Archive: Healthy Living

How to Savour the Holidays While Still Staying Healthy

journalMy friend just gave me an inspiring book to read: Start With Why by Simon Sinek.

I watched Simon’s TED Talk and was inspired to add the book to my growing pile of holiday reads (including too many baby books to count!).

The TED Talk got me thinking; am I consciously aware of the WHY behind everything I am doing on a daily basis?

I do believe that I have incorporated more mindfulness and gratitude in my day-to-day life than even a year ago, especially since hearing about The Five Minute Journal from Tim Ferriss. He inspired me to incorporate a daily journaling practice into my morning routine, which has been crucial in allowing me to set intentions for and aim to get the most out of each day.

I created my own questions to answer each morning in my journal, with inspiration from The Five Minute Journal that you can buy online. I printed off a word document with these questions and pasted them into the front of a regular notebook to answer daily:

1. What would make today great?
2. List 3 amazing things that happened yesterday.
3. What are your weekly challenges?
4. What are you grateful for:

a. Relationship? Name one person.
b. Opportunity you have today?
c. That happened/you saw yesterday?
d. That is simple and near you?

5. Affirmation/Intention
6. How could you have made yesterday better?

I have recently added 2 more questions:

7. What do you love about yourself?
8. What is the message of the day for baby (since I am 27 weeks pregnant)?

It literally takes me less than 5 minutes to answer these and I feel armed and ready to take on my day in a way where I am more proactive and less reactive to any drama that may arise. It does make it easier to savour the small things that happen and not dwell on the negative parts.

So how can we apply “Start with Why” for the holidays?

Many of us get stressed out about hosting a party. We want everything to be perfect, from the linens and table setting, to the h ‘or d’oeuvres and wine selection. It is often easy to get caught up in these details and forget about the WHY of the party in the first place, which is a gathering of loved ones to share a fun, relaxing and entertaining collective experience. Instead of mulling over hundreds of recipes (unless that is something you truly enjoy), you could spend that time visualizing and planning what would make the party meaningful and memorable. You could have everyone at the table stand-up, one-at-a-time, and say one thing that they are grateful for/one good memory together from the past year. You could all play a fun game of charades or look over pictures of past holidays for a good laugh or cry. Yes, people may remember if the meat is overcooked, but the emotions and memories will last much longer and leave a bigger imprint on the guests’ hearts.

How can we apply “Start With Why” to stay healthy over the holidays?

Many of my patients struggle with keeping up their health habits over the holidays. They may exercise less or stop completely; they may eat out too often or get too busy and end up skipping meals. They may overindulge in alcohol, sweets, or that tempting cheese tray.
In these moments or struggle, the WHY may be: to get through a busy time, to treat ourselves, to save time. But, if we can remember WHY we started these health habits in the first place, we are more likely to stick with them.

If someone is aware that they are going to get heartburn (that will keep them up most of the night) from having too much alcohol or eating dessert, then they may be able to step back and moderate their intake, realizing that a lost night of sleep is just not worth it. If they just think of the short-term reward, then they may overindulge and suffer later.

If someone forgoes their workout to sleep in after being out too late, then they may not sleep as well that night and have less energy to exercise the next day. The vicious cycle can continue.

I recognize that we can’t be perfect over the holidays. You can modify your health habits over the holidays to avoid the “all-or-nothing” mentality. Even if you get up earlier to do a 10-minute workout (as opposed to your regular 30-60 min one), then you have succeeded.

If you set the intention before going to a party to not allow yourself more than 2 drinks (as opposed to several cocktails plus a half bottle of wine), you have won the battle.

Here are some simple tips to stay healthy over the holidays (and always remember the WHY!):

1. Don’t go to a party hungry. Have a snack before, such as a hardboiled egg, some nutbutter spread on a sliced apple or pear, or have some vegetables and hummus. You will be less likely to overindulge and make poor food choices when presented with the bread basket and dessert platter.

2. Always keep a non-alcoholic drink in your hand, such as sparkling water, herbal tea, or water with splash of punch/juice if you are craving something sweet. Staying hydrated will make you feel full and prevent you from picking at the endless trays of appetizers.

3. Continue to exercise. You may not be able to get to the gym, but ask your trainer for a short workout that you could do at home several times per week. Or, schedule a family or friend get-together around a physical activity such as a walk, building a snowman, playing Wii fit, snowshoeing or skiing.

