Posted Date: June 2017
Break Free of Chronic Back Pain—Natural Ways to Feel Much Better
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 25 percent of Americans, or 76.2 million, are suffering from pain that lasts more than 24 hours at this very moment: Ouch!
Lower back pain alone keeps Americans from going to work a total of 149 million days each year, costing the US economy $100 to $200 billion, reports the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Other common types of chronic pain affect musculoskeletal tissues, knees, hips or the neck. Migraines and severe headaches plague 16.6 percent of adults over 18, per a National Health and Nutrition Survey. Neurological discomfort can reach as high as 12.4 percent, estimates a study from the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minnesota. Even visceral or organ pain associated with heart disease, cancer and pelvic diseases occur in at least 20 percent of the global population, according to the International Association for the Study of Pain, in Seattle.
If chronic pain is affecting you, you feel it and want relief—right now.
To read the entire article on breaking free of chronic pain, go to page 38 of the June 2017 Issue of Natural Awakenings.
Posted Date: March 2017
Change Your World from the Inside Out (Reprinted article from themindfulnesssummit.com) —The Head-Heart-Gut Check In
Did you know you have one hundred million neurons (also called nerve cells or brain cells) in your intestines? The gut is now being referred to by many scientists as the gut-brain. Your heart, in addition to its other functions, also acts as a heart-brain. It’s made up of about 40,000 neurons, all of which can sense, feel, learn and remember.
Yep, that’s right. We have three brains communicating together at any one point in time—The more official names are- the cephalic brain (head), the cardiac brain (heart), and the enteric brain (gut). Each organ has complex neuro-networks and is able to store and process information, and each has the capacity for neuroplasticity.
Many ancient wisdom teachings have put great emphasis on checking into one’s own innate intelligence, speaking about following the wisdom of the heart and gut feelings. In recent years technology and neuroscience have finally advanced enough to prove these wisdom teachings to be correct so we now know for sure... our bodies have not one, but three brains. Each of which has different ways of ‘knowing’.
You can use the intelligence, wisdom and intuition of your three brains to make better decisions and stay more in touch with what really matters with this simple 5 step 'Head-Heart-Gut' Check In and meditation.
Posted Date: January 2017
Self-Care—What are you waiting for?
I’ve frequently heard clients and friends say they are too busy to exercise or prepare healthy meals. They say that massage is too expensive and they’re too tired to have fun! They don’t stop to give themselves what they need: healthy movement, nutrition, support, rest, and relaxation (play).
We are often driven (by the choices we make) to produce, perform and/or ‘succeed’ at much higher than optimal levels. We all need to pause and remember: We are humans, not machines!
Stress, we are told, is a key issue in chronic illness. Stress results when we’re so busy, we don’t take time for self-care. This leads to exhaustion, overwhelm, and burn out. Sometimes, we get sick just so we can take a break! But that doesn’t need to happen if we will just pause and consider the pros and cons of our current mindset.
I was recently talking about this to a client who shared that she felt selfish when she took time for herself. Many of us have been taught to put others’ needs above our own. But when we suppress our needs, we can feel angry and resentful. And from this state, we might find ourselves acting out by either passively-aggressively lashing out at others or by doing the same to ourselves. We might, for instance, find ourselves overeating to stuff down the resentments, sorrows, or angers we don’t allow ourselves to feel, leading us further down the proverbial rabbit hole.
This is NOT an effective strategy. So, instead of stuffing in or acting out, try one or more of the following:
And above all, don’t wait until you have time. Or energy. Or money. That day may never come. Instead, choose one, or more of the above options (or create one of your own) and do it tonight!
Posted Date: December 26, 2016
A Message From Michelle May, MD, founder of Am I Hungry?®
The last week in December is the time when many of us begin looking forward to the fresh start of a new year. We might set goals to clear out clutter, clean up our act, or create a life we love - but as we are often reminded, most resolutions will be just a distant memory by February.
So why are most resolutions doomed to fail? As you'll learn in this short video, it's because most people make a critical mistake...
Learning about TFAR literally changed my life! Once I finally understood that following a diet was merely an action that didn't address the underlying thoughts and beliefs that drove my habits, I stopped making resolutions that were doomed to fail.
For more information about the 'Am I Hungry®' program, please click on the Mindful Eating page.
Posted Date: November 20, 2016
Let There Be Peace with Food—By Michelle May, M.D.
