MINDFULNESS EXERCISE

Today I spent the afternoon wandering the streets of Toronto.

I took myself out for lunch and ordered a fancy main course and a glass of wine on the patio at a restaurant in the Kensington Market.

Initially, it felt a little strange having a nice sit down meal alone. I opened my computer and attempted to access the internet but it wasn’t working. I’m grateful it turned out that way.

I closed my computer and took my fork in hand.

I scooped my first forkful. Once it entered my mouth, I paid close attention to the temperature, the taste, the texture of the bite. I swirled the food bolus around with my tongue. I noticed each time I bit what I was biting into and what flavours came through.

I finished each bite completely before starting the next. This included getting the pieces of rice from the back of my mouth. While chewing each bite I thought of what words I could use to describe the textures and flavours I was experiencing.

I sipped my rose wine and ran my tongue over my teeth after each sip to get any remaining drips.

I admired the colours and the shapes on my plate.

I considered how many people had individually contributed to my meal. Somebody collected the initial seed, prepared the ground, planted the seed, grew and harvested the plants, sold, transported, and distributed them. Someone bought these ingredients and someone thought up the recipe. Someone made the menu, using words that sounded satisfying to my eyes and tongue. Someone cut and grilled the veggies and someone cooked the rice. Someone worked to day to serve me this meal… I could go on and on and on.

I noticed myself during the meal, wanting to start eating faster. Sometimes I would want to sip my wine while I still had food in my mouth, but I resisted.

It was a challenge.

And it was mighty enjoyable.

***
I  very rarely taste food this way. Anyone who knows me know that I am typically more of a food inhaler. I eat it as fast as possible and then finish by saying, “Mmm that was good!”…. I think it was good, I assume it was good because you made it but… truly I don’t  pay much attention to the mouthfuls my tastebuds come into contact with.

I wanted to share that experience with you and recommend you try it for yourself. For me, part of the experience was going out and dining alone, but this can be done at home too.

Make a meal that you enjoy with different tastes and textures. If you don’t wish to do this task alone, do it with a partner or friend and talk about what you are experiencing as you both remain fully present with your meal.

I’d love to hear about your experience doing this, please share!

The Power of Cute

Good news! You no longer need to feel guilty when you find yourself musing yourself meandering the internet for cute animal photos while at work!

The study is called “The Power of Kawaii”. It was completed in Japan at Hiroshima University in 2012. And what it found was that after looking at cute animal photos, concentration increases as well as performance and efficiency of completing tasks!

132 students participated in the study and it was concluded that their performance scores increased by 44% following looking at the cute pics. Attentiveness to the task at hand also increased following looking at the cute photos according to these researchers.

So next time you get busted at work surfing the internet looking at cute animals, you can inform your boss that you are actually doing it to increase your work performance.

Access the study by clicking the following link:
http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0046362

And… then guide yourself to this link to soak up some cuteness :)
http://justcuteanimals.com/page/2?fp_type=news

 

Smiling for a Longer and Happier Life

I smile a lot. Mostly because I’m happy, but even if you aren’t feeling particularly happy, there is always a reason to smile. Here are a few:

1. When you are feeling good you smile, but when you smile, you start to feel good! That’s one of my favorite facts. The cool thing is that it doesn’t even need to be a genuine smile. You can put a pen in your teeth to lift those cheeks and that will trick your brain into producing some happy hormones for you. This fact has been proven with many studies. That’s some good science.

2. Smiling can lead to a longer life. A study was  done at Wayne State University looked at the smiles of baseball players in headshots. The researchers found that players with largest smiles lived an average of 79.9 years and the players who didn’t smile at all in their photos lived an average of 72.9 years. (The average life span at that time was 77 years in the US).

3. Smiling is contagious. We humans are copy cats. When someone smiles at us, we tend to smile back. It works the same way with frowning, except frowning isn’t as fun.

4. Smiling is calming. Smiling lowers your heart rate and decreases perceived levels of stress. Personally when I’m stressed I smile less but, sometimes you just need to fake it till you make it. Think of it as a challenge- when you notice you feel stressed, force yourself to smile.

5. Smiling makes you look happy, and looking happy makes you more attractive. One study done, by Orbit Complete found that 70% of people find woman more attractive when she is smile than when she is wearing make-up.

6. Smiling is half way to laughing. Now we know a little bit about the positive effects of smiling, but laughing has even more! See table below.

