Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


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Real Preventive Medicine: The 5 Keys to Staying Healthy

Elson M. Haas, MD

What is called “Preventive Medicine” in America in the 21st Century is really more appropriately termed early intervention and early diagnosis. Having immunization injections or taking tests such as x-rays and mammograms, prostate exams, and blood tests are not really preventive in nature. Rather, they are an attempt to detect diseases in an early state. What is promoted as cancer prevention with the use of mammograms or prostate exams, sigmoidoscopes or colonoscopes is really early cancer diagnosis. This is done in hopes that cancer can be aggressively attacked before it spreads and destroys the entire body and life. Cancer represents a state of toxicity and its reaction on cellular mechanisms in the body; it is a disease of our body and not separate from it, and represents some breakdown or misguidance of our intricate immune system. After it occurs, it clearly is difficult to treat without great measures. Preventing cancer (and cardiovascular diseases, for that matter) is indeed an important goal in preventive medicine.

Real Preventive Medicine—preventing acute and chronic diseases—in other words, Staying Healthy, results from the way we live. We are a culmination of our life experiences. Our health is a by-product of our life, our genes and constitutional state, our upbringing and the habits we develop, our diets, our stresses and how we deal with them, our illnesses and how we treat them (whether we attempt to discover the underlying cause and change our lifestyle so we no longer manifest disease patterns)—all of this and more affects the level of health and vitality we experience. How we live—our lifestyle choices—is the key to long-term health, quality of life, and vitality in our later years.

The five keys to good health and disease prevention are:

  • Diet—what we eat and how, i.e. our intake habits.
  • Exercise—stretching and working our body regularly to keep it flexible and strong.
  • Sleep—adequate rest and sleep (and dream time) for each of us is crucial to “recharging our batteries,” healing many problems, keeping our moods balanced and staying healthy.
  • Stress Management—learning to deal with life’s ups and downs.
  • Attitude—keeping a positive outlook so we treat our self and others with the life-supporting respect and care we deserve.

The first level of dietary reform involves assessing potentially-toxic daily habits, such as the regular use of sugar, nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, and chemicals—what I call our SNACCs—and cleaning these up or taking breaks from them to re-assess our health potential and how we feel. I believe all of these substance abuses so common in modern-day cultures act as insidious poisons when used consistently over the years. The incidence of chronic, debilitating disease is steadily growing in our culture and these long-term habits are also prime contributors to this poor health in our aging years.

My nutritional message in my personal life, practice and my books has been to turn back (or forward) to a nature-based diet for greater vitality and health, to eat closer to the earth’s food source, from the gardens, farmer’s market, from the orchards, away from the boxed and canned foods and the refined and “chemicalized” cuisine. Focusing on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes, nuts and seeds, and much less animal-based foods and refined/processed foods will greatly improve health, both in our immediate future and over the years.

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Our exercise program must be frequent (at least three to four times a week), consistent over the years, and balanced, which is very important. A balanced exercise program should include regular stretching for flexibility, weight work for building tone and strength, and aerobics for endurance and stamina. Exercising regularly commonly improves body function and health as well as attitude. It is one of our best stress managers, relaxers, and mood elevators.

We should exercise realistically at our current level of physical strength and endurance so that we can progress consistently and avoid injury. If we are just beginning and not in great shape, we can start slowly and build as our stamina and strength improve. If we have been working out regularly and are already fit, then it is beneficial to periodically evaluate our state and progress, and then make appropriate changes to exercise at our full potential.

Sleep offers life’s balance for all of our activity, and that’s physical, mental and emotional activity, too. Like breathing fresh air, drinking good quality water, and eating a nourishing diet, our nightly quality sleep is crucial to our well-being. There are many stages of sleep important to our body’s recharging itself, and although we all do not regularly recollect our dreams, we need to sleep deeply enough to go into that theta wave, REM (rapid-eye-movement), dream sleep. If we are not sleeping well, applying the other principles of Preventive Medicine, such as eating well and avoiding stimulants, exercising regularly earlier in the day, and managing stress may all be helpful. And we don’t have to turn to medications for sleep because there are many natural remedies that can help, such as calcium and magnesium, L-tryptophan, and many herbal relaxers.

Managing stress is a key element in minimizing health risk and enjoying life. Stresses are our body/mind responses to our personal experiences and we are individual in the issues to which we respond and react. There are so many illnesses and diseases that are generated or worsened by stress that it is imperative each of us develop skills to deal with mental and physical demands and emotional challenges. Simple relaxation techniques, meditation, exercise, sports, outdoor activities, and especially internal disciplines like yoga or tai chi are all extremely valuable in dealing with both daily and long-term stress.

I believe one of the greatest problems of modern day life is the Indigestion of Life. Most of us do not have enough personal time to digest and assimilate our daily experiences— work, relationships, and food that we experience rapid-fire throughout our day-to-day existence. This leads to the implosion of energy and the potential explosion of emotions or bodily symptoms. These are our body’s attempt to convey messages we do not have time to receive and incorporate. Here again, it would be helpful if we were to take time to quiet ourselves, to breathe and listen, to digest and assimilate, to experience and enjoy. Taking time to clear ourselves, to become current and ready for new creativity and life is a concept and an activity that can lead us to more optimum health.

