Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


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9 Quotes From Buddha That Might Resonate With Your Soul

March 19, 2016 by Joe Martino

The teachings of many of history’s religious and philosophical figures are timeless, but are often mistakenly taken at face value. It’s easy to slap a quote on an image or a t-shirt and pass it around, but it takes deliberate thought to actually internalize the true meaning behind the words, and often these quick philosophical ‘bytes’ are passed over too quickly for this to happen.

It’s easy for us in this day and age to be “spiritual” by identity and pass it off well without ever truly living spiritually — without  recognizing and benefitting from what we can learn from having a spiritual relationship with ourselves and this world. Because of that, it’s common to come across a great deal of logical spiritualists and fake ‘new-agey’ type personalities that don’t truly live the core of what these great teachers have shared.

So I wanted to share my own perspective on the true meaning behind some of these quotes.

“Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.”
To be in good health allows us to experience this world to its fullest, the way the body, mind, and soul were meant to experience it. It’s common to view wealth in a monetary sense, but having a state of peace within oneself is a much more powerful and useful tool than simple material wealth. Trusting in oneself and one’s path is an important part of our relationship with the self.

“Every human being is the author of his own health or disease.”
We create our own outcomes with many things. There are many interesting strands of research these days showing us how certain long-term emotions and traumas can have a huge impact on disease. Obviously this may not apply to the health of a newborn, but this wisdom is intended, it seems to me, to remind us to look at our long-term thoughts and actions in our lives and consider how they may be affecting our physical well-being.

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”
The moment is all we have. We can learn from our past and project goals onto our “future moment,” but to spend all our time in either is to miss out on what’s happening in front of us. This refers to the times we walk through the park thinking about what’s coming next or what happened before, without seeing or really experiencing the amazing beauty and nature around us in that moment.

“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”
You can try to help someone else and you can wait forever for someone to come save you, but until a person decides to make a change themselves and commits to it, there’s little that can be done. Change must be desired before it can be effected. Throw both feet in and go for it. Otherwise you’re always going to spin your tires.

No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.

“In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.”
Everyone has their own perception of a situation or what might have been said. This does not mean that perception is universally true; rather, it is simply true for them in their current state. Don’t take other people’s perceptions of certain situations as ultimate truth, and in the same way, don’t take to heart what they think or believe about you. With yourself, understand that you too have your own perceptions, and allow yourself to be open to what others think and feel just as you would hope others would do for you.

“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.”
Like many things which continue to reveal themselves in our world, the truth cannot be hidden forever. It will eventually come out. This is one of the most exciting parts about what I do here with CE. 🙂

“It is easy to see the faults of others, but difficult to see one’s own faults. One shows the faults of others like chaff winnowed in the wind, but one conceals one’s own faults as a cunning gambler conceals his dice.”
Be humble and be open to seeing your own “faults” in the same way you are open to seeing them in others. It takes true strength, honesty, and love to be open to your own flaws and to tackle the challenge of moving beyond them.

“To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”
Our health is so crucial to living well, and contributes to everything we do in this experience we call life. It’s interesting to view the sheer disconnect in our society between our emotions, spirituality, and overall health. The more disconnected we are, the more unhealthy we are. The greater connection we gain to ourselves and our health, the more in balance all other areas of our lives become.

“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.”
What you think has a big impact on your overall state of being. This has been proven time and time again and I believe is becoming a pretty mainstream idea these days.

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5 Reasons To Eat A Handful Of Walnuts A Day

By Diana Kelly And Sarah Klein      January 6, 2016

Serious snackers know there’s nothing like a good nut, and science agrees: Adding walnuts to your diet—even just a handful—has a whole host of benefits.

They can lower your cholesterol.
About a handful of walnuts, or 2 ounces, was linked to lowering total cholesterol numbers and LDL or “bad” cholesterol as well as improved blood vessel cell wall function in a recent study of 112 people between the ages of 25 and 75. The people randomized in the study to enjoy that daily snack saw improvements to their overall diets, compared with those randomized to go without walnuts. Added bonus: When they also were given a little dietary counseling, their waistlines shrank. Walnuts are loaded with monounsaturated fats, including known heart protectors omega-3 fatty acids.

They can improve your memory.
A 2012 Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease report found that eating walnuts as part of a Mediterranean diet was associated with better memory and brain function. The antioxidants in walnuts may help counteract age-related cognitive decline and even reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s.