The Benefits of Laughter
Physical Health Benefits:

  • Boosts immunity
  • Lowers stress hormones
  • Decreases pain
  • Relaxes your muscles
  • Prevents heart disease
Mental Health Benefits:

  • Adds joy and zest to life
  • Eases anxiety and fear
  • Relieves stress
  • Improves mood
  • Enhances resilience
Social Benefits:

  • Strengthens relationships
  • Attracts others to us
  • Enhances teamwork
  • Helps defuse conflict
  • Promotes group bonding

Table taken from
http://www.helpguide.org/life/humor_laughter_health.htm

***

Have I sold you on smiling yet? I hope so :).

RESOURCES

http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/wellness_articles.asp?id=1529&page=2

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daniela-tempesta-lcsw/happiness-tips_b_5153819.html

http://www.helpguide.org/life/humor_laughter_health.htm

 

Thank you Thyroid!

Feeling tired, sluggish and bloated? Maybe it’s not you, maybe it’s your thyroid! When people are feeling symptoms of depression, often one of the first things to check is thyroid levels. This hormone master has more control over us than we give it credit for. Continue reading this post to learn more.

Why we love our thyroid

The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland that is found in the neck under your voice box. It typically weighs less than one ounce. It It produces two essential hormones- Triodothyronine (T3) and Thyroxine (T4)

These hormones regulate your metabolism. They affect how smoothly and quickly your body can convert calories into energy.

A well functioning thyroid will help with weight control, regular sleep patterns, clear and healthy skin, regulated and healthy energy levels.

What causes the thyroid to malfunction?

1) Iodine deficiency. Our bodies do not naturally produce iodine and therefore we rely on our diets to get the iodine we need. Most of us get the iodine we need from table salt because it is fortified with iodine.

2) Side effect to some medications. Lithium and corticosteroids slow the thyroid down. Also, pain medications, antihistamines and anti-depressants along with sleep aids can sometimes slow the thyroid down.

3) Hormonal changes such as pregnancy and menopause in women. Hypothyroidism is more common in women than men.

4) Genetic predisposition. Hypothyroidism can run in your family.

5) Food sensitivity and gluten. These are the most common causes of hypothyroidism because they cause inflammation.

How it feels if your thyroid isn’t functioning (Hypothyroidism)

Symptoms of an under functioning thyroid include the following:

  • Mental fatigue
  • Low body temperature
  • Bogged down bowels
  • Fluid retention/swelling
  • Dry skin, brittle nails, cracked feet
  • Fatigue/ Lethargy
  • Weight gain
  • Acne

What you can eat to help or hinder thyroid functioning

Helpful foods: Coconut oil, seaweed, eggs, low fat dairy products, soy sauce (because it has been fermented, other soy products are on the naughty list) and shellfish.

Hindering foods: Avoid foods that are in the brassica family, which include broccoli, cauliflower and many others.

If you enjoy these foods, then steam them before eating because this changes the chemical compounds in the food and takes away many of the thyroid clogging properties in most of them.

Other foods that contain goitrogens include almonds, millet, pears, strawberries, turnips, corn, mustard, pine nuts, peaches, canola oil, soy products, peanuts and spinach. For a more  complete list, click here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goitrogen#Goitrogenic_foods

High levels of caffeine also can be a thyroid clogger.

Other things you can do

1) Exercise! – Once again, exercise is coming through as a helpful component.  Find something you enjoy and move your body. About 30-40 minutes of cardio 3x a week is sufficient.

2) Multivitamin/ Supplements – Dr.Oz, advises to look for a very potent high quality multi with high levels of iodine, selenium, zinc, vitamin B, D, E and at least 2 grams of vitamin C. Other nutrients such as omega-3 as well as amino acids also help regulate the thyroid and need to also be considered.

3) Thyroid specific supplements/medications. Speak to your doctor or health care professional about your options.

***

Rescource websites

http://www.doctoroz.com/blog/lisa-lynn/3-ways-boost-thyroid-function

For an extensive list on foods to eat and to avoid, see this website;
http://www.lowthyroiddiet.com/low-thyroid-symptoms.htm

For more information on goitrogens;
http://www.womentowomen.com/thyroid-health/goitrogens-and-thyroid-health-the-good-news/

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/01/02/many-symptoms-suggest-sluggish-thyroid.aspx