4. Don’t skimp on sleep. The less sleep you get, the more stress hormones are released the next day, leading you to feel anxious and irritable, tired and wired, and reaching for more sweets than usual. Do your best to have a set bedtime and don’t feel bad about leaving a party early.

5. Say no to parties or get-togethers that you are not going to enjoy. Don’t spread yourself too thin and over schedule. Choose those activities and gatherings that will feed your soul.

And, before each day starts (and before each party), ask yourself WHY to remember what is truly important so you can get the most out of it.

FREE WEBINAR: BURNING THE CANDLE AT BOTH ENDS? DISCOVER WAYS TO LIVE WITHOUT STRESS

relax.natureAre you so busy that you can’t find the time to do the things you need to do to get back your sanity and start enjoying your life?

Then, this FREE gift (webinar) may be just what you need.

REGISTER by clicking on the Date/Time Links below or scroll down for more details.

WHEN: Tuesday, July 12th, 7:00pm-7:40pm 
OR: Monday, July 18th, 6:30pm-7:10pm
 

I know what it feels like to be burnt out. Ironically, as a Naturopathic student, I was burning the candle at both ends. I had long days of classes, worked part-time and commuted over 2 hours per day. I stopped looking after myself and paid the price.

My mood dropped, I was continually snapping at my loved ones over the littlest things and would have days of total and utter exhaustion, where even walking felt like too much.

It wasn’t until I started to deal with stress by:

  • learning how to eat well to balance my blood sugar levels and hormones
  • incorporating yoga and meditation into my daily routine
  • and realizing that I was over-exercising

That I was able to heal. I can understand what you are going through and want to help you get past your hurdles. To get over chronic stress and give yourself the time and mindset to enjoy life and handle stressors with grace.

I wanted to share with you the first webinar in my “Burning the Candle at Both Ends –Discover Ways to Live Without Stress” Series. I have had amazing feedback on the program and wanted to give you a taste of what it provides. If you want to learn how stress destroys your health and determine just how imbalanced your hormones are, be sure to register. (by clicking on either of the sign-up boxes below).

I will be available for a live Q&A after the webinar viewing, so be sure to stick around (webinar is 20min) to have any of your pressing questions answered.

SIGN UP BY CLICKING YOUR PREFERRED DATE BELOW:

Tuesday, July 12th, 7:00pm-7:40pm 
Monday, July 18th, 6:30pm-7:10pm

 

Plug Into Nature – Guest Post by David Graham of EDGE3

In preparation for our upcoming EDGE 3 retreats this September, I thought I’d explore some ideas about nature from my most trusted source…my family! While recently enjoying a ridiculously lazy day at the cottage, I asked them why nature is important to each of them. I wanted to discuss “How nature moves us forward in our day-to-day, and how can it change the way we show up at work?”EDGE3

What fascinated me was that from 10 to 80 years old, we all had a similar perspective.  Here’s what I discovered…

Nature clears our mind…

  • It can bring peace and balance to our over-scheduled lives and allows us to focus on the things that are most important to us.

Nature leads to self-discovery…

  • The simple moments outdoors quiets our emotions and allow us to hear our inner voice.  Being in touch with nature means that we are in touch with ourselves.

Nature gives a fresh perspective…

  • Once we place ourselves in a tranquil setting, we recognize the power of “now” which allows for new insights and enlightened perspectives.

Nature connects us…

  • We are more similar than we are different. Nature levels the playing field and helps to connect with each other on a deeper level.

As I pack my bags and prepare for departure back to the city, I take a piece of nature with me.  The challenges may remain the same, but I face them with a renewed sense of self, and an energy that I intend to share with others.

How do you plan to reset your inner compass? 

What would a renewed sense of self do for you? 

Where can you go to unplug from your work setting?

Consider one of our EDGE 3 retreats.  We want to help you reignite your inner passion!

David GrahamDavid Graham is a Leadership Coach and the Founder of EDGE 3.  He offers one-on-one coaching, team building workshops and for transformational experiences, he takes executives out of the boardroom and into nature. What inspires you as a leader?

www.edge3.ca

NOW Available! Webinar Series: Burning the Candle at Both Ends? Discover Ways to Live Without Stress

meditation.womanI was fed up. I ‘d had enough. I was sick of feeling stressed out and wanted to take back control of my life.

