4.2018

Zion Nat'l Park, Columbine

health and wellbeing

JOY is all around us

Joy.

It’s there — all around us, ours to savor, ours to appreciate, ours to create…

Creating joy begins when you give yourself permission to slow down, just for a moment, so that you can observe the happenings of your own world. The small things. The occurrences or thoughts that might otherwise go unnoticed, if you hadn’t given yourself the moment to pay attention.

Even in our busy lives we have time to to invite mindfulness as the filter through which we view our day. Popping to the grocery store in the midst of several other chores, take notice of the smile on the face of a child who is helping his mom load the cart, or the elderly couple holding hands as they stroll the isles; when you walk into an office building, admire the flowers blooming brightly in the planter boxes; on the way back to your car, notice the sound of the birds singing from the trees; watch a sunrise or sunset, marveling at nature; walk alongside a stream; share a smooch with your sweetie…all of these everyday small details will bring you to joy.

The more you invite joy, the more familiar this healthful emotion becomes to you. Your cup will be half-full. Your world will shine brightly. Your tensions will melt away. You will feel lighter, more patient, and more energetic. From a purely physical perspective, the inflammation that occurs in response to the hurry-up stress hormones will diminish; blood vessel soften, leading to lowered blood pressure; blood glucose levels become more balanced; and brain chemistry becomes less chaotic — all of this, just from giving yourself permission to slow down to experience joy.

What is bringing you to joy today?

How Your Brain Can Save Your Heart…

I listened in on a teleconference yesterday; sponsored by HeartCoaches, that featured Cynthia Ackrill, MD as the opening speaker. Dr. Ackrill “has extensive training in new brain-based approaches to behavior change and performance enhancement.  Her specialty is psychoneurobiology, a field of applied neuroscience measuring brainwave patterns and their correlation to psychometric measures of symptoms, behaviors, and performance”. WOW! This burgeoning field of brain science is utterly fascinating and holds the key to understanding the opportunities for sustainable behavior change that supports optimal health and well-being.

Also discussed was the VIA Survey, an assessment tool that defines character strengths. Recognizing and utilizing your character strengths are correlated with “an understanding of the various dimensions of character, the dynamics between character strengths, and the valued outcomes that result from living authentically in concordance with one’s character strengths. With greater ability to articulate and develop character, we will be poised to better direct our talents and abilities into meaningful and engaging behavior to better our own lives and the lives of others.”

Paul Nelson, MEd, and Director of HeartCoaches, described the 4 brain-based strategies that he has developed “that research has shown to be critical for increasing self-efficacy, encouraging determination, strengthening resiliency and creating an optimistic attitude–all essential ingredients for making lifestyle changes that lead to a longer, healthier, happier life.”

I was thrilled and deeply touched that during the teleconference, my HeartMatters program was validated by science-based principles and studies. Behavior change that leads to optimal life-management is entirely possible by incorporating a mindfulness and relaxation practice and positive affirmation, creating a Health Vision, and engaging in small-step daily goals that are subtle, pleasant, and realistic. And in the process, you will cultivate an emotional connection to your deeper self, understanding your strengths and opportunities, and believing that it is possible–a secondary benefit to enjoying radiant health and well-being.

Doesn’t that sound like what you want?

Relaxation as Medicine

Know your intention.

Adults experience an average of 50 stress responses a day! Whether you are awakened in the night by a wrong number phone call, can not find your car keys in the morning, or share in a difficult conversation with a colleague, each stress response has a negative impact on your physical and emotional health.

One way to diminish this negative impact is to take a moment or two out of your busy day for an intentional relaxation break, called Eliciting the Relaxation Response. Becoming relaxed is initiated by focusing on the rhythm of your breathing, which will allow your mind to become soothed and quieted. Not only will you enjoy an increase in focus and productivity, but perhaps more important is the decrease of the impact of the stress hormones. Just as a massage will relax tense muscles, a relaxation break will relax a tense mind.

There is a physiologic response that occurs when we become stimulated by an event, a thought, or physical discomfort. Commonly known as the fight or flight response, the changes that occur in the body are due to a hormonal cascade during which adrenaline and cortisol flood the body. The stress hormones will cause the heart rate and blood pressure to rise, increase blood glucose levels, and increase blood clotting. This protective mechanism is meant to prepare the body for the possibility of physical injury due to a “fight” and/or the need to take “flight”. If a vicious dog were charging you, these physical responses would assist you in getting out of the way in a hurry.

Hopefully, there is no charging dog. There is however the reality of daily events, such as family dynamics, job, traffic jams, and chores to name just a few, that can lead to a chronic sense of stress, worry, and hurry. The near constant presence of adrenaline and cortisol leads to an inflammatory response inside the body that may increase the risk to develop diabetes, coronary disease, cancer, and autoimmune disease. The increase in blood clotting can lead to a heart attack. Chronic stress interferes with good quality sleep, which in turn will lead to an increased sense of stress. Appetite can be affected negatively, with either less nutritious food choices being made, or too much food being consumed as a means to self soothe. Chronic stress can affect exercise habits, personal relationships, job performance, and could lead to behaviors that do not support optimal health.

Additional information will be provided in this and future newsletters to address relaxation techniques, healthy nutrition, and routine physical activity—optimal lifestyle choices that will lower your stress response, and your risk for disease.

"The Holiday Survival Cooking and Eating Class exceeded my expectations. It was so enjoyable to learn new ideas for healthy snacks and meals, taste the delicious treats we created and leave with an inspired hope that this will be my healthiest holiday season yet! I am impressed with the knowledge and care that Robin (and Wendy from In the Kitchen) both possess and I look forward to taking more classes in the future. Thanks again!"  --Rose M.   “What a wonderful, yummy class! Not only did we participate in creating several easy-to-make, delicious, nourishing dishes for the holidays and every day, we also learned strategies for surviving and enjoying the upcoming holiday season. Both Robin & Wendy were delightful and imparted their cooking and eating knowledge with love, humor, and enthusiasm. I highly recommend their classes to anyone who is interested in developing a better way to look at food, using thoughtfulness with mindfulness to learn some very valuable strategies for eating any time of the year!” --CAM   “I found the class delightful with great ideas for the holidays. In the Kitchen is a warm and welcoming place and you and Wendy were great teaching collaborators. Good new recipes. I appreciate your healthy eating information. I recommend this class to anyone wanting to enjoy the holidays without stressing over food. Actually, the information isn’t just for the holidays. I want to stay healthy all year and eat well.” --Pat B.   "I’ve participated in several classes at In the Kitchen, enjoyed them all immensely, but it is always a special treat when Wendy teaches a class. The recipes offered in The Holiday Survival class were easy to make and so delicious. And what a plus to have Robin co-teach the The Holiday Survival class with Wendy. Thank you, Robin, for all your great information on healthy eating, which was delivered so professionally, dovetailing beautifully into Wendy’s presentation. Hope you two team up again for more classes of scrumptious, healthy recipes. What a fun evening!!" --Carol B. _______________ I love this positive feedback! How gratifying it is to touch the lives of others in a meaningful way…and to be able to do so around a topic that is so dear to me, is just the icing on the cake (right—pun intended!). Wendy Van Wagner and I will continue to offer seasonal cooking classes in addition to the occasional specialty class…stay tuned!
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