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Choice Theory: 7 Relationship Habits

Written on July 26, 2011     by Laura in Choice Theory and Reality Therapy

“Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

As long as we insist on controlling people around us, we will create completely unnecessary suffering in our lives.  Dr. William Glasser, creator of choice theory and reality therapy, explains that people are in control of almost all of their behaviors.  We are all driven by our genes to satisfy our “basic needs”: survival, love & belonging, power, freedom, and fun.  While we all vary in the degree to which these needs are important, what we all have in common is the need for satisfying and healthy relationships with others.

From a choice theory perspective, virtually all of our behaviors are chosen.  Consider the common example of the phone ringing when you are sitting or working at home.  If you answer the phone, what would you say was your reason for answering it?  This perspective tells us that the reason that we answer is phone is not “because it was ringing” – it is because we chose to answer it.  There was an option to not choose to answer the phone.

While this example is silly and small, it exemplifies a much larger truth embedded within choice theory… the idea that we are in control of choosing all behaviors.  This is Glasser’s concept of “total behavior.”  Many of his ideas are controversial because he also believes that people choose the symptoms that cause misery and suffering, such as depression or anxiety.  The basic concept is that people will choose the “best” behaviors that they can come up with at the time.  Sometimes, choosing “to depress” is a better option that facing the world when feeling miserable inside.  Either way, Glasser sees all behaviors as choices.

Choice theory provides us with “Seven Caring Habits” and “Seven Deadly Habits” that affect our important relationships with others.  As you might guess, underlying these habits is the extent to which you are attempting to control others with your behaviors.  We are happiest in relationships where we are able to satisfy our basic needs, feel supported and loved, and feel that the other person is not trying to control us.

Seven Caring Habits

(1) Supporting

People thrive in relationships where they feel supported for their true selves and in the pursuit of their dreams, goals, and aspirations.  Support means being there physically, mentally, and emotionally for the other person as well as taking on a greater share of responsibilities when they are suffering or in need.

(2) Encouraging

We all benefit from encouragement in our close relationships.  This can take the form of reminding your partner of their strengths, past successes, or positive qualities.  Remember that encouragement is most effective when it is authentic (i.e., not based in exaggerations).

(3) Listening

To provide your partner with your total presence through fully hearing them and receiving their messages is extremely valuable.  Practicing mindfulness can allow you to become more present with your partner and actively engaged in listening.

(4) Accepting

When we feel completely accepted by another person, it provides an invaluable sense of validation.  This is often a cornerstone of many therapeutic approaches as well (e.g., unconditional positive regard).  When we offer the gift of acceptance to our partners, we are telling them that we “see” them for who they are and choose to accept them completely.  This does not mean accepting behaviors that we not do approve of, but rather accepting the individual as loved and worthy of that love.

(5) Trusting

Trust goes both ways in relationships, and part of building a strong and healthy relationship involves opening yourself up to fully trusting your partner.  It also involves modifying and shaping your own behaviors so that you are a trustworthy partner.

(6) Respecting

Healthy relationships need to be built on a foundation of mutual respect.  This means treating loved ones with dignity, affirming their worth, and respecting their boundaries and limitations.

(7) Negotiating Differences

Relationships must have compromise.  Relationships where neither partner has to make “any” compromises are few and far between.  Mature relationships mean that both partners cannot have all of their needs met all of the time.  Think about that.  You must be willing to openly discuss what you are and aren’t willing to compromise for the sake of the relationship.  Through compromise, you are able to build stability, trust, and strength in your relationship.

7 Relationship Habits

Seven Deadly Habits

(1) Criticizing

When we criticize someone else, we are telling them that we are somehow superior to them or that they are unworthy in some way.  Criticism comes from a place of wanting to control another person through the hope that making them feel insecure or bad about themselves will result in them “changing” for the better.  This doesn’t work.  Criticism only makes your partner want to get away from the source of such pain and unloving behavior – i.e., the person doing the criticizing.

(2) Blaming

This involves placing the responsibility for some sort of outcome on another person, often in a sanctimonious or self-righteous manner.  Of course, there are plenty of instances where our partner genuinely is to blame for something unpleasant.  However, the way that we choose to go about expressing our displeasure is what is important.  There is a way to let your partner know that they need to accept responsibility for their behavior without “blaming.”  It is through honest and loving communication.

(3) Complaining

No one “likes” complaining… except the person doing it.  When we choose to complain about something we are also saying that we refuse to take responsibility for it.  Complaining often results in the other person feeling as if they should somehow “fix” the problem or else just get away from the complaining.  Whatever the outcome, it puts distance between us and those we love.

(4) Nagging

This is absolutely central to the concept of external control.  When we nag someone, it is because we are trying to get them to change a behavior through negative reinforcement (i.e., when they change the behavior, you stop the nagging).  People don’t like to be coerced into doing things they don’t want to do.  If you really want your partner to change a behavior, they must choose to do so on their own.  If it is important enough for discussion, an open and loving discussion about compromise can be helpful.