A combative approach is counterproductive and gives food even more power over you—the opposite of what you want: Peace.
You’ve probably heard the sayings “What you resist, persists,” “Where your attention goes, energy flows,” and “Focus on what you want, not on what you don’t want.” When you’re focused on avoiding, fighting, or resisting your urges to eat, you are still directing your attention and energy toward food. Could that be why food is frequently on your mind and why the foods you “shouldn’t” eat seem to show up everywhere?
Let go of the struggle!
What you may not realize is that the phrase “Let there be peace” means that peace is already here and all we need to do is let it be! And that’s true of food too: You were born with the instinctive ability to manage your eating effortlessly, without all the struggle. Admittedly, you may have forgotten those skills, but trust me, they can be relearned. In fact, that is the mission of Am I Hungry? – to change the way the world thinks about eating.
And there’s an enormous bonus: When you relearn how to cultivate peace with food, you also learn how to cultivate peace in other aspects of your life and create space to focus on what you really want!
HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO YOU AND YOURS FROM ALL OF US AT AM I HUNGRY®!
Posted Date: July 12, 2016
Celebrating Our Independence from Self-destructive and Unhealthy Habitual Behaviors.
Life in Five Short Chapters by Portia Nelson
Does any of this sound familiar? Most of us have walked down the first three chapter streets a number of times and many of us feel helpless to change. Thus, we never make it to the final chapters, or we do for a while and then, before we know it, we’re back in Chapter 1. That is the nature of habits.
A habit is an automatic behavior; something we’ve repeated so often that it now happens without conscious thought. Some habits are life-giving, such as going for a walk or quick jog before you remember all the reasons you don’t want to. Others, not so much: like instinctively reaching for that bag of chips or carton of ice cream the moment you feel angry, sad, bored, lonely or just want to celebrate that the sun came up again this morning.
As most of us can attest, it can be quite challenging to break an old habit or establish a new one. Science tells us that the behaviors we continuously repeat become hard-wired into the neural pathways of our brains. But don’t think that bit of biology lets you off the hook because, while it may often be challenging, it is not impossible to replace unhealthy habits with healthier ones. It just takes practice: and that means doing it over and over until it becomes your new ‘go to’ response.
But before that can happen, there must be a moment of awareness when you open your eyes, as in Chapter 3, and realize that you are not the victim of your habits. Now, you have choice. Now, you can begin to make the change you want to see. Don’t convince yourself that change isn’t possible. The difference between success and failure is not that successful people never fail; it’s that they never give up. You aren’t the victim of your unhealthy habits. You can change. You can create new, healthier habits. You just have to keep trying. Each time you succeed in making the choice to do something other than unconsciously reaching for something to eat, you are re-wiring your brain, and, eventually, this will become your new habit.
The next time you want to eat that whole bag of whatever is calling your name, make the choice to walk down a different street!
Posted Date: June 2016
A Compassionate Response to Emotional Eating
Edited version of an article written by Michelle May, M.D., Creator of the award-winning Am I Hungry® program, www.amihungry.com
If you eat for emotional reasons—when you’re sad, mad, glad, stressed, or lonely—you probably eat in order to feel better. And eating works! Temporarily.
Unfortunately, you usually feel worse afterward—emotionally and physically. That may cause you to beat yourself up—quite literally adding insult to injury. The guilt and shame become yet another trigger for emotional eating, feeding the eat-repent-repeat cycle.
What if the first step to breaking this cycle is self-compassion instead of self-criticism? How might that help? And more important, where do you start?
How does self-compassion help with emotional eating? As difficult as it may be to fathom, being understanding and forgiving of yourself for overeating will help you take the next step to finding other ways to meet your emotional needs. After all, you don’t eat for emotional reasons because you are “weak-willed,” “stupid,” or “out of control.” You do it because it works!
Blaming, shaming, criticizing, and finding fault for attempting to care for yourself only backfires. Imagine you were teaching a young child something new… would blaming, shaming, criticizing, and finding fault help or hurt? The way you speak to yourself has just as much power! (You may be afraid that if you are “nice” to yourself, you won’t change, but the opposite is true! You care for yourself because you accept yourself, not so you’ll accept yourself).
So how can you begin to respond with self-compassion when you overeat?
Three Ways to Nurture Self-Compassion
Gently acknowledge that you were doing the best you could in that moment. Validate your thoughts, feelings, and actions as being normal and understandable given the circumstances. As Dr. Kari Anderson, co-author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for Binge Eating, says, “Of course!” It’s like saying, “I totally get why you thought, felt, or did that!”
