Electromagnetic Fields (EMF)- Potential Dangers & EMF Safety Tips - Four Directions Wellness

Electromagnetic Fields (EMF): Potential Dangers & EMF Safety Tips

Apple recently announced their newest smartwatch, Apple Watch Series 3. This is truly a miracle of modern technology. It seems like something right out of science fiction novels and movies. Any crime-fighting detective, Dick Tracy, or Star Trek, fans out there? This new generation of Apple Watch brings phone calls and SMS text messages without being tethered to your phone. You can walk around and talk to your friends and family directly from the watch!

However, with anything too good to be true, there has to be a downside to this marvel of technology. Yes, and it’s not just in the Apple Watch; it’s all around us. Everywhere there is technology today it’s present, and it’s called EMF. I’d like to help you in this article understand what EMF is, how dangerous are EMF’s to you and your family, and what are some EMF safety steps you can take for you and your family.

What are EMFs?

Electromagnetic fields (EMF’s or EM fields) are the physical forces exerted on objects around electrically-charged objects. (Fun fact: EMF’s are one of the four fundamental forces of nature, which also include gravitation, and weak and strong interaction.) In our last article on the history of qigong, we discussed that qi is our life force, or as scientists call it, the electrical current or field produced naturally by the body. In essence, you have an EM field and when you’re healthy your cells, and thereby your whole body, emit a minute amount of electromagnetic radiation (EM radiation or EMR). EM radiation is just what it sounds like, the energetic waves caused by your EM field.

Now, your EM field and the EM radiation you present to the world is not harmful. But, that cellphone in your pocket…or the cellular tower outside your home…or your microwave in your kitchen…or the power station in your town…. Now, they may present a problem to your health and wellness.

How dangerous are EMFs?

So, how dangerous are EM radiation from the EMFs of everyday technology around us? It really depends on which scientist, country’s government, global standards organization, or doctor you ask. As the World Health Organization noted in 2000 in its publication, Backgrounder, manmade EMF could potentially cause risk for which current scientific research doesn’t yet have a definitive answer. So, they propose the “precautionary principle” to governments and their people regarding EM radiation, by “reflecting [on] the need to take action for a potentially serious risk without awaiting the results of scientific research.”

There’s so much we don’t know about EM radiation and its effects on humans, especially those more vulnerable, such as children, the elderly, and the immunosuppressed populations. What we do know, is that changes in EMFs’ sister force, gravity, on the human (from astronauts traveling to/from and living on the International Space Station) have dramatic effects on the body. The absence or the increase of gravity on humans clearly demonstrates limitations to space travel without appropriate interventions. If one natural force can so dramatically affect our health, why wouldn’t a force that manipulates our tissue cells?

Further, we are being bombarded with overlapping amounts of the EM radiation daily from multiple sources of “safe” levels of radiation. They are measured in “specific absorption rate” (SAR), or the amount of ionizing radiation (the type that breaks chemical bonds) subjected to a volume of our body’s tissue. While you see the most harmful exposure to EM radiation on bodies as a burn (think a sunburn from UV light’s radiation), some types of radiation, such as infrared radiation’s cause of Glassblower’s cataracts, doesn’t show its effects until years later after repeated exposure to seemingly harmless radiation.

With only the solace that commercial industry-backed studies provided to government agencies, such as our U.S. Federal Communications Commission, show inconclusive evidence, we are left to take precautions ourselves from the potentially dangerous EMF’s and their resulting EM radiation.

What are some EMF safety precautions for you and your family?

Armed with this information about even the potential dangers of EM radiation, what can you do to protect yourself and your family? I have some important techniques for limiting exposure to technologically-produced EMF’s so you can sleep easier at night. (And, yes, EMF’s are known to disrupt sleep as well!)

First, since cellular technology uses low-level microwave radiation waves to communicate, you should keep the body of those devices away from your skin as much as possible. Many experts recommend using a headset plugged into your cellular mobile devices. As well, you can use the hands-free feature of your phone and set it down away from you to have a comfortable conversation without it being pressed against your ear.

Next, think about the placement of cellular towers around your home and work. If they are directed at parts of your home, especially where you congregate for long periods of time (rooms where there are televisions or computers, kitchen/dining rooms, bedrooms, and children’s playrooms), you should think about re-arranging the rooms to those less occupied as reasonably practical. Or, you can also look at some high-tech fabrics to combat EM radiation, that can block some or all of a cellular tower signals from entering your home’s most often occupied rooms. For example, you might draw these EMF curtains closed and power down your phone’s cellular antenna (by placing it in Airplane Mode) while sleeping in your bedroom at night.

