Donating Our Time

 Donating Our Time

        A common complaint one hears everywhere is,“I don’t have time to…”,or, conversely,  “I have so much going on right now”. Without denying that everyone’s lives are busy, it is vital to our communities that we volunteer our time because there are always struggling people who need services.  

If you have children or grandchildren, find an organization such as a Food Bank or a church where they can participate. It will be an eye-opening experience for them where they will gain an appreciation for and understanding of their community. Whether the time devoted is great or small, it will be rewarding for everyone involved. Volunteering in an area that is different from your occupation can open doors to new learning experiences and new people that  will enrich your life. We truly learn about our community and its’ needs when we get involved rather than read about it in the news. In this way, we become an active part of the community and can make a difference. Although you are not getting paid, there is an assigned dollar value to your time. According to The Business Times in 2012, “one estimated dollar value of volunteer time is $21.36 per hour. According to one estimate from the Corporation for National and Community Service, about 63.4 million Americans — nearly 27 percent of the adult population — contribute a collective 8.1 billion hours of volunteer service worth $169 billion a year.” That’s a lot of volunteer hours! This is terrific, yet more involvement is needed.

Search locally online, in newspapers, churches, community centers, local schools and organizations to find what interests you and there will be an opportunity.

The rewards are many:

  • Knowing that you are contributing to your community

  • Acquiring new skills

  • Enriching your life and the lives of others

  • Making new friends and social connections

  • Setting a great example for your children and grandchildren

  • Connecting with your community

As a child, I observed my parents and relatives volunteering and gradually came to participate in these church and community activities. I am sure I had my share of grumbling when asked to volunteer, however, my father and I used to talk about the fact that we remember all those experiences and that they became a part of the fabric of our life and helped us to consider others before ourselves.

Gratefully,

Ag


   


CONNECT WITH NATURE

Connect with Nature  

Connecting with nature is how I have been spending a lot of my time lately (instead of writing the blog in a timely manner). Performing the yard chores of spring: weeding, pruning, mulching, planting and mowing. It is strenuous and time consuming, however, I always itch at every chance to be outdoors.  For many, this is the reason we chose to live in Nelson county because the mountains and rolling landscape are so beautiful. Taking time to connect with nature and take care of our surroundings is important.

There are interesting moments even during a mundane activity such as weeding.  A colorful salamander scoots by or a tiny frog hops about in the dirt. I’ve come upon a baby hummingbird buzzing -curious about me. The senses are overwhelmed in Spring: the warm air, the fragrant smells, the birds singing, the falling raindrops. The longer days invite us outside.  I chide myself when I take numerous photos of sunsets, sunrises, flowers, landscapes -the same scene each season. Those are the moments where I paused long enough to appreciate the beauty.

There are many opportunities to connect with nature even with a busy schedule:

Sit quietly listening and observing without your phone.

Take a walk during your work lunch break or after dinner.

Eat a meal outside.

Appreciate a spectacular sunrise or sunset.

Read a book outside in a hammock.

Feel the fresh air and warm sun on your skin.

Weed the flower beds and and feel the dirt in your hands.

Listen to the beat of raindrops on the roof.

Take a hike.

Play a game outside.

Go to a ballgame.

Go to the beach.

Cut some flowers to put in a vase for the indoors (especially if your workplace doesn’t have windows)

Research reveals that connecting with nature a few minutes daily lowers blood pressure, reduces the output of cortisol and reduces stress.  As we nurture our environment, we are caring for ourselves and that promotes calmness.

In addition, connecting with nature allows us to leave the electronic world of cell phones, ipads and laptops for a little while. That is vital for optimal health and reduction of stress. The continual beeps during the day “alerting” us that there is a new email or text compounds the stress. There is a false immediacy that has been created  in which we feel compelled to respond to everything in the next 15-20 seconds. That type of stress accumulates throughout our lifetime inflaming the mind, organs and cardiovascular system. It is important to be aware of our habits to foster wellness. Connecting with nature cultivates peace in our hearts and minds just as we would cultivate the growth of a beautiful rose.

Namaste,

Ag


February's Habit: The G.L.A.D technique

Practicing Gratitude

February’s habit is practicing gratitude, which is timely, as Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. The “Hallmark” holidays remind us to appreciate our loved ones, but it may seem silly to “practice” gratitude. It is easy to see the sunsets and enjoy the company that surrounds us when life is flowing smoothly, but mix in having an illness, caring for a sick parent or an ailing child, losing a job, a government shutdown, a house fire, a car accident,  a home foreclosure, or death of a partner and suddenly the skies are gray and cloudy. Immense trauma can blind our ability to experience joyful moments.

I often wonder if being an eternal optimist is somehow wired into my DNA. I have certainly encountered permanent pessimists during my travels. Thanks to research and the science of neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to change has gained more focus in recent years, helping those with depression and other mental and emotional challenges. The book, Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain by Sharon Begley reveals the exciting potential of the brain’s capacity (and is a fascinating read).