(5) Threatening

When we wield threatening power over someone, we are hoping that they will essentially be “scared” into complying with our demands.  This is what tyrants do… and people who want to be assured that they will drive their partners away from them.  This doesn’t work!  When we threaten others (directly or passively), we become a source of fear and control, when we want to be a source of love and support.

(6) Punishing

From an operant conditioning perspective, the concept of punishment means that a negative condition or stimulus is introduced as the consequence of behavior that you would like to weaken.  An example would be yelling at your partner each time he or she did something that you didn’t like.  While this can result in the behavior diminishing, it also wreaks havoc on your relationship.  Similar to these other examples, with punishment you become a source of fear, control, and general unpleasantness.

(7) Bribing / Rewarding to Control

Sometimes we “reward” people when they do things that we want them to do.  This seems much nicer than threatening or punishing them, but it is still a form of wielding external control over your partner.  You are still attempting to control their behavior, even if it seems loving or altruistic.  It is always best to allow your partner to come to their own conclusions about what behaviors they wish to change.  This can certainly result from an open discussion about compromise, but the final decision to change behaviors needs to come from within the individual to avoid building resentment.

Do you feel as though your past or current relationship(s) are based on choice theory or external control?  Do you find that you have better outcomes when you stop trying to control people you love?  It can be frightening for many people to give up their attempts to control others.  This often comes from childhood backgrounds where they didn’t feel in control of what was going on around them.

Be compassionate towards yourself if this is the case.  It can take time to become comfortable with letting go of control.  The potential result of a relationship built upon a foundation of choice theory is a long-lasting, stable, and harmonious union of two people who are secure in the knowledge that they can truly be themselves and are free to reach for their dreams.  Since all behaviors are choices, what is one “deadly habit” that you are willing to commit to letting go of in your relationship?

William Glasser Institute. 2010. Retrieved from http://www.wglasser.com/


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8 Best Spices to Help You Lose Weight

Life in the 21st century has become sedentary for many people. Modern entertainment, fast food, lack of time, etc. contributes to only about 4 out of every 10 people exercising on a regular basis. As a result, many people find it very hard to lose weight and keep it off.

There is some good news though; recent studies have shown that spicy foods can curb appetite and speed up metabolism and thus have a fat burning ability. “How?” you might ask. Hot spices, especially chiles, may inhibit overeating because they contribute to satiety, the feeling of fullness after eating. Not to mention it may be more difficult to overindulge in a hot, spicy food due to the fact that you may become uncomfortable before you can overeat.

In addition to making people feel full faster, chili powder and many other spices have a thermogenic effect. This results in the body heating itself from within, which revs up the metabolism. The term metabolism describes the sum of all chemical processes that take place in the body. It manages the movement of nutrients in the blood after digestion which results in growth, energy and other body functions. Certain spices cause our bodies to burn extra calories by boosting the metabolic rate and thus stimulating weight loss. Some studies have found that adding thermogenic spices at a meal can increase the number of calories burned by 25% for up to an hour after the meal. Hey every little bit helps! The following spices have been shown to have this effect to some degree:

Black Pepper– Black pepper has been shown to raise the body temperature and increase metabolism. “Found in dried black pepper, piperine may prevent new fat cells from forming,” Web MD. It also has been shown to aid in digestion because when it is eaten, a signal is sent to your stomach to produce hydrochloric acid. This acid is necessary for the digestion of protein and other foods in the stomach. When not enough hydrochloric acid is produced by the stomach, the results can range from gas and indigestion to diarrhea. Black Pepper also has been found to have antioxidant and antibacterial properties.

Chili Powder– Chili powder contains capsaicin, which is a powerful stimulant that raises the body temperature and fat burning ability by up to 25% and has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels and improve circulation. “Research shows that people who don’t typically eat spicy foods are most likely to benefit from turning the heat up a notch. Capsaicin seems to affect metabolism by raising body temperature, which uses up more energy,” Web MD.

spicerack

Cayenne Pepper and Tabasco Sauce– According to Scientists at the Laval University in Quebec, participants who took cayenne pepper for breakfast were found to have less appetite, leading to less caloric intake throughout the day. Cayenne is also a great metabolic-booster, aiding the body in burning excess amounts of fats because metabolic rate and fat burning ability is increased by up to 25%.

Cumin– According to a study at the University of Chicago, cumin increases metabolism, especially when used in curry spice blends. It is also high in Iron which directly affects the level of energy you have, in turn helping you exercise more or less. Many people do not get enough Iron in their daily diet which can cause fatigue and/ or Iron deficiency.

Mustard– In a British study, adding ordinary mustard to a meal caused the average metabolic rate of participants to increase by 25% and the effects lasted up to 3 hours. Mustard is high in fat, and while fat provides more calories than carbohydrates and protein, it can aid in dieting, as it induces feelings of fullness. Mustard is also high in dietary fiber which helps in digestion and helps you feel fuller for longer periods of time.

