Inner Stillness in the Fast Lane

Whether we are raising children, working in a job, running a business, or retired, we cannot escape the fast pace, stress induced life that surrounds us. Life has lost its simplicity: I need three to five gadgets to work my TV; it takes six steps to download an ebook from the library; and I still do not know how to use my new cell phone. When we add busy schedules, medical appointments, whole food preparation, commuter traffic, and multi-tasking, we are off to the races. This kind of stressful lifestyle plays havoc on our health, sleep, well-being, relationships and soul. If we do not make inner stillness a priority in our lives, we pay a high price.

Looking back to my childhood, I remember opening the door to my Catholic church and being inundated by the silence and stillness of this sanctuary. Whether it was the mystery associated with Jesus Christ or the church environment itself, I do not know. The stillness spoke to me at a young age because it was a time out from the loud, high stress family in which I lived. Interestingly, my parents did not attend church so I could enter the inner quiet without parental intrusion. I walked or drove with relatives, and when old enough I attended myself. To this day, I crave the stillness and silence that replenish my soul and have found ways to make it happen on a daily basis.

I invite you to recharge your life with moments of inner stillness. Here are six easy-to-implement techniques that nurture your soul, nourish your body and quiet your mind:

Morning ritual: Before getting out of bed, connect with your inner stillness with a mantra or prayer as you set your intention for the day. Morning rituals depend on how much time you can give them. But, minutes work! Devotional reading, yoga, meditation, visualization, prayer, and more, can start your day with purpose and serenity.

Breathing techniques: You can manage stress and striving by doing breathing techniques that work for you. As you focus on your breath, your mind stops its incessant chatter and your body relaxes. For example, this is one technique you can do for 5 to 10 rounds: Inhale for four counts, hold for seven, and exhale through your mouth for eight. It takes a few minutes.

Yoga and meditation: Stretching and meditating accelerate the path to a quiet mind and still body. When it becomes a habit, you can accomplish this after only a few moments of stretching and focusing. As little as 20 minutes can start your day with a strong spiritual connection of inner quiet and effortless flow.

Visualization: Use the mind to take you on a journey that leads to your own sanctuary of inner peace. I like a particular temple of silence visualization that leads to a palpable, restorative silence. Media recordings abound with journeys into silence, stillness and inner peace. The more you use them, the easier it is to experience stillness quickly.

Mantra or chant: When the mind is focused on any of these three, it is not incessantly thinking. Being immersed in a focused repetitive thought, induces a trance like state that can lead to inner peace. The Catholic Rosary and “Om Mani Padme hum” chant lead to inner stillness if you do them with mindful awareness and experience the energy shift in your body.

Mindless activity: Immerse yourself in a task with present moment awareness. When your mind is open and relaxed (receptive), it is not striving toward a desired outcome. Instead, you are available to inner stillness, and your intuition can deliver creative insights or solutions to problems. Bathing, exercising, performing household tasks, or walking in nature are perfect times to be available to inner harmony and higher wisdom.

Inner stillness leads to improved well-being and physical health and provides a pathway to a Higher Power. The following benefits have been verified: tranquility, experiencing the divine, mental clarity, improved problem solving, insights, enhanced creativity, improved ability to learn, stress reduction, relaxed muscles, lower anxiety and pain, reduced heart rate, better digestion, and increased energy.

The key to making inner stillness become a part of your life is to have short, intermittent periods of inner quiet throughout your day. While you are living life to its fullest, it is possible to create moments of “down time” in just minutes. With little effort, you counter balance the fast lane with periods of rest and rejuvenation.

A sanctuary of inner peace await you if you will enter this sacred place. Your mind, body and soul will flourish, and your life will be filled with ease.

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The Upside of Depression

Periods of sadness, apathy, hopelessness and discontent have been part of my life’s journey, and I assume that is true for most people. How we deal with those feelings matters. They can lead to personal transformation and lifestyle changes or disempowerment and a pessimistic outlook.

In my life, periods of depression accompanied 1) the ending of my two marriages; 2) the awareness that being a full time mom was not fulfilling me; 3) the realization that my religion had lost meaning for me; and 4) the two health crises that changed my body (to name a few). Life looked bleak in those times; I had no idea what would replace the known. I did my best to cope and reach for support from others. Grace did the rest as these situations became turning points that made me a better person and brought more abundance into my life.

Situational depression is different from chronic depression or grief. Chronic depression could mean a lifetime of medication, and grief is a natural response to significant loss—person, job, home, health, business, and more. A complicated grief response may also require medication. That being said, depression can be overcome in a variety of ways. Our job is to make our lives easier by recognizing the symptoms, identifying the available resources, and knowing when to ask for professional help.

