Journaling

Not In Time

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Last week I mentioned that my step-father was on hospice and I was soon to be traveling to see him and my mother.  I was too late.  I will now and forever will refer to him as my father.  He was much, much more to me than just a father.

I am thankful to have had a week with them this past January.

They loved to camp as often as they could and they did camp right up to the end of this summer until his breathing made it impossible for one last camping trip they always had before the rain and snow.

His name is John, my father:

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This is my mother, Ginger:

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My father had an infectious laugh.  You know, the kind of laugh that makes you laugh no matter what the laughter is about.  He passed away on Tuesday night, in my mother’s arms as she was helping him into his wheelchair to get to the bathroom.  They were alone when this happened and trust me, it devastated my mother.  I am still going to Oregon on the 1st of November.  My mother needs me there, yet thankfully my aunt is with her now.  Her grief is beyond words.  They were married over 28 years and were best friends, true soul mates in every possible way.  Their love reminds me of the love I share with my husband.  I cannot imagine losing my husband and I cannot fathom the pain my mother is dealing with.

There are many stages of grief and each has its own time for every person.  No matter, the pain stays. It is not always so fresh and sharp, but it never goes away, that loss.  This blog is not about that.  Just a brief post about such pain, that I wasn’t in time to see him one last time, to feel his hug and hear his laughter, the deep pain of missing the one who is no longer with you and of being left behind.

I plan on writing a memoir of my father, in separate chapters.  With pictures.  It is a work coming.  And I will share it here.  It is a remarkable story, their love story, and how I met him before my mother did.  (I set the whole thing up!)  That first chapter will be titled, “The day I met my step-father, he gave me a 10.”

Love those you love fiercely today.  Do not put off what you do not have to.  For now, my concern is caring for my mother and staying close during this most difficult time of extreme grief.

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What If’s

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It seems to me, at least this morning, that worry equates to “what if’s.”  I have been fortunate in my life in that I have never lost someone  intimately close to me before.  Everyone I love is living, including my 94 year-old grandmother.

Things are changing, because I am getting older.  So is everyone else.

My step father was recently placed on hospice.  The inevitable is coming, and it could be any time.  I will be flying to Oregon in two weeks to spend time with my mother and my step father, also helping out any way I possibly can during these four days.

I have been filled with worry for my mother.  All the what if’s.  Like, what if my step father passes while I am there?  What if my mother completely falls apart?  I am very concerned about her living alone so far away in their little house in the country.  You know, all the important what if’s.  Of course, they are all important, right?

But…God.  I was reminded this morning by His heart nudging mine that He is God regardless of what is going on.  He is faithful.  He provides.  He does not change.  He is good and He knows the future.  He is God and He changes not.  My job (our job) is to remind ourselves, nourish our own souls by these truths (His truths) and to rest in His care, His promises.

Letting-Go

I am leaving my “what if’s” in His hands this morning.  This is a continual, daily process.  A choice I must make.  He changes not.  He has never failed me before (nor anyone else I know) and He never will.  We can go through our lives worrying and fretting, praying and picking up the burdens again, but regardless, God is God and He is faithful.  Our jobs are to remind ourselves, “work out our salvation,” feed our spirits with His truths and trust that He has everything under control that concerns us and those we love.

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Homelessness: Desperation, Addiction or Scammers?

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I live in a relatively small coastal town.  It is not unusual to bump into people you know where ever you may be.  It is also very easy to recognize the homeless: new panhandlers and regulars.  Over the years I have learned how to recognize the differences between true homelessness and its desperation, as well as those sign holders who make their living for their addiction or even the liars, cheats, lazy scammers.

It completely pisses me off infuriates me when I see how many scammers and addicts have taken over our parking lot exit ways and streets.  I used to feel so sorry for them all until my encounter with the deaf-mute man at Jack in the Box many, many years ago.  I will get to that in a minute.  But, what really irritates me is our city police who do nothing about this growing epidemic.  We have an ordinance against such panhandling, yet these lowlifes people are everywhere…so are the cops, who choose to ignore.

Let me share some photos that pull at my heart strings (possibly yours as well):

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Those who do not hold a sign, but rather bring their pets (my heart turns to mush over animals) and a bucket/container.  I always imagine their story.

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^How about the ones WITH a sign, bundled up in blankets WITH their pet(s)?  This always makes me sad…for the dog.