If you’re in a low signal area, it’s also best to wait until you reach a stronger signal to take mobile phone calls. When your phone can’t reach a broadband network, it actually increases its strength to the cellular antenna in your phone. This increases the EM radiation emitted from your device. So, when you have better mobile coverage, your phone will emit less signal. Marry that with my first recommendation of using hands-free, a Bluetooth headset, or a wired headset, and you can significantly reduce repeated EM radiation exposure to your body.

Wherever possible, place space between yourself and EM radiation. While you’re using your laptop, place a pillow between your lap and the laptop. Place your baby monitor close enough that you can hear the baby if he or she cries, but don’t place the monitor so that it’s too close or touching the baby (and certainly not near its head). While we’re on the topic of children, whenever possible, turn on Airplane Mode for any device that you hand to your child, or use the WiFi over the broadband cellular connection (as the former is vastly less EM radiation strength-wise than the latter).

And finally, ladies, be sure to find another location to place your cell phone rather than in your sports bra! Some healthcare providers believe the recent uptick in breast cancer is correlated to this current practice.


If you’d like to learn more about EMF and ways to combat it for your health and family’s well-being, check out this useful EMF Resources guide. How do you reduce your EMF exposure for you and your family? Let me know in the comments!  

The History of Qigong - Four Directions Wellness

The History of Qigong

The 1970s were the rebirth of the Kung Fu film and it spread its way to the United States, marked by the success of Hong Kong films, The Chinese Connection (f/k/a The Big Boss) (1971) and Fists of Fury (1972). Both starred Bruce Lee who brought the Kung Fu film appeal to the States.

This unique resurgence of Kung Fu and other martial arts film had an unintended consequence on the American psyche—a hunger for Eastern culture. Westerners started to study the Eastern medical and martial arts practices. Kung Fu martial arts (officially known as Wuxia) schooling became available to Americans. Yoga from India started to break ground. And, from there, Qigong, acupuncture, herbalism, tui na (massage), Reiki, and many other medical practices spurred growth at this time.

In this article, I’d like to focus on the history of Qigong (pronounced chee-kung or chee-gung) and how it developed into the medical Qigong practice of today.

Where did Qigong begin?

Qi refers to the energy or “life force” of all living beings. Contemporary areas of research have identified that it’s actually our bodies’ natural electrical current and electromagnetic field that we create, which is qi. Keeping our qi in harmonious balance keeps us healthy and in an optimal state of performance.

Qigong (also known as qi gong, chi kung, or chi gung) is a system built over time to encompass many different types of physical body trainings for health, spirituality and self-defense (which you can learn more about here by clicking on the “Qigong” tab).

Dating back as early as 26th century B.C., during the reign of the legendary Chinese Yellow Emperor Huangdi, His Majesty assembled Huangdi Neijing, a seminal work on Chinese medicine. While the system was not named yet, many of the tenets of how the body’s qi was manifested, maintained and healed were formally established for Chinese healers to understand.

Fast forward 1,000 years and Emperor Di Yi is supposed to have championed the further use of these Chinese medical practices in his court. Qigong would continue to develop as the ancient practices were refined based on evidence-based approaches of the ancient-turned-contemporary Chinese medical Qigong practitioners in the modern era.

Contemporary events in the history of Qigong

It was during the reign of Mao Zedong in the 1940s, after establishing the People’s Republic of China, that Qigong prospered again as China became unified. Chairman Mao took power and some of his contemporaries in government were healed by Qigong. So, Mao became interested in understanding the science behind these ancient Chinese healing practices, as well as his policy interests in reinvigorating Chinese culture.

By this time, these practices still had no official name, but in 1962, Qigong was coined. Additionally, Qigong is separated into two categories—that which is martial arts, and those which are medical-spiritual practices. You likely know the most popular formalized use of Qigong, Tai Chi Chuan (also known as taiji, taiqi and taichi), the internal martial arts. It’s this combination of flowing movements and breathing, matched with self-defensive techniques, that Qigong would take a backseat to Tai Chi’s popularity in China and eventually abroad.

The religiosity and morality inherent in ancient Qigong were lost for over 4 millennia, but have seen an awakening in groups such as the government-embattled Falun Gong and others. Despite this in China, Qigong has found its roots in the Western World as a health and healing practice on its own today. In Healing and the Mind, Bill Moyers did what Kung Fu films and Bruce Lee piqued our national interests with flying kicks, powerful punches and lots of screaming. It brought the science of Qigong to the modern American.