They can reduce inflammation.
You’ve likely heard of the inflammation-fighting powers of those all-mighty omega-3s. And while the most powerful of them all—docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)—come from fish, the plant variety, alpha-linolenic acid or ALA, shouldn’t be totally written off. Walnuts are one of the richest sources of ALA, which may not carry all the health effects of its fishy compatriots but does still seem to fight inflammation. Experts think a diet higher in omega-3s may simply mean we’re not eating as many inflammation-provoking omega-6 fatty acids.

walnuts

They tackle PMS symptoms.
Just an ounce of walnuts—that’s about 14 halves, if you want to get ultra specific—contains nearly 50% of your daily recommended intake of a mineral called manganese and about 11% of your allotment for the day of magnesium. Both have been examined in preliminary research that suggests they can help temper some of your worst PMS symptoms, including mood swings, insomnia, stomach discomfort, and low back pain.

Earlier research suggests this mineral magic might be due to the way levels of both naturally fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle.

They can lower blood pressure.
In studies of how people respond to stressful situations—like plunging your foot into an ice bath or delivering a speech in front of your peers—those who eat walnuts seem to have lower blood pressure, both in response to that stress and when not under stress. Since walnut oil, as well as flax oil, produced similar results, researchers believe the perks may be due to that same ALA that reduces inflammation, this time exerting its do-good properties on BP.

The best news: Getting an additional ounce of walnuts a day happens to be crazy easy. Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, RD, author of The SuperFoodsRx Diet, likes to add chopped walnuts to her oatmeal, sprinkle them on salads, add them to a bread-crumb crust for fish or chicken, and throw walnut halves in the blender with her smoothies after soaking them in water.

More of a baked goods lover (and really, who isn’t)? Enjoying walnuts in baked items like banana bread still has health benefits and could help with critical thinking, according to research in the British Journal of Nutrition.  The study found that eating half a cup of walnuts per day (ground up in banana bread!) for 8 weeks led to an 11.2% increase in inferential reasoning skills (the ability to deduce info based on prior experiences) among college students.

To keep shelled nuts from going rancid, store them in the fridge for up to a month or in the freezer for up to a year.


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The Natural Dietary Add-On Found To Treat Anxiety and Even Major Depression

Anxiety reduced 20% on average by a common supplement.

Omega-3 supplements reduce anxiety and even lower inflammation in healthy people.

A high quality study has shown that the supplement reduces anxiety by an average of 20%.

On top of this a new review of 13 separate studies containing 1,233 people has shown that omega-3 supplements can reduce symptoms of major depression (Mocking et al., 2016).

Professor Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, the anxiety study’s first author, said:

“We hypothesized that giving some students omega-3 supplements would decrease their production of proinflammatory cytokines, compared to other students who only received a placebo.
We thought the omega-3 would reduce the stress-induced increase in cytokines that normally arose from nervousness over the tests.”

The study recruited 68 healthy young medical students who were divided into groups, with half taking the supplement and others receiving a placebo.

Professor Martha Belury, one of the study’s authors, explained:

“The supplement was probably about four or five times the amount of fish oil you’d get from a daily serving of salmon, for example.”

The researchers had planned to test the effects of omega-3 on stressed people.

But, because of changes to the curriculum, the medical students were relatively relaxed during the study.

omega 3

Professor Janice Kiecolt-Glaser explained:

“These students were not anxious.
They weren’t really stressed.
They were actually sleeping well throughout this period, so we didn’t get the stress effect we had expected.”

Despite this, those taking the supplements saw 20% reductions in anxiety, on average.

Professor Ron Glaser, another of the study’s authors, explained the measures and results:

“We took measurements of the cytokines in the blood serum, as well as measured the productivity of cells that produced two important cytokines, interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFa).
We saw a 14 percent reduction in the amounts of IL-6 among the students receiving the omega-3.
…anything we can do to reduce cytokines is a big plus in dealing with the overall health of people at risk for many diseases.”

Professor Belury concluded:

“It may be too early to recommend a broad use of omega-3 supplements throughout the public, especially considering the cost and the limited supplies of fish needed to supply the oil.
People should just consider increasing their omega-3 through their diet.”

The study was published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity (Kiecolt-Glaser et al., 2011).

source: PsyBlog


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How To Make Friends With Your Inner Critic

Today it’s my pleasure to introduce you to licensed counselor and intuition coach John Harrison. John has written a fantastic guest post about the benefits of negative self talk. Yes, that’s right! John shows us how to make friends with our inner critic and let it guide us back to authenticity.

by John Harrison, LPCC      Sharon Martin, LCSW

We all experience positive and negative self talk.

