Be Light and Healthy

Posts Tagged ‘healthy living

“When you laugh, you change and when you change, the whole world changes around you.”  Dr. Madan KatariaHappy World Laughter Day!  What?  You’ve never heard of World Laughter Day?  World Laughter Day is celebrated annually on the first Sunday of May.  Being light and healthy is about more than food and exercise.  Good health encompasses the body, mind, and spirit.  Experiencing joy is an integral aspect of being healthy.  Our capacity for joy seems to diminish as the pace of modern life escalates.  We chronically schedule ourselves and our children for activities unintentionally increasing the amount of stress in our lives.  Though the Internet enhances our lives in a multitude of ways, it also chews up our time and surreptitiously prevents us from forming strong social bonds with others.  How many times have you sat down with the intention of spending a couple of minutes on the Internet only to realize that you’ve lost hours?  With the number of distractions in our lives, we sometimes sense that something is missing.  We live in a constant state of stress not realizing that our breathing has become chronically shallow.  Suddenly, we wake up one day and wonder where the joy in our lives has gone.  Unlike children who love to laugh for no reason, laughter is not high on our priority lists.  Young children have a connection to their intrinsic nature and are filled with joy.  Because they lack the inhibitions adults have developed, laughter comes naturally to them.  They delight in being silly, and their unrestrained laughter is contagious.     

Laughter Yoga is a unique concept where a group of people get together to laugh for no reason.  It humbly started in a Mumbai park in 1995 when an Indian physician, Dr. Madan Kataria, persuaded 4 people to join him in laughing to reap the health benefits.  The group quickly grew to over 50 people who stood in a circle and told jokes or funny stories to invoke laughter; however, they quickly ran out of funny material.  Because Dr. Kataria’s research indicated that the body cannot distinguish between artificial and real laughter, he persuaded the group to try acting out laughter with him, and Laughter Yoga was born.  It spread to the United States in 2004, and today there are over 6,000 Laughter Yoga Clubs in 65 countries around the world.    

After hearing about Laughter Yoga, I wanted to try it.  Fortunately, I was able to locate a local club, and my husband agreed to try it with me.  I’m an introvert and feel uncomfortable doing almost anything with people I don’t know.  I was, however, intrigued by the idea and wanted to check it out.  On the other hand, my husband is a cheerful, outgoing guy with a hearty laugh so he was likely to be a natural at it.  We had been advised in advance to bring water because laughter is dehydrating.  We were greeted by the Let’s Laugh Today leaders, Linda and Bill Hamaker, when we arrived.  As I sat waiting for the session to begin, I looked around at the people seated in the circle of chairs and unintentionally formed preconceived ideas about each of them as most of us tend to do when we meet strangers. 

The night started out innocently enough with each of us saying our first name and a stressful event from our day.  The person then laughed and the entire group laughed with him/her.  Linda and Bill reviewed the basics and suggested that newcomers try Laughter Yoga three times before deciding if they like it or not.  Because the intent is to disengage the conscious mind, there is no talking during Laughter Yoga with the exception of the leaders’ instructions.  It is simply laughing with the playfulness reminiscent of a child.  We then proceeded to warm up by taking some deep breaths.  The yogic aspect of Laughter Yoga is the breathing.  When we laugh, we are creating more oxygen in the body and the brain, which leads to increased health and energy.  It is a scientifically-proven fact that the body cannot tell the difference between a fake laugh and a genuine laugh.  Therefore, fake laughter was okay and encouraged because it provided the same physiological and psychological benefits as real laughter.  Fueled by eye contact with others in the group and acting completely silly, the laughter typically becomes real.       

When each laughter exercise started, we randomly moved around laughing and making eye contact with others in the group.  Laughter Yoga can also be done sitting, and we were reminded to interact with participants who had chosen to remain seated for various reasons.  Some of the exercises we did included cell phone laughter where we pretended we were talking on a cell phone while laughing, evil laugher, and lion laughter.  To signal the end of an exercise, the leaders initiated a chant by rhythmically clapping in a 1-2, 1-2-3 rhythm while simultaneously chanting the belly laugh HO-HO, HA-HA-HA.  The group quickly joined in the chant thus promoting a feeling of unity.  The HO-HO, HA-HA-HA chant was my favorite part, quite possibly because it signaled the end of an exercise.  By clapping with extended, full finger-to-finger and palm-to-palm contact, we were stimulating the acupressure points in our hands and increasing our energy levels.  To finalize the exercise we cheered, “Very Good, Very Good, Yay!” and wildly waved our arms in the air above our heads.  To help flush out our lungs deep breathing was interspersed between the laughter exercises

