Winter Olympics 2018 Heroes - Four Directions Wellness

Heroes of the Winter Olympics 2018

“Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy found in effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.”
~Olympic Charter, Fundamental Principles

You may see them on the cover of Wheaties cereal boxes sometime soon. Or, they’ll be on the national newspaper covers. They’ll be interviewed on the morning news programs. These are the Olympic athletes of this year’s Winter Olympics, and they have much to discuss about their sports, their performances, and the stories of their rises to Olympic competition.

It’s an opportunity for the world to set aside its squabbles and relish in our combined abilities as a human race. If North Korea and South Korea can do it (since they’re technically still at war and they’ve collaborated with their Olympic teams), all of us can!

In this week’s post, I thought I would survey three of this Winter Olympics 2018’s heroes in Pyeongchang, South Korea—Yun Sung-Bin, Chloe Kim, and Pita Taufatofua. These Olympians are noteworthy not only because they made it to the Winter Olympics 2018, but for far more as you’ll read below.

Home Team Advantage | Winter Olympics

Let’s start with the home team, South Korea, for the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics. Originally from the south central island county of Namhae, Yun Sung-Bin was 18 years old when he was urged by a university professor to take up skeleton racing. What’s that, you ask? It’s a sport where skaters lie face down on a small sled and shoot down an iced skeleton track. Don’t worry, not many people knew this was a sport either.

Known colloquially as Skeleton Emperor in his country, Yun (his family name) skyrocketed to acclaim for several reasons. He’s the first Olympic gold medalist from South Korea for a non-ice skating event. He’s also the first non-European/North American Olympic sliding medalist. Pretty remarkable story for a person whose last Winter Olympics left him in 16th position! And, he did this all during the Lunar New Year holiday, so it’s really been exceptionally exciting for the South Korean people.

Yun’s celebrity isn’t going to go to waste. He’s on a personal mission to bring more athletes, and exposure, to skeleton. There’s more great things to come from this Olympian’s athleticism and personal drive for this sport.

USA, USA, USA | Winter Olympics

Ready for some spring boardin

A post shared by Chloe Kim (@chloekimsnow) on

Up next is Chloe Kim. She’s ethnically Korean, but she hails from Long Beach, California. And, she’s the 17-year-old star of Olympic snowboarding this year at the Winter Olympics. She’s had a stellar performance at this Winter Olympics, as the youngest Olympian to bring home the gold medal for snowboard halfpipe.

Kim is trilingual (English, Korean and French), has won the gold four times at the X Games, and secured a gold medal at the Winter Youth Olympic Games. But, most powerful about Chloe is her down-to-earth personality while being a superb athlete.

She’s become a Social Media sensation following her representing USA at the Winter Olympics, as perhaps the precursor to becoming a representative for Generation Z. Positive role models for the up-and-coming generation are important, and Kim is setting the standard high.

A Tongan with Cross-Country Skis | Winter Olympics

#ZDFwinterspiele #PyeongChang2018 Die Spiele sind eröffnet! Große Begeisterung löste erneut der mutige Pita Taufatofua aus Tonga aus. Bei den Sommerspielen 2016 war der 34-jährige als Taekwondoka mit seinem eingeölten freien Oberkörper ein Blickfang der Eröffnungsfeier geween. Für Pyeongchang hat er auf Langlauf umgeschult, und er wollte vernünftig sein. "Ich werde sehr, sehr dicke Kleidung tragen. Ich will bei meinem Rennen schließlich noch lebendig sein", hatte er angekündigt. Ein Bluff: Taufatofua kam bei Minusgraden und schneidendem Wind in Sandalen, mit Röckchen und freiem Oberkörper, wieder gut geölt. (Bild 1) Doch die 23. Olympischen Winterspiele haben auch mit machtvoller politischer Symbolik begonnen. Ein historischer Handschlag zwischen Südkoreas Präsident Moon Jae In und der jüngeren Schwester des nordkoreanischen Machthabers Kim Jong Un, Kim Yo Jong, demonstrierte in Pyeongchang die vorsichtige Annäherung der verfeindeten Bruderstaaten Nord- und Südkorea. (Bild 2) Während der Eröffnungsfeier der Winterspiele sendet außerdem der gemeinsame Einzug der süd- und nordkoreanischen Sportler ein Zeichen der Hoffnung. (Bild 3) Viele Tänzer und Künstler lieferten den 35 000 Menschen im Stadion ein buntes Showprogramm. (Bild 4) Die 153-köpfige deutsche Mannschaft wurde von Fahnenträger Eric Frenzel (Kombinierer) ins Stadion geführt. (Bild 5)

A post shared by News von ZDF heute (@zdfheute) on

Last but not least is the Tongan-Australian, formerly of the Australian taekwondo team, Pita Taufatofua.  He became famous in in the Summer Olympics 2016, you might remember, for his flag-bearing appearance in the Parade of Nations, wearing nothing but a traditional Tongan taʻovala (a ceremonial skirt made of leaves and other plant fibers), flip-flops, and an oiled-up upper body. His glistening vistage was quickly made into global news.

Taufatofua performed in that Olympics and lost in the first round. With Hollywood and modeling gigs beckoning him, he turned them down and did what any rational Olympian would do. He decided a new athletic challenge and joined the Australian cross-country skiing team. This is a 34-year-old who had only seen snow for the first time a couple years before.

But, Taufatofua is not just a pretty face for the paparazzi. He’s got an engineering degree and is working on a master’s degree in the same field of academic study. When he’s not training (six hours of the day), he works his job at the Sandgate House in Brisbane, teaching independent living skills to homeless youth.

Pita Taufatofua is a story of genuine joie de vivre and an inspiration for all of us to experience life to the fullest.