Turmeric– Turmeric helps with weight loss because it increases the activity of your metabolism for short bursts of time after you ingest it. According to LIVESTRONG, it also helps prevent weight gain after the initial weight has been lost (which is just as important). Turmeric prevents the re-growth of fat after weight loss by inhibiting the expansion and growth of fat tissue through the formation of new blood vessels.

Ginger– Has been shown to increase metabolic rate and decrease appetite. It also helps with digestion and regulating your body’s internal rhythm. Ginger is also used to inhibit nausea sometimes caused by car sickness. Not only is ginger an excellent flavor for tea, but we love putting it in our healthy smoothies!

Cinnamon– Researchers have found that using just ¼ to 1 teaspoon of cinnamon can increase your metabolism and improve your body’s ability to handle sugar by stimulating insulin activity. It is also a digestive aid which helps keep everything in your digestive system flowing smoothly. Cinnamon also helps increase energy levels and concentration which have positive effects when it comes to weight loss.

No one can promise weight loss. Consuming these spices is not a magic weight lose bullet. The best way to lose weight is talk to your doctor to make sure that you’re healthy enough to exercise. Once you do start exercising you have to burn more calories than you consume. But it can’t hurt to rev up your metabolism by adding some of these spices for a little extra burn effect (besides they help make your food taste so much better, too).


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10 Ways You Can Increase Dopamine Levels In The Brain Without Medication

January 20, 2016 by Stephan Gardner

“Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Dopamine also helps regulate movement and emotional response, and it enables us not only to see rewards, but to take action to move toward them.” – Psychology Today

There are a lot of articles on the internet about dopamine and how it affects your mood, behavior, energy, and focus. What’s not commonly spoken about, however, is how dopamine is affected by your perception. Discussed more rarely still is the reason why your dopamine levels may be low. Below are 10 ways to increase your dopamine levels, courtesy of Power of Positivity, as well as my own observations regarding the underlying issues which may have led to each situation, and how to tackle them.

1. Don’t Get Addicted

“Many people get addicted to something because it gives them some kind of instant gratification – drugs, alcohol, sex, pornography, shopping, and other addictive behaviors actually have the opposite effect on dopamine levels in the long-term. In essence, when we get overly addicted to something, the ‘reward circuitry’ of our brain kicks into overdrive and we crave the ‘quick hit.’ This is not a sustainable solution for dopamine production, which can and should be done naturally.”

What’s missing here is the fact that addiction is quite often a result of low dopamine, meaning addiction is more of an attempt to fix an already existing problem. In essence, “the underpinning of your addictive personality is a lack of fulfillment from within, with a resulting urge to achieve fulfillment through substances, objects, or events that relieve the inevitable pain – for a while.” (source)

“When we receive a reward of any kind, dopamine is released in our brains. Over time, this stimulus and release of dopamine can lead to learning. Researchers have recently found that how quickly and permanently we learn things relates directly to how much dopamine we have available in our brains. As we get rewarded over and over again for something, we learn that we should keep doing whatever that is very deeply, and it’s hard to unlearn those kinds of behaviours.” (source)

What this means is that low-dopamine is a response to a lifestyle which doesn’t offer much in terms of reward to the person living it. It may be a response to the environment you’re living in, the clothes you’re wearing, the tight budget you’re working within, the relationship choices you’ve made or have been made for you, or a result of trauma where there was no perceived reward. It’s very easy to understand how dopamine levels may appear low when we consider all the potentials leading to less-rewarding lifestyles and life-experiences.

What’s necessary then is less of a ‘don’t get addicted’ approach and more of an ‘increase the rewards in your life’ style of applied advice. Fact is, you’ll constantly feel less fulfilled through low dopamine when you’re not (or are unable to) fill your day with things that inspire and reward you. Meaning, the most effective protection against addiction and greatest advantage to high-dopamine levels is a defense against low-rewarding activities and an offence working towards rewarding actions, activities, and ultimately, a lifestyle of fulfillment and achievement.

Also, because addiction is most often rooted in past traumatic experiences, where emotions create a fight or flight response that becomes rooted in your core emotions, it’s vitally important to seek proper and effective help in dissolving past trauma. Doing so can only help you perceive more rewarding experiences in your life, rather than filtering experiences through a ‘traumatized’ awareness.

2. Checklist Small Tasks

“Dopamine increases when we are organized and finish tasks – regardless if the task is small or large. So, don’t allow your brain to worry about things that need to be done. Instead, write these tasks down and then check them off one at a time. It’s been shown that it’s more satisfying to the brain’s dopamine levels when we physically check something off of our to-do list. Also, write down and check stuff off regardless if you can mentally remember the tasks.”

In reading the book Principles of Self-Management, I came across a brilliantly well-researched understanding of motivation when it comes to tasks. In short, if a task is greater than 25% of a change in a person’s routine, the person will be overwhelmed with feeling incapable of achieving it. This leads them to self-defeat and self-sabotage to avoid accomplishing the task. On the other side, if a task is less than 10% different than a person’s normal routine, they don’t do it because it won’t have enough meaning for them to do so. As such, it’s wise to make sure you write down goals and tasks that are in between this 10% to 25% range of new behaviors and actions, otherwise, you just won’t do it.

