a-HAHS Tip #5: Easy Yoga Pose

I know you are busy, so I will keep my post quick today and remind you of this powerful tip that can make your day and another’s that much better.

Whether you’ve been doing yoga since the day you were born or not, here’s a pose that will turn your frown upside down.

This movement has been proven to boost levels of positivity within seconds. In fact, it’s so powerful that it can also make other people happy.

It’s a smile.

That’s right! This innate gesture has been proven to make people happy inside and out. This simple movement is enough to trick our brain when we are feeling badly into feeling better.

Try it next time you need a lift.

If you are looking for more ways to feel better in your life whether it’s reaching your goals or having support to gain more clarity in your life. Contact us at info@HealthandHappinessSpecialist.com today to learn how A.W.E.S.O.M.E™ Life coaching can help you live your best life.

Kindness: A Contagion Worth Catching

Kindness: A Contagion Worth Catching
By Debbie Lyn Toomey, Health & Happiness Specialist™

KIND
Are your anxieties making you feel restless, and you don’t know what to do about it?

Are you sick of feeling down and want to just be happy?

Are you feeling isolated and lonely, and you are desperate to find a way to feel connected with others?

The easiest way to do this is through kindness. Small and consistent doses of kindness will make you and another person feel better. In fact, kindness has been shown to boost our levels of mental and physical health.  It’s also been proven to enhance our relationships with others.

Kindness Study

If you are concerned that you may not have a “kind” bone in your body, don’t worry because actually everyone does. A 2013 study done by Barbara Fredrickson et al. determined that groups of participants who were randomly assigned to perform a six week (one hour long) loving kindness meditation had a marked increase in their positive emotions as compared to the control group. Participants whose positivity levels increased were noted to also have an increase in their vagal tone as compared to their baseline vagal tone measurements. A toned vagus nerve influences our ability to connect with others, our breathing, heart rate variability and so much more.

What Happens in Vagus…

Without getting too scientific here, the vagus nerve otherwise called, cranial nerve X, is one of the 12 cranial nerves in our body. It runs from our head all the way down to our stomach. That’s not counting the other nerves that run from it. Among the many responsibilities of the vagus nerve are the unconscious body procedures like controlling our digestion and heart rate. In fact, stimulating this nerve, called vagus nerve stimulation, is sometimes used to treat people with seizures or depression.

Kindness in Action

Let’s put kindness in action. There are many ways to cultivate a practice of kindness that will benefit you and others on so many levels. An act of kindness has the potential to create a positive ripple effect for those that have been touched by your one simple gesture.  For example, I gave a co-worker a compliment about her hair. This compliment made her feel good about herself the rest of the day. Because she felt good, she was extra nice to everyone she interacted with the rest of the day allowing them to also benefit. Moreover, her positive state of being helped her work more effectively, making the rest of day go so smoothly that she was able to leave work on time. This gave her extra time with her family. It’s amazing how a small act of kindness can be a catalyst for so many positive actions.

“Put on a Happy Face”

Are you eager to start this practice but just don’t have any idea how and when to begin? It’s easy! Just like the song from the wonderful musical, Bye Bye Birdie, “Put On a Happy Face.” The best way to begin to “spread sunshine all over the place” is by starting small.

Thank you on a record

Here’s a list of 4 ideas you can try.

  1. Smile – even if you are not feeling very happy. Smiling can trick your brain into feeling that it is happy. Smiling is a nice way to greet someone without using any words. It’s a way of spreading sunshine all over the place.
  2. Space – giving up your space in line is a wonderful way to be kind to others without it costing you any money. Whether it is allowing someone to cut in front of you in the grocery line or in traffic, this gesture can go a long way.
  3. Say it – letting someone know that you appreciate them is a great gesture that will surely make anyone’s day. Whether it’s your family, friends, or co-worker, spend some time letting people know they matter.
  4. Secret – doing a kind act in secret, otherwise called Random Act of Kindness, is a fun way to strengthen your kindness muscles. Do something kind for someone without them seeing you do it. This adds a fun mystery to someone’s day that makes them feel special. Although anytime is a great time to be kind, February has a special day that honors this particular action. This year it is on February 17th.

“Pay it Forward”

Kindness is a wonderful gesture that makes more than one person feel good. It’s creates a “pay it forward” action that is contagious and effects others in so many wonderful ways. Remember any small gesture of kindness is enough to cause a powerful ripple of greatness. If you need motivation or just a way to stay connected with like-minded people who are looking for fun and unique way boost their health and happiness, then join our Facebook page called Positivity All the Time. Also, sign up for our newsletters at www.HealthandHappinessSpecialist.com today to get your free 1-Minute Health and Happiness Assessment today.

Fresh, Fun, and Fabulous Tip for the New Year

Fresh, Fun, and Fabulous Tip for the New Year
By Debbie Lyn Toomey,  Health and Happiness Specialist™, Speaker, Coach

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Happy 2016 to you and yours!