Of course you ate! Who wouldn’t want to feel better when you’re sad, mad, stressed, or lonely—or magnify the pleasure when you’re glad? This validation and unconditional acceptance creates a safe environment for experimenting with new thoughts, feelings, and actions.
When you overeat, validate the choice as being rational at the time: “Of course you ____________!” This gentle, understanding self-talk will open the door to exploring how you might do it differently next time if you don’t like how it turned out.
Bring nonjudgmental awareness to the situation. Mindful eating is all about bringing nonjudgmental awareness to your choices and experiences with eating. Nonjudgment is essential because it provides a more objective understanding of what happened and why.
AIH Facilitator, Camerin Ross, PhD, suggests writing about an overeating or binge eating episode and identifying the “voices” that show up. Nonjudgmentally recognizing how these voices drive the cycle affords you the opportunity to cultivate your Self-Care Voice.
Cultivate Your Self-Care Voice. Your Self-Care Voice wants the best for you. It is unconditionally compassionate, affirming, and accepting. Your Self-Care voice is the voice of kindness and wisdom. It is like a loving parent who guides you to learn from your mistakes, face your challenges, and loves you unconditionally, faults and all.
Posted Date: May 21, 2016
It's About TIME!
Think you don’t have time to exercise? Think again!
“I don’t have time!” is our favorite, go-to excuse when we don’t want to exercise. We’ve used it so often, it’s like a beloved, well-worn book. We don’t even have to think before we say it; it rolls easily off our tongue. And with all that’s going on in our lives, who’s to question us?
Well, sorry, that would be me. And I’m about to blow holes in that approach.
“I don’t have time” is a great excuse and sometimes even a valid reason for not exercising. But it isn’t true all the time. Could you find the time if it were a hair, nail or massage appointment; a TV show, video game, or fun time with friends? Most likely. And if not, you might want to reconsider. We all need time for pampering, connecting and relaxing. It’s part of a balanced well-being program. And, as we discussed last month, it’s very difficult to run a life if you’re not in good health (See Archives).
So what’s really happening? Perhaps it’s because we tend to find time for things we enjoy and not so much for things we don’t - unless we have to. But in a balanced program, we make time for things we want and need. To function optimally the human body needs to engage in regular physical activity, so how do we make exercise something we enjoy?
We could start by asking ourselves a few questions, such as:
You get the picture. Exercise doesn’t have to be a despised or boring imposition, and it doesn’t have to leave you sweaty and exhausted. There are numerous options that come to mind when you change your mindset. Let your No!” become “Yes,” and discover these new possibilities. Once you create a movement habit and start to feel better, you may find that you genuinely look forward to this time with your body!
Posted Date: April 11, 2016
It’s officially Spring! Don’t you love the way you feel after you’ve opened your windows, cleaned out your closets, purged what you no longer need, and organized the rest? Everything seems new. You have more energy. You feel lighter, happier...
Spring cleaning is not just for homes. It’s is also a great time to clean up your unhealthy behaviors, boring diet and exercise routines, self-limiting thoughts, negative attitudes, and self-sabotaging beliefs. In fact, like pollen, any habit that no longer serves you is fair game during the spring cleaning season.
It’s a perfect time to open your inner closets and start assessing. What stays and what needs to go? If you feel stuck and are procrastinating about what to keep and what to toss, it may be because you’re not clear what you really want.
To determine where to start, ask yourself what you most value. What are the main themes that drive your behaviors? Health? Career? Relationships? Spiritual Life? Creative Pursuits? Hobbies, Special Interests, Leisure Activities? Prioritize these in order of importance.
Choose the one that matters most in this moment and concentrate your efforts there first. Next, determine which aspects of this particular area are positively driving your life and which are draining your energies. Get specific by asking:
What’s working for me here? What energies me? What do I want more of?
What‘s not working? What depletes me? What do I want less of?
If you’ve tried the above suggestions and are still feeling frustrated in some area of your life, it may be because you haven’t gotten specific enough with what you want or because you’re afraid to let it go and move forward. Question if the habit is still serving you. If not, it’s time to pitch it and bring in something new. If you’re feeling fear, try being curious about it. Curiosity moves us forward; fear keeps us stuck.