However, this 10-25% range is simply a guide for tasks that are not directly linked to our highest values. In reality, if you can link a task to your highest values and see clearly how it will help you accomplish what’s truly most important to you, you’ll do it. If you can’t see how it will help fulfill your highest values, you’ll procrastinate, hesitate, and get frustrated in the attempt to do it. By linking a task to your highest values, you’ll both increase the chances of you doing it and also increase the reward you will feel when you accomplish it, a result of producing more dopamine in the brain.

3. Create Something

“For us writers, painters, sculptors, poets, singers, dancers, and other artists, we can identify with this. When we’re in creative mode, we can become hyper-focused. As a result, we can enter a state called flow. Dopamine is the brain chemical that allows us to achieve this state. The lesson is this: take up a hobby or activity in which you actually create something tangible. Try something like arts, crafts, auto repair, drawing, photography, or something else that sounds interesting.”

Sparking your creative drive is an effective way to increase your potential for feeling great, achieving goals and inspiring yourself through your accomplishments. However, it can also be a distraction from a feel-bad lifestyle, if it’s not maintained with a purpose in mind. Whenever you’re working on a project, creative or not, that truly inspires you, you’ll activate your ‘flow state,’ where time and space seem to stand still. So how to you determine what it is that truly inspires you?

The most important goal in revealing your most authentic creative energy is to remove the creative energies of other people from your life. So many of us look up to the creations of others, whether works of art or music, and their works or talents take up time and space in our own minds. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it can influence your own beliefs about what you can create. If you compare yourself to others and minimize yourself, you’ll repress your own creative ability. This can affect your dopamine levels, because if you can’t see your own creations as rewarding to you, as much as someone else’s, you’ll feel inferior and incapable.

One very effective way of neutralizing the influence other people have on your mind is to literally look at the negatives or downsides of their accomplishment. This isn’t to practice being a critic, but it can enable you to de-infatuate with their creative powers, helping you to stop minimizing your own. Once you recognize that your creative endeavors can exist on the level of those you admire, through practice (just like they did), you’ll increase your ability to see your own creations as meaningful and rewarding.

happy-chemicals-dopamine-serotonin-endorphin-oxytocin

 4. Exercise

“Same ‘ole, same ‘ole, we know. We’ve discussed repeatedly the importance and benefits of physical exercise, and we’re just going to add to this list again. So, not only does exercise help us relieve stress, achieve better physical health and make us more productive; it boosts our dopamine levels. More specifically, exercise increases multiple neurotransmitters – serotonin and endorphins, besides dopamine, receive a boost. Here’s something else cool: the exercise needn’t not be arduous. Simply taking a stroll or climbing some stairs will achieve a good dopamine jolt.”

Exercise is important, but it can also become a crutch or an addiction if it’s not something being integrated into your daily life. Many people go to the gym to work out, yet don’t live a life that requires the body they’re building. Another thing is actually placing a value on exercise itself. Many people buy the gym memberships, yet never use them. So what’s the easiest way to make exercise a part of your life?

There’s a branch of exercise called ‘functional training’ in which exercises are tailored to help you with your daily tasks. This is much more helpful than just ‘workouts,’ because if you can train your body into a state where your daily tasks are not taxing on your energy, you’ll breeze through the day and have more energy at the end of it. Staying in a high energy state instead of being brought down by your daily tasks will help you be more inspired during your day and innately feel more inspired to exercise.

5. Get a Streak Going

“As with creating a checklist, getting a streak going is a great way to increase dopamine levels. For the purpose of this article, a streak is a visual reminder of how many days in a row you’ve achieved something.

Get a calendar specifically for this purpose: write down whatever goal you have and the days of the week or month when they are scheduled. For example, if you work out on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, mark these days on the calendar for the month. As you finish a workout, mark it off on the calendar. Keep a streak going, and you’ll keep the dopamine coming.”

While the ‘streak’ is a useful tool for celebrating accomplishments, it unfortunately has a downside—routine. Doing something enough times becomes a routine, especially if the action isn’t continuously fulfilling to your highest values. To counter this, try adapting the ‘goal’ or ‘action’ in terms of efficiency and effectiveness. By continuously finding ways to improve the performance of the behavior, over time, you can look back at how many times you’ve done it, but also how much better you’ve become at it. This way, your performance becomes a competition with yourself, which increases your potential for feeling rewarded as you master a skill.

6. Increase Tyrosine

“Of the chemicals that make up dopamine, none are more important than tyrosine. In fact, tyrosine is considered the building block of dopamine. Therefore, it is important that you get enough of this protein. There’s a large list of foods that increase Tyrosine, including: Almonds, Avocados, Bananas, Beef, Chicken, Chocolate, Coffee, Eggs, Green Tea, Watermelon, Yogurt.”

