Monday, December 7, 2009

United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen

Delegates from 192 countries, including the leaders of Nunuvut, the Yukon and the NWT, started meeting at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen today.  They are trying to craft a new deal to manage greenhouse gas emissions when the Kyoto Accord expires in 2012.  They will also develop funding mechanisms to help the poor and developing countries most vulnerable to climate change impact  to deal with rising sea levels, floods and drought.

People worldwide are beginningto take climate change seriously. In a surprise move, 56 newspapers from around the world ran the same editorial asking leaders to  limit the rise in temperature to two degrees centigrade to stop climate change from ravaging the planet.

A recent report from British Columbia showed that global warming is moving at a faster rate than expected in Northern Canada.  Air temperatures in the Arctic are rising  faster than in the rest of the world, and the summer sea-ice is expected to disappear within a decade, rather than by the end of the century as initially predicted. 

With carbon dioxide emissions 30 per cent higher than they were 17 years ago, one-and-a-half times as high as they were before the industrial revolution, glaciers retreating at an alarming rate, and sea-levels rising by 3-3.5 mm per year, it's obvious changes are needed, even though they may have a negative economic impact.  Climate change itself has already had such an impact in British Columbia where thousands of hectares of forest have been decimated by the mountain pine beetle, rendering these areas more susceptible to fire and flood as well as severely affecting the health of the forest industry.

Human health is also at risk from global warming.  In BC these will arise from a number of pathways.  A few of these are given below.
  1. Resource-dependent communities (such as those reliant on forestry or fishing) are vulnerable to environmental and economic adversity arising from changes in their resource as a result of climate change.  They are also likely to be exposed an increased incidence of fire and floods.
  2. The increase in forest fires, already noted in Western Canada, together with an increase in ozone from pollution as temperatures rise will lead to more respiratory ailments.  Rising temperatures will increase heat stress for urban dwellers, particularly those who are old or who have chronic diseases.
  3. As temperatures rise, insects, animals and plants that carry disease will move into new areas or increase in number.  West Nile Virus, and possibly maleria, may become established in BC, while Hanta virus (from mice and rats) and the tick-borne Lyme disease are expected to expand northwards as winters get milder. 
  4. As floods become more frequent, water-borne diseases and contamination of water will also increase.
These are just a few of the ways that climate change may impact health.  For more information, read the 2008 report Climate Change and Health in British Columbia.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Improve Your Thinking Process By Avoiding Mental Traps: Amplification

Mental traps lead to unproductive thinking.  You can improve your thinking process by avoiding them, but first you need to know what types of mental traps there are.  A previous post discussed the mental trap of persistence.  You persist when you continue to work towards a goal that no longer has meaning for you.  You amplify when you work harder or longer than necessary to achieve a goal that you value.  Both persistence and amplification are unproductive thinking processes because they waste time that could be spent more productively.

Amplification is like using a sledge-hammer to swat a fly.  There are easier ways to do it.  People tend to amplify for two reasons.  Firstly, they over-prepare for things because they want to avoid possible outcomes they see as unacceptable.  Over-preparing for a speech, or continually re-packing for a trip fall into this category.  While it is possible that one more run-through of the speech  will lead to an improved presentation, or that one more re-pack will bring to light something that has been forgotten, the law of diminishing returns make these outcomes less and less likely. 

Repetition, as seen in the above examples, is more likely when it's difficult to tell when the goal has been attained.  How do you know when you are rich enough, or famous enough, or truly loved by your partner?  In the latter case, no evidence may be sufficient so looking for more is useless. This is the time to learn to trust that you are lovable..  

In the case of wealth, fame or power, achievement of a goal may lead to setting a higher goal because you now compare yourself to different people.  The question to ask yourself is if you want to spend your life chasing an ever-expanding goal of wealth, power or fame, or if there are other ways you prefer to spend your limited time on earth.  Is "I am the richest (most famous...most powerful...most...?) person on earth" going to be the thought that sustains you on your death-bed, or are there other things you might achieve that would have more meaning?

In his book Mental Traps: Stupid Things That Sane People Do To Mess Up Their Minds, Andre Kukla goes into a lot more detail about amplification and the 11 other mental traps. He suggests that by being attentive to the present moment, people can break away from habitual thinking processes that lead to mental traps.  Thinking is replaced by attention to the moment until the moment requires thinking. The compulsive need to always be working on things in order to stay on top of a future situation is thus allayed.

