or all is well with you, and God shall hear your words and make them true.” ~Ella Wheeler Wilcox

“The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes.” ~William James

“We awaken in others the same attitude of mind we hold toward them.” ~Elbert Hubbard

“Look at everything as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time.” ~Betty Smith

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.” ~F. Scott Fitzgerald

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Healing Power Of Touch

Humans have certain needs that are so vital and intrinsic that if they are not met, the body, mind, and even spirit greatly suffer. If you ask anyone, they’ll tell you that we can’t go without water for more than three days or that we might only last three weeks without food. But what most people don’t consider is as vital is the power of touch. Infants who suffer from touch deprivation fail to thrive, and in some cases, they even die. Research also shows a correlation between touch deprivation and violent behavior. And believe it or not, a recent study even declared that couples who kiss each other every morning live five years longer than couples who don’t.

Facts and stats aside, we can’t deny that human touch is not only powerful but necessary. And though most of us know this, we forget to put it into practice on a daily basis. The perpetual stress and the hustle and bustle of our daily lives help us to build walls between our loved ones and ourselves. It is too often that we can go an entire day without meaningfully touching our children, spouses, parents, or friends. We forget to take their hand, share a hug, or look into each other’s eyes or faces. And as a result, we’re actually denying our loved ones and ourselves of one of the most beautiful, basic acts that humans are suppose to share in order to facilitate bonding, health, and healing.

When we reach out and touch our loved ones several things happen on both an emotional and physiological level. Emotionally, romantic couples that touch and engage in physical intimacy on a regular basis report happier marriages, whereas couples who don’t experience touch, both romantically and filially, are reported to experience less satisfaction within their relationship, resulting in dissonance and even divorce. It’s no wonder couples and family members who don’t make time for each other physically and emotionally are so unhappy. Living a life without loving touch creates unneeded stress and isolation and erects walls where there should be none.

Physically, being touched allows the body to release endorphins, which gives the people being touched an overall sense of well-being, fights disease in the body, and reduces pain. I’m sure you’ve heard that a healthy sexual relationship lengthens the lives of couples and helps prevent illness. According to The Independent, “The Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine says it has carried out more than 100 studies into touch and found evidence of significant effects, including faster growth in premature babies, reduced pain, decreased autoimmune disease symptoms, lowered glucose levels in children with diabetes, and improved immune systems in people with cancer.”

So, if you have been feeling stressed and rundown or even isolated from your lover or family members, it might be because you have forgotten to include loving touch in your daily lives. The next time you are in the middle of a fight, pause and embrace your lover, rather than continuing the argument as it is. Touch is so strong that it diffuses the negative emotions and stress we carry in our bodies during confrontation. If you are feeling anxious or depressed, give a hug to your loved one or child, and you will see that you feel better almost instantly. It’s quite a miracle if you think about it. With touch, we have the power to control not only our happiness and wellbeing, but our overall health as well.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Full Body Makeover for Under $100: Part 1

Given the economy, not many people can afford a gym membership, expensive equipment, or a personal trainer. So here are a few workouts I use throughout the week with equipment that cost me less than $100.00 to acquire. Primarily, I use a swiss ball, a set of 6-pound free weights, an 8-pound medicine ball, and a mountless pull-up/push-up bar. In Part 1, I will focus on workouts that I do with the swiss ball and 6-pound free weights.

Swiss Ball for Your Core and Legs
- There’s a ton of exercises that can be done with a swiss ball. Here’s the best site I found: http://www.sportsinjuryclinic.net/strengthening/swiss_ball.php. My favorite exercises with the swiss ball target core and legs.

1. 20 hyper-extended squats: I do this every other day. I place the ball between the wall and my back as you can see in the picture below. However, rather than ending at a natural stopping point of a squat, I continue the downward motion until my bum hits the ground. This extra step makes the exercise more strenuous and helps to stretch the hip flexors. I also extend my arms out in front of me rather than keeping them resting on my hips like in this photo.




2. Superman: I do this every other day. I place the ball under my belly, and I take the form you can see in the photo below. I hold this pose for 30 seconds, and then I rest for 10 seconds. I repeat this until I begin to feel a burn in my bum and lower back. To mix it up, when I return to form from my rest, I raise my feet higher and higher, as if I am approaching a head-stand against the swiss ball. This gets your arms in on the workout a bit since it simulates a pushup.