The average American doesn’t know this, but Olympians don’t become wealthy from their performance in the Olympics games. Hence, why Taufatofua holds a dayjob. As explained by USA Today Sports,

They’re never going to get rich off their sport. It might, in some cases, even cost them. The biathletes, the curlers, the ski jumpers, the lugers and the Nordic combined athletes — they scrape by with help from their families and federations, juggle training with part-time jobs.

They train for years, just so that they can compete for approximately two weeks every quadrennial, otherwise out of the public eye.

These athletes aren’t in this to get rich quick. They’re there because of the fundamental principles of the Olympics Charter, by providing models for ethical standards of living, principled means to finding joy in life, and all that is embodied by the Olympics Movement. We can all take stock in finding ways to incorporate those concepts into our everyday lives in mind, body and spirit, as these Olympians have done.

Year of the Dog - The Chinese New Year - History and Meaning - Four Directions Wellness

Year of the Dog: The Chinese New Year – History and Meaning

Every year there is the largest human migration of which most of the Western World has little to no knowledge. Even more labyrinthine is that this migration happens at different times each year. Nearly three billion people travel during an approximately 40-day period surrounding it for this event. Have you guessed what it is yet? (Maybe the article title gave it away!) It’s the Chinese New Year.

The Chinese Calendar

To understand the history of the Chinese New Year and its effect on the holiday that is celebrated today, it’s good to know a little about how time was and is calculated in antiquity and today. For example, weeks in ancient China were typically 10 days long. And, a month alternated between short months (consisting of 29 days) or long months (lasting 30 days). Further, months began, according to the lunar cycles—hence why the Chinese New Year is sometimes known as the Lunar New Year—at the appearance of the new moon as it follows its circumnavigation of Earth. By mid-month, the full moon shows, and then it slowly disappears again over the balance of the month in preparation of the next new moon. Each lunar year is made up of alternating 12- and 13-month cycles, hence why the year doesn’t quite synchronize with the Gregorian calendar.

The Chinese New Year Celebration

That, of course, brings us to the holiday itself and its purpose. Borne out of lore and fear, the ancient Chinese believed that a lion-esque monster (Nian, or “year” in Chinese) was preying upon villagers. And, to vanquish the formidable foe, a wise villager told others to hang red paper cutouts outside their homes and make loud noises (such as drumming and firing off firecrackers) to scare away the beast. It was by doing so, the villagers were able to conquer Nian and the date of his death marks the new year. Some story, eh? But, that’s where the color red, adorned homes, firecrackers and general noisemaking that have come to be synonymous with the new year for the Chinese.

Of note is the fact that back in the age of dowries, women were married to their husbands and usually moved away to wherever the family of the husbands were settled. This meant that the only time a woman and her children saw her family and her children saw their maternal family was during this time of year. The migration I spoke of is the familial tradition of returning home and sharing time with one’s family.

All of this brings us to 2018, the Year of the Dog. On the 12-year Chinese Zodiac cycle, each year represented by an animal which dominates your personality traits, the Year of the Dog covers 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, and 2018 birth years. If you were born in one of these years, one fun fact is that rose, oncidium, cymbidium, and orchids are your Lucky Flowers.

The celebration of the Chinese New Year lasts 15 days, and relating back to our discussion about the lunar cycles, starts on the first day of the new year and goes until the next full moon. Now you can understand why it was called the Lunar New Year, since the Chinese (and many other Asiatic) people track their new year festival period by the phases of the moon.

Chinese New Year is marked by two symbolic festivals, the Spring Festival starts celebrations and the Lantern Festival closes them out. Spring Festival is a seven-day marathon week of…relaxation. Yes, it’s seven days of leisure (but for drinking and feasting with family) and is enjoyed by everyone in China. After all that comes to the Lantern Festival when the skies over villages, towns and cities become alight with paper lanterns floating up into the air by one and all. It’s truly a view when thousands and thousands of lights adorn the evening’s sky, to celebrate the start of the new year.

Reflections on Your Personal Renewal

Our Olympians performing in the XXIII Olympic Winter Games will have the unique opportunity to witness Lunar New Year traditions in Pyeongchang, South Korea. So, while Chinese New Year is not necessarily your cultural tradition, it is a time to stop and reflect on renewal.  It is the perfect time to reflect on the New Year’s resolution or intention that you made for 2018.  Is the resolution or intention working for you? How else might you refresh your life? How can you find unique ways to ward off any Nian, the emotional monsters that might be preying on you? Can you start anew this month in some way?

I would love to hear how you might be including the Chinese New Year into your life.  Take a moment to let me know. And, enjoy!

Matters of the Heart - Alternative Medicines for Treating Heart Disease - Four Directions Wellness

Matters of the Heart: Alternative Medicines for Treating Heart Disease

It’s February! The month when we recognize all of those in our lives that we love during Valentine’s Day. (And just in case you are not yet ready for Valentine’s day, here are gift ideas for your valentine.) February, though, is also the month dedicated to our Heart Health, a time dedicated to our own self-care and support of our health and cardiovascular system. As you consider a gift for a loved one, take time today to read this article on how you can also give the gift of wellness to yourself, supporting your heart healthy living.

Promising research is finding that ancient healing approaches are very effective.  Some of the most effective ways of supporting our heart are through natural treatments or healing techniques such as Reiki, Tai Chi and more.  Each of these techniques do not use prescription drugs, or drugs of any kind, and help the body to find balance, restoring itself to a place of optimal healing.

Heart Disease Is Running Rampant | Alternative Medicines for Treating Heart Disease

In the United States, according to the American College of Cardiology (ACC), somebody dies every 40 seconds from cardiovascular disease (CVD). This is a staggering number of lives—nearly one-third of all US deaths each year.

