Giving Thanks for The Energy of the Season

The Thankful Season

Thanksgiving is around the corner and instead of doing the usual “healthy tips” post, I want to spread a different, less tangible, message – one of energy and light.

Energy – What goes out comes back

As you all know, I’m a scientist by nature and by education and by profession. Laws of energy tell us that energy is not created or destroyed; instead energy is transferred from one form to the next. Scandle-light-1421222-640x480cience also tells that we are carbon-based lifeforms made up of – you guessed it – energy. We are energy in a physical human form. It stands to reason, based on these ‘laws’, the energy we are made of is influenced not only by the energy around us, but the energy within us (our thoughts, emotions, actions). Is it too outlandish to suggest if we want to receive good energy, we have to give good energy? Stated simply: to get the light, we must give the light. This means giving light and energy to not only ourselves, but to others. Continue reading “Giving Thanks for The Energy of the Season”

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Mind Strong: Conscious Reframing

#MindStrong: Silencing Negative Nancy

Years of being a fitness and health professional and educator have taught me this – there is no clear, one-size-fits all explanation as to why some individuals engage in healthy behaviors while others do not. In other words, there is a significant amount we don’t yet know about the human psyche and what makes it ‘tick’. What we do know is often it is our own negative inner voice, perceptions and beliefs about ourselves, and the individual and collective stressors in our lives that interfere with our ability to achieve a goal – whether it is health-related, career-related, or in some other realm entirely.

I’m just as guilty as everyone else of having negative thoughts. “I’m not tall enough or pretty enough or smart enough or whatever enough to do X.” After having Olyvia, an internal alarm sounded and I realized – I cannot and will not do this to myself. I don’t want my daughter to grow up having her own negative inner voice. I want her to be confident in her abilities, to love herself the way she deserves, and to believe that she is enough of everything to do anything. And – that starts with me helping her build those qualities and modeling that very behavior.

So – how is this done? Conscious reframing of our own inner thoughts and beliefs about ourselves by recognizing our strengths and opportunities (not weaknesses, but opportunities for growth and self-discovery). Continue reading “Mind Strong: Conscious Reframing”

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Mental Health Awareness: A Pledge to Remove the Stigma

Asblack-and-white-woman-girl-sitting I sat down to finish a draft of my next post for BeLiveStay Well, my mind wandered…I couldn’t stay focused or keep a thought in my head. While this isn’t uncommon for a mom with a toddler, this cognitive drift felt different…feels different…is different. I took my own advice and quietly reflected. I soon realized my distraction wasn’t fueled by sleep deprivation or a lack of interest. Rather, I became aware of how “undone” I feel about the recent deaths we’ve learned about – all tragic and all without answers.

As a way of honoring those who have passed, I am dedicating this blog post to them and whatever silent struggles ensnared their otherwise healthy lives. Further, I am dedicating this post to the families and friends of the lost loved ones. My heart aches for you and the pain you must process.

May is Mental Health Awareness month and, as such, let’s commit to spreading this message and learning about what this movement/effort entails.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “1 in 5 Americans will be affected by a mental health condition in their lifetime and every American is affected or impacted through their friends and family and can do something to help others” (2016).

A moment to process…1 in 5 Americans. This statistic begs the question: What is the global affect? In researching the World Health Organization (The WHO – Mental Health) statistics and resources (2016).

  • 350 million people are affected by depression (more women than men).
  • In low- and middle-income countries, between 76% and 85% of people suffering from all forms of mental disorders receive no treatment.
  • In high income countries, between 35%-50% of people suffering from all forms of mental disorders receive no treatment.
  • A compounding issue – the quality of care for those who do seek treatment.
  • Over 800,000 people commit suicide each year and for every suicide there are as many who attempt suicide each year.
  • Suicide is the second leading causing of death among 15-29 year-olds and 75% of suicides (globally) occur in low- and middle-income countries.

Another moment to process…I don’t know about all of you who are (hopefully) engaging in this post with me today, but I just felt my heart drop to my feet. I realized as I was researching, mental health (or lack thereof) isn’t just a global concern…it’s a global responsibility to overcome, prevent when possible, treat effectively, and educate ourselves about various mental disorders. 1 in 5 of us reading this have been affected (and that is just in America).

Thankfully, there are global initiatives taking place to address these concerns; however, like anything, it’s going to take time, resources, and commitment to scale that mountain.

The WHO endorsed the WHO’s Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020 in 2013 – a plan that includes 4 major objectives (quoted below).

