An Attitude of Gratitude

Many of us associate the word gratitude with the act of simply saying “thank you” to someone for a kindness shown to us or others. But gratitude is far more than just a reaction associated with being thankful for something. It is actually a coherent emotion, and a deep appreciation of someone or something.

Gratitude is a state of mind that we create when we affirm good in our lives that comes from outside of ourselves or from relishing in small pleasures. We all have those precious blessings in our lives that we are grateful for, but gratitude does not necessarily have to come from our own circumstances.

Practicing gratitude means developing an awareness that allows us to be grateful for things like good health, a delicious meal, a child’s smile, the air that we breathe, etc. It is a deeper appreciation of life in all its moments. This includes gratitude for what we may deem as negative experiences as well, because we understand the learning opportunity available to us.

Tom Kenyon, one of my favorite teachers, speaks of how feeling the coherent emotions of gratitude and appreciation (as opposed to simply thinking about them) positively impacts our perception of ourselves and the world around us. According to Tom, “various studies, including those conducted by the Heart Math Institute, show conclusively that when we are in a coherent state such as appreciation, our cognitive abilities and problem solving skills actually improve. On the other hand, incoherent emotions, such as frustration, can have a deleterious effect on our cognitive function as well as our sense of wellbeing.”

This is not meant to say that we should avoid our incoherent emotions like sadness, anger or fear for example. That would not be productive! What I am saying is that spending time and effort in gratitude for life’s myriad of experiences helps us to recognize when our attention shifts to lesser coherent states. This awareness is the first step in the work required to move through these so-called “negative” emotions.

The benefits of practicing gratitude are plentiful. For example:

Wellbeing
Expressing your gratitude can improve your overall sense of wellbeing.

Relationships
Gratitude strengthens interpersonal relationships.

Optimism
A focus on gratitude can increase optimism by shifting your energy to more positive emotions.

Happiness
The pursuit of happiness is subjective, but the satisfaction that comes from practicing gratitude has a lasting positive effect. Therefore, the more we practice gratitude, the more positive we feel, thus the happier we are with our lives.

So, how do you enter into this state of mind?

Starting a gratitude journal is a wonderful way to get in touch with what makes you feel grateful.

To do this, get yourself a journal that is only going to be used as your gratitude journal. This is important because you want this journal to be filled with positive, happy experiences and emotions. It is good to be able to express all of your emotions, so consider having a secondary journal for all other expressions.

The purpose of the journal is to reflect on your day or week to pull out at least five things you feel grateful for.

Before you begin your journaling, make sure you feel sincere about what you are about to write about, and try to focus your energies on both people and intangibles.

Besides highlighting the wonderful things you can be grateful for, this practice has been proven to increase sleep quality, decrease symptoms of sickness, and increase happiness and joy.

What are you grateful for? I’d love to hear about it.

Simple Changes

The word “detox” might conjure up images of someone starving on just lemon water and cayenne. Or, maybe you imagine a friend that did a juice cleanse and had a migraine for three days. Detox doesn’t have to be that extreme! It can simply mean that you focus your efforts on changing some of your routines to help create a more balanced mind and body.

Due to environmental exposure, we can become overwhelmed by toxins that enter into the body via water, air, food, pharmaceuticals, or other drugs.

Cleansing the body does not have to be as extreme or restrictive as some of the many popular diets you’ve likely heard of or even tried yourself. In fact, simple changes, like the ones shared below are a great way to begin the detoxification process:

Water
Start each day with a glass of spring or filtered water and the juice of one lemon to help flush toxins and alkalize the body. Be sure to also continue drinking water throughout the day.

Vegetable Juice
Drink a freshly made vegetable juice daily that includes hearty greens such as kale and spinach to help cleanse the cells of toxins. Or, if you really want to kick it up a notch, enjoy a tall glass of freshly juiced celery first thing in the morning like my husband and I do. Celery’s alkalizing, cleansing, restorative and nutritional properties give you a really big bang for your buck, as the saying goes.

Oils
Eliminate toxic oils from your diet such as vegetable, peanut, and canola. Instead, use oils high in omega-3s, -6s, and -9s, such as extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, hemp oil, or avocado oil. Better yet, avoid oil altogether and get your fat from whole food like avocado, nuts and seeds, in moderation of course!