Concurrently, coronary heart disease (CHD) has the dubious title, the ACC also notes, as “the leading cause of death in the US.” With nearly 800,000 adults experiencing cardiac arrest each year, surely the medical professional community and those of us with hearts can do better!

While this should dismay even the steeliest of hearts, the odds are not insurmountable to saving more lives. Over the last 10 years deaths due to CVD have declined, and alternative medicines and ancient healing practices could greatly decrease mortality rates.

These are preventable diseases and as we’ll discuss next, there are alternative medicines for treating heart disease, whether that’s natural treatments and/or ancient healing practices.

Traditional Treatments Aren’t Always Effective or Healthy, and Current Alternative Options Are Available | Alternative Medicines for Heart Disease

While traditional medicine has some tremendous progress in the prevention of deaths from heart disease in recent years, alternative medicines for treating heart disease are starting to get more recognition. While more research and funding for that research is important, we already see great promise from those leading the charge in this area of scientific research. Let’s take a look at a few examples that you can try today.

As a Reiki practitioner, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Reiki is showing promising results in the battle for greater heart health, especially after an acute cardiac incident. Yale researchers found that “patients who received a 20-minute Reiki treatment within three days after suffering a heart attack showed improved mood and heart rate variability (HRV),” as explained on ReikiinMedicine.org.

On the preventative measures side, Tai Chi (which we’ve mentioned before here on the Healthy and Fit Blog) is an ancient healing practice and martial art. Not only does Tai Chi benefit you in many health-related ways that may preempt disease and disorder, Tai Chi has been shown to benefit people who have experienced heart failure, as detailed by National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) (which is a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH)).

Aside from ancient healing practices, there are dangers to some high-cholesterol, coronary artery-risk patients who would take statins (i.e., drugs that control cholesterol levels) but that they can negatively affect their muscles. In those cases, red yeast rice has shown by studies from the University of Pennsylvania and Thomas Jefferson University that it could not only reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol but cholesterol overall in patients. Hopefully more research is done to prove that Nature’s available resources can be used more in these circumstances to heal the literal heart and body.

The door is open for alternative medicines for treating heart disease, as many more methods continue to show promise.

So, for this Valentine’s Day, I urge you to research these alternative medicines. Email me with questions you may have about how natural remedies and ancient healing practices can be used to support your health and well-being. And, don’t be afraid to ask your health professionals about how these treatments can complement (not simply replace) their traditional healthcare treatments.

Enjoy Your Smoothie Fix Today

Let’s face it.  Our lives can be crazy with jammed packed schedules and difficulties finding time to make healthy and nutritional meals.  If simply for the sake of convenience and pure enjoyment, I thought it might be fun to explore the latest as it relates to healthy (and even not-so-healthy) smoothies.

I began my journey by learning of 20 healthy smoothies as determined by
Prevention Magazine.  Each smoothie offers a delicious way to start your morning or have a snack in the afternoon or finish your day – whatever you might be seeking.  One of the best aspects of smoothies is that they require a minimal number of ingredients and are usually easy to put together.  Plus, the recipes include yummy fruit flavors such as banana-ginger, orange dream creamsicle or very berry breakfast.  Here is our warning to our healthy eaters.  The so-called “healthy” smoothies may not be your definition of healthy.  For instance, the caloric intake varies from 100 to 300 with sugars averaging around 11 to 44 grams.  So you do need to read each recipe to determine if it is truly your kind of healthy.

Smoothie Recipes to Explore

Breakfast Smoothies:

If healthy is what you are really want in smoothies and you want to have at breakfast, then Fitness Magazine has the right list for you!  Their breakfast smoothie options are the following:  blueberry spinach, almond, strawberry banana oatmeal, peanut butter and jelly protein, intense workout high-protein, orange protein and possibly the most important one, the happy digestion smoothie.  Plus the Fitness Magazine writers walk you through important ways to keep your smoothie truly healthy.

Smoothie Options:

And just in case, you are really interested in exploring all of your options.  EatingWell has a whole section dedicated to the luscious and exciting world of smoothies.  They have categories for reference and to ensure that you get to experience the smoothie of your choice.  Your options include but are not limited to:  healthy vegan, healthy vegetable, healthy smoothie bowl, healthy almond smoothie, healthy chia seed, low-fat, healthy green and of course, the healthy 5-minute smoothie for those of us who need a quick and easy recipe.

So are smoothies really good or bad for you?  A recent article in the Center for Nutritional Studies found that smoothies can be helpful for your diet but there are some cautionary notes as well.  Since smoothies are liquid, it is important to realize that liquid is easier to go down than food.  Be careful to not drink more than you would usually eat.  Take time to read the nutritional value to truly understand what you might be drinking and many nutritional experts encourage us to eat rather than drink all of our nutrition.

I am curious.  What was your favorite smoothie recipe?  Or do you have one that you love and would be willing to share here?  Looking forward to hearing your favorites.

 

Praying: Does It Offer Health Benefits?

If you have ever been faced with a life-threatening illness or visited your local hospital when a loved one is receiving care, chances are you have entered into a moment in silence for yourself or a loved one. And you are not alone. An estimated 85% of us confronting a major illness prayed when we received the news, states a University of Rochester study. Praying offers a way of connecting with something larger than us and offers many a “sense of greater clarity, purpose, gratitude, presence, sense of connection and overall well-being,” states an article by Dr. Colbert titled “The Stunning Science Behind the Healing Power of Prayer.”

The Relaxation Response:

Does Prayer Help or Harm Our Health?

Prayer is not the only approach utilized when facing a health concern. Many with a spiritual leaning also use meditation to gain their inner strength. What, then, is the difference between prayer and meditation? In many spiritual practices, prayer is thought of as the opportunity for a person to confide in his or her Higher Power while meditation offers an opportunity for something greater than us to provide messaging back.