We’ve been alive long enough to have experienced viewpoints of ourselves that are negative, self deflating, and undermining and those that tell us we are limitless creators, lovers of life, and the masters of our own destiny.   One set of beliefs tells us we “aren’t”.  The other tells us we “are”.  How do we know which is the affirming view of our own reality?  Who are we, really?

Most of my clients come to see me looking for guidance to help them “get on the right track”.   One person in particular has a stretch of weeks where her life is really coming together for her.  She’s engaged, excited, and feeling she’s turned that corner.  Then, to her disappointment, she’ll have one of her negative interactions with her family.  They’ll tell her she’s being selfish.  They’ll suggest she’s wasting her time with her career and that “if she’d just change” she’d be able to find someone that would want to date her.

After these run-ins with her family she’ll come to my office completely devastated.   The self doubt creeps in.  “What if they’re right?  Am I being selfish?  Can I ever be happy with my decisions?”  She really feels that each time she has a setback she is starting over from scratch.  I know that it feels that way to her.  But she’s doing just fine.

Your inner critic doesn’t define you.

Although we all contain negative self talk, we are actually much more than this “self chatter”.  Sure, we carry the doubts and fears of our parents, our families, the experiences of failure from growing up.   We hear those “voices of the past” as we move into adulthood and even now in our current life experiences.   But this isn’t actually who we really are.  There’s a part of us that knows the “right way”.  A part of us that knows joy and peace.  So how do we tap into this?  How do we tune out the negative self talk and ignore those crippling, shameful voices that tell us we aren’t enough?

self

You don’t turn them off.  You can’t completely stop that negative self talk.  But you can actually use those awful feelings you get when your negative self talk is at its worst to give you guidance.   You can learn from your negative beliefs, self talk, and feelings.  The negative feelings caused by negative self talk are the first indication that you aren’t in alignment with your true self.   Why?  Because you are worthy just by being alive.  You deserve to feel good.  You deserve to be confident, healthy, and thriving.

Self affirming thoughts and beliefs feel good.  They feel right.  And if you want to feel good, this is all you need to pay attention to in knowing you are “on the right path”.

You don’t need permission to feel good.

You are supposed to feel good.  You are supposed to be happy and get what you want.   Feeling good, alive, and engaged in life is what life is all about.  Sure we’ve all been taught in one form or another that we get love and acceptance as long as we “play by the rules”.  But I’m going to tell you this:  You are deserving of what you want because you are.  Period.  You don’t need permission to feel good.  You don’t need to be ashamed to feel happy and get what you want.

Your negative self talk can guide you back to yourself.

You have an internal GPS.  A guidance system that tells you when you are “off” and when you are “on” and where you want to be.   If you use those negative beliefs of yourself, or that negative self talk, to signal you that you aren’t where you want to be, the negative voices and stories in your mind can be a powerful ally.  Stop trying to look for proof that your self defeating beliefs aren’t your reality.  Stop trying to prove yourself and look for external affirmation.  Give yourself permission to accept that you can demand and get what you want because you say so.  And I’m assuming that you want more good in your life.  You want to be happy, content, and be in love with your life.

And here you are.  Living your life while going through the ups and downs.   But you’ve made it this far.  You know that for every self defeating belief, there is still a part of you who continues to seek something better.  There’s a “you” that’s constant through all of this.   The you that knows the contrast of life.  The pain, the shame, and the love and excitement of being happy and alive.  All of it.   The truth is you want to be happy, engaged, and in love with life.  But as life does, it gives us the negative experiences that bring those voices of doubt to the forefront of our conscious minds.  But “you”, the real “you” continues to tell you through negativity that you aren’t living your truth.   This is your intuition.  Your internal GPS.  It loves you.  It doesn’t lie.  All you have to do is listen to it.

John Harrison is a licensed counselor and intuition coach who works with individuals and couples helping them get “unstuck”. He shows them how to empower their lives, helping them see they are their own greatest asset. John counsels individuals and couples in Cincinnati, Ohio and coaches people from all over the country showing them how to use their “higher self” to get the lives they want. You can find out more about John and his services at johnharrisoncounseling.com.


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4 Reasons Why You Should Be Buying Organic

March 22, 2016    by nutriciously 

It seems like the new health-craze these days is called “organic food”. You can buy everything, from produce to breads, soda, and chocolate, in health food stores, all carrying the label “organic”.

But does this automatically mean it’s a healthy food? Far from it. Just like other labels, namely “gluten free” or “sugar free”, organic food is just a slightly different version of the same food we’ve been eating for a long time.