Likewise, staying positive and motivated to experience life, unafraid to handle challenges or deal with uncomfortable emotions is also crucial to health. Lifestyle Medicine is the highest art of healing for each of us. As a doctor, I believe the most important thing I can do is to encourage my patients and readers to make personal changes in their lifestyle—diet, exercise, proper sleep, stress management, and attitude. If our lifestyle supports health, then we can influence our own health over the course of our entire lives.

Our personal health and well-being is up to each of us. We can begin by first assessing our health and lifestyle. What changes will provide us with more energy, greater clarity and vitality, and better overall health and longevity? We can create a plan to implement and experience a better quality of health with fewer sick days, fewer doctor’s visits, and a more enjoyable and livable life.

Elson M. Haas, MD is a medical practitioner with nearly 40 years experience in patient care, always with in an interest in natural medicine. For the past 30 years, he has been instrumental in the development and practice of Integrated Medicine at the Preventive Medical Center of Marin (PMCM), which he founded in 1984 and where he is the Medical Director. Dr Haas has been perfecting a model of healthcare that integrates sophisticated Western diagnostics and Family Medicine with time-honored natural therapies from around the world.
This educating, writing doctor is also the author of many books including Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine, 21st Century Edition, The NEW Detox Diet: The Complete Guide for Lifelong Vitality with Recipes, Menus, & Detox Plans and more. Visit his website for more information on his work, books and to sign up for his newsletter.

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How to Increase Dopamine, the Motivation Molecule

By Deane Alban      Contributing Writer for Wake Up World      7th March 2015

Dopamine is a key neurotransmitter for motivation, focus and productivity. Learn the symptoms of dopamine deficiency and natural ways to increase dopamine levels …

There are about 100 billion neurons in the human brain — about as many stars as there are in the Milky Way. These cells communicate with each other via brain chemicals called neurotransmitters.

Dopamine is the neurotransmitter responsible for providing motivation, drive, and focus. It plays a role in many mental disorders including depression, addictions, ADHD, and schizophrenia.

Let’s take a closer look at dopamine — what it does, symptoms of deficiency, and how to increase it naturally.

Dopamine: The Motivation Molecule

Dopamine has been called our “motivation molecule.” It boosts our drive, focus, and concentration. It enables us to plan ahead and resist impulses so we can achieve our goals. It gives us that “I did it!” lift when we accomplish what we set out to do. It makes us competitive and provides the thrill of the chase in all aspects of life — business, sports, and love.

Dopamine is in charge of our pleasure-reward system. It allows us to have feelings of enjoyment, bliss, and even euphoria. But too little dopamine can leave you unfocused, unmotivated, lethargic, and even depressed.

Dopamine Deficiency Symptoms

People low in dopamine lack a zest for life. They exhibit low energy and motivation, and often rely on caffeine, sugar, or other stimulants to get through the day.

Many common dopamine deficiency symptoms are similar to those of depression:

  • lack of motivation
  • fatigue
  • apathy
  • procrastination
  • inability to feel pleasure
  • low libido
  • sleep problems
  • mood swings
  • hopelessness
  • memory loss
  • inability to concentrate

Dopamine-deficient lab mice become so apathetic and lethargic they lack motivation to eat and starve to death.  Conversely, some people who are low in dopamine compensate with self-destructive behaviors to get their dopamine boost. This can include use and abuse of caffeine, alcohol, sugar, drugs, shopping, video games, sex, power, or gambling.

How to Increase Dopamine Naturally

There are plenty of unhealthy ways to raise dopamine. But you don’t have to resort to “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll” to boost your dopamine levels. Here are some healthy, proven ways to increase dopamine levels naturally.

Foods That Increase Dopamine

Dopamine is made from the amino acid tyrosine. Eating a diet high in tyrosine will ensure you’ve got the basic building blocks needed for dopamine production.

Here’s a list of tyrosine-rich foods:

  • all animal products
  • almonds
  • apples
  • avocado
  • bananas
  • beets
  • chocolate
  • coffee
  • fava beans
  • green leafy vegetables
  • green tea
  • lima beans
  • oatmeal
  • sea vegetables
  • sesame and pumpkin seeds
  • turmeric
  • watermelon
  • wheat germ

Foods high in natural probiotics such as yogurt, kefir, and raw sauerkraut can also increase natural dopamine production. Oddly, the health of your intestinal flora impacts your production of neurotransmitters.

An overabundance of bad bacteria leaves toxic byproducts called lipopolysaccharides which lower levels of dopamine.

Sugar has been found to boost dopamine but this is a temporary boost, more drug-like than food-like.

Dopamine Supplements

There are supplements that can raise dopamine levels naturally.

Curcumin is the active ingredient in the spice turmeric. It’s available in an isolated form as a supplement. It readily crosses the blood-brain barrier and can boost levels of dopamine.

Curcumin has been found to help alleviate obsessive actions and improve associated memory loss by increasing dopamine.

Ginkgo biloba is traditionally used for a variety of brain-related problems — poor concentration, forgetfulness, headaches, fatigue, mental confusion, depression, and anxiety.