Honestly, once we started I wasn’t sure what I had gotten myself into and felt like I had been catapulted out of my comfort zone into another galaxy full of laughing aliens.  I felt really silly as I fake laughed my way through the session, but I also noticed that my inhibitions were slowly melting away.  The positive energy and vitality created by a group of people laughing together are palpable.  Later in the session we did a gibberish exercise.  Gibberish is conversing in a non-existent language complete with emotions and hand gestures, similar to mimicking children learning to speak. For example, “Garf belie fan par.” means absolutely nothing.   A great example of gibberish is the popular You Tube Video of the twin baby boys having a conversation.  During the gibberish exercise it was astounding to see how convincing people looked and sounded in a nonsensical conversation.    

The evening concluded with a laughter meditation that consisted of free-flowing laughter meant to keep us fully present in the moment.  Most of us laid on blankets on the floor, but sitting in a chair was also an option.  The meditation started with complete silence.  Laughter then spontaneously began to flow and permeate the air building to a crescendo then dying down.  For 10-15 minutes there was an ebb and flow of laughter.  At a subsequent session we sat with our eyes closed in chairs closely arranged in a random cluster for the meditation.  This is my favorite arrangement because I love feeling enveloped by the rippling vibrations and energy generated by the laughter.    

As the session ended, I was reluctant to try Laughter Yoga again; however, I remembered Linda’s comment about trying it three times before coming to a conclusion.  My husband seemed to enjoy it.  I also noticed that as the night progressed, my preconceived notions of the others in the group evaporated as we shared the common bond of laughter and a sense of camaraderie was created. 

We continued to go to the club, which meets monthly.  Then one day I received an e-mail about a weekend of Certified Laughter Yoga Leader Training with Linda and Bill.  I forwarded the e-mail to my husband as a joke, but the joke was on me.  I was astonished when he replied that we should do it; consequently, we signed up.  As the date edged closer, I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into and was apprehensive about the upcoming weekend.  The Hamakers warmly welcomed all 15 students and created a safe and comfortable environment that facilitated the learning process.  The students were wonderful and came to the training for different reasons.  Each of them brought a unique and interesting perspective that was shared with the group and enhanced the experience.  It didn’t take long for a sense of friendship to form.  Linda and Bill covered all the aspects of Laughter Yoga from the hilarious parts to the serious parts and also taught us how to personalize the exercises.  Personalizing the exercises enhanced my comfort level and allowed me to uniquely express myself.   At the end of the first day I was looking forward to the next day.  By the end of the weekend, I felt comfortable leading exercises and was grateful for the laughter I had shared with this wonderful group of people.  The training left us feeling joyful, and we are now Certified Laughter Yoga Leaders.    

Laughter Yoga is an activity that can be done by anyone and can enhance the quality of your life.  Connecting with other people is an important aspect of our health, and laughter allows us to quickly connect with complete strangers.  Because the exercises can be done in a chair, the elderly and people with physical disabilities can also participate.  Many exercises can be designed to help build self-esteem in children.  Laughing promotes circulation to the digestive and lymphatic systems and alleviates stress.  It helps dislodge energy blockages in the body and allows release of emotional blockages.  We are all familiar with the Mind-Body connection where the voices in our heads are leading us by constantly telling us what to do and often chastising us.  Laughter Yoga is an opportunity to foster the Body-Mind Connection and let the body lead the mind to feeling good.  The body starts laughing, and eventually the mind follows provoking feelings of happiness and joy.  To attain the health benefits of laughing it must be done continuously for 10-15 Minutes with a loud and deep belly laugh.  A Laughter Yoga session lasts for an hour or less.  Time is a valuable commodity in our lives, and we are all trying to optimize what little time we have.  Committing to invest an hour of your precious time in attending a Laughter Yoga session is something easy and wonderful you can do for yourself.   

Dr. Kataria is a visionary intent on elevating the consciousness of the globe by promoting world peace through laughter.  Upon first hearing his vision, it may sound ambitious.  Connecting people with one another at heart level without judgment is his goal.  Knowing that he started Laughter Yoga with 4 other people in a park in India and it has now spread to over 65 countries worldwide fills me with hope and optimism that his vision is attainable and inspires me to help cultivate it.    

