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meditation, buddha, yoga, mindfulness

Which Type of Meditation Suits You Best?

If someone told you that just a few minutes a day of a particular practice could help you reduce your pain and anxiety, improve how you respond to stress, and better your brain, how long would it take you to make this a regular part of your day? Probably not long, right? Well get ready, because meditation has been found to help with all those symptoms and more.

Meditation is just what you think it is: A stress-relieving practice that involves choosing a focal

point, calming the mind, and repeating a mantra. It’s been practiced for thousands of years, and has evolved to include several different types. For example, gong bath meditation relies on the repetitive sound of a gong to guide meditation and help relieve stress. Yoga, on the other hand, gives practitioners aphysical practice to guide the focus of meditation.

Want to learn more? This graphic brought to you by Club Woodside and Ghergich & Co can get you started on the path toward a meditation practice.

meditation, mindfulness, yoga, stress

health

What’s Missing From your Health Routine?

With more and more people trying to improve their health these days, it can become confusing as to which diet or exercise regimen to follow. Many of us also miss the big picture when it comes to health maintenance. Health is about balance, and it involves addressing more than just the body. Read more about this in an article I contributed to with The Active Times at 7 Surprising Habits Your Health Routine Might be Missing

Positive thinking, mindfulness, consciousness, meditation, health

Change your Thoughts. Change Your Health.

The power of positive thinking has been scientifically proven to positively impact our health. Read more at my post featured on The Mind Unleashed: Change Your Thoughts, Transform Your Health. Using The Power of Consciousness to Heal.

Ask Dr. Aunna: Why am I so tired all of the time?

Source: cdc.gov

Source: cdc.gov

 

Dear Dr. Aunna,

I have been dealing with low levels of energy for the past few years and it only seems to be getting worse. I have seen a few doctors for this but my blood work is normal except for a borderline high cholesterol. Everyone keeps attributing my symptoms to depression, but except for a little stress here and there I feel pretty happy. Coffee doesn’t work anymore and I can barely stay awake during the day. I am at my wits end and need your advice because I am falling behind in everything!

– AH

*AH, a coaching client of mine, like many others, struggles with low energy and fatigue. AH’s doctors did a thorough workup, checking every possible cause of fatigue from anemia to thyroid disease and even sleep apnea and narcolepsy. Most people fail to realize that their lifestyle habits greatly contribute to their fatigue, rather than a serious disease or “hormones.”  Here is a snapshot of part of AH’s holistic health assessment:

Breakfast: Muffin or bagel, coffee with sugar and creamer
Lunch: Don’t have time to eat lunch usually, but will get a snack from the snack machine or run to the cafeteria when I get the chance.
Dinner: My husband and I usually order out or I make a sandwich or heat up a TV dinner.
Snacks: Pretzels, peanut butter crackers
Beverages: Diet mountain dew, 4-5 cups of coffee per day
Water: Don’t usually drink water. Most of the fluids are from diet soda or coffee.

Alcohol: 3 glasses of wine at night
Tobacco: Never
Drug use: Never

Exercise: Don’t have the time or energy
Stress Release (yoga, meditation, etc): No time, but will watch TV until I fall asleep.

Sleep (duration and quality): 5-6 hours per night. Not good, toss and turn

AH may be considered healthy based on her labs and lack of any specific organic disease, but as you can see above, there are many other factors at play. In fact, there were many other emotional and social issues affecting AH not mentioned above. AH was convinced that she had a diagnosis that no one had discovered yet, but given the fact that she was willing to try anything, she implemented the simple solutions I suggested.  She not only regained energy but her cholesterol level dropped and she lost weight. Here are some take away points from her case.

ProblemLack of awareness. AH didn’t even realize how unhealthy her lifestyle was until she wrote things down. Many people are on the go and  accustomed to certain habits, that they don’t even question them or realize how harmful these habits can be.
Solution: Practicing mindfulness is an effective way to be conscious of your habits. You can start out with keeping a journal and seeing what you can change, or take the time to slow down and consciously make healthy choices throughout the day.

Problem: Excuses. Enough said.
Solution: Many people say they don’t have time, but we make time for what we prioritize. You are worthy of being healthy so start making yourself a priority. (Read more about how to overcome obstacles and make effective change here).

ProblemUnhealthy diet. AH’s diet is filled with refined carbs, low fiber, sugar, and barely any fresh fruits or vegetables. Restaurant and frozen meals are often filled with unhealthy ingredients. Whenever we eat high glycemic index foods, our blood sugar spikes and so does insulin, leading to a crash and feeling drained. An unhealthy diet can also lead to obesity, diabetes and heart disease which will definitely cause fatigue.
Solution: Eating a diet filled with whole grains, protein, and fresh fruits and vegetables (all which contain healthy fiber) leads to a slow steady state of glucose release in our blood. This helps avoid crashes and the fiber keeps us full longer. Cooking meals is a great way to not only eat healthy but practice mindful habits.

ProblemSkipping meals. A drop in blood sugar can lead to feeling weak.
Solution: Don’t skip meals. If you don’t have the time to eat a full meal, keep healthy snacks such as nuts or apples handy to snack on until your next meal.

ProblemDehydration. Dehydration not only leads to fatigue, but can also lead to feelings of hunger.
Solution: It’s recommended that you drink eight 8 oz servings of fluids per day. It’s best if most of your daily fluid intake is from fresh water, rather than fluids from sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages.. Limit salt intake, as salt without enough water can also cause dehydration.