One of the mechanisms by which ginkgo works is by raising dopamine.

L-theanine is a component found in green tea. It increases levels of dopamine along with other neurotransmitters serotonin and GABA.  L-theanine improves recall, learning, and positive mood. You can get your dopamine boost by either taking theanine supplements or by drinking 3 cups of green tea per day.

L-tyrosine — the precursor to dopamine — is available as a supplement.

We recommend taking acetyl-l-tyrosine — a more absorbable form that readily crosses the blood-brain barrier.

Phosphatidylserine acts as your brain’s “gatekeeper,” regulating nutrients and waste in and out of your brain. It can increase dopamine levels and improve memory, concentration, learning, and ADHD.

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Boost Dopamine with Exercise

Physical exercise is one of the best things you can do for your brain. It boosts production of new brain cells, slows down brain cell aging, and improves the flow of nutrients to the brain. It can also increase your levels of dopamine and the other “feel good” neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine.

Dr. John Ratey, renowned psychiatrist and author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, has extensively studied the effects of physical exercise on the brain. He found that exercise raises baseline levels of dopamine by promoting the growth of new brain cell receptors.

Dopamine is responsible in part for the high serious runners experience.  But you don’t need to exercise strenuously to enhance your brain. Taking walks, or doing gentle, no-impact exercises like yoga, tai chi, or qi gong all provide powerful mind-body benefits.

Increase Dopamine with Meditation

The benefits of meditation have been proven in over 1,000 studies.  Regular meditators experience enhanced ability to learn, increased creativity, and deep relaxation. It’s been shown that meditation increases dopamine, improving focus and concentration.

Crafting hobbies of all kinds — knitting, quilting, sewing, drawing, photography, woodworking, and home repair — focus the brain similarly to meditation. These activities increase dopamine, ward off depression, and protect against brain aging.

Listening to music can cause of release of dopamine. Oddly, you don’t even have to hear music to get this neurotransmitter flowing — just the anticipation of listening can do that.

Using Your Brain’s Reward System to Balance Dopamine

Dopamine functions as a survival mechanism by releasing energy when a great opportunity is in front of you. Dopamine rewards us when our needs are met. We love dopamine surges because of the way they make us feel. But according to Dr. Loretta Graziano Breuning, author of Meet Your Happy Chemicals: Dopamine, Endorphin, Oxytocin, Serotonin, we are not designed to experience a non-stop dopamine buzz. The constant hunt for dopamine boosts can turn you into a “Wolf on Wall Street” — driven by addictions, greed, and lust.

Here are some healthy ways to balance your dopamine by working with your brain’s built-in reward system.

Enjoy the Quest

Our ancestors were on a constant quest to survive. They got a dopamine surge every time they spotted a new patch of berries or a better fishing hole because this meant they’d live to seek another day. While you can still pick berries and fish, there are endless other healthy ways you can enjoy the quest in modern life.

You can forage for new music to download, specialty ingredients to cook with, a travel package bargain, a hard-to-find collector’s item, or that perfect gift for a loved one. You can engage in specifically quest-oriented hobbies like geocaching, bird watching, rockhounding, amateur archaeology, and collecting of all kinds.

The act of seeking and finding activates your reward circuits — with no regrets later.

Create Both Long and Short Term Goals

Dopamine is released when we achieve a goal. Having only long term goals gets frustrating, so set both short term and long term goals. Short term goals don’t have to be anything major. They can be as simple as trying a new recipe, getting caught up on emails, cleaning a closet, or finally learning how to use a new app for your phone.

Break up long term goals into small short term goals to give yourself dopamine boosts along the way.

Take on a New Challenge

Getting a promotion is a great dopamine boost, but this doesn’t happen very often! But you can create your own dopamine rewards by setting a goal, then take small steps toward it every day. This can be starting a new exercise program, learning French, or challenging yourself to drive home from work a different way every day, preferably without the use of your GPS.

According to Dr. Graziano Breuning, working on a goal without fail for 45 days will train your brain to stimulate dopamine production in a new way.

Dopamine and Mental Conditions

Dopamine plays such an important role in how we live our lives, it’s no surprise that when the dopamine system is out of balance it can contribute to many mental conditions.

Some of the most common conditions that have a dopamine connection:

Dopamine and ADHD

The underlying cause of ADHD is still unknown. Until recently it was widely accepted that the root cause of ADHD was probably an abnormality in dopamine function. This seems logical since dopamine is critical for maintaining focus. Most ADHD medications are based on this “dopamine deficiency” theory. Prescription medications used to treat ADHD are believed to work by increasing the release of dopamine and norepinephrine while slowing down their rate of reabsorption.

However, the latest research suggests that the main cause of ADHD lies in a structural difference in the grey matter in the brain and not dopamine.

Dopamine and Depression

Serotonin is the brain chemical most associated with depression. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, and Lexapro are prescribed for depression and work by increasing brain levels of serotonin. But this only works in about 40% of patients who use them.

What about the other 60%?

There’s a growing body of evidence that shows low dopamine and not low serotonin is the cause of depression for many. Bupropion (brand name Wellbutrin) has proven effective for patients who haven’t been helped by SSRIs by addressing dopamine deficiency.

