Man Cave Time ~3 Wellness Tips for Men

Ok ladies… this may be the time where you share this blog with the special man in your life- whether it be a spouse, son, father, or your BFF. So many wellness topics are geared for women, as statistically they consume about 75% of the wellness readers’ population. This month, in honor of Father’s Day, I am writing about men’s wellness and what they can do to prolong their life and the quality of that life. I suggest my female readers also read this and then share it with that special guy or guys in their life.

1- Get to the Doctor and Get Screened

Have you been procrastinating on this one? Not meant to scare you but to wake you up, considering men are more likely than women to die of cardiovascular disease and cancer and overall have a life expectancy of less than 5 years than the average female, yearly physicals and screenings are of the utmost importance.

*Things to focus on in these screenings:

Glucose, blood pressure (always know your numbers any pay attention to any sudden changes), PSA, testosterone levels, blood count/metabolic/lipids panel, and for those men over the age of 45, it’s time to schedule a colonoscopy. Formerly recommended to be 50, 45 is the new recommended age. If there is a history of colon cancer, going at the age of 40 is recommended.

2- Find YOUR Tribe

Whereas many women find it easier to connect and meet other women, many men tend to struggle a bit with this. Add work and potentially travel for a job, and it becomes even more challenging to balance work and family life. I live through this with my own husband as he travels quite frequently for his job. Since we relocated from Chicago a few years ago and moved to Scottsdale, we both needed to build a new tribe of friends. Although I also work, as a woman I found it a bit easier to meet and make plans with other friends. For some reason, this isn’t quite as natural for men, but they can benefit in so many ways from this connection.

*Ways to Take the Leap

Join a health club, attending local events, volunteer at a charity that resonates with you, and finding common interests in social activities that you enjoy (watching a sports game, going to a Bourbon tasting, etc.) Another way is through meeting other men through your spouse, girlfriend, or other friends. Take the initiative and take your phone out, exchange numbers, and actually follow through and make your own plans. It is healthy to connect with other men and build your own tribe of friends.

3- Eat Healthy, Sleep Well, Exercise Often

Ok, that is 3 for the price of one. All three of these are so important for all of our health- both men and women. Take the time to watch what you consume both solids and liquids (!), try and get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night, and find time to exercise and get those endorphins flowing and the muscles growing! Take up yoga. Yoga isn’t just for women anymore; the number of men practicing yoga is steadily climbing to roughly 28%. Still a low percentage, considering the myriad of health and wellness benefits this mind/body practice offers.

*Sleep Tip:

I released a Deep Relaxation Series- Guided Breathing, Relaxations, and Visualizations that can help tremendously with insomnia, something I suffered of for many years. It can be streamed for free on most streaming sites. More information on this and healthy breathing can be found here:

https://www.stopandbreathe.org/products

I want to take the time to wish all the fathers out there a Happy Father’s Day. I hope that you take care of yourself as well as you nurture all the other people in your life. And ladies reading this- share this with the men you love!

S&B

Self-Nurturing for the Body, Mind, & Soul

With Mother’s Day this month, it can be a time to reflect upon the nurturing we received from our mothers, just as it can be a time to reflect on the nurturing we provide to our own children. For some this can bring great joy, but for others it can be painful, as many have either lost their mothers, or perhaps the relationship may not be quite as idyllic as they wish it were.

With Mother’s Day this month, it can be a time to reflect upon the nurturing we received from our mothers, just as it can be a time to reflect on the nurturing we provide to our own children. For some this can bring great joy, but for others it can be painful, as many have either lost their mothers, or perhaps the relationship may not be quite as idyllic as they wish it were.

Parenting a child can also be conflicting. Whereas raising children can be deeply fulfilling, it can also be demanding and even depleting at times. Mothers tend to experience more illnesses, stress, and challenges brought about from raising children in their marriage than women who choose not to procreate. They must navigate a societal pressure to silence these emotions, as women are conditioned to think it ungrateful to complain about these challenges.

This month’s blog is about self-nurturing, as this is the kind of loving support we need in our lives since there are times we have may not have anyone else to turn to but ourselves. These suggestions will help you develop a healthy practice of caring for your own self, both physically and mentally.

Treat yourself to a massage or a facial- or both!  The sense of being touched is highly nurturing and soothing. Allow yourself to get pampered.

