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...
Halloween candy reminds me of a theory that I have been pondering over the last few months. I call it the "Twizzler effect:"
It goes back to the Twizzler licorice that I ate as a kid -- those strands of licorice twisted around each other. In my mind, they represent two aspects of any situation. One strand represents the aspects of life that you cannot change. If it's raining outside, you can't stop the rain.
But, there is also another factor – your relationship to the first aspect. This is the second strand.
You can’t stop the rain, but you can open an umbrella and stay dry. You can appreciate that the rain helps to grow the fruits and vegetables that you eat. You can jump in puddles or curl up with a good book. You can look for rainbows.
The Twizzler effect applies to your health. You are aging. At some point in your life, you are bound to feel the effects of illness and disease. (I say this so you don’t feel bad or blame yourself when this happens.) But, this is only the first strand. It’s not the whole picture. There is hope.
Hope exists in the second strand, the things that you do to care for yourself. This includes the foods you fill your body with, the thoughts you fill your mind with, the people you surround yourself with and the healers you go to. It’s this second strand that you have control over.
By focusing your energy on the things you can change, you can create a space of health and well-being. You can find deep acceptance of who you are AND make conscious shifts to become the person you want to be.
Acupuncture is about balance in the body. One of the best ways to create this is by eating a balanced diet. Healthy foods in your kitchen are the easiest way to accomplish this. Just follow these 5 steps.
Step One: Clean out your pantry and refrigerator by removing these foods:
Note: If you absolutely cannot throw out food, put these unhealthy foods on one shelf in a cabinet and/or your refrigerator and do NOT replenish them once you have finished eating them.
Step Two: Make a list of foods that you use on a regular basis that you want to have in your kitchen at all times. My list looks something like this:
Step Three: Plan your week's meals.
These should be based on real food -- no chemicals, hormones or additives. In thinking about menus keep this in mind: vegetables and fruits should take up half your plate, grains one quarter of your plate and healthy proteins one quarter.
Step Four: Make a grocery list
Include any items on the list of foods that you use on a regular basis that you don’t have. You’ll want to restock these when you run out. Add whatever additional foods you’ll need for the week's meals.
Step Five: Go grocery shopping.
Buy ONLY the items on your list. Go food shopping after you have eaten and are not hungry.
Repeat steps three through five each week. You’ll be feeling fabulous in no time at all.
1) Love yourself fully
The Concept: What does this mean? Do the things that make you feel whole and complete. Find more of the moments that give you complete joy. Take time to smell the roses, watch beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and fill your life with laughter.
The Practice: Give yourself a day just for you. Wake up when you want to, fill your time with activities that make you smile, eat your favorite foods, spend time with a cherished friend. If circumstances don't allow you to take time off at the moment, then plan your perfect day. Write down the most fun way to spend 24 hours. (Then when you do have time, you have a plan of what to do.)
2) Take Life a Little Less Seriously
The Concept: It's easy to fill life with worry and get caught up with things that are really not that important. Over time, this is hard on the nervous system. Let go of worries.
The Practice: It you find yourself thinking about something over and over again, step back and ask yourself if this is something important to your life. If it is, take a moment to act in a way that will reduce stress. Write down a message or intention that will make you feel better. If it's not, just let it go. Either way, picture your worry in the shape of a balloon to which you are holding on tight. Then let it go. Watch it float off into space.
3) Honor Your Feelings, All of Them
The Concept: Feelings are a way that your body speaks to you and a way of shining light on what is most relevant in your life. It's easy to push feelings away--those things that gnaw at your gut. It's also easy to become completely immersed in feelings. There is a third way, a way to honor your feelings without being ransacked by them.
The Practice: Set time at the end of each day to invite your feelings in. Feelings generally live somewhere in your body; perhaps a tightness in your back or chest, or butterflies in your stomach. Take time to acknowledge these. What are they telling you? Give your feelings a little attention. Draw a picture or journal about what you are feeling. Make sure that you give yourself a set amount of time for this. It's as if you are inviting your feelings in for tea.
Treating yourself with love, kindness and compassion will transform your life in unimaginable ways. Find love on Valentine's Day and on each day of the year!
