It’s Monday morning, and my brain is whirling. Feed the dogs, feed the lizard, make my lunch. Boil water for coffee. DON’T SPILL IT! Wait… the lizard isn’t eating his bugs… wait … wait … wait … Would you eat already? I have to water the plants … I have to wash my hair … I have to …
Just wait. Stop. Why am I stressing? I love my little lizard. He’s just waking up. Other stuff can just wait. Focus on the important things. My family. The dogs are fine. My sister and I are fine. I’ll get to work when I get there.
The answer is to think about nothing!
So often our minds are spinning out of control, we’re anxious and stressed about things that are unimportant. It’s easy to lose focus.
When that happens to me, especially on Mondays, I have to just stop and take a couple of minutes and close my eyes. Think about absolutely nothing. Just nothing. If my mind wanders, I consciously bring it back to nothing. People call this “meditation.” I call it thinking about nothing.
“Meditation” has gotten a bad rap in modern society. People hear the word and they see yogis in long skirts sitting in the lotus position with their hands on knees. Or they think of hippies in the ’60s with tie-dyed t-shirts, tattered jeans and barefoot at Woodstock.
But meditation has helped me to focus. When I clear my mind, important tasks become clearer.
If I’m having a hard time clearing my mind to think of nothing – if there are too many extraneous thoughts running through my mind, then I’ll picture a beautiful sunset or a single flower.
After a couple of minutes I can open my eyes and the day is clear. The tasks are lined up in the right order and I can be productive.
The best position for meditation
Do you have to sit cross-legged to meditate? Nope. Just sit in a comfortable position so that you can totally relax. It’s traditional to have your hands palms-up on your knees to be receptive to good things, and I like that. Sometimes I’ll sit in a chair. Sometimes I’ll sit on the floor. Most often I’ll sit on a low stool or yoga block so that I can sit cross-legged and my knees are comfortable.
Who thinks that healthy meals are boring? Not me! Nope – every meal can be tasty, filling and healthy. If you’re trying to lose weight, the worst words in any language are “I’m going on a diet!” Yes, “diet” is a 4-letter word, but it’s just a word. It’s not good, bad or indifferent.
Your “diet” is just what you eat. Food is “fuel.” And that’s another 4-letter word. Food is what fuels your body. It’s imperative for everything!
So, what you put into your body should help you in your daily activities – the food you eat fuels your body, like gasoline fuels your car. (But, that doesn’t mean that your fuel shouldn’t be tasty!)
Every meal has to be filling, tasty and appetizing! It has to last for a few hours, until your next meal or a (planned) snack. Lean protein and complex carbohydrates help in filling you up.
The chicken in this picture was grilled, with a rub of spices, which add no calories but tons of flavor. I sprayed the grill with a little oil so the chicken wouldn’t stick. The broccolini was steamed and sprinkled with a little of the spice mixture, and the sweet potato was baked. I did add a tiny bit of butter to the potato. No artificial stuff – a tiny dab of butter for a bit of umami goodness. Yes, it adds a few calories but satisfies the craving for more.
What makes this dish appetizing to me are all the different colors. Sometimes in the depth of winter we’ll make meals that are all one color, which are basically unappealing to the senses. So whenever possible, we try to include food of many different colors. They satisfy the palate, the stomach and the soul.
I sometimes have trouble falling asleep. Not like my dogs – they can take a nap anywhere, anytime. No matter what’s going on around them, and especially after some intense physical activity, Booker and Tango are out.
Not me. Even if I’ve had a busy day – one that’s productive and full of exercise, I still have trouble falling asleep. I know that a good night’s sleep is important for good health, but that doesn’t help me fall asleep.
Many people swear by this breathing method to help fall asleep:
Called the 4 – 7 – 8 Method, it’s been proposed by Dr. Andrew Weil as the body’s natural tranquilizer. (Sounds exactly like what I need.) Dr. Weil maintains that this method will help relax you when you’re feeling stressed, or help you fight off that sugar craving that hits at about 3:00 in the afternoon.
Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise.
Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
Hold your breath for a count of seven.
Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat three more times for a total of four cycles.
Stress is bad in more ways than you know. It can also slow down your metabolism. Many people are stress-eaters. If you feel stress, every couple of hours, take 5 minutes and just breathe. Empty your brain and focus on your breathing. Close your eyes and think of water, mountains, flowers (like pansies), or whatever makes you happy. Not work. Not the kids. Not all the chores that aren’t getting done! Just the ocean or snow-capped mountains. Set a timer so you don’t worry about the time.
When the timer goes off and you open your eyes, you’ll be in a better frame of mind to tackle the work, the chores, and the kids.
If you’re not into meditating but still feel the stress. Go for a walk! Climb some stairs. If you have one, close your door and dance to a couple of your favorite songs. Bounce on the balls of your feet and get the blood moving. Sing along if you want to! (Off-key is fine!) Again, when you go back to your desk, you’ll be better able to manage the stress.
You won’t want that candy bar, but definitely have a drink of water! Your metabolism be chugging along, and you’ll feel much better.
It’s way too easy to zip in and out of a fast-food drive-thru on your way home from work. And that’s really dangerous. The portions are way too big. The food has too many calories, and it’s full of fat. It’s deep-fried. If you’re trying to watch your weight, and eat clean and healthy then drive-thrus are the most dangerous places on the planet!
Yes, french fries are delicious. Nothing can beat a burger and fries. Unless it’s a burger and fries with a shake. But I always feel a little sick and bloated before bed when I indulge like that. And it’s just not worth it. What is worth it is taking a few minutes to plan ahead for a delicious, healthy meal.
