Mindful Eating In 2018

Happy New Year everyone!  Being it is the start of a brand new year, I know many people are looking for new ways to strengthen their health & well being in 2018 and losing weight & eating healthier are likely at the top of that goal list.

Mindful Eating is a healthy living strategy that is clinically proven to help people gain control over their eating habits which can lead to reduced stress, improved mental focus, weight loss & many health other benefits, including:

  1. You learn to eat when you’re hungry, and stop when you’re sated.
  2. You learn to really taste food, and to enjoy the taste of healthy food.
  3. You slowly start to realize that unhealthy food isn’t as tasty as you thought, nor does it make you feel very good.
  4. As a result of the above three points, you will often lose weight if you’re overweight.
  5. You begin to sort through the emotional issues you have around food and eating. This takes a bit longer, but it’s important.
  6. Social overeating can become less of a problem — you can eat mindfully while socializing, with practice, and not overeat.
  7. You begin to enjoy the eating experience more, and as a result enjoy life more, when you’re more present.
  8. It can become a mindfulness ritual you look forward to.
  9. You learn how food affects your mood and energy throughout the day.
  10. You learn what food best fuels your exercise and work and play.

So how does Mindful Eating work?  You start by practicing Mindfulness – learning to be in the present moment while you are eating, fully attending to what you are eating, where you are eating, how you are are eating.  Easier said then done in today’s busy world I know, but if you want something different you must be willing to try something different – so think of this in terms of working smarter not harder & see what you can do to start incorporating a couple of these ‘8 Steps to Mindful Eating’ by Harvard Health into your life:

1. Begin with your shopping list. Consider the health value of every item you add to your list and stick to it to avoid impulse buying when you’re shopping. Fill most of your cart in the produce section and avoid the center aisles—which are heavy with processed foods—and the chips and candy at the check-out counter.

2. Come to the table with an appetite— but not when ravenously hungry. If you skip meals, you may be so eager to get anything in your stomach that your first priority is filling the void instead of enjoying your food.

3. Start with a small portion. It may be helpful to limit the size of your plate to nine inches or less.

4. Appreciate your food. Pause for a minute or two before you begin eating to contemplate everything and everyone it took to bring the meal to your table. Silently express your gratitude for the opportunity to enjoy delicious food and the companions you’re enjoying it with.

5. Bring all your senses to the meal. When you’re cooking, serving, and eating your food, be attentive to color, texture, aroma, and even the sounds different foods make as you prepare them. As you chew your food, try identifying all the ingredients, especially seasonings.

6. Take small bites. It’s easier to taste food completely when your mouth isn’t full. Put down your utensil between bites.

7. Chew thoroughly. Chew well until you can taste the essence of the food. (You may have to chew each mouthful 20 to 40 times, depending on the food.) You may be surprised at all the flavors that are released.

8. Eat slowly. If you follow the advice above, you won’t bolt your food down. Devote at least five minutes to mindful eating before you chat with your tablemates.

What possibilities lie ahead in 2018 for you?!?  What is stopping you from making this your best year yet?  One small step in the right direction is all you need to get started.

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How You Living?

How you living?  I watched a very powerful inspirational video recently by minister & motivational speaker Dr Rick Rigsby that highlighted the importance of asking ourselves this important question early & often.

Life is busy & sometimes we live our day to day routine attending to the commitments of family, friends, school, work, community, etc. on autopilot.  We navigate through the daily, weekly, monthly journey of life, but often times we are going through the motions not really knowing or understanding what the impact is on our life as a whole.  How often do we check in with ourselves & assess how we are doing – truly doing?

Personally, professionally, mentally, physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually…where are you at in your life?  How are you living?  What do you think about your life?  How do you feel about it?  Are you largely happy or unhappy?  Fulfilled or unfulfilled?  Stressed or overwhelmed?  Healthy or unhealthy?

There are many different aspects of our lives that make up our whole self & often times one or more of those individual components are not as great as we would like them to be.  We don’t always realize the negative impact a lack of health & happiness in one or two areas of our life is having on our life as a whole.

So what can we do to cultivate greater understanding & awareness for the quality vs quantify of our lives?  One answer is to pay closer attention to our physical well being as our bodies are a strong indicator of overall life wellness.  Our bodies can provide a lot of information about the many different aspects of our life & health if we take the time to pay attention.  Headaches, stomachaches, skin problems, high blood pressure, back pain can all be indicators that chronic unmanaged stress or fear or hurt or anger about something is negatively affecting the quality of our life.