Tea 
Teas such as dandelion, milk thistle, and nettles are great for detoxification.

Raw Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables contain enzymes that improve nutrient absorption and aid digestion. Grapes, berries and melons are the best choice for cleansing, especially when used in combination with the right herbs chosen based on your body’s own unique needs.

Sugar
Avoid white sugars and any other artificial sweeteners, as they can toxify the body. Instead, opt for natural sweeteners such as dates, fresh fruit or maple syrup. Fresh fruit is my recommended choice.

White Flour
Consuming white flour overworks the digestive system and can cause digestive disorders. And much of the wheat being grown in the US is sprayed with pesticides that are having a negative impact on the gut. Coconut or flax wraps are a healthy and delicious alternative to commonly eaten grain-filled breads.

Kick off your morning with this Sunrise Detox Smoothie:

Ingredients

  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1/2 cup frozen mango
  • 1/2 cup pineapple
  • 1/2 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1 cup coconut water
  • juice of one lemon

Instructions

Place ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until smooth.

This smoothie is layered to look like a sunrise, so to get that gradient effect, blend the raspberries and other fruit separately and then pour in layers to create the effect. Of course, it tastes just the same and has the same benefits if you just throw it all together too.

Remember, small changes can yield exponential results. Choose something from this list and implement it for one week and watch what happens. I’d love to hear about your progress.

Anxiety? A Natural Approach

To say that we are living in extremely challenging and uncertain times right now is putting it mildly. Groups of people are being marginalized and treated inhumanely because of who they love, the color of their skin or their religion. Folks are struggling to make ends meet, homelessness is more prevalent than ever and being diagnosed with a serious illness is becoming common. Of course all of these things cause stress and anxiety. But there is hope.

Anxiety is a common response to stressors, like being caught in up a dangerous situation, taking a test, or having to make an important decision. But, when anxiety becomes a constant response to situations it can be problematic.

Anxiety affects many people throughout their lives. For some, it is merely situational, but for others, anxiety is constant and can lead to more serious disorders like generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and social anxiety disorder. I have observed this up close with a loved one and understand how debilitating it can be.

Some causes of anxiety include:

  • stress
  • trauma
  • thyroid disorders
  • dysfunctional serotonin
  • excessive alcohol consumption
  • caffeine and sugar intake
  • hormonal imbalance

Physical and psychological symptoms of anxiety include:

  • muscle tension
  • chest tightness
  • heart palpitations
  • high blood pressure
  • insomnia
  • digestive problems
  • panic attacks
  • irritability
  • difficulty concentrating
  • restlessness
  • sweating
  • anxiousness
  • inability to socialize

Psychotropic drugs and cognitive behavioral therapy are the conventional methods for anxiety treatment, and with an estimated one-third of the population suffering from anxiety, it is no doubt that the number of medications is equally high.

There are also many natural remedies that have been proven effective without the adverse side effects. And if you’ve been following me for awhile you know that is my jam! 

Here are some recommended approaches you might try:

Avoid Sugary and Processed Foods
Consuming foods with a high glycemic index, like processed and fast foods, can contribute to anxiety and depression. Additionally, sugar and refined carbohydrates can cause blood sugar levels to fluctuate wildly, increasing anxiety, nervousness and fatigue.
Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine
Alcohol and caffeine can both enhance anxiety symptoms by causing tension, moodiness, and the jitters. Reduce anxiety by avoiding alcohol completely. Limit coffee or black tea to no more than one cup per day.
Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha, a powerful herb, is often used as a natural remedy for anxiety, as it helps to stabilize the body’s response to stress. Ashwagandha improves focus, reduces fatigue, and helps to fight anxiety without the attending side effects of anti-anxiety medications.
Kava Root
Kava root is used to treat anxiety by stimulating dopamine receptors in the brain, which induces euphoria and a sense of wellbeing. It is a great alternative to anti-anxiety medications because it is non-addictive and non-hypnotic, but still increases positive mood and relaxation. Kava should be taken under the guidance of a health care provider, as it has been known to interact with certain medications.
Magnesium 
Because magnesium deficiency is common in adults, you should consider supplementing it, as magnesium is great for relaxing muscles and the nervous system.
Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender is a natural sedative, and it helps reduce anxiety by allowing the body to relax.
Physical Activity
Physical activity helps to reduce stress, improve sleep, reduce inflammation, increase energy, and boost confidence. It takes around half an hour of sustained exercise to see the effects on anxiety levels.