Free Weights for Your Arms: I use 6-pound free weights to tone and elongate my arms. This equipment is not only very expensive, but it can be done anywhere at anytime. I try to use my free weights four to five times a week while I watch the news.

Here is a great video that walks you through a 6 minute routine. She does 10 reps per set, but I do 20 or 25 reps per set.




Great Deals on Equipment:
6-pound free weights around $9.00: http://www.amazon.com/TKO-Neoprene-Dumbbell-Tri-Grip-Handle/dp/B00195SJ4O/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=hpc&qid=1258495951&sr=8-2
Swiss ball around $18.00: http://www.amazon.com/Mountless-Pull-Up-Push-Bar/dp/B002LBZZYM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=sporting-goods&qid=1258496099&sr=1-1

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Power of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.
~Mark Twain



All of the things to truly do right, forgiveness just might be the hardest. It’s painful to be wronged by an enemy, yet infinitely more painful to be hurt by a friend, colleague, or family member. And the last thing we’re ready to do in the heat of it or when the dust settles is to grant our persecutor sincere absolution. After all, our pain and martyrdom have earned us the right to be angry and stay angry.

But what happens to our other relationships and to our personal wellbeing when we stay mad or merely grant a surface-forgiveness? You know, the kind of forgiving that just requires the words “I forgive you” to be uttered? I think we’ve all done it a time or two before. Personally, I’ve struggled with sincerely forgiving when I have been attacked because I carry the words around in my head, unintentionally allowing the event to live far longer than it ever should, and in the end, I’ve punished myself. Meanwhile, the person who hurt me, intentionally or not, tends to move on or may not even realize their actions. Or worse, they may never take responsibility or find sorrow in their malicious actions.

Recently, I’ve been confronted with people who seem to operate in a way that, when they are in my orbit at least, is rude and even confrontational. Due to my nature (easy-going, people-pleaser), they immediately upset me. So straight away, I feel my nerves tighten and my face flush. My words get tied up; my thoughts are totally jumbled, and emotionally, I’d like nothing more to do with them, ever. But we all know life isn’t that easy. We come in contact with difficult people and difficult situations on a daily basis, and we can’t control the masses. What they do and what they think is entirely under their control.

So, for me, I’ve made the decision to not only survive in my working environment, but to try to thrive in my place in time, no matter the challenges I’ll face. The first step in doing this will be to forgive the very people that hurt me. And in order to forgive from a deep, sincere place, I am going to have to pray for those people and for myself. I am going to have to give them the benefit of the doubt and try earnestly to understand where they may be coming from. I want to decrease my ego so that I am humble enough to let my pride go. This way, I can sincerely want the best for the very people who act out against me so hurtfully.

My mother always told me—your mom’s probably said it too—that life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent what we do with it. When someone hurts me or someone I love, all I can do is handle my 90 percent of the situation. The wrong has been done, and there’s no need to dwell on it or prolong the pain.

In my life, I hope to be able to look over my shoulder and know I conducted myself with grace. And I have to believe that if I practice sincere forgiveness, that I will become a stronger, more peaceful person when the next storm rears its head. You see, sincere forgiveness isn’t just what we do for our enemies; it’s what we do for ourselves. And as Gandhi once said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” So here’s to forgiveness and strength.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Snack on the Right Stuff: Three Snacks That'll Save Your Health

Let’s face it; we all love snack food. Our lives are so busy that most of us will grab a bag of chips or a processed fruit bar when we need a quick snack. Some of us even turn to processed snack cakes or sugary cookies. Well, as you know, chips and processed sweets aren’t good for you; just look at all those ingredients on the back of the bag. If you can’t pronounce it, then you probably shouldn’t be eating it.

So what’s the solution to this snacking dilemma? Well here are three snacks that can satisfy your cravings and meet your nutritional needs.

Blueberries and Pecans:

Instead of falling victim to those unhealthy pitfalls when you have a craving, try blueberries and pecans instead. They are an amazing snack or dessert. It’s quick and incredibly good for you. If you’re craving something sweet, the blueberries have you covered. And if you’re craving something with a crunch, you can count on those pecans.

Nutritionally, blueberries are full of antioxidants, which fight the aging process and attack or eliminate the free radicals that make you sick. And according to The Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, “pecans are particularly good for you because they contain more antioxidants than any other nut… A handful of pecans contains vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc and fiber, as well as antioxidants.” Loads of antioxidants also fight cell damage and help with the waistline.