A recent article by MindBodyGreen states “80% of visits to primary care physicians are due to symptoms ultimately caused by stress or emotional problems”.  In the counseling profession that is known as a psychosomatic disorder which is physical ailments that are caused by emotional or psychological factors vs a medical illness.

It is the mind-body connection.  There is an actual physiological process that our bodies go through when we are overwhelmed, stressed, or experiencing difficult emotions. When we are fearful, angry, sad or chronically worried our brain’s limbic system – which supports a variety of functions such as emotion, behavior, motivation, long-term memory – gets activated & sends out chemicals like adrenaline & cortisol that suppress our immune system & make us vulnerable to illness & infection.  During those times our bodies are susceptible to increased inflammation, autoimmune & stomach problems, irritable bowel issues, colds & flu, higher blood pressure, sore muscles & irritable behavior.

So if you check in with yourself & notice that you haven’t been feeling particularly well & those symptoms are not otherwise accountable by a medical diagnosis, then there is a good chance that chronic stress or challenging thoughts & emotions are the cause.

The good news is there is something we can do something about it!  The first step is to become aware so check in with yourself early & often to know how you are truly living & feeling.  Next, take a few deep breaths & try to really understand what is going on – what are you thinking or feeling & how are you behaving?  Are you having a hard time focusing or thinking about things but don’t know how to say them?  Are you feeling a particular way about something but not letting others know how you feel?   Ask yourself what is important to you in your life & what you would like to do to achieve your hopes & dreams.

Seek to understand what your body is trying to tell you & figure out what you would like to do about it.  The only thing we have control over in life is ourselves as individuals so if we want to be happy & fulfilled then we must take personal responsibility for making that happen & work to change the direction of our lives if need be.

If you realize there are things in your life that are overwhelming or unsatisfying & don’t know how to solve those problems, then consultation with a counseling professional may be a great step in the right direction to help you make the changes that will bring you closer to the life you truly desire.

Peace & good health to all.

 

Understanding Why We Change

change-your-life

Lasting behavior change is not something that comes easy for most of us humans – it takes time, patience, hard work, motivation, commitment.  The truth is, if you want something bad enough you are going to have to work for it, and the process of change starts with understanding how ready (aware & motivated) are you to do something different?

Psychology pioneers Dr. James Prochaska and Dr. Carlos DiClemente have proposed there are five Stages Of Change we go through when it comes to change:

stages-of-change

and Psychology publication Very Well expands on the five-stages to include a sixth:

 1.  Pre-contemplation.  People in this stage are often described as “in denial” due to claims that their behavior is not a problem.  If you are in this stage, begin by asking yourself some questions:

  • Have you ever tried to change this behavior in the past?
  • How do you recognize that you have a problem?
  • What would have to happen for you to consider your behavior a problem?

2.  Contemplation.  During this stage, people become more and more aware of the potential benefits of making a change, but the costs tend to stand out even more. This conflict creates a strong sense of ambivalence about changing.  If you are contemplating a behavior change, there are some important questions to ask yourself:

  • Why do you want to change?
  • Is there anything preventing you from changing?
  • What are some things that could help you make this change?

3.  Preparation.  During the preparation stage, you might begin making small changes to prepare for a larger life change. For example, if losing weight is your goal, you might switch to lower-fat foods. If your goal is to quit smoking, you might switch brands or smoke less each day. You might also take some sort of direct action such as consulting a therapist, joining a health club, or reading self-help books.  If you are in the preparation stage, there are some steps you can take to improve your chances of successfully making a lasting life change:

  • Gather as much information as you can about ways to change your behavior.
  • Prepare a list of motivating statements and write down your goals.
  • Find outside resources such as support groups, counselors or friends who can offer advice and encouragement.

 4.  Action.  During the fourth stage of change, people begin taking direct action in order to accomplish their goals. Oftentimes, resolutions fail because the previous steps have not been given enough thought or time.For example, many people make a New Year’s Resolution to lose weight and immediately start a new exercise regimen, begin eating a healthier diet, and cut back on snacks. These definitive steps are vital to success, but these efforts are often abandoned in a matter of weeks because the previous steps have been overlooked.  If you are currently taking action towards achieving a goal, congratulate and reward yourself for any positive steps you take:

  • Reinforcement and support are extremely important in helping maintain positive steps toward change.
  • Take the time to periodically review your motivations, resources, and progress in order to refresh your commitment and belief in your abilities.