Go to movie…alone.  This may force you to leave the comfort zone, but once the lights are out, it’s just you and the big screen.

Spruce up your wardrobe.  Peruse your closet and buy yourself a few new pieces that update your look. Donate the things you rarely wear.

Breathe…Relax…Meditate!  Need guidance with this? I created the Deep Relaxation Series- Guided Breathing, Relaxations, and Visualizations  to assist others with this. This contains my most popular guided breathing and relaxations set to ambient music. Listening to a few of the relaxations first thing in the morning or before bedtime is tremendously helpful. You can find this on iTunes or streamed on Spotify, Amazon, YouTube, etc. http://www.stopandbreathe.org/products

-Take a warm bath  Dim the lights, light some candles, put in a few drops of lavender, epsom salts or magnesium, and soak away.

-Be one with nature Take a walk, run, hike or bike ride. Be mindful and pay attention to the trees, sky, mountains, flowers, etc.

-Crank the music and dance!  You know the saying, ‘Dance like no one is watching you.’ Well, they aren’t. So get your groove on!

-Hit the gym Cardio, weights, yoga, swimming, or whatever motivates you. The endorphins gained in a workout will uplift your mood and nurture your soul.

-Curl up with a good book  Find a cozy spot to relax and engross yourself in that book you’ve always wanted to read. Or maybe read a magazine or do a crossword puzzle.

-Go to a farmer’s market, art fair, outdoor festival or concert  Enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells around you. Sometimes it’s nice to be on your own agenda.

Women are incredibly powerful and amazing nurturers. Giving so much of ourselves while not taking care of our own needs can deplete us and is unhealthy. Practice self-nurturing and enjoy the sense of fulfillment gained when taking care of the most important person in your life- you!

-S&B

Let’s Get Grounded!

My own feet, alongside my husband’s , Earthing and grounding in Sedona!


In the many years I practiced and taught yoga, I knew of the importance of grounding oneself. I would stand in tadasana, or mountain pose, and feel the roots underneath my feet grounding and rooting me to the earth. However, a key element was missing. Though I was standing barefoot on my mat, I neglected to walk outside and stand on the grass and feel the earth’s energy truly rooting and nourishing me within. This may sound a little too ‘new-agey’ to many of my readers, so I encourage you to keep reading. There is some science to this healthy practice of grounding, and a documentary I recently watched at the Sedona Film Festival called Down to Earth: The Remarkable Science of Grounding, is an enlightening revelation to its benefits.

In the movie, filmmakers Josh and Rebecca Tickell bring forth this amazing groundbreaking (pun intended!) research on how ‘grounding’ or ‘earthing’ can be the answer to our country’s health crisis.  What exactly is grounding? Simply stated, it means directly connecting one’s body to the earth so as to restore the electromagnetic balance needed to restore and maintain optimal health. 

The film, featuring the actresses Mariel Hemingway and Amy Smart along with several other scientists, physicists, medical doctors, and health advocates, shows the importance of this practice through personal experiences and scientific studies. It all comes down to inflammation, the root cause of so many physical ailments that can be obvious or hidden. When inflammation is noticeable, we feel pain in the muscles or joints, and there can even be visible swelling. When we don’t see inflammation, it can be wreaking havoc inside our bodily systems, and could be related to many illnesses and conditions, ranging from heart disease, stroke, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, liver disease, chronic stress, depression, autoimmune diseases, and possibly Alzheimer’s disease.

Since the surface of the Earth is negatively charged, when we connect to this charge through our skin via grounding, inflammation is reduced in our bodies and our health improves.  The film shows countless individuals who practiced  ‘Earthing’ seeing improvements in sleep, restless leg syndrome, pain, depression, and a myriad of other illnesses and ailments.

In addition to the filmmakers and actresses that were at the Q&A after the film, one of the writers of a book Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever?, Clint Ober, was present. The book was an impetus to the film and Clint’s own story revealing how this research unfolded is fascinating. This book is on my ‘to-read’ list and will most likely do a much more thorough job highlighting the benefits of this simple but profoundly vital practice.  The practice of stepping barefoot onto the earth and walking is something that was so natural to us all centuries ago, and has been let go of in place of our obsession with shoes and the covering of our best earth receptors, our feet.

