I’ve been stressed out all week. The reasons why aren’t really important. It’s just life. I’m sure you can relate.
So, what are we going to do about it? Is there anything we can do about it?
I did a little research and came up with 10 ways to stop stress. Several are my own ideas. The others come from a variety of health experts. So the next time you’re at the end of your rope, try some of these simple tips to help lower your heart rate and ease tension:
1. Break Out the Bubble Gum! I’m totally serious! I’ve used this strategy for years. Sometimes it just helps to stop and unwrap a stick of gum. Studies show chewing gum lowers anxiety and eases stress. Some researchers think the rhythmic act of chewing may improve blood flow and improve blood flow to your brain. Others believe the smell and taste help you relax. (As a matter of fact, I’m chomping on a “Double Bubble” right now!)
2. Get Outside. I think most would agree spending time outdoors, even close to home, leads to better well-being. You’re in a natural setting, usually doing something active like walking or hiking. I’ve found even a few minutes can make a difference in how I feel.
3. Smile Like You Mean It. During times of tension, keeping a smile on your face, especially a genuine smile that’s formed by the muscles around your eyes as well as your mouth, reduces your body’s stress responses, even if you don’t feel happy. Smiling also help lower heart rates faster, once your stressful situation ends.
4. Sniff Some Lavender. Honestly, this doesn’t do much for me…but for some, certain scents like lavender can soothe. In one study, nurses who pinned small vials of lavender essential oil to their clothes felt their stress ease, while nurses who did not felt more stress. There are a number of essential oils that have been proven to help combat stress.
5. Tune In. This one’s a no-brainer. Music can absolutely help you calm down. In one study, people had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol when they listened to a recording of Latin Choral music before doing something stressful, such as doing math out loud or giving a speech, than when they listened to a recording of rippling water. (I don’t know about Latin Choral music, but a bit of Bach might help!)
6. Reboot Your Breath. When stressed, many of us literally forget to breathe! Focusing on your breath curbs your body’s “fight or flight” reaction to pressure or fear. It also pulls your attention away from negative thoughts. So sit comfortably in a quiet place. Breathe in slowly through your nose, letting your chest and lower belly rise and your abdomen expand. Breathe out just as slowly, repeating a word or phrase that helps you relax. For the most benefit, repeat for at least 10 minutes. (This really works.)
7. Be Kind to Yourself. Staying positive and using compassionate self-talk will help you calm down and get a better grip on the situation. Talk to yourself in the same, gentle, encouraging way you’d help a friend in need. “Everything will be ok,” for instance, or “I’ll figure out how to handle this.”
8. Write Your Stress Away. Jotting down your thoughts can be a great emotional outlet. Once they’re on paper, according to most therapists, your can start making a plan to resolve them. It doesn’t matter whether you prefer pen and notebook, a phone app or file on your laptop. The important thing is that you’re honest about your feelings.
9. Tell a Friend. This is my personal favorite. While writing down my thoughts and feelings may be helpful, if I’m feeling overwhelmed, there’s nothing better than talking to a close friend or loved one. For me, it’s like letting the air out of a balloon! And if that friend is dealing with the same worries as you? Even more reason to open up. You’ll both feel less alone.
10. Get Moving! Without a doubt, working up a sweat improves your mood, clears your head and allows you to take a break from whatever is stressing you out. I’ve literally cried, prayed and made major decisions during my morning runs over the years. Whether you like a nice walk or an intense workout at the gym, you’ll feel uplifted afterward.
I’m sure there are more than 10 ways to calm down. Feel free to add to the list.
The main thing is having that place or activity to go to decompress and regroup during stressful times.
Altogether now, let’s take a deep, cleansing breath….
When it comes to supplements, it seems everyone has an opinion. Honestly, I find it all very confusing and try my best to get the vitamins and minerals I need by eating a wide array of fruits, vegetables, grains, fish and meats.