Build Up Your Immune System And Protect Yourself Against Swine Flu

With the spread of swine flu so much in the news, it makes sense to build up your immune system to reduce your chance of infection by the H1N1 virus.  There are no certainties in life, you may still get the flu, but a healthy immune system will maximize your chances of a quick recovery from swine flu or seasonal flu.

First, before we get to your immune system, it goes without saying that the normal routes for avoiding any infection are still very important.  Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (the amount of time it takes to sing the first verse of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star) especially before eating and after going to the toilet.  Carry alcohol-based hand sanitizer with you for the times that soap and water are not available. Keep your hands away from your face, as touching your nose, mouth or eyes with contaminated hands can introduce the virus into your body through the mucous membranes in these areas.

Eat A Healthy Diet
Your diet is an important line of defence against infection since good nutrition builds healthy cells, and healthy cells build a healthy body. Eating empty calories (i.e. those that do not meet the nutritional needs of your cells) increases your chances of developing chronic disease or of succumbing to infection.

Make sure that you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables as these are rich in antioxidants that protect your cells from free radical damage and in vitamins and minerals.  Include foods that build up your immune system. The latter include:
  • zinc - lamb, oysters, organic beef, Napa cabbage, spinach, cashews, and lima beans;
  • vitamin C - cabbage-family vegetables, spinach, red peppers; oranges; 
  • vitamin E - spinach, hazelnuts, almonds, asparagus, wheatgerm
  • vitamin A - red pepper, spinach, sweet potatoes, carrots, canteloupe
  • Selenium - Brazil nuts, cashews, tuna, cod,
Other foods to include are those with anti-viral properties like garlic and green tea.  The latter also stimulates the immune system.

Take Vitamin D
It is best to get vitamins and minerals from food wherever possible, but vitamin D, which has been shown to protect against bacteria and viruses through production of substances called anti-microbial peptides, is produced by the skin when it is exposed to sunlight.  In the northern hemisphere the sun is too low in the winter to provide enough sun to form vitamin D, and the use of sun-block in summer prevents most people from building sufficient stores of vitamin D to see them through the winter.  So build your vitamin D stores by taking 1000 mg of Vitamin D3 (the natural form of the vitamin) daily.   Avoid the synthetic forms of vitamin D, which will not be helpful.

Avoid Sugar and Refined Grains
Help build up strength in your immune system by avoiding substances that weaken it.  Sugars suppress the immune system for several hours after ingestion, and refined grains act like sugars because they are metabolized so quickly that they stimulate the glycemic response.  Avoid processed foods, pop, grain alcohol, jams and jellies, syrups, sugar and honey.

Exercise Regularly
Regular exercise helps build up immune system efficacy by mobilizing the T-cells.  Moderate activity, such as brisk walking for 30 minutes, is better than intense activity which actually weakens the immune system.

Drink Water
Drinking six to eight glasses of water a day helps to flush out toxins and reduces the work that the immune system must do.

De-Stress Distress
Prolonged stress has a negative effect on the immune system and makes you more vulnerable to sickness.  Events in and of themselves do not cause stress; it is the reaction you have to events that determines whether it is stressful or not, and the reaction depends on the meaning you give to the event.    Stress-reducing practices such as meditation, tai chi, and yoga can assist you to respond, rather than react, to events in a way that is less stressful.  Reducing your stress-level will help build your immune system.

Get More Sleep
Sleep strengthens the immune system.  A recent study in The Archives of Internal Medicine found that those who slept fewer than seven hours a night were three times more likely to get sick than those who averaged at least eight hours.  Even a night without sleep can be harmful.  In a 2007 study, rats that went without sleep for 24-hours showed  a 20 per cent decrease in white blood cells when compared to a control-group that had not been sleep deprived.

Don't Worry
The brain and the immune system are connected through the neuropeptides - chemicals related to emotions.  These chemicals have specific receptor sites on cell membranes throughout the body.  All thoughts and all body functions are linked by these chemical peptides, which are the link between mind and body, and between body and mind.  

