My plans for my birthday week will take place in this part of the globe…Thank goodness for this break!
Yesterday I had a pretty remarkable experience, floating for an hour in a room devoid of light and external noise. The 1,000 pounds of Epsom salt which saturated the pleasant, tepid water caused my body to float effortlessly. Since I meditate daily, I welcomed the release that came with being untethered by my senses, gently hovering in a state of incredible relaxation.
For those of you who are wondering what the process is, you shower before entering the chamber to remove oils, lotions and pollutants from your skin and hair. Then you step into the tub which is softly illuminated. Once you lie in the water and adjust to your body’s buoyancy, you can turn off the lights and allow the soothing music to lull you into a state of stillness. The music fades away, leaving your breathing as the only steady sound.
At the end of your session, the music and lights slowly return. You exit the tub and rinse off the salty water.
Forty dollars (intro price) and an hour later, I definitely think the experience was well worth it.
If you are in the Los Angeles area, and you would like to try floating, please click on this link: http://justfloat.com/
Many of you are already aware of the “one leg out” sleeping position, in which one leg is hooked over the covers, while the other leg remains nestled under them. This clever approach to cooling the body down during sleep actually has a scientific basis.
The body prepares for sleep by dropping its core temperature, and in the deepest stages of sleep, body temperature actually dips a couple of degrees below normal. This is part of the natural physiology of slumber. Even some of the pre-bedtime rituals which some people adopt, such as taking a warm bath or drinking a cup of hot herbal tea, cause the body temperature to cool rapidly, priming it for sleep.
When we uncover our feet but keep the rest of our bodies snug under the bedclothes, or we swing one leg over the covers, we enable the blood vessels of the feet to dissipate body heat and keep us cool, which further supports restful sleep. Besides, who enjoys sweating while trying to sleep?
Some scientists even recommend keeping feet uncovered while sleeping at night, especially if you are sleeping next to a partner or pets (those of you who have pets know that they often sleep ON you). Another tip is to keep your bedroom temperature between 60 and 68 degrees, so if you are in the habit of cranking up the heat to keep your home warm and cozy, you might want to drop the thermostat setting at night while you sleep.
I recently purchased a Spamist Ultrasonic Diffuser, and I love it! I use it every night before I retire, and the soothing aromatherapy vapors relax me and help me fall asleep. This particular unit was only $19.99, so I thought it might not work very well, but so far, I have been very pleased with its performance. The auto-shutoff feature kicks in after about three hours, but I am always asleep by then. You can set this diffuser to display a rotating rainbow of colors, one color only, or you can shut off the light. It’s easy to fill and easy to clean.
Here’s the description of the Spamist unit which I purchased:
“Create the ultimate spa experience—anytime, anywhere.
SpaMist instantly converts normal tap water to a healthy streaming mist with the latest ultrasonic technology.
The sleek modern design fits any decor and is simple to use. Just add less than one cup of water and a few drops of your favorite essential oil. Enjoy more than 3 hours of continuous aromatherapy.
For a pleasant lighting effect, either select the rotating rainbow spectrum or one of the 6 soothing LED colors. Lights may also be completely turned off during the diffusing process. SpaMist completely powers down when the level of water falls below the minimum fill line.
Cleaning is easy, just wipe wipe the inside out with a soft cloth before duplicating the above process.
Unit Weight = .60 lbs
Unit Dimensions = 4.5″L x 4.5″W x 7.5″H
Case pack Weight = 7 lbs
Case pack Dimensions = 15″L x 10″W x 8.5″H”
Though I usually use lavender essential oil in my diffuser, I also love Serenity aromatherapy oil by doTERRA. If you have trouble winding down from long, stressful days, or you simply want to enjoy the calming effects of essential oils, I would HIGHLY recommend purchasing a diffuser unit and placing it near your bed.
The majority of us can’t even imagine being without our cell phones. The relatively tiny devices we carry around with us now function as GPS devices, marvelous computers which connect us to every part of the world, tie us into a massive information network which we have become entirely reliant on, and also happen to function as the basic communication aids which were originally invented by Italian inventor Antonio Meucci in 1849 (Alexander Graham Bell won the credit in 1876 as a result of winning the first U.S. patent).