 

Whether you use prayer or meditation, those in the medical field see both options having an impact on your physical health. It is explained as the person tapping into his or her “relaxation response.” If you remember your biology class back in high school, you might remember the discussion on the autonomic nervous system (ANS). Your ANS is divided between your parasympathetic (rest and digest) and your sympathetic (fight or flight). When you hear that you or a loved one is facing a health concern, it may trigger the “fight or flight response.” Your body tenses up and leaves the person or their loved one unable to relax. A relaxed state allows the physical body to enter a state of homeostasis, or balance so that the body may heal more easily.

Prayer Research:

The inclusion of prayer and meditation within our healthcare system has varied throughout time but there is now growing interest in the field. In the past, a hospital might have a chaplain and a room dedicated for spiritual reflection. Now more healthcare providers are actually seeing the actual health benefits. Hospice providers have always known the importance of our spiritual beliefs. When a person is on hospice services, the person’s whole being is considered. The hospice team works as much on the person’s spiritual and emotional needs as his or her physical needs. The success of the hospice program and other similar medical approaches incorporating spiritual practices has many providers asking why we wait until the end of life to incorporate into the person’s overall wellbeing.

Research is indicating that spiritual considerations should be incorporated earlier in a person’s overall healthcare. Here are some examples provided in a recent Huffington Post blog titled “Why People Who Pray are Healthier than Those Who Don’t.”

  • National Institutes of Health Study: Found individuals who prayed daily were 40% less likely to have high blood pressure than those without regular prayer practice;
  • Dartmouth Medical School: Found that patients with strong religious beliefs who underwent elective heart surgery were three times more likely to recover than those who were less religious;
  • University of Cincinnati: Found that inner city youth with asthma who used prayer and meditation experienced fewer and less severe symptoms than their non-praying counterparts, and
  • Journal of Gerontology: Found that 4,000 senior citizens in Durham, North Caroline who prayed or meditated coped better with illness and lived longer than those who did not.

With all of the research available, no research found any harmful consequences to a person’s health when prayer or meditation was incorporated.

What are your thoughts? I would love to hear what you think about prayer, meditation and its incorporation into our healthcare system.

Isolation- Loneliness and How to Overcome It - Four Directions Wellness

Isolation: Loneliness and How to Overcome It

Humans are social creatures. There’s no question about it. From our earliest days, as hunter-gatherers out in the wild, we survived and thrived as a species because we cooperated with one another. This cooperation has become so ingrained our beings, that separation from others can be intensely harmful.

In this week’s article, I’d like to delve into the root of isolation, and the loneliness and other psychological and physical harms it can do, and then provide two broad-based strategies for overcoming isolation.

Why Isolation Hurts Us

When you hear isolation today, you might think of a quarantined patient in a hospital ward with some kind of aggressive infection or virus. He or she is isolated for the protection of others. Naturally, while this isn’t great for the patient, it’s sometimes imperative for the health of the broader community. No one wants an outbreak, epidemic, or worse, pandemic because of such a case.

But, in reality, there is also a growing malady of isolating oneself from the world. This has been studied now for only about the last 50 years in the scientific research of loneliness. And, it’s this dis-ease that affects us all from time to time, and has mental, emotional and physical health consequences.

Psychobiologists (the new breed of scientists leading the research in isolation and loneliness studies) have found, that loneliness can reshape your hormonal signals and several other biological systems in your body and brain. It has gone from simply feelings to a true health risk. In the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), they recently highlighted a presentation by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, professor of psychology at Brigham Young University, at the American Psychological Association, about a meta-analysis she conducted of 148 studies covering about 300,000 participants. What did she conclude? Your risk of dying is double if you don’t have strong social connections.

So, we know that isolation breeds loneliness and other health risks, and it’s because it not only makes us feel bad, it manipulates our brains, bodies and behaviors in ways that make us at high risk of mortality. So, here’s what to do about it–a two-pronged approach to dealing with

Overcoming Loneliness and Isolation

Living in suburban and urban communities, especially in the Washington DC metropolitan area, you think there are so many places to go and things to do (as we discussed in this recent post) that you’d never feel isolated. However, the reality is, that even in these densely populated environments, isolation can set in.

First, technology today has the power to connect us like never before, but it paradoxically seems to be making our suburban and urban lives more distanced.

Next, with high density populations comes traffic, seeing people you may not want to, taking public transit that may have delays, indecision from too many choices of what to do or where to go, and so on. There are a variety of reasons that, by themselves aren’t all that bad, but combined create enough to stay secluded in your home.

So, what’s a suburban or urban dweller to do?

On the one hand, disconnect with unhealthy technology when you can. Yes, Facebook (and all Social Media, for that matter) is great to share and connect with friends and family. But, it also creates unusual, negative health consequences; one that promotes only the good, perfect lives of those around you. It’s always people’s best selfies, or their happiest or saddest moments shared with their worlds. It’s hyperbole all the time. It’s time to disconnect from Facebook (or your Social Media app of choice) for periods of time. Consider it a Social Media detox.

On the other hand, it’s time to reconnect with your technology to deal with your loneliness. One way to do that is to use a wide variety of health-focused apps to change the way you see your world. In psychological parlance, this is called cognitive reframing. This is a basic but powerful technique for acknowledging your thoughts and then challenging or refuting the ones that are harmful and untrue.