Worry and fear can suppress the immune system.  So worrying about catching flu can actually help to make it happen.  Instead look on the bright side.  Believe that your efforts to build up your immune system will pay-off so that you will either avoid the flu completely, or have only a mild case.

Photo by old_wine

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Seven Steps to Improve Relationships With Active listening Skills

Active listening skills are crucial to developing and maintaining relationships. When people don't feel heard by a partner or colleague, their relationship can become a source of pain. Active listening is the way to improve your relationship with each conversation.

Active listening skills acknowledge that the listener is as important in the conversation as the speaker. The meaning of words is subjective and so the listener may interpret what they hear is a way that the speaker did not intend. This may lead to hurt or angry feelings and disrupted relationships.

Step 1: Give Them Your Full Attention
The first active listening skill to master is that of listening intently to what the person is saying, and how they are saying it. Focus only on the speaker without giving attention to anything else, including your own thoughts. Don't decide on your response until it is your turn to speak.

Step 2: Keep An Open Mind
Imagining that you already know everything there is to know about the other will colour what you hear. Instead be interested in what new thing you may learn about this person or situation.

Step 3: Let Them Know You Are Listening
Show the speaker that you are listening by facing and looking at them, and making appropriate physical responses such as leaning forward or nodding. Occasional remarks such as "go on" or "tell me more about that", questions like "what happened then,” or encouraging noises like uh-uh. will encourage them to keep talking.

Step 4: Clarify What You Hear
Speakers tend to assume that they are being understood; listeners need to check that they are interpreting what they are hearing in the way the speaker intends. Reflecting back what you hear "As I understand it you are feeling...," or asking questions such as "What did you mean when you said...," or "When you said ....did you mean...." helps you and the speaker to know that you understand what they are saying.

Step 5: Reflect Back Emotions
If you can sense a feeling in what the speaker is saying, tell them tentatively what you notice. Remarks such as 'It sounds as if you were angry," can validate their emotion or make them aware of it.

Step 6: Find Out What They Want From You
Why is the speaker telling you this and what do they want you to do? They may want your support, sympathy opinion, advice, or intervention or may not want you to do anything but listen while they get what happened out of their system. A simple question such as "What would you like from me?" will let you know how to respond.

Step 7: Practice Your Active Listening Skills
While learning active listening skills, evaluate yourself after every conversation. Where did you do well and where did you fall down? Communication habits are difficult to change, so start by focusing on one skill at a time, making sure to use it in every conversation you have. Next day, focus on another skill. Soon you will be using all the active listening skills in every conversation you have.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Root out UN-Healing Language & Begin Self Healing Chronic Illness

Today's post was written by Malcolm Dayton on his blog Coaching Your Self Healing Now . Malcolm has spent the last 15 years as a clinical couselor and coach, enabling people with chronic illness to maximize their daily living performance.

You may remember the 70’s ad campaign for the Un-Cola: It touted the praises of a soft drink made from “rather larger”, “prettier”, “juicier” UNcola nuts (lemon and lime); superior to those other drinks made with the lowly cola nut.* That drink of course is 7-Up, and those uncola ads kicked off what Time magazine would years later call “The Uncola Wars”.

A similar comparison can be made in our language of healing as it relates to chronic illness. Through the language we choose, we sow either healing or unhealing seeds: The fruit of each are diametrical opposites with regard to the consequences to our health and wellness. One serves us; the other limits us. One can empower us; the other, dis-empowers. One is a reasonable use of language; the other, results in language Alfred Korbzybski (the founder of General Semantics) called “unsane”.

This article briefly addresses one extremely powerful, root source of unsane and unhealing language. It is a pervasive misuse of language common in our culture from early childhood; and it is misapplied by doctors, nurses, parents, and likely even you! In my clinical experience, it is a prominent feature in the talk of virtually every client facing chronic illness with whom I have worked.

It is so outside our conscious awareness and so habituated, we don’t even realize what we are saying when we express it. Yet, like a virus, it creeps into our lives and quietly takes over our perceptions, our experiences, and finally, our identity. We then go about spreading it on to others.

What is this language virus? It is a habituated misuse that occurs as we share symptom experiences – both when talking with others and, significantly, during self-talk. Consider:

Upon awakening one day, you realize you feel different than usual; maybe experiencing a bit of a sore, scratchy throat and a cough. While preparing for the day, you notice a dull, achy feeling throughout: You grab the thermometer, and sure enough, you are experiencing a low grade fever. Additionally, you notice a twinge of nausea. Then, you recall having seen a news article about an increase in swine flu in the region, and you decide to contact your family physician for an appointment.

