Tag Archives: depression

10 Day Silent Meditation – Vipassana

I just returned from a 10 day silent meditation retreat in Merrit, BC. Vipassana meditation… And I have to tell you about it.

What Happened

The facility held 70 students, split about evenly between the two sexes. The female and males students were separated for the 10 days except for in the meditation hall.

We were asked not to look each other in the eye or use our bodies to signal to one another. It is means to mimic a totally solitary experience.

After an evening meal and chit chat the silence started…

I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. I had no idea what to expect.

The daily schedule
400 – First wake up gong
430-630 Meditation starts in the hall
630-800 Breakfast break
800-900 Sit of determination (after day 4, everyone must attend these sits and be as still as possible for the entire hour)
900-1100 Mediation in the hall
1100-100 Lunch Break
100- 230 Meditation in the hall
230-330 Strong determination sit
330-500 Mediation in the hall
500-600 Tea break
600-700 Strong determination sit
700-815 Discourse
815-900 Mediation in the hall

Day 1– I observed the nature of my monkey mind. We were instructed to focus on our upper lip for the entire meditation sit for all of the sits of the first three days. We were to feel the sensation of the breath on the area above the upper lip. It was challenging to maintain focus on such a subtle sensation when there were so many things more interesting to think about! My mind would focus for about ten seconds and then a completely random thought would pop up and take me on a ride without my consent. Once I realized I was on the thought train I would bring my focus back, upper lip, upper lip, breath on the upper lip….thought train again, then back, upper lip, upper lip, upper lip… Very slowly the thought train started picking me up for less rides, less often.

Day 2– While observing my upper lip I had a profound and completely unexpected experience. I felt myself open up with a white/yellow light and break open, a literal breakthrough. And through it birthed the forgiveness for an ex boyfriend who I rode on an emotional roller-coaster with for four years in the past. We’ve been apart for 3 years and I had found a lot of healing and forgiveness in that time; however, there was still some residual bits of distaste for his character. To be honest, prior to this experience, I was looking forward to possibly punching him in the face if I ever came across him again… That’s all gone now. I feel like when I see him next I can run to him, look in his eyes and tell him I forgive him for everything we went through and I can genuinely apologize for the role I played in our dysfunction. Wow! Finally. Freedom.

Day 3 – Creative ideas kept breaking my concentration on my upper lip. Great creative ideas though, ones worth remembering, ones worth pursuing. It was like the mundane thoughts weren’t being welcomed in any longer so my mind was like “fine, I will give her these great ideas and then she won’t be able to resist them!” And I wasn’t, yet. I love the discourses in the evening. G.N. Goenka is so funny and has such great stories. I think I have a crush on him.

Day 4 – This is the day I finally was able to sit for the entire meditation in the afternoon and focus on my upper lip without thought interruption. I felt so proud! I did it! I got it!… And immediately after that meditation, S.N. Goenka says over the speakers “We are doing a new technique now”. Damn, I finally get the technique down and now we are changing it. Now we are doing body scans. We “start at the top of the head” and scan the sensation of the body all the way through to the toes. We are instructed to feel every single sensation on every inch of the skin, “part by part, bit by bit”. And so the new challenge begins.

Day 5– I’m loving this. I am keen, I am focused, I am the perfect little mediation student. I didn’t miss any meditations, I focused all of the time and I could feel people noticing my excellent posture and calm focus. I felt great. I scanned the body, head to toe and now we go from toes to the head also… “Patiently and persistently”…

Day 6 – Didn’t sleep well the night before and slept through the morning meditation. Frick! I’m ruined! I feel so guilty, I’m supposed to be the keen one that makes it to every sitting!… I beat myself up for a bit and then I realized this pattern and this desire in my life to be the keenest, or to be the one that tries the hardest. I also started realizing how much of a meal that is for my ego and how often I compare myself to others and measure myself against them. I had realized this before but something felt different this time. This time something dissolved through me, somehow I had a greater understanding and ability to let it go.

