Buddha says…

To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family,
to bring peace to all,
one must first discipline and control one’s own mind.
If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment,
and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him.
Buddha

Green-BuddhaI like this quote, but get a little stuck on what it means to “discipline and control one’s own mind.” At first the words sound a little harsh, a little too ascetic, even Draconian. And then it sounds like a lot of work. But digging a little deeper, I began thinking about it in terms of coaching, A coach’s main functions is to help the client raise his/her self awareness. Because, if you have a high level of self awareness, then you are in charge of your thoughts and emotions (your mind), instead of them controlling of you.

Someone who lacks self awareness may blame others for the negative things in their lives – the rude clerk, the insensitive boss, the demanding children. Or they may believe life is something that happens to them. You may feel you don’t control much, but if you don’t manage, cultivate and direct yourself, who does?

Your thoughts are not an inevitable reality. You control how you look at and relate to the world around you. Don’t like your thought patterns or self-defeating behaviors? Replace them with something more positive, compassionate, and productive. Begin by recognizing what isn’t working for you and start experimenting with an outlook that does. It begins with awareness. It’s the key to positive change.

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Can You Fight off a Cold?

The plague is going around our house. It started with my daughter whose husky voice and juicy cough indicated a pretty nasty upper respiratory infection. Then it felled my husband – and I mean felled. He didn’t miss work, but he should have. He coughed and shivered and looked pretty miserable for two full days. This is someone who usually moves a hundred miles an hour, but every evening he was reduced to a blob on the couch covered with a sweatshirt and blankets. It was bad!

glass-of-ice-waterI was determined that this nasty virus would not get me and my other daughter, so I followed the usual precautions. I washed my hands even more religiously than usual, I disinfected the remote controls a few times, and I banned my husband from the kitchen.

Despite my best efforts, I started to feel the pestilence coming on. Those early symptoms of a scratchy throat and a heavy head grew more pronounced all day Saturday. What to do? I drank tons of water in an attempt to wash the virus right out of my system. This is my dad’s tried and true, and most of the time it works. I had a glass of ice-cold water by my side all day. As soon as I reached the bottom, I filled it up again. I’ve kept it up for the past 48+ hours, and I think I’m in the clear.

Lots of lots of fluids usually prevents me from coming down with a cold. If not completely, it seems to lessen the severity of it. I’d love to know what you do to fight one off. Please post your best methods in the comment section.

Anti-Inflammatory Diet

With so many diets out there, it’s tough to sort out what’s effective, what’s safe, what’s realistic for the long term and what simply isn’t any of the above. The anti-inflammatory diet–as it was developed by integrative medicine guru Andrew Weil, M.D.–isn’t a diet meant to help you shed pounds, though weight loss is a likely side effect. It’s a comprehensive lifetime eating plan designed “to prevent age-related disease and promote overall wellness.” Experts agree that more research is needed to verify claims of disease prevention, but overall, the diet is sensible, flexible, and includes a variety of foods known to be nutritious.

What does the anti-inflammatory diet look like?

An anti-inflammatory diet consists of healthy fats, plenty of fibrous fruits and vegetables, and limited amounts of animal protein (except for oily fish). The recommended ratio of these foods is 40-50% carbs, 30% fat, and 20-30% protein with a calorie total somewhere between 2,000- 3,000 per day. More specific guidelines tell you to eat plenty of Omega-3 fatty acids (found in cold-water fish, fish-oil supplements, and walnuts). Not surprisingly, whole grainspyramid_nutri_med such as brown rice and bulgur wheat are preferred over refined carbs like pasta. Processed and refined foods should be limited, especially those with added sugar, while spices such as ginger, curry, garlic, cinnamon and turmeric are used liberally.

What are the benefits?

The diet’s premise is that chronic inflammation leads to all sorts of health issues that arise as we age. Reducing inflammation prevents disease and promotes overall wellness. We know that chronic inflammation plays a role in autoimmune disorders such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis as well as Crohn’s disease, IBS, and asthma. In fact, studies have demonstrated that Omega-3 fatty acids alleviate the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. What is less understood is the relationship of inflammation to heart disease and cancer.  The anti-inflammatory diet is widely claimed to reduce the risk of both, yet its actual impact is still to be conclusively researched.