Life is unpredictable and uncomfortable situations will undoubtedly occur. Incorporating some of these lifestyle changes has been shown to be beneficial. Note: always consult your trusted holistic medical practitioner before making any changes.

Alternatives to Chemical-Laden Cleaners, and a Recipe

Indoor air pollution ranks among the top environmental dangers, and the majority of that pollution comes from the cleaners that we use on a regular basis. Often we don’t even think to relate symptoms we have to the products we use! Yet, some of the immediate effects might be headaches, nausea, irritation to the nose or eyes, and dizziness.

It’s kind of hard to believe that one of the top pollutants is caused by something that could be eliminated entirely. The problem is, then how would we keep our homes clean?
The good news: there are options.

Chemical-laden cleaning products aren’t the only means for keeping your home clean and fresh. Homemade, non-toxic cleaning products are easy to use, fun to make, and are definitely better for us and the environment.

Here are natural products you can start replacing those chemical products with now:

Baking Soda
Baking soda is great for deodorizing, shining, and cutting through grease and grime.

Castile Soap
Castile soap is made from plant oils and is useful to clean surfaces and wash dishes.

Vinegar
Vinegar is a powerhouse cleaner that effectively eliminates soap scum, grease, and grime.

Lemon Juice
Natural lemon juice is great for cleaning mildew and mold, as well as for shining hard surfaces. Lemon essential oil works well too.

Olive Oil
Olive oil is good for both cleaning and polishing.

Try this recipe for a safe and effective all-purpose cleaner (except for wood):

-¾ cup water
-¼ cup rubbing alcohol
-5 to 10 drops of peppermint or lemon oil
-1 squirt of natural dish soap

Pour all ingredients into a 16-ounce spray bottle. Shake well before spraying onto a surface, and then wipe clean with a towel.

Happy cleaning!

Do your skin a favor!

The skin is the largest organ in the body, regulating temperature, sensing pain, and protecting it from trauma and outside dangers. As with any organ, it is important to pay attention to and nurture its health. One way to do this is to start a daily routine of dry brushing your skin in the morning before taking a bath or shower.

Dry brushing is exactly what it sounds like – the brushing of the skin with a dry brush. The process removes dry, dead skin cells, leaving the skin fresh and new.

You may be thinking that adding another step to your already busy routine is too much, but in addition to baby-soft skin, the benefits of dry brushing go well beyond your skin.

Here are some of the incredible benefits:

Lymphatic System

The lymphatic system is comprised of a series of nodes throughout the body that are connected to one another by lymph vessels. The nodes contain immune cells that help fight infection within the body or keep harmful substances out. Dry brushing can help to stimulate the lymphatic system which helps the body detoxify.

Exfoliation

Dry brushing with a natural bristle-brush helps to remove dead skin cells for softer, more vibrant skin.

Natural Energy Boost

Dry brushing is said to increase circulation, which in turn leads to a nice post-brush energy boost. It might not be best to do at night, though!

Also, when done properly, dry brushing feels great!

When shopping for a dry brush you want to look for a brush with natural fibers, like the one found here.

Once you have yours, try this method to get the softest, smoothest skin:

  • Start at the feet and brush in an upward motion, covering each section of your leg with 10 long, smooth strokes. To activate the lymphatic system, it is recommended that all strokes along the body be guided toward the heart or the center of the body.
  • Repeat this process with the arms by starting at the hands and moving up toward the shoulders, brushing each section 10 times.
  • For the torso and underarms, brush in a circular clockwise motion.
  • For the face, a more delicate face specific brush is required as the body brush will be too harsh.

Note: Brushing too hard can cause the skin to turn red or sting. Your strokes should be smooth and soft. It is uncomfortable, you are doing it too hard.