ProblemCaffeine overload. While caffeine can give you some energy, it can also cause insomnia and throw off your sleep. Caffeine also activates the sympathetic nervous system, so with your body on continuous adrenaline drive you are bound to get worn down. It can also cause or worsen anxiety adding to even more stress. AH was also likely so fatigued throughout the day and developed a tolerance for caffeine, which is why coffee no longer helped.
Solution: Limit caffeine to one to two cups of coffee per day. Since a cup of coffee’s caffeine effects can last up to 4 hours, make sure your last cup is in the early afternoon to avoid insomnia at night. Cutting back on sugar and creamer in your coffee will also help. Applying the other solutions mentioned will also increase energy and decrease the need for caffeine.

ProblemAlcohol. Alcohol may help you fall asleep but the quality of your sleep will be affected. The restful cycles during sleep shorten with alcohol use.
Solution: Cut back on alcohol. Limit yourself to a glass of wine a few nights per week.

ProblemLack of Sleep. Stress, caffeine and alcohol all disrupt sleep. TV, especially at night can be activating and interfere with sleep. What’s worse is that the less we sleep, the more we accumulate a sleep debt. Lack of sleep not only causes fatigue but also increases our risk for infection and can lead to depression.
Solution: Make sleep a priority. Go to bed at the same time every night and use the 30 minutes before to wind down instead of watching TV. Make sure to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night.

Problem: Lack of physical activity. Exercise helps maintain a healthy weight, boosts energy and helps release stress.
Solution: Current exercise recommendations are to engage in moderate intensity exercise, 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week. Make sure not to exercise too close to bedtime as it can cause insomnia

Problem: Lack of coping mechanisms. If we don’t release stress we wear ourselves down and can lose sleep. Using alcohol and drugs to cope with stress has detrimental effects on our body.
Solution: Practice daily stress release, whether it be journaling, exercise, yoga or meditation.

If you struggle with fatigue, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional as serious causes for fatigue always need to be ruled out first. Practicing healthy lifestyle habits will improve your quality of life regardless.

Do you have a health question you would like answered? Send us your question for a chance to be featured. Find out more about Dr. Aunna’s Holistic Health Coaching here.

*Information from AH’s assessment was posted with permission. Names are changed to protect privacy.

3 Key Steps to a Meditation Practice

 

Lao Tzu Quote

 

Feeling stressed? You aren’t the only one. In fact, statistics show that up to 77% of people in the USA report feeling physical symptoms related to stress.

All stress is created by our mind’s reactions to situations, rather than the actual situation at hand. Meditation not only helps release stress, but has been found to have many health benefits, including improving back pain and even headaches and blood pressure.

 

The number one concern people present to me when I recommend meditation is, “I just can’t get the thoughts out of my head.”

 

What is meditation?

Many people think that meditation means sitting in lotus posture chanting “OM.” Although this is one way to meditate, meditation is actually about being in the present moment.

Everyone’s true nature is peace, love and joy. It may not seem this way, but that is only because we have been accustomed to associating with our distressing thoughts and emotions. Meditating helps us get in touch with our ever-present sacred peace. Yoga, Tai chi, qigong, painting, walking in nature, and exercise are just a few examples of ways to be present.

If you are stressed and would like to relieve stress, here are 3 steps to a mindfulness meditation practice that have helped me and many others I know:

1. Believe

The number one concern people present to me when I recommend meditation is, “I just can’t get the thoughts out of my head.” If that statement isn’t a self-fulfilling prophecy, then I don’t know what is. You can “get the thoughts out of your head.” It takes practice to resonate with your sacred inner space, especially after a lifetime of identifying with your distressing thoughts and emotions.

The key is not to resist the thoughts, since that will only make them stronger. If I told you, “Don’t think about anything right now,” what happens? (Try it). Thoughts create our reality, and just as much as you are in control of reacting to negative thought patterns, you are also in control of cultivating inner peace.

 

As humans we spend much of our time “doing.” We go through the motions of life and lose touch with our true inner peace and even the not-so-peaceful parts of our existence that trouble us. 

 

2. Breathe

Our breath is what keeps us alive and helps us reach the inner peace within. It’s no wonder we disconnect from peace during times of high stress and anxiety, because it is during those times our breath becomes fragmented and shallow.

Start to practice deep breathing in a quiet place, although with time you will be able to focus even with disturbances around you. Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes and focus on your breath. Feel the way your breath enters and exits your body. Sometimes it is helpful to visualize your breaths cleansing all aspects of your life, with all the negativity released through the outbreath.

Occasionally disturbing thoughts and emotions will arise, and that is OK. It is helpful to picture yourself (the true sacred peace) as the observer of these thoughts and emotions as if they are images on a movie screen. Then bring your awareness back to your breath. The more you do this, the more you will find that your mind will clear on its own.

3. Be

Meditation and being present, allows us to “be.” As humans we spend much of our time “doing.” We go through the motions of life and lose touch with our true inner peace and even the not-so-peaceful parts of our existence that trouble us. These thoughts and feelings are ones that we repress. Instead of dealing with these issues, we tend to avoid them by overworking, alcohol, food, and even projection of negativity onto situations outside of us. If we do not deal with what is troubling us, however, we will continue to face the same issues over and over again.

The only way out is through, and being present will often bring these issues to the forefront for final healing. Meditation may feel uncomfortable at times because, the painful thoughts and emotions that we are trying to let go of in the first place, are the ones that seem to persist. Don’t be startled if strong emotions wash over you. Feel the sadness, anger, pain or whatever it may be. It may even mean having to cry uncontrollably for awhile. These emotions are trapped energy and experiencing and honoring them will allow you to let go of them once and for all.

Practice makes “perfect”

Remember, it’s important not to get caught up in whether or not you are doing things “right.” This is just another way the mind creates distress. Just focusing on your breath and embracing the moment is enough. Set aside about 20-30 minutes per day to practice.

Share your tips on meditation in the comments below.