The Value of Laughter

I am thrilled to introduce Sharon Hohler to Wellness Kriya this week as our guest contributer!  Sharon will be contributing to the kriya of EXERCISE THE MIND AND BODY this week.  I loved her angle on the value of laughter…..I’m certain you will, too!

The Value of Laugher, by Sharon Hohler

 

Have you laughed today?  We all know that laughter is good for us.  But how? 
The Healing Power of Humor, by Allen Klein gives us good insights.  Humor gives us power; it can be used to overcome fear.  When a person talks about and makes jokes about a situation which frightens him, the situation becomes less frightening.  As his brain hears the scary words over and over, the fear diminishes.    
 
Mr Klein makes this comment on page 5:  “Often we are powerless against the events in our life; sometimes there is little we can do to stop the things that upset us.  We can, however, minimize the hold that these upsets have over us by finding some humor in them.  Humor can help soothe the rough edges of our day and the most trying moments of our life.”  
 
Laughter increases our ability to cope.  We all experience life events such as flat tires, traffic jams and screwed-up schedules.  How do we react?  Do we take it seriously and stress out?  Do we see the humor in the situation and laugh?  Author Allen Klein says “adding humor to our difficult times can be one of the wisest things we can do to help us cope with them, stop worrying about them, and get on with our life.”  (Klein, A, The Healing Power of Humor, pg 10)
 
Humor/laughter provides physical benefits.  Laughter decreases physical tension and stress.  As stress hormone levels drop, our immune system cranks up and makes infection fighting antibodies and immune system cells which means better health.  Laughter, especially a good belly laugh, exercises our heart and lungs.  When we laugh, our blood vessels dilate and carry more blood to our body.  Laughter releases endorphins, our feel-good chemicals.  Researchers have found laughter relieves pain. 
 
The psychologists at Helpguide.org offer more suggestions on how to develop your sense of humor and add more laughter to your life:  “take yourself less seriously…laugh at yourself…attempt to laugh at situations rather than bemoan them…surround yourself with reminders to lighten up…keep things in perspective…deal with your stress…pay attention to children and emulate them.” Laughter is the Best Medicine at http://www.helpguide.org/life/humor_laughter_health.htm
 
Sharon Hohler is an RN and a writer.  She has published several magazine articles and is currently completing her second book.  Check out her website at www.livingthehealthylifewehavechoices.blogspot.com 
 
More from Sharon Wednesday!  Stay tuned!
 
 

 

A Spiritual Connection Within

This evening, I ventured out to try a new yoga studio.  I have been in search of a vinyasa practice that would be a good fit for me.  The minute I walked into the studio, I immediately felt a certain energy in the room.  The class had not yet begun, but I just knew that this was going to be the place for me.  I certainly used my intuitive sixth sense on this, and I was correct. 

Yoga has been a part of my life, exercising the mind and body, for some time now.  As we discuss the topic of SPIRIT this week, I thought about the strong link between spiritual connection, or enlightenment, and yoga.  Through yoga practice, we strengthen our spirit by bringing our energy inward, starting with an awareness to our breath.  It is the first kriya, or action of our soul.  By turning inward, we can access that part of us that connects to something greater – that intuitive energy we discussed, the divine power that resides within us, and our authentic selves. 

The path to spiritual wellness can take any form.  It can involve prayer, meditation, affirmations, and/or any specific belief system you espouse.  The important piece is that you find purpose and meaning to the flow of your life.  Although yoga is my conduit for this flow, being mindful does not have to come only through yoga.  You can easily start your day with an intention, just as we do at the beginning of yoga class. 

What do you hope to give of yourself today?  What answers are you seeking today?  Where can you find peace today?  When we intend something, we are connecting to that higher power and we are believing in it.  We are believing and having unwavering faith that  something larger exists within us and for us.

Nature’s Balance

photo by Bill Dan

I remember taking a walk along windy Crissy Field in San Francisco when I stopped to take in something miraculous.  No, I’m not talking about the breath-taking view of the Golden Gate Bridge peering out from the fog.  I’m talking about the “rock-stacker” or “rock-balancer”, as he is referred to by the locals.  Bill Dan has been defying gravity (or what it appears) with his ability to perfectly balance rocks on top of one another without glue, magnets, or any other assistance.  He has an innate sense of creating balance by the shapes and sizes of rocks found alongside the water.  It’s as though they are suspended by a force coming from the sky. 

It got me thinking about balance.  In the theory of the balance of nature, it states that our ecosystem is usually in a stable equilibrium.  And when a change occurs to a particular parameter, the system will attempt to correct itself to restore its balance.  Think about what happens if you stand on one foot.  Unless you lean toward the other side and right yourself, you will fall.   It’s like Newton’s Third Law of Physics: “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction”.  In our worlds, we are all trying to maintain some level of balance – whether it is with work and play, calories ingested vs. calories expended, inner peace and outer noise, we all want to restore our equilibrium.  Just as the above rocks will fall if not in alignment, we will tip toward one end of the spectrum if we don’t equally feed our souls when we feel emotionally or physically depleted. 