How’s your New Year’s Resolution coming along?

Does the thought of having to do your New Year’s Resolution make you want to say, “Yay” or “Yikes?”

Are your old habits slowly creeping back into your routine sabotaging your good intentions towards a new and better you this year?

Alas, you are not alone! The traditional New Year’s Resolutions needs to be eliminated or evolve as a person gets older. Isn’t it time to begin the year with excitement and fun instead of exhaustion and frustration?

Satiated and Satisfied

As the great Groucho Marx says, “If you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong.” There’s so much to be said about having fun and doing what you love to make your activities more meaningful. By starting the year in this positive mindset, you can continue along the year feeling satiated and satisfied with goodness instead of grudges (towards yourself and others). In other words, instead of feeling heavy with physical weight or life’s burdens, try something different that will surely make you feel good about yourself and have fun doing it. I call it 2 Weeks of Fresh, Fun, & Fabulous. It’s a 14-day challenge that will help you boost a greater positive outlook, motivating you make healthier and happier choices during the rest of your year. Instead of the old traditional New Year’s Resolution mentality which focuses on the “what-we-have-to-do” in order to feel better, the 2-week challenge will get you started in the “what-I-want-to-do” outlook that will naturally make you look healthier and happier.

Happy Note

Start this year on a happy note so that the rest of the year will become more harmonious for you – both at home and at work. Stop being amongst the statistics of well-intended people who were not able to achieve their own New Year’s goals and punishing themselves year after year for their failure to achieve (or remember) their original resolutions.

Fresh, Fun, & Fabulous

The 2 Weeks of Fresh, Fun, & Fabulous Challenge is a wonderful way of starting this year. This positive approach to living a healthier and happier life encourages the participants to be creative, courageous, and consistent in our actions, yielding great results. Try something different this year. Allow it to be the year you step out of your comfort zone and enjoy more of what life has to offer. Big or small, any fresh, fun, and fabulous action will make you feel alive. We all know New Year’s Resolutions are traditionally not sustainable and become a monumental task leaving many feeling conquered by their own well-intended goals. We don’t need any fancy statistics to prove what we have come to know year after year. This year, why not take it easy on yourself by doing for something that will not only boost your happiness and also your wellness?

When we are happy, I have found that we:

  • make better and healthier choices
  • are more productive
  • relate with others
  • look and feel younger
  • sleep better
  • and so much more.2 weeks of (3)-23931You deserve it!

    It’s time to be kinder to yourself and realize that beginning the year by failing at self-made resolutions leaves a lasting negative tone for the rest of your year. It’s time to give yourself permission to be human and realize that you have been doing your best. Isn’t it time to add more fresh ideas, fun time, and feel fabulous? Don’t you deserve it? If you just nodded and said, “yes,” please continue to read. If you shook your head and said, “no,” please go back to the top of this article and re-read again until you say, “yes, I do deserve it.”

    Don’t you owe yourself more than that?

    2 Weeks of Fresh, Fun, & Fabulous Challenge

    Ready to give the “2 Weeks of Fresh, Fun, & Fabulous” challenge a go?

    Here’s how:

    1. Dedicate: Mark 2 weeks on your calendar for this challenge. Tip: You can do this longer than 2 weeks if you want. If you forget a day, no problem. Just keep on doing it for the rest of the 2 weeks. The key is to stay true to the original challenge of doing something “fresh, fun, & fabulous.”
    2. Decide: Every day for 2 weeks, decide which aspect of the challenge you want to take on. Whether it’s fresh, fun, or fabulous, think of what you can do with it. Would it be food, family, friends, finance, faith, or frills? What does it look like? Who will you do it with? Where will you do it? How will you go about it in doing it?
    3. Document: Write down in a journal what fun activities you did and how they made you feel. Tip: journal at the same time and place daily. Create a routine out of this. Reading your journal posts will make you feel happy when you need that extra boost.
    4. Declare: Let others know about what you are doing. Share with friends to further fuel the positivity around you. Tip: If you need more people to keep you on track, join us on Facebook. There is a group called 2 Weeks of Fresh, Fun, & Fabulous that has been participating in this easy and enjoyable challenge.

    Have a Fun-Fabulous Time!

    This year, why not try something different, radical, and fun? Why not begin the year with something easy, engaging, and exciting?  Instead of attempting to do something that will take weeks and weeks until you see an improvement, such as losing weight or getting organized, start doing something that will make you good from the start. Doing something different daily for 2 weeks will be enough to get you feeling good about yourself. Isn’t that the ultimate goal of all New Year’s Resolutions? By trying this new spin on resolutions, you will add more excitement and enjoyment into your life. I wish you a fun-fabulous time as you play along with this challenge!