Take care of your skin and it will love you back.

Save a Bag and Still Save Your Produce

This topic concerns an important issue that I have personally struggled with. Many of us, myself included, realize that the plastic produce bags we put our veggies in aren’t great for the environment. And if like me, you have tried to forgo them, only to discover that your greens have wilted and your carrots have gone limp in the fridge, take heart. There is a solution!

First, a little background. Plastic bags are made with non-renewable resources. They don’t break down in landfills, they’re difficult to recycle, and they are causing the senseless death of birds, sea life, and other animals on a catastrophic level. What makes this situation even more unfortunate is that these very damaging plastics are often intended for one-time use and are discarded as soon as they serve our purpose.

In fact, nearly 60,000 plastic bags are being consumed in the United States every 5 seconds. That is a staggering statistic, and even though many stores have ceased to offer plastic bags for groceries, we are still filling our reusable canvas bags with fruits and produce wrapped in plastic produce bags.

Such a practice doesn’t make much sense considering the deservedly bad reputation plastic has received over the last decade or so. Most items found in the produce section can easily be put in your cart without the bag, but often we use the bag anyway. This is because without the bag, we would end up with wilted vegetables in the refrigerator just a few days later.

Well, not necessarily. There are several newer companies out there selling reusable bags for produce, but you can also store fruits and veggies without the need for bags if you know how to best store them..

Here are some bag-free storage tips for some commonly purchased fruits and vegetables:

Beets
Leaving any top on root vegetable will draw moisture from the root, causing them to lose flavor and firmness. Be sure to cut off the tops before washing them and storing them in an open container with a wet towel over the top.

Carrots
Cutting the tops off keeps them fresher longer. Wrap carrots in a damp towel and store in a closed container in the fridge

Cucumber
Wrap in a moist towel and store in the fridge.

Greens
Keep in an airtight container covered with a damp cloth in the fridge.

Spinach
Store loose in an open container in the crisper. Keep cool and use soon as possible.

Strawberries
Store in a paper bag in the fridge for up to a week.

Citrus
Store in a cool place, but not in an airtight container.

Of course, remember to bring your reusable canvas bags with you whenever you go shopping. My husband jokingly calls me a bag lady since I always keep several in the trunk of our car. Hey, you never know when you’ll need them.

With love,

 

Healthy Travel Tips

Summer has officially arrived here in the Pacific Northwest and it has brought along some sunny and beautiful weather. Bye bye Seattle drizzle – hello gardening, outdoor concerts, picnics and travel, all of which we are currently enjoying.

Hubby and I just returned from a quick trip back east to visit my family, followed by several days in Toronto for a training. I’m excited to share more about what we’re cooking up once the details have been ironed out, so stay tuned for that!

Meanwhile, since travel is fresh on my mind I thought I would take this opportunity to share some of my favorite healthy travel tips with you.

  • It’s all about the snacks – What you are permitted to bring depends on where you are going, i.e. across the country or across a border so make sure you are familiar with applicable customs-related restrictions. As an example, when leaving Toronto to return to the US, we were required to clear customs and immigration prior to getting on the plane. Thus, while we could bring fresh food on the plane on the way to Canada, we were not permitted to bring fresh fruit and veggies on the way back.
  • Pack some healthy basics:  chia seeds, energy bars, nuts & seeds, dried fruit, dark chocolate, etc. When you arrive at your destination, you can purchase some fresh fruit, veggies, hummus, etc. to snack on. You can add a teaspoon of the chia seeds to some juice or nut milk to make a filling and nutritious snack.
  • Use the web to find nearby healthy restaurants and grocery stores. Looking for a plant-based eatery? Try Happy Cow or VegGuide, or Google or Yelp and include search terms like “organic,” “vegan,” “plant-based,” or “sustainable.” Depending on the season, you might find a Farmers Market, which is one of my favorite resources for local and sustainable options.
  • Be aware that while items marked “TSA Approved” can travel safely in the US, they may be confiscated at a foreign airport. Example: I lost a bottle of difficult-to-replace preservative-free saline solution for my contact lenses at Heathrow on my way to France.
  • You can pack a small blender such as a Nutri-Bullet in your carry-on or checked luggage (although on the way through security, they might ask you what the big piece of metal is about). You then can make smoothies right in your hotel room.
  • I suggest you avoid the body scanners at security due to excess and unnecessary radiation exposure. You have a right to simply say “I opt out” and get a pat-down instead. Even without any metal in your pockets, you might be “randomly” chosen for the scanner, so allow extra time to get through security.