Incidence and Symptoms of Depression:

As reported by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, a major depressive disorder affects an estimated 15 million American adults (6.7% of the population) in a given year. According to Healthline.com, 80% of individuals who have symptoms of clinical depression are not receiving any treatment, and the number of patients diagnosed with depression increases by approximately 20% each year.

Ten symptoms associated with depression are these: chronic sadness, self-loathing attitude, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, irritability and isolation, anxiety, fatigue, disturbed sleep patterns, change in appetite and body weight, moving or speaking slowly or feeling restless, and suicidal tendencies. The disorder negatively affects work, self-care, home care, and relationships.

Integrative Wellness Tips to Heal Depression

In the article, Seven Proven Ways to Overcome Depression Naturally, Deane Alban lists strategies that may not only reduce or alleviate symptoms of depression but also contribute to optimal health: (To learn more, go here)  http://reset.me/story/7-proven-ways-to-overcome-depression-naturally/

  1. Eat real food and avoid processed food, fast food, and commercial baked goods. You will increase the nutrients your brain needs to function.
  2. Eat healthy fats in order to balance omega-3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids in your blood.
  3. Get physically active in order to increase endorphins, the feel good hormones, and increase levels of brain growth factors that regulate the neurotransmitters targeted by antidepressants. Outdoor exercise will replenish vitamin D levels which will lift your mood and reduce the winter blues.
  4. Practice meditation because it is one of the best ways to heal depression. This mindful practice increases levels of serotonin and reduces cortisol and brain inflammation as well as quiets negative self-talk. Other mind-body healing techniques are biofeedback, guided imagery, self-hypnosis, yoga, breathing exercises, autogenic training, acupuncture, biofeedback and neurofeedback.
  5. Develop an attitude of gratitude because it reduces underlying toxic emotions such as envy, frustration, resentment and regret, to name a few.
  6. Consider using herbal remedies: Chinese medicine uses artic root, Asian ginseng and ginkgo. Ayurvedic medicine uses aswagandha to reduce stress and cortisol; turmeric (curcumin) to increase serotonin and dopamine; and saffron to improve serotonin metabolism.
  7. Explore Homeopathic remedies such as arsenicum album, aurum metallicum, naturium muraticum, sepia, and pulsatilla nigricans. However, homeopathy works best when an expert is guiding the healing.

These integrative wellness strategies involve the body and mind—my kind of approach. Prescription drugs are the conventional treatment for depression; however, used in conjunction with other holistic strategies, a positive mood may occur sooner, have more intensity, and last longer. Psychotherapy is another effective method to overcome depression because it may uncover dysfunctional mental and behavioral patterns that can be changed with insight and purposeful actions. Emotional Freedom Techniques has been used successfully to eliminate depression and the negative thinking associated with it.

From my personal experience and observations of others who struggle with situational depression, I believe depression can be a stepping stone to greater aliveness. When we feel sad, powerless and apathetic, we have an opportunity to look around, notice what is not working, ask for help and make changes. One of the most important things we can do is trust that a Higher Power will carry us through this darkness—the Footprints in the Sand Prayer. Looking on the bright side of life enables us to see life from a higher perspective and trust that a positive outcome is within reach.

An integrative approach will not only alleviate or eliminate symptoms of depression, it will also lead to great health, a sense of well-being and a life filled with personal satisfaction—prevention at its best.

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Super Spices and Herbs Promote Radiant Health

Super herbs and spices as well as superfoods go hand in hand to promote optimal health. Do not wait until you are diagnosed with a degenerative disease. Be proactive and prevent illness by eating foods that promote health and longevity. In general, the conventional medical establishment does not research the healing properties of food, spices and herbs because it promotes drugs. However, thousands of studies in journals on nutrition throughout the world confirm the profound effect food, herbs and spices have on our health.

Spices and herbs are known to aid fat burning and boost metabolism, help stabilize blood sugar, have power anti-inflammatory properties, and have anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. When multiple studies from diverse sources report the same findings, I believe they deserve our attention.

Below are my top 10 spices and herbs that promote health. Some I use consistently to prevent cancer and heart disease while staying healthy and active.

Cinnamon – has high antioxidant properties, improves cardiovascular health, regulates blood sugar levels, improves brain functions, and relieves pain and stiffness in muscles and joints. Cinnamon is great with fresh fruit, breakfast food and in baked goods. I use it every day!

Turmeric – is a strong antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties and a COX-2 inhibitor. It prevents cancer growth, strengthens the immune system, lessons plaque development within the arteries, improves liver function, prevents osteoarthritis, and slows the development of Alzheimer’s disease. I put it on eggs and salads of all kinds.