The organic market is growing fast and makes up 4% of the overall food market by now. Even the big conventional chains are now offering almost every type of food as an organic version too because the organic sales have almost quadrupled over the last 10 years! Clearly, people are more conscious about their food choices and asking for healthy alternatives.

But what is the definition of organic food? Besides the fact that it’s been produced sustainably, it also wasn’t treated with any artificial pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation.

Avoiding all of these will already improve your health quite a bit since you only feed your body what’s supposed to be nourishing. But when you give yourself permission to consume any food as long as it’s organic – you might just be fooling yourself.

Choose your food wisely
Organic chocolate is still made with heaps of sugar and fat, organic chips are still fried, organic red meat is still a carcinogen, and organic soda is basically just sugary bubbly water. Although you will be getting less chemical contamination, your body still wants to eat natural and healthful food.

So when deciding which foods you should buy, go for a healthy basis first. Is it nourishing? Is it full of antioxidants? Does it provide you with clean fuel? Will it have any harmful effects?

Not only can this save you a lot of health issues – it will also be beneficial to your wallet because simple whole foods are the cheapest on the market.

That being said, of course you should try to buy your food from an organic brand as often as possible. A 2014 study conducted in Melbourne found that eating organic for only one week reduces urine pesticide levels by almost 90 %. So this makes a huge difference!

fruit vegetables

Here are the top 4 reasons you should buy organic:

Nutritional Value
Some studies have shown that organic foods contain 19 – 69 % higher amounts of antioxidants than their conventional counterparts. This makes perfect sense since they haven’t been treated with or protected by any pesticides or herbicides and, therefore, need to be much more resilient. This is the exact feature that helps our bodies become more resilient as well and fight off disease!

Taste
This is of course a subjective matter, but it goes to show that more and more gourmet chefs start to choose organic because of the superior taste and quality. And many customers agree! One of the top reasons for buying organic is the perceived better taste. This is especially true for produce that was derived from local farms close to where it’s sold – so it had the chance to ripen properly and unfold its full flavor.

Chemical exposure
When you minimize the intake of disease-causing pesticides, you can do your health a great favor. The chemicals we’re exposed to when consuming conventional food are linked to headaches, nausea, even cancer and nerve damage! Even though we might not be able to avoid all toxins that surround us, we can at least look out for those that are obvious and easy to get rid of. What’s more, many conventional foods are GMOs, which have been shown to lead to problems when tested on animals. Better not take the risk

Sustainability
Organic farming aims to reduce pollution, conserve water, reduce soil erosion, increase soil fertility, and use less energy. This means it’s far better for the environment and can produce healthier food for a longer time without depleting the soil. Since no artificial pesticides are being used, this technique is also better for all animals as well as humans living nearby or even working on the farms.

So what should you do with this information now? Go all out and spend a lot of money at a health food store?

Even if you’re on a tight budget, you can improve your diet and decrease your chemical exposure by opting for organic foods when it comes to apples, potatoes, spinach, or tomatoes. Other produce isn’t as contaminated, like avocado, cauliflower, mangoes, or onions.


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Top 10 Foods for a Better Mood

Eat these “brain-healthy” foods to keep a positive mood and healthy mind.

Sep 15, 2015   Marlynn Wei, MD, PLLC

When was the last time your therapist or doctor asked you what you’re eating?

Food is important, not just for our physical health but also for our mind. It can be an excellent source of vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants. Growing research supports the theory that what we eat everyday can improve our mood and help with treating depression and anxiety. Nutritional psychiatry (or “food psychiatry”) is a new but growing field that is becoming mainstream.

Our Westernized, so-called “cafeteria” diet is calorie-loaded, nutrient-poor, and highly processed, resulting in extra calories without real nutrition. Animal studies have found that this type of food leads to higher anxiety and depression. Foods high in sugar, fat, and sodium are very addictive and especially comforting. In fact, evolution has probably set us up this way. Researchers have even found that high-fat, high-sugar foods or “comfort foods” temporarily make you happier but create a cycle of self-medication.

In contrast, a Mediterranean diet high in fish, olive oil, nuts, and whole grains has been linked to lower rates of depression. One study found that people who followed a Mediterranean diet for four years reduced their risk of depression by 40 to 60 percent. Another study  found that a diet rich in berries and green leafy vegetables, called the MIND diet (Mediterranean—Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay), a hybrid of a Mediterranean diet and a diet for people with high blood pressure, was linked to lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease.