Day 7 – I fucking hate this. I want to go home. I will never do this again. I’m so bored of this. I get it, I will practice when I get home. All I need is a break from all of this. I am going to go crazy, how many days are left? I want to punch G.N. Goenka in the face. I don’t look forward to the breaks any more because all they are is moment to get up, wait in line for the bathroom and then go back in. What kind of break is that and why do I bother looking forward to it? This realization-that the breaks aren’t any better than the meditating and I still have 3 full days to stay in this boredom hell hole with no relief changed something in me. There was a letting go of desires, it was a learning to enjoy the moment. I’ve read all the inspiring quotes and bumper stickers about this and I’ve tried to be mindful and all that stuff but now it felt different. Experiencing this shift makes mindful a byproduct of the peaceful state inside instead of an active and slightly torturous effort to slow down and enjoy each moment for what it is.

Day 8 – Screw this. I am not doing this any more. I am doing full-blown yoga in the hall ways and I’m well aware I’m not supposed to. I want to plan 3 classes for when I teach at home after this. I am going to plan my life. I am going to think about whatever I want. I start thinking of all of the things I want to do. I want to clean up the cookie stand and make great treats when I get back, I want to tell this person this thing, I want to make pins with insightful words, I want to make necklaces from beach rocks… I jumped back onto the thought train in full force. Eventually even my thoughts would get boring and I would start meditation again out of an uncontrollable happening in my brain to meditate. There was a shift now, instead of the thinking being the default mode, now I felt bored of thinking so I would meditate. Cool.

Day 9 – I am still pretty much checked out of being a committed meditator. I start to laugh at my frustrations though because I know it’s all I can do. I don’t want to punch G.N. Goenka in the face because I realize now that’s just my own seed, my own “Sankara” and it would only be causing me pain. I am used to not sleeping at night now. Even though I feel partly checked out, I no longer count down the time during meditation waiting for meals and breaks.

Day 10 – Today after meditation we are allowed to talk. What will my first word be? Equanimity. It’s a main word of the course and is repeated over and over and not only that, it seems fun to say! Equaminity! It has a nice bounce. Other than that though, I’m not sure that I want to talk. I kind of don’t mind the silence. After the meditation is over, the teacher gets up and walks away and we all sit there confused as to what to do. People begin leaving the hall. I walk into the washroom and say “Equanimity” I then walk out of the washroom and say to the first woman I see “We’re free!” And we were free. We started talking. Talking felt amazing. I felt gitty and jittery with excitement. So much had happened in our boredom and in our equanimous meditations observing “annicha” (the ever changing nature of things). I watched the anonymous, blank faces turn to life. People’s spirits were shining out and everyone looked different now that their personality could shine through. I’ve never felt so free in my life. I don’t want anything. I was trying to think of something I was craving, like something I really wanted to eat and I couldn’t. I felt excited to put on my good smells again but other than that I could not think of a craving. I am free of cravings… other than tea, I still do really enjoy the tea. It was the tea, milk and honey that got me through some of the most challenging times in the course and for that I have an emotional comfort connection with it now… And I’m okay with that.

Day 11 – Home bound! I feel so excited and refreshed and pure. I feel like I know myself on a new level :) No cravings, just understandings. Wow, I feel free.

To learn more about Vipassana or to sign up to go yourself, click this link:

www.dharma.org

 

 

 

 

Laughter Yoga

Laughter yoga! 

What the heck is that?!

It’s awesome! And it has nothing to do with yoga poses, although it does join the breathing or pranayama practice of yoga.

Laughing yoga was started by a doctor by the name of Madan Kataria in India. He started in a park with some friends telling jokes to receive the health benefits of laughter. Once they ran out of jokes they decided to skip the jokes and go straight to the laughing and the results astounded them!