This weekend and week ahead, think about what you need to restore your balance.  Do you need to commit to exercising your mind and body at a certain time each day?  How about trying a new, healthy recipe?  Maybe you need to reward yourself with a massage or pedicure.   Or, perhaps, you just pause and take note of the people in your life that love and support you.  We may not always feel like the perfectly, balanced rocks  that Dan stacks, but we can certainly create a shift in our spirits.

Deepali’s piece of wellness:  Sometimes, taking a moment to reflect on what is good in your life may be all that you need to create some balance.  Remember to be grateful.

Happiness in the Blue Zone

Research shows that our inclination to be happy is only 50% dependent on our genes.  So what if you weren’t born with the happiness gene?  The great news is that the other 50% is largely dependent on external factors and circumstances.  It is true that we can’t control everything that happens in life, but there may be a way to lean into a happier life. 

New York Times best selling author, Dan Buettner has been gaining a lot of publicity recently with his new book release, THRIVE: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way. 

Buettner has teamed up with National Geographic to research some key happiness contributers and their relationship to longevity.  It has led them to areas known as the “Blue Zones”, where people are reporting a high level of wellbeing.  The team found that there were essentially six life domains, or thrive centers that were common denominators for life satisfaction.  They include the following:

1. Community – the places people thrived most were those that made them feel safe and those that provided opportunities to walk – cities that had large sidewalks, outdoor cafes, parks, and gardens (way to go, San Luis Obispo, CA! – noted to be the happiest place to live in the U.S.)

2. Work – Do you enjoy your work?  Do you work close to your home? Do you regularily take vacations?  Turns out that all three factors contribute to your wellness.

3. Social Life – I once read that you become the average of the 5 people you surround yourself with most.  If that were the case, wouldn’t you want to surround yourself with positive people?  Having a close knit of dependable friends is crucial for wellbeing, according to Beuttner.

4. Financial Life – apparently, the old saying “money can’t buy happiness” may be true.  According to the research, after the basic necessities of life are met (food, shelter, health insurance), money will bring about only short-lived happiness.  The key to long-term financial wellness is to “save mindlessly and spend thoughtfully”.

 5. Home – Creating an environment that is clear of clutter, planting a garden, and surrounding yourself with items that hold meaning to you will all facilitate a happy demenor.  Beuttner also recommends creating a room where you can engage yourself in challenging, yet meaningful activities/hobbies. 

6. Self – This takes us back to Monday’s post.  It is incredibly important to know your own strengths, values, talents, and passions.  Turns out that the people that were happiest in life knew what made them unique.

I think Beuttner’s book gives us a lot to think about.  It shows us that happiness is something that we can lean into by making a few adjustments in our life.  I can’t wait to read the whole book!

Where does your happiness live?

How many times have we said to ourselves and others, “I just want to be happy” in life.  To most, happiness can range from contentment to pure elation and joy.  Sure, there is truth in Joseph Cambell’s simple advise, “follow your bliss”, but how many of us really know what that is?  Do we ever just stop and ask ourselves what exactly we want to be, do, or have in this lifetime? 

There is currently a plethora of books and motivational speakers discussing the science of happiness.  Psychologist Martin Seligman provides the acronym PERMA to summarize many of Positive Psychology’s findings; “humans seem happiest when they have Pleasure (tasty foods, warm baths, etc.), Engagement or (aka Flow, the absorption of an enjoyed yet challenging activity), Relationships (social ties have turned out to be extremely reliable indicator of happiness), Meaning (a perceived quest or belonging to something bigger), and finally Accomplishments (having realized tangible goals)”.

When I look at Seligman’s PERMA, I think the pleasure principle is inherent in most of us.  We all intuitively know what brings us that instant gratification in various capacities.  I think the other principles, however, take some serious thought.  It’s easy to think that we’d be happy the minute we won the lottery or the instant we met our ‘soul mate’.  But have we sat down and pondered how much money we really need to thrive in this world?  How would you recognize your soul mate if you haven’t really thought about your values and what you want out of a life partner?  The truth is, many of us can’t pursue happiness unless we know what gives our life meaning, what we want to achieve, and what healthy relationships look and feel like.  We chase happiness in hopes of catching up to something that ends up being elusive, at best, unless we know the unique experiences for which we are searching.

I recently read Jack Canfield’s book, “The Success Principles”.  One of his assignments is to write down 30 things you want to do, be, and have.  It is an exercise on becoming absolutely clear in what you visualize for your life.  I felt silly when I first sat down to write down 90 items, but it ended up being a lot of fun.  Because there were no limits, it was quite empowering and gave me clarity on what was most important to me in life.  That’s what happens when you peel back the layers, stop judging yourself, and listen to your authentic voice.  You start living your truth. 