That said, I have been spending nearly $40 a month on probiotics supplements and beginning to wonder why. It seems everyone is taking the pills containing good bacteria, so about a year ago, without much thought, I jumped aboard the probiotic bandwagon…even though I didn’t have digestive problems.
So it was with a great deal of interest I came across an article about probiotics in Consumer Reports’ “On Health” publication claiming to have the “scoop” on the so-called beneficial bacteria.
Besides helping digestion and preventing infection, probiotics are very much like some microorganisms that already live in your body. They’re the “good” bacteria and yeasts that can help balance out “bad” bacteria that appear when your system is thrown off by illness or antibiotics.
You’ve probably noticed many of your favorite foods…from trail mix to chocolate bars…may contain added probiotics. Millions of Americans with digestive problems take probiotic supplements or eat fermented foods, such as yogurt, which contain both naturally occurring and added probiotics.
But, do they work?
That depends. One Harvard Medical School researcher says the quality of the research has been weak. Some studies touting the benefits of probiotics have been small, poorly designed or sponsored by those with a vested interest in the outcome.
The good news about probiotics? There is some evidence they may shorten a bout of diarrhea caused by antibiotics, a virus or contaminated food and can also help manage irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Most doctors advise considering probiotics if you’re on antibiotics for more than a few days, you’re taking two simultaneously or you’ve switched from one to another.
It takes billions of colony-forming units, or CFU’s for probiotics to have any impact. And guess what? Consumer Reports did a little comparison and found that your favorite yogurt is a probiotic powerhouse, beating out supplements five to one!
As for those probiotic snacks, don’t waste your money or calories. They have much lower levels of CFU’s than yogurt and are laden with lots of fat and sugar.
Bottom line? Probiotic products may have some benefit, but scientists are still sorting out the evidence. And they’re certainly not a cure-all. Don’t count on probiotics to help with allergies, asthma, celiac disease, constipation, Crohns’s disease, eczema or respiratory and urinary tract infections.
So, based on the research, I’ve decided to keep probiotics on hand in case I eat something bad or have to take a course of antibiotics. The key is choosing the right type. The most effective probiotics are combinations of L. acidphilis, L. casei, L. rhamnosus and S. boulardi. The most effective dose? More than 10 billion CFU’s per day.
Finally, if you decide to get your probiotics naturally, with yogurt, look for the right logo. The National Yogurt Association’s Live and Active Cultures seal tells you the yogurt contains at least one hundred million live cultures per gram.
So there’s the “scoop” on probiotics for now. Stay tuned.
(All this talk about yogurt? I could go for a cup right now…with a little honey stirred in?)
For more information on probiotics, talk to your physician or registered dietician.
Ten years ago, few Americans had ever heard of gluten. Today, according to one survey, nearly a third of us are trying to avoid the protein found in grain.
Is going gluten-free one of those health crazes that will eventually fizzle like so many other dietary fads? Probably not. For some, gluten can cause miserable symptoms ranging from diarrhea to a life-threatening condition called Celiac disease. But for others, avoiding gluten may be a waste of time, effort and money.
A friend of mine, who has struggled with her weight for years, decided to try a gluten-free diet to shed some pounds. Three months later, she’d gained ten more! Clearly, gluten was not the source of her weight problem!
It seems gluten-free lovers may be in for a surprise. Many health experts say there is no proven benefit to going without gluten except for a small sliver of the population whose bodies cannot process the protein.
There are two ways to approach a gluten-free diet. Eat only foods that are naturally gluten-free (no processed foods). This diet allows you to eat meat, vegetables, fruit and some dairy, and eliminates pasta, bread and baked goods. This type of diet could lead to some weight loss but that should not be your main reason for eliminating gluten from your diet.
The other approach to a gluten-free diet is to replace foods containing gluten with gluten-free substitutes. According to nutritional food labels, many of these gluten-free foods contain fewer vitamins, less fiber and more sugar (to make the wheat-free products taste better). It’s a point, according to a recent Wall Street Journal health report, many food makers don’t dispute, saying they’re simply responding to consumer demands without making any health claims.