I invite you to consider trying Laughter Yoga at least three times.  If you’re the least bit intrigued, I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and try something for the benefit of your health and well-being.  It could ultimately change your life!  I suspect that at the conclusion of the session, you will feel refreshed and uplifted.  Check out the following websites for additional information: 

www.letslaughtoday.com is located in Southeastern Massachusetts and meets monthly in Franklin and Westwood.

www.capecodlaughteryoga.com meets weekly in Falmouth – a fun thing to try when vacationing on Cape Cod! 

www.laughteryogaamerica.com for worldwide listings. 

www.laughteryoga.org for Dr. Madan Kataria’s site.

In addition, I invite you to forward this blog to your friends and sign up for weekly e-mail updates at www.belightandhealthy.com to get informed and inspired to Be Light and Healthy.  When you sign up, you will receive an e-mail requesting you confirm your subscription.  After you confirm, you will begin receiving weekly updates.

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“The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain.”  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Thoughts of April fill us with optimism as we leave the winter behind and a feeling of freshness is ushered in.  The light continues to expand in the Northern hemisphere as the sun increasingly warms the earth.  Our spirits are lifted as we breathe the cool spring air filling us with the essence of spring’s nurturing energy.  Nature’s duality is beautifully expressed as the sun and rain provide balancing sustenance to the earth.  The roots beneath the ground welcome the nourishment of the sun and the rain as they prepare to burst forth from the darkness and bathe the landscape with their spectacular blooms. 

We see growth and expansion all around us as plants sprout through the soil and buds appear on the trees.  An essence of hopefulness and newness fills the air.  As we observe nature’s new growth slowly emerging before our eyes, it may prompt us to think about our own self-growth.  In order to create the energy of expansion in our lives, it is necessary to get rid of the old things that are keeping us stuck and preventing us from moving forward.   Lightening our load provides the momentum necessary to move forward.  Just as the rain cleanses the earth and seeps into it nourishing the seeds of new plants, new thoughts can seep into our minds nurturing our own seeds of growth. 

When the warm weather arrives, people are eager to get outside and enjoy it.  Bright, shiny days beckon us outdoors to clean our yards, play with the kids, or just savor the rejuvenating energy.  Rainy days are often looked upon with disappointment when they interrupt our plans leaving us feeling melancholy.  Just as the brilliance of a sunny day nurtures our spirit so can a rainy day.  Rainy days offer us a lesson in patience and acceptance.  If we choose to learn from them, they are opportunities to facilitate our growth and bring us happiness.  The essence of a cleansing rain conveys a subtle message to slow down and go with the flow providing us with a chance to hone our abilities to be flexible.  By dropping our resistance to a situation we cannot change, we learn to adapt.  Modern society has conditioned us to resist our innate nature as human beings and cultivated the belief that we can control everything.  Many of us are so caught up in the fast pace of modern life that we don’t realize we are living in a state of constant stress, and we’ve forgotten how to slow down.  From a young age many children are subjected to this frenzied world and grow up thinking that being tense is natural.  Though the effects of living in this manner may not initially be obvious, they start to show up as health problems as we age. 

When we resist accepting things we cannot change, we end up wasting energy focusing on what we perceive as negative aspects of a situation.   By simply changing our thinking, we can easily change our perspective.  A rainy day can be a gift offering us a chance to slow down and turn introspective.   Accepting circumstances out of our control and going with the flow cultivates grace in our lives.  Focus on the positive aspects of a rainy day.  Instead of trying to escape it, try embracing the cleansing energy.  Spend the day cleaning out the old and making room for the new.  Getting rid of old thoughts, habits, or things that no longer serve you makes room for new ideas and energy to facilitate your personal growth. 

Take advantage of the cleansing spirit of the rain by cleaning!  Don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed with “spring cleaning.”  Just start small.  The kitchen is always a great place to begin.  You could simply start by getting rid of outdated food.  If you feel compelled, you could progress to removing some of the junk foods that have become a part of your life.  Clearing out the old food will make room for new healthy food.  Throw out old recipes that no longer appeal to you and replace them with healthier recipes.  You could spend time trying a new healthy recipe or planning healthy meals for the week.      