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Now, we move forward into the audacity of some.  Some idiots people will actually give money to these types because they think their nerve is funny or others even applaud their honest acknowledgement that the money they receive will be for booze or drugs.  These type of sign holders truly anger me, and I feel disgust over the many who support their lifestyle.

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^Ever seen one of these?  I have seen a few in our town.  It greatly bothers me when I see such sign holders because our children can see them, the children who are at the age of reading well for themselves. Not cool.

Moving on, I appreciate the people who hold signs like this:

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or even this:

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…yet, I will NOT give them a penny.  They are willing to trade a service for food.  Really?  Sometimes I have given them a Happy meal.  Or offer them a job.  Most of them have turned down any job offered because “they can make more money holding a sign for a few hours.”  Seriously?  THAT infuriates me.  And we cater to this epidemic.

How about this one:

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These type of sign holders like to make you feel guilty or recount a scriptural truth concerning blessings.  Many religious people who love God will give to these types.  Panhandlers truly have learned the art in how to manipulate us all in some way or another.

Anyway, on to the Jack in the Box deaf-mute man, who I was pleasured to meet many years ago when I drove through Jack in the Box with my kids for milkshakes.  He greeted me at the order window holding a sign made out of cardboard which read:

“PLEASE HELP.  CAR BROKE DOWN ON WAY TO AIRPORT.  HELP MY FAMILY HAVE A HOTEL FOR TONIGHT.  I CANNOT SPEAK OR HEAR.”

As I was reading the sign he held in front of him, he was using hand gestures and facial expressions to pull my heart strings.  I gave him all the cash in my wallet (I think it was about $16) and used my debit card to pay for our milkshakes.  I also bought the deaf-mute man milkshakes for his entire family (family of six).  My kids and I felt so good and were just glowing during the drive home, feeling like we had helped this family.

Well…it was about two weeks later my kids wanted another milkshake and as we entered that same Jack in the Box driveway I saw the deaf-mute man once again.  Except this time, he did not see me.  He was hanging out with a group of sign-holders under a tree towards the back of the parking lot with their camper.  He was quite vocal.  He could also hear quite well.  He was even listening to tunes with ear buds, rocking out.  I spied on him for a few moments and my kids were dumbfounded as pissed as I was.  He was laughing and seemed to be having a great time conversing with the others.  I saw red!  I did all the math and felt so dumb.  I had been completely fooled by a “scammer.”

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Since then, I have a somewhat guarded heart and attitude towards sign holders.  I have seen documentaries about their addictions.  I have learned all about their “ways.”  There are so many resources in our county (as well as all over the United States) for the homeless including shelters, food pantries and meals provided through various churches and centers, our public schools serve lunches during the summer to ANYONE, the ACE program provides medical care, and we have donation sites everywhere.  Truly, if you are homeless in my town you CAN find a bed, clothing, food, shelter and opportunities for rehabilitation and jobs.  We have a few transitional housing centers to help families get back on their feet.  There is even a “river community” of people who are provided services for their needs- they live in our local river bottoms.  Usually when we give money to a sign holder or panhandler, we are only enabling them and feeding a bad habit/addiction.

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But…what about our heart strings?  My own has come to recognize the truly needy, the ones who do not hold signs, the ones who strive everyday to find hope.  We can be that hope sometimes.  Not in an enabling way, but rather much like a guardian angel whose paths cross with such at a particular moment in time.  I have crossed paths with one particular man over the years and just the other night.  He has a shopping cart filled with what little belongings he owns, covered with a blue tarp.  He slumps terribly.  He is very dirty and always sunburned.  He never holds a sign, he never asks for anything.  He just walks.  Sometimes he rests.  He travels miles in one day.  I wonder where his destinations are?  His clothing and shoes reflect he cares about his appearance even if he cannot locate a shower.  His hair is trimmed neatly.  A few years ago I passed to him a Von’s gift card I had received worth $25.  His eyes danced.  They even sparkled.  I KNEW hope came to him that day. I saw him again the other night when I was getting gas.  Once again I felt that urgency and pull in my heart to give him what cash I had in my wallet.  I found a $10 dollar bill.  It was as if he recognized me when I handed it to him and said, “God bless you.”  His eyes danced and sparkled again.  He was so thankful.  I KNEW he was so thankful.