There are a wide variety of wellness, journaling and  apps that can help you do that. Here are few to get you started:

  • Koko is a service that connects to Facebook Messenger and Twitter, and it provides crowdsourced human-powered encouragement to overcome many issues, including isolation and its emotional evil twin brother, loneliness. Simply click on Koko for Messenger and it will take you to a Facebook Messenger chat window. Say anything and Koko will begin to guide you to help from other people like you on the issue you’re facing. You might also want to check out Vent, which is a virtual community dedicated to lifting your mood and combating loneliness.
  • Journey is a journaling app available on Android, ChromeOS, iOS, Mac, Web, and Windows. The beauty of Journey is that it captures easily whatever you’re feeling, but has several perks: it automatically identifies the weather and temperature outside, identifies whether you’re walking, sitting or on the road, and has the ability to embed photos and videos so you can get some image-based evidence about what you’re feeling in the moment.
  • Finally, if you can’t seem to tackle cognitive reframing yourself. You can find virtual counseling with the BetterHelp or Talkspace apps.  As always, if you continue to feel isolated or lonely, please seek professional help such as a psychologist or psychiatrist.

One powerful technology platform that also helps you address loneliness is Meetup. You can find Meetup groups for just about everything and everywhere. If you have an interest, you can find a group. Don’t have any interests? Well, you can peruse the groups and find an interest and the community to get involved in together. There’s no lack of connections when you jump into the Meetup community.

As a kindly reminder, join us at Four DIrections Wellness for our Meetup known as Mindfulness Mondays.  Become a member and join us on the 2nd and 4th Monday of the month from noon to 1 pm for community and meditation.

So, whether your empty-nesting, landing in a new job away from your hometown, feeling isolated after a break-up and it won’t go away, or having a lingering loneliness that seems inexplicable, you have the power to take control over the situation. It’s not easy. But, you can make a difference in how you feel. And, when you do, you’ll start to connect with others. That internal experience of loneliness will then start to blossom into a new reality of experiencing positive and healthy social connections.

Have you ever felt isolated? What did you do that helped you kick the loneliness and reintegrate positive social engagement in your everyday life?

Insomnia Alternative Treatments

Simple & Natural Approaches to a Good Night’s Sleep – Insomnia Alternative Treatments

You head to bed after a long day. It’s one o’clock in the morning. Now, it’s three. Then, it’s five a.m. You tossed. You turned. And, you had your glass of warm milk. This has been going on for months.

You’re not only mentally exhausted during the workday but you’re simply less yourself. You snap at the barista when you get the wrong mocha latté order one day. You stop going to yoga as often because you simply don’t have the emotional or physical energy to get through the poses.

You start to think that something is not right. Something is off. And, from a few Google searches, you find that your symptoms sound like you have insomnia. Insomnia is defined as a difficulty initiating or maintaining healthy sleep. With more than three million cases of insomnia reported each year in the United States, if you’re experiencing the symptoms of insomnia, you’re not alone.

And, while insomnia is incurable, you can treat it with these three strategies of insomnia alternative treatments that don’t require potentially harmful, traditional medications.

Lifestyle Behavioral Changes | Insomnia Alternative Treatments

While insomnia can be triggered or exacerbated by disease or illness, there’s still no more beneficial way to impact your sleep than good nutrition and physical exercise.

A well-balanced, nutritious diet, such as the Healthy Eating Plate, that is provided by Harvard University’s School of Public Health, is a great source for paying attention to one’s overall dietary fitness. If you eat the right foods, your body has the needed chemical compounds to release into the bloodstream at the right times in the evening to help you sleep at night.

Research studies into eating before sleep has noted that having small amounts of carbohydrates (and avoiding protein as you can) and beverages containing L-tryptophan (like, skim milk) can be helpful to induce slumber.

Exercise, especially resistance exercises, can be very beneficial to sleep. By doing exercise, this increases your body’s time in “deep sleep,” or the body’s stage of sleep that produces the most cell repair. And, there are many more benefits of setting your body up for deep sleep, but the primary point is that exercise stimulates sleep on multiple levels and that should be motivation enough to start moving.

The National Institutes of Health have Guidelines for Adults for physical activity of 150 minutes per week, which breaks down to approximately 30 minutes per day of moderate activity. If you’ve not been working out, make sure to start easier than you think and increase your exercise regimen slowly. Overdoing exercise can not only lead to injury but it can also backfire and harm your sleep, so consistency is more important for the long-term benefits of exercise to sleep.

As well, reduce or eliminate caffeine consumption at least four but up to six hours before you plan to go to sleep. The same goes for nicotine, as it’s a stimulant, consumption up to four hours before bed.

Herbal and Natural Ingestible Sleep Aids | Insomnia Alternative Treatments

From lifestyle behavior changes of nutrition and exercise you may get some much-needed rest, but it may not be enough. Enter herbal and natural ingestible sleep aids. There are a couple of insomnia alternative treatments readily available on the market that can provide you some relief from sleepless nights–melatonin and valerian root.

Melatonin is sometimes called the “sleep hormone” as it’s produced by your pineal gland in the brain in order to regulate your circadian rhythm, the functionality of which manages your ability to fall and stay asleep. Remarkably, in addition to animals producing melatonin, plants also produce this chemical for other purposes and from them we harvest melatonin as an all-natural ingestible sleep aid. Taken 30 to 60 minutes before the time you’d like to go to bed and melatonin mimics the sleep hormone your brain naturally produces to guide you into sleep. Also note that most over-the-counter dosages are much more than your body produces naturally so you will want to cut those pills down to smaller sizes typically. Take the smallest amount and test for a week or so at a time, only then increase to a slightly larger dose. From researching melatonin dosing, overdosing on melatonin can decrease your likelihood of falling asleep and increase your restlessness, so it’s not worth it to take more than you absolutely need before bed.

Valerian root was first discovered during the age of Ancient Greek and Rome (which started roughly around 750 B.C.) and used as a medicinal herb to induce and maintain sleep. It comes from the perennial flowering plant, Valerian. According to Healthline.com, dosage as a natural sleep aid is pretty simple. “Based on the available research, take 300 to 600 milligrams (mg) of valerian root 30 minutes to two hours before bedtime. This is best for insomnia or sleep trouble. For tea, soak 2 to 3 grams of dried herbal valerian root in 1 cup of hot water for 10 to 15 minutes.”