Personally this is my favorite snack. It’s filling and fortifying. I was fighting off a cold last week, and I have to give credit to this dynamite duo for helping me stay healthy! It's especially good sprinkled on a bit of all-natural vanilla ice cream.

Resource:
http://www.durdenpecan.com/health-benefits-of-pecans.htm


A Dollop of Ice Cream and Raspberries:

It’s so hard to stay out of the refrigerator late at night. Sometimes we’re just looking for something sweet to satisfy our cravings. Instead of eating any old ice cream or mound of cookies, try a dollop of Breyers All Natural Vanilla Ice Cream and raspberries on top.

Remember earlier when I said that if you can’t pronounce it, then you probably shouldn’t be eating it? Well Breyers All Natural solves this problem. If you’re going to have ice cream, this is the way to go. Read the label; there’re only a few ingredients, which are all natural, rather than other ice creams that are loaded with unnatural things. Dairy products are good in moderation since you get your Vitamin D and calcium. As for raspberries—yep, you’ve guess it—they are antioxidants that help burn fat with their magnesium and fiber, and they help protect against cancer.

So remember, this delightful dessert is a real waistline manager as long as you keep it in moderation. Just make sure there are more raspberries than there is ice cream! Personally, this is a dessert must-have in my house.

Resources:
http://www.canadafreepress.com/medical/nutrition032104.htm
http://www.todays-women-and-health.com/raspberries.html


Apple with Honey and Cinnamon:

We all know that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but it can keep the sugary cravings away when done right too! Peel and cut your apple into bite size bits. Then sprinkle some cinnamon on top, and then follow that with a drizzling of organic honey.

We all know that apples are good for you, but do you know for just what? Apples help with asthma, bone protection, and Alzheimer’s prevention. They are cancer-fighters and lower your cholesterol. Research shows that cinnamon is an excellent spice for you because it can reduce your bad cholesterol levels (LDL), and it helps fight Type 2 Diabetes. According to HealthDiaries.com and a study published by researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Maryland, “Cinnamon reduced the proliferation of leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells.” Not to mention, it’s a wonderful source for iron, manganese, fiber, and calcium. Honey is the ultimate replacement for empty sugars and sweets. It is a panacea for so many things, and it’s even a bit of a miracle worker too. Honey cures some allergies, boosts your energy level, strengthens your immune system, soothes a sore throat, aids in fighting sleeplessness, and much more.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

5 Minute Stress Busters with Yoga

Most of us would agree that we lead stressful, over-stimulated, over-scheduled lives. In fact, you probably are rushing through the words across this page because you’ve got things to do. You probably lose your temper when you don’t mean to due to being overwhelmed, and you have a hard time sleeping at night because you can’t turn off the “things to do” list that peels around like a rolodex in your head. Chances are that you’re so stressed that you are carrying it around in your body, and that stress is making you sick and unhappy.

Most people “carry” the day in three key places: their neck, lower back, and hips. When left to fester, this stress leads to a great deal of pain and ailments. But with just five minutes before bed or at times in the day when you are stressed or aching, you can greatly reduce what ails you. Here are several yoga moves that when used mindfully and in sequence can greatly reduce tension and stress, which means you will be happier and healthier.

Position One: Child’s Pose (coupled with 10 deep breaths, then roll gently onto the top of your head to massage, roll back down and repeat as needed)
Benefits: stretches hips and thighs, calms brain, relieves stress and fatigue, relieves back and neck pain
Directions and details: http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/475gajournal.com/poses/475














Position Two: Lotus Pose (coupled with deep breaths, drop head to stretch vertebrae while in pose, hold and lift again, repeat as needed)
Benefits: calms brain, relieves neck, opens hips, and stimulates pelvis
Directions and details: http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/488














Position Three: Half Lord of the Fishes Pose (follow with roll on back and hugging legs to body for hip and vertebrae stretching)
Benefits: stretches hips, energizes spine, relieves fatigue and backaches
Directions and details: http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/485














Position Four: Corpse Pose (coupled with 10 deep breathes)
Benefits: mental and physical relief, calms breathing, helps insomnia
Directions and details: http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/482

Monday, November 2, 2009

Joy in Dishes: Finding Peace in the Necessary Luxuries

For years I viewed doing the dishes as a monotonous, endless task that only existed to annoy me. I would drag my feet, avoid, ignore, and curse the pile that would miraculously appear as soon as I turned my back. But about a month ago, I was given a lesson that made me realize that I had a needlessly terrible attitude toward something that was really a necessary luxury.