Ginger – fights free radicals within the body and has anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties. It quiets nausea, improves digestion and protects against gastric ulcers, reduces menstrual pain and migraines, and prevents osteoarthritis and other chronic inflammatory conditions. Large quantities have negative side effects, and it may interfere with some medications. Ginger tea supports great health.

Oregano – contains an oil that is a highly potent anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral agent. It strengthens the immune system, relieves inflammation internally and externally, speeds up toxin elimination, and improves bone health. I never travel without oregano oil. A few drops in a little water is my remedy to boost my immune system while traveling. I use it on insect bites, and it successfully eliminated a toe nail fungus.

Garlic – boosts immunity to fight disease, reduces blood pressure, improves cholesterol levels, prevents Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, detoxifies heavy metals in the body and combats cancer. I put a clove of garlic in a smoothie almost every day as well as cook with an abundance of it. (Italians and garlic are inseparable.)

Cayenne – is anti-inflammatory, raises your metabolism, stimulates digestive enzymes, regulates blood sugar, helps prevent stomach ulcers, reduces LDL blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, decreases the formation of harmful blood clots, and lowers blood pressure. I drink it as a weak tea to prevent high blood pressure.

Thyme – has been known to treat bronchitis sore throats and asthma, helps maintain brain function, promote heart health, and is a soothing stomach aid to relieve gastritis and indigestion. It is used safely with children and the elderly. The oil has anti-septic, anti-viral, anti-rheumatic, anti-parasitic and anti-fungal properties.

Rosemary – contains antibacterial and antioxidant rosmarinic acid. It protects the brain from free-radical damage, lowers the risk of stroke and Alzheimer’s disease, inhibits cancer growth, and improves circulation and digestion. As an oil, it has anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and antiseptic properties.

Basil – has strong antimicrobial and antiviral properties, is a great source of beta-carotene, magnesium, iron and calcium, and is a natural COX-2 inhibitor. It is used to treat asthma, stress and diabetes in India and has been effective in treating arthritis and other inflammatory health conditions.

Sage – helps improve memory, lower inflammation throughout the body, strengthen the immune system, regulate proper digestion, alleviate skin conditions, and strengthen bones. Its estrogen-like effects reduce menopause symptoms.

Before the food and drug industries took over our lives, spices and herbs provided natural remedies for ailments of all kinds. Our modern lifestyle has taken us away from living close to the land and moved us toward processed foods and laboratory produced drugs. It is up to each of us to use the best from both worlds.

Foods offer healthy alternatives to drugs with few, if any, toxic side effects. For example, rosemary, turmeric, ginger and basil appear to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties; turmeric and sage help fight dementia; and cayenne and cinnamon help to regulate insulin and blood sugar. Become a health detective and find what feels right for you. Blood tests and other screenings also offer valuable feedback.

With awareness and commitment, you can bring spices and herbs back into your life on a greater scale. (I have only mentioned a few in this article.) Most are easy to purchase, fresh or dried, and taste good. As with food, be sure you do not have an allergy to a specific herb or spice. Also, learn whether an herb or spice has an adverse reaction to a drug you may be taking.

If you are willing to try new things, I suggest increasing some of these top ten super spices and herbs into your diet. It is really easy and the benefits are astounding!

To live well longer, fuel your body with spices and herbs that heal your body and put flavor in your food.

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Superfoods Promote Super Health in 2017!

At the beginning of each New Year, I take time to reflect on the past year, acknowledge what has gone well, and learn from what has not. Armed with this wisdom, I set my intentions for the coming year. Looking back over 2016, I saw that my health and well-being were a priority. I made more lifestyle changes to reduce stress, took my spirituality to a new level, and made food my medicine! Read more »

Give the Gift of Kindness

“Kindness is like snow—it beautifies everything it covers.” – Kahil Gibran

Let the joy, compassion and kindness of the gift-giving season begin.

After almost a year of political incivility, I feel as though my body and soul need a reminder that human beings are also compassionate and kind. While the media aggrandizes and normalizes aggressive behavior, it is easy for compassion and cooperation to go underground or be viewed as weak. During this festive season of Christmas, Hanukah, and Kwanzaa, I encourage you to allow compassion and kindness to lead the way. Read more »

The Three Faces of Forgiveness

A favorite quote in A Course in Miracles:
“The holiest of all the spots on earth is where an ancient hatred has become a present love.”

When we allow a past disappointment or betrayal to linger in our minds and bodies, we pay a price. Anger, guilt, hatred, resentment, bitterness, and despair can lead to disruptive relationships, emotional illness, physical disease and less enjoyment in life. When someone says, “I cannot forgive this person” or “I cannot forgive myself,” s/he prevents the possibility of grace entering the “wound” and healing it with divine Love. Read more »