Remember what you are experiencing includes sore throat, coughing, fever, nausea, and aches. Yet, at the doctor’s office, you are queried (not about what you experience), but about “your” cough, “your” temperature, “your” aches. In short order, you leave with “your” diagnosis to go get “your” prescription. And so, so subtly, you have gone from a person experiencing symptoms to a patient who owns symptoms.

Yeah, so what?

Korbzybski clarified how you and I talk about experiences is an abstraction, and distinct from experience. To experience all the symptoms described above is simply not the same as “having” the flu: Another person may experience sneezing, runny nose, headache, yet they too are said to “have” the flu – two widely distinct experiences, same language (and possessive language at that). Flu then is a limited abstraction of unique experiences – none of which we possess.

Furthermore, Korbzybski cogently noted, if the experience of symptoms is considered the actual territory, then the words we use to describe those experiences make up nothing more than a map of that territory. Succinctly, Korbzybski spelled out “the map is not the territory”!

Confusing the language we use (the map) with the actual experience (the territory) is just the beginning of sowing unhealing. Even more problematic, is what Korbzybski identified as “unsanity”: This occurs when we go beyond simply confusing language with experience, to actually misidentifying-with the map that represents those experiences. It occurs in a 4-step process:

1. A rich felt-experience becomes a boxed-in, black-white (and often judgmental) label about experience, which

2. We mistake for the experience (e.g., symptom experiences become “flu”);

3. We then begin to talk about that label as “mine”(i.e., “my flu”); and

4. Once possessed, we almost automatically misidentify who I am with what we possess (i.e., I am . . . ) – just think about the billions of dollars spent each year on ad campaigns helping you to better identify-with that which you are encouraged to buy!

In short, you no longer experience flu symptoms: You have flu. You own it. It is now yours! Indeed, you are flu-ish.

It is this habituated misuse of self-reflexive language that leads us in the direction of unhealing rather than toward healing. Take pause for a moment and experience the profound difference between experiencing symptoms of cancer as opposed to “my” cancer; or symptoms of chronic pain vs. “my” pain. Do you really want to possess an illness? And once possessed, how does one go about unpossessing it?

Even more crucial, we tend to identify-with that which we possess. Do you really want to identify yourself with an illness? Do you want to “be” cancerous? Once identified-with a disease process, how do you go about unbecoming that process?

It is this slippery slope from experiencing to owning to identifying-with that adds an entirely new level of emotional overwhelm to the experiences of chronic illness; AND, it can even escalate the experience of symptoms because we have such a powerful and negative judgment attached (not only to the disease process) but to who I am! The language we choose in describing experiences is critical to the actual experiences of health and wellness. Unhealing language simply does not serve you well: Indeed, it can hinder and further impair your health.

So, please, begin to pay attention to the language you use when referring to your experiences around the symptoms of illness. Drop the label. Drop the possessive “my” and “mine” attached to the label. Stop the self-reflexive mirroring of self with illness; especially when self-talking within! You do NOT possess an illness: You experience symptoms richly. You are not an illness: You are the unique and wonderful person experiencing!

Begin today to make this simple change. You will be surprised in the days and weeks to come, the remarkable changes that seem to magically occur as you expunge unhealing, unsane language. Leave that for the UnCola wars.

This is just a beginning step regarding how you may implement healing language: For more Self Healing language tools, watch for future articles in this Self-Healing Chronic Illness series.


Monday, August 24, 2009

How To Achieve Happiness In Life: Develop New Habits

Everyone want to be happy, and with good reason. Not only does happiness feel good, but health and happiness are linked. Research into happy people has shown that they live longer, are less likely to become disabled or divorced, have stronger immune systems, and have a richer social life, than those who are not happy. Aristotle called happiness the goal of all goals, but how does one achieve a life of happiness?

While a focus on holistic wellness and well-being in general is one good way, there are more specific ways of attaining happiness in life. Recent research has shown that we each have a happiness set-point where our level of happiness hovers until we do something to change it. It turns out that ten percent of our happiness set-point comes from the circumstances in our lives, 40 percent comes from our habits, behaviour, and thoughts, and 50 percent comes from our genetic make-up. Yes - there is a happiness gene!

