Wednesday, February 25, 2015

5 Habits that Will Change Your Life For Good

Most people don't associate having a daily spiritual practice with having excellent physical health, but caring for our bodies is one of the most spiritual things we will ever do. In my book,  "Habits That Heal: A Spiritual Journey to Physical Wellness", I describe 5 daily spiritual habits that lead to emotional as well as physical healing. Below is a short synopsis of some of those healing habits.

1.  Practice gratitude daily.  As soon as you open your eyes in the morning, use that as your cue to list 10 things you are grateful for.  Be sure to include at least 2 or 3 things about your body that you are thankful for.  Being grateful for your body and everything it does for you will automatically lead to taking better care of it.  Studies show that people who practice gratitude daily are more optimistic, feel better about life, exercise more, and go to the doctor less often than people who don't.  They also get more sleep, fall asleep faster, and awake feeling more refreshed.  

Practicing gratitude changes your perception about your body, and transforms it into being healthy, vibrant, and beautiful.  When you love your body instead of hating it or wishing it could be different, healing can begin.

2.  Learn what truly "feeds" you.  Make a list of the things you love to do -- activities that truly feed your soul and don't come on a plate -- then schedule time each day or each week to participate in those activities.  Whether it be going for a walk in nature, dancing, or preparing a delicious homemade meal, making time for your soul feeders eases stress and anxiety levels, lowers blood pressure and heart rate, and promotes general health and wellness. 

3.  Find time for stillness.  Being still, quieting the inner voice that never stops talking, allows us to access our inner wisdom.  In stillness, we are more open to our higher power and can receive answers as to how to better care for our bodies.  Each evening before turning out the lights, do Dr. Andrew Weil's deep breathing technique:  Inhale through the nose for 4 counts, hold breath for 7 counts, and exhale through the mouth for 8 counts.  Repeat this cycle 4 times.  

Breathing deeply brings your attention back to your body and out of the thinking and stress mode.  Making relaxation breathing a nightly ritual will help lower blood pressure and heart rate and greatly reduce the risk of obesity, heart disease, asthma, depression, diabetes, Alzheimer's, and gastrointestinal problems.

4.  Do a good deed.  Seeing beyond ourselves and noticing the needs of others will contribute to our own health and well-being.  Regularly serving and helping others has been linked to increased immunity, tolerance for pain, social trust, tranquility, confidence, and self-esteem.  It is also associated with decreased depression and mortality rates.

5.  Let go of perfectionism.  It can be addicting trying to look perfect on the outside.  But since perfection is not humanly possible, it can leave us feeling anxious, frustrated, and inadequate.  Perfectionism has been linked to poor overall health, migraines, chronic pain, asthma, high anxiety and stress levels, depression, and increased risk of death.

The Greek origin of the word perfect means to be whole or complete.  We should strive to be whole -- not perfect.  Being willing to laugh at our mistakes, to love and accept ourselves just as we are while striving to make better choices, and letting others see our authentic selves are all ways we can embrace the beautiful imperfection of life.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

5 Things You Can Turn To For Comfort Instead of Food

We all have our favorite comfort foods that we turn to when we are feeling sad, stressed out, or anxious.  For some it may be chocolate chip cookies.  For others it might be mac & cheese or ice cream.  Usually these comfort foods are high in fat and sugar, because those ingredients rush into our bloodstreams and give us an immediate "high" .  Hello!  That's why they're called comfort foods -- they fill us up and temporarily make us feel safe and happy.  But here are some alternatives that you might want to try that won't add any bulk to your waistline or send your blood sugars soaring.  



When you feel anxious, fearful or stressed, try focusing on your breathing.  This brings you back to the present moment and gets you out of the thinking mind.  Do Dr. Andrew Weil's 4-7-8 breathing technique.  Breathe in through your nose for  4 counts, hold your breath for 7 counts, and breathe out through your nose for 8 counts.  Repeat this cycle 4 times.  Click here to see a demonstration by Dr. Weil himself.


I'm not talking about soothing, relaxing music here, although that does have its time and place.  But when the stress really hits, you need to let it out!  Play your favorite song as loud as you can and get crazy with it!  Dance around, sing your head off, and release that pent up energy.  Your mood will improve, your body will relax, and all that pent up stress will disappear!  Try dancing around to this song the next time your troubles are weighing you down.


If your belly just really needs something, try sipping on a cup of hot tea.  Even if you add a small amount of sweetener such as raw sugar or agave, this is a very low fat and low calorie way to curb your hunger and feel satisfied.  Try sipping chamomile for relaxation or lemon for a quick pick-me-up.  Peppermint tea will soothe an upset stomach and ginger tea will knock out a stress headache.  Click here to see my favorite brand and flavor of tea.


Making a mental list of 10 things you are grateful for can take you from a state of distress and unease to a much more calm and positive place.  Instead of reaching for that candy bar, list at least 10 things, people, or blessings that you have to be thankful for right now.  As you do, you will be filled with love and gratitude, which are far sweeter than any candy or treat.  Then go find someone to hug and fill your life with even more sweetness!  Visit this site for tips on starting a gratitude journal.


Noticing the needs of someone else may be just what we need when we are stressed, sad, or lonely.  Serving another person helps take us out of our own thoughts about ourselves, our problems, and our fears.  Giving regular service to others has been linked to increased immunity, tranquility, social trust, confidence, and self-esteem.  Focusing outward instead of always turning inward will help us be more at peace with ourselves and with life.  Click on this link to see the inspiring story of a woman who is helping others.