Food is a reward, not a chore. This is the difference between living to eat and eating to live. While it’s important to utilize foods to your advantage, it’s just as important to recognize that the brain is its own best pharmacy. Few foods actually make it past the blood-brain barrier and this actually includes Tyrosine.

“Tyrosine is one of the 22 key amino acids that are used for building proteins around the body. In addition to this, however, it also raises the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, namely dopamine and norepinephrine. These are famous for being ‘feel good’ chemicals that can help boost mood and elevate concentration, making tyrosine a popular nootropic. However, tyrosine is completely incapable of passing the BBB. This way, no matter how much of it you were to take, you’d feel almost no effects.” (source)

The truth is, tyrosine must be bonded with another molecule to make it past the blood-brain barrier, so tyrosine in itself isn’t capable of making significant impacts on the brain. However, through natural digestion and regulating healthy bodily function, it can assist the brain in having to work less on fixing an unhealthy system, which in turn can help increase the potential for dopamine and dopamine related good feelings.

7. Listen to Music

“Do you ever wonder why music makes you happy? I mean, we can be in the dumps one moment but once we put on our favorite jam, we’re swaying and shaking away…feeling pretty good about ourselves too! The reason for this is that listening to music increases dopamine levels. In fact, scientists say that listening to music has the same effect as eating our favorite foods or watching our favorite T.V. show. So, when you’re feeling down, throw on some of your favorite tunes and jam out!”

Listening to music can increase dopamine levels temporarily, but what we’re really looking for is a lasting fulfillment feeling so you can make your daily life enjoyable and productive for your goals. Also, popular music these days is often manufactured in such a way as to prey on your brain’s chemical dependency, making much of music a form of substance addiction.

However, music has been a part of human history since as far as we can see, so its influence on our brain is greatly appreciated. In fact, one of the greatest cultural appreciations throughout history has been music. So, listen to music, but just make sure it’s not the only source of dopamine in your life.

 8. Meditate

“As with exercise, we are discovering more and more benefits to meditation. We are again adding to the list. As we discussed, the human brain is susceptible to a variety of addictions. One other addictive habit that we have is overthinking. In fact, some Buddhists have a phrase for this addiction: ‘monkey mind.’

Overthinking is not merely a distracting habit, it’s also a genuine compulsion that leaves us in a perplexing state, while also having a negative effect on our spiritual development. However, scientists are finally catching up to what Buddhists have known for thousands of years: meditation and mindfulness are essential to a healthy mind.”

Meditation can be a highly effective form of dopamine increase if done properly, as it can weed out the mental influences which may be causing your chemistry to be less than desired. With the intent of reaching a state of self-fulfillment, meditation clears out the mental clutter and replaces it with presence and fulfillment for just being alive. This is a state available to every human and can help assist our daily lives by increasing our awareness of what feels good for us and what we don’t resonate with.

9. Take Supplements

“While there are some great ways to increase dopamine levels, sometimes we’re facing a time crunch. Fortunately, there are natural supplements on the market that have been shown to increase dopamine levels. Here are a few:

  • Acetyl-l-tyrosine: Another building block of dopamine. A healthy dose of this makes it easier for the brain to produce dopamine.
  • Curcumin: An active ingredient that’s also common in curry spices and turmeric.
  • Ginkgo Biloba: A tremendously popular wonder supplement that’s also believed to boost dopamine levels and keep it circulating in the brain longer.
  • L-theanine: Increases multiple neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine. Green tea is a terrific source for this.” (source)

While supplements can impact our dopamine response, they should by no means replace your own inner potential for fulfillment. That responsibility lies with you and you alone. However, with respect to inner wisdom, without knowing what feeling amazing actually feels like, it’s difficult to strive for it as a goal. Supplements can help us get there so we can have a reference point for what our potential can be. The trick is to facilitate change in our lives, enough so that the need for supplementation to feel good is lower than the feel goods we actually experience in our life.

10. Toxic Cleansing

“As miraculous as our bodies are, we do accumulate toxins and bacteria that is bad for us. Endotoxins are the kind that can cause our immune systems to get out of whack, and it also constrains the production of dopamine. Here are a couple tips for helping cleanse the gut of endotoxins: eat fermented food, get enough sleep, and resist the urge to indulge in fatty or sugary foods.”

Whenever you’re not fulfilled in your life, you run the risk of over-indulging in sugary and sweet foods in an attempt to temporarily fulfill yourself. However, if you find fulfillment through the challenge and support of your day, you’re more likely to eat for the tasks you’re doing instead of eating just to feel good.

How you eat and how fulfilled you are, are directly correlated. If you’re actively enjoying the challenges of your life, you’re more likely to consume foods that serve your highest interests and health, because you see a reason to eat well. Controlling how you eat is less important than finding fulfillment in what you do.

So the next time you find yourself craving that candy bar, ask yourself if there isn’t something else you could eat that could help you find fulfillment. Also, notice what you are doing at the time you’re craving sugar and ask yourself if it’s really something you need to do, or can you delegate it to someone else so you can get back to things that inspire you. By focusing on what inspires and fulfills you, you’ll find yourself actively seeking to better your health without having to really focus on it.


