The Path Forward
As we approach the new year, I’m reminded of something I learned 30 years ago when I was struggling with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and I began a lifelong journey towards health. There is always a path forward. It’s not an instant cure or a guarantee of life without pain. Instead, it’s way to find more ease, more joy, less discomfort.
At times, this is hard to believe. Life can throw us curve balls and it may seem difficult to find light in times of darkness.
What’s true is that light is always there.
When I was in acupuncture school, I was taught that, in ancient times, the herbs a person needed would grow just outside their home. I believe that this teaching remains relevant. The things we need to heal are close by – in the food we eat, the exercises we do, in the quieting of the mind, in the restorative power of sleep, and in the arms of the people we love.
Life gets busy, stressful, and often we forget our own miraculous ability to heal. I’m in my 60s now. My body is less forgiving than it once was. Yet when I listen to it, I’m constantly finding ways of renewed health.
You can too!
My work has always focused on small, sustainable changes that lead to improved health and well-being.
Here are my top 8 suggestions for 2022 to live a life filled with health & happiness, all of which are low-cost and readily available.
1) Eat more vegetables.
The easiest way to incorporate this suggestion is to add a serving of vegetables to your diet every day. Choose something that is not part of your current diet. I recommend adding a vegetable to your midday meal. Soup, roasted vegetables, and stir-fries are all good choices.
See my food blog for recipes.
2) Take a walk.
This is one of the easiest forms of exercise. Remember to wear a good pair of sneakers or hiking boots. Walking offers the benefit of movement along with an opportunity to experience the healing powers of the outdoors.
Here are some places in Western Massachusetts.
3) Buy a buckwheat pillow.
I recommend this to my patients who experience neck pain. A buckwheat pillow conforms to the shape of your neck and offers support. No more waking up with a stiff neck!
Here are recommendations for what to buy.
4) Get some extra fiber.
We should be getting a least 30-50 grams of fiber a day. Fiber is found in whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits & vegetables. Even when we eat these foods, we often don’t get a s much fiber as we need.
Add a tablespoon of this prebiotic fiber to your diet.
5) Relax your muscles more.
I don’t love the term stretch. Stretching is thought of a something that we tack on to our exercise routines. I think of strength training and aerobic exercises as activities that contract and strengthen muscles. Muscles that are constantly in a contracted state end up causing pain and discomfort. Muscles need time to relax. Think of stretching as having a conversation with the tight parts of your body. Breathing in to restricted areas and allowing them to relax creates a life filled with more ease. My personal favorite way to do this is with a Pilates on the Ball workout.
Pilates on the Ball DVD
Pilates on the Ball Book & DVD
6) Cut back or eliminate processed foods, sugar, diary, caffeine and alcohol.
Processed foods are devoid of the nutrients that our body needs to function optimally. Sugar creates inflammation in the body. Diary can cause overproduction of phlegm. Studies show that caffeine offers some health benefits as it is rich in anti-oxidants, but I see many patients who are revved up from coffee and have trouble getting a good night’s sleep. Alcohol turns to sugar in the body and heavy drinking is associated with increased risk of death.
While there isn’t a one-sized-fits-all recommendation for intake of these foods, most people are better off either eliminating them or making sure they’re used occasionally and consciously.
I absolutely believe that we should enjoy the food we eat and not feel like we’re depriving ourselves. There are so many healthy, nutritious meals.
Take a look at my Yummy, Healthy Food Blog
7) Start a meditation practice.
This requires no special knowledge or equipment. You just slow down, go inside and sit with what is. Traditional Chinese Medicine teaches that each of the 5 main organs has a corresponding positive and negative emotion and when these emotions are in balance this leads to better health.
Listen to my 5 element 5 organ meditation and find this balance.
8) Practice gratitude.
The more you count your blessings, the more blessings you will find to count. Our nervous systems are wired to look for danger, which is a survival mechanism. But trust me, most of the time immediate danger doesn’t exist. When we retrain ourselves to look for beauty, joy and appreciate the good things in our life, we have the ability to experience a paradigm shift. The world can become a safe and forgiving place.