5.  Maintenance.  The maintenance phase of the Stages of Change Model involves successfully avoiding former behaviors and keeping up new behaviors. During this stage, people become more assured that they will be able to continue their change.  If you are trying to maintain a new behavior:

  • Look for ways to avoid temptation.
  • Try replacing old habits with more positive actions.
  • Reward yourself when you are able to successfully avoid a relapse.
  • If you do lapse, don’t be too hard on yourself or give up. Instead, remind yourself that it was just a minor setback.
  • As you will learn in the next stage, relapses are common and are a part of the process of making a lifelong change.

So take a moment to think about something that is important to you that you would like to change…what stage of change are you in?

Lastly, when I think of people in the helping profession who are experts in the change niche I think of Psychotherapist, Author & Speaker Bill O’Hanlon and his proposed Anatomy of Change.  Mr. O’Hanlon adds the following areas of focus for further understanding of the change process:

  • Main principles of interest – social following / influence, contextual influences, loss avoidance/aversion.
  • Changing patterns –  identifying problem / unwanted pattern, changing problem patterns, search for exceptions.
  • Solution talk –  Exceptions to the Problem Rule, The End Game, Highlighting Choice, Find Context of Commonplace, Worse Case Comparison, Taping Into Altruistic Expertise.
  • Dissolving impossibility talk – Spinning Problems Into the Past, Going Unglobal, Spinning Reality/Truth Claims into Perceptions.

Live Life Today

Living in the present moment of life – moment to moment awareness; noticing vs judging; responding vs reacting – are basic tenets of Mindfulness, which is a purposeful way of living that can foster many positive health benefits with regular practice.

mindfulness benefits

The only thing we ever truly have is this very moment right now.  A lot of the stress and anxiety we experience as humans along the journey of life is when we consistently process life with a past or future lens.  The past has already happened and the future has yet to exist.  Yes we are affected by our previous experiences and yes we do need to plan for the future, but ruminating or worrying too much about the past or the future can make us eternally dissatisfied with the present moment of life.

In a recent blog post, Charlie Ambler from Daily Zen writes about how living for today can enrich life:

The culture of hope and forward-thinking plans has always relied on a perpetual sense of dissatisfaction with the present moment. Only those who are unhappy with themselves now feel the need to work so single-mindedly towards a glorious later.  There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious. We run into problems, though, when we obsessively try to plan life in advance. The best lives are led fully day-by-day. People who are good to others, work hard, cultivate mindfulness, and discipline themselves end up growing into new, better people.

So take a deep breath and go forth in your next couple of minutes, hours, days and weeks being mindful of life as it is happening – with moment to moment awareness; noticing vs judging, responding vs reacting.  Note how you feel physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, personally, professionally when you slow things down and smell the roses a bit.  Be grateful for who you are and all that is as each and every day of life is a gift.

Inspirational video for living for today by Louie Schwartzberg:

 Live Mindfully & Prosper all!

Mind – Body Health Connection

 

What-Is-Psychosomatic-Illness

How we feel physically can be a big indicator of how we are doing mentally and emotionally.  When we feel physically unwell – headache, stomachache, backache, chest pain, etc. – it may mean we are experiencing psychosomatic illness where physical pain is caused by mental or emotional issues.

Chronic physical illness may be rooted in deep emotional pain and in order to feel better it is important to address the underlying cause.  Our bodies are fine-tuned machines, so physical symptoms such as high blood pressure and irritable bowel syndrome may be our bodies way of signaling us to slow down or learn to deal with stress in a healthier way.

So if you haven’t been feeling well, consider taking a look at what is going on with your mental and emotional health.  In this article by Tiny Buddha, here are a few suggestions for improving your physical, mental, emotional health:

  1. Self care – how are you eating, sleeping, addressing stress in your life?
  2. Take a look at your habits & make one small step toward change – what is one small thing you can do to improve your health today?
  3. Find balance – it is important to nurture the many different parts of our self – mental, physical, emotional, social, environmental, personal, professional, educational, spiritual.  Do something regularly to foster good health in all areas of your life.
  4. Meditate & live mindfully – Slow down.  Take a deep breath.  Remind yourself to live in the present moment of life vs ruminating (processing things over & over & over again in your head) about the past (which has already happened & cannot change) or the future (which hasn’t happened & cannot control).
  5. Journaling – Write it out.  Get your thoughts & feelings down on paper.  It will help you to get things out and become more aware of things as you process them.

Here are physical signs your emotional health may need attention:

1. Tight, tired, and painful shoulders.  When I meet people with this problem, they often have a similar story. They believe that they need to be, and do, everything for everyone. They are literally “carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders.”