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5 Simple Sanskrit Words To Live By

by Gabrielle Harris   April 17, 2015

Whatever your practices or beliefs may be, we all need reminders to help you lead a good life. Sanskrit is a language of vibration, meaning the energy is held in the words. By now we’re all familiar with OM, the sound of the universe, and Namaste, meaning the light in me honors the light in you. But there a few more lesser known Sanskrit words that can also help steer us toward our best selves.

We can instill the meaning of these words into our hearts and into our practice by repeating them to ourselves as mantras. Here are five simple Sanskrit words to live your life by:

1. Santosha: Contentment

“When all your desires are distilled
You will cast two votes
To love more and to be happy.” -Hafiz

Santosha is the practice of finding contentment or happiness, regardless of the external circumstances. Our habitual thought patterns often tell us what we don’t have is what we need, in order to bring us joy. However it is not long before we settle into dissatisfaction and begin to quickly search for something else to take its place.

That new watch gets scratched, the new lover has some faults, or the new job isn’t quite what you expected. So we want out of this moment and into the next — always searching and never truly happy or content.

Santosha is a the practice of remembering that what you have now is precious and transitory. Use this word daily to cultivate some gratitude to just who and what you already have.

2. Upeksha: Equanimity

“You are the sky, everything else is the weather.” -Pema Chodron

One definition of equanimity means to stand in the middle. The Buddha taught that we are constantly being pulled in different directions, either toward the things or people we desire, or away from the things or people we are averse to.

These emotions are our weather and the sky is our equanimity. To practice equanimity we must cultivate mindfulness, an awareness of when we are becoming the weather so that we are less jerked around by transitory thoughts. Use this word when you feel yourself being pulled into a riptide of thoughts that are not serving you.

love happiness

3. Sraddha: Faith

We may not always know how our path is unfolding, so at times we might feel uncertain or stuck in life. Often we are unsure of where to go and how to make the right choice. Sometimes we may even sense a lack of purpose and not recognize our true calling. We might feel lost.

Sraddha is the inner, intuitive belief that you are walking steadily towards your life’s goals. It takes us away from our limited perception of reality to a more universal vision. Remember this word when you need to find courage to believe that everything about your journey is unfolding exactly as it should.

4. Bhavana: To cultivate

“Your mind is not a cage, it is a garden. And it requires cultivating.” -Libba Bray

This earthy word reminds us that for any plant to grow well, the health of the soil is most important. So we must look to nourish and nurture the soil (our minds) to provide an environment that will benefit us spiritually, emotionally and mentally.

To cultivate you must pull out the weeds, the most persistent, deeply ingrained ways of being and thinking, and plant the behaviors or ways of being that you want to bring into your life. That’s when you can begin to sow love, kindness, joy, happiness, humility, gratitude and peace.

5. Satya: Truth and honesty

“To believe in something and not live it is dishonest.”-Gandhi

The beauty in this word lies in the effect it can have on our lives. If we live in accordance with our truth, then our life will be freer of suffering. If everything that we think, say, feel and act on is leading us toward our higher path, then this the practice of Satya.

To know what your “truth” is, you will need to sit quietly with yourself and ask in honesty: In what way is my moral compass pointing? What is the purpose for my existence? Then, you try to live in accordance with the answer.

Cut out the lies you may tell yourself and stop listening to what other people say or do or think of you. Stand tall and strong in your belief of how to live a good life. That’s when you’ll notice that gossip and comparison stops. You will also stop seeking answers. If you are truthful about your shortcomings and where you have messed up, it will only help you grow.

It is when we look at all the parts of ourselves without judgment, that we are comfortable with our whole. We drop all the guilt and shame. We acknowledge that who we are right now and in any given moment is perfectly OK.


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Cacao Nibs: Even Better For You Than Dark Chocolate

The Huffington Post Canada     Terri Coles    08/02/2013 

You’ve heard about the health benefits of dark chocolate, but did you know that you can benefit even more by eating the beans themselves, with less processing? Cacao nibs are cacao beans that have been roasted, separated from their husks, and broken into smaller pieces.

Cacao nibs have a chocolatey taste, but they’re not quite as sweet as chocolate, which can make them more versatile. Their flavour can also vary depending on how much they are roasted, with hints of fruity or nutty flavours. It can be an acquired taste if you’re used to milk chocolate and bars with sweet fillings, but cacao nibs are a surprisingly useful ingredient. You can snack on raw cacao right out of the bag, add it to trail mixes or smoothies, or use it whole or powdered in your cooking and baking.

There are more differences between cacao and cocoa than just the spelling, at least in how we use the words. The beans come from the Theobroma cacao tree, and the word cacao comes from the Olmec people in what is now Mexico. It’s actually thought that the spelling cocoa originated as a mistake that stuck. So the two are technically referring to the same thing, but we generally use cocoa to refer to a more processed chocolate product with added sugar, versus the raw cacao, which has no sugar.