Only we can decipher between true homelessness desperation, addiction, enabling or the scammers.  Follow your heart, but try not to let it be manipulated.  Let go of guilt, because there are resources available.  I know I am thankful every single day for what I have.  I take nothing for granted, honestly.

So, when your heart strings are pulled, let the song play.  Otherwise, grab a milkshake once in awhile for you and your own family.

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The Three R’s

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Rest is an important part of a healthy lifestyle for ALL ages.  It rejuvenates your body and mind, regulates your mood, and is linked to learning and memory function.  On the other hand, not getting enough rest can negatively affect your mood, immune system, memory, and stress level.

The three R’s for maintaining a healthy lifestyle have nothing to do with natural resources and waste management, although those are GREAT things to practice for the environment (reduce, reuse and recycle).  Rather, most importantly, the three R’s that need to be a part of our lives consistently are rest, rejuvenate and renewal.

* * * * *

Rest

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1. Make time for down time.  Consider a leisurely walk or a 5-minute mini meditation.  Just close your eyes and focus only on your breathing for 5 minutes.

2. Follow a routine.  Consider waking up 10 minutes early each day for some simple stretches to start your day rather than jumping into high-speed mode.  Stretch and wind down before bed each night.

3. Give your mind a break.  Consider participating in an activity that directs your mind to full attention on that task.  Fully “be in the moment,” which will give your mind a mental break from a nagging “to do” list.

Rejuvenate

Rejuvenation

1. Schedule your “me” time.  If we don’t take the time to step back from the chaos, even a few minutes each day, and rejuvenate that emotional energy, we soon run out.  We crash.  Carve out a few minutes EACH DAY to catch up with friends, paint your nails, read, go for a jog, or even just meditate.  That small moment can refill your emotional bucket and ready you for the evenings’ madness.

2. Journal.  Take 15 minutes to think of the positives in your day or something you look forward too.  Write.  Practice gratitude.  Being thankful truly is a natural stress-buster and antidepressant.

3. Splurge and get a massage.  Not only will this ease sore muscles and release stress toxins from your body, but you will feel refreshed, rejuvenated and ready for life!

Renewal

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1. Get creative.  Creative renewal is such an important part of the creative process.  Every mind goes stale after a while.  You need to empty your cup.   Do you paint?  Start an outline or watercolor.

2. Enjoy the outdoors!  Turn on the Discovery channel or tune into David Attenborough or repeats of the late Steve Irwin to get enthused about this wonderful world you inhabit.  Better yet, get out into your garden or the local park.  Go hiking.  Get down on the grass and watch the ants.  Follow a butterfly or gaze closely at a pretty flower.

3. Embrace your hobbies!  Pleasures can bring a lift to your mood.  Because hobbies generally incorporate pleasures into your life, maintaining hobbies can be good for your overall sense of joy in life.  As well, gratifications can lead to a reduction in stress and a sense of well-being, and hobbies are usually experienced as gratifications.  If you want more happiness and less stress experiences in your life, hobbies provide a direct route to gratifications that can lead to this.

* * * * *

The three R’s are just as important as maintaining a good diet and exercise for our overall well-being, and quite necessary for our joy and health.

Wishing you all a rejuvenating weekend,

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The Ascent: Climbing that Mountain!

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I am so happy right now!  Why?  My husband has told me for the past two days how pretty I look, repeatedly has asked me what did I do different, on and on.  This morning he commented that I am “getting skinny” and he sees the difference “in my face.”  Wow.  Looking back through photographs, I see (and cringe) that I had developed a “fat face.”  More like, “wino” cheeks.  If I offend anyone by using “fat” terms here, I somewhat apologize, but it is what it is: truth.  Over the past couple years I had gained a whopping 30-plus pounds!  Put that on a 5’3″ frame, trust me it is noticeable!

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My husband is the sweetest man.  He has NEVER told me I was heavy, I was gaining weight, that I looked fat, or that I was no longer appealing to him.  Did I mention that he is also a very smart man!  We know the truth when we look in the mirror, don’t we?  We see ourselves naked after stepping out the shower and it feels awful when we can no longer fit comfortably into our clothes, or at all.  It’s not so funny after awhile when we have to graduate into “big girl” jeans and joke about it to family or friends.  We know and we want to hide.  The worst thing possible would be hearing it from others.