So, before jumping aboard the gluten-free bandwagon, how can you tell if you really can’t tolerate gluten? According to WebMD, if you’ve experienced at least four of the following symptoms after eating foods containing gluten, it might be time to think about modifying your diet.
Some of the most common signs of gluten sensitivity include gas, bloating, constipation and diarrhea.
A number of psychological issues relating to mood, such as depression, anxiety, ADHD and frequently changing moods can be helped by cutting gluten from your diet.
Aching joints are often a symptom of gluten intolerance caused by inflammation. Swollen and painful joints…especially the fingers and knees… might be indicative of sensitivity to gluten.
Feeling tired or foggy after eating a meal with gluten is a common symptom of gluten sensitivity. Many claim cutting wheat and other gluten-containing grains from their diets feel a dramatic increase in energy.
A 2001 study found that eating gluten may trigger migraines and intense headaches for those who are sensitive to it.
Because inflammation and prolonged exposure to gluten can put the body on high alert, autoimmune disease can develop in people intolerant to gluten…including lupus, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, scleoderma and multiple sclerosis.
Infertility, PCOS and irregular menstrual cycles are often related to gluten intolerance, due to inflammation that puts stress on the adrenal glands…upsetting the balance of the entire endocrine system.
Dizziness, poor balance and vertigo…as well as numbness and tingling can all be an indicator of inflammation in the nervous system caused by gluten-induced responses within the immune system.
Fibromyalgia and a bumpy skin condition called Keratosis Pilaris may also be reason to check with your doctor about your tolerance to gluten.
So before you give up gluten, make sure there’s good reason. If you’re experiencing several of these symptoms, go gluten-free for a while and see whether gluten really is the culprit.
For more information on Celiac Disease or a gluten-free diet, see your physician or a Registered Dietician.
Got any plans this weekend? How about a movie? Better yet, how about a movie under the stars?
Surprise someone you care about and head to Mission Hills and the Cinema Under the Stars, San Diego’s unique open-air movie theater. Tom and I have been enjoying this unique cinema experience for years. We want you to know about one of San Diego’s best-kept entertainment secrets.
The summer heat is on…but even if it’s cool, you won’t care. The intimate outdoor venue…tucked away in Mission Hills…has a fantastic heating system and cozy throws to keep you warm. But watch out! You may just drift off during the opening cartoon in your super-comfy zero-gravity recliner.
The theater specializes in movie classics from “Casablanca” and “Sabrina” to “Rear Window” and “From Here to Eternity.” But owner, Doug Yeagley also features contemporary classics and new releases such as “Avatar” and “Indiana Jones: Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”
At the Cinema Under the Stars, movies are projected digitally onto a 20-foot screen in the charming and intimate patio theater just behind “TOPS” Hair Salon on Goldfinch in Mission Hills.”
It’s so fun! Surrounded by tiny “twinkle” lights and no more than 60 fellow moviegoers…the venue is perfect for viewing your favorite movie classics. Show time is 8:30, but you may want to start earlier with dinner nearby at any of a number of popular eateries. (Some offer deals with movie tickets!) I highly recommend The Patio, just a few doors down from the theater on Goldfinch.
I’m marking my calendar for “Some Like it Hot” with Marilyn Monroe. Always fun to see the Hotel Del on the big screen. That’s the weekend of August 15. My other August picks? For sure “The Wizard of Oz.” I’m sure I’ve seen it 20 times! I guess that’s why they call it a classic!
“Pretty Woman,” with Julia Roberts, one of my all time faves is playing the weekend of August 22. “Casablanca” and “The Princess Bride” heads up the September schedule…appointment viewing for me!
Why not pick a favorite film of your own? The schedule is available online at topspresents.com. Take a break from crowded (freezing!!) indoor theaters. San Diego’s “endless summer” is just getting started and the stars are out! Recline and relax at the Cinema Under The Stars.
By the way, the popcorn’s great!
I’ve been binging…again. It’s embarrassing, but I just can’t stop.