So, when you look back and think of the history of Qigong, think a small prayer of gratitude to Bruce Lee along with Bill Moyers for opening Americans’ eyes to its health benefits.

Building Resilience from Current Events

Building Resilience from Current Events

There has always been troubles and trauma in the world—unpredictable weather, crimes, wars, inconveniences, transgressions, and misfortunes. We let our emotions linger longer than it needs to.

We know from the social sciences that people get “stuck” in negatives more than they do with positives. “Loss frame” is the perspective that we have somehow lost something in a current situation; it can be real or imagined loss, but it feels like it nonetheless. For example, if you are playing a simple game and are told you gained five out of 10 points, you’ll feel more or less good about your efforts. But, if you are told you lost five out of 10 points, the vast majority of people will feel bad about their efforts. Simply, that’s a loss frame.

And, I contend that when we hear about traumatic events happening around the globe it stirs up in us this loss framing, since we are social beings. If others have lost–be it from a hurricane, changing political situations, or war–we feel that frame of the world in the loss category.

As Alison Ledgerwood notes in her TEDxUCDavis talk, “Getting stuck in the negatives (and how to get unstuck),” that, “Our view of the world has a fundamental tendency to tilt toward the negative. It’s pretty easy to go from good to bad, but it’s far harder to shift from bad to good.”

You must do what you can to lean into the positives. And, that’s what I hope to convey in this article. Some strategies and tactics for leaning into the positives when the negatives of your daily workaday world grabs hold of your attention.

Stop ruminating with others. | Building Resilience from Current Events

Have you ever had a bad day? And, your mom, your spouse or friend asks you to “tell you all about it.” You summon all the upsets and scars of the day, and go into it.  It is important to express all of your emotions, allowing a space for release.  Once verbally expressed, however, it’s time to move towards more constructive positioning.  Don’t get stuck in the so-called “dramas” and continue to ruminate over the situation.   

As Ledgerwood notes in the above video,  it is time to think gratitude not attitude. Come up with a few ways your day was good, even okay. Don’t dote on the negatives of the day; that will simply raise your cortisol levels again and not produce any constructive outputs or feelings. Did someone show appreciation for your work? Were you able to finish a task? Did a coworker tell you a funny story? There is always something positive that happened, so focus on coming up with at least one item to share.

Find opportunities to connect. | Building Resilience from Current Events

Next up is socializing with others. And, I mean others in the sense that we frequently surround ourselves with people similar to us, whether that be race, political affiliation, socioeconomic status, gender, and the like. But, finding opportunities to connect with different people than you is full of positives.

Here are a few considerations:

  • Volunteer somewhere.
  • Walk in the park, greeting your neighbors.
  • Host a potluck dinner for coworkers with whom you don’t frequently interact.
  • Call your Democrat or Republican friend and ask them to coffee with the explicit rule that you can only talk about things you agree on.
  • Search MeetUp groups and join those with common interests.
  • Join your local fitness center.
  • Recognize that the list is endless on how you can get engaged!

Meditate on the positives. | Building Resilience from Current Events

Meditation can seem mystical and complex. However, it’s a simple focusing exercise with great benefits. And, you can do this anywhere, anytime, when you feel the negative emotions from traumatic, current events.

When you feel anxiety or worry or anger surface, pay attention to the physical change your body feels when these emotions. When you focus on the physical state of being, you’re meditating. And, when your thoughts drift to other things (which is a part of the process), bring it back to your body. How do you feel right now? Do this for as short or long as you have time available, and need or want. Give yourself the permission to simply feel your body’s shifting emotions.

Now, if you feel uncomfortable with those negative emotions, you can start to focus your out-breaths on the areas where you feel those discomforting feelings. As you breathe out through those areas, you can imagine the air pushing out and away those feelings. Try this until it becomes a vital resilience skill in your emotional toolbox.

Find purpose in doing for others. | Building Resilience from Current Events

Like volunteering from above, by doing something with others in mind, you create a sense of purpose. You see the world from a different level. But, unlike volunteering, finding purpose is an everyday affair. It’s about answering the question “why?” for all your life’s activities, especially when traumatic current events happen.

Going to work or going grocery shopping yet again may seem like a chore, but when you understand that it’s providing for your children, you have found its purpose. Your purpose. And, these are more different when your mind is focused on the plight of global and national catastrophes. Do this purpose-finding for any activity that may seem challenging or mundane, and this will build resilience in the face of negative events.

Kindness is contagious. | Building Resilience from Current Events

You probably already know this, but it bears refresher because the current political and national climate seems to foster the opposite: be kind to yourself and others. Forgive yourself and others. Take the higher road, even if only once per day. Pick a situation where you can choose to be kind, or not. And, choose kindness.