How does this relate to achieving happiness in life? It looks as though we can only influence 50 percent of our happiness at most and the rest is due to our genetic inheritance. But in his book The Biology of Belief, Dr. Bruce Lipton states that our beliefs, thoughts, emotions and behaviour determine whether our genes are expressed or not, so by changing these we have the ability to influence up to 90 percent of our happiness. Sharon Begley in Train Your Mind. Change Your Brain agrees that we have to potential to transform ourselves and overcome our genetic happiness set-point.

Luckily there is a book, Happiness for No Reason, that shows how to increase our happiness set-point. Marci Shimoff, transformational leader and author, has boiled the achievement of happiness in life down to twenty-one habits in seven areas – empowerment, mind, heart, body, soul, purpose and relationships.

Empowering ourselves to stop being a victim and take responsibility for our own happiness is the first and most important step towards achieving lifetime happiness that is not dependent on circumstances. The tendency to focus on the problems rather than on finding a solution to them, means that people spend enormous amounts of energy in denying, worrying, or complaining about the problem - energy that could be better spent on solving the problem.

The first habit is to focus on the solution to a problem, which is defined as something you don’t like. If it’s possible to change the problem then do so; if you can’t change it then change your attitude towards it.

In my own experience, if you frequently practice changing your attitude either by seeing the problem from a different perspective, or by simply letting go of your angst about it, in time you will attempt to change fewer problems. It’s our response to events that cause our suffering, not the events themselves. However, I think that trying to address problems in which others are suffering will always tend to be important for most of us. I find it difficult to say that a small child in Africa is suffering from hunger simply because of its response to having an empty stomach.

Happiness for No Reason shows the happiness habits in the seven areas by likening them to a house. Empowerment is the foundation; mind, heart, body and soul are the pillars that support the walls and the roof; purpose is the roof; and relationships are the garden in which the house stands

By developing happiness habits we can increase our ability to achieve a life of happiness regardless of the circumstances we may encounter. We may not have a perfect life but we can aim for a happy one.

Information Sources:
Happy for No Reason: 7 Steps to Being Happy from the Inside Out by Marci Shimoff
The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter, & Miracles by Bruce Lipton
Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Science Reveals Our Extraordinary Potential to Transform

by Sharon Begley
picture by Paraschiv Alexandru

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Spiritual Journeys to Wellness

What is a spiritual journey, and how does it lead to wellness? In fact, what does it mean to be spiritual? To my mind being spiritual involves relationship – relationship with the self, with others and with something greater than the self. It does not have to be connected to religion, though it may be.

We are all spiritual, whether we realize it or not, and I see our spiritual journeys as the development of a mature spirituality in which we feel deeply connected to others and hold feelings of compassion for them. But the journey has to begin with building a compassionate relationship with the self. Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul wrote:

“The great malady of the twentieth century, implicated in all of our troubles and affecting us individually and socially, is ‘loss of soul.’ When soul is neglected, it doesn’t just go away; it appears symptomatically in obsessions, addictions, violence, and loss of meaning. Our temptation is to isolate these symptoms or to try to eradicate them one by one; but the root problem is that we have lost our wisdom about the soul, even our interest in it.”

If we do not have a loving relationship with our self, we have indeed lost our soul, because without that we cannot have a truly loving relationship with anyone else. We should aim to treat our self as though we were a beloved friend; understanding and forgiving rather than blaming when we make mistakes. Mistakes are part of being human.

Apparently, the word that was translated as ‘sin’ in the Bible, also meant ‘mistake.’ So ‘sinners’ are simply those who have made a mistake – not a big deal. To call someone a sinner is to attack who they are, to say they made a mistake simply passes judgment on their behaviour, and behviour can be changed.

For those who have never experienced being treated as a beloved friend, it is important to find someone who will model that – a counselor, Minister, neighbour – someone who does not judge, but is respectful and caring. As we learn what it like to be nurtured, we are also learning how to nurture ourselves and can then extend nurturing to others, starting with those we know and then extending it to everyone we meet.