2. A stiff neck.  People with stiff necks have trouble turning their head to one side. They’re often dealing with someone close to them making a choice that they don’t agree with. This decision has hurt them and they are finding it hard to “turn the other cheek.”

3. Back pain.  While disc ruptures are not uncommon, most people present with muscle spasms. Again, there is often a deep-rooted emotion playing out behind the scenes. In this scenario, it often pertains to money and finances. Their finances are restricting them from doing the things they want to do (as is their back spasm!)

If you are not sure if you are experiencing psychosomatic illness, here are a few questions you can ask yourself to gather more information:

  • Does your life feel stressful at the moment, and what is causing you to feel this way?
  • What is one thing you can let go of, even just for now?
  • Do you feel overwhelmed, and what do you keep saying yes to that you could begin saying no to?
  • Are you taking on the emotional loads of others in your life? So often we want to help or fix those close to us, but it’s important to remember that they are on their own journey.
  • Are there any stories from your past that you are holding on to that need releasing?
  • Are “you” last on your list of priorities? If so, how can you make a little more time for yourself

Health Benefits Of Generosity

health benefits of service

Did you know there are many health benefits we can receive when we give to others?  Studies show that helping others or engaging in altruistic behavior (unselfish regard for others ) can positively impact our lives personally, professionally, mentally, emotionally, physically and socially.

A 2013 study published in the American Journal of Public Health shows that helping others can boost our self-esteem, mood and purpose in life, which in turn supports healthy well-being in a variety of ways.

According to a 2014 article in Huffington Post, here are “7 Science-Backed Reasons Why Generosity Is Good For Your Health”:

  1. It will keep stress in check.  Helping others keeps stress hormone cortisol in check to help manage stress.
  2. Happiness at work depends on it.  Being a team player makes people feel more committed to their jobs.
  3. It’s beneficial to the greater good.  We all benefit from each other’s generosity.
  4. You’ll enjoy more years of life.  Helping others reduces mortality risk.
  5. It keeps the cycle of “good” going.  Thinking about our altruistic behaviors leads to a cycle of giving.    
  6. Your marriage will be stronger.  Generosity is a key factor in happy marriages.
  7. It promotes mental health.  We feel better about ourselves when we give to others.

help-others

And we can do a lot or a little to derive these great health benefits – one small thing can make a big difference for the giver & the receiver.

Cheers to giving!

Workplace Wellness

workplace wellness

Wellness in the workplace starts with wellness in our workforce.  Healthier, happier employees leads to greater productivity – a win / win for everyone.

And when we’re talking about workplace wellness we are, as this recent article in Entrepreneur suggests, talking about the human impact – people.  Workers are the core of our workforce, and their mental, physical, emotional, social health affects businesses greatly.

As Entrepreneur explains, workplace wellness programs “inspire & align” the workplace, and have significant impact on building a strong team in your workforce in that they:

Bring teams together

In a 2015 Mental Health America report of nearly 2,000 respondents, an alarming 80 percent said they tend to work alone because of an unhelpful or hostile work environment.  What’s more, among the 2,175 U.S. hiring and human resources managers surveyed by CareerBuilder in March 2015, 37 percent said office gossip was a top productivity killer. So how can HR turn gossiping coworkers into a supportive team? With workplace wellness.

Fosters trust between employees & leaders

In a survey of more than 800 full-time, U.S. employees conducted by Globoforce in November 2015, 47 percent said they don’t think their company leaders care about and actively try to create a human workplace. What’s more, in a 2015 survey of close to 800 North American employees conducted by Achievers, just 45 percent said they trust company leadership. Without that trust, employees are more likely to be disengaged from their work and to look for a new employer. Trust is key to getting the emotional connection to work, which is at the core of all business success.

Boosts morale & motivation

According to the Achievers survey, 57 percent of employees said they aren’t motivated by their company’s mission. And when employees don’t feel like their work has meaning, they’re less motivated to do it. That means decreased productivity and engagement.  Well-designed workplace wellness programs should reinforce the company mission and values at every turn, orienting newbies and reconnecting veterans in need of a boost.

For more information regarding wellness programming from Foundations Counseling, contact Lori@FoundationsCounselingCenter.org or call 847-497-0524.