Get rid of old clothes that you no longer wear or no longer fit.  Holding on to clothes that don’t fit creates stagnant energy preventing you from moving forward.  Prior to my 100 pound weight loss, I got rid of clothes that were too small.  For years I had held on to them hoping I would fit into them again someday.  They were simply taking up space in my closet and serving no purpose in my life so I chose to donate them to charity.  When I lost weight, I naturally wanted to buy new, smaller clothes.  As I was losing weight, I regularly got rid of the old, larger-sized clothes.  It feels really good to donate unused clothes to a charity and know that people who really need them will make good use of them.  Letting go of the old clothes will create space for the great new clothes you will be wearing to complement your new healthy appearance. 

If the rain puts a crimp in your outdoor exercise plans, try something new. Go to an indoor mall to walk inside or go bowling.  There are lots of exercise shows available on cable TV, on-line, or at the library.  Try something you’ve never done before.  Put on some great music and dance around your house.  You could even run up and down the stairs to get your indoor workout.   

Think back to your childhood – what child can resist playing outside in the rain?  Children instinctively love the energy of rain.  I love walking outdoors on a rainy day.  Though I may be taking the same route, it’s a chance to see and feel something familiar from a different perspective.  As the rain gently falls on me, I envision it washing away all the stresses in my life and renewing my energy.  I typically arrive back at my destination feeling chilled yet refreshed and will often take the time to warm up with a cup of tea and savor the serenity of the moment. 

Curling up with a good book is a fantastic way to spend a rainy day.  Consider getting a book from the library instead of purchasing one.  I hadn’t been to the library since I was a kid and never even considered it until a friend made the suggestion.  I love the fact that borrowing a library book is “green” plus it has saved me a lot of money.  Instead of selecting a book from your usual genre, peruse the shelves to see what appeals to you, and try something new.

I invite you to think of April showers as nourishing gifts.  As the rain nurtures Mother Earth, let the cleansing energy nourish your soul and entice you to try something new.  Cleaning out the old thoughts, ideas, and stuff will make room for fresh, new energy in your life.  Grab your umbrella and go for a walk.  Or even better, skip the umbrella and dance in the rain to soak up the cleansing energy.  If you have kids, create some wonderful memories with them by dancing in the rain.  Teaching children to focus on the wonderful aspects of rainy days will help to cultivate acceptance and flexibility in their young lives.  In addition, I invite you to forward this blog to your friends and sign up for weekly e-mail updates at www.belightandhealthy.com to get informed and inspired to Be Light and Healthy.  When you sign up, you will receive an e-mail requesting you confirm your subscription.  After you confirm, you will begin receiving weekly updates.

  “All adventures, especially into new territory, are scary.”  Sally Ride

Transitions are inevitable as we journey through our days.  Life transitions continually occur and can be scary and overwhelming.  Sometimes we are forced to modify an aspect of our lives due to circumstances beyond our control.  Other times we find some part of our existence is making us unhappy and contemplate altering it.  In either case, we can choose to resist change or flow with it.  Big changes can seem daunting and create anxiety that prevents us from moving toward our goal and leaves us feeling like we’re stuck in the mud.  Refusing to accept change as an unavoidable part of life fuels the negative thoughts in our heads that threaten to hinder us from growing in the direction of our heart’s desires.  If we fail to act and allow fear to envelop us, we feel like we’re being hopelessly pulled under by quicksand.  There are simple strategies that can ease you through big life changes that initially seem impossible.   Accepting that life transitions are inescapable and breaking them down into small steps can help ease you into a new lifestyle.    

When I look back to the beginning of my 100 Pound weight loss journey, I fondly recall it as the beginning of an adventure.  At the time I didn’t think of it as an adventure, but I was not intimidated by it either.  Because I took my time to slowly embrace the idea by letting it seep into my consciousness, the magnitude of my goal did not make me anxious or seem unattainable.  Because I had been overweight since childhood, this undertaking could have seemed insurmountable had I not broken it down into a series of small steps that fit my unique personality and lifestyle.  When it comes to health strategies, there is no magic formula that will work for everyone.  One key to successful lifestyle transitions is to take into consideration your exclusive lifestyle and personal needs.  Each one of us is different and by embracing our individuality instead of resisting it, we can transition to new positive behaviors that are easily incorporated into our lives and leave us feeling happy and healthy. Some people thrive in group settings while others prefer to go it alone and do their own thing.  I’ve never felt comfortable in group settings so I set out to do my own thing and initially didn’t share my intentions with anyone.  Inevitably, people started asking questions as they noticed I had lost weight.  Admittedly, I was a bit uncomfortable often preferring not to discuss the details.  I did what made me feel secure with my decisions at the time, which helped to propel me forward.  Pursue whatever unique approach resonates with you. 