Spiritually nurturing others involves compassion – a nonjudgmental recognition of their suffering and a strong desire that they be released from it. Too often we react to things others do with judgments about them, especially if their actions inconvenience us. The person who cuts us off in traffic, the client who does not pay on time, the relative who does not come to our wedding, are seen as directing their behaviour at us. We feel slighted, and react rather than respond. Often our reaction leaves us feeling angry and upset.

Responding starts when we examine our reaction to the situation. What beliefs do we hold about it? Do we know without a shadow of a doubt that these beliefs are true? The beliefs we hold determine the meaning we give to a situation, and our thoughts and emotions spring from this. Change the meaning and our response will change.

Connecting with our self leads to awareness of how we relate to our self and to others. Every event or interaction then becomes part of our spiritual practice and is grist for our spiritual journey. With consciousness, patience and practice we can develop compassion and loving-kindness for ourselves and others, and over time may see that, at least in some ways, we are all one.

The third leg of the spiritual journey is to develop a relationship with something larger than our self. This may be God (or whatever term we give to the prime mover), or it may be nature, science, art, music, child or animal welfare, saving an endangered species – anything that we feel passionate about and give time and energy to.

While it is important to work on all the wellness dimensions, it is especially important to pay attention to our spiritual journey. All the great religions see love and its expression as central to our lives because love is our true nature. So to be whole is to respond with love to everything. As A Course in Miracles says: “Teach only love, for that is what you are.”

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Natural Ways To Prevent and Heal Cancer: Part 4 Stress Reduction

Although it is not fully understood how stress and cancer are related, the relationship has been noted by physicians for centuries. It is now known that stress causes the body to release hormones that activate the fight or flight responses in the body, and increase inflammation. The energy required for these emergency responses is then unavailable for tissue repair or immune system functioning. Chronic stress thus produces conditions in which cancer cells might reproduce and spread more quickly.

Chronic feelings of helplessness have been shown to increase tumour spread in rats, and reduction of psychological stress in women with metastatic breast cancer doubled their average survival time over those in the control group. Psychological stress and helplessness may result from emotional childhood trauma. Treatment for this pain, and kindling the will to live seems to decrease helpless feelings and can mark a turning point in the progression of cancer.

People can reduce psychological stress by becoming more mindful and focusing on the present moment rather than on the past or the future. This is useful both in times of stress and in general life. When stress strikes, focusing on the breath, just by noting it as it comes in and out or by using a technique such as Herbert Benson's Relaxation Response, can produce both a physiological and a psychological state of calmness. Stress reduction through regular use of meditation, the relaxation response or some other relaxation technique can lead to frequent and lasting feelings of calm and even peace. Those who feel stress as tension in their body may want to try a regular practice of yoga, tai chi or qi gong.

Meditation has many advantages in stress reduction and self-healing. It is a way of learning to focus attention inwardly, something many people never do, and observing and connecting with the self. It also helps to see that thoughts come and go easily when there is no engagement with them. With practice and over time it can lead to a deep inner peace that is present even when engaged in the throes of daily life. Because stress is not caused by an event, but by the reaction to the event, decreasing reactivity through meditation leads to stress reduction.

For those with cancer, fear is a stressor that they must come to grips with. There is the fear of an early death, but also fear of being alone and abandoned, fear of pain and suffering, fear of burdening friends and family, fear of abandoning young children, and fear of letting go of the things that are still undone.

The flip side of the fear is that it can lead to a determination to live life well now while there is still time to do so. This puts attention on living rather than on dying, and deciding what living well now means may lead to lives that are more fully aligned with their values. People start to live with more awareness, and may develop a feeling of wellbeing even though they still have cancer. This change in focus to how to live well can also stimulate their natural defenses and lead to prolonged life.

Leading a life of holistic wellness and achieveing wellbeing is possible in those living or dying from cancer. It is not clear whether stress reduction will help prevent cancer, but it can slow, and sometimes halt, the spread of the disease, and contribute to a happier and lomger life.

Information from:
Anticancer: A New Way of Life by Dr. David Servan-Schreiber
Beyond the Relaxation Response by Dr. Herbert Benson

picture by Oddsock

Monday, August 10, 2009

Natural Ways to Prevent and Heal Cancer: Part 3 Exercise

Dr. David Servan-Schreiber, author of Anticancer: A New Way of Life believes that physical activity is a way of showing the body that it is loved and respected, which leads to a desire to live. Whatever the reason, several studies have shown that exercise and cancer recovery are linked. Regular exercise stimulates the body's anticancer defense mechanisms and reduces cancer relapse in a broad range of cancers. In breast cancer the reduction is 50 to 60 percent, an effect as strong as that of herceptin - a drug used to prevent relapse in patients with HER2-positive tumours.

