Our daily in life in Canada changed very suddenly a couple weeks ago with the closing of schools and businesses. Having seen the lockdown that happened in China a couple months ago, it seemed implausible that we would see such restriction of freedom here in North American with our cultural norms being so different. Then I saw the news of lockdown for friends in Italy and started to learn that there is no discrimination for a virus. This is a global issue that will be resolved most effectively with the cooperation of humanity as a collective whole.
The field of health and wellness involves connecting with and being around groups of people. Traditional chinese medicine which I’m about to start practicing involves physical touch for diagnosis. It is a real adjustment to learn and accept that work I know as essential to being healthy is considered a health risk at the moment. All human contact is viewed as a potential health risk for now. What effect will this have on our psyche?
How do we cope with our world being so suddenly disrupted? Surely, we will be distracted on some level and we need to find a way to bring ourselves back to balance. The best way to optimize emotional, mental, physical balance and health is to focus on what is within our control. Top priority being how we utilize our time. Depending on our field of work and family situation, we may be busier than usual, adjusting to working from home or completely out of work with time on our hands. For all situations, we need to own our time and cultivate acceptance for the present moment.
Here are some mindful habits I recommend to feel more at peace at this uncertain time:
- Practice meditation daily, any form for any length of time. I’ve made it a habit to start and end the day with meditation with additional short pieces at sunset and 3 minutes at 9pm daily to join in a collective meditation with friends around the world.
- Prioritize sleep. With a pandemic illness circulating around the world and no treatment available, the defence is to be as strong and healthy as you can. Sleep is crucial to having optimal health and wellness.
- Limit how the amount of news or social media you consume as it can affect your emotional/mental well being and focus. I decided to stay away from one form of social media and notice feeling much less agitated.
- Get into a consistent hand washing habit and sanitize your smart phone and computer keyboard with alcohol wipes frequently
- Maintain healthy eating habits-drinking water, eating veggies and fruit daily, minimizing caffeine intake, and moderate alcohol intake
- Get fresh air and physical activity daily. We have limited access to fitness facilities at the moment and we’ll need to be creative with the resources and space we have. A yoga mat is sufficient to practice yoga, some weights, gliders, tubing, anything that works in your space for strength training.
- Most importantly connect with family and friends any way we can, practice gratitude together and reflect on how fortunate we are to be Canadian and we are all in this together with the world.
It’s been a week of fun in the sun with my good friend and fellow fitness professional K here in Jamaica. We taught fitness classes and enjoyed some amazing food…all included! Being fitness professionals we need to stay in shape, so I’ll share my strategies for eating all you can within reason for the sake of being healthy:
-The buffet is your friend for healthy eating with the most choice of healthy foods- prepared vegetables and fruit. Take the great variety of food as a visual meditation to see which foods you will most enjoy for that meal.
-Make it your plan to have one plate of food with an additional plate for dessert or extra food you like.
-Your main plate, start with your choices for veggies first, then add your choices of carbs and protein to create your own custom meal.
-Take time to thoroughly enjoy your meal, then check in to see if you are still hungry. If so, get some more food, otherwise take a breather and enjoy another course.
-I love desserts, so that is always on my list at a buffet. Depending on the size of the treats, I choose one or two pieces and enjoy with some fruit at the end of a meal. Papaya and pineapple contain digestive enzymes to help digest food.
-Be sure to get some exercise in between enjoying all the delicious food
Teaching more group classes I notice January can bring more people into the gym in developing a new habit of exercise. Exercise is a lifelong habit I believe in wholeheartedly. Last week I came to the conclusion I have a passion for exercise and physical education that can be humorously described as belonging to the ‘cult of sweat’.
There seems to be a general trend to ‘high intensity’ exercise which led me to look further at the research and various programs that are widely available. It seems the concept that short, high intensity interval workouts produced more ‘results’ of fat loss has been accepted as a most effective workout to achieve an ideal body composition and overall fitness.
‘High intensity’ exercises require you to utilize most major muscle groups of your body and some of the movements can be complex compound movements. For example, a ‘burpee’ requires a pushup, squat, moving into a plank, jump to a squat and vertical jump. Many new and seasoned exercisers need work to improve any of the above mentioned movements and the emphasis on ‘intensity’ allows for poorly executed movements.