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My husband spoke such encouragement to me this morning by choosing the right words to cheer me on: he complimented the changes rather than remarked about my past weight.  I am so very blessed.  I will FOREVER remember the words he chose to coach me forward with my goals.

The ascent is so worth the painful steps, and the most important step is making a decision for change.  Have you considered taking that first baby step yet?  I promise you, you will never regret it or turn back.  The long-term benefits to your health far outweigh immediate gratification.

I encourage you to consider these ten steps for changes you desire.  This is where I started:

1.  Step on the scale first thing in the morning and note your weight.  Wait two weeks or try to be patient and wait until 30 days have passed to weigh yourself again.

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2.  Take your measurements (chest, both arms, waist, hips and both thighs).

3.  Use a calendar and a journal- document your weight and measurements and pick a start day (why not today?) for a 30-day goal.  (Set 30-day increment goals and watch what happens!)  *Be consistent, this is a lifestyle change, not a quick fix plan.

4.  Track your calories!  Do not approximate!  Write down your meals and snacks in a journal, or rather, grab a free application for your smart phone or computer.  It really does not take much extra time and is such a very important tool.  From here you can determine calorie allowance based on your body and weight loss desires.

5.   Exercise!  Preferably, pick something you enjoy.  Try to get in 30 minutes every day.  Yes, every day.  But, listen to your body.  If you are really tired out or sore, give yourself a rest, but do try to work through muscle soreness.  If you cannot get to the gym or afford a gym membership, why not try some fitness DVD’s you can use at home?  Consider walking.  Grab a workout buddy.  Move and stretch each and every day and journal how you feel and also how you sleep.

6.  Drink your water.  Hydrate daily.

7.  Do not give up!  If you have a down day, dust off and begin again.  Never feel or be defeated.

8.  Remember the six meal rule: Breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, mid-day snack, dinner, evening snack.  Eat more fruits and vegetables.

9. Watch your alcohol intake!  (See my story here: http://wp.me/p35YUS-wT)

10.  Allow a flex meal per week AND make time to relax!  Remember also how important sleep is to your weight loss program.

* * * * *

Lastly, seriously consider joining a challenge group (http://wp.me/P35YUS-gz).  The accountability, intimacy, coaching and friendships built have been priceless tools for my success, as well as so many others I have met along my journey, and I have no doubt they would also benefit you with your goals.

In ending, I am celebrating.  Since I have been involved with a challenge group, changed my eating habits and wine consumption, added Shakeology to my diet and consistently make exercise a part of my life, I have lost over 16 pounds since the beginning of this year and I feel FABULOUS!  My RA pain levels have disappeared and I have so much energy.  I am the product of the product, thus I am sharing with you!

Climb that mountain, I dare you!

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Painful Truth?

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Today I am sharing a fantastic blog by Denise Shroka Sanger from “How to Stay Fit Over 50” that discusses times from yesterday (gotta love those years!) and excuses of today.

I really encourage you to be inspired, even though the truth may sting a bit.  Oh, and you should go check out this blog site.  Really you should.  I have listed the link below.

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If You Are Going To Make Excuses, Don’t Start An Exercise Program

by on APRIL 11, 2013

Okay – I will admit it.  I have a pet peeve about people who make excuses for ANYTHING but more so when it effects your health as in diet and an exercise program.  Being born at a time when mom still stayed at home and dad worked, we didn’t just get anything we wanted.  If we wanted something, we worked for it because bottom line, there wasn’t any extra money.  You figured it out and you made it happen.   We had a roof over our heads, food in our bellies and dad saved enough money to go on vacation one time a year and vacation for many families at the time was just not possible.  It is the same thing with exercise.  I myself can come up with A LIST OF EXCUSES but I don’t.  I make the time and just do it and when I’ve finished I feel wonderful.

Granted growing up when we did (those of us in our 50′s, near our 50′s or over our 50′s), we tend to view the world just a little bit different.  We walked to and from school, came home changed out of our “school” clothes into our “play clothes” and after homework was done, outside we went.  In for dinner then back outside but had to have our butts in the door or at least the yard by the time the street lights came on.   TV had 3 stations originally and we watched what our parents watched.  Personally, I remember playing outside until the last possible minute before coming in the house.  We didn’t have 500+ stations, computers, IPads, XBoxes, streaming video, video games, and everything else that keeps us sitting in the house on the couch these days.