Cell phones have become a necessity in modern society, but they have also caused us to develop compulsive behaviors which feed into the irresistible distraction which they present. Though you may deny it, I am willing to bet that you experience a certain level of anxiety if your cell phone battery power winds down, if you lose reception, if you lose a Wifi signal, or are somehow locked out of a website you need to access immediately. We have become so reliant on the immediate gratification which comes with doing a Google search on our Smartphones or iPhones that we have turned into petulant children when glitches occur. We are so dependent on our cellular devices that they have become security blankets.
Whether we like it or not, our reliance on cellular technology makes us less productive and less attentive to ordinary daily tasks. We could be sitting at work, cooking a meal, walking our dogs, or driving to work, while still concerned about what supposedly vital information we are missing by not staring at our phones. God forbid we miss our friends’ Facebook updates or allow our email inboxes to pile up as we try to navigate through a typical day! We are accustomed to having our phones close by at all times, and every time it makes a notification sound, we stop what we are doing to attend to our phones, which draws attention away from what we should really be focused on. Time ticks by, and suddenly, we are distracted from viewing a beautiful sunset. Even if we view that beautiful sunset, we tend to feel a compulsion to record the sunset by taking a picture of it with those confounded phones.
Even when we aren’t at work, our brains must sort through an enormous amount of information from our phones and computers. One 2011 study stated that we take in the equivalent of about 174 newspapers’ worth of information every single day. And since the brain’s ability to process information is limited, we often end up feeling overwhelmed and anxious as we try to power through all the information being thrown at us. Though the age of social media has enabled us to connect in novel and far-reaching ways, it also robs us of our attention and distracts us from other tasks.
It’s no wonder that the incidence of anxiety in our society has increased dramatically.
There should be a limit on the frequency with which we view social media sites. Be sure to set aside a brief designated time each day to check emails and peruse social media, then PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY. Leave the bulk of each day to relaxing, sightseeing, engaging in outdoor activities, and enjoying life. Trust me, your brain needs a break from the constant influx of technology.
Another disturbing reality about our attachment to cell phones is the false sense of community we feel as a result of social media notifications and texts. The perception is that we are part of a vast network, but the ironic thing is that we tend to access our cell phones while alone. This isolation from actual interaction can actually trigger loneliness and depression. From the moment we wake up until we rest our heads to sleep, our cell phones are always on. They even serve as our alarm clocks now!
By: Dr. Stacey Naito – Physician and IFBB Pro
Even if your genetics put you at risk for developing dementia, there are numerous lifestyle and behavior adjustments which you can make in order to protect brain function and fight dementia. The five keys listed below are proven to improve brain health and keep your mind vital and sharp for decades.
1. MOVE YOUR BODY
Scientific research has proven that overall physical health is closely linked to brain health. Regular exercise aids in the maintenance of a healthy weight range, normal cholesterol levels, while also optimizing blood flow throughout the body and the brain and supporting the growth of new brain cells.
The benefits of physical health stem not only from regular exercise, but also from other good health practices. Support your brain’s health by doing the following:
• Exercise at least 30 minutes daily to relieve stress.
• Make sure to get between seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
• Refrain from using tobacco.
• See your doctor regularly.
• Maintain a healthy weight.
2. YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT
Research studies indicate that diets which are low in saturated fats and cholesterol, and rich in polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids and nutrients like lutein and vitamin E, may have a protective effect on brain cells and overall brain health.
Brain-healthy dietary changes:
• Opt for healthy fats which are found in olive oil and fatty fish like salmon. Avoid saturated and trans fats.
• Consume a diet which incorporates milk, eggs, vegetable oils, nuts, whole grains, and dark leafy greens like spinach, all of which are rich in vitamin E. Vitamin E is an important nutrient which supports brain health. If you can’t get vitamin E from foods, you can take it in supplement form.
• Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, aiming for nine fist-sized servings each day. Select colorful fruits like cranberries, blueberries and tomatoes which are packed with powerful anti-inflammatory compounds known as polyphenols. Keep the skin on fruits and vegetables to maximize their nutritional benefits.