You can even take on a random acts of kindness challenge and do one act per day for 30 days.

We are better together. And, kindness shows ourselves and our fellow Americans that we will be and stay stronger when we’re kind and forgive each other.

In closing: where can you take action?

Much of building resilience in the face of the barrage of negative and traumatic events around the country and world, is about rejecting these feelings of helplessness. We don’t feel like we’re in control of our lives when these events happen. But, you can take small, consistent actions, like the suggestions above, that can really provide a sense of control and perspective. Who can you physically, emotionally or spiritually reach and help? Start with yourself and then branch out.

Try some of these options, and let me know how it goes in the comments!

Meditation Basics

Meditation Basics: How to Start A Meditation Practice

In August, I posted an article on how to calm the “monkey mind” during meditation. The article explored the chatter that often happens while entering into a meditative state.  It offered tips on how to alleviate the mind’s chatter.

After posting the article, several readers reached out to me stating they didn’t understand how to start a meditation, forget worrying about the “monkey mind.”  Valid point!

Let’s Start at the Beginning

It is always helpful to start from the very beginning.  So let’s rewind, take a deep breath and begin with the basics of meditation.  To start, take a moment to review this Four Directions Wellness You Tube video that explores meditation, guided imagery and mindfulness. Don’t worry!  It’s a very short video.

Now you have just reviewed the differences between meditation, guided imagery and mindfulness.  A key question is would you prefer to meditate in silence or would prefer to be guided through a meditation.  Most people learning to meditate, especially in the United States, prefer a guided meditation or guided imagery.

If you are one who would prefer to be guided, then there are numerous apps available for your consideration.  There are all kinds of new meditation and mindfulness apps that have flooded the market place.  Some begin as free offering and expand into a subscription while others require payment from the start.  Most also have meditations that are short, ten minutes or so.  A comparison of some meditation and mindfulness apps is helpful to get you started.

Preparing Your Meditation Space

You have determined the type of meditation practice you will have and also have identified a way to begin with guided imagery if you wish.  Now let’s talk about using your senses to support your effort!  First, it is important to remember that comfortable clothing is a must.  Be comfortable.Now determine where in your living space you plan to meditate.  Will it be in your bedroom?  Not necessarily advisable as we prefer to have you sleeping there but if there is no other place, then the bedroom will work.  It is really best to find a comfortable spot with little distractions either indoor or better yet out in nature.  Be sure that it is comfortable and do a gut check to be sure it feels right!

Using Your Five Senses

We also want to start, if possible, with using all of our senses to support the meditative practice.  Take a moment to think through ways to incorporate your five senses.  Here are some examples.

  • How would you like to include hearing?  Music, being outdoors, guided meditation?
  • How would you include seeing?  Lit candle, watching the sunrise, being in a park?
  • How would you incorporate smelling?  Incense candles, nature or ginger tea?
  • How would you include tasting?  Ginger tea or other drink?
  • How would you like to incorporate feeling/sensing?  Sitting in a comfortable chair, feeling the ground or holding a warm cup of tea?

Many of the options include more than one of your senses.  After taking a moment to determine which work for you, take one additional minute to add “meditation” to your weekly calendar.  You include it as if it were the most important appointment in your day.  And make it work for you.  Does 6 am work best for you?  Or right before you go to bed?  Or maybe it is noon on most days.

Now you are ready to begin.  You have your guided meditation app ready to go. You have a few sensory options to include with your daily meditation, helping your whole body to recognize it is time to meditate.  And you have scheduled when you will do your daily meditation.

Enjoy!

 

Emotional Health Benefits of Reflexology - Four Directions Wellness

Emotional Health Benefits of Reflexology

You’ve had a stressful week. You lost that contract. Your son or daughter spilled pasta sauce on your favorite shirt. We all experiences these day-to-day challenges. And, sometimes, you simply need some mental-emotional rejuvenation. Enter reflexology. You would be surprised by the emotional health benefits of reflexology, so in this article we’re going to uncover some of the lesser-discussed benefits so you can de-stress and get back to a happy life!

I know it doesn’t come to the top of the list of health services when you feel stressed out, but reflexology is powerful. Reflexology, if you’re not aware (and as I explain in the video above), is the ancient healing methodology and practice of applied pressure to the foot (and to some extent hands and ears) in order to relieve pressure in many areas of the body. We walk on our feet all day and, logically, the natural impacts of our movement affect the rest of our body collaterally.