I love transitional behaviors, and they continue to serve me well.  Ultimately, when I have a goal that is far from where I am starting, I’ve found that making small improvements leads me to big results.  Often the small change that I incorporate into my life is not where I want to end up but an important step on my path that moves me forward and enables me to reach my ultimate goal.  There is no way that I could have taken one huge leap from being a junk food queen to eating healthy.  Along the way, I slowly improved my eating habits.  Sometimes it meant selecting the healthier fast food option instead of foregoing fast food altogether.  Categorizing improved food and exercise choices as good, better, or best options, and telling myself that I could choose any of them and consider it a success allowed the seeds of change I had planted in my mind to take root and support me during my evolution to a healthier life.  There are many foods that I ate during my transition to healthier eating that I wouldn’t consider eating today but at the time they were a better choice and served me well.  By never denying myself anything, the unhealthy foods lost their power over me.  In addition, by congratulating myself on each small improvement, I fueled my desire to continue evolving.  I choose to embrace the fact that continuing to learn and grow is a lifelong adventure.    

Consider choosing one behavior that you’d like to improve.  Are you currently in the habit of walking in the door at night and grabbing an unhealthy snack?  If yes, it’s beneficial to contemplate why.  Maybe you typically eat small meals and are truly hungry.  If that’s the case, a healthy snack can quell your hunger pangs until dinner; and the behavior is healthy and appropriate for your unique lifestyle.  If you are snacking when you get home out of habit or as a means to relax, the thought of totally giving it up may create anxiety.  You may have become conditioned to use this behavior as a means to help you unwind after a stressful day or provide an energy boost.  If you’re not ready to completely give up this habit, could you improve upon it?  If you believe you are going to snack, wouldn’t it be better to accept it for the time-being but make some small changes that will move you in the direction of your goals?  Accepting your current situation by extending compassion and kindness to yourself will create positive energy that will shift you in the direction of your dreams.  You could begin to transition away from the undesired behavior by replacing it with an improved choice.  Your ultimate goal may be to give up this habit because you are eating when you’re not hungry; however, you could improve upon it by making a new good, better, or best choice.  As you move forward, you may decide that you no longer need this behavior and opt to put on your sneakers and go for a short walk, take a nap, or read a book instead of de-stressing with food. 

I invite you to gently accept and approach life transitions as opportunities to grow.  By taking a moment to look at your current lifestyle, you may determine that some small improvements could help transition you to a healthier lifestyle.  Be secure in the knowledge that transitions are a part of life.  Embracing them with a daring spirit and believing they are adventures will foster your personal growth far beyond what you may currently believe you can accomplish.  In addition, I invite you to forward this blog to your friends and sign up for weekly e-mail updates at www.belightandhealthy.com to get informed and inspired to Be Light and Healthy.  When you sign up, you will receive an e-mail requesting you confirm your subscription.  After you confirm, you will begin receiving weekly updates.

Perfectionism is self-abuse of the highest order.”  Anne Wilson Schaef

All of my attempts at perfection have failed miserably.  I spent a good portion of my life in pursuit of the perfect diet and exercise plan, a plan that would quickly transform me into a thin person.  Part of the perfect eating plan was the denial of certain foods.  As soon as a food was prohibited, I couldn’t get enough of it because I feared I’d never be able to eat it again.  After gorging on my forbidden foods, I’d enthusiastically embark on my newfound plan with high hopes.  Unfortunately, my expectations were completely unrealistic and predictably, I’d slip eventually.  My failure would stir up the chastising voices in my head leading to complete abandonment of my healthy intentions.  All forms of exercise would be forsaken, a bingeing backlash would ensue, and I’d end up disheartened and feeling doomed again.  What I’ve come to learn is there is no perfect plan for any area of my life.  Trying to achieve perfection is an invitation to self-abuse.  Taking a kinder, gentler approach by striving to improve the choices you make every day can lead to long-term success and sustainable lifestyle changes. 