There is no magic bullet to being fit and healthy. It requires commitment and regular practice to have exercise as a part of your lifestyle. Being fit, which I will define as being able to perform a variety of physical activities and movements requires BOTH cardio vascular and strength training. HIIT workouts can only be performed well once you have the fitness to sustain physical activity at a higher heart rate AND have developed the basic strength movement skills of squats, planks, pushups, lunges, etc.
Make it your goal to keep yourself healthy and moving well with a variety of exercise you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy exercise, you still need to move regularly to be healthy and maybe one day you will enjoy it.
As 2019 comes to a close it is natural to take some time to reflect on all that has happened this year and decade in the movie of your life. In order to grow and evolve, acceptance of the present moment is necessary. In that acceptance we can find gratitude and love for all that we have. With reflection we may find there are things to change and let go of: the end of a year is the perfect time to clean up and let go. In preparation for a new year, we can come to a state of intention which is loving, kind, beautiful, creative, expansive, infinitely abundant and receptive (to quote Wayne Dyer The Power of Intention)
Best wishes for a fresh start to a new decade of making life good-
Follow your bliss is an often repeated line and for good reason. We all need a compass to guide us and the question is what do we use as the compass?
A couple months ago I shared this quote with a friend:
If one advances confidently in the direction of his own dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours
Thoreau (I found it in a Wayne Dyer book)
My friend referenced a quote with similar meaning by Joseph Campbell, so I read the book the Power of Myth and came across:
Q: Do you ever have this sense when you are following your bliss, as I have at moments, of being helped by hidden hands?
A: All the time. It is miraculous. I even have a superstition that has grown on me as the result of invisible hands coming all the time-namely that if you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, and they open the doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.
What is the bliss to follow? It is yours to know. I believe it is your own inspiration that you are guided to by following your inner knowing. It may not seem known to you yet, and it is a constant process in meditation to feel, hear, know, and see your inner compass. Your dreams can be guiding feelings.
This month, it came to mind many times how important it is to monitor and maintain our mental health. How can that be done? The practice of meditation gives us an opportunity to observe ourselves and our thoughts. If our thoughts are habitually negative, repetitive, obsessive or generally stuck on a loop(in the past or future)-it requires change, and the change may require the assistance of a professional should it prove challenging to make the change on our own.
Earlier this month, I heard the song Electric Love by BORNS and right away I thought of Gary Glitter Rock and Roll. I made a playlist with songs that had a similar drum and guitar line for my cycle class. In checking the song credits, I learned that Rock and Roll was featured in the movie Joker (which I had plans to see as soon as I learned I had just missed the premiere in Italy) and there was backlash due to Glitter being in jail for pedophile crimes. Glitter’s crimes were news to me and there is the view that his music should not be played, as that supports a pedophile in earning royalties. I had already made and shared the playlist for my class so I decided to go ahead and use the opportunity to raise awareness of the issues to child abuse and mental health, as we need every one to pitch in to improve the human condition.
I saw Joker last week and felt it was a well done film that provided a view of mental illness. There is a scene where Joaquin Phoenix in his brilliant performance as Arthur Fleck/Joker tells his social worker ‘all I have are negative thoughts’. While it is not possible to have only positive thoughts, it is an important practice for us to watch the nature of our thoughts and thinking:
Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”
The above quote is credited to Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu and there are similar versions in the words of others. The practice is the same, we need to monitor our thoughts and thinking to steer in a healthy direction for our mental health.
My bestie Kathryn and I love pizza. We have eaten a lot of pizza in our time around the world. She knows a pizza blogger and we’ve decided we need to share our pizza picks. We are qualified pizza connoisseurs because we’re living the dream when we eat pizza by a pool with Taylor Swift blaring. This project became more serious last year when we conducted a pizza taste test and were surprised to learn that Blaze pizza, a chain from the US was a real winner with their spicy sauce. Since then we have tried a few pizzas and here is our list so far, which will be updated as we try more pizza.