Oh, the problem isn’t with consuming too many adult beverages or watching back-to-back episodes of “Law and Order” all weekend.
My compulsive behavior is seasonal. As soon as summer’s fresh fruits arrive, I lose all control…helpless as a kitten…as I bite into my first Bing cherry of the year. Binging on Bings has been a problem for years! Once I start, the binge doesn’t end until my stomach starts churning or the bag is empty…whichever comes first. If not for the pits and stems, I wouldn’t even slow down to breathe!
It could be worse. At least cherries are a treat with health benefits. In fact, they may be small and sweet, but cherries are actually nutritional powerhouses! They’re packed with compounds that can protect your heart, provide antioxidants that may prevent cancers, ease arthritis pain and help you sleep.
But beware. According to Cathy Kapica, Professor of Nutrition at Tufts University, only real cherries deliver the goods! The pigment that gives cherries their signature shade is also what gives them their disease-fighting power. The deeper the red, the better.
But what if you want the benefits of Bings all year?
When fresh isn’t an option, go for frozen, sweet cherries. Picked and chilled at the peak of ripeness, frozen cherries are an excellent alternative and come conveniently pitted and washed. They’re great in smoothies or throw them into off-season fruit salads. (Just make sure the bag lists cherries as the only ingredient—without any added sugar.)
When it comes to the dried version, many brands use tart cherries, which are too sour to eat…so you’ll get some added sugar. Just know a full cup has 533 calories and more than 110 grams of sugar. But full of fiber and potassium, a quarter of a cup or less will liven up trail mix or salads.
Some studies suggest that tart cherry juice can help you sleep better and recover faster after a tough workout. Whether it’s straight up or blended with other juices, you’re looking at nearly 140 calories per cup. I cut my juice with seltzer or down a “shot” of juice before bed…for a good night’s sleep.
That said, avoid cherry jams and spreads…unless they’re all-fruit and use juice concentrate as a natural sweetener. And don’t be snookered by that healthy-sounding cherry yogurt. There might be a single cherry…maybe one and a half per container…and that lonely fruit is usually swimming in sugary syrup. You might consider buying plain Greek yogurt and swirl in fresh or frozen cherries.
Maraschino cherries? Don’t waste your calories! The fruit is bathed in salt to remove flavor and color, then soaked in sweeteners, dipped in artificial dye and packed in sugar syrup. Need I say more?!
Turns out, the cherries used in pie filling are close relatives of the maraschino! At eight to one hundred calories per one-third cup, with 20 grams of sugar and artificial coloring, I’m thinking special occasion only food.
Bottom line? If you want the health benefits of cherries, by-pass the cherry soda (it’s mostly flavored, fizzy water!) and go for the real deal.
Just don’t eat the entire bag at once!
Every once in a while, I need to shake things up a bit. You see, in many areas of my life, I’m a victim of habit. I eat the same thing for breakfast every morning, go to bed the same time every night and often find myself stuck in a rut with the same workout routine.
That’s one of the reasons I value my walking buddies. Together, we break our routines by scheduling our “walk and talk” dates at a variety of fabulous walking spots around San Diego County.
Last week, my friend, Jo Dee Jacob suggested we walk around Lake Murray in La Mesa. Excellent choice!
As San Diego Girl Scouts CEO, I can tell you firsthand…Jo Dee walks the talk!! She’s all about health, fitness and wellbeing for girls…and it shows.
Once I adjusted to Jo Dee’s perky pace, we gabbed our way around the lake…and back. (You can’t actually walk the entire lake perimeter, so we used the dead end at the tail of the trail to log some extra miles!)
The path around the lake is flat and wide, so it’s not only great for walkers and runners, but for dogs and strollers, too! We passed through picturesque Lake Murray Park along the way. Despite the drought, ducks were swimming and bright, yellow mustard weed was blooming everywhere. (not great news for those with allergies!)
Once we reached the dam, touching the fence to be “official,” we turned around and power-walked back the way we came. Surrounded by nature’s beauty, time passed quickly as we logged 6.4 miles and talked a ton.