I think because we do tend to view the world through the eyes we grew up with, we don’t take things for granted.  If you want something, you work your butt off to get it.  I started working when I was 12 cutting grass in the neighborhood.  Why? I wanted a new bike and yes I got that bike by saving my money.  Was it easy?  No it was not but boy was it worth it when I got to ride my new yellow 10 speed bike :)

It’s the same way with fitness. You must make the choice to select healthy foods when you are in the grocery store or at the restaurant.  You must make the time to workout. Yes, we are all busy with different aspects of our lives but if you truly want to be fit, get up and do something.  Tied up after work?  How about getting up just 30 minutes earlier in the morning?  Watching the kids or grandkids?  Take them to the park and play WITH them – don’t sit on the bench and watch them and worse yet? Don’t sit on the couch and watch TV for 3 hours with them – get up, get out and move.

Work is too busy?  Seriously?  Making money for someone else is more important than your health?  TAKE your lunch and go out for a walk.  Working through lunch is not a good thing for so many reasons with your health being at the top of the list. I know how that goes because I used to do it.  I used to put the company I worked for ahead of my family and my health and where did it get me? Working 60+ hours a week, working Saturday’s, eating lunch at my desk and overweight, grumpy and not spending enough time with my kids.   That 4% raise I got? So not worth the time I traded away from MY life, MY family and MY kids and now I’m self employed and will NEVER go back to the way it was and that was just a short 5 years ago. (Ask me how I did it – that’s a whole other topic but when you want it, you work for it until you get it.)

Bottom line is if YOU don’t make the time to put your health and fitness at the top of the list as a priority, no one will do it for you. How many more excuses do you have?

Stop Making Excuses Stop Making Excuses

Eating for our brains

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Food doesn’t just feed our bodies, it also nourishes our minds. If you are living with mental illness, eating well is especially important for you, because what you eat can affect your daily life, mood and energy level.

A healthy diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fat-free or low-fat milk products and should include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts.

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Healthy eating helps me to have more energy throughout the day and makes me feel better about myself in general. When I overindulge or eat junk food, it literally weighs me down and makes me want to go to sleep.  I love food, so I adapt healthier versions of my favorite meals and, of course, I treat myself once in a while.  I also eat smaller meals throughout the day to keep from overeating.  At first, it’s difficult to go from 3 huge meals to 6 tiny ones, but now I love it.  I can sample a variety of different foods and I’m never hungry because I know my next meal is right around the corner.

~Kerry M.
Living with Mental Illness

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Warnings about sugar

According to research, diets containing high amounts of refined sugar are associated with worsening symptoms of schizophrenia and a higher rate of depression. Current research recommends that you limit your sugar consumption to around 10 percent of total energy (or calorie) intake. Other dietary options such as fish, seafood and starchy roots provide a healthier energy-gaining alternative and are associated with reducing the prevalence of depression.

Keep a food journal

Are you even eating?  The answer 95 percent of the time is no, some people suffering with mental illness were actually fooling themselves.  It’s only when individuals are asked to write down everything they eat and drink that the true story is told.  Make sure to record the time of day and emotions surrounding your food choices.  Anorexia is also a form of mental illness and some patients claim that they have “hardly eaten anything at all” (Kirkpatrick, 2010).

Healthy brain foods

Diet is inextricably linked to conditions such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. However, what we consume also seems to have significant implications for the brain: Unhealthy diets may increase risk for psychiatric and neurologic conditions, such as depression and dementia, whereas healthy diets may be protective.

Make for Malta in Depression, Stroke, and Dementia

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A 2009 study published in Archives of General Psychiatry found that people who follow Mediterranean dietary patterns -that is, a diet high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish, and unsaturated fat (common in olive and other plant oils) – are up to 30% less likely to develop depression than those who typically consume meatier, dairy-heavy fare.  The olive oil-inclined also show a lower risk for ischemic stroke and are less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer disease, particularly when they engage in higher levels of physical activity.

Fat: The Good and the Bad

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A study conducted in Spain reported that consumption of both polyunsaturated fatty acids (found in nuts, seeds, fish, and leafy green vegetables) and monounsaturated fatty acids (found in olive oil, avocados, and nuts) decreases the risk for depression over time. However, there were clear dose-response relationships between dietary intake of trans fats and depression risk, whereas other data support an association between trans fats and ischemic stroke risk. Trans fats are found extensively in processed foods, including many commercial chocolates. A deficiency in polyunsaturated fatty acids has been linked to attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children.