Since our bodies are made up mostly of water and minerals, they are good conductors of electricity. The free electrons on the surface of the Earth are easily transferred to the human body so long as there is direct contact. Since the invention of synthetic soled shoes, we’ve become insulated and thus disconnected from the Earth’s electric field. Moccasins made of animal hides are a healthier way to ground ourselves with the earth since the hides will not insulate us like synthetic materials do. Leather soles can also work, but not as effectively.  Until we invent the perfect replacement to the artificial soled shoes we use now, we are best off spending time barefoot on the grass or the earth each day. Doing so for about 15 minutes each day is said to be tremendously beneficial and restorative. 

We can also get grounded inside our homes by using grounding sheets, mats, or blankets, so long as we plug these devices into a grounded outlet in our homes.  Most of these grounding products that are sold come with an outlet tester since there are many different outlet configurations around the world. Some are grounded (Earthed) and others are not. If you want to plug into a wall outlet you have to determine first whether your electrical system and outlets are properly grounded. Outlets with 3 holes generally mean they are grounded. When only two holes are present, that means there is no Earth/ground present so you must use a ground rod.

I recently purchased a grounding mat for the end of our bed for my husband and me. He suffers from restless legs/body when he sleeps and the film showed great promise for this frustrating sleep-depriver.  Once it comes and we install it, I will report its effectiveness. More importantly, we have begun stepping outside, discarding our shoes, and connecting to the earth. In fact, the day after we saw the film at the festival, we donned our hotel robes, and walked outside our hotel room and stood on the grass near our room. We enjoyed the feelings of doing something so natural and healthy to our bodies and have since adapted this daily practice into our lives.

Skeptics will read this article, see the movie, or read the book and question its research. I, too, was a bit skeptical in the beginning. However, what is the harm/risk of doing something so natural? I see no downside whatsoever, and quite frankly, it feels so good to step my feet on the grass and connect to Mother Earth.

In addition to the film, there are many books and websites on grounding/Earthing. Here a few sites to explore this potentially life-changing and mind/body enhancing practice.

https://www.earthinginstitute.net/.

https://www.amazon.com/Earthing-Most-Important-Health-Discovery/dp/1591202833

https://www.earthing.com/

https://deepakchoprainnerspace.com/

http://www.groundtherapycenter.com/

-S&B

SPRING Ahead- and Don’t FALL back!

When we think of spring, we generally think of things coming back to life- a little rain, a lot of blooming, and an overall fresh, new beginning. We may even set out to clean and organize our closets, yards, kitchens, or our offices. While we are at it, why not take some time and spring-clean our own selves- mind, body, and spirit? What’s good for the household is great for the psyche.

Clearing our minds of emotional drama, worry, and negativity can be incredibly rejuvenating. In this process, we open up the windows of our minds and let fresh thought patterns emerge. Practice these tips below and commit to keeping the space (between your two ears!) free of self-limiting thoughts and negative dialogue all year round.

1 Take a Social Media Hiatus
You don’t have to file for divorce from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but a temporary separation may be in order if you find yourself spending too much time posting and liking. When we are overly connected to our devices, we tend to disconnect from the world around us. Stop and smell the spring flowers and enjoy the company of those around you. Enjoy your meal instead of photographing it! Be Present.

2 Consider a Cleanse
Now that the holidays are over, you might be feeling sluggish from indulging more than usual. Press the reset button and get a jump-start on your nutrition with a rejuvenating cleanse. There are many cleanses out there to choose from, so be sure to check with your doctor before beginning one and make sure it’s a healthy and nourishing cleanse. Lately, I have taken up the healthy habit of juicing! I enjoy starting my day off with a fresh squeezed glass of celery juice before eating or drinking anything. Not only are there many benefits to my body in doing so, but it also sets the tone for being mindful about the rest of the food I eat and drink throughout the day. http://http://www.medicalmedium.com/blog/10-health-benefits-of-celery-juice

3 Organize and Simplify
We work better and live simpler in a more organized physical space free of excess clutter, making it easier to access the things we need. Organize your home office, kitchen, or closets. De-clutter and donate what you no longer need. If the idea of organization sets you into a frenzy, consider looking into a company that does this for you. It may be worth the investment to have a professional get you on the right track and learn a more organized way of living.

4 Say Goodbye to Toxic Relationships
Letting go of toxic relationships is one of the most difficult, yet liberating challenges. Holding on to unhealthy relationships for fear of conflict is easier in the short-run, but builds resentment and frustration in the long run. Weigh the pros and cons of the relationship and determine whether it makes you feel energized or depleted. Also, it’s revealing to look into why we are holding onto these unhealthy relationships. Do a little soul searching and get to the bottom of the root cause of this.