    Need coaching support in how to be consistent with your goals, visit www.healthandhappinessspecialist.com today.

     

 

A Positive Spin on Resolutions

How many times have you started a New Year with one of these resolutions?

 

“I will lose weight.”

“I will go to the gym 3 times a week.”

“I will stop eating sweets.”

“I will spend less money.”

At this time of year, there are countless articles and news stories about setting New Year’s resolutions and why most don’t work. According Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy, when setting resolutions, most people “tend to focus on things they want to change about themselves and things they dislike about themselves.” In doing this, we focus on negative feelings rather than positive ones.

Replacing the New Year’s Resolution with an Intention

Instead of making resolutions that focus on a negative, why not focus on something positive for 2016?

Take a moment and think about the good things in your life right now. What are you most grateful for? What would you like to have more of in the New Year? Visualize that one thing. How does that one thing make you feel? Try to choose one word or one symbol to represent the positive thing or feeling you would like to experience more of in 2016.

Set an intention to bring more of that ‘one thing’ in to your life in 2016. Spend some creative time with it. Draw a picture that you can keep referring to throughout the year.  Take a walk by yourself and breathe your ‘one thing’ in. See yourself surrounded by it, embraced by it.

Share your ‘one thing’ with us. We would love to hear from you as we cheer each other on for a 2016 filled with Health and Happiness!

-Marie, Health and Happiness Team Leader

2016

Pain Relief from Kindness and Laughter

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Have you ever suffered from searing pain that…

  • drained the blood from your body and almost made you pass out?
  • kept you up all night?
  • made you feel depressed, hopeless, and scared that it will never get better?

It was exactly this time of the year last year that I was living in this nightmare. A year ago, I couldn’t walk without being in excruciating pain. Simple activities such as sitting, standing, and sleeping made me anxious and worried from the unexpected shooting pain. Both unfortunately and fortunately this painful episode lasted for about one month. While it was unfortunate that I experienced intense pain, it was fortunate that I saw a glimpse of what life was like for people living with chronic pain and importantly able to see firsthand the healing power of two unlikely techniques— an act of kindness and an act of laughter.

Dismal with Disability

What led to my temporary disability is still unknown to me.  I was in great shape last year! I had a personal trainer and worked hard at keeping my weight within a reasonable range. I felt good about myself, I had great energy, and I enjoyed seeing my favorite clothes falling nicely in areas that they were supposed to. To this day, I cannot pinpoint the very moment when it started. Over and over I asked myself.

Was it working out too hard and not stretching long enough?

Was it the way I slept?

Was it my new high heels I wore to match my holiday dress?

 Who knows? All I know was I was in pain and I felt miserable!

The Pain

I always took pride in having a high tolerance for pain but this one was nothing like I’ve ever experienced. I thought I knew what pain was. I’ve had plantar fasciitis on both feet as I worked 12 hour shifts as a nurse. I’ve had shooting sciatica pain from my pregnancies that would have me gripping the furniture or walls around me so I didn’t fall down. Lastly, I endured natural deliveries twice because my childbirth labor always came fast. But this holiday pain felt like a perfect storm of angry sciatica pain, tight hamstring muscles and back pain. The jolt of spasm would catch me so unexpectedly that I would gasp with pain and feel cold, sweaty, and pale from a head rush of blood, making me feel as though I was going to pass out.

Natural Cures

Although I am a nurse, I always went for natural cures before going to the doctors. Years of learning over a dozen proven Complementary Alternative Medicine techniques and Positive Psychology provided me with an array of modalities and techniques to try. I tried everything I had in my natural tool-box such as: Reiki, hot and cold compresses, muscle rubs, homeopathy, and magnets. I went for weekly chiropractic adjustments and deep tissue massages. Little by little I started to feel better but my recovery didn’t start to sky rocket until I did something different. That something different was doing something for someone else. I found that doing something good for someone else help me stop ruminating on my self-pity and suffering. It helped me think of someone else who I cared about and this made me feel better and better.

Doing Good to Feel Good

One day during my one of my more painful afternoons, I decided to do something to get my mind off my pain. I decided to contact an old friend, who had been going through a divorce. Because we had not been in contact for awhile I wasn’t sure how he was doing. When I did reach him, I told him that I was going to give him a special present that I called “7 Days of Cheer.” I explained to him that I was going to send him one pun per day for a week. Knowing that he was very busy, sending him daily puns was a great way for him to know I was thinking him and wishing him well. He agreed to play along and I started. Every day, I looked for puns that I loved; ones that made me laugh so hard that I couldn’t wait but send to him. The puns were silly but hilarious.

