“After thirty years of eating healthy foods and participating in regular, vigorous exercise, I was astounded to discover I have Coronary Artery Disease. In March of 2010, I had two stents placed in my Left Anterior Descending Artery- this was big. I consulted Robin Mallery, RN, knowing she is a local expert on Cardiac Rehabilitation. I especially respected her lifestyle of nutrition and physical fitness. Robin’s reassurance that I was doing many things correctly, and her instructions on how to fine-tune my program to deal with this life-threatening disease, was invaluable. Robin’s exquisite grasp of balancing traditional medicine with diet, exercise, relaxation and fun has helped me through this medical crisis”. –Maiya Gralia, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and cross-country ski instructor and coach
HeartMatters welcomes you to the New Year. A year of small-steps to your optimal health and well-being. Let’s take the journey together.
A marvelous occurrence: 5 + inches of rain has fallen within the past 72 hours. It’s not so much the ferocious storm that has made this time special, as it is the calm and slow pace that I gave myself permission to create and enjoy in the midst of the storm.
Friday’s plans for a snowshoe outing were canceled due to weather and suddenly, on Thursday night I realized that I had a weekday looming–without commitments!
Admittedly, my mind went to all the work-related items I could accomplish! Eight hours of unexpected and suddenly available time can create the space for many To Do tasks to be checked off the list. I thought about it for just a moment when my next thought was NO! Just hang out. Take advantage of the day and of the storm and stay warm, dry, and quiet–right at home.
At that moment, I gave myself permission to just be.
For the past 72 hours, I have not gone out of the house, except to take Grace for a walk. Twice a day for the past three days, I have donned my rain-gear and enjoyed a 1/2 hour of bliss–walking through the storm, cozy and warm in winter clothes, experiencing the fierce wind and rain, senses stimulated by the sights, sounds, and smells of the storm, and I’d return home with a joyful heart and a smiling dog.
I’ve sat quietly and have felt grateful for that quiet. I have baked dozens of mini-loaves of cranberry and coconut-pumpkin bread to be shared next week as holiday love. I have savored the aromas wafting from my kitchen. I have watched the flames in the woodstove. I have made soup and roasted squash. I have had fun on FaceBook and yes, I have even answered a few emails. I have watched the great trees bend and sway in the powerful winds. I have enjoyed seeing the birds braving the elements to stay well-fed from the feeders. I have slowed down.
I gave myself permission to be calm within the storm.
1. Accept the fact that in your workplace and friends’ homes, on the counter tops at local markets, and just about everywhere, there will be bowls of candy, plates of cookies and fudge, and a plethora of pot-luck celebrations. It’s not about avoiding these temptations; it’s about creating a success plan that combines pleasure with honoring your health goals and well-being intentions. Give yourself permission to celebrate the season, and know that you can bring balance to your decision-making.
2. Savor the Flavor! I am especially fond of this mindful approach to holiday splurges. It’s simple: there’s a plate of homemade fudge at your office reception desk. They are made-from-scratch and chock-full of wholesome ingredients. These cubes of sweetness are likely cut into small squares because they are so rich, but if not, you can make your first mindful decision to cut a tablespoon-size piece. Take it back to your desk or to the break room. Cut it into 10 tiny pieces. Tiny. Admire the bounty of delight in front of you. Lean down to inhale the heavenly aroma. Take the first small piece and place it on your tongue, allowing it to begin to melt. You can see where I’m going with this—you are making the piece of fudge into a sensuous sensory experience, you are inviting your brain to participate by stimulating your senses: Sight, look at ALL those tiny pieces of fudge! Smell, rich, chocolate-y, nutty; Taste, as your tongue comes alive; Sound, as you exclaim your delight! Your brain will be infused with pleasure! Wait 5 minutes to repeat the sensory experience again. And again. And again, until over the course of an hour or more, you have fully engaged in the mindful enjoyment of eating a small piece of fudge. NOTE: imagine the contrast of grabbing a few pieces of fudge as you walk by the plate and take them back to your desk. As your emails load, you pop the entire first piece in your mouth, mildly aware of how good it tastes, prompting you to gobble the second piece, and possibly the third. Within 5 minutes, you’ve eaten three chunks of fudge, your brain has not been invited to the party, diminishing the experience of absolute sensory pleasure, and leaving room for more…and more. See the difference?
3. Visualize your success. Before you go to a party, or walk up the stairs to your office, or go to the salon to have your hair cut, see yourself as relaxed and confident. Know your intention: to enjoy yourself while staying true to your health and well-being commitments. A positive affirmation comes in handy here; “I am looking forward to mindfully savoring the foods and treats that I choose well”, or “I will eat and enjoy the veggies and salads that are on the table, then I will decide on what treats to savor.”
4. Express gratitude, for the abundance of food that is available to you, and more importantly, express thanks to yourself for the savoring of the foods you have mindfully chosen. Say to yourself, “Thank you for taking time to eat that fudge slowly; I like your intention to take care during the holidays”, or even, “Hey, way to go!”. Every time your brain receives positive affirmation for a behavior, you are reinforcing the happy experience, and are more likely to choose that behavior again!
5. Move your body regularly—walk, pedal, swim, skate, whatever is appealing and available to you. Ramping up your metabolism throughout the year is beneficial, and during the holiday season you will find it even more so. When you exercise regularly, having the occasional mindful splurge will not have as big of an impact as it could if your schedule doesn’t include routine physical activity.
I have seen more wildflowers today than on perhaps any other day in my life. Reverence is the word I can use to describe my emotional response to the exquisite natural beauty I witnessed today. As I was immersed in the splendor of Glacier, sharing the marvelous scenery with my husband John, I ran out of superlatives to describe my wonder. What a truly mindful experience. Pure sensory stimulation. And what a gift to slow down enough to smell, to feel, to listen, to observe…I wish I could find words to share the quality of the smells in the air, but alas I cannot. Suffice it to say that the freshness, the green-ness, the sweetness, was so raw, so new, it was divine beyond description. The tactile stimulation was also virtually indescribable: warm sun on skin, cool shade bringing goosebumps, gentle breeze ruffling through my hair, cold water on my toes… Oh, the sounds–birdsong the likes of which I have not heard, rushing water, swaying trees, and silent forests–all of it joyful in my ears. And, the visuals: now I am back to the flowers, the meadows, the rivers and lakes, the steep hillsides, Rocky Mountain goats, Bighorn sheep, all living in the incredibly thick forests. How blessed I am to be here, in the midst of the beauty of life.