Recently, a friend told me that she tends to hold onto friends that are hurtful to her because that was a dysfunctional family pattern and she is ‘used to’ this type of abuse. Once she recognized this all-familiar yet very destructive pattern, she saw the need to change it and seek healthier friendships.

5 Stop the 3 C’s- Criticizing, Complaining, and Comparing
Being critical and habitually complaining can be paralyzing, as it puts us in a state of perpetual negativity. The next time a pessimistic or critical thought arises, ask yourself ‘Is this truly helpful or necessary?’ If not, let it go in favor of keeping your mind a positive haven. Remind yourself of the worthlessness of comparing and don’t fall into the ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ mentality of living.

6 Daily Centering
Notice I did not use the word meditation here? Though I love the practice of meditation, and if you already do have a daily practice, by all means continue to do so, I have noticed that this word can be intimidating to many people. So many clients come to me and say, ‘I tried to meditate but I couldn’t clear my mind.’ The good news- it is impossible to clear our minds so if you feel this way, recognize that you haven’t failed.

When working with clients, I help them get into a daily practice of breathing, relaxing, and visualizing a daily intention each and every day. Being mindful in this way and having a focus for the way you set your day to unfold is tremendously empowering. On my website in the products section, you will see my Deep Relaxation Series- Guided Breathing, Relaxation, and Visualizations. These are also available via streaming (Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, etc.) Beginning the day with my 5-minute breath guidance is so beneficial in this centering process. I also highly recommend ending the day with this and any of my other relaxations/visualizations before going to sleep; many people who struggle with insomnia have told me it has been a game changer for them and is now a nightly routine, as well. http://www.stopandbreathe.org/products

Let the spring-cleaning of your mind and body last more than a season; let it last a lifetime. (And don’t FALL back!)

-S&B

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Turn on Your Heart Light

With Valentine’s Day falling in the month of February, the word LOVE comes to mind. Likewise is that image of a heart, usually bright red; the cut-outs we made in school as children even come to mind. This also makes me think of the term ‘open-hearted’. I would like to dive more into what it actually means to have an open heart and how we even know whether ours is open our closed.

Yoga practitioners may have heard their instructors speak of the 7 chakras. For those readers who aren’t familiar with this term, chakras are the main energy centers within the body. Not only are they associated with certain body parts and bodily systems, but also each main energy center has associated physical ailments that can occur when these systems are out of balance.

From the 1st chakra comprising of the feet, legs, and lower spine all the way up the body to the 7th chakra at the very crown of the head, all of our body parts and systems fall into one of these 7 main energy systems. The 4th chakra, which is called the Anahata chakra in Sanskrit, the ancient language of yoga, is located in the center of the chest, where the ‘yogic heart’ lies. It comprises of the heart, lungs, and circulatory system. It is an important energy center of the body as it is the center point between the upper and the lower chakras in our body. When we place are hands together in prayer position at the end of a yoga class and utter our ‘Namastes’, we are finding the perfect balance between our physical bodies- our lower 3 chakras-and our more ethereal or spiritual bodies – our upper 3 chakras.

Yoga and meditation teachers focus on ‘opening the heart’ in their teachings to their students. But what does this actually mean? For many people this area of the body may be blocked. Perhaps we have been hurt in a relationship and are protecting ourselves from diving into yet another.. When our heart chakra is blocked, we have difficulty with empathy, compassion, self-love or loving others. When we are open in this energy center of our body, we freely and openly can give and receive unconditional love and express loving compassion and empathy.

Our health can be adversely affected when our heart chakra is not open. Some of the ailments associated when our heart chakra is not in balance are asthma, lung disease, heart disease, and also diseases of the breasts. It can be difficult to let go of past hurts and to put ourselves in a vulnerable position when we fear potentially repeating this pattern, but holding back and feeling the negative emotions that correspond to this energy center of our body can be detrimental to our bodies and our spirits. Here are some suggestions to keep this energy center healthy and in balance.

Self-Love

Take care of the most important person in your life- YOU! When you look in the mirror don’t focus on your imperfections but see the beauty in the reflection staring back at you. Look into some meditations that focus on self- love and practice them in a quiet place.