Fish Oil to Fend Off Psychosis?

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Thanks to their high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, namely omega-3 fatty acids, fish can help fend off numerous diseases of the brain. A 2010 study correlated fish consumption with a lower risk for psychotic symptoms, and concurrent work suggested that fish oil may help prevent psychosis in high-risk individuals. Although data are conflicting, new research shows that the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid are beneficial in depression and postpartum depression, respectively, and other research suggests that omega-3 deficiency may be a risk factor for suicide. Oily, cold-water fish, such as salmon, herring, and mackerel, have the highest omega-3 levels.

Berries for Oxidative Stress

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Polyphenols, namely anthocyanins, found in berries and other darkly pigmented fruits and vegetables may slow cognitive decline through antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. A study in rats from 2010 showed that a diet high in strawberry, blueberry, or blackberry extract leads to a “reversal of age-related deficits in nerve function and behavior involving learning and memory.” In vitro work by the same group found that strawberry, blueberry, and acai berry extracts – albeit in very high concentrations -can induce autophagy, a means by which cells clear debris, such as proteins linked to mental decline and memory loss. Berry anthocyanins may also reduce cardiovascular disease risk by reducing oxidative stress and attenuating inflammatory gene expression.

Alcohol: Always in Moderation

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The Greeks touted “nothing in excess,” a refrain that still rings true: Low to moderate alcohol consumption has been associated with numerous potential physiologic benefits, including improved cholesterol profiles, beneficial effects on platelet and clotting function, and improved insulin sensitivity.  According to a recent meta-analysis, limited alcohol use is associated with a lower risk for overall and Alzheimer dementia, a finding supported by a 2011 study of German primary care patients.  Moderate alcohol intake may also protect against cerebrovascular disease, with wine potentially having added benefit because of its polyphenolic antioxidant components (ie, resveratrol). However, the health costs of alcohol consumption beyond low to moderate intake can quickly outweigh benefits to the brain, as heavy and long-term alcohol use can lead to alcohol abuse and dependence, impair memory function, contribute to neurodegenerative disease, and hinder psychosocial functioning.

*The US Food and Drug Administration defines “moderate alcohol consumption” as up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. One drink is equivalent to 12 fluid ounces of regular beer, 5 fluid ounces of 12% alcohol wine, or 1.5 fluid ounces of distilled spirits.

Rewed Awakening: Coffee for Depression and Stroke

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The world’s most widely used stimulant might do more than just wake us up: A 2011 meta-analysis found that consumption of 1-6 cups of coffee a day cut stroke risk by 17%.  Although it may increase blood pressure, coffee beans contain antioxidant compounds that may reduce oxidation of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and coffee consumption has also been associated with increased insulin sensitivity and reduced concentrations of inflammatory markers.  Another 2011 study reported that women who drink 2-3 cups of coffee per day have a 15% decreased risk for depression, compared with those who drink less than 1 cup per week. A 20% decreased risk was seen in those who drank 4 cups or more. The short-term effect of coffee on mood may be due to altered serotonin and dopamine activity, whereas the mechanisms behind its potential long-term effects on mood may relate to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, both factors that are thought to play a role in depressive illnesses.

Chocolate — and Still More Antioxidants

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Chocolate — the darker the better — seems to help scavenge free radicals and improve endothelial and platelet function, likely via flavanols (such as catechin), a group of plant-derived polyphenols. A 2010 cohort study published in European Heart Journal found that consumption of 6 g of chocolate daily – a standard Hershey bar weighs 43 g – was associated with a 39% lower combined risk for myocardial infarction and stroke in adults, whereas data collected from the Swedish Mammography Cohort demonstrated a 20% decreased risk for stroke in women who regularly consume chocolate. Although chocolate has been associated with a positive influence on mood, possibly mediated by the dopamine and opioid systems, an extensive review by Parker and colleagues suggests that the benefits are not sustained, with emotional “comfort” eating actually contributing to depressed mood.

What Not to Eat?