What do I mean by this? Well, one night as I stood over the sink, pruning fingers and all, I began to imagine something quite disparate from anything my mind had ever wondered to before. It seemed as if a chain of images simply materialized from the warm air about me. I visualized the young men, women, and even children of countries very different from our own. In them, I saw The Congo, The Dominican Republic, and Haiti. I saw all their people, thin and tired, carrying their wares atop their heads down to a muddy trickle of a stream. Their hands were rough and their feet looked worn. They worked and scrubbed for a long, long time, but their plates still weren’t the kind of clean we’d call sanitary. Once they were done, they repeated their long journey back to their village where they’d sleep upon the ground or on a rickety cot. Taken in by the images, I froze in mid-stroke, a soapy sponge in one hand and a fine, white saucer in the other. I felt a welling of shame at the pit of my stomach. It gnawed at my insides. Here I was, safe inside my home, soft hands, clean feet, and an abundance of beautiful dishes, and I wasn’t even joyful. Rather than finding thankfulness in each swipe of the sudsy sponge, I was busy counting down the minutes until the task would be done. Instead of reflecting on all I had, I was focusing on my mildly-aching back and feet. My attitude was downright pitiable at a moment when other people a whole continent away were finding joy in the littlest of places and exhorting a brother or sister as they found strength to trek across their land to a little stream.

It’s a simple lesson really. God was trying to show me something, and he’s pretty forward if you’ll listen. We are all given a wealth of blessings and some of them are necessary luxuries, like doing the dishes, folding the laundry, washing our cars, and weeding our gardens. We’ve all been blessed with dishes, clothes, vehicles, and gardens. We’ve been blessed with families, friends, homes and many, many other lovely things. Yet, most of us don’t see the trees from the forest in the grind of our daily lives. We look right through it because we are too busy staring into the eyes of ungratefulness or the face of weariness.

The next time you find it impossible to have a good attitude amongst the daily tasks of life, love, and parenthood, take time to visualize the people who have far less than you. Next time you do the dishes, walk the dog, or pick up after your messy family, take a moment to find joyfulness in these necessary luxuries because it’s a miracle we have them at all.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

One Little Supplement that Transforms Health

If you haven’t heard about the power of omega-3 fatty acids, you’re about to learn about one of the very best supplements you can introduce into your daily routine. It’s even called the “miracle” supplement. The health benefits are endless, and far outweigh the added responsibility and costs you’d associate with adding one more thing to your list of things to do. If you are eating fish (scales required) on a daily basis, then you probably don’t need the supplement. But most of us need to find ways to add this life-changing nutritional ingredient into our diets, and this little supplement is the best way to do it!

Health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil):
  1. Mood Booster- According to the November issue of Women’s Health, a study from the University of Pittsburgh reported that people who receive high doses of omega-3 fatty acids are “happier, less impulsive, and generally more agreeable.” It’s been proven that omega-3 fatty acids help reduce depression and ADHD as well (WebMD).
  2. Heart Healthy- Since omega-3 fatty acids are poly-unsaturated, many studies have shown that they help lower triglycerides, which are created due to high-fat or high-caloric diets and are stored as excess fats in our bodies. The supplement also increases HDL levels, which is the good cholesterol. All of this lowers high blood pressure and increase heart health.
  3. Skin Saver- Omega-3 fatty acids cut down on inflammation, which plagues our skin’s health and luster. To support skin health from the inside, “it lowers cholesterol and helps make our blood ‘sticky’ so it is able to clot” (WebMD). It also gives an age-defying quality to you skin as it reduces dryness and wrinkles cause by sun damage. Many people who use omega-3 fatty acid for a prolonged amount of time on a daily basis report clearer skin and some have reported it as a cure to their acne (University of Maryland Medical Center).
  4. Cancer Fighter- One of the most important benefits from omega-3 fatty acids would be their cancer-fighting agents. It has been reported that breast cancer and prostate cancer have been fought on all fronts due to this “miracle” supplement. Women who reported taking omega-3 fatty acids on a regular basis over their lifetime were also less likely to develop breast cancer. For example, “researchers speculate that omega-3 fatty acids in combination with other nutrients (namely, vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, selenium, and coenzyme Q10) may prove to be of particular value for preventing and treating breast cancer” (University of Maryland Medical Center). Men saw these similar results with prostate cancer.
  5. Brain Food- In March of 2005, The Journal of Neuroscience studied the positive effects of DHA omega-3 fatty acids and learned that they may protect against the accumulation in the body of a protein believed to be linked to Alzheimer's disease. It is also well-supported that the supplement helps with acuity and prolonged mental activities. It boosts memory and performance (University of Maryland Medical Center). So if you have a mentally-taxing job or you need to cram for an exam, omega-3 fatty acid is the supplement for you.
  6. And So Much More- WebMD points out that “the benefits of omega-3s include reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke while helping to reduce symptoms of hypertension, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), joint pain and other rheumatoid problems, as well as certain skin ailments. Some research has even shown that omega-3s can boost the immune system and help protect us from an array of illnesses including Alzheimer's disease.”