While Western medicine still hasn’t reconciled fully with how this ancient healing practice works, over 160 studies worldwide indicate the positive outcomes of reflexology. But, rest assured, my clients results stand as testament to the benefits. Specifically to emotional health benefits, reflexology is shown to reduce pain (and even neuritis), decrease tension, and alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Pain and Your Emotional Health – Emotional Health Benefits of Reflexology

Endorphins are the feel good hormones of the body. And, pain is the physical and emotional response to negative nerve stimulation. Well, guess what happens when you give positive, strategic nerve stimulation to the body? Endorphins!

Endorphins help not only buffer your emotional health from dis-ease and disease, it helps to reverse those effects. As a recent study published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine noted, “stress contributes up to 80% for the development of any illness” and “allows the body to get off from any stress in everyday life.” Further, they note that “endorphin is a body’s natural pain-relieving chemical will be released as a response to reflexology. Endorphin teaches the body how to adapt any injuries.”

Bottom line: reflexology generates the release of endorphins and as a byproduct your body becomes resilient to negative emotional effects.

Decreasing Tension – Emotional Health Benefits of Reflexology

Your feet take a beating every day of the week. They don’t get a rest. Reflexology provides that respite that while it’s relieving tension in your feet, it’s also connected to relieving tension in your emotional world. When you sit down for a reflexology session, you are able to relax your body and let your emotions equally relax and resolve the unresolved. You might get new ideas, and even solutions to problems will surface when you relax the muscles in your most used appendages.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (within the National Institutes of Health) has a great resource for a balanced look at the benefits of massage (and reflexology being a form of massage). Chronic tension, primarily studied in sports medicine, is easily translatable to how reflexology, with its focus on manipulating these specific body areas, can help rest the body and rejuvenate the emotions for the rest of us!

Alleviating Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety – Emotional Health Benefits of Reflexology

Depression and anxiety are practically an epidemic in the United States today. “Major depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States,” according to the National Institute of Mental Health, with about 7% of the US adult population affected each year. Anxiety is even more prevalent with over 40% of US adults experiencing “anxiety disorders of some kind.”

Anxiety and depression is related to chemical imbalances in the brain, decreased blood flow to vital organs of the body, disability and pain, poor nutrition, sleep deprivation (even mild sleep loss), negative thinking, genetics, among many other factors. There is no quick fix. Reflexology is one tool in your toolbox, among many, that should be utilized in combination under a medical professional’s direction to reap the best outcomes. But, we know that good blood flow is a champion of our emotional health and vitality by way of oxygenating our brain properly.

Many ancient healing practices such as reflexology, acupuncture, and acupressure (also known as shiatsu), disrupt the stagnation of blood and helps to enrich the system with nutrients, while compelling free radicals through the appropriate organs for elimination (whether that’s your liver or kidneys, as your major waste processing organs in the body).

Think about reflexology and how emotional health benefits of reflexology can help you maintain your overall health (body, mind and spirit), as well as help to right your path when it starts to challenge your health. There are many other health benefits that reflexology provides for combatting other body ailments, but I wanted to focus on the emotional ones in this article, and I hope that you consider this when seeking out health treatments for your emotional well-being.

Focusing on Being a Better You - Four Directions Wellness

Focusing on Being a Better You

“Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.”
     ~Mary Schmich

This famous quotation from the Chicago Tribune journalist, and made into a Baz Luhrmann song, touches on multiple sentiments prevalent in today’s culture. There’s the rat race we’re all supposedly competing in. And, there’s the emotional turmoil that comes with it. Finally, and the part that matters to you, actuaries predict that you’re going to live a long and longer life than your predecessors, and the only person you’re competing with is yourself.

So, why not kick that competition into gear! Self-improvement is a great way to not only live a happier, more fulfilled life, but it creates downstream benefits to your relationships, the next generation (if you have children), and your community–whether at work or at home. Let’s discuss some ways to self-improve without losing the competition against ourselves through fatigue or burnout.

Getting Fit – Focusing on Being a Better You

We all know that gyms and fitness centers want you to pay for a  gym membership and take group or one-to-one fitness classes. They want you to feel the burn! They want you to sweat! And, while that is one way to do it, that’s not the only way. Burning the fat doesn’t need to lead to burnout.

Getting fit simply means watching the food you put in your mouth and the amount of calories you burn each day against those foods. And, to be fit, you don’t need six-pack abs, or glutes of steel either. So, here’s a quick plan to start improving your fitness this week.

First, you should track what you eat. For the next week, you can use a simple pad and paper to track what you put in your mouth. (You can also use a free mobile application, such as My Fitness Pal.) In essence, you start to control what calories you consume when you know what calories you’re actually consuming. Try not to judge yourself too much. Your goal is data collection for the first week, then look at that data and see what you’re eating.