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Saturated fats and refined carbohydrates have highly detrimental effects on the immune system, oxidative stress, and neurotrophins, all factors that are known to play a role in depression. The study by Akbaraly and colleagues cited previously showed that a diet rich in high-fat dairy foods and fried, refined, and sugary foods significantly increases risk for depression. Similar findings were seen in another study from Spain, showing that intake of such foods as pizza and hamburgers increased the risk for depression over time, and in another study, women with a diet higher in processed foods were more likely to have clinical major depression or dysthymia.  Research published last year also showed for the first time that quality of adolescents’ diets was linked to mental health: healthier diets were associated with reduced mental health symptoms and unhealthy diets with increased mental health symptoms over time. Excess salt intake has been long known to increase blood pressure and stroke risk; however, recent data also correlate high salt intake, as well as diets high in trans or saturated fats, with impaired cognition.

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Much time and research went into presenting this blog concerning eating for our mental health and wellness.  The references found were numerous; please feel free to share this information and check the validity of diet truths I have chosen to share with you.

Lastly, I wish to share a very special blog written by my brother, who has drastically changed his life and mental wellness by changing his diet.  He’s a great guy who I love with all my heart.  There is truth to this “eating for our brains” and such hope.   Please go check out his article here: http://journeytohealth.posterous.com/physical-health-nutrition-and-mental-health-a.  You can also find him on Facebook here:  https://www.facebook.com/letsjourneytohealth?fref=pb.

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Wishing you a blessed day,

Wendy

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References

 

Kirkpatrick, K. (2010)  Food Diary.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kristin-kirkpatrick-ms-rd-ld/how-writing-everything-do_b_780535.html

Medical Brain Disorders~The Benefits of Exercise

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One very important and often highly neglected treatment of a variety of medical brain disorders is exercise.  Daily exercise.  I cannot stress how important this is, yet maintaining consistency with exercise when dealing with mental illness is extremely difficult.  Some days, many people cannot even get out of bed.  Other people are terrified of being in public places (which eliminates a gym or an outdoor walk).

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One way to get moving each day and to stay at it is to have an accountability buddy.  A family member, close friend or even a support group are some wonderful examples to get needed support for a daily exercise regime, especially if you are suffering from depression or anxiety disorders.  Try not to do this alone.  Make it fun and do not be afraid to ask for support.

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The importance of mood-tracking journals are tools in helping manage certain mood disorders, but so is keeping an exercise journal.  Note each day how you feel before and after exercise, your strength levels, energy improvements, how you sleep each night, and especially any changes to your moods and overall look upon life.   I believe you will find that keeping a journal will document amazing and positive results!
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Movement is so good for the body, spirit and mind. Activity and exercise are very important for people living with mental illness.  Most of all, try to find an exercise activity you really enjoy!  Individuals living with mental illness often have a higher risk for heart disease, and exercise can play a key part in a wellness plan. Activity and exercise are great ways to combat factors that are part of heart disease risk, stress, high blood pressure, weight gain and diabetes-all problems commonly found among people living with mental illness. Did you know that exercise plays a key part in elevating your mood and regulating sleep patterns?

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The benefits of exercise does make a difference with depression, including severe clinical depression.  Whether you take medication or choose to manage without, an active lifestyle is important for everyone. This is particularly true for those living with schizophrenia and who are on second-generation atypical antipsychotic medication (SGAs) because they are more vulnerable to obesity.

“Exercise is central to my mental health. As a person living with schizophrenia, stress exacerbates my illness, worsening my symptoms such as hallucinations and paranoia. Exercise counteracts the stress, enabling me to see issues clearly, reality test, and judge things more accurately.

Fitness also takes me out of my isolated apartment and into the community. As I interact with people at the gym or along outdoor walks, my torturous inner-voices subside as my mind is distracted by the exercise and more at peace. I began exercising as a competitive runner long before I became ill – and two lessons I learned from those early days that have stayed with me throughout my decade-long struggle with schizophrenia are: “a winner never quits and a quitter never wins” and “there is no finish line.”  ~Lisa H.

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In addition to the countless physical benefits, exercise does have vast psychological benefits. Studies show that exercise can increase the amounts of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin in your brain. The increased levels of neurotransmitters can help treat many disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD, as well as help you to feel more energetic overall.

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Lastly, just having hope in something healthy, positive and inspirational, as well as setting new goals that will bring about feeling good about ourselves are lifelines to those dealing with medical brain disorders.  Today, would you step out in courage, take those baby steps to implement daily exercise into your life, and remember…you are not alone.  If you would like an accountability buddy, just say the word!  I am rooting for you!