Where else can I find natural sources of omega-3 fatty acids?

  • All fish with scales have it, such as mackerel, salmon, sardines, and herring.
  • Some bread, yogurt, and baked goods are fortified with it. Just read your labels to find out which.
  • Green leafy vegetables, soy, and tofu have it; so eat your salads and veggies.
  • Nuts are full of flax oil, which possesses omega-3 fatty acids, so eat your almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, and flax seeds.
  • Many cooking oils have it, like canola oil, soybean oil, and flax see oil.
  • Enhanced eggs can have it, so search the labels to find which ones.

Sources:
http://www.healthcastle.com/omega3.shtml http://www.webmd.com/diet/guide/good-fat-bad-fat-facts-about-omega-3 http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/omega-3-000316.htm http://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/omega-3-fatty-acids-fact-sheet http://www.womenshealthmag.com/search/node/omega+3+fatty+acids

Sunday, October 25, 2009

20 Things You Can Do for Holistic Health

Here are 20 things that you can do to improve your holistic health. These are methods I practice in my own life, so I can honestly say that they work and have made me a much happier, healthier person. Some things I am able to do every day as a lifestyle choice, while others I try to squeeze in during the week a few times.

We are all a work in progress...


1. Don’t smoke… ever. I don’t think I need to state the obvious. We all know that smoking in incredibly bad for you.
2. Drink one glass of red wine a day, if your particular health situation permits it. Red wine has antioxidants that fight disease and keep you youthful.
3. Take a vitamin C and E supplements everyday. They both boost your immune system, and the antioxidants are age-defying nutrients.
4. Take an omega 3 fatty acid every day (fish oil). There are so many benefits that I will do a post on this alone.
5. Don’t eat red meat (I haven’t for 11 years). The chemicals and hormones are terrible for you, and they age you. Research suggests that increased red meat consumption could lead to cancer and heart disease.
6. Eat a lot fish. Eating a lot of fish has so many benefits, I couldn’t list them here. So I will post more on this later. But remember your sea creatures must have scales, which keeps them from absorbing mercury like crustaceans do.
7. Eat and drink organic products whenever you can. Again, the chemicals in non-organic foods are potentially dangerous, unnatural, and not good for your overall health. Once man gets involved in altering food, the health and quality of holistically suffers.
8. Practice yoga (I do two-three times a week). A separate post on the specific benefits of yoga will be coming soon as well. If you can’t do yoga, take time to stretch and/or meditate a few times a week.
9. Workout or get your heart rate up about four days a week (I do about five days a week). This has obvious positive affects on your life. If you don’t have a gym or have time for a gym, keep your eyes peeled for future posts on what you can do at home to stay in shape.
10. Develop and maintain positive, healthy, supportive relationships. Remember, stress is the silent killer, so if your relationships are an endless source of stress for you, then you are aging your body inside and out.
11. Find a job that challenges and fulfills you. Studies show that people with meaningful purpose in their lives live longer, happier existences.
12. Drink one large cup of coffee a day (nearly black, very low sugars). Caffeine has been proven to improve your mind and slow the aging process. It lifts your mood, helps prevent Parkinson’s, reduces disease risk, and boost athleticism.
13. Maintain a low sugar diet. A high sugar intake suppresses your immune system, prevents you from absorbing calcium and magnesium, speeds up the aging process, and feeds cancer cells.
14. Never drink soda or sugary juice drinks. Soda pop wreaks havoc on your skin, adds to obesity, promotes tooth decay, and weakens your bones. See #13.
15. Drink green tea (ginseng). It fights cancer and heart disease. It relaxes your body and possesses age-defying antioxidants. If you are healthy inside, you’ll look healthy outside, as green tea also helps with weight management.
16. Get some sun. Some sun is very good for your mental health, and the rays naturally initiate the conversion of cholesterol in the skin to vitamin D3, which promotes bone health and lowers blood pressure.
17. Get exactly seven hours of sleep a night. Aim to sleep and rise at the same time everyday. If you can’t do that, get as close as you can to keeping a steady routine.
18. Use anti-wrinkle creams that are high in Pro-Retinol, Beta-Hydroxy, and Vitamin E. But remember, what matters most is what we put in our body, not what we put on it. Oil of Olay has been proven through market research to do the most for your skin, and it also has a very reasonable price tag compared to its competition.
19. Use natural mineral makeup that has an SPF (I use Neutrogena Healthy Skin Powder with Vitamin B5, C, and E with a SPF of 20.).
20. BE HAPPY and LAUGH all you can!