Very simply, practicing gratitude daily changes the neural firing of the brain and releases “feel- good” endorphins. It also reduces the cortisol output that causes the fight, flight or freeze reaction, which is heightened when we are under stress.  If we practice gratitude daily, even 1-5 minutes, we will learn to cope better and can gain some perspective on our life events. What about our day to day woes? Life’s little storms can accumulate and overwhelm us. Will the mindfulness practice of gratitude help at all? The answer is a resounding yes.  The small acts of gratitude and kindness that we practice each day are shown to improve equanimity and resilience.

One short-and-sweet method to incorporate this into your busy day is the G.L.A.D. technique developed by David Altman, M.A., LPC. Record one item under each category daily in your journal.

G - Gratitude: Write one basic nugget that you are thankful for today (the sunshine, your spouse, food, a working body).

L - Learn: Write one thing that you learned about yourself today, whether it's a new insight or a little discovery.

A - Accomplishment: Notice something you accomplished today- it may be as simple as a good night’s sleep!

D - Delight: Consider anything that makes you laugh or smile (a bird chirping, a cuddly pet, a funny joke, or the kindness of a stranger).

The G.L.A.D. technique only takes 2 or 3 minutes of your time for some pretty profound changes in your brain.

Practicing gratitude does not lessen the chaos in our lives, it just changes our outlook when we are in the midst of it. It allows us to see all aspects of the situation clearly and respond to others around us with care. It is a life-long practice and isn't always easy, but the small moments we appreciate start to add up in our lives. That is joy!

Still practicing and forever grateful,

Ag


The Season of Eating

The Season of Eating

    Halloween starts the Season of Eating laden with oodles of candy on display at all stores. Businesses put candy bowls on the counters. Parents and grandparents buy the “ little  something extra” for the kids. Before we blink, the Thanksgiving and Christmas food products are in the grocery aisles obstructing any safe path for passage. Every year, we are aware of the onslaught and the marketers are keen to our over consumption. They giddily smile because, each year, we succumb and eat more than we need to. January brings the weight loss resolution ritual. It is a perpetual cycle of defeat and negativity.

If I hit my thumb with a hammer and it hurts me, would I continue to hit my thumb with a hammer? No. So, why do we continuously harm ourselves with the holiday food binge? Part of it is the social and family gathering. Every gathering involves food. Even book clubs; “Books and Brews” is one example. Because of the variety of families; one might celebrate two to three “Thanksgivings” involving in-laws, grandparents, step-parents and children. That’s a lot of great potato dishes that I would hate to miss! It is wonderful that food brings us together and that is one of the joys of holidays.

Our personal relationship with food is challenging. And it is different for each of us. Some individuals are addicted, some eat due to stress, some are anorexic, and some just eat for survival not caring about taste. Consider a different perspective; think of food as medicine. It is not a huge leap as it is common knowledge that most of the medicines developed are plant based. What about our daily meals? Can that be medicine as well and keep us healthy? Yes.

Mark Hyman, MD, author of the book, Food: What the Heck Should I Eat?,  writes “food is medicine.” The research he cites is recent and valid; it is not sponsored by food corporations attempting to sway the consumer to buy its’ goods. The book is written succinctly, it is easy to follow and it is a extensive referral source. It does tout a eating plan and I confess that I did not read those chapters because every individual has a specific nutrition plan that works with the chemistry of his/her body. A programmed “diet” may not be appropriate. Research demonstrates that “diets” are only successful for the short term which is why every January there is a new fad diet on display. It is a marketing scheme.

The chapters in the book are divided as such: Meat, Poultry and Eggs, Fish and Seafood, Fats and Oils, and Beverages to name a few. At the end of each chapter is a resource guide filled with useful information. For example, did you know that “the phoney olive oil trade is three times more profitable than the trafficking of cocaine.” Much of the olive oil purchased is not true olive oil but oil mixed with nut or soybean oil.  Thus, there is a list of real olive oil brands. Reading this book reveals the path to obesity in America shaped by food manufacturers paying off scientists and our government to publish faulty data leading to decades of misinformation to the consumer. Our country is now at an elevated risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity. All of which is preventable.

     Did I change my entire nutrition plan after reading the book? No. But I altered a few simple things.  I purchased true olive oil recommended from the list. I reduced my sugar intake even more. More than ever, I am paying attention to what I eat and where I shop for food. Shopping takes special effort especially with teens because I am a pescatarian and they are omnivores. And, we live in a rural region. It takes extra time but I may shop at two to three different places for groceries. It requires planning and utilization to conserve time and gas so I am not making an extra trip to the grocery store. I buy meat from a local farm where the animals are grass fed and don’t receive hormones or candy. Yes, candy manufacturers give the candy surplus to large cattle farmers to fatten the cows which is then passed along into your system. Life long habits of eating poorly wreak havoc on our bodies. The sugars and chemicals from processed “food-like” products accumulate in our systems. Stuff our bodies are not designed to ingest just sits in our system causing inflammation in the tissues. Scary.  