By fake laughing with people you eventually end up real laughing that is contagious and leaves one feeling fantastic after the session.

Laugher yoga has started up all over the world in over 62 countries and there are now over 6000 laughing clubs that get together for the primary purpose to laugh!

There are other aspects of laughing yoga too such as clapping,  playfulness, eye contact, and breathing exercises.

Why would one do such a ridiculous seeming thing?

… to feel happy of course!

It turns out that there are many great health benefits of laughter such as

  • Laughing lowers blood pressure. People who lower their blood pressure, even those who start at normal levels, will cut their risk of strokes and heart attacks. …
  • Reduces stress hormone levels. …
  • Fun ab workout. …
  • Improves cardiac health. …
  • Boosts T cells. …
  • Triggers the release of endorphins. …
  • Produces a general sense of well-being.

All you need to do is laugh! And just like anything that you practice, it gets easier to laugh the more you do it. Have you ever tried laughing when something is bothering you? Laugher immediately lightens our mood and helps give feelings of contentment. So go ahead, laugh it up or laugh it off, whatever you do and for whatever reason or none at all – laugh.

Check it out and see if there is a laughter club near you!

I recently became a Certified Laughing Yoga Teacher, so if you are looking for some help starting a Laughing Club near you, let me know!

 

Self Love / Joy Meditation

I just completed this for my yoga homework and figured I would share it for anyone who may stumble across it and possibly enjoy it. :)

Find yourself in a comfortable position, close your eyes if that is a desirable option for you. Begin to notice your breath. Don’t try to change it, but instead just observe it’s qualities. Where is your breath reaching right now? Are you breathing into your chest? Your ribs? Into your belly? How fast or how slow are you breathing? How long is your inhale? How smooth is your exhale? Is there space in-between? Are you breathing through you mouth or through your nose? Are you congested, are your sinuses clear? Just notice. Just breathe. 
Now take notice of your thoughts. Where are your thoughts? Are they stuck somewhere in the past, or are they worrying about something in the future? You have survived everything in the past thus far, which means that in everything is going to be okay in the future. So you may as well relax, and be here, now. Trust yourself. Make this moment your everything.
Breathe. 
Take a moment to notice how you feel. 
Are you holding on to any tension?  If so, where is it? Notice it, send it love, and allow it to release. And then allow it to release again. Scan your body as you release and relax and allow yourself to sink into your mat. You are safe and supported here. You are safe. You are supported.
Take a moment, now, to smile. You’re smiling for no reason at all. Know that you can do this at any time in your day and in fact, the more you manage to do this, the more reason you will have to continue.
Actually there is something to smile about. You are loved and you are love, so take a second here to love yourself… Like really love yourself. Love yourself right now like you love whatever it is in your life that you love the most… Maybe it’s your child or your children, your partner, maybe its another family member, a pet, a friend, a plant, a place. Whatever it is, give yourself the love you give it, and store this love for yourself in your heart to access absolutely whenever you need. Breathe it, feel it, soak it into your every vein and artery.
Possibly your thoughts have calmed. If thoughts continue to arise, watch them with kindness as they transform and conform into the shape of a dandelion going to seed, and then watch the wind of your breath blow its particles into flight. You may notice some of them return and that’s okay, just watch them with admiration as they float on by. 
By calming your mind and taking a break from your thoughts, you are allowing magic to flow in. You are absorbing the wiseness of the earth. Feel as you fill with magic and feel as you fill yourself with all of the qualities you already have, that you tell yourself you lack. You know, what makes you vulnerable, makes you beautiful. So, take all of your imagined short comings and use your imagination to make another ball of dandelion seeds. Take a look at this ball and cherish it’s beauty. Can you love every piece of it? Again, allow your breath to blow it’s particles into flight. Watch them fly. Fly. F.L.Y. First Love Yourself.
Steve Ross, author of Happy Yoga says, “If you can’t approve of yourself, then all is lost. The whole world can be on your side, but it you’re not on your side, then what’s the point”.. And he has a point.
Today our yoga class is about producing self love, and joy. So allow yourself, again, to smile. Allow yourself to laugh. Allow yourself to have fun. Do whatever it is in this next hour that makes you feel the most magnificent. If you need an hour of Savasana, please by all means, take it. Spend this time asking yourself, what would give me the greatest amount of joy? And listen to whatever directions come to you. 
If are looking to plant any further seeds of intention, or sankulpas for this class other than producing joy and self love, now is the time to plant that seed. Your body is the garden of your own design. And you get to harvest the fruits of your labour. 
Please take about three more deep, cozy, cleansing breaths here before rolling to your left side. 
(When your ready press your top hand into the floor to push yourself up and find yourself in a seated position….)