How to determine if your depression is more likely from serotonin versus dopamine deficiency? Serotonin-based depression is accompanied by anxiety and irritability, while dopamine-based depression expresses itself as lethargy and lack of enjoyment of life.


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How to Overcome Your Own Laziness

Eric Ravenscraft

You read productivity tips, you’ve used a million to-do list apps, and you promise yourself every month that you’re going to start being productive, but it never happens. Here’s how to break the cycle when you feel like your problem is just plain laziness.

Determine If You’re Really Lazy, or Just Overwhelmed

Many active and productive people self-identify as “lazy” because they spend free time relaxing, or have projects they want to do but haven’t finished. In the cult of “busy”, doing things you enjoy is a cardinal sin, so it’s easy to convince yourself that you’re not focused, productive, or active enough. Before you try to fix your laziness, step back and try to identify your real issue.

Psychologist Leon F. Seltzer suggests that we consider eliminating the word “lazy” from our vocabulary entirely. Or, at the very least, avoid using it to describe someone’s entire personality. He explains that, while we may lack self-discipline, motivation, or a healthy sense of rewards, disguising those problems as “laziness” only makes it harder to fix them:

“My experience, both as an individual and therapist, has led me to conclude that laziness as an explanation of human behavior is practically useless. Referring to—or rather, disparaging, or even dismissing—a person as lazy seems to me a glib and overly simplistic way of accounting for a person’s apparent disinterest or inertia. And resorting to this term to categorize a person’s inactivity suggests to me a laziness more on the part of the describer than the person described. In short, I view this pejorative designation as employed mostly as a “default” when the person talked about is not particularly well understood.”

If laziness is an unhelpful characterization of a different problem, start by identifying what your issue actually is. Try out some time tracking software to see where you spend your time. Or you can simply use a spreadsheet and write down what you do, hour by hour, for a week. Once you’ve got some data, break down the underlying problem into a few categories:

  • Self-discipline: If your schedule is packed, but you’re not getting as much done as you could or should in that time, you may have a self-discipline problem. Solutions may involve removing distractions, but you may also need to find ways to boost your willpower.
  • Unrealistic expectations: If your schedule is packed and you’re actually getting stuff done, but you still feel lazy, your problem could be that you’re being too hard on yourself. We all want to get stuff done, but don’t forget to slow down every once in a while.
  • Motivation: If your schedule is pretty empty, or a majority of your time is spent on sleep or leisure activities, motivation could be the problem. Motivation problems can range from not knowing what to do with your life to battling depression, but everyone deals with it in some form eventually.

Obviously, how you deal with “laziness” will depend on what the underlying issues are. And these issues aren’t mutually exclusive, either. No matter what, you’ll need to tailor any solution to your specific needs. Take time to examine your own weaknesses and come up with a plan that works for you.

Learn How to Value Your Work

The terrible irony of our uber-busy culture is that we often hate our work. As strange as it may be to accept, work can actually be enjoyable and rewarding, even if you don’t find some mythical “soul mate” job. Learning to appreciate the value of work for its own sake is a skill that takes time and practice to develop. However, your mindset about work will have a drastic effect on how much you get done.

As Forbes contributor Erika Anderson points out, if you’re surrounded by people who hate their work and can’t stop complaining about it, stop hanging around them. Your attitude can be brought down by negative conversation, and more importantly, you never hear about any benefits:

In every organization, there will always be some people who take great delight in trashing everything. Ultimate cynics, they’ll regale you with stories of how the boss is an idiot, the company is out to get you, the rest of the employees are chumps, and the work is ridiculous and meaningless. While there’s a certain mean-spirited, self-righteous satisfaction in taking the everyone’s-a-loser-but-us approach, in the long run it will just make you more unhappy. Hearing only the negatives about your workplace makes it hard to see the positives that may exist, and it ultimately will make you feel worse about yourself (if this place and these people are so awful, why am I still here?). Spending time with colleagues who have a more balanced view can dramatically shift your emotional response to your job.

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Cynical attitudes about your work do nothing to help your productivity. To get back on track, try some exercises to adjust your mindset:

  • Write a list of benefits. There are always benefits to doing work (otherwise, why would anyone do it?) so take a minute to appreciate them. If you get satisfaction from having a stack of clean laundry, an empty email inbox, or a full paycheck, take time to note it.
  • Savor the times you enjoy working. Unless you’re dealing with deeper emotional issues, there are probably some moments when you actually enjoy your work. When that happens, pause (if you can) and describe the moment to yourself or let someone else know. Externalizing it can help you remember it later. Intentionally spotting the moments you like your work can also help with those dreaded “What should I do with my life?” questions.
  • Reframe what “work” is in your mind. While you’re getting stuff done, if you’re feeling miserable about it, counter your own thoughts. Remind yourself that work is worthwhile. Smile on purpose. Just like when you’re dealing with failure, how you treat work sets you up for how you will experience it.

Ultimately, no one can make you enjoy work. But if you actively fight the urge to be negative about it, rather than indulge it, you can turn your mindset around. The quickest way to get more done is to look forward to doing it. If you’re still having trouble looking for a way to start, try filling out this three task checklist to keep it simple.