Lake Murray is actually a reservoir, located within the boundaries of Mission Trails Regional Park. It’s centrally located between the city of San Diego and the neighboring communities of La Mesa and Santee. The lake is open for shore fishing and private boats. Small boat and kayak rentals are also available.
But the lake is most popular with cyclists, joggers, walkers and rollerbladers…anyone looking for a beautiful, safe spot to get a little exercise…for body and spirit.
FYI: The Lake Murray path can be accessed from I-8. Exit on Lake Murray Boulevard North. Turn left on Kiowa Drive.
You may not know Glen Henry, but I’ll bet you can point to someone like him—someone who believed in you, challenged you, encouraged you—maybe even gave you the shot that changed the very trajectory of your life for the better.
Glen “Coach” Henry was all of that for me—and more.
My mentor and friend went to be with the Lord last week—leaving behind a gaping hole in the hearts of family, friends and literally hundreds of men and women like me that “Coach” took under his wing over the years. Above: Tom and me with Coach Glen Henry and his wife, Karen.
As a hopeful, young journalist, I landed a job my freshman year covering sports for the “Northern Iowan” student newspaper at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) in Cedar Falls. My “beat?” Men’s Swimming. My first interview? UNI Professor of Physical Education and Men’s Swim Coach, Glen Henry.
Coach was a force of nature in a wiry, five foot 10 inch frame. A fiery, but kind man, “Coach” patiently ignored my gross inexperience while giving me an impassioned interview about his UNI Panther swimming program.
He gave this fledgling reporter advice on how to organize my story, great stats, quotes and interesting tidbits of human interest. That interview with Coach Henry gave me the courage and confidence to pursue a career in journalism I never dreamed possible.
Coach even gave me a shot behind the microphone as official announcer for UNI’s home swim meets. And when my hometown lifeguard job fell through that summer, Coach offered me a job ($1.75 an hour!) at the municipal pool in Cedar Falls. Turns out, he managed the huge facility…and gave me enough hours over the next three summers to earn just what I needed for tuition and expenses.
Coach, his wife, Karen and three children became like family over the years…modeling what a strong marriage and loving family looked like…just what I wanted for my life.
While Coach could be understanding and fun, he also had high expectations and strict standards for the young people he took under his wing. When I arrived five minutes late to my first SCUBA diving class taught by Coach, the door was locked! And when I showed up at the pool to work in a too-tiny bikini, Coach gruffly ordered me to change into something that covered my “tush,” or I would no longer have a job.
Life lessons about discipline and professionalism I’ll never forget.
When tragedy hit the Henry’s ten years ago, “Coach” also showed me what a life of faith looks like. Weeks after retiring from UNI, “Coach” and Karen were injured when the Harley they were riding hit a patch of gravel on a rural road. Karen’s injuries were minor. Coach, a lifelong athlete, became paralyzed from the chest down.
As his amazing family formed a circle of protection around him, “Coach” continued mentoring, inspiring, singing country music and yes, coaching from his wheelchair. He remained cheerful, positive and faith-filled until the end. Because of “Coach,” I now know what it looks like to live victoriously, no matter the circumstances.
While I miss him terribly, because he lived in terms of eternity, I have peace, knowing Coach is now free to run, swim, dance and sing forever.
For all the “Coach Henry’s” out there…thank you. We couldn’t have done it without you.
I’m a terrible cook. And it’s my mother’s fault! Don’t get me wrong. Mom was an incredible cook. But she “enabled” me to become an inept cook by failing to insist I learn my way around the kitchen. Oh, I had to clean and do yard work on weekends, but sports and other after-school activities didn’t allow time for learning the fine art of separating eggs or reducing sauces. After swim practice, I’d come home to a foil-covered plate in the warming oven with a beautifully balanced, healthy meal…a la Mom!