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

 

Boost Your Mood and More with Fish Oil!

There appears to be a correlation between depression and a lack of omega-3 tip fish fat in blood cells. Less omega-3 = Greater depression. It is suggested that omega-3’s help to regulate serotonin (the feel good hormone). In some studies it fatty acids have been found helpful in treatment of both unipolar and bipolar depressive episodes! Along with a boost in mood, there are other perks to getting the omega-3’s.

1) Calms aggression – A study done by Tomoitio Hamazaki and colleagues at Toyama Medical and Pharmaceutical University showed that students who were given daily fish oil capsules showed no increased aggression during the stressful time of exams, whereas aggression shot up an average of 9% and as much as 46% in the students taking the placebo.

2) Helps with concentration and faster learning –  In fish oil is something called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is essential for the growth and development of children’s brains. It is also necessary for normal brain functioning in adults. Many adults are deficient DHA so taking supplement can boost brain function up to expected/normal levels. There are low levels of DHA in eggs and meat.
For more information on the health benefits of DHA check out this study:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10479465

3)Protects from Alzheimer’s Disease – A study done in 2012 concluded that “Patients with AD have been shown to be deficient in DHA, and supplementing them with EPA+DHA not only reverses this deficiency, but may also improve cognitive functioning in patients with very mild AD.” (Swanson, et. al)

Access the study here:
http://advances.nutrition.org/content/3/1/1.full

HOW MUCH?

Based on a 2000 calorie/day diet, experts recommend 650 milligrams/day of long chain omega-3’s (DHA and EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid)).

How much is that?

  • Mackerel (1 oz.), Herring (1.5 oz.) and Sardines (1.5 oz.) have the most DHA in them, followed by Tuna (3.5 oz.). Salmon (1.75 oz.) and swordfish (3.5 oz.) also are good sources of DHA.
  • If you decide that you don’t wish to eat fish every single day, a supplement is a good choice. If taking a supplement always make sure the it will not interfere with anything you are already taking and take as directed on the label.

***
If you are feeling down, your dietary intake is a good place to start your focus on feeling better. Think about what you are putting in your body and how it will likely make you feel. We are what we eat.

Some of the information in this post has been sources from the book “Your Miracle Brain” by Jean Carper. This book is an easy read and filled with valuable and interesting brain boosting suggestions.

 

Happy Spice

Herbs and spices are a tasty, easy and extremely healthy way to boost up the nutritional value in a meal. Oregano for example, has 4x the antioxidant activity as blueberries!

The struggle with many herbal remedies is knowing the dosage you need to experience the positive effects. The research that has been done is limited and the dosing will depend on a persons age, weight, general health, and other conditions. The drug companies are not particularly interested in funding research on herbal remedies for obvious reasons.

The following herbs listed have many other effects besides the ones I will speak about as I am focusing on their properties that may affect mood.

If you plan to take any herbs medicinally, please consult a doctor/natural path first, as herbs can have negative effects if you have certain health care conditions or if they mix with other medications you are already taking.