Disrupt Your Habits

If the first thing you do when you come home is throw your keys on the coffee table, lay down on the couch and turn on the TV, you set yourself up for an unproductive evening right off the bat. Similarly, if you check Facebook or even email first thing in the morning, you might be wasting your best hours.

To interrupt the cycle, make it harder to go about your usual routine. If you head straight for the couch when you get home, unplug your TV at night. If you check Facebook too often, uninstall the app from your phone. Even if it’s just a little inconvenience, disrupting your usual triggers can create a break in your muscle memory and kickstart a new habit.

Create Behavior Chains to Develop Specific New Habits

The road to lethargy is paved with wishful intentions. Everyone has said “I’m going to get more done tomorrow.” The problem with this promise is that it’s vague and depends entirely on you feeling the same way tomorrow that you do now. Except, you know that you won’t. You’ll feel just as unmotivated when you get wake up tomorrow as you did today.

A better way to change is to give yourself specific tasks that are attached to your existing routine. As productivity blog 99U explains, slight alterations to your habits are better than overly ambitious total overhauls. Small behavior changes lead to significant improvements over time:

For instance, instead of “I will keep a cleaner house,” you could aim for, “When I come home, I’ll change my clothes and then clean my room/office/kitchen.” Multiple studies confirm this to be a successful method to rely on contextual cues over willpower. So the next time you decide to “eat healthier,” instead try “If it is lunch time, Then I will only eat meat and vegetables.”

Being lethargic or unproductive is ultimately just a habit. By breaking out of your old habits and creating new ones, you’ll get used to being active as the new norm. Even if you still don’t totally know what to do with your days, you’ll be more motivated to find something to move on to.

Be Consistent and Check Your Progress

Once you get going, stick to it. Laziness, in any form, takes advantage of gaps in your willpower. Much like overcoming an addiction, it only takes one day, one relapse to slip and wind up right back where you started. It’s okay to fail, and you’ll probably miss some days every once in a while, but get back on the horse. Remember, laziness is a habit, not a personality trait.

One effective way to do this is to use a goal tracker. These apps allow you to set specific goals for yourself and mark off when you do them. This provides two major benefits. First, it reminds you what you need to do and helps your past self keep you accountable. Perhaps more importantly, it shows you how often you’ve succeeded.

Many of us can alter our habits without ever changing how we perceive ourselves. That’s why things like done lists can be so useful. Having proof that you’ve built a new habit, or that you’ve improved over time can give you the motivation boost you need to keep going. That moment, when you realize you’ve accomplished your goal, when you’re pleased with your progress and look forward to doing it again is when laziness dies.


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 10 Inspirational Quotes To Keep You Motivated This Winter

BY KAIA ROMAN    JANUARY 19, 2015 
Sometimes I envy animals who hibernate. Curling up into a warm and cozy sleep until spring arrives, sounds appealing at times when life feels overwhelming and the winter blahs are in full effect.

When I need a little inspiration to keep going, I turn to these 10 quotes — they’re posted on my bathroom mirror, on my desk and in well-loved earmarked books.

1. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” -Margaret Mead

This quote was particularly powerful for me during my environmental activism days in college, but still resonates deeply as daily acts of inspiration. As one of the world’s foremost cultural anthropologists, Mead’s quote is informed from her observations. Whenever I feel small and insignificant, I read this quote and remember the power we each have to change the world.

2. “If you think you can, or if you think you can’t, either way, you’re right.” -Henry Ford

I often think about this one when I have self-defeating thoughts and it inspires me to challenge myself and change my thoughts around. So many of the hard times I experience in life are the ones I give myself, and facing a challenge having already decided that I will fail certainly doesn’t improve my chances of success.

3. “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.

This is a vivid image for me, because I feel like this pretty much every day — though Dr. King was referring to much greater challenges than those I face on a daily basis. However, the rule still applies — it’s all about faith. It’s about the sureness that even if you can’t see how it will all unfold, you know the Universe has your back and everything will work out.

4. “The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.” -Ferdinand Foch

Foch was a French military general during the First World War and when he talked about weapons, he was usually talking about the kind that explode. However, this quote remains meaningful because it inspires us to ponder what truly lights the soul on fire. I have felt it — at times when I am working on a project I’m really passionate about, when I’m immersed in my writing, when I’m in the zone with my children — I know that at those times I am truly at my most brilliant and powerful. My personal challenge is to light that fire every day.

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5. “Think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.” -Kahlil Gibran

My husband and I printed this quote on our wedding programs twelve years ago, as it really epitomizes our unlikely love story. It still brings tears to my eyes. All of the best strategic planning in the world could not have orchestrated the myriad of “coincidences” that had to take place for my husband and I to meet and fall in love. This is of course, the case with most of the wonderful things that happen in the rest of our lives, too. When we let go and let the Universe (or God, Love, etc.) work its magic, the result is far more spectacular than that which we could have created with our thoughts and actions alone.