Here’s one way to begin a gratitude practice.
One thing that I’ve learned over the years is that the path forward is not a solitary one. We humans are wired to need connection with each other. None of us live in isolation.
If you find yourself struggling, reach out to a trusted friend or family member. You might be surprised to learn that they are going through something similar to you. Shared pain is pain halved.
If you’re looking for additional support, I offer free ½ hour consultations to new patients or those who haven’t seen me in a while.
Simply, schedule one here: https://www.bonniediamond.com/free-consultation.html
Remember, we’re all in this grand experiment we call life together.
Sending blessings for the holiday season and the new year!
Take Stock: A New Year's Message
Every year I think about what advice to share as we complete another turn around the sun. What can I write that will bring you more health, more joy and more ease?
There are so many possibilities – eat better, sleep more, find quiet time for meditation. These are all good things, but I realized the magic missing ingredient in so many wellness and self-care programs is found in the act of taking stock.
It’s not enough to set goals. We need to watch what happens when we put an idea out into the world. We need to track our progress and record our thoughts and feelings each day.
I got this inspiration sitting at my desk, looking at my 2020 yearly planner. It’s the place where I keep track of things. Not my daily schedule filled with patient appointments, places to go and commitments to keep. These are stored electronically with a kind of efficiency only the digital world can provide.
In my paper planner, I write down goals and dreams, along with notes marking unexpected pleasures and themes for the month. I use the planner as a journal of sorts, briefly recording my thoughts and feelings on a somewhat regular basis.
As I turn the pages, I’m able to look back and reflect.
I might not have remembered any of this if I hadn’t jotted down notes as the year went by. I barely remember what I had for lunch yesterday :). So now I have this incredible gift – pages filled with remembrances, a record of days gone by.
As the new year begins, I recommend that you begin (or continue) to take stock. Here’s how:
At this moment, there is the initial pleasure found in the blank pages of the yearly planner that have not yet been filled. It’s still an empty slate awaiting possibility. You don’t yet know what the year will bring. (2020 taught us the role of the unexpected.)
You stand at this moment, closing one door and about to open another. This is the time to dream, to imagine, to ask for the wishes that live deep in your heart.
Your yearly planner allows for this. The empty pages are waiting to be filled with the moments & reflections that make up your life. Write these down. Take stock. Be the creator of your life’s journey.
As we enter 2021, I send you blessings to guide you along the way.
Ps. If this process sounds appealing, but you don’t have time to get a planner of your own, here's my Roadmap to Health Booklet/Calendar/Journal for you to print out.
And if you feel like you need help in the process of creating healthy habits for a healthy year, do get in touch to find out about my Roadmap to Health Wellness Counseling program.
The Miracle Breakfast
I'm truly on a mission to help you live healthier. I keep sharing things that have worked in my own life. Some of you know how jazzed I've been about my "miracle breakfast." I started eating this when I realized that I wasn't getting enough fiber in my diet, even with eating whole grains and lots of veggies. (We should be getting between 30 to 50 grams of fiber a day. Average Americans only get 8-15 grams.)
I knew I had to make some changes. I realized that I was often leaving the house with a Kashi bar and not eating a full breakfast. So I switched to a really healthy bowl of oatmeal with lots of yummy stuff.
Why oatmeal? From a Chinese medicine perspective it's a food that strengthens the digestive and nervous systems, removes cholesterol from the body, and renews bone and connective tissue. From a sense of ease perspective, it's something that can be prepared in minutes and available wherever you are. (Just be sure that it's the kind with no added sugar.) I often bring packages of instant oatmeal and a mix of almonds, flaxseed and fiber when I'm traveling.
Here's my miracle breakfast with amounts of fiber.
1 package instant organic oatmeal 4 grams
1/4 cup almonds 3 grams
4 TBS ground flaxseed 6 grams
1/3 cup Trader Joes Frozen Berry Medley 3 grams
1 TBS Great Shape Natural Fiber Supplement* 5 grams
*You might want to add this slowly to avoid gas and bloating.