They go on to say that “valerian root seems to work best after taking it regularly for two or more weeks. Don’t take valerian root for more than a month without talking to your doctor.

You can buy both of these as a dietary supplement in your local pharmacy and they’re taken orally before bed. If you’re taking other medications, or pregnant, please see a medical professional before taking any of these ingestible sleep aids.

While those are the primary ingestible sleep aids on the market, there are many more natural and homeopathic sleep aids that you can try (with the guidance of a skilled and licensed healthcare practitioner) as insomnia alternative treatments.

Digital Sleep Interventions | Insomnia Alternative Treatments

Remarkably, much of the digital connectedness we benefit from today is also a likely source of keeping insomniacs awake. Thankfully, the tech geeks are aware (since software developers are at high-risk to become insomniacs) and are on it!

The biggest culprit for stopping the production of melatonin as we discussed earlier is blue light emissions (BLE) from the screens of the devices we expose ourselves to day and night. These software and tools can help you mitigate the BLE from your favorite devices:

  1. Install this free software, f.lux, on your Windows, Mac, and Linux personal computers and laptops to gradually reduce the BLE as the sun sets.
  2. Android’s built-in Night Mode settings will help you do the same.
  3. And, Apple’s iOS Night Shift mode can be switched on to reduce those BLE for you, too.
  4. For the television, emitting the most BLE per square inch usually, there’s Drift TV box, which you connect between your TV and any content sources (cable box, DVD/Blu-Ray player, etc.), so your Netflix binges at night can be done without sacrificing an opportunity to slip into sleep.

Do your kids and elderly parents a favor and install or enable these on all their devices as well.

Brain.fm is a program that plays something called binaural beats. These are a set of sounds each played individually in your ears. By playing different sounds, the pulsating effect at specific tempos can induce stages of sleep, such as light and deep sleep. If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend that you try it out and see if it can help you fall asleep faster and more deeply.

New technologies are developing for next-level sleep for everyone. The below video describes new brainwave sleep music technology akin to binaural beats, by Dr. Daniel Gartenberg. So, even if you’ve tried everything and still struggle with insomnia, know that insomnia alternative treatments are being worked on to hopefully help you in the near future.

Do you suffer from insomnia? What tips or techniques do you use to get to sleep and sleep better?

Love Actually

“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.”
Prime Minister in Love Actually

2018: Are you ready for a reframe in perspective?

 

Over the holiday season, I visited with my sister in Boston.  On one snowy, blustery evening, she suggested that we watch the movie Love Actually and asked that I pay close attention to the first few lines of the movie.  I instantly fell in love with the movie’s opening lines  While the movie debuted in 2003, the words seem so important as we head into 2018, almost 15 years later.

I wonder.  Do we see a world full of hate, greed and divisiveness?  Or is it possible that love really is everywhere?

Speedy Change – Positive or Negative?

Haven’t recent events encouraged all of us to look for the larger meaning in all? As we look back on 2017, we know the year was full of turmoil.  Turmoil in politics, civil unrest, weather, environment, economy, education and healthcare to name a few.  We awoke each day to a seemingly endless array of new events that we had not seen coming the previous day.  It seemed so unpredictable.

In his book “The Ancient Secret of the Flower of Life,” Drunvalo Melchizedek discusses how information has been growing at an accelerated speed. From the beginning of human civilization (circa 3800 B.C. to A.D. 1900 (or 5800 years), we have accumulated a certain amount of information. That has been accelerating at a very rapid pace.  Our knowledge doubled from 1900 to 1950. We doubled that amount again in 20 years from 1950 to 1970. Then doubled again from 1970 to 1980, and now we are doubling that number every few years.  A cultural change, that took decades to be implemented, can now happen in a few short years.  One example includes jobs.  In the past, jobs might become obsolete but it usually took decades for that to happen.  Now, jobs can end almost overnight. Yet, conversely it also means that we have the ability to change things for the better, and we can do that very rapidly.

So we need to encourage a reframe in our thinking.  In part, the August Solar Eclipse this past year encouraged us to do just that – to seek a new perspective.  It was the reminder that our minds can chose to block out a larger perspective (the Truth or the Sun) and hold us captive to the outdated and misinformed ways of living.  It encourages us to challenge our thoughts and seek the larger Universal Truth.  In so doing, we have the capacity and ability to change our world rapidly to a more positive, loving and limitless experience.

2018 Meaning: 

2018 is the perfect year to focus on the new perspectives of everything in our world.  Why?  Affinity Numerology indicates that 2018 is a number of “cooperation and relationships AND the idea of BEING LIMITLESS.”  It is a year where wisdom and intuition reign.  Teamwork, pulling together, companionship and diplomacy are key considerations in the new year.With that in mind, we have the opportunity to impact our community and our world through are actions.  Do we wish to pursue divisiveness, greed and hatred?  Or are we ready to make significant changes by first being willing to seek common ground through cooperation, building of relationships and knowing that we are limitless in our ability to find solutions to the largest issues impacting our world?

This does not mean that we have to pursue lofty goals.  We can and should start small, in our own backyards.

A simple way to begin is by erasing the word “blame” from our vocabulary. Instead, when a situation arises where we would like to blame another.  Take a moment to ask – “what is my role in this particular scenario? and what can I personally do to encourage positive change with this situation?”