6. “All that we are is a result of what we have thought.” -Buddha

This is really the basic tenant of Buddhism, and it is not to be taken lightly. I often take a mental inventory of my thoughts to gauge what I am currently creating in my life. How much anxiety and worry is floating around? How much internal complaining? How much gratitude and wonder? If all that we are experiencing now is a result of our past thoughts, then we are literally creating our future with our current thoughts. It takes some acceptance of responsibility and accountability, but I love feeling and knowing that I have this power.

7. “I have so much to accomplish today that I must meditate for two hours instead of one.” -Mahatma Gandhi

Honestly, I never meditate for one hour, let alone two, but the sentiment in this quote is exactly what I need on many days. When my to-do list reaches critical mass, my tendency is to feel overwhelmed and frantic and therefore make more errors, have more accidents, and generally feel miserable as I accomplish my tasks simply for the sake of checking them off the list. When I remember Gandhi’s wise words, no matter how busy I am, I sit quietly and breathe until I feel calm again. Then I can go forth and accomplish, knowing that my top priority is not how many things I get done, but how I feel while I am doing them.

8. “The path of least resistance is non-resistance.” -I Ching

It was Carl Jung who first said, “What you resist persists,” a phrase that has become popular among spiritual seekers. Jung was a student of the ancient Chinese text, the I Ching, so perhaps that’s where his thoughts on the matter originated. I too have studied the I Ching for many years, and it continually reveals new and wondrous wisdom to me. I love this pearl of wisdom in particular, because it is so simple. When I am stuck in fear or anger or any other negative emotion, simply yielding to what is and removing any resistance always has the power to shift not only how I feel on the inside, but also the circumstances on the outside.

9. “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” -Mark Twain

This wisdom and wit of this quote certainly applies to my life as I slide into my 40s and embrace aging gracefully, but I also like to think of this quote whenever anything is bothering me. All I really have to do is stop worrying — whether it’s about my age or not. Easier said than done most times, but so effective whenever I master it. I’m making this my motto for the year, and am really practicing the art of “not giving a damn.”

10. “Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.” -Pema Chodron

When I think about the challenges that have lingered in my life and the magnitude of the lessons I’ve learned from them, I know Chodron is right. I also think about those things that have left my life in what felt like too short of a time, be it loved ones who have died or relationships I wasn’t ready to let go of — the same wisdom applies. When I view my experiences, my relationships and my challenges as teachers, I am more inclined to pay attention to the lessons they are bringing me.


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Overcoming Resistance to Change: The Secret to Lasting Health

By Deane Alban      Contributing Writer for Wake Up World    October 2014

What do you want to do when you retire? The most common answers to this question are to spend time with friends and family, travel, volunteer, exercise (finally!), learn new things, live abroad, and write a book.  But you won’t be able to do these things later if you don’t take care of your body and your brain now.

If you’re like most people, you’ve tried to change, but you find it really, really hard (as in “impossible”). You’ve made the resolutions and set the goals. When you’ve failed, you’ve tried even harder, but making change stick has still eluded you.

Let’s take a look at why the usual ways of making lifestyle changes often fail. Then I’ll give you some super-easy but counter-intuitive tips to create new, healthy habits.

Change the Usual Way Is Hard

Most people rely exclusively on motivation and willpower to make a change. There are some surprising reasons this doesn’t work.

Motivation

When you decide to start a new diet, exercise program, or any self-improvement venture, you are usually psyched! You just know this time you’re going to stick with it. You’re excited about the new gym you joined or a new diet book you’ve read, and your motivation is high.

Initially you are motivated by the pleasure of what you want (getting into your skinny jeans, wearing a bathing suit this summer) and the pain of what you don’t want (hating the way you look, having a heart attack). But motivation naturally diminishes with time.

Willpower

When motivation starts to wane, you switch to relying on willpower. But no one has an endless supply of willpower — it is a resource that gets used up. When your day is filled with things you really don’t want to do, by the end of the day you no longer have any willpower reserve left.

So you spend the evening plopped down in front of the TV munching on unhealthy snacks, vowing to do better tomorrow. It’s not your fault — you simply have no willpower left to make the healthier, harder choices.

If motivation and willpower let you down, don’t despair! There is another answer that relies on using the power of your subconscious brain.

Make Change Easy by Working With Your Brain

According to neuroscientist Dr. Bruce Lipton, author of The Biology of Belief, 95% of your life is dictated by the subconscious mind. This is the part of your brain that runs a large portion of your life on autopilot enabling you to do many tasks without thinking about them, everything from tying your shoes to driving a car.

When you do something often enough, it becomes a habit.  Habits are activities you do effortlessly with minimal thought on your part. You can appreciate the power of a habit when you try to stop a bad one. It’s tough!

Next, I’ll tell you how to harness the power of your brain to stop struggling with a healthy lifestyle change by turning it into a habit!

I’m going to use an example of starting a walking program, but these concepts can be used for creating any new healthy habit.

Take Baby Steps

Setting big goals is exciting! Telling your friends (and yourself) that you are going to start walking 5 miles a day sounds impressive, but you are probably setting yourself up for failure.

But starting with small boring goals, “baby steps”, will greatly increase your chance for success. There will be many days you won’t walk at all if 5 miles is your goal. But if you make walking around the block your goal, you can certainly accomplish that!

You will feel good that you’ve honored your commitment to yourself. But even more important, you’ve created a new neural pathway that turns your daily walk into a habit.