If I still haven't convinced you, take the challenge. Try starting everyday for 3 weeks with my miracle breakfast. Let me know how you feel.
Interested in learning more about how to live a healthy life with ease? Find out about my Roadmap to Health 6 Week Class.
Wishing you health and well-being,
We are approaching our national holiday of love. It's a whirlwind of buying flowers and chocolate. I happen to be a card person, and I'm having trouble resisting getting yet one more each time I walk into a store.
Lately I've been thinking about an aspect of love that often gets overlooked. This is self-care -- the act of putting time and attention to make sure that YOU are living a healthy and happy life. Self-care is one of the highest forms of love.
It took a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for me to wake up to the fact that I was not taking care of myself -- body or spirit. I was working long hours at a job that didn't fulfill me. I was in default mode, doing what I was told to do, not what I really wanted to do.
The illness was my body speaking to me, saying that the life I was living wasn't right for me. Because I had limited energy, I had to make choices about what was most important. I had to slow down and listen. In this process, I discovered acupuncture and the idea of living a life in balance. I changed what I was eating, who my friends were and my profession. I got out of a relationship that wasn't right for me.
But most of all I started a journey to become and stay healthy. The limited resources that I had went to doctor's visits, acupuncture treatments, psychotherapy and studying acupuncture -- one of the oldest and most widely used health modalities in the world.
I learned about these five aspects of health that correspond to the Five Element/Five Organ system that is part of the practice of acupuncture.
Using these principles my life changed in ways that I could only imagine.
All these things were acts of self-care. They are things that I continue to practice to this day. Even when I get off course, when things get busy and life gets stressful, these are things that I return to time and time again.
Out of this experience came a desire to help other people, possibly you, live healthier and happier lives. If this journey interests you, consider signing up for my Roadmap to Health 6 Week class. This is for you if:
This class begins on February 19th -- it's been postponed one week due to snow.
For more information and to sign-up at a special rate, simply visit me at www.bonniediamond.com/roadmaptohealthspecial
This Valentine's Day do something nice for yourself!
Nurture Your New Year's Resolutions
If you’re part of the over 60% of people who make New Years resolutions with good intentions but are unable to keep them, this newsletter is for you.
You mean well, you try hard, but life gets in the way.
Think of a resolution as a seed that gets planted. We have an idea. We want to make a change in our life. We’re excited. We set goals, make promises, tell ourselves this year we’ll eat our vegetables, exercise more, be kinder. We truly mean these things. Yet for many of us by April we’re back to our same old habits. What has happened?
I think that we have forgotten to nurture the seed. No one expects a seed to grow without water and sun. And no one expects the seed we plant today to turn into a full grown tree tomorrow. Growth and change take time.
When you make a resolution, ask yourself these questions:
Take time to answer these questions. It may require many hours. Pay attention to how easy or difficult this process is. Write your answers down. If you’re not able to do this, you might want to pick a new year’s resolution that is easier to implement.
With nurturing and care and love our dreams will take form. Do get in touch with me if you need help in this process.
Wishing you a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year!
"With time and patience the mulberry leaf becomes a silk gown" ~Chinese Proverb
I traveled to New Orleans a few weeks ago. I knew I had truly arrived when our Lyft driver said "How ya doing, Miss Bonnie?" I had made a lunch reservation and when we arrived I was greeted with "Welcome, Miss Bonnie." On a shuttle bus to Mardi Gras World the driver asked if this was my first time in New Orleans. When I said it was my second, he replied "Welcome Home."
New Orleans is a great place to travel to. The food, music, warm weather, welcoming people make it so special. Being there feels like getting a big hug.
But I want to tap into something deeper. The importance of social connection. Not just because it makes us feel good -- although this is important. But because it makes us healthier.