Only then can you follow your bliss and be on your way to experiencing true happiness.

***Stay tuned for more on the science of happiness Wednesday****

Deepali’s piece of wellness:  Exercise your mind and get excited about writing down 30 things that you want to be, do, and have.  You will have a much easier time hearing the sound of joy when it comes knocking on your door!

Starting your Exercise Program

   

  1. See your doctor before you start any exercise program.  Get a full physical to make sure everything’s in working order, then find a personal trainer in your neighborhood and make an appointment with him or her for a consultation.  Most trainers will give you a free consultation and help you figure out what your fitness level is, your body fat and circumference measurements, and the right way to start a program.
  2. Start Slow!  Many beginners make the mistake of doing too much when they first start out.  If you haven’t worked out in a while (or ever) start with a walking program of about 20 to 30 minutes, 3 days a week. Each session, add a few minutes to your workout to progress each week.
  3. Write down your workouts every day, making notes about what you did, how you felt and how you improved since your last workout
  4. Schedule your workouts each day like you would schedule a doctor’s appointment.
  5. Get your best friend, spouse or significant other into working out with you!
  6. Every day, ask yourself how you will make your life healthier.  It can be as simple as drinking more water or parking farther away from the front door.
  7. Reward yourself!  Give yourself a massage when you reach your goals, or maybe some new workout clothes.
  8. Set daily or weekly goals.  Long term goals are great, but are so far away we often forget why we’re working so hard.  To stay motivated, write down a daily or weekly goal and then follow number 7 (rewarding yourself) if you reach it.
  9. Prepare for your workout the night before by packing your gym bag or, if you work out at home, laying out your workout clothes so when you get home, you’re ready to go.
  10. Eat regularly throughout the day so you don’t hit a wall during your workout. 

***These were excellent tips provided by About.com

Whether you decide on running, walking, hiking, yoga, pilates, dance, or rock-climbing – make physical activity a part of your day.  When your body feels good, your mind feels good.  And that is a great way to feed your soul! 

Bodies in Motion

Our bodies were undoubtedly designed to move.  Unfortunately, these days, many of us find ourselves sitting a great portion of the day.  Whether it be working on the computer, talking to clients on the phone, or literally an “all-day” business meeting,  we are not giving our body the level of movement that it needs to maintain an optimal level of function and support.  As a result, we find ourselves tired, unmotivated, slumping over from a weak posture, and literally “breaking down”.     

Many of you know that one of my favorite inspirational websites is “Daily Om”.  There was a beautiful article that so eloquently discussed the importance and beauty of exercising our bodies, titled POETRY IN MOTIONI thought it fit perfectly for our discussion this week.  Enjoy!

Feeding the Mind-Body Loop

I started my morning today with an amazing 90-minute yoga session.  Yoga has been a part of my lifestyle for the past 5 years, serving as a sanctuary for exercising my mind and body.  I am always reminded of each one of the wellness kriyas as I arrive on my mat, striving to become strong and flexible in the body while being fluid in the mind.  My instructor, Danny, began class this morning with an intention – “Miracles”, he said.  “Be conscious of the miracles in your life, starting with your mind and body”.  It took me back to our topic of gratitude, which we discussed last week.  But this went a step further.  “We always have a choice – to either create peace or create war by what we put in our minds and how we treat our bodies.  There IS no neutral”, said Danny. 

This got me thinking about the power of intention.  In order to intend to think a certain way, we must exercise our brains in a way that perhaps doesn’t feel normal to us.  Research now shows that our brains actually have more elasticity and plasticity than we once thought.  Elasticity, or the ability to stretch and return back to shape, allows us to have flexibility, controlled mobility, and balance.  Plasticity, or the ability to mold or form, is the way in which the brain can re-shape itself by the input and experiences it receives.  This means we can actually create new neural pathways and strengthen existing ones by our mental and physical exercise.  I see this fascinating phenomenon daily in my profession, as I help to rehabilitate those that have suffered strokes, or injured areas of the brain that have been deprived of oxygen.    

There is definitely an integrated system in our minds and bodies.  Our brain communicates with our bodies through chemicals and hormones that it releases, thereby allowing for a particular physical response.  Think about how a stressful day can make your head hurt or raise your blood pressure.  Our bodies also signal our brains to process valuable information.  When you stub your toe, there are pain signals that communicate to your brain.  When you are at the gym working out, happy endorphins can swim upstream to create a lighter mood.  The mind and body have this perfect feedback mechanism.  But what we feed ourselves, both mentally and physically is truly what will impact our overall well-being. 