If you’re willing to do the work and trade your unhealthy habits for healthier ones, you’ll no longer be running on empty and will open a space to create what you truly want.
Posted Date: March 10, 2016
It’s time to check in and honestly assess where you are. Are you on target with your Vision and Goals or do you need a jump start? (See Vision and SMART Goals posts in archives).
If you’re still motivated and accomplishing your goals: CONGRATULATIONS! Celebrate your successes! Then, revisit your Vision, develop new Goals (if you need to), and Keep on it!
If you are still struggling, take heart, you’re not alone. In our fast-paced, commitment-filled world, it’s often challenging to keep up. Let’s talk about some things that might help.
Click HERE to continue.
Posted Date: February 14, 2016
Reaching Your Vision – Part 2: Designing a SMART Goals Program.
Goals are supportive behaviors that help us stay on course to achieve our aspirations. Goal setting involves developing an action plan that will provide the day to day direction for reaching our Vision.
NOTE: If you haven’t yet created a compelling Vision, stop here and read January 2016’s FFT on how to create a personal vision before starting to develop your goals.
Without action, our dreams are often never realized. It’s therefore important to create goals that support our larger vision and help us stay connected and motivated. If you remember that the purpose of these small behavioral steps is to help you reach your Vision ~ and your vision is compelling enough ~ you’re more likely to stay committed to them. And if you make your goals SMART, you’ll be even more likely to succeed.
Click HERE to learn more about designing a SMART GOAL PROGRAM.
Posted Date: January 10, 2016
It’s the Perfect Time to Create a Personal Vision to Energize Your Goals and Empower Your Actions!
It’s January again, and many of us are getting back to our normal routines and feeling ready to make some changes in our lives. For some, this includes New Year’s Resolutions. But research shows that most of us don’t stick with even our best intentions for long. The majority of diets don’t last more than a few months; most people who join a gym are ‘no shows’ by mid-February; and desires to spend more time with family, make new friends, reduce stress, or get out of debt don’t fare much better. If you’re tired of trying to change certain lifestyle behaviors and not succeeding, take heart and keep reading: You may not have had the information you need to support and sustain these changes.
So what is the key to success when it comes to lasting lifestyle changes? Experts say it starts with a powerful vision; one that connects us with what we feel as well as what we think we want in life. Apparently, feeling deeply connected to what we most value is more motivating than just devising a set of behavioral goals that can get lost in the shuffle when life shifts into overdrive.
If you believe you don’t have time to create a vision; or you’ve tried it before and it didn’t work; or perhaps it feels like too much effort, consider this: If you don’t have a vision for your life, it’s highly likely nothing will change.
But if you take time now to (1) Create a vision you feel deeply connected with; (2) Use it to inspire your specific goals; and (3) Stay committed to following through with actionable steps, you can be sure things will change. You may even find yourself living the life you previously dreamed about.
Creating your vision may take an hour, several days or a couple of weeks, but it’s key to making behavioral changes last. And since we’re more likely to achieve our goals when they are rooted in a powerful vision, it’s important to carve out some time to foster this essential first step.
Click HERE to read the entire article.
Posted Date: November 15, 2015
Tis the Season...
Wherever you go this holiday season, my guess is there will be food. And lots of it. All with a variety of tempting sights, sounds and spectacular aromas to entice you to open your mouth, and -all too often, gobble some or all of it down before you even know what just blindsided you. Ah yes, tis the season of temptation.
And in the midst of all those tantalizing delights, we sometimes get so caught up in the whirlwind that we become too exhausted, overwhelmed, or over-extended to see what is going on ‘behind the magic curtain' of this food extravaganza.
But while it's easy to lose sight of what else might be going on, tis the season of much more than yummy foodstuffs. So, let's take a moment to focus on and connect with the magic that's there too—behind the stress and exhaustion, and in addition to the food. Look with the eyes of a child for what's really going on. It's there beneath the food and the gifts and the chaos and confusion. Yes, even beneath all that. Because even beneath that is a human being just trying to get his or her needs met in the best way they know how at the moment. So instead of giving presents this year, let's give the gift of our presence.