We each have approximately 206 bones in the body. Bones are living things that are constantly being broken down and rebuilt. Bones are strong – ounce for ounce they carry as much weight as reinforced concrete. Unfortunately, our bones tend to weaken as we age. Until about age 30, we make new bone faster than we break down old bone. After that we lose more bone mass then we gain, which can result in osteoporosis, a condition where bones become brittle, porous and subject to fracture.
Here are a few things that you can do at any age to keep your bones functioning well.
1. Include weight bearing exercises in your daily routine. These exercises cause small amounts of damage to the bone. Osteoblasts, cells in the bone marrow, respond by creating new bone to repair the damage, which results in denser, stronger bones.
2. Get sufficient amounts of calcium. The body doesn't produce calcium, so we need to get it from our diets. There is some controversy about the appropriate amount of calcium that we need on a daily basis. I tend to side with Dr. Walter Willet, Chair of the Nutrition Department at Harvard University School of Public Health, who recommends getting 500-700mg of calcium daily for adults, a little lower than the US recommended daily requirement.
Traditional Chinese Medicine teaches that dairy, a high source of calcium, weakens the digestive system. Instead include spinach, broccoli, bok choy, almonds, kale, sardines with bones, soy products, quinoa, amaranth and parsley in your diet. If you take a supplement, take no more than 250mg at a time with meals since the body has difficulty absorbing more than this.
3. Don't forget about Magnesium and Vitamin D. It's important to have sufficient amounts of magnesium to help with the absorption of calcium. Aim for approximately 400 mg a day. Foods rich in magnesium include whole grains, dried seaweed, soybeans and soy products, foods with dietary fiber, nuts and seeds, beans & legumes.
Vitamin D increases the intestinal absorption of calcium. In earlier times, when we spent more time in the sun and before the advent of sunscreen, our bodies manufactured enough of this vitamin. Today, particularly during winter months, you might need to take a supplement. Recommended amounts are 2,000 and 4,000 IUs a day of vitamin D3. If you have a deficiency, correct it with 5,000 to 10,000 IUs of vitamin D3 a day for three months—but only under a doctor’s supervision. (Higher doses should ideally be combined with vitamin K, and many better supplements combine these two vitamins.)
4. Limit caffeine and alcohol. These can lead to bone loss. Have no more than 2 cups or glasses of each per day.
5. Avoid long-term use of steroids. These can lead to lower bone density.
6. Massage the acupuncture point Kidney 7. Traditional Chinese Medicine teaches us that the kidneys are associated with bones. Find this point two finger widths above the ankle.
Headaches come in a variety of forms from tension headaches to migraines. Causes include structural, hormonal and immune system imbalances, sinus congestion and one of the most common culprits – stress.
Whatever the cause, headaches can be debilitating – wrecking havoc with the best of lives.
Here are some simple suggestions to get relief:
The most important thing is to begin to find relief. On your calendar, write down the day and time of day when you have a headache. See if you notice any patterns. Start practicing the above suggestions. See if they make a difference. Keep track of how you are doing. By paying attention, YOU can become a healthier, happier person!
When someone comes to me with back pain, I'm always interested in finding out exactly what they are referring to. Did they pull a muscle shoveling snow or lifting a heavy object? Have they recently had surgery? Do they have scoliosis or another structural problem? Do they have a weak immune system? Have they been spending many hours in front of the computer? Is the pain sharp and stabbing or dull and achy? Does the pain radiate into the legs?
The answer to each of these questions is important because back pain isn't one specific thing. My treatments vary depending on exactly where the pain is, what is causing it and what acupuncture points each person responds to. So I take time to listen to what each patient is experiencing. I then palpate the body carefully so I know exactly where the discomfort is. Patients who are receiving treatments from other medical professionals at the same time they are receiving acupuncture treatments tell me that these practitioners are pleasantly surprised at how quickly they recover.
Likewise, patients are often surprised that I can offer them relief without putting needles into painful areas. Instead, I pick points that release pain but are located far away from where the injury is. When the body is relaxed it is better able to receive treatment and heal.
A great acupuncture point to massage if you have lower back pain is Japanese Lung 10, which is pictured below.
Bonnie Diamond, Licensed Acupuncturist