Happy Inside and Out

I loved reading the puns during the day because they made me feel happy inside and out. This new found idea was exciting and made me feel good. Each day I looked forward to finding just the perfect pun to send him. The more I sent him, the more I noticed I felt better and better. I noticed something profound that I had been teaching all along in my stress management and wellness workshops for busy professionals.  I noticed that doing kind deeds for someone else does boost your own happiness, decrease feelings of depression, and reduces pain levels.  Further, I noticed the very same thing with laughter as well. As a laughter yoga teacher for professionals, seniors, and cancer survivors, I knew that laughter also provides the same positive benefits. I was amazed at how laughing and doing kind deeds helped reduce my pain.

HotDog


Positivity for Pain Relief

Acts of kindness and laughter, although a very unlikely pairing, provide powerful doses of positivity that are sure to help with pain relief. Our natural pain killer hormones called endorphins are secreted within our brain and nervous system when acts of kindness  are done and with deep hearty laughter. Endorphins, our bodies’ natural pain killers, are similar to morphine that is prescribed by doctors for severe pain. What seemed like a great idea to distract me from pain while cheering up a good friend, quickly became a main source of pain relief. It was as if my inner physician knew what I needed to help me feel better, and I am grateful that I listened to her. It was no surprised that his 7-day gift became a 14-day gift. Not only did my friend enjoy my gift, I was able to experience the pain relief that both kindness and laughter had to offer. It was a holiday that I will always remember.

More on Kindness and Laughter

Both acts of kindness and laughter have much in common. They are known to:

  • decrease pain
  • boost levels of happiness
  • decrease levels of anxiety
  • lead to faster healing

Gifting the “7 Days of Cheer”

Are you or someone you know suffering from any sort of physical, mental, or emotional pain?

Would you like to try something that doesn’t cost anything except your time and energy to feel better?

Are you interested in applying simple techniques that can make you feel better whether or not you are suffering from pain?

I invite you to try the “7 Days of Cheer” with anyone of your family or friends. It’s a fun and unique way to feel good as you do something good for someone. It’s truly a gift that keeps on giving.

Here’s how you can start.

  1. Pick a family member or friend that you want to give a special gift to.
  2. Contact that person and let him or her know about what you want to do.
  3. Decide on the length of time you want to do it.
  4. Use the internet for funny images, quotes, or video clips.
  5. Begin.
  6. Notice how you feel.
  7. Repeat as necessary.
  8. Have fun.

Next time you feel miserable from physical, mental, or emotional pain try taking care of it by doing something positive for someone else. It will help you to put a stop to focusing on what feels bad and instead direct you towards what feels good. Remember that your body has the capacity to help you feel better by releasing natural feel-good hormones.

Got other natural and proven ways to reduce pain? Please comment below and share it with us.

The Secret Sauce to Savoring the Holidays for Busy People

by Debbie Lyn Toomey Speaker, Author, Trainer

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How many times have you heard yourself or others say any of these statements recently?

“I cannot believe the holidays are here already!”

“What can I do this year so that I can enjoy myself for a change?”

“How am I going to get all my work done and still have time to shop for presents?”

Yes, folks it’s true! It’s the middle of November and it’s officially the holiday season. While it may seem like Father Time sprinted through 2015 (instead of marching), there are ways to have him slow down so we can relax, reflect, and rest and enjoy the end of the year before the new one begins.  My “secret sauce” will help you can gain more time to cherish this wonderful season. 

Bitter-Sweet

If you’re like many busy people, you’re probably still trying to remember what you did last month! Realizing the fact that the holidays are suddenly upon us can be enough to make some people cringe and even cry. Although traditionally this is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year,” some people find it difficult to be happy for various reasons such as:  having too much on their plate from work- life responsibilities, lack of financial stability, and lack of support from others. Unfortunately, the holidays can be a bitter sweet time of the year where it can feel like salt has been added to deep unresolved wounds.

Too much!

Time does have a way of escaping us because of our busy work and life schedules. It’s becoming more and more difficult to stop and slow down.  I’ve coached many busy people who fall into the same old trap of doing and planning. The mere thought of sitting and reflecting takes a back seat because it seems like an unproductive use of our time. As mentioned in my forthcoming book on living a productive and positive life, “Our time management skills are constantly being challenged because of the compounding distractions that are coming from all directions as well as our shortening attention span. Our lives are filled with so many distractions both external and internal multi-sensorial stimuli. The external stimuli come from two main sources: technology and team. Our techie toys are so distracting that even the mere presence of them on our desk tempts us to touch them and use them when we don’t need to.  The teams of people in our personal and professional lives can be a source of support or stress.  As if those distractions are not enough, we also get internal distractions that bombard and overload us with negative thoughts that ruminate and keep us from feeling good and proud of ourselves. These inner distractions add to self- sabotage, keeping us from producing easily and effectively.”  We have so much to contend with in our daily lives that for some the holidays can become more of a burden instead of a blessing.