The first few times I planned meals for a week it was a real chore. Not fun at all. But then I wrote notes through the week about meal ideas and then I gathered those notes to plan the week’s menus and it was no big deal.
The key to actually following through on the meal plan on busy week nights is to keep it simple. Like the grilled chicken, steamed broccolini and sweet potato pictured. I microwave the sweet potato, so it just takes a few minutes. It’s done when the chicken is. I also use the microwave to steam vegetables. I do the potato first and wrap it in foil to stay warm and finish cooking. Delicious, nutritious and easy!
I’ve sort of been in a funk lately. My brain is spinning. A friend is hurting. We’re moving our business. My dogs have forgotten every bit of training they ever had. And I hurt my back. Time to try something new? First I have to decide what would make me happy.
What is happiness? A feeling of uplifting. A smiling feeling. When you can’t help but turn the corners of your mouth up. The anticipation you feel when you know you’ll see someone you love. Or you’ll be doing something you enjoy. Remembering something wonderful. A trip you took when you had so much fun! A gorgeous sunrise in the Florida Keys. Being with a friend. Eating a fantastic meal.
I’m trying to enjoy the small things every day. A particularly good tomato. A crunchy pea pod. The sunshine without much humidity. Cooler temperatures. The Cubs winning their Division.
So, I have to plan something fun! When to plan this for? After our moving date, of course, and after my back is feeling all better. I’ve weaned myself off of the heating pad and pain relievers, but there is still that occasional twinge. And I’m counting on the dogs to atleast remember how to sit!
Some days you just don’t feel it. Me too. You don’t feel like getting sweaty. You’re tired. Your legs are tired. You’d rather be reading. You’d rather be listening to music. You’d rather be playing with your dog. (I know, I advocate playing with your dog over almost anything else, but …) But working out is something I have to do at least 5 days a week. What tricks do I use?
First, if I’m feeling especially frumpy I put on my good workout clothes. Silly, right? Good workout clothes? Isn’t that a contradiction? Nope. If I feel like I look good doing those lunges, it makes it better. So, put on those leggings! Put on that body-hugging top that makes the most of what you’ve got! You’ll feel great, and more likely to do the workout. And if you look like that inspiring trainer you saw on Facebook, you may just get a better workout!
Next, promise yourself 8 minutes. Just start. 8 minutes is nothing! Then it’s 10 minutes, 15, 25 and then you’re done! It just takes 30 minutes a day. That’s it!
And if you don’t work out for yourself, do it for those around you! Yes, when you’re done, you’ll feel great. You’ll feel virtuous! But you’ll also be more patient. You’ll be nicer to those around you. You’ll have more time for the family. Work out for everyone else as well as yourself!
Here in Chicagoland it’s cold, rainy, snowy, and just generally miserable! Yes, it’s April and we know that the weather will improve (eventually), but right now it’s just miserable. I’m tired of wearing three layers inside. I’m tired of having cold feet (with the ensuing blue toes – this creeps out my sister). And I’m tired of having to blow my nose every hour because it has a tendency to drip when it’s cold. We had a very mild winter, so I feel kind of bad complaining, but it’s April! The continual grayness just depresses me.
So, what do you do when you’re feeling low? I play with my dog! Not sitting on my butt and throwing the ball for him and letting him bring it back when he feels like it. No – I get down on the floor and tug with him. I push on his chest and he comes roaring back at me, ready for another game. Then I’ll chase him around. And I’ll let him chase me! That will get the blood flowing and some feeling back in my feet. And then I’ll throw his ball and race him for it. He’ll win, but he’ll love the game – as will I! And when we’re done I’ll have a tired dog and a smile on my face.
The body achieves what the mind believes. Strong stuff. How much is really in your mind? Can you achieve anything you believe?
I think you have to temper that with a short dose of reality. I know I’m never going to be a rock star. For one thing, I can’t carry a tune. Wait – that doesn’t stop a lot of “rock stars” I hear on the radio. For another, I don’t play the guitar. Hmmm, again, not a prerequisite. And, I’m 60 years old. Well, I guess stranger things have happened. I’ll have to work on a look.
But, really. The mind is incredibly powerful. Let’s think about something a little less esoteric. Say, my goal is to do 10 regular pushups. No girlie pushups on my knees. No – real pushups on my toes. And my starting point is that I can’t do any from my toes. No problem. Do 20 pushups on my knees. And 10 with one leg straight, the other knee on the floor. And switch to the other knee. The next day, I’ll do more, and try one pushup on my toes. The key is to practice every single day. Eventually I know I’ll get stronger and I’ll be able to reach my goal. And then I’ll make a new goal.
We all want to get old, but we want the best quality of life as we age. We want to be able to do what we did when we were young (or as close to that as possible). What’s the secret?
Retired occupational therapist Barbara Knickerbocker Beskind suggests that good posture and a brisk 30-minute walk every day are the keys to aging well. In her article, “The Surprising Secret to Aging Well” in The Next Avenue, Beskind suggests that good posture and that walk from early childhood on will build bones and keep us young. It will build bone density and balance reflexes that will cut down on debilitating falls and injuries in later years.
Beskind states that walking has enormous benefits — emotionally and even creatively. This is in addition to the well-known benefits to the pulmonary and cardiovascular systems. A sturdy gait pattern with alternating arm/leg movement helps maintain balance reflexes and strength in lateral hip muscles. And going for a walk frees the mind for creative pursuits.
So you don’t have to go crazy – just a brisk walk (with your head held high and your arms swinging in opposition to your gait) will help you achieve the golden years of your dreams!