It started in university when I was out of my comfort zone. I drank too much coffee to wake me up, ate too much sugar to keep me going, and drank too much alcohol to “relax” and fit in at night. This vicious roller coaster ride led to further anxiety, weight gain, fatigue and acne. I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin.

My friends could see I was suffering and helped me embark on an exercise and healthy eating regime. I learned how to cook real whole food and reduced my intake of sugar, alcohol and caffeine.

I noticed huge increases in my energy level, mood and quality of sleep. This formed the basis of my motivation for becoming a Naturopathic Doctor.

Ironically enough, my anxiety came back after I graduated and started practicing Naturopathic Medicine. I was overwhelmed and lacked confidence. My Naturopathic Doctor at the time prescribed journaling, yoga and stress-balancing herbs to heal my adrenal glands. After about 6 months, I felt like a new person.

Since I was feeling better, my stress-reducing habits dropped off.

Eventually, my anxiety came back when I was juggling too many roles. My warning signs were acid reflux and insomnia. This reality-check reminded me to incorporate daily stress-reducing habits to prevent this from happening again. I now incorporate yoga, meditation and journaling daily. I make sure I eat enough healthy protein and fat, avoid grains and sugar, limit fruit and keep caffeine to 1 tea per day (with the occasional 1/4 cup of coffee on the weekends). This ensures I am not put on a blood-sugar rollercoaster that can trigger the release of stress hormones.

Feeling back in control of my life and my emotions, just by making a few simple lifestyle changes, is what motivated me to develop this webinar series. I wanted to share what I have learned over the years so you can take back control of your life, find your inner sparkle and live your dream life, STARTING NOW.

Have questions about the program? You can contact me for more details or click the “Get More Info” tab.

Are you Suffering From Nature-Deficit Disorder?

autumn2I was sitting inside as I started to brainstorm for this post after being cooped up all morning. Since I work from home most days, I have to make an extra effort to schedule in outdoor time to avoid getting cabin-fever at night. Even in winter I find myself braving the cold to clear my mind after a long day, all bundled up like the abominal snowman.

(pause for a few seconds as I head outside)

I am now sitting on my back deck to take advantage of this last mild November day. Almost immediately I feel more at ease and mindful as I listen to the wind blowing and appreciate the mild warmth of the sun on my skin. The neighbours’ wind chimes and the last few bird calls are lulling me into a sense of calmness I wasn’t experiencing inside.

Is this a placebo effect? No. Science tells us that Nature can impact our mental and physical health in profound ways AND help us to live longer.

Before we delve into the research, I want you to step back and think about how much time you spend outside each day. You may walk to the subway or bus for 5 minutes on the way to and from work. You may walk 10 minutes to grab a coffee or a grab-and-go lunch during the week. But, are you cooped up inside the rest of the day for meetings and computer work, followed by chores and watching TV at night?

A survey conducted by the David Suzuki Foundation in 2012 found that 70% of youth spend an hour or less outdoors every day. The average American spends only 7% of their time outdoors (and a whopping 93% of time indoors!) according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

This is detrimental to your health and I only see the numbers getting worse as technology (and Netflix) improves.

Why Should I Get Outside?

How close you live to outdoor green space will significantly impact your mental and physical health and longevity.

People who live within a 1km radius of outdoor green space have significantly reduced rates of depression and anxiety, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, and coronary heart disease. And more green space is better: there was a 30% increased risk of anxiety and a 25% increased risk for depression in residents with only 10% green space within 1 km of their residence (as compared to those with 90% green space).

A Canadian study of 575,000 adults, all urban-dwelling, found that those who had access to urban green space lived longer, had less non-accident deaths, especially reduced respiratory-related deaths. In Florida, those who had more green space were less likely to die of stroke.

Do you need any more convincing evidence to lace up those runners and get out for walk?

People who are exposed to nature exercised more, experiences less stress and had more meaningful social relations.  These factors boosted self esteem, improved immune function and reduced the incidence of chronic disease and mortality. You can really live a longer, healthier life if you get outdoors.