I got away with it for years. Working the night shift is a great excuse for an empty fridge. Even my long-suffering husband tolerated his wife’s lack of culinary skills. Tom never once complained…even when dinner was a bowl of raisin bran with a side of apple slices!
And now that I’ve run out of excuses, I’ll be honest. When it comes to cooking, I would still rather address a joint session of Congress than prepare a meal for anyone! That’s why I’m sold on salads! Even I can toss a decent salad…and with a little planning, I can include enough nutritious additions to turn a salad into a meal!
Lately, I’ve been using a chart I found in the Mayo Clinic Health letter that has been enormously helpful to me in planning tasty, but well-balanced and filling dinner salads. Even if, like me, you’re a kitchen-phobe…I promise, you CAN build a better salad.
YOUR SALAD SHOULD LOOK LIKE THIS…..
Extras—Choose any one or no more than two: No more than 1 tablespoon (T) mayonnaise, 2 -T salad dressing, 3 -T sour cream or 1 teaspoon oil; ¼ avocado, about 6 nuts; about 8 olives; 2 –T chopped pickles; 2 –T dried fruit or ¼ cup salsa.
Herbs—As desired: Basil, chives, dill, fennel, mint, oregano, parsley, cilantro or tarragon
Carbohydrates and whole grains—Choose any one: Whole grains:1/2 cup barley, bulgur, couscous, kasha, millet, quinoa, pasta, brown rice or wild rice. Whole-grain breads and such: 1 small bagel, a slice of bread, a roll or pita. One serving, according to the label, of whole-wheat crackers, crisp whole-wheat bread, matzo, melba, pretzels, rice cakes or ½ cup croutons.
Protein—Choose any one: Meatless: ½ cup lentils, peas, tofu, tempeh, beans such as soy, black, pinto, garbanzo, white or kidney, or one egg. Lean meats, fish and seafood: Up to 2 ounces beef, lamb, pork, poultry, tuna, salmon, trout, sardines, scallops, shrimp, clams or crab. Low-fat dairy: Up to 1 ounce of cheeses, such as cheddar, cottage, goat, feta or Swiss.
Vegetables and fruits—Choose two or more totaling 2 cups: Artichoke, asparagus, beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, green onions, jicama, pea pods, peppers, radishes, squash, apples, apricots, berries, citrus sections, grapes, mango, melon, peaches, pears, pineapple, pomegranate or watermelon.
Leafy greens—Choose 2 cups or more: Among the varieties are arugula, watercress, cabbage, Belgian or red endive, escarole, collards, bok choy, cabbage, chard, mustard greens, turnip greens, kale, green or red lettuce, bibb lettuce, iceberg lettuce, mesculin, radicchio, watercress, romaine and spinach.
Then…just add your favorite dressing…perhaps a lite, creamy style or squeeze on some lemon juice or drizzle a little red wine vinegar or olive oil over your salad. Go ahead! Create a healthy salad.
Summer’s almost here. Think about replacing your favorite hot meal with a full-meal salad that’s cool and delicious. With so many possible combinations of good, healthy foods, you and your family will never get bored.
I love Wednesdays! That’s the day each week I get to join some seventy-five of the coolest women I know for Community Bible Study (CBS) in Coronado. We gather first in small groups to discuss and apply the previous week’s lesson…then join everyone else to hear a lecture that takes a deeper look at the historical perspective of the scripture text.
And while I enjoy all the teaching and talking—I really look forward to our monthly fellowship “feeds!” Seriously, There’s something about women of faith and food! (Think church potluck!) We all bring something yummy to share after class. (They usually have me bring fruit…something I can’t screw up!)
Fortunately, we can always count on Trish, my small group leader, to show up with a piping hot pan of her famous “crust-less quiche!” Everyone loves it! No heavy, thick dough…just Trish’s fabulous combination of eggs, milk, cheese, onions and spinach. Surprisingly, her quiche slices neatly and firmly…even without a doughy foundation. Trish says it’s the cheese settling to the bottom of the quiche that creates the faux crust.