Using small goals tricks your brain. Your subconscious likes to be in control and doesn’t like change. A huge change often sets up subconscious resistance, but a small change will be accepted. You can learn more about using this “small is better” concept at TinyHabits.com.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
– Lao-tzu

change



Use Triggers

Ask anyone who smokes and they can tell you about triggers. Most smokers have triggers to smoke after a meal, with a cup of coffee, or after sex. You can use triggers to your advantage. When you regularly take a walk after another event (such as eating dinner), your brain will create an association so you’ll automatically be inclined to take a walk after dinner.

You can help yourself with visual triggers, too. Leave your walking shoes by the front door, keep your pedometer by your keys, or lay your walking attire on your bed to create triggers you can’t miss.

Be Prepared

If you are going to start a new habit, you need to be prepared. A successful walking habit means more than putting one foot in front of the other.

Initially, you have a few decisions to make. Where are you going to walk? What time do you want to leave? Are you going to walk alone or solo? Will you bring your dog? Should you bring water?

Next, get the right equipment to ensure your success. Get a good pair of comfortable walking shoes and socks to match. Get a water bottle that’s comfortable to carry.

People who use a pedometer walk 27% more than those who don’t, so consider getting one to encourage your success.  The Fitbit One is an incredible, tiny device that track your steps, distance, calories burned, and even your sleep cycle. Pretty amazing!

Make It Convenient

Put everything you need to take a walk in one convenient place so you can grab it and go. If your shoes are in the linen closet, your socks are in the bedroom, your house key in your desk drawer, and your left your water bottle in the car, you’ll give up before you get out the door! icon cry Overcoming Resistance to Change: The Secret to Lasting Health

Make It Fun

Make your walk something you look forward to. If you like companionship, find a walking partner. If you enjoy music, podcasts, or audiobooks, listen while you walk. You’ll find the time spent walking flies by!

The Big Red X

When Jerry Seinfeld was an upcoming comedian, he created the habit of writing new material every day using a wall calendar and a red marker. You can do the same.

Put up a wall calendar (there are free ones you can print online) in a highly-visible place, like on the fridge. Every day you take your walk, cross out that day with a BIG RED X. You won’t want to see any blank days which will, as Jerry says, “break the chain”. I’d listen to Jerry. He’s been pretty successful. icon wink Overcoming Resistance to Change: The Secret to Lasting Health

It’s widely accepted that it takes 30 days to create a new habit, so after one month, your new habit will largely be formed. Then you can ramp it up to the next level. Eventually you can turn your walk around the block into a five-mile-a-day habit, if that’s your ultimate goal.

Small Habits Create Gateways

These techniques can be used for any lifestyle change you want to make – diet, exercise, meditation, stress reduction techniques, and more.

Not sure where to begin? Here are some examples of healthy “baby steps” you could take:

  • Replace one soda with a glass of water.
  • Replace one cup of coffee with a cup of green tea.
  • Eat a small baggie of raw vegetables as one of your snacks.
  • Have a piece of fruit instead of dessert after dinner.
  • Do 5 minutes of yoga stretches in the morning and in the evening.
  • Listen to a 10 minute meditation.
  • Pick one healthy change (or create your own) and commit to doing it daily for 30 days to create a new healthy habit.

Small changes aren’t very exciting, but many people have found using this technique really works to bring lasting change. Your new habit can serve as a gateway to bigger changes that can significantly improve your life.

Article References
 http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/planning-to-retire/2013/03/01/10-things-to-do-in-retirement
 http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703478704574612052322122442
 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2094159

Article Source
Surprisingly…Unstuck: Rewire Your Brain to Exercise More, Eat Right, and Truly Enjoy Doing So by Maria Brilaki


2 Comments

Overcoming Resistance to Change: The Secret to Lasting Health

27th August 2014      By Deane Alban  Contributing Writer for Wake Up World

What do you want to do when you retire? The most common answers to this question are to spend time with friends and family, travel, volunteer, exercise (finally!), learn new things, live abroad, and write a book. [1] But you won’t be able to do these things later if you don’t take care of your body and your brain now.

If you’re like most people, you’ve tried to change, but you find it really, really hard (as in “impossible”). You’ve made the resolutions and set the goals. When you’ve failed, you’ve tried even harder, but making change stick has still eluded you.

Let’s take a look at why the usual ways of making lifestyle changes often fail. Then I’ll give you some super-easy but counter-intuitive tips to create new, healthy habits.

Change the Usual Way Is Hard

Most people rely exclusively on motivation and willpower to make a change. There are some surprising reasons this doesn’t work.

Motivation

When you decide to start a new diet, exercise program, or any self-improvement venture, you are usually psyched! You just know this time you’re going to stick with it. You’re excited about the new gym you joined or a new diet book you’ve read, and your motivation is high.

Initially you are motivated by the pleasure of what you want (getting into your skinny jeans, wearing a bathing suit this summer) and the pain of what you don’t want (hating the way you look, having a heart attack). But motivation naturally diminishes with time.

Willpower

When motivation starts to wane, you switch to relying on willpower. But no one has an endless supply of willpower — it is a resource that gets used up. When your day is filled with things you really don’t want to do, by the end of the day you no longer have any willpower reserve left.