Special for Everyone

Yes, the holidays are upon us and with them come their own sets of stressors such as shopping for “that perfect gift,” having a reasonable financial holiday budget, decorating, and going to parties. While some love this time of the year, studies have shown that there is an increase in depression, suicide attempts, and drug and alcohol use for others. No one is safe from the stress that happens during this time of the year.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), women experience a higher level of stress than men during the holidays. It is because women tend to take on the work burden to ensure the best possible holiday traditions are celebrated.

The Secret Sauce for a Health & Happy Holiday Season- Gratitude & Mindfulness (6)-11180

 

What’s in that Sauce?

Although stress is unavoidable, there are two ways of adding sweetness to the holiday season that will get even the busiest CEO whistling his favorite holiday tune as he greets his team. These two ingredients create such a rich combination that they can’t help but awaken all the senses. The two special ingredients that make up the secret sauce are: gratitude and mindfulness. When added together they can: turn bitterness into sweet, make the tough into tender, and heavy into something light. This secret sauce combination is the easiest and most practical way for today’s busy professionals to relish and savor the holiday season so that they have more time to celebrate, communicate, and connect with those they care about.

 Yummy moments

Gratitude and Mindfulness are great ways to bring purposeful awareness, attention, and appreciation to your holiday experience. Together they will give you: more time to be productive, an increased sense of purpose in your actions, and greater positivity in your day. Practicing gratitude is a heart-centered practice that can make you feel connected, blessed, and special.  Practicing mindfulness can make you feel more alive, awake, and allowing. Both of these two techniques combined have hundreds of studies that prove their ability to improve health, boost happiness, enhance relationships, and increase productivity during the holiday season. The beauty of these two practices happens during the millions of micro-moments throughout the day. The “practice” happens when we purposely remember what is happening within us and around us—without judgment. Exercising these new habits will deepen your neural pathways and ensure sustainable success in creating positive experiences in your life.

Recipe for a Sweet Holiday Season

Directions:

  1. Ask yourself what you want this holiday season to look and feel like for you. Just like with any recipe that you’ve never made before you might first have to look at the picture so that you will have an idea of what the dish will look like.
  2. “Prepave” your holiday festivities with the feeling and images of what you would like it to be for yourself. “Prepaving” is a way of creating and attracting what you want through visualization and positive emotions. Feel as if it is happening now. Have fun using your imagination to visualize and tune into what your holiday celebration is going to be like. There’s no right or wrong way of doing this. Picture yourself purposefully being aware and appreciative of what’s going on around you so that you will experience the beauty of the season so much more.
  3. Practice and play with the secret sauce ingredients throughout your days and nights.
  4. Enjoy adding other quality ingredients to this special sauce such as: creativity, courage, and self-compassion.

Key Ingredients:

1. Gratitude:

According to gratitude expert, Robert Emmons, gratitude is defined as a “felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life.” In other words, it’s more than just saying “thanks.”   This year instead of sitting in traffic just to shop from place to place, save yourself some time and lots of misery by staying at home.  Instead of shopping for gifts why not make them in a form of a gratitude letter to those you care about. This practice has been proven to boost levels of happiness for a weeks and weeks for both the writer and the recipient.

Here’s how to get started. Think of that special someone in your life that you need to get a gift for. Get a piece of paper (preferably a nice stationary) and write down how they have impacted your life in a positive way. Write from your heart and elaborate as much as you can. When you are done put it in an envelope and personally deliver it to that person and ask them to read it in front of you. Notice their expression. Notice yours. Notice how this loving practice can turn your holiday into a magical one. Try to do this to for as many people as you can. Schedule a time every evening during this holiday season to write out one letter to deliver in person. If you allow yourself to do one letter at a time, you’ll notice what may seem like a burden in the beginning will become a blessing in the end.  The practice of gratitude will make you feel blessed and blissful. Once you get into your gratitude letter writing routine this holiday season notice how you look forward to doing it each day or night. This delicious ritual will gift you the special time to relax, reflect, and remember so many golden moments that you’ve shared with your loved ones. You’ll thank yourself for doing this!

2. Mindfulness:

According to mindfulness expert, Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is “paying attention in a particular way on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” Any activity when done purposely and with a beginners mind is considered a mindfulness activity. In other words, activities such as washing the dishes, walking, or watching can be a mindfulness activity as long as the person purposely aims to notice and experience that particular activity fully and without judgment.

Here’s how to begin this practice. During this holiday season, purposely gift yourself about 20 minutes of mindfulness by focusing on one of the five senses at a time. Start with mindfulness seeing and purposely notice all the shapes and colors that you see around you. Once you see something that catches your eye, look even closer. What do you see? Do you see any intricate patterns that make up that particular object? Notice the different shades of colors that meld together to make the colors that you see. Is that object manmade? If so, think about how that particular item made it there in front of you. Look with a beginner’s eye and notice as much as you can in that period of time. The next time you plan your mindful sit, try another sense like taste. Practice savoring when you are eating all the delicious food during your holiday festivities. Imagine as though it was the first time you’ve tasted that food. Notice how long it took you to chew it and swallow it. Try to figure out the flavors that were used in that particular dish. Notice how slowing down and savoring your food helps you stay on track with your diet because you are appreciating each bite and notice when your stomach is full. Practicing mindfulness during this holiday season might just be one of the easiest ways to keep the extra pounds off by mindfully noticing what goes in to your body. Imagine going into the New Year without having to add “lose holiday weight” in your New Year’s Resolution!