Magnesium: Cacao beans are one of the best dietary sources of magnesium — a mineral needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in our bodies — with 272 milligrams per 100 grams. It’s important for muscle and nerve function and keeps the heart rhythm steady.

Fibre: You don’t get any dietary fibre when you eat a chocolate bar, but you do get some when you snack on cacao nibs: one ounce has nine grams!

Iron: Iron, which is necessary for red blood cell production, is found in cacao nibs. An ounce of the raw nibs has six per cent of your recommended daily iron intake.

Cacao-Nibs

Antioxidants: Surely you’ve heard about the antioxidant power of dark chocolate — well, that goes even more for cacao beans, especially when eaten raw. Antioxidants are important for health because they absorb the free radicals that cause damage in the body.

Mood Improver: Neurotransmitters are the messengers in our brains that tell our bodies how to act, and that includes mood. Cacao’s ability to act on those neurotransmitters is why it’s known for its mood-enhancing skills. Chocolate and cacao stimulates the brain to release particular neurotransmitters that can trigger emotions — including good ones like euphoria. That’s why some people say chocolate is better than sex!

Phenylethylamine (PEA): This is a chemical found in cacao, one that our bodies also make naturally. We produce PEA, an adrenal-related chemical, when we’re excited — it causes the pulse to quicken, making us feel focused and alert.

Anandamide: Anandamide, a lipid found in cacao, is another compound tied to cacao’s feel-good properties. This lipid has been called “the bliss molecule”, because its natural molecular shape represents that of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

Theobromine: Cacao beans do have a couple of controversial ingredients, though. One of them is theobromine, which makes up one to two per cent of the cacao bean and is a nervous system stimulant that dilates the blood vessels — much like caffeine. This ingredient is what makes cacao and chocolate unsafe for dogs, and some people find that it affects them the way caffeine might.

Oxalic Acid: Oxalic acid is a compound found in cacao that inhibits the absorption of calcium, a mineral that’s also found in the food. So though there is calcium in cacao, it’s not considered a good calcium source for this reason. The good news is that you’re getting more of the calcium by eating cacao than you are if you eat processed chocolate, because the sugar found in chocolate takes calcium reserves from the body.

Other foods also contain oxalic acid, including rhubarb stalks, black pepper, and poppy seeds.


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9 Small Choices That’ll Make Every Day Happier

by Vishnu Subramaniam    April 21, 2016 

You don’t have to travel around the world or spend years in a monastery to find happiness. Happiness is all around us—within us. That means it isn’t some far-off, unimaginable destination. It’s something you can cultivate through small, consistent actions.

These nine small adjustments will help you tap into happiness more and more with every passing day.

“Happiness is not ready-made.
It comes from your own actions.”
—The Dalai Lama 

1. Choose to appreciate rather than to complain.

You can complain until you’re blue in the face. You can complain that you’re reading this article, that it’s too cold outside, that life isn’t fair. But it’s a surefire way to feel lousy about yourself and everything around you.

When you have the option of complaining—don’t. Instead, ask yourself, “What can I appreciate about the circumstances in front of me? What is good about my work or where I live?” Refrain from complaining and spend more time in gratitude for the many good things in your life.

Appreciation is happiness at your fingertips.

2. Choose people over things.

How much of your day do you spend focused on things? How much of your time is spent earning more money to pay for cars, houses and shopping? Having more stuff seldom makes us happy.

Saying “hello” to a coworker, neighbor, or grocery store clerk, on the other hand, will help you connect with others and spark a moment of humanity and cheer.

3. Choose compassion over judgment.

Think about how many judgments you make each day. Next time you find yourself judging, flip the judgment to compassion. Instead of condemning with your mind, see if you can find the good. Can you help? Can you uplift? Can you understand?

4. Choose generosity over selfishness.

In an all-about-me culture, doing something selfless for someone else is an instant mood-booster.

If you’re feeling down, help a coworker. Let someone cut in line, say hello to a stranger, or give your afternoon snack to the homeless veteran.

Any time you give, you get happiness in return. Give without expectations.

happiness

5. Choose to focus on solutions rather than problems.

You can focus on failure, roadblocks, etc., or you can look for answers, find solutions, and overcome the obstacle in front of you. When you look for solutions, you’re being proactive and optimistic. That always encourages happiness.

6. Choose acceptance over resistance.

If you go around resisting everything that comes into your life, you’ll always be angry and frustrated.

Accept that things won’t always go your way. Deal with the disappointment and then try again. If you resist pain, you can’t deal with it. If you accept it first, you can find a way through it.

7. Choose the high road rather than being petty.

Someone cuts you off on the road or takes your leftover sandwich from the fridge. Let go of grudges. Forgive quickly and choose the high road. When you don’t respond to snarky emails in kind, or treat rude waiters with condescension, you’ll feel happier quickly, and might even be able to perk up the people who upset you.