Attempts at perfection are often born from committing to rules created in your mind.  Breaking rules leads to emotionally abusing yourself and wallowing in guilt as a result of a perceived failure.  This rigid form of thinking repeatedly set me up to fail.  The quality of my days was judged by how perfectly I had followed the impractical rules I was trying to live by.  Failing to live up to my unreasonable goals, an indiscretion had the potential to blow the day, which often evolved into blowing the week and catapulting me back to my unhealthy habits. 

Every individual is unique and has his/her own distinct lifestyle needs.  What works for one person will not work for everybody.  Furthermore, what worked for you at one time in your life may no longer serve your best interests.  Many “experts” may have ideas on what will work best for you, but ultimately, you are the only expert you need.  There is no perfect plan.  In addition, it is important to consider your current lifestyle and what sustainable changes can be effectively incorporated into your day.  As you experiment with making diet and lifestyle changes, be gentle with yourself.  It can take time to overcome all the dieting and exercise information you’ve absorbed and attempted to live by through the years. 

Striving to improve my choices by following guidelines radically improved my chances of success and helped me adapt to a new way of thinking.  Guidelines offer a spectrum of choices and are more forgiving than rules.  Instead of panicking when I was unable to eat my idea of the healthiest selection, I was able to choose from a range of options and make the good, better, or best selection.  There were no prohibited foods so I never felt like I had to binge on something I would never eat again.  This method of thinking enabled me to be imperfect, alleviated any feelings of stress and guilt associated with making the wrong choice, and empowered me with the flexibility necessary to realistically thrive within my existing lifestyle.      

I also started substituting the word could for should.  Should implies rules; could implies choices.  Giving myself permission to make a decision allowed me to be imperfect and freed me from having to stick to a set of rules.  This very minor change in my thinking helped to profoundly change my life.  If I was thinking I should have a salad for lunch and didn’t have the salad, I felt like I hadn’t lived up to my expectations.  By thinking I could have a salad, I was allowing myself to make a choice.  If I chose to forego the salad, I was able to let it go and move on without dwelling on a broken rule and feeling guilty.       

Be realistic and consider how to successfully incorporate healthy changes into your busy lifestyle.  You could decide that the best choice for you is to eat fresh vegetables every day; however, having access to fresh vegetables every day may be unrealistic.  Having frozen and canned vegetables on hand will allow you to live within your guidelines by opting for the better choice of frozen vegetables or the good choice of canned vegetables. The feeling of successfully choosing any one of the options will help to build momentum to continue improving your choices.    

Consider the different choices as a personal experiment.  Pay attention to how you feel after you eat certain foods.  You will find that some foods give you energy and make you feel great while other foods will leave you feeling sleepy and sluggish.  In addition, notice how eating at different times of the day affects you.  Do you ever wonder why some mornings you wake up feeling awful?  If you connect these feelings to what and when you ate, the foods and behaviors that work best for you will become evident; and your desire for the unhealthy foods will naturally fade.  On days when you wish you had made better choices, chalk it up to a learning experience.  Get out of your head and think about how your body felt if you overindulged or ate something unhealthy.  Your body is instinctively trying to keep you healthy.  It is always sending you messages to keep you in balance and is far more trustworthy than your mind, which is inclined to berate you for any perceived indiscretions.  When you consciously choose to indulge in a special treat, savor it without guilt.  This is a huge accomplishment for some people who have been denying themselves their forbidden foods for most of their lives.  I’ve found that by giving myself permission to eat and savor foods that I had previously categorized as bad, my desire for them slipped away.   

When it comes to exercise, be realistic and incorporate activities into your life that you enjoy and want to make a part of your life.  A lot of people have the “no pain, no gain” mentality when it comes to exercise.  When people embark on exercise programs, this mentality often causes them to crash and burn.  By gradually incorporating a small amount of exercise into your day, you will build momentum.  As the momentum builds, you will naturally want to increase the amount of exercise you are doing.  I enjoy taking spin classes at the gym.  Admittedly, I’m not the most intense spinner in the class.  However, I get a good workout and really love the classes, which is why I keep doing it.  I also love walking, which I do almost every day, can do almost anyplace, and can see myself doing for the rest of my life.        

