Be Healthy / Be Happy February Issue

Mindfulness: Loving-Kindness

Many people spend their entire lives struggling to find the meaning of love. Some succeed. Some don't. What exactly is it that we are looking for? The perfect soulmate? A divine comfort? The feeling of belonging? Who knows for sure. Each individual is on his or her own quest. The truth may be that all we find in the end is ourselves. That's where we need to explore. Let's step back for a moment and look internally, shall we? If we are indeed all we have, then maybe thats where our love should start. Self-love has been said to be the most difficult, courageous, and frightening thing to attempt. If you are reading this and thinking "bring me a barf bag", perhaps this is just what you need to hear. Why is it so difficult to talk about loving ourselves and so easy to point out the parts of us that we hate and wish to alter? True love for ourselves and true happiness go hand in hand. We need to realize that we are not defected. We are perfect just as we are right now. Take time to say that each day even if we don't believe it to be true. A world opens up of unconditonal compassion and love for others when we learn to embrace the "good" and "bad" in ourselves, give up the idea of perfection, and embrace our ugliness along with our kindness. By bringing down our own barriers to loving ourselves, we learn to love others easier without judging or critiquing. A lightheartedness occurs within us and shines forth. Letting go of what we demand on ourselves and others makes room for all kinds of new possibilities for love and friendship. Take time out of the day to sit in silence and, with discernment, determine where your barriers to self-love lie. Once one begins to love oneself wholeheartedly, that love extends out to all. It is experienced as loving-kindness.

Dr. Dan Siegal, a clinical Professor of Psychiatry, speaks on how to develop an internal relationship with oneself.

Loving-Kindness Practice

Say this phrase to yourself each day upon awakening. Once you are able to do so without feeling like you need to hold back, begin to direct it to someone you care for deeply. Advance this to someone you find to be difficult, and then include everyone in your small world eventually wishing well upon all beings. Most individuals find this difficult at first. This is OK. Don't be afraid to explore your mind.

May I be Happy. May I be Healthy. May I be Safe. May I be free of Suffering.

May all beings be Happy. May all beings be Healthy. May all beings be Safe. May all beings be free of Suffering.

Fitness: Yoga

Winter is the perfect time to improve the body’s flexibility and strength. It’s too easy to slip into a sedentary, indoor routine during the winter which can obviously have negative effects on your health. Being too sedentary and gaining “winter weight” can compress tissue/intervertebral disks, inhibit circulation, and can manifest muscular imbalances. One of the best ways to help avoid settling into this routine is the ancient Dravidian tradition of Yoga. Adding yoga to your winter routine can help decompress the spine, allowing the intervertebral discs to rehydrate as well as improve circulation of vascular tissue.

These are a few guided yoga videos that can be of great help for beginners. Included is a video that focuses on opening ones heart. This is a great addition to loving-kindness practice.

NAMASTE

The divine light within me sees the divine light within you.

Nutrition: Heart Health

Although it may seem obvious that eating certain foods can increase your risk for heart disease, it can be challenging to curb your eating habits. Whether you have unhealthy eating habits or you want to make minor adjustments, below are a handful of heart-healthy diet tips.

1. Control your portion size: How much you eat is just as important as what you eat. Try using a small plate or bowl to help control portions. Eat larger portions of low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, and smaller portions of high-calorie, high-sodium foods, such as refined, processed, or fast foods.

2. Eat more fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables contain substances found in plants that may help prevent cardiovascular disease. Keep these foods washed and cut for convenient snacking. Choose recipes that have fruits and vegetables as the main ingredient like stir-fry or fresh fruits mixed into salads.

3. Eat whole grains: Whole grains provide a good source of fiber and other nutrients that help regulate blood pressure and cardiovascular health. Substitute refined grain products (i.e., white bread, muffins, doughnuts etc.) for whole grain foods (i.e., whole-grain bread, oatmeal, quinoa etc.).

4. Limit unhealthy fats: Reducing the amount of saturated and trans fat you eat can help lower cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of coronary artery disease. An easy way to accomplish this is to limit the amount of solid fats, like butter, margarine and shortening when cooking. Additionally, choose lean meats and/or trim the fat off of meat before preparing it. Read food labels. Many snacks labeled "reduced fat" are made with oils containing trans fats. One clue that a food has some trans fat in it is the phrase "partially hydrogenated" in the ingredient list. When you do use fats, choose monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil or canola oil. Polyunsaturated fats, found in certain fish, avocados, nuts and seeds are also good choices for a heart healthy diet. Remember, moderation is essential. All types of fats are high in calories.