Adding gratitude and mindfulness will surely add more richness to your holidays.  This delicious combination of ingredients will kick up your festivities a notch so that you can have your cake and eat it too– without guilt. Once you begin practicing these techniques, you will notice that you have more time for more important things and people in your life. Cultivating gratitude and mindfulness in your busy life will not only make you healthier and happier but also add more harmony to your life.  Begin today and look around you. Challenge yourself to find something new that you haven’t seen before. Have fun and have yourself a healthy and happy holiday season!

Do you have a way of making this holiday season fun and stress-free? Please share your suggestions with me below. Thank you in advance!

 

Breathing Technique to Feel Better

Have you ever had one of those days where nothing seems to be working out well and you are left feeling frustrated and fuming?

Next time you’re feeling angry or anxious, try this breathing technique.

It’s called Belly Breathing. This technique reminds you to take deep diaphragmatic breaths. This will help you feel calm, cool, and collected.

Here’s how:

  • Place your hands on your stomach.
  • Inhale through your nose.
  • Notice your hands move as your stomach expands.
  • Exhale through your nose.
  • Notice your hands move as your stomach flattens.
  • Repeat until you feel better.

Try the Belly Breathing technique anywhere and anytime you notice you’re feeling out of control or stressed. This technique will surely make you feel so much better and in control of yourself. The more you feel in control, the happier you will be.

Need coaching to help you sustain your feelings of wellness and well being? Contact us at info@ultimatehealingjourney.com today.

7 Lessons Learned on How to Thrive in the Cancer Journey

Do you have someone in your life that models strength and optimism?

Do you know anyone that has risen above adversity and came out smiling and laughing?

Do you know someone diagnosed with cancer three times who still does not define their life around cancer?

My mother Amelia is that person to me. She was diagnosed with three cancers in a little over 5 years. In those years, I witnessed the grace and grit that helped her to cope, connect with her family deeply, and feel in control during uncertain times. She is a three-time cancer survivor. She is the healthiest and happiest person I know – even though she had cancer.

The Healthiest and Happiest Person I know

My mother always valued health and happiness and made living a healthy and happy life, a personal mission. It was a hobby of hers to seek ways to maintain and sustain health and wellness in her family. She was always on her feet moving about and laughing at herself doing something silly or laughing at my father’s funny jokes and stories. She took the subway to work and was on her feet all day long working in a pharmacy until she retired at the age of 75. My parents’ basement resembled a YMCA gym with weights, stationary bikes, treadmills, and the latest Total Gym. I remember growing up hearing her take exaggerated deep breaths as she stretched and marched back and forth in front of the television in our living room while watching Richard Simmons or some other exercise gurus.

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New Medical Diagnosis: Cancer(s)

My mother who always made healthy choices and did not have a family history of cancer was diagnosed with 3 different cancers (breast, endometrial, and lung) over the course of 7 years. She did not define her life with cancer. She defined her life with friends and with family.

In 2008 at the young age of 70, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. This loaded diagnosis was the very first time my family and I had to deal with cancer directly. As a nurse at Tufts Medical Center in Boston for over 25 years, I’ve taken care of many patients after having lumpectomies, mastectomy, and breast reconstructive surgeries. It was a part of my job. However, being a nurse and knowing all of this didn’t help me when my own mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. The tables had turned and all of sudden I’m on the other side of the hospital bed comforting and supporting my mother—the healthiest and happiest person I know!

One of the things that amazed me during that time was how quickly she accepted her diagnosis. She thanked God for its early detection. She trusted her whole medical team and decided right away to do what needed to be done to take care of her cancer. While she waited for her surgical date, she went to work every day,  prayed, and went to church. She would talk with me and my sisters about her will and proxy. She would read books and articles about what she had and natural cures that she could take along with her medical regiment. She’d spend time with my father by going shopping or going to the movies. By the time her surgery came around, she was ready and prepared. Her breast cancer was taken care of with a lumpectomy and hormonal medication. She only took a few weeks off from work and then went back work at the pharmacy. What I witnessed in her during this whole episode was how she kept a positive outlook through prayer and being proactive with her health, both of which, she was able to control. This made her feel so much better.