Gratitude

Appreciate and honor the gifts in your life with a daily practice of expressing and being grateful for these gifts.

Forgiveness.

In my work with cancer patients throughout the years, I have witnessed many breakthroughs of my clients letting go of anger and forgiving- both themselves and others. Remember- Forgiveness isn’t about letting others off the hook, but about letting yourself off the hook.

Visualizing the Color Green

Each chakra also has a corresponding color within it. Green is the color of our heart chakra. Imagine a beautiful shade of jade green filling the center of your entire chest and within your heart and lungs as well. Holding a green stone – jade, aventurine, green calcite are great choices, when focusing on opening up this area of the body also magnify this intention. Although it is not green, rose quartz is also a wonderful 4th chakra stone said to open and heal this area of our body.

~This brief explanation into the chakra system and the importance of opening up our chakras is only the tip of the iceberg to what is called ‘energy medicine.’ If you would like to learn more, I highly recommend 2 books on this topic. Anatomy of the Spirit by Carolyn Myss is one of my all time favorites. Listening to her audio book is a great way to learn. Also, The Wheels of Life by Anodea Judith is an equally comprehensive exploration into the 7 chakras of our bodies.

So turn on your heart light… and shine with love this month and always!

-S&B

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Stressing Less and Living Healthier in the New Year

With the holidays behind us and the New Year ahead, now is the perfect time to learn new techniques to keep stress at bay and enjoy a healthier lifestyle. Since it is impossible to avoid stress completely, the following tips will help you cope with your stress and welcome in a peaceful 2019.

1   Breathe Deeply

  • Develop an awareness of your breath.
  • Are you holding your breath? Is your breath shallow? Where is the breath traveling within your body?
  • Inflate the belly slowly as if expanding a balloon inside of it.
  • Slow down your exhalation as you deflate this “balloon.” This is the key to becoming more relaxed and calming your nervous system.

2   Start Your Day with an Intention

  • State what you want to achieve or accomplish when you wake up each morning. You may do this silently or say it out loud!
  • Replace any negative, worrisome thoughts with this positive statement.
  • For example, “I am calm, relaxed, and my life is in balance.” Remember, whatever we think becomes our reality so state what you want in a positive way.

3   Visualize a Positive Outcome

  • Like an athlete visualizes his golf shot or free throw before approaching the ball, picture a positive outcome of what you want to happen when faced with a challenge.
  • Imagine yourself overcoming the obstacle and paint a picture in your mind of how it will look and feel in your life when it manifests.

4   Embrace an Attitude of Gratitude

  • Research shows that expressing our gratitude each day has a positive effect on our health and well-being.
  • Take a moment to think about what you are grateful for in your life as each day begins.
  • Experience the healing, de-stressing benefits of gratitude as you practice this technique. Families can benefit by individually expressing gratitude at shared meals together.

5   Lavender Up

  • Research has shown that scents can dramatically alter our mood, and lavender is known to be one of the most calming and soothing scents.
  • Lavender comes in all forms- soap, bubble bath, candles, etc. I highly recommend purchasing a quality grade of pure lavender essential oil.
  • Inhale the scent as you open the bottle.
  • Place a few drops on your wrist and/or neck. You can also place lavender on the bottoms of your feet to aid with sleep.

6   Get Movin’!

  • Walk, dance, swim, run, bike, do yoga… just get moving.
  • Exercise has been proven to increase endorphins and people who exercise benefit greatly from a more positive mood and lower rate of depression.

  Laugh a Little… or A LOT!

  • Read a funny book or watch your favorite sitcom or comedy. Not only is laughing enjoyable, but it also has aerobic benefits.
  • When we laugh, we release stress-relieving hormones and balance our immune system.

8   Collect a Good Tribe

  • Surround yourself with people who make you feel good.
  • Distance yourself from individuals who drain your energy and feel obligatory in nature.

~These tips and techniques will equip you with a healthy arsenal of tools to use when you are faced with stressors. The breath, in particular, is one of the most immediate ways to calm yourself down in the face of immediate stress. Learning to breathe deeply will help you cope with stress and facilitate better health and well-being in your life. Take a deep breath and say hello to a healthy 2019!

Here’s to a Happy and Healthy New Year!