So you spend the evening plopped down in front of the TV munching on unhealthy snacks, vowing to do better tomorrow. It’s not your fault — you simply have no willpower left to make the healthier, harder choices. [2]

If motivation and willpower let you down, don’t despair! There is another answer that relies on using the power of your subconscious brain.

Make Change Easy by Working With Your Brain

According to neuroscientist Dr. Bruce Lipton, author of The Biology of Belief, 95% of your life is dictated by the subconscious mind. This is the part of your brain that runs a large portion of your life on autopilot enabling you to do many tasks without thinking about them, everything from tying your shoes to driving a car.

When you do something often enough, it becomes a habit.  Habits are activities you do effortlessly with minimal thought on your part. You can appreciate the power of a habit when you try to stop a bad one. It’s tough!

Next, I’ll tell you how to harness the power of your brain to stop struggling with a healthy lifestyle change by turning it into a habit!

I’m going to use an example of starting a walking program, but these concepts can be used for creating any new healthy habit.

Take Baby Steps

Setting big goals is exciting! Telling your friends (and yourself) that you are going to start walking 5 miles a day sounds impressive, but you are probably setting yourself up for failure.

But starting with small boring goals, “baby steps”, will greatly increase your chance for success. There will be many days you won’t walk at all if 5 miles is your goal. But if you make walking around the block your goal, you can certainly accomplish that!

You will feel good that you’ve honored your commitment to yourself. But even more important, you’ve created a new neural pathway that turns your daily walk into a habit.

Using small goals tricks your brain. Your subconscious likes to be in control and doesn’t like change. A huge change often sets up subconscious resistance, but a small change will be accepted. You can learn more about using this “small is better” concept at TinyHabits.com.

e9df0-walk
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
– Lao-tzu

Use Triggers

Ask anyone who smokes and they can tell you about triggers. Most smokers have triggers to smoke after a meal, with a cup of coffee, or after sex. You can use triggers to your advantage. When you regularly take a walk after another event (such as eating dinner), your brain will create an association so you’ll automatically be inclined to take a walk after dinner.

You can help yourself with visual triggers, too. Leave your walking shoes by the front door, keep your pedometer by your keys, or lay your walking attire on your bed to create triggers you can’t miss.

Be Prepared

If you are going to start a new habit, you need to be prepared. A successful walking habit means more than putting one foot in front of the other.

Initially, you have a few decisions to make. Where are you going to walk? What time do you want to leave? Are you going to walk alone or solo? Will you bring your dog? Should you bring water?

Next, get the right equipment to ensure your success. Get a good pair of comfortable walking shoes and socks to match. Get a water bottle that’s comfortable to carry.

People who use a pedometer walk 27% more than those who don’t, so consider getting one to encourage your success. [3] The Fitbit One is an incredible, tiny device that track your steps, distance, calories burned, and even your sleep cycle. Pretty amazing!

Make It Convenient

Put everything you need to take a walk in one convenient place so you can grab it and go. If your shoes are in the linen closet, your socks are in the bedroom, your house key in your desk drawer, and your left your water bottle in the car, you’ll give up before you get out the door! 😥

Make It Fun

Make your walk something you look forward to. If you like companionship, find a walking partner. If you enjoy music, podcasts, or audiobooks, listen while you walk. You’ll find the time spent walking flies by!

The Big Red X

When Jerry Seinfeld was an upcoming comedian, he created the habit of writing new material every day using a wall calendar and a red marker. You can do the same.

Put up a wall calendar (there are free ones you can print online) in a highly-visible place, like on the fridge. Every day you take your walk, cross out that day with a BIG RED X. You won’t want to see any blank days which will, as Jerry says, “break the chain”. I’d listen to Jerry. He’s been pretty successful. 😉

It’s widely accepted that it takes 30 days to create a new habit, so after one month, your new habit will largely be formed. Then you can ramp it up to the next level. Eventually you can turn your walk around the block into a five-mile-a-day habit, if that’s your ultimate goal.

Small Habits Create Gateways

These techniques can be used for any lifestyle change you want to make – diet, exercise, meditation, stress reduction techniques, and more.

Not sure where to begin? Here are some examples of healthy “baby steps” you could take:

  • Replace one soda with a glass of water.
  • Replace one cup of coffee with a cup of green tea.
  • Eat a small baggie of raw vegetables as one of your snacks.
  • Have a piece of fruit instead of dessert after dinner.
  • Do 5 minutes of yoga stretches in the morning and in the evening.
  • Listen to a 10 minute meditation.

Pick one healthy change (or create your own) and commit to doing it daily for 30 days to create a new healthy habit.

Small changes aren’t very exciting, but many people have found using this technique really works to bring lasting change. Your new habit can serve as a gateway to bigger changes that can significantly improve your life.

Article References
[1] http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/planning-to-retire/2013/03/01/10-things-to-do-in-retirement
[2] http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703478704574612052322122442
[3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2094159

Article Source
Surprisingly…Unstuck: Rewire Your Brain to Exercise More, Eat Right, and Truly Enjoy Doing So by Maria Brilaki