• Add lutein. Lutein is a potent antioxidant which is critical for eye and brain health. Foods which are rich in lutein include spinach, kale, turnip greens, collard greens, egg yolks, corn, and peas. You can also take lutein in supplement form.
3. EXERCISE YOUR BRAIN
Extensive research has proven that the brain continues to learn new skills and information throughout life, and benefits from frequent intellectual stimulation. Make sure to pursue new activities, education and games to challenge your mind. Read books to elevate your knowledge base.
How to stimulate your brain:
• Engage in regular sessions of a mental activity you enjoy, such as reading, word games such as crossword puzzles, or learning a foreign language.
• Get into a daily habit of learning a new word or fact.
• Master a new skill or subject each year.
• Manage stress and balance your energy by meditating. Meditation may help to reduce stress and body inflammation by soothing the vagus nerve, an important nerve which controls the body’s immune response.
4. NURTURE RELATIONSHIPS
Though we know that relationships with family and friends are key factors in a person’s happiness, regular social interaction promotes the formation of new brain cells and aids in brain repair. One study revealed that men and women who had the most social interaction had less than half the rate of memory loss as those who were the least socially involved. By visiting friends and family and being involved in community activities, you will protect brain health.
Social brain boosters:
• Spend time with your family and friends regularly, and make them a priority.
• Volunteer for an organization which surrounds a cause which you are passionate about.
• Work for as long as you can, and for as long as you feel motivated to do so.
• Join clubs and become involved in religious or spiritual activities which resonate with you.
5. BALANCE YOUR NEUROTRANSMITTERS
Brain function relies on important molecules known as neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitter levels affect mood, behavior, cognitive function, social function, digestion, sleep, weight regulation, and many other processes.
The problem with current society is that the vast majority of people have overly stimulated sympathetic nervous systems, which over time can drain the body of serotonin. The excitatory part of the nervous system dominates once the inhibitory neurotransmitters are depleted, resulting in anxiety and an inability to “wind down”. Eventually, even the excitatory neurotransmitters such as serotonin, epinephrine, norepinephrine and GABA are also depleted, and severe depression or chronic fatigue usually develop.
Conventional drugs cannot replenish these neurotransmitters, and in fact, tend to cause depletion of the neurotransmitters. This is the reason why some depression medications do not work on some individuals. The good news is that supplementation with amino acids can help to replenish deficient neurotransmitters.
How To Nourish Neurotransmitters:
• Eat a healthy diet. Neurotransmitter imbalance is aggravated by poor diet. Diets high in protein supply the brain with the amino acids it needs to replenish neurotransmitter levels.
• Consume branched chain amino acids to ensure a rich supply of neurotransmitter precursors.
Neurotransmitter Assessment Brings Light to Management of Psychiatric Problems
Monday, 15 August 2005 00:59By Erik L. Goldman | Editor in Chief – Vol. 6, No. 3. Fall, 2005
Meditation is something I have engaged in regularly for over ten years, but my practice had dwindled in the past two years to a session every few months. This was partially due to the fact that the death of my meditation teacher had rattled me so deeply that I was unable to sit in a meditation without being distracted at some point by my own grief.
It took a major life event from early April to wake me up and make me realize that by neglecting my meditation practice, I had made my spirit weary and unbalanced, Since the cadence of my life had changed rather dramatically and suddenly, I decided that adopting regular habits like meditating would be good for me. I have been able to carve out time in my schedule to meditate daily over the last few weeks, and the effects have been profound and positive. On some days, I only have a few minutes to set up my zafu (meditation cushion), light incense and the candles on my meditation altar, and sit in the moment for mindfulness meditation, but I still make sure I meditate before crawling in bed each night. I am not joking when I say I think more clearly, feel more calm, and experience less anxiety after meditating daily over the last few weeks. I now look at my daily meditation sessions as important daily workouts for my mind and spirit. I swear that even my gym workouts are better as a result of meditation, because I am more focused and calm during gym time than I used to be. Things which used to irritate me sort of glide off me now.