Cilantro –> In a study done in 2011, researchers used 50, 100 and 200mg/kg of Coriander (Cilantro in seed form) and compared it with using 0.5mg of Diazepam. At doses of 100 and 200mg/kg the coriander produced anti-anxiety effects similar to diazepam.

Access the study here:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3195130/

Another study found that Corriander was helpful in prolonging sleep without a neurotoxic effect.

Access abstract of the study here:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21988208

Rosemary –> Rosemary can help your memory.
It is also known to be an aphrodisiac. :)

This study found that smelling rosemary oil to increase memory by up to 75%! Now that’s impressive. The study was done by a team of psychologists at Northumbria University, Newcastle.

66 healthy adults partcipated. Half were placed in a rosemary scented room (4 drops placed in an aroma stream fan dispenser), half were in an unscented room. 

The result was that the participants in the rosemary scented room scored higher in memory test and tasks than those in the room with no scent. 

This article further explains the research:
http://roberttisserand.com/2013/04/new-rosemary-memory-research/

This article also talks about how rosemary can be used to improve memory, as well it has links to the research:
http://www.whydontyoutrythis.com/2014/02/scientists-find-sniffing-rosemary-can-increase-memory-by-75.html

Cumin –> Improves memory and helps to relieve stress.

A study was by Muhammad Shahdaat Bin Sayeed, a lecturer in the department of pharmacy at the University of Asia Pacific in Bangladesh.

He studied black cumin (also known as black seed) with 20 men who took 2, 500mg capsules of black cumin daily. They found that after 9 weeks of taking the capsules, their memory, cognition, and attention  were “markedly better” than the 20 men who took the placebo.

To check out the article from Prevention that talks further about this research, click the link below:http://www.prevention.com/health/brain-games/new-memory-booster

Tumeric –> Increases mood.
(It’s also a good thing to put on cuts and bruises and some claim that it replaces the need for a tetanus shot if you cut yourself with glass/metal.)

 In a study done on  mice, tumeric appeared to be an effective anti-depressant.

In the study, tumeric was shown to increase serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine! As well it was shown to inhibit monoamine oxidase activity in the mouse brain, which is the same thing MOA anti-depressants do. 

Access the abstact of the study here:
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0014299905006230

***

So my conclusion is that, I love herbs and spices. But when it comes to using them to increase my mood… I would probably go for supplement form so I can get a regular dosage.

The research is there to prove them to be effective, but the research is still fairly slim for the pickings.

In the future, look forward to an article about 5-HTP and other supplements/vitamins that have been shown to improve mood.

Please let me know if you have any experience using herbs to help your mood! What has worked? What hasn’t? I would love to hear from you!

 

 

 

Choose Happy

Can we choose to be happy? 

If we aren’t making choices based on our happiness, what are we basing our choices on and why?

Happiness can be a choice; however, depression isn’t. Depression is a disease. This is a nondebatable fact. Depression is real, just like diabeties is real.

I will talk more about depression in future posts. The depression end of our mood spectrum is not the one I wish to focus on. I want to focus on happiness because that’s what we all want more of!

In this post about choosing to be happy I make exception for people who are experiencing a major depression. If you are clinically depressed, simply choosing to be happy is probably not the primary option for you.

However, doing your best to choose happiness, along with getting treatment is a great choice! When we have problems, often times the more angles we tackle them from, the better the outcome.

Brain chemistry, gentetics, a history of trama or abuse, a high stress lifestyle, low self esteem, high anxiety, and perfectionism are only a few  things that can make “choosing happy” more of a challenge.

In the same breath, the last thing anyone needs to feel if they are depressed is that it is their fault for not choosing happiness.

Depression is not your fault.

If you do not have clinical depression and you want to be happier, you probably can follow some suggestions on this site and in this post to improve your overall general mood. :)

In  the following article, Deepak Chopra writes about how we can and why we should choose the happier life.

http://www.oprah.com/spirit/Why-Choice-Is-the-Way-to-Happiness-Deepak-Chopra