-S&B

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December~ Dread-Free and Joy-ful Holiday Parties

Holiday parties, whether shared with family or co-workers, can be a great time to celebrate the holiday season with the people closest to us. It can also be a time of great dread for many people who have challenging family dynamics or work environments. I asked a few people questions about what their concerns are when they think about attending a holiday party, and decided to write this month’s blog in a Question and Answer format with the 3 biggest concerns- food, family, and frolicking- being the focus.

Q: What should I do if I am trying to cut back on calories and I know that I will be tempted to eat and drink more indulgent foods?

A: This is a huge concern to many people who admit to packing on the pounds during the holiday season. A few suggestions are to not arrive at the party hungry, but have a light, healthy snack first. Another idea is to watch your alcohol consumption. Whereas it feels festive and even a bit relaxing to hold a glass of wine or a cocktail while meandering around the room, drinking too many too quickly is a recipe for disaster both for your waistline and for your behavior! Try to have a large glass of water in between alcoholic drinks. Enjoy a spritzer with lime instead- far less sugary calories. When choosing food at the buffet, go for the healthier options if they exist- and avoid carbs, sugars, and dairy if possible. If asked to bring something to eat to add to the mix, instead of baking your favorite brownies, opt for a healthy salad or veggies and dip platter so that you know at least one thing there will be healthy! Our local Bunco group got into the Whole 30 Diet plan. For the past few months, we all have been bringing healthier options to our ordinarily unhealthy spreads. We all have realized we enjoy the food so much and it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice, so we have made this a permanent plan.

Q: I have a family member (or co-worker) who I know will be at the party and is very toxic to me. I can’t avoid them, but I get stressed just realizing I will be in the same room as them. What can I do?

A: Unfortunately, not every guest at the party will evoke a wonderful, positive vibe, though it would be fantastic if that were the case! Almost everyone experiences this dynamic with both work and family gatherings. The pre-party ritual is key. Before leaving the house, take a few deep breaths, center yourself, and imagine a light of protection around you. Have an inner mantra of ‘I am going to fully enjoy this gathering with all the wonderful people in my life’. Young Living Oils makes a wonderful essential oils blend called White Angelica. It is a combination of 10 essential oils said to create a positive atmosphere, inspire feelings of security, and shield us from negative energies. I make a ritual to dab a few drops of this soothing and protective oil on myself while inwardly centering myself and protecting my own energies before walking into a more challenging situation. Instead of focusing on the 1 or 2 potential energy drainers, try and focus on the other wonderful friends and family that will be there.

Q: I have social anxiety and I am not good with small talk.

A: Not everyone can be the life of the party and talk effortlessly with others. It is important to be honest with yourself in admitting this. Most people love a great listener and many people enjoy talking about themselves, so that makes it a great idea to ask people questions. Think of some conversation starters in advance, but it’s probably wise to avoid the social taboo topics of politics and religion, as that can be divisive. Less controversial would be asking about upcoming vacation destinations or holiday plans. When stuck in the dreaded ‘dead-end conversation’ where you are running out of things to talk about, try and bring someone else into the conversation. Taking breaks and walking to a quiet place, if possible, can help recharge you, also. My husband and I talk about this dynamic often, as I typically am more comfortable making small talk and I am fine with large gatherings, where he prefers intimate 1:1 conversations. We try to support each other and not have unrealistic expectations for the other person.

~Hopefully these tips will ease your stress level when faced with your annual holiday party and allow you to sail into the holiday season with a renewed sense of excitement and joy… AND your favorite jeans will still fit after New Year’s!

Happy and Healthy Holiday Wishes From my Family to Yours.

-S&B

 

 

 

November~ Giving Thanks… on Thanksgiving and Every Day

 Giving Thanks… on Thanksgiving and Every Day 

Thanksgiving is upon us this month, and many of us will be working hard in the kitchen preparing a delicious meal of turkey and its supporting cast of delicious side dishes. Our focus may be on that fantastic meal and getting it all done just right, but sometimes the inner meaning of the holiday becomes a footnote. It’s important to remember the true meaning of this holiday- Giving Thanks. But what does that really mean? Let’s explore some of this and also consider creating a new family tradition to do so.

History books portrayed the first Thanksgiving as a time when the Pilgrims of Plymouth and the Native Americans of Wampanoag came together in 1621 to celebrate with a feast to give thanks for the first harvest since the drought. Many have since debunked this, calling it pure fiction and propaganda. Others, like myself, choose to see the symbolism in this holiday of giving thanks and reflect upon our lives what we truly are grateful for.

