Nourish

Cherish life. Nourish it.


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I Will Be Happy When __________. Signed, Goldilocks

Mature woman beach“I will be happy when…….?” I’m a perfect size 6? Get my degree? Get married? Buy that house? Take my dream vacation? Lose weight? Get a job? Retire? Get a new car?

How many times have we made similar statements? They’re powerful words, because they infer that happiness is an elusive state that depends on everything being “just right.” Remember Goldilocks? Goldie believed that happiness always depended on external circumstances. She saw no need to take personal responsibility for her own happiness, nor did she recognize the role of contentment and gratitude in her life.

Goldie had not developed the ability to be at ease with life’s highs and lows. Her comfort zone was incredibly narrow. Instead of embracing the whole spectrum of emotion, she wanted everything to be just so. Nothing imperfect or unexpected was tolerated.

Likewise, today many feel that happiness is the result of avoiding or getting rid of bad feelings. But rejecting our emotion only creates more bad feelings. Rejection of our own emotion is a rejection of self, contributing to feelings of brokenness or unworthiness. And if we believe we’re unworthy, we won’t believe we deserve to be happy!

If we feel blocked from happiness, one exercise is to look at what’s “in the way” as The Way. Think about it: how many times have we experienced stressful events, only to look back on them with gratitude for the lessons they taught us? Patience, endurance, clarity, flexibility, hope, and adaptability are all fruits of the tree called hardship.

Some may say that these are old fashioned values, but old gold is still gold, and emotional resilience is currency that we can invest every day.

Rather than depending on “just right” moods or circumstances, we can learn to allow happiness to become an overall state of being. The power of this approach is that it allows us to find the good in every situation.

Daily practice can include focusing on:

  • what we’re grateful for
  • areas of contentment
  • what’s working in life
  • drawing pleasure (aka nourishment) from our daily activities

Spending a few minutes each day quietly contemplating all our reasons to be grateful has proven to be an excellent technique to ground us in happiness as well as contributing to overall health. (see links below)

Instead of rejecting unpleasant emotions and feelings, we can learn to see all our experiences as just that-experiences. And experiences are the fabric of life. Rejecting so-called negative experience is a rejection of life.

We all experience discomfort. How we choose to respond to it determines our happiness set-point.

The human mind tends to get stuck in loops–repeating thoughts, beliefs, and interpretations that tell and re-tell the story of our lives. But we have a choice: we can consciously choose thoughts that will make space in our mind and heart for happiness. We can practice doing this again and again. Happiness can become a habit.

In addition, pleasure is all around us. Beauty in nature, the touch of a loved one, savory tastes and pleasant aromas, beautiful music, the feeling of oxygen coursing through our body. Once we accept what is and stop rejecting our reality, we create a still, quiet place for these pleasures to reside. We feel nourished physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We fully occupy the myriad small moments that are gifts of joy, gifts that nourish, experiences that contribute to true contentment.

And contentment? Contentment’s contribution says, “I have enough. I am enough. Life is good.”

The time that we spend postponing happiness, believing everything in life has to be just right before it can happen, is distracting us from the actual life that we have right now, in the present. And it’s only in the present that we can choose to experience the happiness, joy, and contentment that are right in front of us, waiting for our attention.

Links:

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17439760500510676#.Uks6UNK-r6s “How to increase and sustain positive emotion: The effects of expressing gratitude and visualizing best possible selves”

http://www.breakthroughealing.org/Documents/GratitudeStudy2003.pdf “Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life”


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“Sacred Inconsistencies, Sacred Dignity”

MP900382674Working for the last couple of decades with people who are at or near the end of their life has been a remarkable experience. It continues to be both inspirational and illuminating. Many of those clients put forth heroic efforts to survive as long and as well as possible, by:

  • making sweeping dietary changes
  • de-toxing their home environment
  • taking supplements
  • getting acupuncture
  • going to therapy
  • practicing stress management

But there are times when those same clients who have ”moved heaven and earth”, so to speak, get tired of fighting. Some lose hope, while others have a change of heart, perhaps developing a longing for the comforts of their previous lifestyle. I am not here referring to the occasional bad day when the interventions seem cumbersome or overwhelming. Rather, this article refers to times when a subtle shift in belief occurs within the ill person which manifests through words or actions of resistance or rejection.

When this happens, those of us providing support (friends, family, health care professionals) are faced with a tough choice: do we embrace this change of direction, or do we rigidly insist on the “rightness” of previous interventions?

Anger and resentment frequently flare up at times like these. Why does this happen?

Let’s backtrack for a moment.

We have all lost people we care about, and that statement alone points to the underpinnings of the situation and its difficulty: loss. Those who are left behind must learn to deal with their feelings of loss of one who was dear to them, missing them deeply, mourning their absence. We know what these things feel like. We wish to avoid them again if at all possible. As a species, human beings have a strong distaste for pain. And scenarios surrounding this ultimate loss are among our most painful.

So when the ”support team” sees the patient/loved one disconnecting from the very interventions which have offered hope, we can feel betrayed. This feels deeply personal. We can begin to question whether our loved one wants to be with us as long as possible. After all, making the choice to discontinue medical/holistic intervention seems to send a message of readiness to die, not a desire to live. That message appears totally inconsistent with all the hard work that went into the sweeping changes previously embraced. Frequently, families are confused or perplexed.

Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was once asked about “sacred inconsistencies” such as the fact that she was still a smoker, while espousing a healthy lifestyle. Her answer was this:

“I think that as you evolve spiritually, automatically your body tells you what is acceptable for your body and what is not….
I survive. Eventually, when my body tells me it’s time to quit smoking, I will quit smoking. But if somebody tells me you can’t smoke, you can’t do this, you can’t do that, the aggravation of this constant nagging is, I think, more damaging to my health than if I listen to my own body and live accordingly.” 

We don’t have to look much beyond our own mirror to see that sacred inconsistencies are part of every human existence. If we learn to respond to these from our best, most spiritual self, we will choose to respond to inconsistency with compassion. Our compassion around freedom to choose contributes directly and powerfully to the ill person’s sense of dignity.

Each person has the right to choose, not just how they want to live, but also how they want to die. All choices have emotional fallout; that is, they affect others. This is especially the case when loved ones make choices we do not agree with, choices that affect us personally. When our dear ones suddenly seem to change the rules on us, here are some suggestions:

  • Remember that they may be grappling with feelings that they are abandoning their loved ones by retiring from their fight for life. Don’t contribute to those feelings by projecting personal fears of loss onto them.
  • Don’t feel that your support has been in vain: all the contributions you made to lifestyle changes were proof of your love for them. When survivors look back on a loss, those who can look back with no regrets fare much better through the grieving process than those who wish they had done more.
  • Recognize the limitations of the emotional state of the ill person. Advanced disease, chronic pain, & heavy medications all limit the ability of the patient to countenance excessive or negative emotional input from friends and family.
  • Discontinuation of interventions (other than palliative) can be viewed, not as a desire to die, but as a desire to live as peacefully and with as little struggle as possible for the time remaining. We can contribute to that peace by respecting their right to make the choice of how to spend their last weeks, months, or days.
  • Some experience a crisis of faith near the end of life. Patient, kind, considerate acts will help reassure the loved one at a time they need it the most.
  • Recognize your own need to express your feelings and be heard, but do so in a proper, constructive venue. Support groups for caregivers, a therapist, or a friend not involved in the situation are good options for accessing necessary support for yourself.
  • Ask your Primary Care Doctor about Hospice. Their experience in dealing with eventualities can be of tremendous comfort to patients and their families.
  • None of us can stop people from dying. But we can give them the tremendous gift of sustaining their dignity as they face the future by lovingly supporting their choices.


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Appetite

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Do you hate your appetite? Does it feel like an enemy always seeking to subvert you, sabotaging your wellness  and fitness goals?

The belief that appetite is the enemy, and that food is its partner in crime, could not be more widespread.
But is that belief serving us? I would posit that the answer to that question is no.

If we could put an electric meter on our forehead on any given day and measure how much mental, emotional, and physical energy we are spending worrying about and hating on our appetite, food, and our own body, we would probably register enough power to light up China. For a year.

 

  • Appetite, defined: The natural psychophysiologic desire for food as it occurs.

Hmmm.. Nothing evil or subversive is implied there.

 
In fact, what could be more friendly than a signal representing a natural desire for food to preserve life?

 
What would change in your life if you chose to view your appetite as your friend rather than the enemy?


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Tired of all the conflicting noise about diets and food?

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Ask your Inner Three-year-old. 

The next time you are around little ones at a meal or snack, watch their food behaviors. They pick. Nibble. They eat slowly, perforce, since their hand/eye coordination is still a work in progress. If they find a taste, texture, or aroma that doesn’t speak to them, no amount of parental cajoling will cause them to take another bite of the offending food.

Because eating is a real experience for that toddler, the process takes time. And that slow, unhurried approach to food is what leads to the natural attunement to the body’s wisdom and signals she was born with.

She is not:

  • fretting about calories, macronutrient ratios, or fat grams 
  • logging her estimated fiber grams in her smartphone to ascertain how many points she can trim off the effective calories of the meal 
  • looking at a cookie with an eye to determine how much time she’ll have to do on the stairstepper to burn it off
  • feeling guilt or worse, shame, for having an appetite
  • actively hating on her body for being less than perfect (despite those dimples on her thighs and all)
  • rehashing stressful events of her day.
  • calling foods “good” or “bad”, and therefore herself for eating them

No, she is solely focused on chewing, tasting, and enjoying her meal. Nothing more. She eats when she is hungry, and desists when she’s had just enough. No drama, struggle, angst, or browbeating is involved. When she’s done, life calls with all its interesting things to explore. She doesn’t think about food again until her body asks for it. 

All of us once had this effortless food life, but for most, it becomes an elusive peace once we hit puberty. Indeed, our life around food is anything but peaceful. No matter what food, exercise, macronutrient, diet, vitamin, or mineral being discussed, one source will be bashing it while another sings its praises. So what is an eater to do? 

Perhaps we should do something different. Listen to our own body, because that’s where the wisdom is. That’s where the action is. Slow down, unplug, tune in, and listen for the voice of our true self, the one with the appetite for life.