Here are some examples of the reframe possibilities:

  • Old Work Paradigms:  My boss insists that we continue to do things as we have always done them.  Take time to not blame your boss and ask what steps can you take to see new changes.  Develop a plan, seek consensus from others, and talk to your boss about your new ideas.
  • Limiting Financial Beliefs:  You are financially having difficulty making ends meet.  Consider what limiting beliefs you have regarding money. Write them down.  Example:  My occupation is of no value or I am of no value.  Determine which of these limited beliefs you are willing to let go off and send them on their way. Take time to develop a business plan, brainstorm all limitless possibilities, then determine next practical steps on the ones that you like best.
  • Relationship Struggles: 2018 is the year of relationships!  If you are in a relationship (whether romantic, family or friend) and you continue to have difficulties, take time to consider the areas that hit your hot button.  Identify the feelings behind those hot buttons.  Now notice where you too reflect those same feelings.  Just be aware.  When ready and if possible, have an honest conversation with the other person.  Listen to him or her – really listen to his or her perspective.  Then determine if there is mutual agreement and areas where you can work together.  Don’t blame, seek forgiveness, spot where the same feeling is within you and send the best wishes for the person involved.
  • Global Social Issues: Get involved!  Politics, environment, social issues, education, healthcare, military, corporations, criminal system, social programs – the list is endless.  Take time to identify the causes of importance to you.  Reach out to those working on the cause — hear and listen to all sides of the issue.  Seek new approaches and ask for all sides to be involved in the solution.
  • Self-Care:  None of us can be good at anything if we are not taking dedicated time to support our own self-care:  physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  Determine how you wish to support your own care this year, schedule it in your calendar if necessary.  It will pay huge dividends in the end.
What would you like to see reframed in the New Year?  Consider your list of possibilities and actions you wish to take in 2018.
Happy New Year and All of the Best,
Limitless Possibilities to You in 2018!
Celebrating Spiritual Literacy in this Magical Season - Four Directions Wellness

Celebrating Spiritual Literacy in this Magical Season

To see a world in a grain of sand

And a heaven in a wild flower.

To hold infinity in the palm of your

Hand and eternity in an hour.

~William Blake

Since the dawn of day, mankind has always searched for the deeper meaning in life and the world around us.  Ancient cultures used the seasonal changes and the natural rhythms of life to connect with the higher purpose and the Divine.  On Friday, December 22, we will witness the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere–the darkest day of the year–and that reminder of the balance we have in our world.  The balance of duality, of the sun and the moon, of light and dark, of external and internal influences and of how it impacts us personally as well as globally.  During this sacred time, there is an opportunity for us all to reflect on our spiritual literacy, to our personal understanding of the Divine and spiritual concepts, as we settle into winter’s period of introspection.

 

 

The Dance Between Sun and Moon

Prior to any of the Abrahamic religions, there were spiritual leaders studying the sun and moon. The Sun’s presence (or lack thereof) meant the difference between feast or famine for many tribes, empires and nation-states. From Helios of Ancient Athens to Hu Gardarn of the Druids, Horus of Egyptian mythology to Pithras of Persia. All of these deities were revered at some point for their power over the sun.

As we enter closer to the Winter Solistice, many celebrate the dance between the sun and moon.  Traditional religions hold their High Holy Days around this sacred time including the holidays of Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.  Muslims, as well, reverie the change from dark to lighter days.

And of course, astrologists are fascinated by the impact of the Sun and Moon.  If you know your zodiac sign, you’ll be surprised to know how it’s not just about stars and your birthday. The “zodiac” itself is the apparent path of the sun over Earth, and originates longitude and latitude on our little third rock from the sun.  

For those who study astrology, it is known that we are experiencing one of many “Mercury Retrogrades.”  This is a time when the Universe calls on us to seriously review patterns that keep appearing in our life and to be aware of Universal messaging on next steps needed for our life’s purpose.  It is a time for introspection as we head towards the longest night of the year on December 22.

Key Considerations During Introspective Time

Even though Mercury Retrograde has been happening throughout this month, you still have time to be actively involved in the process.  Here are some key considerations for you.

  • Over the past year and a half, have you been having a certain issue or situation appear consistently?  What is it and what have been the key themes for you?
  • Over the past month, have you noticed any specific patterns that keep appearing in your life?  What are they?  And how you would you like to see them change?  In particular, be sure to focus on what you can do specifically to see changes in this area rather than hoping that the situation or people involved will change.
  • Simply be aware and open to what is happening in your life.  Notice when you receive guidance to go a certain direction or engage with certain people.  Simply being aware can be helpful during the integration period (December 22 – January 10)

During this time, it is important to consider your role in changing any scenario that is not what you wish to have in your life.

After December 22, it is a time to integrate and move forward with the insights garnered.  The introspective period usually is focused on something that is a significant issue for you, or a life-long pattern that needs a new approach, consideration, and/or larger perspective for change.

What to Consider During the Integration Period?

Once you have had time to reflect and develop the list of considerations.  Take some time to review all that you have received, consider what areas you would like to see changes and take time to quietly reflect.  From December 22 through January 10, it is a powerful time – as the nights begin to get shorter – to integrate those changes.

  • Outline the issues, patterns, relationships that you are ready to seek change.
  • Determine what you are willing to do to see change in this area.  Avoid seeking to blame another, instead ask what you can do to compassionately make changes in this particular area.  Take just one small change and see what happens in your life.
  • Consider if you are able and willing to forgive the situation, person and your role in the event.  If you need help with this area, I encourage you to read “Radical Forgiveness” by Colin Tipping.

Moving Forward:  What’s Next?

From the birth of the sun to today’s many religious views, now more than ever you can explore freely and deeply. Spiritual literacy comes in many parts and you can dive into any of these areas during the winter months while cozied up next to the fireplace.

While not an exhaustive list, there are many aspects of spiritual literacy:

  1. Attention or simply being aware;
  2. Devotion/reverence;
  3. Love/compassion for you and others;
  4. Gratitude/forgiveness/redemption;
  5. Hospitality/openness;
  6. Imagination/wonder, and
  7. Life’s purpose/meaning.