Your habits as individuals, parents and grandparents shape the youth for tomorrow. As a parent, I tried and continue to model for my kids; teaching moderation and putting good fuel in the body. It hasn’t always been easy. As a young child, my daughter was a very picky eater. Remembering my own food battles with my parents, I tried to encourage healthy foods but didn’t force the issue. Now as a 17 year old, my daughter eats a wide selection of foods. She still has a sweet tooth but doesn’t overdo it and she monitors herslef. She enjoys real food, not “food- like” products filled with chemicals, additives and sugar. And, we enjoy watching cooking shows together. Would I have ever imagined this would happen when she was eight years old? Never. I just kept modeling and preparing real food for the kids.

It takes time to shop and it also takes time to prepare nutritious meals. Part of the reason for our poor health in America is the invention of the “food-like” convenience products developed in the 1050’s to “save time.” Americans spend more than 11 hours daily interacting on screens (phone, computer, media, etc.) according to the market research group, Nielson. That is increased from 9 hours, 32 minutes from four years ago. Is that good for our health? Perhaps, some time can be carved out to prepare a nutritious meal.

We can’t do much without good physical, emotional and mental well being. Begin seeing food as medicine and selecting foods more consciously. Work together with your family so each of you has support. It doesn’t mean we have to stop eating chocolate; it means we eat a quality chocolate without the chemicals and maybe not so much of it. Start by reducing without going “cold turkey” for better success. Imagine your future self and work towards that goal.

The benefits: You will feel better in every way. Here’s the cool fact: any positive changes that you make today in your nutrition plan result in better health. Here’s the challenge: it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not a pill. It is a lifestyle change.

Small steps lead to a long path of living well.

Yours in Wellness,

Agnes

Email Ag at: agnesyhw@gmail.com

website: agsyogaworks.com


Phone Addiction


                          Phone Addiction

The phone has become more than a communication device; it is the personal computer, the calendar, and the information hub in our lives. It is common to see people on the phone all the time, oblivious of their surroundings and others. Individuals are using their phones when driving a car, walking on the sidewalk, waiting in line at the grocery store,  and even during mealtimes. It appears to be the norm now to be on the phone rather than conversing with others. There is even a term for it now: phubbing. Phubbing refers to snubbing others in favor of the mobile phone. No one can argue that the mobile phone is an  excellent tool to connect us, to check the internet and to check our email. It directs us in traffic, it helps us locate a gas station and it alerts others that we need assistance. It helps business owners conduct transactions when not in the office.

But have we let it take over our lives?

More and more research demonstrates that long term use of the cell phone, and computer has harmful effects on youngsters and adults. It harms relationships, creates anxiety, increases resentment, increases depression and increases loneliness. It becomes an addiction.

The definition of addiction from the American Society of Addiction Medicine is: Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations.

Here’s how it works: We hear a “beep” notification from the phone alerting us that someone has emailed, texted, or posted something on facebook. We pick up the phone, check it out and may think, “Oh that’s neat.” We get little “brain rewards” when we are on the phone; checking email, searching the web and looking at facebook. This motivates us to keep checking the phone throughout the day. Our brain “remembers” these little biscuits and we want more. So, we keep checking the phone, social media and internet. Sometimes we spend so much time on the internet that we neglect our own self care needs.

Research also reveals that the  perception that we are connecting with friends via internet does not replace actual live human connections. The less human contact we have with each other isolates us and increases depression, anxiety and loneliness. The phone/internet addiction adds to the loss of real relationships. It also lowers self esteem, increases resentment and compounds the loss of original and creative thoughts.

A balance can be achieved with the use of the phone/internet and other areas of our lives. Very simple changes can be implemented. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Turn off notifications.

  2. Use an old fashioned alarm clock instead of your phone.

  3. Stop use of all electronics one hour before bedtime.

  4. Avoid bringing the phones to the table at meal times.

  5. Connect with nature.

  6. Arrange friends/family game night.

  7. Place the phone in your desk drawer at work or keep it in your briefcase/purse.

  8. Make eye contact with others when talking with them.

  9. Have lunch with an friend.

If you find yourself struggling to keep the phone on a table away from you  and scoff at the above suggestions, consider that you may have an excessive attachment to your phone (made of metal and plastic). The phone cannot console you, it cannot hug you and it cannot provide the essential aspects of human connection (eye contact, affection, empathy, friendship, compassion).  Interact with the people and life around you as opposed to letting the phone rule your life. Remember it is tool and just a tool.

Namaste, 

Agnes

www.agsyogaworks.com