I invite you to embrace imperfection and build a foundation of healthy living that is realistic, flexible, and in alignment with your lifestyle.  Making small lifestyle changes and providing yourself with a range of choices will gently take you in the direction of good health.   As you slowly incorporate positive changes into your life, you will feel like you’re floating downstream towards a healthy, new, sustainable lifestyle.  In addition, I invite you to tell your friends and sign up for weekly e-mail updates to get informed and inspired to Be Light and Healthy.  When you sign up, you will receive an e-mail requesting you confirm your subscription.  After you confirm, you will begin receiving weekly updates.

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought.  The mind is everything.  What we think, we become.”  Buddha

Recently, I celebrated the eighth anniversary of my 100 pound weight loss.  When I reflect upon my life prior to losing the weight, I often marvel at how a simple, gentle thought led to a series of small steps that resulted in a life-changing journey.  You see, when I was 37 years old, I started thinking, “Wouldn’t it be nice if I lost 100 pounds by the time I turn 40?”  Honestly, in the beginning, I didn’t necessarily believe I could accomplish this feat.  I had been overweight my entire life and riding the dieting rollercoaster since I was a teenager.  Previously, I’d had all kinds of big, brash thoughts about crash dieting my way to a thinner body so I’d look good.  My new motivation was a desire to remain healthy as I got older.  Initially, the idea would tenderly slip into my consciousness.   I’d mull it around and let it sit there for awhile as if we had just met and were getting to know each other.  Because the thought was so kind and caring, it didn’t stir up the negative voices in my head that would have caused me to dismiss or resist it.  Like most overweight people, I had spent my entire life living in my head admonishing myself for every morsel that traversed my lips.  Instead, my new idea gingerly softened my mind and opened it up to the possibilities of slowly changing my life. 

My thought remained clandestine between my mind and spirit until eventually my body became engaged.  Instead of sharing it with anyone, I opted to shelter it allowing it to slowly seep into my consciousness and take root.  I wasn’t obsessed with it.  It just occasionally gently floated to the surface of my mind.  As I was getting used to my idea, I lovingly cultivated it as if it were a fragile seed that had just been nestled in the earth.  When it would slip into my awareness, I could feel the expression on my face soften into wonder.  I didn’t experience any anxiety about losing the weight because there were no strings attached to the thought.  I didn’t have a clear vision of where I was going but suspected an inkling of a dream was beginning to take root.   A sense of peacefulness descended upon me, and I felt like I was floating down a river carried by the essence of my new thoughts.     

As a result of my new thinking, I pondered making some small changes in my lifestyle.  Since I was primarily consuming junk food, I started considering healthier options though I never forbade myself from eating the junk.  I categorized my options as good, better, or best knowing that I could choose any of them and be okay with my choice.  My choices improved and gradually there was less room for the unhealthy stuff.  Simultaneously, I felt better and had more energy, which encouraged me to continue down my newly tilled path.  Initially, it felt weird eating healthy food; but the positive effects were undeniable.  I also incorporated a little more activity into my routine by parking further from my destination and opting to take the stairs instead of the elevator sometimes.  Eventually, I realized that I had started to think of myself as a healthy person and was becoming the result of my thoughts. 

The culmination of the positive energy created by my thoughts combined with the results of my small steps strengthened my conviction that my goal was attainable.  I started thinking, “Hey, maybe I really can do this” and could feel a knowing smile spread across my face.  The roots of my idea expanded in my mind and became anchored to my spirit.   I naturally chose to incorporate more healthy activities into my life.  I was very self-conscious when I started walking and did not walk very far, but taking those steps flamed the spark that had been lit by one simple thought.  I was becoming what I was thinking.  My weight slowly diminished strengthening my belief that I could lose 100 pounds by the time I turned 40.  Amazingly, when I stepped on the scale on my 40th birthday, I had lost exactly 100 pounds.    

I invite you to contemplate the power of your thoughts.  No matter what your dream is or how big it is, you can accomplish it.  Be kind to yourself no matter where you are on your life’s journey.  Recognize a desire to change as a tiny spark that can be flamed by your thoughts.  By taking some small steps, you will advance in the direction of your dream and your vision will become clearer. Inevitably, you will become what you think.  In addition, I invite you to tell your friends and sign up for weekly e-mail updates to get informed and inspired to Be Light and Healthy.  When you sign up, you will receive an e-mail requesting you confirm your subscription.  After you confirm, you will begin receiving weekly updates.  