5. Choose low-fat protein sources: Lean meat, poultry, fish, and low-fat dairy products are excellent sources of protein. If you're looking to substitute plant protein for animal protein, legumes, beans, peas, and lentils are high in protein and contain less fat and cholesterol than animal protein foods. Try substituting a soy or bean burger for a hamburger!

6. Reduce the sodium in your food: Increased levels of sodium can contribute to high blood pressure which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends healthy adults have no more than 2,300mg of sodium per day (about a teaspoon of salt). People age 51 and older, African-Americans, and people who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease should not have more than 1,500mg of sodium per day. Much of the salt from the average diet comes from processed foods such as soups, frozen dinners, and snacks. Substituting these foods for home-made soups and stews and eating fresh foods will reduce your overall intake of sodium.

7. Meal prep: Create daily menus that emphasize fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Choose lean protein or plant-based protein sources, healthy fats, and limit salty foods. Watch your portion sizes and add variety to your menu choices.

8. Indulge a bit: Allow yourself an occasional treat. If overindulgence is the exception, rather than the rule, you'll balance things out over the long term. The important thing is that you eat healthy foods most of the time. Heart healthy eating is doable and enjoyable. You'll feel better, look better, and your heart will thank you!

Supplements

Research has shown the average American diet is often lacking in several essential nutrients, including calcium, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, and D. Many people take supplements to replace nutrients not received by dietary consumption but also with the goal of added health benefits - a safeguard to combat disease. Although it sounds like a quick fix, supplements don't necessarily guarantee better health. In fact, some supplements can be dangerous, especially if taken in excess of the daily recommended amount.

Many studies have reported dietary supplements can help prevent various diseases including cancer, diabetes, depression, strokes, and other cardiovascular events. As promising as these studies sound, most are not based on evidence. Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School states, "Often the enthusiasm for these vitamins and supplements outpaces the evidence. When the rigorous evidence is available from randomized controlled trials, often the results are at odds with the findings of the observation studies." Additionally she states, "People who take supplements tend to be more health conscious, exercise more, eat healthier diets, and have a whole host of lifestyle factors that can be difficult to control in the statistical models." Some supplements that were found to have health benefits in observational studies turned out, with more rigorous testing, to be not only ineffective but also risky. Vitamin E, which was initially thought to protect the heart, was later discovered to increase the risk for strokes. Folic acid and other B vitamins were once believed to prevent heart disease and strokes. Later studies revealed these benefits were not confirmed and actually raised concerns that high doses of these nutrients might increase cancer risk.

The bottom line is we need a variety of nutrients each day to stay healthy. The source of these nutrients is important and the key is to eat a balanced diet. According to Penny Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., R.D., "Nutritionists recommend food first because foods provide a variety of vitamins and minerals and also dietary factors that are not found in a vitamin or mineral supplement." Fruits, vegetables, fish, and other healthy foods contain nutrients and other substances not found in a pill, which work together to keep us healthy. If you're deficient in some areas despite efforts to eat healthy, supplements can help. It's important to remember that they are supplements, not replacements and are best taken with the supervision and recommendation from a healthcare professional. Below are common food sources of nutrients:

Calcium: Milk, yogurt, tofu, spinach, kale. Folic acid: Fortified cereal, spinach, lentils. Iron: Oysters, chicken liver, turkey. Omega-3: Salmon, flaxseed, walnuts, soybeans. Fatty acids: Walnuts, soybeans. Vitamin A: Sweet potato, spinach, carrots, cantaloupe, tomatoes. Vitamin C: Citrus fruits (i.e., orange, grapefruit), kiwi, mango, pineapple. Vitamin D: Salmon, tuna, yogurt, fortified milk, cheese

Monthly Quote

"When we practice loving-kindness and compassion we are the first ones to profit."- Rumi

Credits:

Created with images by Riedelmeier - "castles fence love" • storebukkebruse - "Todays picture of Love" • Unsplash - "taj mahal india building" • skeeze - "valentine food heart decoration" • etheriel - "heart stone pebbles"

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