  • More effective leadership & governance for mental health;
  • the provision for comprehensive, integrated mental health and social care services in community-based settings;
  • the implementation of strategies for promotion and prevention; and
  • strengthened information systems, evidence and research (WHO, 2016).

An important aspect of this plan is the definition of “mental health”.

“Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community” (WHO, 2016). In other words, much like health in general, mental health isn’t simply reduced to an absence of mental issues – it’s an integrative component to the bigger picture of total and optimal well-being. A healthy mind is necessary to be a healthy individual.

A call to action: Visit the following site and “take the pledge” to help NAMI replace the stigma of mental health with hope for improved treatments and, first and foremost, prevention. The Pledge

In the meantime, think about your community and what efforts are going on that relate to mental health awareness and treatment. What can you do? In your community? Office environment? On your campus? In your home?

The answers aren’t simple and deserve a thoughtful and contemplative approach. So, start small, reach out to a friend or offer to be a friend. My dad always told me to take the hand of the lost, befriend the lonely, and do my part to heal the broken. Let’s do one better – let’s befriend each other and offer support in times of struggle and celebration in times of success.

Until next time…Meet you at the Well.

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Weight: It’s just a number. Celebrate non-scale victories!

Ah, the bathroom scale – or – it’s more commonly known alias  – the $%#*! 🙂

Why do we get so stuck on what the bathroom scale says? Is it because it’s tangible and quantifiable? Or is it something else? What were to happen if we removed the bathroom scale and started “weighing” ourselves intuitively and by measures of emotional wellness, energy level, stress level, total cholesterol, etc.? What would happen if we re-frame the definition of successful weight loss by focusing on those non-scale victories? Let’s think about this and why it might be a better (or at least another) approach to achieving goals of health.

First, let’s ask ourselves this question: “What does the scale actually quantify or tell us?” Answer: The number on the scale represents our individual relationship with gravity. Weight, by itself, is not a measure of health. Additionally, as one pursues a more active and healthy lifestyle, it’s possible that the number on the scale may not change drastically (something to bear in mind as you read on…). So, on to re-framing our thinking…

Let’s focus on what the health and fitness world refers to as metabolic and mental fitness.

What does it mean to be metabolically fit?  In scientific jargon, metabolic fitness represents an optimal level of certain variables considered predictive of a person’s risk for chronic diseases (diabetes and heart disease) that can be defined by observing how the body responds to insulin (a hormone we produce).  Metabolic fitness can be assessed through a blood test (think about Wellness blood draws). In other words, there are recommended healthy ranges for HDL (good cholesterol) and LDL (bad cholesterol), total cholesterol, triglycerides (storage form of fat in the body), and insulin sensitivity.  Results that fall outside of the “normal” or “healthy” range are flagged and considered to identify a greater risk for developing one or more chronic diseases. I, personally, like to include other measures such as percent body fat (far more telling than weight or BMI), blood pressure, and resting heart rate when addressing someone’s metabolic fitness levels.

If you’ve completed a Wellness draw lately, here’s a great link which summarizes the current recommendations: https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/magazine/issues/summer12/articles/summer12pg6-7.html. If you have not done so, ponder doing so in the near future. It’s amazing the story a blood test can tell.

What about mental fitness? A quick summary – refers to the mind’s overall strength and health. Note – this term is not related to mental health or mental illness, but rather one’s ability to withstand challenges that threaten progress; being emotionally aware; a state of mind that allows one to seek pleasure and joy in life. Okay, not such a quick summary, but you get the idea. 🙂 When I visit with my students about the benefits of activity, I focus on the mental fitness aspects as much as the physical. For example, physical activity positively impacts stress levels (reduces them), provides a feeling of euphoria leading to a more positive outlook & mood, improves sleep habits, increases energy in both the acute and long-term contexts, enhances mental focus and cognitive function, and improves overall quality of life and ability to handle and overcome obstacles. Even taking a 5 minute walk around your office building or neighborhood can provide these benefits in the short-term.

Side-note – the mind-body connection is starting to make a little more sense when we stop taking ambiguous snapshots of our own picture of health and start examining ALL necessary and important variables.

All the measures highlighted through this post are what we can term “non-scale victories” and – BONUS – reveal much more about our risk level than a few digits on a scale. So, the next time you begrudgingly try to step on the scale, stop and ask yourself if doing so is motivating to you. If it isn’t, try focusing on some of these other non-scale numbers to provide the holistic picture of your individual health and risk profile.

Until next time…Meet you at the Well.

 

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