The high road always wins when it comes to happiness.

8. Choose your truth over society’s demands.

The easiest way to feel unhappy and frustrated with life is to play by life’s rules, follow and do what everyone else is doing—just because they’re doing it.

As years go by, the more you conform and blindly follow society’s lead, the more miserable you’ll be.

Choose to live your truth; follow your heart’s lead, bow out of unwanted obligations and live the life you desire. Ignore cultural noise, or demands for you to conform.

9. Choose to take achievable daily actions rather than make grandiose bucket lists.

Bucket lists are where dreams go to die. You may put your most-wanted dreams on your bucket list, but don’t put off your happiness till some future experience is realized.

Pick a few small things you really want to change or do and start taking the steps toward making that happen today. Save up for that trip, start on that passion project, write that book. By the time you’re ready to dive into your bucket list, you might not be here!

Working on your most treasured dreams today is maybe the best way I know to be happier immediately, and every day.


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How to stay strong in adulthood? Eat protein often, study says Diet

Graham Slaughter, CTVNews.ca    Published Thursday, April 21, 2016

A new study suggests that adults should eat significantly more protein than national guidelines currently recommend, and that portions should be split evenly throughout the day.

The high-protein diet, outlined in a joint study by the University of Mississippi and researchers at McMaster University, could help stave off muscle and strength loss in aging adults.

Researchers say the sweet spot is 30 grams to 45 grams of protein eaten one to two times per day – but one researcher suggests a person could see benefits with three to five meals at that amount. (For scale, an average chicken breast contains about 25 to 30 grams of protein.)

“That’s a pretty big dose of protein,” said researcher and professor Stuart Phillips, who studies protein and physical activity at McMaster University.

“But the more times people consume that dose, the greater their retention of muscle and the greater their strength that they measured using at least their legs, which is arguably the most important muscle that you want to preserve.”

The findings are based off information from 1,081 Americans between the ages of 50 and 85 collected from 1999 and 2002 by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, or NHANES.

Researchers zeroed in on the relationships between participants’ leg strength and how much protein they consumed. From that, they found a positive relationship between protein consumed in multiple meals and overall leg lean mass and strength.

‘A big jump’ from the norm

The conclusion may sound obvious – more protein, more strength – but the amount of protein researchers recommend far exceeds today’s national guidelines.

For example, a man weighing 80 kilograms (176 lbs.) requires 64 grams of protein under the recommended dietary allowance (RDA), a common benchmark in the U.S. and Canada. But Phillips suggests that such a person would benefit by boosting that protein intake to between 90 grams and 135 grams across three meals.

That’s more than double the national standard, but Phillips insists the suggestion isn’t “radical.”

“I think that it might shock some people and it’s definitely a big jump from the RDA, but I think that … there’s enough science now that’s beginning to emerge that challenges the adequacy of the RDA for older persons,” he said.

protein
A new study suggests that adults should eat significantly more protein
than national guidelines currently recommend,
and that portions should be split evenly throughout the day.

The study itself did not consider the type of protein consumed, but Phillips says the diet could be followed with either plant- or animal-sourced protein.

And the message isn’t simply that more protein is better, Phillips insists.

“It’s that you should probably distribute it in a balanced fashion. So take some of the protein that you’re eating at dinner and maybe consume a smaller portion there and consume more protein at breakfast and lunch time meals.”

The study did not specify the timing between meals, but Phillips suggested at least three hours.
He also point outs that the research is a step forward, but it’s not the final word on protein.

“This is a hypothesis generator rather than bona fide as fact,” he said.

Works for ‘anybody’

Phillips says the diet could work for “just about anybody,” and it becomes increasingly important for people to eat more protein in their forties and fifties when they may begin to lose muscle mass.
But people who don’t exercise often may experience muscle loss sooner in life and require a high-protein diet earlier.

“If you assume a fairly sedentary lifestyle and you have a fairly sedentary workplace, then you’re going to lose muscle mass at an earlier and probably more rapid rate than somebody else,” Phillips said.

Phillips compared muscle loss to bone mass loss in women going through menopause. Rather than fight the problem when it strikes, Phillips says it’s better to prepare with the appropriate diet.

“It’s definitely preventative. There’s no question,” he said.

Too much protein?

There are a couple “myths” associated with high-protein diets, Phillips says, including an increased likelihood of kidney failure or that it causes bones to “dissolve” by leeching calcium.

“Neither of those have any scientific basis,” says Phillips, whose research pertains particularly to protein. “I don’t see the smoking gun.”

But eating more protein could tip the scale on consumption of other nutrients, like carbohydrates and fiber, so Phillips says it’s important to keep a balanced diet and not “blindly” eat more protein.
Maintaining an active lifestyle is just as important as eating a balanced, protein-rich diet, Phillips says.

“I won’t say that one trumps the other … but I think you can cure a lot of evil from a disease and poor diet standpoint from a lot of good exercise,” he said.

The study will appear in the international journal Clinical Nutrition in the next few weeks.