Enjoy your travels and be kind to strangers. Remember, strangers are just friends that you haven’t met yet.

Lessons from the Squirrels

Have you ever noticed how we can learn a great deal from nature? I’ve been pondering this lately, and taking some time to observe the squirrels that have been favoring our back yard, which has become quite a popular place. Alright, so I’ve been feeding them some nuts which, no doubt, is a big part of the attraction…that and the beautiful park-like setting that we are so blessed to look out upon each day.

squirrelIt began a couple of years ago when a friendly grey squirrel decided to sit in the tree outside my kitchen window, looking in at me as I stood at the sink washing my vegetables. It was a cold winter day and he looked hungry so I put a few nuts out on the deck. As you may have guessed, we’ve been friends ever since, although I have resisted giving him a name.

In recent months, some new squirrel friends have arrived at our back door and the competition for the cache of nuts has been fierce. A pair of small native red squirrels, about one-third the size of my furry grey friend, began to show up daily and chase him away. Why was he allowing himself to be run off by these two fearless, aggressive little guys? And why can’t they just share?

It reminded me of how we often buy into the idea of lack, believing that there is not enough to go around or thinking that we won’t have what we need. Of course this couldn’t be further from the truth. Then it got me thinking about how often we are clueless about our ability to make beneficial changes in our life or perhaps don’t even realize or believe that it’s even an option for us. Ideas are simply thoughts, which can be changed after all.

Well, today something changed. That big grey squirrel stood his ground, guarding his nuts and refusing to be run off by that little fierce squirrel. Something inside him must have shifted because he just wasn’t afraid anymore. It was an exciting moment for me to witness and it reminded me of all the opportunities I’ve had to learn, move past my fears and grow, and how I now use my experiences to support others to do the same.

So, now let me ask you – what have you been wishing you can do or telling yourself that you can’t accomplish? Are you willing to take a lesson from my squirrel friend and realize that it is just a thought and that you have the power to change your mind about it?

Time and time again I have witnessed that as we make positive changes in our diets, our whole world shifts to align itself with our updated choices. As we say “yes” to life by nurturing our bodies and nourishing them with wholesome nutritious food, they say “yes” to us! Possibilities begin to emerge that never before entered our reality, and we begin to see miracles happen.

Are you ready for a breakthrough? In addition to my one-to-one coaching, I am in the process of creating a group coaching program set to begin in the spring. I am also creating an online survey you can use to help me understand the best ways I can offer my services to you; look forward to its arrival in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, you can always contact me by private e-mail to discuss how I can support you!

‘Tis the Season To Do a Cleanse

As I write this I am in the midst of participating, along with a group of 550 people, in a candida cleanse. Our group has committed to live with intention and to bring our best selves forward by greeting the challenges and opportunities of the New Year with clarity and conviction.

avosalad

What does this have to do with candida, you might ask, and what is candida anyway?

Candida albicans is a fungus that lives in our mouths and digestive tracts. Under normal conditions it causes no harm, but it can become an infectious agent if allowed to grow out of control. This upset to the body’s balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria, known as candidiasis, can occur for a variety of reasons, including use of antibiotics or birth control pills, hormonal changes, and poor eating habits.

To give you an idea of the kinds of problems candidiasis can cause, here are just a few potentially related symptoms:

  • Brain “fog” (memory issues)
  • Digestive problems
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Endocrine system imbalances (e.g. thyroid imbalance)
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Mood swings, depression and irritability
  • Anxiety attacks, panic attacks
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Fatigue, muscle or joint pain
  • Hair loss
  • Fungal problems, such as athlete’s foot, toenail fungus, rashes and eczema
  • Immune disorders including asthma, allergies, recurring infections

Candida overgrowth has become much more prevalent in recent years due to a number of factors including: widespread overuse of antibiotics; highly-chlorinated swimming pools; increased levels of pesticides, hormones and antibiotics in the foods we eat; and the explosion in the use of high-fructose corn syrup as a sweetener in so many processed food and beverage products.