- 1. Blaze Pizza (150 John St)-We are huge fans of Blaze pizza for the spicy sauce, the gluten free crust option, and all the toppings you can choose for yourself. The pizzas are made to order and are thin crust deliciousness.
- 2. General Assembly Pizza (318 Adelaide St W)-This pizza is a winner with a light, thin, slightly chewy crust made to order from a menu of interesting topping combinations. The kale salad is excellent.
- 3. Via Mercanti (188 Augusta Ave)-Italian style pizza with just the right amount of chew that tastes homemade and professional, like nonna would make.
- 4. Farm Boy (1005 Lakeshore Boulevard E)-makes a pretty tasty cauliflower pizza for people on restricted carbohydrate diets. I was willing to eat this pizza and it was more than acceptable-good news!
A couple summers ago I took on the challenge of ‘you need a trainer’ from an awesome trainer J.S. The sessions were at a gym where they measured your body composition as a marker for progress. It was uncomfortable getting on a scale that ‘analyzed’ your fat content with an extremely lean trainer and I am a fit person myself! I was reminded that we are all so much more than a measure of percentages of muscle, fat, and bone. I posed the question to myself, if I were to assign percentages, what kind of a human do I want to be?
I want to be 72% Wonder Woman, 7% ridiculous 7 year old kid and the remaining 21% is always up for development and evolution. Having a concept of what you stand for as a human being is actually very important, as it will clarify your dreams/purpose, which will inspire you on how to lead your life on a daily basis. Once you know who you really are and what you want to become, then all the various challenges you face in life can be seen as various tests of character and strength.
Ps. 7 year olds are among the most enthusiastic humans I’ve seen, so great to keep our inner child alive and well
I have been buying granola bars the past year or so to throw into my bag as a quick snack between meals in my busy schedule. The best part of the granola bars is it comes in a wrapper and is fairly indestructible, otherwise it felt like they could be healthier and more satisfying.
I looked at many recipes and decided to try the one from Oh She Glows, as the recipes do work. I made some modifications, adding a little honey makes for a sweeter bar, so here is an easy recipe for nutritious homemade granola bars:
1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
1/4 cup old fashioned rolled oats
3 very ripe bananas mashed
8 pitted dates chopped
Honey to taste if more sweetness is desired
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of sea salt
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnut or pecan pieces
1/4 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 by 13 inch baking dish or pan with coconut oil.
In a large bowl, mash bananas and add dates, cinnamon, vanilla and salt. Stir in oats until well combined. Fold in pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, raisins, nuts and chocolate chips. Pat mixture into baking dish. Use a spatula to smooth out to even thickness.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until lightly brown. Let cool and cut into squares or bars. Store in an airtight container or freeze wrapped in desired airtight packaging. Enjoy on the go!
As a traditional chinese medicine practitioner in training, natural wholistic health(lifestyle) is integral to the treatment approach. Having been in the field of health and fitness for 19 years this week, I learned many years ago that sleep is hugely important to being truly healthy. Sleep is a healthy habit that requires daily practice. Sleep restores your body and mind-it needs to be a priority. For many years I have advised people that quality sleep comes before the ambitious start to exercise first thing in the morning. It is also easier to make healthier food choices with better sleep. Sleep, exercise and nutrition are 3 pillars of being healthy.
Sleep has had much more air time in the field of health information in recent years. What actually happens with a person’s sleep is a different story, as sleep is a subjective experience. Here are my views on what quality sleep is:
- Falling asleep easily in a relaxed state
- Staying asleep with possible waking for urination
- Waking up feeling energized and well rested 7-8 hours later
This is the sleep standard I strive for. There are plenty of nights that are below this standard, and I keep practicing. Being able to manage your emotions and daily stressors is helpful to relaxing at the end of a day and letting go to fall asleep. Staying asleep and/or falling back asleep easily is a condition that I find traditional chinese medicine to be extremely helpful for. Waking up feeling energized, I find comes naturally with the habit of regular exercise, and being enthusiastic about life. Well rested, the science shows 7-8 hours of sleep is needed for optimal health. Consider it a required investment of 7-8 hours to start the day on the right track, so you can live well.