This Is Your Brain on Nature

When researchers induced cognitive fatigue by presenting study participants with mentally-challenging tasks, those who got outside for a nature walk afterwards (for 30-60 minutes) were able to focus and concentrate more effectively than those who didn’t (as measured by neuropsychological tests). The results were not merely due to an acute positive mental outlook from being outdoors. So, to be more productive, take a Nature break.

It’s time to take a “forest-bath”

The Japanese practice of “forest bathing” (which literally means to have a short, leisurely visit to a forest) has been shown to lower: oxidative stress, inflammation, blood pressure, pulse rate and the release of cortisol, a stress hormone. It improves natural killer cell immune count and activity to ward off infections. You don’t need to spend all day in the forest/nature; even 10 minutes can have huge benefits.

What you can do to inject more nature into your daily routine

Awareness is the first step. Create a nature journal and track how much time you spend outdoors every day. Record how you felt before you went outside and then how you felt once you returned. You could even rate your stress levels before and after (ie 0 = no stress; 10 = maximum stress).

Step back from your daily routine and see how you can incorporate more time in nature. Instead of using your 20-min break to surf the internet, use that time to get out for a short, brisk walk or to do some yard work if you work from home.

Plan an evening or weekend social or solo activity that revolves around nature. Try hiking, biking, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. Instead of meeting a friend for a drink or coffee, make a point of grabbing a coffee or tea to go so you can walk and catch up at the same time.

Leave the car at home. Walk or bike to run your errands or get to that meeting. Your mind and body will thank you (and so will your boss!).

 

RESOURCES:

http://www.chgeharvard.org/sites/default/files/resources/Paper-NaturalEnvironmentsInitiative_0.pdf

http://snowbrains.com/brain-post-much-time-average-american-spend-outdoors/

http://www.davidsuzuki.org/media/news/2012/09/majority-of-canadian-youth-spend-an-hour-or-less-outside-each-day/

Not “In the Mood”? How to Boost Libido Naturally

You have just gotten home from a long day at work, you still have to make dinner, clean up and do a couple of loads of laundry before you can even think about relaxing. Your partner gives you that look and motions towards the bedroom. You remember the days when you would put all responsibilities aside to frolic in bed with the one you love. But now you are way too tired and would rather just lay on the couch, catching up on Grey’s Anatomy.

Where Have Those Days of Frolicking Gone?

Low libido, low sex drive or hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD, as it is known in the medical world) is one of the most common sexual problems in women. A survey conducted in 2009 at the University of Chicago found that 33.4% of respondents suffered from low libido. Another study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that 43% of women experienced difficulty with sexual desire.

What is Happening?

Low libido is a very complex condition. Fatigue, hormonal imbalances and psychological factors can all play a role in HSDD. Anxiety and depression contribute to the problem and, ironically, so do many pharmaceutical drugs that are used to treat these conditions. Antidepressant medications, the birth control pill and tranquilizers are just some of the drugs that can lower sex drive in women.

What Can You Do?

Get assessed for hormone levels. Your Naturopathic Doctor can order a salivary hormone test to determine your levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), DHEA (the anti-stress/anti-aging hormone), estrogen, progesterone and testosterone (yes, women do produce testosterone).  Pre-menopausal and post-menopausal women can suffer from imbalances. There are many natural herbs, vitamins and homeopathic remedies that can be used to bring your hormones back into balance. Typically, women suffering from low libido have low levels of progesterone, testosterone and DHEA. Their estrogen and cortisol levels are most likely out of balance as well.

Get assessed for thyroid function. A low-functioning thyroid zaps your energy, lowers your mood and reduces sexual desire.

Get your iron levels and vitamin B12 levels checked. These are commonly low in females, and deficiencies result in fatigue and low motivation.

Talk to your doctor about any possible side effects your medication(s) may be having. Anti-depressants and the birth control pill are common culprits. Ask your doctor about changing to other kind of medications with fewer side effects. Never stop taking medication without consulting with your doctor first.

Get help from your healthcare practitioner if you are suffering from stress, anxiety or depression. Don’t go it alone.

Spice it up. Try a new position in bed, focus on foreplay, be spontaneous, pick up some new toys, watch a video and/or give each other a massage. This will add to the excitement and get you in the mood. Physical touch can increase the release of oxytocin, the bonding hormone, which can bump up sexual desire.