For years, our family had a tradition of going around the table on Thanksgiving and saying what we all were grateful for. One year, I wrote the word ‘gratitude’ on a rock and brought it to the host of our family holiday, my sister. We each held the rock in our hands and thought about the past year and what things we truly were grateful for and passed this rock around the table. Some proclamations were funny such as my one younger niece saying ‘ice cream’ nearly every year, and some were tear-provoking, such as the gratitude we all felt having a family member present at the table after a major health scare.

Moving to another state and having family scattered around the country has changed our Thanksgiving, and for the past few years, I have celebrated ‘Friendsgiving’- a modern twist combining friends and Thanksgiving, with the premise that friends can also come together to celebrate this meaningful holiday. I brought a new rock to my host the first year and will continue to write ‘gratitude’ on rocks wherever I may land for the holiday and further this meaningful tradition.

I encourage each of you to look beyond the turkey and the ‘fixins’ this year and add some meaning into your own family holiday tradition. You don’t have to go online to Amazon and search for your own gratitude rock; simply pick one up that you like, grab a sharpie marker, and write gratitude on it. As you hold it in your hands, take a moment to truly reflect and think about what you are grateful for and blessed with in your life. Speaking these words to those around you and listening to theirs as well has a tremendous impact on our lives- this act of appreciating all the blessings and gifts we all share. Not to mention, this gratitude practice is healthy for our minds and our bodies. A daily gratitude practice improves our sleep, our heart health, stress-coping skills, and even our inflammation markers in our body, not to mention leads to a more positive and optimistic lifestyle.

Have an ‘attitude of gratitude’ EVERY day, not just on Thanksgiving. I have a rock by my bedside and start each and every day giving thanks to the gifts I am blessed with in my life. You may even want to purchase a notebook and keep a gratitude journal, writing down 2 or 3 things each day that you are grateful for. I encourage you to consider starting your day in this way and also incorporating a gratitude rock-passing into your own family (or friends!) Thanksgiving meal.

~S&B

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Fearful to Fearless– Conquering FEAR

We may be conditioned to believe that fear is a negative reaction, a weakness, or ‘in our heads’. In actuality, fear can be a good thing. It can be a natural response to a physical danger. We inherited this response from our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Imagine if they had not reacted in fear when an animal was chasing them. Where would be today? Would we even BE here today?

Fear stimulates the hypothalamus in our brain, which leads to the sympathetic nervous system and the adrenal cortex releasing the stress hormone cortisol to prepare our bodies for danger. This physical reaction in our bodies can lead to sweating, shaking, and many times feeling a tingly sensation in our limbs, which stems from the blood leaving them and pumping to our hearts. As our heart rate accelerates and our breathing becomes more rapid, like a hunter, our vision narrows as our body prepares for fight or flight. We are preparing for this fear sometimes before we even realize it. As much as we might sometimes like to rid ourselves from these unpleasant sensations, fear is part of our innate survival kit.

Fear can also be falsely created or highly exaggerated, such as fear of darkness, spiders, loneliness, or fear of leaving our house. When the threat is nonexistent or greatly exaggerated our fears can turn into phobias. For example, if you get sweaty palms and feel shaky before a shot, you are most likely fearful. However, if you choose not to get the shot, your fear now becomes a phobia. There is a great acronym of unknown origin about fear. F.E.A.R: False Evidence Appearing Real. Though the fear appears real, there may be no tangible fear present, though it may feel that way. This perceived fear creates anxiety, worry, phobias, and avoidance.

Since anxiety is the precursor to fear, one of the best ways to help curb our fears is to deal with the underlying anxiety surrounding it. Four key ways to alleviate anxiety and fear are:

1- Healthy Belly Breathing with a 2:1 Breathing Pattern.

Healthy breathing involves breathing deeply into your belly and not taking shallow breaths into your upper chest. The exhalation is the part of the breath that relaxes you; so adopting a 2:1 breathing pattern is tremendously helpful in a fearful situation.

In 2:1 breathing, you will exhale twice as long as you inhale. So if you normally inhale to the count of 3, exhale to the count of 6.