Wendy

Happy Jean Day~NCIS

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A few blogs back I mentioned that I had a particularly exciting day off and a very special engagement I  attended, but I realized that morning that all my jeans were in the hamper!  I have two closets: one for the clothes I used to be able to wear and one for the clothes I am wearing now or those that run a little bigger.  I am still on this journey to lose unhealthy fat and I have not reached my goal yet, but I am definitely making progress!  I wondered about the ONE pair of jeans I knew I could not even button and thought may be I could wear a big sweater to hide beneath if ONLY I could get them past my thighs.  I was afraid to even try, but I did.  And guess what!   Not only did these particular jeans fit, I had to wear a belt with them!

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Today is the big day, or rather night!  For any of you NCIS fans out there, tonight will air the show I was present to watch being filmed at our local Embassy Suites Mandalay Bay in Oxnard, California.  I took so many pictures and had the best time ever with the NCIS production crew, Michael Weatherly, Matt Jones…so many others and names I cannot remember right now, but it was the most fun and memorable day ever!  Michael Weatherly IS exactly like very special agent Anthony DiNozzo in real life…full of life and incredible humor.  (And he is just as handsome in real life as on the show!)

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(Yes, this is me with Michael Weatherly and our dear friend Rick)

Matt Jones is a special guest star for tonight’s show, is well known for his role as Badger from Breaking Bad, and so, so, so tall and very nice.

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The best part of my day? Having lunch with Michael Weatherly!  Yes, it’s utterly true!  We had the same thing too (blackened cat fish, salads, cauliflower, grilled brussel sprouts, ice tea).  Oh my gosh is right!Michael Weatherly would not “Gibbs slap” me, but guess who got to feel his hair and Gibbs slap him!

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What an absolutely fun and marvelous day! I LOVE NCIS!!!  Hope you watch it tonight…I was there!

Have a wonderful day,

Wendy

A Pitcher Plant and a Bee

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I love nature.  I crave being outdoors as much as possible, away from computers, fax machines, television, treadmills, the telephone (even the smart phone!) and the hustle and bustle of everyday work days.  Animals, creation, flowers, the wind, order, simplicity, scents…truly it all is amazing.
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Today, after over three hours, I just could not stand it anymore.  I watched the little honey bee venturing into the mouth of one of our pitcher plants.  He was mesmerized by the sweet scent, completely unaware of the long, suffering death he faced.  Once the bee passed over the outer rim or lip of the pitcher mouth, it was all over for the poor guy.  He fought hard to climb up and escape, literally hours at it.
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There is nothing more exciting and suspenseful than watching a pitcher plant devour a bug with your own eyes.  I don’t mind the nasty flies and small “no seeum” bugs being sucked into the pitcher plant’s alluring trap, but this bee was another story.We have two different types of pitcher plants.  Both plants engage in the same eating frenzy. They are great plants to have where you may have a pesky bug or mosquito problem.  The pitcher plant stores up a sweet-smelling juice that literally lures insects into its mouth.  Unfortunately, once the insect is about to sip, they instead slide and fall down the pitcher of the plant into an abyss of fluid, losing energy to climb back up and being overpowered by fate.  This bee wasn’t about to give up his life! The pitcher plant eventually “eats” the insects.  The juice or liquid in a pitcher plant is similar to nectar, which is why an insect such as a bee is attracted so easily to feed, however, the juice contains chemicals similar to our own stomach’s digestive system. Basically, the plant slowly munches away and the insect eventually dissolves, becoming part of the very juice it tried to drink.
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Back to the bee…after watching his struggle all morning long, I just had to help him out.  I gently bent the pitcher down and patiently waited for him to climb out, which he did, and pretty quickly.  Away he flew, and I am really hoping he is thankful for his freedom.   I hope he shares this act of kindness with his friends and I can go the rest of my life without being stung…or worrying about my dog being stung (who is highly allergic to bees!).  What do you think?  Helping this bee actually made my day, one tiny humane effort in this enormous world we live in.  I believe everything makes a difference, do you?
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Today has been a gloriously beautiful day.  Add that it is Friday…
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I am wishing you a wonderful weekend, time for yourself and with those you love, moments of laughter and especially good food, health, and lots of Vitamin D provided by the sunshine!  🙂
Wendy