Here are the top 10 “brain-healthy” foods to help you promote a positive mood:

1. Leafy greens and broccoli. Leafy greens like kale and bok choy contain folate, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin K. Folate has been used as a supplement to improve depression. Leafy greens also contain compounds that help the liver process toxins better.

If you’d rather drink your leafy greens, try my partner Doug’s Green Power Smoothie recipe. For 2 servings, blend together until smooth and uniform: 2 cups of Tuscan kale, 1 cup baby spinach, 2 small frozen bananas, 0.5 cup blueberries, 2 cups of soy/almond/hemp milk, 0.5 teaspoon honey, 1.5 tablespoons chunky almond butter.

2. Mussels and oysters. Oysters and shellfish contain plenty of Vitamin B12, which is important for neurotransmitters in the brain and nerves. If you are vegan or vegetarian, you may be low in vitamin B12 because it is found primarily in meat, dairy, and eggs. It’s important to find alternative sources of vitamin B12.

salmon

3. Fish and Fish Oil. Studies have found that high fish consumption reduces depression. This may in part be due to the fact that fish is often a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, an effective supplement to treatment for depression (link is external). If you’re using omega-3 fatty acid supplements, most studies recommend 1 to 3 grams daily for mood, and there should be more eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) than docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) listed on the label.

In order to avoid mercury exposure found in fish, pregnant women should be careful regarding how much and what types of fish they eat. The FDA recommends that pregnant women avoid: 1. tilefish, 2. shark, 3. swordfish, and 4. king mackerel. Pregnant women can, however, eat up to 12 ounces of other types of fish per week.

4. Walnuts, Almonds, and Hazelnuts. Nuts are a good source of Vitamin E. You can have them raw or unsalted. One study found that a Mediterranean diet supplemented with 30 grams of mixed nuts, such as walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts daily significantly reduced depression (link is external).

5. Berries. Blueberries in particular have been found to protect the brain. In one study, eating two servings of blueberries a week was linked to a reduction in the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 35 percent.

6. Lentils, chickpeas, beans. Legumes contain high levels of folate and zinc, both of which have been used as effective supplements for depression (link is external). Getting enough zinc is particularly important for vegetarians and vegans since the absorption of zinc can be reduced by 50 percent from phytates, which are found in plants. Beans are a good source of protein and keep your blood sugar levels stable, but beans like black eyed peas also contain high levels of folate.

7. Dark Chocolate and raw cacao nibs or powder. Dark chocolate and cacao (unroasted cacao beans) contain cocoa polyphenols,  a type of antioxidant found in plants that was found to improve calmness and contentedness in a study  where people received a dark chocolate drink mix. Raw cacao powder and nibs do not contain added sugar and can be used in smoothies. Cacao and cocoa powder can contain toxic heavy metals, depending on the brand. These won’t be listed on the label, so check out independent lab testing such as Consumer Labs before buying.

My personal favorite dessert substitute is this raw cacao smoothie made by blending one frozen banana, 2 tablespoons of raw cacao, 3 cups of water (or almond milk, soymilk, or hemp milk), 1 teaspoon of Dulse  flakes, and 6 to 8 dried dates (optional). You can also add in a half cup of blueberries or kale or spinach.

8. Pumpkin seeds. A quarter cup contains almost half the daily recommended dose for magnesium, an essential mineral to protect you from depression and anxiety. Pumpkin seeds also contain zinc, plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, and tryptophan, which helps promotes sleep.

9. Fermented Foods and Probiotics. Researchers are shedding light on the important link between the bacteria in the gut (your so-called “second brain”) and your mood. Fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut contain probiotics and can reduce social anxiety. Fermented foods and probiotics can also help with depression and anxiety. Mice who were on probiotics behaved as if they had taken Prozac. Probiotic powder supplements have also been shown to reduce negative thoughts during sad moods.

10. Turmeric. The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, an anti-inflammatory compound found to improve the effectiveness of antidepressants in reducing depression. You can drink it in a tea or add it to your everyday dishes like chili or pasta sauce.

Try eating more of these foods to promote a better mood.


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11 Tips To Feel Calm and Focused: A Psychiatrist Explains

by Dr. Joseph Annibali      January 6, 2016

In this excerpt from Dr. Joseph Annibali, M.D.’s new book, Reclaim Your Brain: How to Calm Your Thoughts, Heal Your Mind, and Bring Your Life Under Control, the leading psychiatrist explains why getting negativity under control is crucial to a calm, mindful brain — and how to do it.