In 2013, after she turned 75 years old, we had a double celebration. We celebrated her birthday and being breast cancer free for 5 years! This short lived joyous occasion came to a halt when two unrelated cancers (endometrial and lung) were found during a somewhat routine medical appointment. My mother revealed to her primary doctor that she had been having bleeding and didn’t understand why. After many examinations and testing, our worst suspicion was confirmed. She had cancer again! Needless to say that whole summer was busy with tests, biopsies, and surgeries. My mother, the healthiest and happiest person I know, had two major surgeries that summer. Little did we all know that what was ahead would be the toughest part of her cancer journey.

Fall of 2013

The fall of 2013, although it was part of her endometrial and lung cancer journey, deserved its own chapter in this story. This was a time that truly tested what she was made of. My mother, the healthiest and happiest person I know, was weak from her chemotherapy, her medications, and a lack of sleep due to excruciating bone pain resulting from the effects of her chemotherapy.

Regardless of her suffering when I would ask her how she was doing, I would hear her say, “Dun’t worree dahling. I will be okay.”

My mother, a woman with great poise and pride, had to rely on my father to help her move back and forth to the bathroom, to give her massages in the middle of the night to sooth her itching and her bone pain. Further, it was during this time that she could no longer hide her cancer from the rest of the world as her hair was falling out. She was so convinced that her thick and coarse hair was not going to fall out during her treatments that when it did start to, her faith in God and her trust in her ability to heal would be tested to the max. It frustrated her when she would lay down and clumps from her beautifully thick hair would be left on her pillow case, when she would shower, handfuls would rinse off with the water, and when she would eat, she would notice it falling off onto the plate right in front of her eyes. Although my mother was the one dealing with the cancer and the all the “pain” that came along with it, I still looked to her for strength.

“Hair” it Goes!

I started to get nervous and scared when I saw her looking so weak and tired. I had never seen her so frail and solemn. I recall the phone call when she asked me to come over to her house to shave her head.  She had finally accepted losing her hair.  She wanted to do on her own terms. In the car, outside my parents’ house I had to take five minutes to compose myself. I knew how difficult this was for her. I was so scared but I couldn’t show it! I had to be strong for both my parents. When I got into my parents house, my mother was all prepared. She laid out newspapers on the floor and placed a chair right in the center. There was little conversation, we had a job to do and it needed to be done. She chose an area in her upstairs hallway for me to shave her hair off. It reminded me of when I used help her color her hair but this time, it was different. Surprising, shaving her head was not as difficult as I thought. When I finally got into the rhythm of it, I started to see little scars on her head here and there.

“Mom, what are these scars from?” I asked

“Oh, I was accident prone when I was a little girl and I kept bumping into things.” She said with a smile and a little giggle.

As if each scar was a timeline button, she would press one and tell me when and how she got it. We laughed and laughed after each recollection. The images of my mother getting into mischief and hurting herself while playing with other children made for such a comedy relief. It made this heavy situation lighter.

Life Goes On

I’m happy to say my mother’s hair has fully grown back and she’s enjoyed over a dozen different hair styles and colors since. More recently, she just recovered from a knee replacement surgery. The knee was causing her a lot of pain and it was slowing her down when she would walk along the beach, clean the house or work in her yard. Her doctors, nurses, and physical therapist are all amazed at how well she has done.

debbie and mom easterPicture taken Easter Holiday, 2014

Positive Psychology

Positive psychologists would describe my mother as someone who used her faith, relationships, bravery, love, and innate strengths to become more resilient and to thrive during adversity.

What does Positive Psychology, the science of happiness, have to do with Cancer? I say, “Everything!” The more we can learn from people who have risen above adversities, the more we can cultivate similar practice to make us even better, stronger, and happier.

Positive Psychology helped me understand my mother’s way of being and coping during life’s ups and downs. What is Positive Psychology? Positive Psychology in a nutshell is the “Science of Happiness.” It’s a new field of psychology that, according to its founder Martin Seligman, Ph. D, “looks to nurture the gifted and talented, to learn from the gifted and talented, and to make normal life more fulfilling.”

Some might say it’s coincidental, but I like to think of it as divine timing that Positive Psychology came into my life and when I needed it most. I completed my certification in Positive Psychology with Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph. D through the Wholebeing Institute and, soon after, received my training and certification as a Positive Psychology coach after studying with another leading expert in the field, Robert Biswas-Diener, Ph. D. Positive Psychology gave me the knowledge and perspective for looking at the glass as “half-full”. I put the principles of this science to the test personally as I needed a way of cope with my mother’s disease. I found that it kept me from ruminating, spiraling-downward mentality and feeling like a victim.

7 Lessons Learned to Thrive in the Cancer Journey

I learned so much about my mother and myself during the last few years. While some lessons where easier than others, I am certainly a much healthier and happier person because of them. Here are 7 lessons that I learned from my mother, the healthiest and happiest person I know, who defeated three cancers.

