Spiritual and Emotional Health

Too Blessed To Be Stressed

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A little while ago I saw this license plate on a car sitting in front of me at a stop light:

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Wow!  Doesn’t this make you think? What a wonderful message to the driving world, a declaration of one particular person’s gratitude.  I love it!

Drama and stress do not just walk into your life out of nowhere.  If they do, they are for a season and not supposed to be for a lifetime.  We either create drama and stress, invite it OR associate with people that bring it.  I certainly see this past pattern in my life and know it to be true.

I believe the older we get, the wiser we become, and the less stress and drama we allow in our lives. No matter the things we are facing today or the stress we have already gone through, we can choose to do things differently and begin to count our blessings one-by-one, day-by-day, and amazingly things begin to happen when we do.  Reduction of stress is just one of them!

So, I am sharing these powerful five words with you today.  Go and be too blessed to be stressed!

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New Year’s Delightful Delectable List!

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Happy New Year!  We are eight days into 2014 and I keep re-checking my Weather Bug Application hoping for rain, instead we suffer with gorgeous days (mid 70’s) and it feels more like springtime stepping into summertime than winter.  Indeed, “it never rains in California“…

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Have you thought about your goals or set priorities for 2014?  Did you create a list?  How did you do for 2013?

I have my 2014 goals typed out and posted right at my desk.  We opened our 2013 memory box on New Year’s Eve and thoroughly loved all the memories and thankful scraps of paper notes.  This is such a wonderful activity to do!

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Take a box with a lid or an empty jar, decorate it any way you wish, place it in a frequented place in your home along with a pad of paper and a pen…then all year long make a note (include the date) of a happy moment, a blessing, celebration, a joy, an answered prayer, special occasion, etc., fold your papers and fill your memory box/jar.  Then, on New Year’s Eve (or even New Year’s morning) read each one and be amazed!  My husband and I love looking back on our year this way.

Anyway, I came across a fabulous blog site today.  I loved “10 Tips for an Amazing 2014”  and encourage you to take some time to savor and taste each part of this recipe.  I cannot pick my favorite ingredient, I loved them all, but one that especially spoke to me I will give you a sneak peek:

5 cups of Focus: find what you’re passionate about. Live it. Breathe it. Own it. Focus on it. Do it.  Be all about it. Not sure what you’re passionate about? Make it your goal to focus on finding that out this year.

Go check it out, I promise you will not be disappointed. Thank you, Lauren, for this fantastic recipe!

With love,

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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.

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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.

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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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Be the Moon

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“We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness.”

Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977)
Comedic Actor, Filmmaker, Writer

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Many years ago I came across the most excellent saying I will never forget printed on a shirt worn by an elderly gentleman in his late 70’s.  It was just a plain black tee-shirt with an image of a bright moon, however it was the simple three words that spoke such a powerful reminder: BE THE MOON.

The moon shines in darkness.  So must we, especially during such senseless tragedies as the Boston bombing this week.

We need more random acts of kindness in our world.  Rick Warren recently reminds us that “a crisis depletes your emotions.You must intentionally replenish them. Make a list of what restores you and do those things.”

Let us be the moon for one another.  YOU have many-of-a-somethings others need and would be blessed by.  WE all make such a difference in each others lives.   Let us also remember to nurture ourselves, not selfishly, but lovingly.

There are a million ideas I can think of for just engaging in random acts of kindness where we are today.  I will list just a few and encourage you to make your own list.  Let us “be the moon” today and shine on others, not just during the darkness, but as an example, as a beacon.

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1. Love our families and friends.  Show them.  Hug them.  Tell them.

2. Smile more, especially at strangers.  Make conversation in an elevator.  Wish a passerby a happy day or a blessing.

3. Say I’m sorry.  First.  Regardless of who is wrong.  Make it your mission to restore peace and suck it up!  Squash that pride.  It’s not worth it.

4. Clean up graffiti.  Your time.  Your paint.  Just because.

5. Donate your used books to a library, nursing home or community center.  Grab some extras from thrift stores and donate those too.