It’s encouraging to note that the anti-inflammatory diet is a close cousin to both the Mediterranean and Asian diets. These two dietary styles have been studied for their long-term health benefits and show a positive effect on cardiac health. By enjoying a diet that is low in saturated fats, levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels have been shown to fall.

Other known antidotes to inflammation are maintaining a healthy body weight, smoking cessation, and limiting alcohol consumption. Stress, environmental toxins, and physical activity also play a role in chronic inflammation.

Who advocates it?

Most notably…
Andrew Weil, MD
Barry Sears, MD – author of The Zone Diet
Nicholas Perricone, MD – a dermatologist whose focus is youthful skin

What about Supplements?

Weil’s version of the anti-inflammatory diet conforms to U.S. Government’s dietary guidelines but it is low on Vitamin D and calcium, so he recommends a large variety of supplements. Many advocates advise maximizing anti-inflammatory benefits of the diet by taking fish oil supplements rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Phytochemicals – naturally found in plant foods and available in supplement form — are also believed to help reduce inflammation.

Conclusion

Brent Bauer, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic writes: “My best advice concerning chronic inflammation is to stay tuned. This is a huge area of interest in the medical world and there are bound to be discoveries down the road that can improve well-being and the quality of health.” In other words it seems we’re on to something, but the jury is still out. Anti-inflammatory foods are without exception healthful choices recommended by nutritionists and health professionals. Include them in your diet sensibly and you may well be strengthening your body against age-related disease.

Sources

Livestrong.com, Basics of an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Mayo Clinic Health Letter, Buzzed on Inflammation
U.S. News and World Report – Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Diet
WebMD, Anti-Inflammatory Diet: Road to Good Health?
Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid
The Zone Diet

Want to Succeed? Monitor Yourself

Have you ever heard of the “quantified self?” It’s what happens when technology meets self-monitoring. Other catchy phrases referencing the same thing are lifelogging, autoanalytics, and self-tracking. Self-monitoring is not a new idea (early adopters include Saint Ignatius and Benjamin Franklin), and most of us have been doing it for years in some form or another – think bathroom scales and heart rate monitors. But as a tried and true idea, self-monitoring — enhanced by technology — is gaining traction. Tracking the details of your daily existence has become hugely popular in the health and wellness industry because it’s effective and computers and smart phones have made it almost effortless.

If your goal is weight loss, diligently recording your food intake along with your activity level will dramatically increase your chances of success. Why? Because tracking diet and exercise increases your self-awareness on several counts. It keeps you focused on your goal, strengthens your commitment to self-improvement, increases your feeling of control, helps you understand patterns in your eating and exercise habits, provides a detailed picture of your progress, and promotes a more positive mood.

Sleep-Cycle-briefapps-icon-150x150But why stop at diet and exercise? We have a seemingly limitless choice of technology to help us track just about anything. From our moods (Mood Panda), to sleeping (Sleep Cycle), and even our menstrual cycle (iPeriod). The novelty is seductive, yet if you can find an app or even create a spreadsheet or handwritten chart that supports you in reaching your goal of self improvement, use it! Self-awareness is the key, and cultivating it through closely monitoring your activities will keep you on track and accountable.

I’ve used Strava and Sleep Cycle and have a client who swears by Fitbit. What tools do you recommend? I’d love to hear about your favorites in the comment section below.

SOURCES

http://quantifiedself.com/

Kirschenbaum, Daniel S. Ph.D. (2000) The 9 Truths About Weight Loss. New York. Henry Holt & Co.

Baumeister, R. F. and J. Tierney (2011) Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength. New York. Penguin.

Nature — The Best Mood Lifter

Nothing lifts your mood like time spent outdoors (especially walking through the unforgettable spiraling sunken garden at the J Paul Getty Museum in L.A.) My family and I traveled to Los Angeles for some spring break R&R. These photos were taken at the Getty’s central garden.

IMG_0961Just when my kids had had enough of Renaissance triptychs we took a break to walk through the Central Garden. It was the highlight of an already incredible visit. Ambling, breathing the fresh air, admiring the colorful blossoms and artful plantings — we all felt revitalized and ready to tackle 19th-century art.

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This weekend, be sure to spend some time outdoors. Call a friend, walk the dog, pull some weeds, wash the car — or better yet, just get yourself outside and enjoy nature — rain or shine!