Gratitude For Good Health

Benefits-of-Gratitude5

Here at Foundations we are big fans of gratitude!  Research shows that expressing gratitude can help improve our health in so many different ways – physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, personally & professionally.  Happier Human provides a more specific list of the many health benefits being grateful can offer:

The 31 Benefits of Gratitude You Didn’t Know About: How Gratitude Can Change Your Life

While expressing gratitude by no means is a health cure-all, being regularly grateful for the things you do have in your life instead of ruminating about the things you don’t have or don’t like can provide you with a mindset that will lead to important health benefits such as:

  • Improved health & happiness
  • More fulfilled careers & social relationships
  • Increased optimism & decreased materialism
  • Healthier self-esteem & stronger resilience
  • Better quality sleep & increased calm
  • Higher rate of productivity & goal achievement
  • Stronger leadership skills

So if you are interested in finding tools to help you feel better & live a healthier, happier life, try expressing a statement of gratitude to yourself once per day each & every day for 30 straight days & see what happens!

How We Process Sadness

A basic tenet of Mindfulness is that we can become aware of and respond to intense emotion in different ways.  The way in which we attend to our thoughts & feelings when experiencing a life event shapes our reality – it is not what happens to us that makes us who we are, but rather how we respond vs react to our experiences.

According to @mindfulonline, a recent mindfulness-based intervention study showed that people who processed things from a wise-minded perspective (balance between left-brain logical mind & right-brain emotion mind) “showed marked reductions in activity in a region of the brain often linked to self-evaluation and analysis (the medial prefrontal cortex). They also showed increased activity in regions linked to direct, moment-by-moment sensory experiences (the lateral prefrontal cortex, especially the insula)”.

wise mind

What does all that mean?  Author Zindel Siegel proposes the following:

Mindfulness Changes How We Process Sadness

The fact that these two regions are tightly connected prior to practicing mindfulness suggests that it is usually very difficult for a person to focus on the moment without setting off thoughts about the self.  The “uncoupling” of these two parts of the brain that is associated with mindfulness suggests that the person is now able to maintain attention on body experience, without automatically activating “stories” about the self. Having actual data showing this phenomenon is hugely important, as it supports the notion of a fundamental neural dissociation between two distinct forms of self-awareness—narrative and experiential modes—that are habitually integrated but can be uncoupled through mindfulness training.

Siegel suggested the data from the study shows we can train ourselves to become less self-reflexive – that with regular practice we can learn to separate the experience from the story and subsequently be more present with difficult emotion without feeling as if we need to react to it.  The goal is to NOTICE what we are feeling (good, bad or indifferent) vs JUDGING the experience before we’ve even fully understood all that it means to us.

Slow things down when processing events.  It is important to honor how we feel, but remember feelings are not necessarily facts.  When we live more mindfully we learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable and our ability to tolerate distress dramatically increases.

Pause.  Breathe.  Slow things down.  Notice vs judge.  Respond vs react.  Live mindfully & prosper!

Stress & Impact On Business

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports stress to be the #1 health problem in the U.S., and businesses and organizations are currently losing billions of dollars annually resulting from:

  • Poor health in the form of high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and psychological disorders.
  • Lower productivity from mental distractions and absenteeism.
  • Less cooperation and teamwork, leading to greater inefficiency.
  • Inability to focus on job tasks and the organization’s goals.
  • Higher health care costs

As an individual, do you know how much stress is costing you personally & professionally?  As a business owner, do you know how much stress is impacting your employees and subsequently the bottom line for your business?

workplace stress

While those costs are likely high, the good news is there is a clinically proven psychological concept called Mindfulness that can help people live healthier lives, thus reducing the astronomical costs that poor health and chronic stress can bring.  Mindfulness is a simple & effective treatment that if practiced regularly can, according to Harvard Business Review & Forbes Magazine, help in the following ways:  

  • Increased mental focus & clarity for better decision making and more proficient critical thinking skills
  • Amplified creativity for more innovative & creative thinking
  • Enhanced compassion & courage for more robust team work & leadership
  • Enhanced coping skills & emotional intelligence for improved problem solving in the face of challenges
  • Reduced stress for decreased depression & anxiety for less absenteeism due to illness

Big companies such as Google, Apple Computers, General Mills, Nike, Target, Procter & Gamble, Boeing and Facebook understand the high costs & negative impact an unhealthy workforce can bring, so they support workplace wellness programs that include mindfulness training…and with studies such showing that mindfulness training programs yield a return of 5 to 10 times their cost (Mindfulness Meditation Institute), the value of implementation can far outweigh the costs.

To learn more about Mindfulness  and how Mindfulness Training can help you, your business or organization contact Lori at Foundations Counseling at 847-497-0524 or Lori@FoundationsCounselingCenter.org.

Live Mindfully & Prosper!