If you aren’t sure how to breathe in the healthiest way, my website has a great explanation of healthy breathing. http://www.stopandbreathe.org/healthy-breathing

2-  Progressive Relaxation

Relaxation of your entire body is one of the most beneficial stress and anxiety reducing practices. With practice, this can be done on your own, but initially it is beneficial to listen to a progressive relaxation guidance. My Deep Relaxation Series has 2 of these- Full Body Relaxation and 61-Points Relaxation. http://www.stopandbreathe.org/products. Both of these involve traveling throughout the body and relaxing the entire body from head to toe. This is also a great practice to use when trying to fall asleep.

3- Visualization Techniques

A helpful visualization technique to use involves becoming aware of all of your senses. This technique is often used in fear-of-flying classes. To practice this technique, you simply bring your focus to each of your five senses and ask yourself what each of them perceives. This allows you to completely focus on the present moment and not let your mind take you to a fearful place.

4- Rationalization Exercises

Approach your fear with curiosity. Try and be a passive observer of your own mind and body as you ask yourself:

-Is what I am feeling real?

-What am I really afraid of?

-When do I feel this the most?

-How does this make me feel?

-What is the worst possible outcome?

-What is the best possible outcome?

These above techniques will activate the relaxation response in your body, which triggers your brain to secrete hormones that calm your mind and body. You have a choice in a fearful situation; to either ‘Forget Everything And Run’ or ‘Face Everything And Recover’. Hopefully you will empower yourself to not let FEAR cripple your life and hold you back, but to propel you forward to live your best life.

-S&B

 

September~ Paying it Forward– for Kindness Sake!

 

Recently, my own neighborhood launched a Kindness Challenge for the community. On the 20th of each month, those who signed up would get an email with ideas for different Acts of Kindness. The challenge goal was to have 200 families complete at least 20 throughout the year.

The types of acts suggested were mostly ‘pay it forward’ small acts. When doing these small acts, we create a ripple effect of kindness that grows outward to others. I am so fortunate to live in a community that truly cares about others in this way and loved hearing the stories about what people were doing to practice these small karmic acts of kindness!

I have always loved practicing ‘paying it forward’; whether it was paying for someone’s coffee or leaving a penny on heads for the next person to pick up to have a great day (something my daughters and I regularly do!), as it always gave me a charge to know that one small gesture can make someone’s day.

Years ago when my kids were younger, I read a book by an author I absolutely love- The Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. You may have read some of her books, as she has written several, including some well-known children’s books. You also may remember reading about her recently, as she passed away last year after battling ovarian cancer. She left behind a legacy of kindness, laughter, joy, and ‘paying it forward’. She truly was a remarkable human being, and I highly recommend any and all of her books.

In one of the chapters, Amy talks of leaving behind an envelope containing a note (listed below), some loose change, and a stamped postcard addressed to her PO box for a random stranger to discover.

She claims to not necessarily have done it for purely altruistic reasons, but to inject some morsel of suspense into her week. This is what the note said:

This money was left here intentionally and is specifically for your use. I know it’s not much- perhaps just enough to treat yourself to a cookie, a lottery ticket, donation to the homeless, a new pair of socks… In any case, I hope it changes your day for the better. All I ask in return is that you let me know how you spend it. You don’t have to sign your name, and a prepaid postcard is included. Enjoy!!

 After reading this, I decided to do this with my 2 daughters and a few of my friends, as well. We opened up a PO box and went to work- leaving postcards with random change ($1.58, $2.60, etc) around town. We got many of them back with great stories, one of them was from someone who was short money for a train ticket and they were now able to purchase one. Another was my daughter leaving an envelope in town, and her friend being the one who found it and bought herself a hot dog! We had quite a laugh at this act of serendipity.

After Amy died, on March 13, 2017, I decided to resurrect Amy’s ‘Pay-it-Forward-Postcard-Note’ here in our own hometown of Scottsdale. What a rush I would feel when leaving behind a note, either on the LOVE statue in the Civic Center Mall, or Sky Harbor airport, or between the pages of a magazine! I knew that in some way, I made someone smile and perhaps helped his or her day.

I invite my readers to either copy this or embark on their own ‘Pay It Forward’ act and feel what it’s like to know that you have positively impacted someone else and that this may lead to that glorious ripple effect.

*Here are a few sites to check out related to this wonderful practice of kindness and paying it forward:

https://www.thekindnessrocksproject.com/

https://bensbells.org

https://www.textbookamykr.com/the-beckoning-of-lovely

~S&B