They are:

  1. Accept the diagnosis – The sooner you can accept it, the sooner you’ll be ready to face and handle the treatment plans that are in store for you.
  2. Remember is it YOUR body – Make decisions after you have talked with your health care team and your family. Make peace with your body and give it thanks.
  3. Go to your appointments with a friend or family member – Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as possible until you feel confident and comfortable enough to make decisions.
  4. Use coping skills that have been successful for you – This is a great way to gain control during this overwhelming situation. Recall what worked best for you in the past to make yourself feel better and start doing it consistently until it becomes a habit.
  5. Surround yourself with healing and positive images and people – Watch funny movies. Laughter boosts your immune system and helps release endorphins which will decrease your discomfort.
  6. Connect and confide with those you love A big predictor of peoples’ level of positivity is their relationships with others. Let people know what you need and when you need it.
  7. Give yourself permission to be human – Allow yourself to do what you need to do to feel better. Sleep when you’re tired. Cry when you’re sad. Eat what you want.

Trust that applying any of these lessons will help you during your cancer journey. Here’s to your health and happiness.

It’s all about the “Thanks!”

Are you interested in increasing your levels of abundance, attention, and appreciation?

Are you looking for ways to add more beauty and bliss in your life?

Are you willing to try a 30-day challenge that can change your life for the better?

Try a 30-day gratitude journal challenge, in honor of World Gratitude Day that was Monday, September 21, 2015. Gratitude is not only the mother of all virtues but also gives birth to so many wonderful emotions.

I love the practice of gratitude because it is totally free and it will make you feel so rich, blessed, and lucky! How great is that! This amazingly simple gratitude practice when done consistently can do so much for you and those around you. Keeping a gratitude journal does the following:

– Enhances concentration
– Deepens relationships
– Boosts happiness
– Increases appreciation
– Improves success
– Enhances sleep
– Boosts attention
– Increases awareness
– Decreases depression
– Improves connections
– Enhances communications
– Builds community
– Boosts compassion
– Cancels envy
– And so much more!

Still not convinced? Why not give it a go for the next 30 days? You’ve got nothing to lose but EVERYTHING to gain!

Here’s how to start your 30-Day Gratitude Journal Challenge:

1. Pick a date to begin.
2. Decide on the time of day you’ll write
3. Remind yourself to look for good things to write about.
4. Notice everything and everyone around you worth writing about.
5. Journal on 3 (or more) good things that you experienced each day.
6. Explain reason why you were grateful for them.
7. Use reminders such as quotes and images to inspire and motivate you.
8. Let family and friend know what you are doing.
9. Invite them to participate.
10. Share your goods with each other.

Remember, there is always something to be grateful for.

This practice has been a game-changer for me and many of my clients. Begin this simple practice today and reap the abundance all around you.

*** Special bonus: Join hundreds of grateful people from around the globe in my 30-Day Greatness through Gratitude Challenge group on Facebook. Check in with your 3 ‘goods’ everyday and enjoy reading about everyone else’s too!

Many thanks!

A Health & Happiness Specialist (“a-HAHS”) Tip #1: Physical Activity

Are you tired of feeling depressed, fatigued, or overweight?

Try doing a physical activity to chase those heavy feelings away.

 

Experts have found that any physical activity can actually make people feel both healthier and happier.

Regular physical activity improves our self-esteem and release chemicals in our body called “endorphins” that make us feel good.  Endorphins trigger a positive feeling that is similar to morphine. Endorphins decrease our perception of pain by interacting with the pain receptors in our brain. Many experience a release of endorphins after running long distance or a work out known as “runner’s high.”

Physical activity can make us feel better in so many ways. It can help to:

  •  Alleviate Stress
  •  Reduce Anxiety
  •  Decrease Depression
  •  Improve Sleep
  •  Increase Self-esteem
  •  Optimize Health and Wellness
  •  Manage Weight

As for me, doing any physical activity such as walking, dancing, even cleaning has always helped me. It takes my mind off my worries and makes me feel good. The idea of doing any movement and expending calories toward something shifts my negative mental landscape to a positive and productive one.

Because of that, I now go for walks when I feel nervous or stuck with a project or a presentation. Somehow that physical activity is enough to quite my mind from its negative fixation and allows the creative juices to flow. Physical activity has been a simple yet powerful way for me to gain clarity and creativity in such a short period of time.

Next time you start feeling the blues try any or all of these simple and practical activities:

– Go for a walk.

– Take the stairs.

– Do house chores.

– Donate old clothes.

– Do yard work.

– Go for a swim.

As you can tell, it really doesn’t matter what you are doing as long as you are doing something—anything that will take your mind off your worries and put you at ease.

Have fun!

For more help to reach your goals, contact us at info@ultimatehealingjourney.com today.

Like this tip? Please share with friend your friends.

Stay tuned for more “a-HAHS” in our upcoming posts.