Regular meditation has made a tremendous difference in my general demeanor and my outlook on life, and now I honestly look forward to my sessions. I strongly encourage everyone to meditate regularly, especially anyone who feels beaten down by life or who deals with constant stress. Meditation provides an excellent outlet for stress, and can lessen symptoms of depression, reduce blood pressure and boost immunity.
Before you say that there’s no time to meditate, I am willing to bet you that there are a few minutes each day you can spare to nurture your spirit. You can either take a few minutes first thing in the morning to sit and meditate, or do it right before you go to sleep. If you feel intimidated by the idea of sitting on a meditation cushion, you can simply sit on the floor comfortably, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. Each time you inhale, allow your chest to expand, and pull your shoulders back. When you exhale, imagine pushing away all of the stress of the day, out of your body, and into the air. Keep breathing slowly and deeply with your eyes closed, and try to empty your mind of any random thoughts or feelings which may come up.
For a more detailed description of a great breathing meditation, read on. The original link can be found here: http://www.mindful.org/a-five-minute-breathing-meditation/
A 5-Minute Breathing Meditation To Cultivate Mindfulness
Reduce stress, anxiety, and negative emotions, cool yourself down when your temper flares, and sharpen your concentration skills.
By Greater Good Science Center | February 26, 2016
How do you cultivate mindfulness? One way is to meditate. A basic method is to focus your attention on your own breathing—a practice simply called “mindful breathing.” After setting aside time to practice mindful breathing, you’ll find it easier to focus attention on your breath in your daily life—an important skill to help you deal with stress, anxiety, and negative emotions, cool yourself down when your temper flares, and sharpen your ability to concentrate.
15 minutes daily for at least a week (though evidence suggests that mindfulness increases the more you practice it).
How to do it
The most basic way to do mindful breathing is simply to focus your attention on your breath, the inhale and exhale. You can do this while standing, but ideally you’ll be sitting or even lying in a comfortable position. Your eyes may be open or closed, but you may find it easier to maintain your focus if you close your eyes. It can help to set aside a designated time for this exercise, but it can also help to practice it when you’re feeling particularly stressed or anxious. Experts believe a regular practice of mindful breathing can make it easier to do it in difficult situations.
Sometimes, especially when trying to calm yourself in a stressful moment, it might help to start by taking an exaggerated breath: a deep inhale through your nostrils (3 seconds), hold your breath (2 seconds), and a long exhale through your mouth (4 seconds). Otherwise, simply observe each breath without trying to adjust it; it may help to focus on the rise and fall of your chest or the sensation through your nostrils. As you do so, you may find that your mind wanders, distracted by thoughts or bodily sensations. That’s OK. Just notice that this is happening and gently bring your attention back to your breath.
Find a relaxed, comfortable position. You could be seated on a chair or on the floor on a cushion. Keep your back upright, but not too tight. Hands resting wherever they’re comfortable. Tongue on the roof of your mouth or wherever it’s comfortable.
Notice and relax your body. Try to notice the shape of your body, its weight. Let yourself relax and become curious about your body seated here—the sensations it experiences, the touch, the connection with the floor or the chair. Relax any areas of tightness or tension. Just breathe.
Tune into your breath. Feel the natural flow of breath—in, out. You don’t need to do anything to your breath. Not long, not short, just natural. Notice where you feel your breath in your body. It might be in your abdomen. It may be in your chest or throat or in your nostrils. See if you can feel the sensations of breath, one breath at a time. When one breath ends, the next breath begins.
Be kind to your wandering mind. Now as you do this, you might notice that your mind may start to wander. You may start thinking about other things. If this happens, it is not a problem. It’s very natural. Just notice that your mind has wandered. You can say “thinking” or “wandering” in your head softly. And then gently redirect your attention right back to the breathing.
Stay here for five to seven minutes. Notice your breath, in silence. From time to time, you’ll get lost in thought, then return to your breath.
Check in before you check out. After a few minutes, once again notice your body, your whole body, seated here. Let yourself relax even more deeply and then offer yourself some appreciation for doing this practice today.
One of the most beautiful things about meditation is that you can be fully in the moment, without holding onto the trappings of your day. Work obligations, chores, errands, and any other mundane distraction can wait. It’s a wonderful escape from the physical world and the ultimate way to attain balance and peace. Plus it’s free!