 “I know when night has gone that a new world’s born at dawn.”  Bob Nolan (Tumbling Tumbleweeds Lyrics)

The Winter Solstice occurs on December 21 and marks the shortest day and longest night of the year in the northern hemisphere.  As the darkest part of the year ends, we are reminded of nature’s unending cycles and the passing of time.  She beautifully expresses her duality as the light returns in the northern hemisphere and recedes in the southern hemisphere.  For centuries the return of the light has been marked by festivals and celebrations.  Many modern religious celebrations and customs are rooted in ancient rituals.  Our ancestors lived in harmony with nature.  They relied on her transitions to guide them, and their lives were intertwined with her phases.  As they entered the coldest part of the year, they were most vulnerable to nature’s elements.  The return of the light filled them with hope and helped sustain them until spring returned. 

Just as the darkness does not last forever neither do the cycles of our lives.  As nature contracts, her rhythms slow as she gathers strength for spring’s expansion.  In modern times her gentle urgings to conserve our energy are often met with great resistance.  The velocity of our lives increases as we dash through the days leading up to the holidays.  The demands we place upon ourselves in preparation often cause us to lose track of the important things in our lives.  We get caught up in the details of trying to get the perfect gift, make the perfect cookies, decorate the perfect tree, or even eat perfectly.  By the time the big day arrives many people’s nerves are frazzled and their patience has worn thin unintentionally resulting in the formation of bad holiday memories.   

I spent many years filled with anxiety during the holiday season due to my weight issues.  Instead of focusing on the important aspects of the season, I would direct a great deal of attention and energy to issues surrounding food.  When you look below the surface, many people who appear to have eating issues fundamentally have issues surrounding primary foods, which Joshua Rosenthal, founder of Institute for Integrative Nutrition, characterizes as relationships, career, spirituality, and exercise – aspects of our lives that nourish our souls.  Many people try to fill a void in their lives by indulging in unhealthy behaviors.  During the holidays that void can feel like a chasm triggering bad behavior. 

Being Light and Healthy is about more than food and exercise.  The holidays provide us with opportunities to focus on relationships and spirituality.  Feeling joy and a connection to others are essential components of a healthy life.  Take the time to slow down and consider what would truly nourish your soul and fill you up.  By turning to food, spending, or drinking we are avoiding the fundamental issue.  Instead of denying or resisting bad behavior, be grateful for the critical information your body is conveying to you.  Your body’s cravings for nourishment are a message that something is lacking in your life, and your attempts to nourish yourself by continuing to indulge in bad behavior will never solve the problem.  Consider nourishing yourself and loved ones by trying some of these simple suggestions:

  • Spend time with aged friends or family members.  Sitting and visiting while they reminisce is one of the most meaningful gifts you can give. 
  • Spend time with children.  If you are blessed with children in your life, make building wonderful holiday memories a priority.  They may not remember the gifts you struggled to give them, but they will remember baking cookies with Grammy, lighting the menorah, or sitting by the fireplace every Christmas Eve while you read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.  Happy memories are gifts that can forever be accessed in the sanctuary of their minds and will sustain and nurture them during the cycles of their lives.       
  • Reprise or replace the spiritual practices of your childhood.  Though you may have abandoned these practices as an adult, connecting with humanity and your past by attending a religious service may feed your soul.     
  • Start new traditions that are uniquely your own.  If a non-denominational celebration appeals to you, celebrate the Winter Solstice.
  • Go Christmas Caroling.  Communities often sponsor caroling events, or you could gather family, friends, neighbors, and children together to fill the air with music.  
  • Volunteer to help others.  Helping others feels good and reminds us that everyone can make a meaningful contribution to the world. 
  • Take a walk with someone you care about.  Slow down and enjoy the beauty of nature as you sense her slowing vibrations.

I invite you to slow down and wisely nourish yourself by spending quality time with family and friends creating beautiful memories that will last a lifetime.  The ripple effects of the joy and happiness you create will overflow and expand the light and goodness in the world.  You’ll naturally begin to feel lighter as the joy you feel fills you up in a way food or material things never could.  Imagine how beautiful the world would be if we focused on filling our hearts with love instead of our stomachs with food and our lives with material things.  Best wishes to you and your family for a wonderful holiday.  In addition, I invite you to sign up for weekly e-mail updates to get informed and inspired to Be Light and Healthy.


Be Light and Healthy

The intention of this blog is to share information and inspire people to Be Light and Healthy.

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