6. Buy a homeless person a meal.  Consider a care package for a homeless shelter.

7. Volunteer.  Needs are all around us.  Give of yourself, your time, freely.

8. Let someone go in line in front of you.  Hold the door open for a stranger.

9. Read to a child.  Mentor an at-risk teen.

10. Pay the tab for the person behind you.

11. Return your shopping carts.  This speaks enormous courtesy!

12. Say thank you.  Be thankful.

13.  Words of encouragement.  Offer them.

14. Pick up trash.

15.  Visit an animal shelter or a nursing home.  Just love on them and give your time.

16. Collect canned food or give to a food bank.

17. Donate blood.  Donate used clothing.  Just donate.

18. Share produce with your neighbor.

19. Complain less.  Make someone laugh.

20. Be polite on the road.  Forgive others.

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Wishing you all a beautiful Wednesday and blessings,

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 “What can we do to make the world a better place? That’s the question that should be foremost in    our mind, always. We must be the change.” ~Sandi Krakowski

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

WANTED: More Hours In A Day

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“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”  – James Howell, Proverbs in English, Italian, French and Spanish (1659)

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Over the past few weeks (or longer) I have slowly (and rapidly) been burning out.  Long work days (usually 10 hours and sometimes longer) and online classes with homework leave little time for pleasure or relaxation.  On average, I am in front of the computer approximately 14+ hours each and every single day.  Everything has become chore-like for me lately, even walking, which I love to do.  Same schedule, different day.  Same work out routine, different day.  My time off work is spent working!  I don’t know about you, but this equals severe burn out and feels like a mild depression-induced routine.  In all honesty:  I hate it.

Truly, we all have different crosses we bear.  What do we do when we have a routine like this?  Of course, we all know we must make changes, but what if you cannot make a dent of a change in a full schedule in your life?  I am still experimenting myself.  It is imperative that we MUST make changes eventually.   I know I cannot continue on this type of routine day in and day out without feeling awful mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.  There is just not enough “me” to go around.  A vicious cycle isn’t it?  But, the fact of the matter is: life still happens.  We still have our responsibilities and obligations, our families need us, chores cry out to be finished, our pets are hungry and in need of attention, extra school work on top of an occupation if you are finishing your degree later in life, on and on and on…and there are only so many hours in each day.

Yesterday I had a half day off and I knew I had to do something different to nourish “me” and get back to feeling like my old self.  And I did it!  Spring is here, and the weather has been teasingly beautiful lately (today it is 77 degrees where I live).  I was thinking of naming this blog something like, “how to have “me” time for under $10″ or “can you have fun for less than $10” or even “is it possible to have a great day for little or no cost?”  But, that was not the point in how I spent my day yesterday or what I want to share with you all in this blog now.  Most importantly, I want to share how utterly important it is to have therapeutic time for yourself regardless of an insane daily and weekly schedule.  Is it possible?  I believe it is.  It will take planning and thought and action.  When we become desperate enough, we will look for ways to do this.

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I decided to change  my work out yesterday morning (because my goal was NOT to have a same thing, different day kind of day!).  I started Tony Horton’s 10-Minute Trainer, ABS.  It felt SO good to do something different and really it did kick my butt! I would so recommend this plan for ANYONE with limited time (like me) and the desire for just doing something different with their work outs.

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**Note: You can get the FREE DVD BONUS Workout—Tony’s Fountain of Youth yoga (a $19.95 value)—when you buy 10-Minute Trainer here: http://www.teambeachbody.com/shop/-/shopping/10MinTrainer?referringRepId=208213


(All of this for $79.90, but 10% off this price if you become a club member! Pretty good deal if you ask me!)

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I was now ready for a few hour adventure out of the house.  I am so blessed to live so close to the beach and the mountains.  I decided to take my little dog to a beautiful park at one of our local beaches for a long walk, Marina Beach Park, and have time for playing ball,  just letting the sun shine on my face and enjoy the sounds of the pelicans and scents of the ocean air.  Little did I know we would have a delightful surprise: lots of seals!  My dog has never before seen a seal and this was actually pretty comical.  Was it a dog?  A cat?  A monster?  (We call rats and rodents “monsters”).  Instead, it was a baby seal that was coming closer and closer to us, crying out to his/her mother, and my little dog, Buddy, quivered and growled and stayed put on my lap not sure what to do but protect me!

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Here is part of the pathway we walked:

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Children LOVE this ship:

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My favorite view of the bay side:

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Our next stop was for lunch!  Just me and my dog!  He truly is the PERFECT DATE!  (My husband was at work)

I splurged and had a glass of cold white wine and we shared grilled fish tacos outside on the patio at Duke’s Grill:

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Our delicious & healthy lunch:

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Here is Buddy, lounging on a cushion, runny eyes from the sand, lip sticking to his tooth looking much like a Chupakabra!

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To conclude, I feel so refreshed today because I took some “me” time to relax, play, enjoy, savor very special moments and I also found a pretty rock on the beach that will remind me of this day.  I also ate healthy and had a new work out.   My total bill for this delightful time was $7.08.  Yes, under $10!

Even though it was only a couple hours, it felt like a full day off.  I am a happy girl today and wish you a refreshing moment every day in YOUR life routine!

~The joy of living comes from a heart of thanksgiving.~

Wendy