There are ways in which you can invest in your own spiritual literacy through small acts daily throughout the winter season. You could endeavor to dedicate each week or month to one of the above (or other) aspects of spiritual understanding. Just as Thanksgiving Day is a natural holiday that gives us a moment to pause and be grateful for all that we have, you can dedicate specific days throughout the season to celebrate and honor compassion, showing forgiveness to those who have wronged you throughout the year, seek redemption from a friend or family member who you have crossed, and more. Further, you can go to the local library or bookstore and pick up a few ancient sacred texts on topics of interest to you. You can read some each day as devotion to your spiritual literacy practice. These small acts, done consistently, build upon one another and helps you grow as a more whole, virtuous person.

There is quite a bit of scientific study being done about the potential of human hibernation. These would allow humans who are seriously or terminally ill, injured in an accident, or even during long-distance space sojourns, the survive these harsh and prolonged circumstances. But, you don’t need this new technological revolution to seek inner solitude during the winter months to gain more spiritual literacy. Honor your connection to the sun and its life-giving energy, ask yourself deep questions, and strengthen your spiritual understanding.

What are some ways in which you reflect on and develop your spiritual literacy during the winter season? Let us know in the comments!

Home Alone for the Holidays - Four Directions Wellness

Home Alone for the Holidays

Home Alone came to movie theaters in 1990—27 years ago! While it seems inconceivable that you could accidentally leave your eight-year-old home alone for the holidays while heading out on vacation, I suppose it happens. But, what if you are the one being left alone, like young Kevin McAllister (played by Macaulay Culkin), during the holiday season?

Key Strategies for Loneliness During Holidays | Home Alone for the Holidays

There are many reasons that one might find him- or herself alone for the holidays. In my family, I have several commercial pilots who often find that they are scheduled to work on the holidays. There are many other occupations that require people to work the holiday. Some families may delay the holiday festivities until all can be home. Let’s face it, though. That is not always possible. And sometimes we find that we are home for the holidays for reasons such as too much family drama; the recent loss of a spouse or loved one leaving no other family or other life circumstances. If this is describing your circumstances, please know that you are not alone.

While you might think that you can easily get through the upcoming holiday, often when the day arrives, we can’t help but wish to be with others. Feelings of loneliness and depression may overwhelm us. How do you cope? What are some key strategies to help you get through the holiday season?

In a recent PsychCentral blog by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S., titled, “Coping with Loneliness During the Holidays,” the following recommendations are key strategies to help get through the holiday blues.

  • Seek Company: Be prepared for the holiday. Realize that when the day arrives, you may feel very lonely. Reach out to family or friends or community to plan to be around others during the day, even if for only an hour.
  • Share your Feelings: Take time to share your true feelings with a trusted friend or confidant. Voicing your feelings with another helps to provide needed recognition and supports the healing process.
  • Ask for what You Need: We often hope that others will remember that our loved one has passed away or that we are not able to travel home to our family. It is important to realize though that well meaning family or friends may not. Take time to reach out and specifically ask for what you need. Ask this of those who are your trusted friends or loved ones.
  • Avoid Social Media: Social media leaves many people feeling empty and as if other’s lives are better than their own. It is best to avoid social media and instead seek to engage personally with others.
  • Honor your Feelings: Recognize and name those emotions that are showing up for you. Take time to journal all those feelings and memories of previous holidays. What do you remember about those holidays? Who was present? What do you love most about that time?
  • Practice Self-Care: Plan to do activities that bring you happiness or joy. The activity might be cooking, reading, watching a good movie, walking, meditating, etc. You might also wish to plan something special for that week such as scheduling a massage or planning a luncheon with a friend.
  • Have Realistic Expectations: It’s a difficult time. These recommendations may not ensure a wonderful day but realizing and setting realistic expectations of the day is helpful.
  • Question your Social Group: If you are out with your friends and finding that you simply are not comfortable, Tartakovsky recommends that this may be an indication that it is time to make new friends. Find the group of people who best reflect your values and who support you.
  • Volunteer: It is the season of giving. To lift your spirits and appreciate this particular holiday, consider volunteering and helping others who are in most need.
  • Seek Therapy: And finally, know that there is always help available to you. Support groups for those who have lost loved ones, therapists for one-on-one sessions and spiritual counseling for those seeking a larger understanding of all that is happening.

Make It a Holiday Vacation, or Staycation | Home Alone for the Holidays

If you happen to find yourself home alone for the holidays, you can chose to make it a positive experience. Dedicate your time by enjoying a holiday-themed vacation or staycation plans. This might be the welcome respite you’ve been looking for all year long!

With so much to see during the holidays, this is your opportunity to make an entire holiday week (or weekend) of traversing the city and surrounding areas to see the Main Street districts lit up with seasonal lights and seeing the sites. Sometimes being a tourist in your own city can be a joy, especially with people away for the holidays, and therefore, less traffic.

There are the holiday markets (you’ve got available to you such as the Downtown Holiday Market near Gallery Place/Chinatown and the other Holiday Market at Eastern Market. Then, you can go skating at the ice skating rink at the Sculpture Garden or the Washington National Harbor ice skating rink.

You don’t want to miss the Christmas on the Potomac festivities, which include the Christmas Village, ICE! (see the video below to check out the little village made of ice), musical performances, and more events happening throughout the season.

So, while you may not be Kevin fighting off thieves attempting to break in and steal your family’s belongings during the holidays, it can feel like a challenge being home alone for the holidays. Chase away the holiday blues by following one or more of the key strategies identified above. Better yet, make it a holiday vacation or staycation with all that the DC area has to offer.

What are your favorite strategies for surviving the holidays? I would love to hear your thoughts and recommendations.