Friday, February 14, 2014

On Love and Brain Chemistry

rational valentines found at

Listen in as Dr. Helen Fisher, Anthropologist and renowned expert on romantic love, talks about why love is so powerful, so sought after, and so dreaded, all at the same time.  Click HERE to view a video of Dr. Fisher's 2008 TED Talk.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

February is for Self Love

image by hugh boone, here

We all know February is the month for Valentines.  Some see Valentines Day as a chance to show loved ones just how special they are.  But for many, Valentines Day triggers dread, loneliness, and feelings of low self worth.  

Good news - February is also International Boost Self-Esteem Month.  Instead of waiting for someone else to show they care, why not give yourself  a dose of kinder and gentler.  You can follow some of these suggestions offered by Huffington Post contributor,  Dileen Simms:  

1. Stop comparing yourself to others. Trying to live up to or exceed someone else’s personal best is a losing game. As the saying goes, “How boring would it be if we were all the same?” Focus on being the best you that you can be.
2. Compliment yourself regularly, either by looking in the mirror and saying something you like about yourself or writing it in a journal. Many times, we’re quick to compliment others on their success but hesitate to do the same for ourselves.
3. Exercise consistently, at least 30 minutes of exercise several times a week, to strengthen muscles and to burn calories. Improve your physical strength, and you may feel a sense of empowerment that can dramatically enhance your self-esteem.
4. Simply smile. The mere act of smiling changes blood flow to the brain and can actually makes you feel happier and relieve tension. A smile sets off chemical and physical reactions within your mind and body, releasing endorphins that boost your mood.
5. Focus on your accomplishments. Forgive yourself for mistakes and focus on the positive by celebrating your victories. Consider writing them down so you can review and reflect when you’re feeling down and need to renew your confidence.
6. Get the support you need to succeed. Join a weight-loss support group, like TOPS, which can help you to stay on track to accomplish your wellness goals. Fellow members will help keep you motivated.
7. Make a list of your positive qualities. Are you generous? Kind? Write down at least ten positive qualities about yourself and return to this list as often as needed to boost your morale.
8. Find something special in each day. Even if it’s in a small way, do something pleasant and rewarding, like catching up on your favorite television show, taking a walk to the park, or indulging in a bubble bath. Or treat yourself to something small that isn’t a food or beverage, like a manicure or a new piece of costume jewelry.
9. Eat better. Pay attention to your food choices and nourish your body. Buy healthier foods and prepare well-balanced meals that will help give you energy and feel like your best self – not sluggish and overstuffed.
10. Explore a passion. Whether it’s a side job, hobby, or as a volunteer, pursuing your passion in even a small way can lead to a sense of purpose and significantly improve your overall happiness and quality of life.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

This Weekend: Clutter Bust or Bust

Need an incentive to de-clutter this weekend?  Look no further than the 8th Annual Clear Your Clutter Day presented by the Austin chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers.   Bring your cherished keepsake items junk and leave with some extra peace of mind.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Happy To Do List for the New Year

A list of twenty-one simple to-dos and to-don'ts for the New Year that I found mostly simple and a lot inspiring.  Some are big steps but more are little.  Because sometimes it's the little things that makes the difference between a life of regrets and a life fully lived.

The very first to-do:  Click here.  


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Even on the Sidewalks of NYC

In broad daylight, a person can relax and meditate:

For more on-the-street photography, you can visit Brandon's website,  Humans of New York.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Can't Unwind? Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Often our bodies hold stress in the form of tense or tight muscles.  In other words, physical tension is caused by muscle constriction.  This tightening of the muscles occurs when we experience either short term, in-the-moment stress (a short-lived frightening experience such as a violent storm) or long term stress (such as unrelenting work overload or taking care of an aging parent).

The long term form of stress, if left unattended, can lead to chronic muscle tightness that doesn't let up.  These muscles can remain tense all through out the day for weeks on end without us being aware. The tightness can even hold fast while we sleep (which can explain some early-morning headaches, for example, or feeling exhausted upon awakening). Chronic muscle constriction is associated with tissue inflammation, muscle strains and spasms as well as more serious, long term illnesses.

Many who experience long term stress and muscle tension are unable to simply relax their musclestry as they may.  One exercise, called Progressive Muscle Relaxation (also known as Deep Muscle Relaxation) helps ease that I-can't-seem-to-relax muscle tension.

In the following selected videos, a voice guides you through a systematic form of tensing and relaxing muscles.   A quieting of the mind typically follows relaxed muscles.  The first video by Dr. LuAnn Helms, introduces the exercise with an explanation of how PMR can be helpful.

 Video by Dr. LuAnn Helms (Psychologist) of Utah State University's Counseling and Psychological Services

Video by University of New Hampshire

1.  Do each muscle group twice; five second tense, fifteen seconds relax.  Always relax the muscles longer than the tightening.
2.  You may want to skip tensing eye muscles into a frown - some find this produces headache sensations.  Instead, think about lifting your forehead muscles toward the ceiling in a muscle-smoothing fashion.  In fact, skip tensing any muscle groups that cause pain.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

More Breathing Exercises, Yoga Style

While I am neither an expert in yoga nor a devoted yoga practitioner, I do often suggest people with anxiety disorders, depression and anger management issues consider learning about the various forms of yoga.  Most of us, when we hear the term yoga, immediately think of pretzel-like positions and dismiss it as something an ordinary-Joe wouldn't be able to do.  However, when I suggest yoga as a relaxation tool, I am mainly interested in the breathing components.  While stretching can be a great relaxation tool as well, bending into contortionist positions is not necessary to achieve the calming benefits.

Below are links to two videos of two styles of deep breathing demonstrated by Dustienne Miller, CYT, PT, MS, WCS on her blog, Your Pace Yoga.  These breathing exercises can be used to reduce anxiety, decrease worry, help manage anger, and lower physiological measures of stress associated with many types of medical problems, including high blood pressure, gastro-intestinal distress, headaches and chronic pain.

Dirgha Breath - Dirgha (deer-guh) breathing is similar to the breathing exercises presented in a previous post.   Dirgha is a form of lower abdominal breathing. It helps reduce the fight or flight response that contributes toward anxiety and anger.  You can view the video, here.

Ujjayi Breath - Ujjayi (Ew-J-eye) breathing is also known as the ocean sounding breath or the Darth Vader breath.  The slow, even exhale of the Ujjayi breath can help reduce the fight or flight response. You can view the Ujjayi breath video, here.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Meditating with Visual Aids

Think about changing the channel that' plays mindlessly in your head.  Change your thoughts away from the thousands of stress inducing thoughts that permeate your thinking toward calm, pleasant, physically soothing thoughts and you can take your body toward a more physically healthy space.

One way to do this is with visual aids.  In this case, pictures of highly pleasurable scenes.

Take a look at the pictures posted on Bored Panda, below.   Take time to really let the images sink in.  Enhance the experience by taking long, slow inhales followed by long, full exhales, while you will your body to relax with each exhale, while simultaneously enjoying the pictures.

22 Unbelievable Places that are Hard to Believe Really Exist

 Let your mind luxuriate in the sensations you might feel if you were actually present in the picture.  Imagine the sounds you might hear, the smells.  What might you see in the scene if the picture were expanded to include what is behind you?

Pictures of beauty found in the nature are highly inspirational to me.  They help me refresh and appreciate the world around me.  Others find works created by visual artists inspiring:  paintings, collage, sculpture.

What inspires you?  What kinds of images do you find pleasurable, refreshing, or relaxing?