When I first began to explore the “busy-brain” phenomenon — or when a chaotic brain interferes with our attention, focus, and mood — I quickly recognized a pattern in those who have it. Many of these individuals also struggled with excess negativity. It was as if not only were their brains caught in a loop but that loop was almost uniformly negative.

The reality is that the brain is hardwired for negativity.

Why would our brains make us so negative? The reality is that the brain is hardwired for negativity. Studies of brain development and observations about early traumas support this.

But negativity is not unalterable. First, it’s important to recognize that we all have an inner critic or judge inside our heads. Second, it’s important to understand that the critical stranger actually is an invader. Because the negativity isn’t you; it’s your brain activity.

Let me reemphasize that: You are not just your brain; you are not just your thoughts. Why do I make this claim? Well, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The brain is a key part of who we are, yes. But we find that the real us is beyond our thoughts.

This is why Buddhist and other meditative traditions claim that we find ourselves only beyond our thoughts, apart from our thoughts, in a state of mental peace, often in meditation or silence. Our heart beats, but we are not our heartbeat. Our brain thinks, but we are not our thoughts.

That’s why you can learn to separate yourself from the rampant negativity in your brain. And in separating yourself from your poisonous negativity, you can calm your busy brain.

Here are some of the strategies I recommend:

1. Detach yourself from the negative thoughts.

Remember, “You are not just your brain; you are not your thoughts.” Thoughts arise automatically, just like the heart beats automatically and we breathe automatically. We don’t control our thoughts. And yet they can control us if we let them.

If we remind ourselves that our brain makes our negative thoughts, that we are not our brain, we gain much-needed distance from our negative thoughts. They happen; that’s it. Don’t fight them.

But we can think about our thinking. We can put things into perspective: Our thoughts are not facts. With practice and experience, we can learn to more automatically gain distance from our negative thoughts. Try observing the flow of negativity in your mind, the way you might sit on the bank of a stream and watch the water flow by. You might even view your negativity as a scientist would: “Oh, how interesting that there are self-critical thoughts occurring now.”

Another way to create distance and detachment is what I call the “Ronald Reagan Approach.” In his presidential election debates with Walter Mondale, Mr. Reagan repeatedly and quite effectively said to Mr. Mondale, “There you go again.” Tell yourself, “There’s my brain being negative again.”

focus

2. Distract yourself.

Pour yourself into something productive and positive, or at least seek out a change of gears.

When we’re preoccupied with something we enjoy (a crossword puzzle, a good book, a game of catch) or even just find something to absorb us (take a coffee break or talk to a colleague), it gives our system a chance to calm down and our thoughts a chance to refocus from negative to more neutral, if not positive.

3. Remember your values.

Remind yourself what your values are. If you are ruminating over negative thoughts and decisions, refocusing on your core values will help reduce the negativity.

4. Practice gratitude.

Embrace an attitude of gratitude. Write down three things for which you are grateful. Studies show that simply writing down what you are grateful for can really change the brain and improve mood, moving you away from negativity.

5. Shun the “shoulds.”

Get out of what I call the “Cold Shower of Shoulds.” Among the torment of negative thinking that afflicts us often is a constant flood of “shoulds”: I should do this … I should do that …

This Cold Shower of Shoulds is nothing but destructive. Once we become more aware of our tendency to stay too long in this destructive shower, we have a better chance of stepping out of this negative shower stall.

6. Mentally twist the dial.

Imagine that there’s a dial on the side of your head that you could use to turn down the negative thoughts. Actually envision yourself turning down the negativity by twisting the dial.

7. Have a laugh.

Can you find the humor in what the negative critic is saying to you? Laughter can be the best medicine. Make fun of the negative thoughts. Laugh at them and yourself for believing them … but make sure that you do so gently.


8. Power up your problem solving.

If the negative thoughts relate to a clear problem (e.g., a serious health issue), make a list of the steps you can take to deal with the situation. Break down the potential solution into small, achievable steps you can take to improve things.

9. Find the positive.

Try to find the positive in what seems to be a negative situation. Turning around a negative thought often shows us another side of the situation. A problem or crisis can even be an opportunity. Search for it.

10. Breathe.

Take slow, deep breaths. This relaxes the body and the brain and reduces brain overactivity.

11. Move your body.

Do something physical; exercise. Don’t stay stuck and immobile, literally and metaphorically.

Reprinted from Reclaim Your Brain – Avery Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company    Joseph A. Annibali, M.D.