What can a person do to address any possible candida overgrowth and increase overall health and vitality at the same time? The first step is to eliminate from your diet those foods that support the growth of this fungus. Refined sugar, hydrogenated oils and other unhealthy fats, bread and pasta, processed/refined grains, starchy vegetables, and pasteurized dairy products fall into this category. It is also recommended that you seek out organic, non-GMO fruits and vegetables (always a good idea even when you’re not on a cleanse).

I firmly believe that when you make a decision to embody your true essence and to live to your fullest potential, imbalances like candidiasis are impediments.

If you have noticed in yourself any of the symptoms mentioned above, and would like to explore the possibility that they could be related to candida, I invite you to contact me. In addition to the elimination of the foods that feed the fungus, there are supplements you can take which support the body’s ability to return itself to its naturally-balanced state. The diet portion stops feeding the candida, thus interrupting its ability to multiply; the supplements prepare the body for a gentle cleansing process and facilitate the die-off of the fungal overgrowth.

Another group cleanse is slated to start in February 2013. Please contact me if you are ready to say YES to 2013 in a more fully-present way.

What’s Food Got To Do With It?

What’s food got to do with it? Perhaps nothing. Or does it?

The recent school shootings in Connecticut have left the world reeling with emotions ranging from anger to sadness to compassion and everything in between. And it has also stirred a commitment in our hearts to honor the lives of the children and their teachers and use this recent tragedy to change the world for the better.

As a result, there is currently much talk about the need for better gun control laws, better psychiatric support, and some are even making a connection between the mind-altering psychotropic drugs that are so readily prescribed these days. While I believe that these are all worthy of consideration, it’s a complex issue with many facets and I don’t believe that all of the answers will be found in any one place.

foodWhen I look at it through the lens of “you are what you eat,” I feel that diet is another aspect to some of the aggressive and erratic behavior we’ve been witnessing and that it also merits further investigation.  If you’ve ever seen a young child bouncing off the walls after eating sugary foods, and then witnessed the “crash” that happens afterwards, you’ll understand where I’m going with this. Personality changes that can include behaviors like hyperactivity and even aggression often happen after exposure to toxic ingredients. Some of the more common offenders that you may have heard of are artificial food dyes, aspartame, and MSG, which is considered an excitotoxin.

Food sensitivities can be another commonly mistaken cause of “troublesome” behavior. Even if it’s considered a healthy food, it is important to note that what’s good for one person may be toxic to another and that any amount of toxicity has the ability to contribute to some type of unusual, as in out of the ordinary, behavior. And it goes way beyond food, factoring in common environmental allergens such as mold and pesticides, for example. If you’d like to explore this further, Doris Rapp, M.D., a board-certified environmental medical specialist and pediatric allergist, has written extensively on this topic in her book, Is This Your Child? Although the book focuses on children, the information it contains is pertinent to adults as well.

Alcohol consumption is another situation where this connection often becomes evident. How many of us have seen Uncle John down one too many beers at the family holiday gathering, only to then pick a fight with some of the other family members. It can be fascinating to watch, as long as you don’t find yourself sucked into the drama.

The connection between food and mood is the awareness I would like to offer here. If this is a new concept to you, begin by noticing how you yourself feel after eating certain foods. Do you feel enlivened or drained? Does your heart beat faster? Do you break out in a rash? Does your head feel fuzzy? And if you have young children in your care, do you notice anything unusual about their behavior soon after eating or being exposed to some other known or unknown toxin?

In a nutshell, I firmly believe that if we paid more attention to what we are eating we would see a huge shift in overall health, well-being, and behavior. I have seen this time and time again with myself, my family and those with whom I have worked.

If you discover that you have a need or a desire to change your eating habits and don’t know where to begin, I am happy to assist you. Contact me for a complimentary thirty-minute discovery session where, together, we can best determine your needs moving forward.

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