One day, after downing a super-sized slice of Trish’s mouth-watering, cheesy egg concoction… I asked her how she, a busy, young mom of four finds time to cook?! With a big smile, Trish assured me her quiche recipe is simple! I begged her to share it with me…then she agreed to let me share it with you!
Now that eggs are once again finding favor with doctors and nutritionists…I’ve been looking for ways to include the incredible edible into my diet regularly.
So here’s an easy egg recipe that’s big on protein, low in carbs and positively DEE-lish! (Did I mention it’s also gluten-free?!)
Trish’s Crust-less Spinach Quiche
1 TBLS vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 10-oz. package frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and drained
5 eggs, beaten (Trish confided sometimes she throws in a sixth!)
3 cups shredded Muenster cheese (or any other cheese blend)
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch pie pan. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally until soft. Stir in spinach and continue cooking until excess moisture has evaporated. In a large bowl, combine eggs, cheese, salt and pepper. Add spinach mixture and stir to blend. Scoop into prepared pie pan. Bake until eggs have set—about 30 min. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
Compared to the rest of the world, we live in a place of plenty. Catalogs fill our mailboxes, enticing us to buy more “stuff.” Heck, shopping is a national pastime!
Why, then, aren’t the fabulous boots I bought in March still making me smile? How is it that I still complain I have “nothing to wear,” despite a closet full of clothes?! Isn’t it strange that somehow, more is never enough? Rather than happiness and fulfillment, more “stuff” often leads to frustration and dissastisfaction. Sadly, these negative emotions can seep into other parts of life…affecting relationships, work and family.
What if I could simply replace desire with gratitude?
That’s what a dear friend of ours does every day…and it’s changed his life! We’ve known Bob and his family for years. Bright, accomplished and always something nice to say, Bob has achieved enormous financial success. But that’s not what makes him happy. Bob’s joy comes from giving generously and his ongoing attitude of gratitude.
“From experience,” explains Bob, “I can say that gratitude is important to my health. In fact, I try to start my business day by asking myself who did something the day before that deserves my appreciation…and then expressing it.”
Bob believes the daily discipline may be as important to his health as physical exercise. “For certain,” he says, “it helps my day begin on the right note.”
A growing number of scientists are siding with Bob! According to recent research from the Mayo Clinic, “gratitude, when exhibited as a regular part of life, not only explains a high sense of well-being, but also can be fostered in simple ways to increase happiness and fulfillment.”
We all feel thankful at times. But gratitude--especially as it correlates to a higher sense of well-being--isn’t just an emotion, but a way of being that focuses on noticing and appreciating the good things in life, and acknowledging that the sources of goodness are frequently outside the self.
Bottom line, practicing gratitude means you’re able to be content in the moment even while pursuing long-term plans. A grateful approach enables you to be happy, despite the imperfections of life.
Having a thankful heart may lead to a lower risk of mental health problems, greater happiness (call it joy!), increased sense of fulfillment, positive relationships (a great bonus!) and even better sleep!
But the trick is putting gratitude into practice. The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living has a few tips:
1. Start your day with gratitude. Like Bob, making gratitude your first thought in the morning, you start your day on a much more positive note.
2. Be thankful for the simple things. I love this one! Throughout the day, take note of the things you often take for granted. I may be thankful for a promotion at work, but can’t recall the last time I was grateful for electricity, running water, clean clothing or a cup of coffee!
3. Look for the positive in the negative. Try to see your struggles as necessary forces that focus your energy on what’s really important.
4. Acknowledge your riches. If you’re feeling bad, count your blessings…health, a car, warm home, steady job, children and grandchildren. The list could be endless!
5. Keep a gratitude journal. As you think about the people and things you’re thankful for, reinforce your thanks by writing them down.
6. Say thank you. Express your actions in words and deeds. The whole world would be better if we all said, “thank you” more often.
Sound like too much sweetness and light? Maybe. But as the science continues to prove otherwise, I think I’ll send a thank-you note to someone special. Hmmmm. Feeling better already!