This week, think about what you are doing to “feed” your mind and bodies.  Start with your mind.  How about beginning to feed only positive mental images to your life experiences for a day?  This is what my yoga instructor, Danny, did.  Maybe you meditate for 5 minutes and feel how your body responds.  Perhaps, you think about using your non-dominant hand for daily tasks like brushing your teeth or using the remote control.  You could also try a mentally challenging activity like a crossword puzzle or sudoku.  It all may seem uncomfortable and awkward at first.  But know that by engaging your mind and body, you are re-creating a newer YOU.  And, to me, that’s a miracle in itself.  ***Stay tuned for more on exercising the mind and body.

Deepali’s piece of wellness:  Try at least one new way to use your mind or body this week.  I guarantee one will benefit the other.

Crossing the Finish Line

finish lineThere is an indescribable feeling you have when you set your mind to something and then achieve it.  Yesterday, I felt the ultimate rush as I crossed the finish line of my 1/2 marathon.  It was pure exhiliration followed by full exhalation…..a feeling of accomplishment, gratefulness, and love, coupled with the aftermath of delicious fatigue of the mind and body.  It is a journey of giving yourself fully and wholeheartedely and then being able to relish in the view from the other side. 

I did a lot of thinking during my 13.1 miles.  As I reflected upon the many challanges I have faced in my life (as we all have), I thought about running as being a metaphor for life.  There are times you feel great and at ease, while other times you are challenged to your full extent.  There are moments of confidence followed by fear and self-doubt.  And then there are those crucial minutes when all you can do is place one foot after the next  in hopes of moving foward one step at a time, one breath at a time. 

 I realized that so many of our wellness concepts were interwoven into this run.  I was, without a doubt, exercising my mind & body throughout.  I had to be present and mindful to allow myself to have the mental and physical stamina.  I had taken the risk and challenged myself to go the distance – in more ways than one.  I felt gratitude for my health – the muscles, bones, and organs that allowed me to perform this task.  Finally, in the end, it was truly about letting go and knowing that each step was guiding  me toward my destination.      

So……how do we do this latter part?  Let’s discuss some strategies this week on letting go and going with the flow.  After all, there are countless finish lines to cross in our lives.  And each can be just as exhilirating has finishing a 1/2 marathon, if you can allow yourself to let go.  Stay tuned!

Does the Shoe Fit?

Running has always been my choice for a good cardio workout.  I feel like I get my entire body moving, not to mention the delicious endorphins that put me in a state of euphoria, known as “the runner’s high”.  I felt great  today after completing my 10-mile  run.  

Running is a great form of exercise for physical and mental wellness.  Physically, it is an excellent way to lose weight, build muscle mass and strong bones, when coupled with a healthy diet.  It works almost every muscle in your body below your face (unless, of course, you are cringing the whole time!)  and gives you maximum return on calories expended (roughly 500/per hour depending on your weight).   Running helps to lower blood pressure and improve the elasticity of your blood vessels, including those in your heart. Psychologically, it allows stress reduction, increased happiness, relaxation, and better sleep.  It helps you build willpower, perseverence, and consistency in your goal setting – qualities that you can definitely carryover to the rest of your life.  You can read more about all the benefits in Chi Running: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running, by Danny and Katherine Dreyer.  

Running is also a relatively inexpensive means of exercising.  After all, the only thing you need is the beautiful nature outside your door and a pair of sneakers……or do you?  The latest hype in the runner’s world is barefoot running, a concept I’m a bit skeptical about.  The latest research, conducted by Daniel Lieberman, Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard, took a population of runners from the US and Kenya and identified different running patterns.  Lieberman and his colleagues found that those people who ran with shoes landed on their heel first, putting a greater load through their bodies, thereby increasing risk of injury.  Those that ran barefoot, landed on their mid-forefoot first, allowing for better agility and shock absorbance.  I’ve had many people ask me my thoughts on this, and I think more research is needed – especially, to include people like myself, who have no foot arch and, thus, severly pronate (inward-rolling ankles).  I don’t think I could run without my orthotics supporting my arch and placing my lower body in adequate biomechanical alignment.  For me, I am still able to land on my midfoot by tilting my body slightly forward when I run.  I do, however, have friends who have bought the new “barefoot running shoe” and claim it is great.  They report a lighter feel to each step, as though they are gliding over the pavement.  Bottom line – see if you can borrow a pair of these “barefoot” covers and try them on a treadmill before making the big purchase!  Also, you would want to know how much cushion each specific one has, especially if you’re a trail runner. 

Shoes or no shoes, I still think running is a wonderful way to build stamina – physically and mentally, on and off the course.  I’ll be participating in the Disney Princess 1/2 marathon in Orlando in two weeks.  See you there – I’ll be the one with sneakers on!

Deepali’s piece of wellness: whether you run, jog, or walk,  fill your wellness quotient by doing  at least 30 min of aerobic activity/day.  You will reap more benefits than just having a fit body!