Resources:
Omega Fatty Acid 3 (fish oil) Benefits: http://www.bukisa.com/articles/40291_beauty-and-health-tips-the-benefits-of-fish-oil-or-omega-fatty-acid-3-6
Vitamin D and the Sun: http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/vitamin-d-vital-role-in-your-health
Red Wine Benefits: http://eating.health.com/2008/02/11/6-reasons-to-drink-wine/
Dangers of Red Meat Consumption: http://www.drmercola.biz/2009/03/dangers-of-too-much-red-meat.html
Benefits of Coffee: http://men.webmd.com/features/coffee-new-health-food
Dangers of a Sugary Diet: http://www.mercola.com/article/sugar/dangers_of_sugar.htm
Oil of Olay Skin Products: http://www.olay.com/products/ge1007 and http://www.olay.com/products/ge1024
Neutrogena Products: http://www.neutrogena.com/econsumer/ntg/productdetail.browse?segment=women&catId=2&subCatId=8&productId=4&target=/products/cosmetics/healthy-skin-pressed-powder.jsp

Monday, October 12, 2009

Power of Peace: The True Health Benefits of Relaxation Part II

Part II: In Part I, I wrote to you about the health benefits of daily, meaningful relaxation. This type of relaxation doesn’t just come from plopping down in front of the television or flipping through a magazine; it’s a relaxation that is purposeful and comes from within. It is stimulating and stress-free.

Here is a list of relaxation techniques or relaxing activities that can have a healthy impact on your life, large and small:

1) Yoga
2) Stretching
3) Meditation
4) Prayer
5) Deep breathing techniques
6) Think positively and visualize your goals being achieved
7) Keep a journal
8) Read a book or poetry for pleasure
9) Get some fresh air and take in the outdoors
10) Listen to classical or soundscape music
11) Take a long, thoughtful walk or bike ride
12) Sit in the sun and/or go for a peaceful swim
13) Get a massage, give a massage
14) Go to the sauna or spa
15) Take a day off work or reserve one day a week for rest
16) Write a loving letter or thank you note
17) Cook or share a healthy meal with a loved one
18) Drink more water and tea, while cutting down on sugars
19) Take naps and sleep appropriate amounts at night (7 hours)
20) Focus on the task at hand rather than stressing over multitasking
21) Designate a night to turn off the television and computer
22) Paint, draw, make music, create art
23) Take a long, hot shower or bath
24) Do things ahead of time, so you have time later to relax
25) Light candles or incense

In Part III, the relaxation techniques that I would like focus on are yoga and meditation, as there is substantial research that proves these practices, when implemented properly and frequently, can dramatically improve your health and life.


Sources:

Health Benefits of Yoga: http://www.abc-of-yoga.com/beginnersguide/yogabenefits.asp and http://www.webmd.com/balance/the-health-benefits-of-yoga

Yoga and Relaxation: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/yoga/CM00004

100 Ways to Relax: http://www.thedailymind.com/stress/100-ways-to-relax-unwind-and-loosen-up/

Relaxation and Your Immune System: http://www.thevegetariansite.com/health_stress.htm

8 Simple Ways to Relax: http://yourtotalhealth.ivillage.com/8-simple-ways-relax.html

Photograph is courtesy of Jessica Kuhn Melton. Please see her photography here: http://meltonphotography.wordpress.com/

Monday, October 5, 2009

Vagabond

I saw a stranger on the street.
Not from birth did I know him.
Yet I looked into his eyes of years,
Reflecting paradise in their flickers.