Natural Ways to Increase Libido

Since HSDD is such a complex condition with many causes, make sure you are assessed to determine which treatment is suitable for you to boost libido. Here is a list of commonly used herbs to help bring your mojo back. Be sure to consult with your licensed healthcare practitioner before taking them.

Ashwaganda, Relora, Rhodiola, Licorice, Siberian Ginseng and other adaptogenic herbs help to increase energy, reduce stress and put that spring back into your step!

Damiana acts as a natural aphrodisiac and sexual stimulant. Ginseng may also increase sexual desire.

Maca is a wonderful herb to reduce stress, increase energy, bring your hormones back into balance, and support a healthy libido. It is a root from South America and can be found in capsule or powder form.

Ginkgo increases blood flow to the female genitalia, heightening arousal and orgasm.

Exercise also gets the blood flowing, reduces stress, and boosts mood and energy. It increases the release of natural feel-good endorphins, and improves self-esteem and body image. A study done at the University of Texas showed that women who had just completed one 20-minute session of cardio exercise were more aroused (as measured and self-reported) from an erotic film than those who didn’t exercise.

Eat Your Way to Desire

Garlic, cayenne and ginger all increase blood flow in the body and to the genitalia. Eat these regularly to increase arousal. Just make sure you share that garlicky meal with your partner!

Nuts and seeds contain L-arginine, which helps to relax blood vessels and increase blood flow to the sexual organs. Make sure to eat them unsalted and raw to get the most benefits. Choose pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts and sunflower seeds.

Chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), which boosts levels of endorphins, reduces depression and anxiety, and is one of the brain hormones that is released when we are in love. Go for dark chocolate to get those extra antioxidants. PEA may be increased by exercise, yet another reason to put on those running shoes!

Don’t worry. With some help, frolicking in bed can become a reality once again!

 

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is not meant to replace treatment with a licensed healthcare practitioner. It is for informational purposes only. Consult with a Naturopathic Doctor or other licensed healthcare professional to determine which treatments are safe for you.

Vote for Good Health

Today is voting day in Ontario. With one small “X”, you can exercise your power in shaping your city and your province. Yes, it can be a bit of a hassle: doing your research, following the debates and then waiting in line to mark that box. But why would you give up this opportunity to put your two cents in? Voting is free and a great reminder that we live in such a great land of choice and opportunity.

Have you been voting for good health lately? That’s right, you CAN vote for good health with every thought and action you make. Or are you just waiting for good health to come to you? Sorry, but I have bad news: it won’t come knocking at your door. You have to get out there and seek it.

“How,” you may be asking, “do I vote for good health?” It starts right when you wake up. You decide whether or not this is going to be a good day. I know, I know, today you have that presentation at work, your exam at school or that deadline to reach. You are exhausted and you didn’t sleep well last night. It may seem like the worst day to you, but remember: you have control over how you think about it. If you wake up and visualize yourself blowing everyone away at the board meeting, then you most likely will. If you picture yourself failing miserably, well, you just might, or you might worry all day leading up to it, which is a terrible waste of energy and gets you nowhere.

The next vote you make is when you open up the refrigerator or the cupboard. What is going to be your first meal of the day, the fuel for your body and mind? Is it going to be that sugary cereal or that donut? Or, did you get up a little earlier to cook those steel cut oats?

Are you going to give your body and mind the nutrients they need to be focused, calm and energized throughout the day? Or are you going to stop by McFoodies or the coffee shop on your way to work to get a short-term boost from your coffee and treat?

Do you set your alarm for the last second possible so that you have to dash out the door and grab whatever you can on the way to work? Or, are you going to get up that extra 30–60 minutes early to meditate, run, or get some yoga in to awaken your body and soul, followed by a nourishing meal?

And that is only your morning! What choices are you going to make at the grocery store? At the restaurant? After work when you are feeling exhausted, but know you should go to the gym? When it is getting close to bedtime but your favourite movie is on at 11 pm?

The choice is up to you…but the consequences can be more serious than we can imagine in that moment. Health is in your grasp, but you have to get out there and vote for it every single day!

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is not meant to replace treatment with a licensed healthcare practitioner. It is for informational purposes only. Consult with a Naturopathic Doctor or other licensed healthcare professional to determine which treatments are safe for you.