Next, you should enable a fitness tracker. This one should be brutally simple, since your Android or iOS smartphone both have apps (i.e., Google Fit and Health, respectively) installed on them that do this. You need to open them and set up, say, a walking/steps goal. Additionally, you could get a specific fitness tracking app, activate tracking on your AndroidWear or Apple Watch smartwatch (if you already have one), or a fitness band such as the Fitbit or Jawbone Up. You’ll be surprised at how setting a goal to walk for 15 or 30 minutes per day, make 3,000 steps per day, or other similar metrics can be motivating to move more.

Last, you should make small changes you can live with, one at a time. No grand changes are needed to be made in order to be come fit. And, honestly, easy come, easy go when it comes to grand fitness changes. Eat one less cookie next week. Score! Walk for five more minutes than last week. For the win! You will be pleasantly surprised how small changes, done consistently can make you feel better about yourself and actually affect your overall fitness.

Learn a New Hobby, Skill, or Craft – Focusing on Being a Better You

Of course, all this talk of nutrition and fitness should make your brain hungry for some excitement. And, there’s plenty you can learn with the Web at your fingertips today, in small chunks. It turns out that learning new skills keeps your brain sharp as it matures, and even potentially wards off potential illnesses as you age. Here are a few ways in which you can keep your brain as fit as your body:

These bite-sized morsels of activities above require a few minutes per day of your focus, and you can learn at your own pace. I can already hear your brain thanking you!

Start Reading, and Discussing with Others – Focusing on Being a Better You

With all the possibilities to grow personally, both body and mind, your inner and outer selves also need polishing lifelong. This is where reading and communicating with others who read the same things can really come into play.

I suggest setting a goal of reading any book you’d like for 10 minutes a day. It could be fiction or nonfiction, science fiction thriller or autobiography. As long as you are reading and enjoying being involved in the material, this is building your inner self. This is the healthy kind of talking to yourself!

You’ll find over time, that you’ll sometimes read more than 10 minutes and sometimes less. However, it’s good to try to practice this everyday. If you read at the average of two pages per minute, that means you can read about 30 novels per year at that rate. If you’re not reading anything, this is a great method of self-improvement.

And, what would help to make reading more fun and social? How about joining a book club? This can not only motivate you to read more, but you get the opportunity to meet likeminded people in a casual, social environment. By discussing the books you’re reading, you get a more diverse perspective on the works. People find lovers, platonic going-out partners, and lifelong friendships at book clubs. Visit your local library to learn about book clubs they host, your local bookstore, and your community Web and email forums.

So, what ways have you learned to self-improve? And, from what we discussed today, what speaks to you the most when it comes to improving the body, mind, and spirit?

Healthy Meals for the Kids - Four Directions Wellness

Healthy Meals for the Kids

Meals can feel like a struggle with children today. Kids are marketed to directly today via mobile devices, television and YouTube video advertising, and even with product placement in movies and cartoons. This creates a delicate tug-of-war between parents (you) and brands vying to get your kids to eat what you believe is best and foods they want to sell to you for them, respectively.

The top challenges are how to convincingly present healthy meals for the kids that they’ll enjoy, making the process fun for you and the children, and finding reliable resources for meal planning and healthy recipes. In this article, we are going to cover each of these topics to get you on the road to preparing and presenting healthy meals for the kids.

Healthy Children Eat Healthy Foods

In 2014, researchers published in the American Journal of Public Health entitled, “Relationship Between Diet and Mental Health in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review,” that they reviewed a dozen epidemiological studies. As its name implies, they reviewed the current literature on the link between children’s nutritional habits and their mental health. As you might imagine, they concluded there was compelling evidence to show that children and adolescents exposed to poor patterns and quality of nutrition had higher rates of depressive disorders and symptoms, and the reverse was also convincing.

The end result: your children’s mental well-being is tied to what they consistently put in their mouths. And, as a parent, it’s up to you to defend their healthy brains from being damaged. This is no simple chore. But, here are some ways to overcome the major threats to keeping healthy meals for the kids front and center.

First, pay attention to what marketing messages are being presented to your children. When you see the presentation of unhealthy foods in entertainment your children are consuming, make sure they know that, “We are a healthy foods family.” This is a way to explain to children, that eating healthily is a family goal and a socially important activity. If you repeat this often and sincerely, children will usually follow without issue.