Giving the gift of presence means that, in the midst of all those tantalizing delights, we take a moment to connect with the magic of being human. We check in with ourselves (and/or another), to find out what's really needed in the moment. We ask some questions: Do I need to rest? If we're honest, we can all find 5-10 minutes to close our eyes and deeply rest. And studies show this can be as restful as a full night's sleep! Am I thirsty? Drink a glass or two of water and then see if you're still hungry. Do I have actual physical hunger sensations like pangs or growling? If so, eat mindfully and savor the full experience (see Dr. Michelle May's suggestions below or visit www.amihungry.com). Feeling lonely? Call a friend or connect with an animal. Sad, angry, bored? Cry. Hit a pillow. Get up and move. Write about it in your journal. There are numerous strategies that can be used for most any possibility. Just take a moment and check in with your body, mind and feelings to see what you really need.
No matter how overwhelming things are during the holidaze, find five minutes to be fully present. Ask yourself some questions; determine what's really needed in the moment; and then, in the best way you can, give yourself what you really need. As soon as you notice the whining and complaining and the feeling sorry for yourself (that we all do)—and that you are using food as a temporary fix—stop, breathe, and choose one of your healthier strategies to give yourself what you need. Like most of us, you will probably have to do this many times. You are rewiring your brain, and like toning a muscle, it takes repetition. (BTW, this process works very well with others too!)And when you do eat, take a note from Am I Hungry's Dr. Michelle May (continue on next page):
Click HERE to continue reading...
Posted Date: July 28, 2013
Is Your Inner Rebel Sabotaging You?
It's July, over half-way through the New Year, and a good time to check in on those resolutions we made in January. If you didn't make any, why not? Studies show that we are more likely to be successful when we have written goals that are specific, realistic and measurable with attainable timelines. If you did make some, how are they going? This is not an invitation to judge yourself, but the opportunity to mindfully and non-judgmentally assess where you are compared to where you wanted to go 7 months ago. Are your goals still the same? If not, have you objectively assessed why? If you've already reached them; CONGRATULATIONS! Do you have a plan in place to maintain them, or do you want to set some new goals? If you haven't yet accomplished your intentions, are you on your way to doing so by the end of your timeline? If not, have you devised some strategies to help you get there?
If all of this feels a bit overwhelming, have you thought about getting some assistance? We are interdependent creatures, and most of us need help from time to time. I have learned over the years that I do much better with support in place and can downright flounder without it. Hillary Clinton wrote a book entitled "It Takes a Village to Raise a Child." I believe, at certain times, we all respond to the various challenges of life with the energy of an ‘inner' child and/or teen that needs attention. And if it doesn't get it, we can find ourselves continually feeling stuck or even sabotaged. As much as we might like to blame others or life's circumstances, it is not ‘something out there that is doing this to us.'I recently read an article by Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, MEd, entitled “Are You A Rebel Without A Cause? The article is about internal conflict and how we often sabotage ourselves while trying to get what we want. Take, for instance, the person who wants to lose weight, tone up and get healthy, but continually finds 'valid' reasons why s/he can't exercise or maintain a healthy, balanced food plan. Or the person who can do all that for a while, but then all of a sudden quits. Or the one who just wants peace in the world but continually beats herself up when s/he doesn't feel perfect - only to down a whole bag of chips right after finishing off a pint of ice cream and half a chocolate cake. Sound like I know what I'm talking about?
If you do too, CLICK HERE and continue reading for some insights and strategies that might help…
Posted Date: April 5, 2013
The following FOOD FOR THOUGHT was written by Dr. Tim Brieske and excerpted from the 3/8/13 Depak Chopra Newsletter/Awaken to Your True Self. For the full text, see Chopra March 2013 newsletter at http://www.chopra.com/ccl/emotional-spring-cleaning/
Emotional Spring Cleaning
As a natural life force, emotions are intended to flow freely through our bodymind, then dissipate once we have fully experienced them and assimilated their valuable message. As we were growing up, however, many of us learned that certain emotions – such as anger, sadness, or even joy – were unacceptable, and we subconsciously began to push them out of our awareness. Over time, we may have accumulated a large load of emotional toxicity that takes a toll on our mental and physical health.
Tune into your feelings: There are two main antidotes to emotional repression: openness and acceptance. If you stay open to all of your feelings and not just the “nice” ones, you won't have to repress anything. It helps immensely to remember that feelings are so named because we feel them in our bodies. Your mind may be an expert at hiding from itself and denying feelings, but the body can't fool itself. It has no access to denial. When your body registers an emotion, there is an accompanying physical sensation.
Every feeling has an important message, and when we let ourselves feel them and flow through us rather than shoving them away, we can begin to experience greater emotional well-being.
Reviewed/Updated: August 12, 2017