Mindfulness - a gateway for centeredness in 2018
Over a month ago, I took a workshop at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York called Mindfulness Tools: a 5-Day Intensive in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). The workshop objective was to integrate MBSR practices into your life in order to facilitate a life with greater ease, joy, depth and balance every day. It was based on the original 8-week Stress Reduction program founded in 1979 by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical school. My original thought about Mindfulness was that it was a form of meditation and I was not too far off from that thought. I tried to keep an open mind before attending the workshop and started my research on what Mindfulness is and how I could apply it to my life. Additionally, I wanted to see how I could incorporate it into my practice and utilize it with my clients.
So what is Mindfulness and why is it so popular? It’s about as Mindfulness author and instructor Jon-Kabat Zinn has put it, “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally.” Mindfulness is more descriptively defined as a state in which one is fully present in the moment, focused on the reality of the situation, while observing it, accepting it and not judging it. Mindfulness is a practice based on focusing on your breath. By doing so, you can calm your mind, alleviate anxiety, pain, stress, and still our “monkey brain.”
Initially, at the workshop, I did experience an inability to calm my mind, even though I am a practitioner of meditation. However, by the end of the week, I realized that this was no easy task. I had to really focus on my breath in order to keep my mind still. The 5-day program included specific mindfulness techniques which included sitting meditation, body scan and hatha yoga stretches. There is so much more to this program, however my takeaway from this workshop was that I really could do this on a daily basis. Since that time, I have made it a daily practice to incorporate 30 minutes of focusing on my breath. If I can’t do it at one sitting, I do it in 2- 15 minute segments, in the AM upon rising and PM before sleeping.
So where will this take me? I believe that the tools that I learned at the MBSR workshop will help me keep myself focused in my day-to-day work, reduce my stress, which is always a plus, help me to be more patient and less judgmental. I will need to work on this everyday, since each day brings a whole new set of challenges. I believe that we can become more centered and calm within ourselves with Mindfulness. This is going to be my goal as I approach the new year of 2018.
Let's not be SAD this Winter
Since my last writing, fall has shown its beauty with the amazing changes in the colors of the foliage. The days are also becoming shorter and cooler. Thanksgiving is several weeks away and winter will be here before we know it.
This time of year may affect some of us with feeling a bit “down” or even depressed. This is a common disorder called SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder. It can start in the early fall and may last through the winter months. We may feel like we are in a seasonal funk or even at some point describe it as “cabin fever.”
Some of the symptoms may be fatigue, lack of energy, and moodiness. Some of us may want to spend more time alone, or sleep more and have an increased desire for comfort foods, such as carbohydrates and sugars.
The cause of SAD is unknown, however it may be due to the reduction of sun exposure from the shortened hours of the winter sunlight. Most of us spend more time outdoors in the sun during the warmer months and our bodies receive more sun exposure. In the winter months, our bodies are covered for warmth and we don’t receive the same amount of sun exposure. There are some other factors such as the changes in our biological clocks. Melatonin may also be disrupted, which plays a role in our sleep and mood regulation.
So what can we do to counteract these responses? As someone who has experienced SAD 3 winters ago, I would suggest the following measures. First, go to your healthcare practitioner early in the season and get some baseline blood values such as your D3 levels. Some other blood values to check are Thyroid T3, T4, and Iodine. All of these levels were low in my case. Additional values to be checked are CBC and electrolytes. Once my D3, Thyroid and Iodine levels came up into a normal range, I felt so much better. Additionally, getting 6-8 hours of sleep, getting outside and walking at least 30 minutes a day when possible will be helpful. If you can’t get outside, sitting by a window with bright sunlight is a good alternative. Light therapy is another option to add. It involves sitting near a special light box that mimics natural outdoor light. Maintaining a healthy exercise program, and diet are also important.
I will also add that partaking in activities to relax and reduce stress are important. During the holiday season, we can get easily overwhelmed and stressed with all that we need to do. Lastly, if the above activities and therapies do not make you feel better, you may want to contact your healthcare provider and a therapist to discuss additional options.
Be well and Happy Thanksgiving!
Happy Fall Equinox to all!
This is the time of year that brings Indian summer days with amazing changes to our landscape. Before our eyes, bright green grass and colorful flowers go to colorful leaves, bare trees and brown grass. The other change is the constant reminders about “Protect yourself and get your flu shot today!” “Stop in today and get your flu shot!”
Many people believe that receiving the flu shot will protect them against the flu or help them lessen their chances of getting the flu. I have heard so many stories in my professional career as a Registered Nurse of people who get the flu shot and get a cold or flu shortly thereafter. Contrary to popular belief, receiving a flu shot is not a sure fire method to ward off the flu. There are many reasons why this happens. Those reasons will be discussed at another time.
I would like to address in this article the steps that you can take naturally to mitigate your chances of getting the flu or a severe cold.The main focus is to boost our immune system, which is so important to maintain our ability to fight off any flu, colds or infections. There are individuals who have compromised immune systems that are due to chronic diseases, however the same advice can be followed.
To start, our diet is a major factor that helps us maintain a strong immune system! A large portion of our immune system is located in our gut and what we put in our bodies as fuel is very crucial to our health. The key factor here is to strive to keep our bodies in a more alkaline vs. acidic state. Inflammation should be kept as minimal as possible. We can do this by avoiding processed foods, sugary foods such as soda, cakes, cookies and ingest more organic plant based alkaline foods. Moderate amounts of organic chicken, grass fed beef and fish are good too.
Probiotics are also good to take since they will keep good bacteria in our GI tract and boost our immune function. Making sure we eat good organic food is important, however the soil that our food is grown in has become very depleted in minerals and vitamins. As a result, we should really be supplementing with a good multivitamin(s). I take additional supplementation during the Fall and Winter months and one of the best vitamins to take is D3, the “sunshine vitamin”. You can take 5,000 IUs daily during the winter months. In addition, Vt. C is another good supplement to take, at least 1,000 mg. daily.
I also utilize herbs such as elderberry, which is made into an elixir, and can be taken to prevent viral infections. If you feel a cold coming on, you can take it to lessen the severity of it. Another herb that is great to take is Astragalus which can strengthen and regulate healthy immune function. I have taken both of these herbs for several years and it has really helped to prevent and lessen the severity of a cold, if I happen to get one during the winter months. Another tip is to try and get plenty of sleep - at least 8 hours per night. Exercise is also very important. A good rule of thumb is to get outside and do some walking for at least 30 minutes per day.
Lastly, reduce your levels of stress. When we are stressed everyday our hormones, especially cortisol, remain elevated. This constant stress on our system puts us in a toxic state which results in various disease states. Take the time to avail yourself with stress reducing natural modalities. Reflexology, massage, acupuncture, are great stress reducers and will help you reduce harmful toxins from your body as well.
These are a few things that you can get started with in order to assist yourself to naturally maintain a healthy immune system and prevent the flu from overtaking you!
Please contact me for further information on the natural modalities that I offer and how I can help you discover your wellness from within.