Next, children are very influenced by their peers. So, if out at a social gathering, and your children’s friends get to have sugary and processed snacks, your child is going to lust after those “foods” for social acceptance. In moderation, you can acquiesce to a snack here and there among their friends so they don’t become embarrassed. Present them with the healthy options and if they accept, great. Although, shaming them publicly if they don’t accept them is usually going to backfire.

On the flip side, when your kids have friends over, make sure to introduce them to healthy meals. Let your children’s friends know that, “We are a healthy foods family.” This puts the onus on you and takes some of the pressure off your kids (though not completely). Be sure to offer healthy meal options positively and if their friends aren’t interested, let them know you’ll set it aside for when they’re hungry later.

Finally, offer healthy foods as the only options for meals. But, don’t punish children for not eating healthy options. Positive behavior should get rewarded with praise. And, I bet once the hunger pangs kick in (for your kids or their friends), those healthy meals and treats will look more enticing!

Eating Healthy Can Be a Fun, Family Festivity

Eating healthy becomes dramatically easier when everyone in the family is doing it. You are your children’s role models. You and your spouse must watch what you eat, especially in front of your kids. (Sorry, but if you eat processed and high sugar foods behind their backs, that’s not helping you or them in the long run either. Plus, they’ll know. Kids always know.)

As well, make eating healthy a game. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it does need to match the development stage of each child. So, while PBS Healthy Habits games might work for young children, you’ll need to be a bit cooler for the older they are. If you’re interested, check out this recorded Webinar, “How to design games children want,” (with Q&A here) to learn more about the principles of good game design for children.

Resources to Find Healthy Meals and Recipes for the Kids

(Source: Sesame Street Communities)

Even Cookie Monster of Sesame Street is getting wise to eating healthy, albeit still without portion control! There are many reliable sources for finding healthy meal recipes for the kids. Here are a few that will help:

  • Food Network has created the “Eat Right” section of their website developed for healthy meals for the kids. Everything from DIY baby food to healthy snacks kids can make themselves.
  • Eating Well’s Healthy Kids Recipes covers finger foods, breakfast, lunch, and snack recipes. The site even has the ability to create a free account and print or save your favorite recipes for the kids.
  • Harvard School of Public Health has published a great resource called the Kid’s Healthy Eating Plate (pictured below), and on their website you can find information about each food group with related recipes.
Kid's Healthy Eating Plate

Copyright © 2015 Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. For more information about The Kid’s Healthy Eating Plate, please see The Nutrition Source, Department of Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/kids-healthy-eating-plate.

 

How do you get your kids to eat healthily? What kinds of challenges have you faced, and what have you tried to overcome them? We’d love to hear!

Mindfulness Mondays: Staying in the Present

Mindfulness Mondays happens every 2nd and 4th Monday of the month at Four Directions Wellness.  At noon, people from the community join at the office for an hour of complimentary meditation and inner reflection.  All are welcome!

This is Boring!

As you were reading that first paragraph, you might have found that you were thinking – “this is boring.”  Or maybe you thought, I would love to attend but can’t make Mondays.  Or maybe you were thinking about a family member or the work deadline or the dry cleaning that needs to get picked up. That is what Buddha termed as the “monkey mind.”  Your mind jumps from one issue to the next to the next and then back again.

It is the biggest obstacle for people first learning to meditate.  It is also the biggest obstacle for those of us who have been practicing for years.  How do you possibly control the “monkey mind?”  In our fast paced world with the long list of “to do’s,” it can seem impossible to settle your mind down, let go from the outer world, and be in the present.

Yet, the more you practice calming the mind, the more you will see and be aware of the incredible benefits of living in the present.  It helps to reduce stress and provides mental clarity.  It also allows issues that were previously huge dramas in your life to melt away.  Who wouldn’t want the opportunity for centeredness and balance?

Tricks to Control the “Monkey Mind”

In February, Forbes Magazine wrote an article titled “8 Science-Based Tricks for Quieting the Monkey Mind.”  The article discusses the various techniques and the science to support each technique.  The list includes:

Stay in the Present Moment:

From the Forbes list, it is easy to see that controlling the chaotic mind is practice, practice and practice!  Whether meditating, practicing mindfulness, expressing gratitude or coloring, it requires us to focus our minds on just one thing at a time.  Not an easy task for those of us raised to appreciate multi-tasking.

Other approaches include working with someone else to stay in the present.  Cognitive behavior therapy, talking to a friend and practicing how to defuse the mind’s rhetoric are approaches requiring a partner.  That partner is the silent witness for us as we unload the so-called dramas or stories that we have written and are keeping us tied up in either our past or future.  The past as it relates to guilt, shame, anger, grief or other feelings and the future that may bring feelings of worry or fear.