Here's what the experts have to say:
Here is "Miss Bonnie's" take on all this:
One of the reasons that I love Eastern Medicine is because of its emphasis on connection. In the 5 element/5 organ system that we use no one organ/element exists on its own. The energy of the liver feeds the heart, the heart energy feeds the spleen, the spleen energy feeds the lungs, the lung energy feeds the kidneys, the kidney energy feeds the liver. The cycle is completed and begins again.
As people we may feel isolated, but we never exist in true isolation.
With you in spirit…
I love this article from my colleague, Katherine Golub, career / business / leadership coach and consultant in Western Mass. She teaches us how to focus on the postitive! To learn more about her work, visit www.CoreBrillianceAcademy.com
What are you dreaming of for the new year? Did you make a resolution, set an intention, choose a word?
At the beginning of every year, I like to choose one word to focus my attention for the year. This year, my word is "Foundation."
No matter how you set your intentions, January is a time of fresh starts and new beginnings for many people. Do you want to learn how to be more confident, more present, or more creative? Perhaps you want to take better care of yourself. Whatever it is, if you’re like most people, I'm guessing that there's probably some new habit that you’d like to develop this year.
Most of us aren’t taught how we form habits or how we can change them, and because of that, developing new habits can feel daunting. I'm happy to tell you that, in fact, developing new habits and strengths can be simple.
Instead of working super hard to fight against old behaviors, it can be much more useful to just take in the good.
What do I mean by “taking in the good?”
In Hardwiring Happiness, Rick Hanson writes that the most effective path to developing emotional habits or strengths such as gratitude, presence, and confidence is to notice when you're already engaged in these habits and then to feel how you feel in your body. He calls this process “taking in the good.”
With repeated, intense, and prolonged mental focus on what’s working, you grow new synapses and change how your DNA functions so that you literally experience more of what works. For example, by noticing when you feel confident, you strengthen your ability to feel confident. When you notice yourself feeling focused, you increase your ability to focus. When you allow yourself to feel really good when you practice self-care (even if it’s just for five minutes), you increase the likelihood that you'll practice self-care again soon.
As human beings, we too often focus on what we don’t want to do or to feel.
Unfortunately, focusing on what you don’t want makes it harder to develop the habits you do want. For example, trying to figure out how to be "not stressed" can stress you out, even more.
The brain can't think in negatives. Don't think of a pink elephant. You can't do it, right? Every time you think about what you don't want, your focus goes to the negative, and you're more likely to replicate that. Instead, when you think about what you do want, you send your energy in that new, more generative direction.
So, what are the steps to taking in the good and building new habits?
Your first step to cultivating new habits or strengths is to choose one or two to focus on.
Rather than focusing on the habit you want to let go of, focus on the habit you want to cultivate. Keep in mind that your problem requires a matched solution. For example, if you struggle with the state in the left column, consider focusing on the habit or strength in the right column--
• Exhaustion… Energy
• Stagnation… Movement
• Anxiety… Ease
• Fear… Courage
• Shame… Self-Compassion
• Resistance… Curiosity
• Withdrawal… Engagement
• Scarcity… Gratitude
• Frustration… Fulfillment
• Stuckness… Forward Movement
• Drivenness… Pleasure
• Rejection… Belonging
• Isolation… Connection
• Grief… Love
Your next step is to notice moments in which you experience the habit or strength you desire.
To develop the habits and strengths we desire—such as trust, humor, and ease—we need to notice when we experience these positive states. Often, we’re already engaging in the actions or experiencing the states that we want to make habitual, but we’re not paying attention. By paying attention to when we are acting and feeling the ways we want, we strengthen our ability to act or feel this way even more.
If you don’t naturally find yourself experiencing your desired emotions, you can remember past experiences, imagine the future you desire, or celebrate the good in the lives of others.
Once you create a positive experience, allow yourself to really savor the moment and experience it in your body.
Sense the experience fully in your body, taking in as many sensory aspects as possible—sight, sound, touch, smell, taste, feeling, and thinking. Feeling the experience in your body helps it to sink in and create new connections in your brain.