The journey left him tired soles
10,000 steps from Heaven.
Though I gazed upon this vagabond,
I cannot say I knew him.

His ruddy face was commonplace,
Worn, earthy garments out of sorts.
For the age and day he present stood
His tongue was soft and slow.

With my keenest trepidation now
I studied close this stranger.
Closer I was drawn to him,
His countenance now familiar.
And from his foreign mouth words fell,
“My daughter, you’re forgiven.”

K.A. Phinney

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Zen Buddhism: The Story of Maybe

There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. "Such bad luck," they said sympathetically.
"Maybe," the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. "How wonderful," the neighbors exclaimed.
"Maybe," replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.
"Maybe," answered the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.
"Maybe," said the farmer.


Saturday, October 3, 2009

Power of Peace: The True Health Benefits of Relaxation

Part 1: The Mind-Body Connection

Stress is the silent killer. We’ve all heard it before, yet for some odd reason many of us fail to actually digest what this powerful aphorism means for us in our daily lives. Volumes of research show that stress is a state of mind that contributes to a great deal of disease and illness. That sounds like terrible news, but it’s actually not. Unlike genetics and other states of health that are primarily out of our control, stress is a facet that we are completely in control of. So if you want to be healthier, happier, and decrease disease, stress, and illness in your life, then employing various forms of relaxation on a daily basis is something you can easily do for yourself. And trust me, you deserve it. Think of relaxation as a priceless gift for you and your loved ones.

To convince you to change your stressful habits and on-the-go lifestyle, I will open the body of this article with a list of ailments that effective relaxation techniques have been proven to decrease significantly or even heal entirely:

1) Insomnia
2) Depression and Anxiety
3) Heart Disease and High Blood Pressure
4) Cancer
5) Over-active Sympathetic Nervous System
6) Poor Immune System and Low Antibody Levels
7) Chronic Pain and Fibromyalgia
8) Migraines and Chronic Headaches
9) Premenstrual Syndromes
10) Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Not only does relaxation work to cure and rid you of your disease and illness, it also has many health benefits:

1) Peacefulness and Overall Sense of Well-being
2) “In-the-moment” Living
3) Mindfulness and Positive Thinking
4) Cleansing for Body and Mind
5) Flexibility and Increased Energy Levels
6) Relaxed Breathing and Heart Rates
7) Natural Beta-blocker
8) Improved Blood Flow


Part 2: Things You Can Do to Relax- Coming Soon!


Sources:
Benefits of Relaxation:
http://www.healthcentral.com/anxiety/c/1950/64389/relaxation-benefits
Kevin Trudeau’s Natural Cures They Don’t Want You to Know About
Women and Stress: http://womenshealth.suite101.com/article.cfm/women_and_meditation
Stress and Cancer: http://health.usnews.com/articles/health/cancer/2009/02/19/janice-kiecolt-glaser-on-cancer-and-stress.html
Dr. Herbert Benson’s Body of Research:
http://relaxationresponse.org/

Friday, October 2, 2009

A Flower

A flower blossomed today,
and she spoke in such a way.
She was golden,
and she was brave.
She poked her neck out,
and she careened
in sweet moments of molasses
sprawled upon the ever knoll.
She unfurled just for the Sun,
so garish in his cycle
that he did not take care
to know her depths so arcane
or her deep-rooted stem
before she had to turn and go.
He did not know.
He did not know.

K.A. Phinney

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Emerson on Spiritual Laws

Belief and love-- a believing love will relieve us of a vast load of care. Oh my brothers, God exists. There is a soul at the center of nature and over the will of every man, so that non of us can wrong the universe. It has so infused its strong enchantment into nature that we prosper when we accept its advice; and when we struggle to wound its creatures, our hands are glued to our sides, or they beat our own breasts.

The whole course of things goes to teach us faith. We need only obey. There is guidance for each of us, and by lowly listening we shall hear the right word... Place yourself in the middle of the stream of power and wisdom which flows into you as life, place yourself in the full center of that flood, then you are without effort impelled to truth, to right, and a perfect contentment.

~ From Ralph Waldo Emerson's Essay on Spiritual Laws

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