Giving Back to the Community:

And the last recommendation is one that has been known for its health and wellness benefits for decades – volunteering. The “monkey mind” seems to become aware of the present when it is helping another person.  This very act provides support to the person needing the help but also just as much to the person offering the help.

So remember:  “Yesterday is history.  Tomorrow is a mystery and today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.”  Bill Keane

Mindfulness
Solar Eclipse

Eclipsed by the Moon, Sun and Personal Enlightenment

Yesterday the Moon, 239,000 miles away, blocked from American’s view the Sun, just 92 million miles away! Did you see it? If so, you likely had the same reaction I did of being in complete awe. I was fascinated as the Moon passed over the Sun, blocking the sunlight, and then reverted back again almost in the blink of an eye!

Of course, I do realize that eclipses happen frequently throughout the year. There are usually at least four eclipses in any given year. It was, however, an “American Eclipse.” It seemed to standout as being rather auspicious. It might be because it focused almost solely on the United States as it began its spectacular display on the West Coast in Madras, Oregon before finishing in Charleston, South Carolina. Or it might be because it feels as if things are changing almost at light speed anymore as we become more globally connected to others living on Planet Earth. This eclipse, as it crossed our entire country, seemed to signal that it is time to pay attention to the bigger picture!

Even prior to yesterday, it seemed as if many people were indicating that the Solar Eclipse would bring chaotic and devastating changes. Ironically though, many experts state that Solar Eclipses often signal positive changes that are forthcoming. And whether perceived as “negative” or “positive,” eclipses at the heart of their undertaking call on all of us to acknowledge the vastness of our Universe, the interconnectedness of EVERYTHING and the power within us to reflect what we wish to see in the world around us.

 

Solar Eclipse

The Universe Sends a Message: Are you listening?

The Symbolic Meaning of a Solar Eclipse:

Symbolically, or if you prefer metaphysically, the Sun represents the largest conductor of Light, of Spiritual Intelligence and Knowing. The Moon reflects our Intelligence as humans and the Earth signifies, in part, the world in human form. For a few minutes yesterday, the Moon (Human Intelligence) sent all of us a reminder that it can block Spiritual Intelligence or Guidance to us here in the physical world. Did you need that reminder?

If your answer is “yes” or even “maybe,” then I encourage you to explore the following questions:

  • Where have you been feeling blocked recently?
  • Where has your Mind and the Mind’s dramas or stories been getting in your way of Higher Guidance?
  • What is waiting within you to be created or manifested?
  • And what or how should you begin?

The Universe is asking that you connect directly with your life’s purpose and then start to take action!

Take time today or tomorrow to sit with each of these questions. See where the Mind has kept you from clear Intuitive Guidance from the Universe. Don’t let your Mind block it from you!

And as you contemplate the questions, remember it was the French philosopher, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who stated, “we are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Lest we forget!

Entering into the Silence…

“He who attempts to act and do things for others or for the world without deepening his own self-understanding, freedom, integrity and capacity to love, will not have anything to give others.”  

Thomas Merton, Contemplation in a World of Action

Entering into Silence - Meditation Group

The other day I held a meditation group at the office. In advance of the group meeting, I planned a simple guided meditation to help those (like myself) who can’t stop the busy mind.  I was a bit surprised to find that the majority of people wanted to simply be in silence.  No guided imagery.  No breathing exercises.  No music….silence.

Entering into the silence is likely one of the hardest meditative practices.  It conjures up all kinds of thoughts and questions.  What will the mind bring up if it is allowed to stop for just a moment?  What might I discover by dropping all of my “to-do’s” and thoughts of the busy-ness? Because I was not needed to facilitate the meditation, I was able to join. Did I want to though?

I closed my eyes, relaxed into my chair, took the customary deep breaths and joined the group in silence.  I chased my thoughts — what about my latest deadline?  Did I follow-up with my new client?  Had I called my Dad today?  How would I end this session?

As I gave myself permission to simply be in the moment for only 20 minutes, I began to observe my thoughts as a witness — no longer the manufacturer.  I deepened into the chair and into me.  At some point, it was as if I had melded into the others joining in the silent meditation.  It felt so peaceful.

In the void, there is an opportunity to know yourself without the projections, without the labels, without the busy-ness.  It opens you to an inner world full of opportunities to explore and invites you to tap into a world of creativity.  It’s right there for you.

You have to first though be willing to enter into the silence….

If you are interested in entering into the silence with others, please join us for Mindfulness Mondays, a complimentary meditation on the 2nd and 4th Mondays of the month.  See more by visiting Four Directions Wellness.