Like any new strength, your ability to focus your attention is like a muscle. It gets stronger the more you exercise it. Taking in positive experiences makes your brain “stickier” for them, which in turn increases the likelihood that you'll notice more positive experiences. That makes your brain even more sticky so that you notice positive experiences more. It's a feedback loop of positivity. This cycle makes it less and less likely for negative experiences to slip into your mind and affect your brain.
From now on, any time you experience a small win, seize the opportunity to celebrate.
When you receive a compliment, take a deep breath, let it really soak in, and say thank you. Or cross off items off your to-do list as you complete them so that you have a picture of accomplishment. Or, at the beginning or end of each day, think of three things that you’re proud of, that you appreciate about yourself, or that brought you joy.
Focusing on what brings you joy ten times a day, fifteen seconds at a time only, takes a total of two and a half minutes. But it's one of the most powerful ways to change your brain and your life.
Whatever your hopes for the new year may be, I encourage you to gift yourself a few moments each day to take in the good. Not only is this a very effective way to cultivate new habits, but it’s also fun. I wish you all the best on your journey to building the habits you want!
What started out as an idea for a pre-Thanksgiving newsletter turned into a gratitude practice. It was one of those “aha” moments when I realized that I needed to follow the advice I was giving.
And so I started a gratitude list. I suggesting that you do this as well. It’s a powerful exercise in becoming aware of the connections that exist between you and the rest of the world.
Be true to the essence of the holiday. Give thanks...
Do you feel like you’re on go all the time? Do you feel the pressure of work, family and social obligations? We live in over-scheduled times. We have busy calendars and long to-do lists. You may be doing more and it may feel good for a little while. But take a moment to ask yourself if you are leading a truly meaningful and productive life.
From an Eastern perspective our culture focuses on the Yang side of life. Yang energy corresponds to activity, light, heat and daytime. It’s opposite, yin, corresponds to rest, darkness, sleep, cold, and nighttime.
These two types of energy are found in the autonomic nervous system (ANS), the system that operates mostly unconsciously and regulates many body functions such as heartbeat, respiration and digestion. The ANS consists of the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system.
The Sympathetic Nervous System (your Yang energy) prepares your body for action when it senses danger by pumping adrenaline into your blood stream. During this “fight or flight” response, the following occurs:
The Parasympathetic Nervous System (your Yin energy) serves as a brake to this revved up energy. This “rest and digest” response slows things down in these ways:
Both the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems are important. They are needed to balance one another as they perform opposite but necessary functions. However, we live in a stressful culture. Each stressor activates the sympathetic nervous system keeping our bodies in sympathetic overdrive. For many of us there is too much go, go, go and not enough rest.
Acupuncture treatments regulate the autonomic nervous system by releasing neurotransmitters and hormones, or in Eastern terms, balancing yin and yang. I find that patients go into a deeply relaxed state and report sleeping better after treatments. Over time pain decreases, digestion improves, anxiety is diminished. This leads to improved health, relationships and life choices.
"One of the great things about a treatment with Bonnie is afterwards I feel very focused, clear and centered. Each treatment also has a calming effect and allows me to sleep better."
Pat P. - Sunderland
Acupuncture and Weight Loss
Nutrition is a part of the tradition of acupuncture. A balanced diet is considered essential to good health. Eastern nutrition focuses on the energetic qualities of food. Certain foods (like dairy products) cause cold and dampness in the body – both of which weaken the digestive system. Certain foods (like ginger) are warming and help strengthen digestion.
When I work with patients around nutrition and weight loss, my approach is fivefold:
I’ll share a weight-loss secret that has helped me take and keep off those few extra pounds. Eating well and obtaining and maintaining your ideal weight is within your reach. The wisdom of acupuncture can give you the tools that you need to love and nourish your body for life.
In practice for over 20 years, Bonnie Diamond offers individualized, heart-centered care using a pain-free, Japanese style of acupuncture. Her work is influenced by her nine year struggle with and complete recovery from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Hours are Tuesday-Thursday, 10am-8pm
247 Northampton Street, #27
Easthampton, MA 01027
Get information on other complementary health resources recommended by Staying in Balance.
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