Servan-Schreiber's advice regarding exercise for cancer patients, is to begin slowly and gradually increase distance and intensity as strength is gained. It's important to get into the habit of exercise, but this can be done by walking even short distances rather than going by car or bus. Just three to five hours a week of walking at a normal speed is enough to have an effect on relapse in breast cancer patients.

The amount of exercise by cancer patients that will have an effect on preventing relapse is different for different types of cancer. For example, while for breast cancer there is a measurable effect after five hours walking a week, those with cancer of the colon must do twice as much, and those with prostate cancer need the equivalent of three hours a week of jogging. In all cases increasing the intensity and shortening the time of the exercise, or exercising at a lower intensity for a longer time can give the same effect.

Exercise contributes to holistic wellness by preventing cancer in a number of ways. It reduces excess body-fat, a common site for storage of carcinogenic toxins, decreases estrogen and testosterone, hormones that stimulate the growth of certain cancers, prevents inflammation by reducing the blood-sugar, which stops the release of insulin and IGF, and strengthens the immune system.

In the 13 months that he was having treatment for his brain cancer following his relapse, Servan-Schreiber meditated, did yoga and ran for 20 minutes every day. He knows how difficult it is for those undergoing chemotherapy to exercise daily. But he believes that it is the most important thing that those with cancer can do to help themselves.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Natural Ways to Prevent and Heal Cancer: Part 2 The Role of Diet

Preventing cancer, or maximizing the chances of healing from it, requires eliminating, or at least markedly reducing, the cancer promoters and increasing the use of the anti-promoters. As shown in the previous post, this will mean a major focus on the area of diet as a route to holistic wellness. In his book, Anticancer: A New Way of Life Dr. David Servan-Schreiber gives very detailed information on how to use natural ways to prevent and heal cancer, but I will give a relatively brief overview here.

It's important to note that Servan-Schreiber advocates using these methods in conjunction with cancer therapy. Also, note that healing cancer does not necessarily mean cure. Many people live a long time with cancer quiescent in their bodies, others may die of the disease, at peace with themselves having made many psychological and spiritual changes during their journey with cancer, still others eliminate the cancer from their bodies and live healthy lives. All of these may be said to have been healed.


"With all I've learned over these years of research, if I were asked to design a diet today that promoted the development of cancer to the maximum, I couldn't improve on our present diet." Richard Beliveau, Researcher and Professor in Biochemistry, University of Montreal.

Foods to Reduce or Avoid:

1. Foods causing inflammation in the body:
  • foods high on the glycemic index: These include refined flours and all products (breads, pasta, breakfast cereals etc.) made from them; sugar of all kinds (including honey, Maple and other syrups) and the manmade glucose-fructose combination; pop, industrial fruit juices, and alcohol. If high-glycemic foods are taken they should be combined with other foods, such as vegetables or good fats that will slow their assimilation into the body. Therefore candies, baked goods and alcohol should not be taken between-meals, but eaten with other foods.

  • vegetable oils, (except for olive oil, flaxseed/linseed, and canola oil) hydrogenated fats (trans fats), and fats in dairy, meat, or eggs from grain-fed animals (high in omega-6 fats), and dairy from cows given bovine growth hormone (BST). Oils in transparent or plastic bottles should not be used since they quickly degrade in light and heat and can become contaminated by the plastic bottle.

2. Foods known to contain contaminants, including:

  • non-organic meat and dairy products
  • fish at the top of the food chain.

Foods to Use Instead of the Above Foods:

  • replace high-glycemic foods with whole-grains, and products made from whole grains, and Basmati or Thai rice, quinoa, oats, millet and buckwheat.
  • replace high-glycemic drinks with water, or green tea which has cancer-fighting properties.
  • replace refined omega-6 vegetable oils with olive oil, flaxseed/linseed, or canola oil. These should be bought in dark-green or brown glass bottles and stored in a cool place. Flaxseed oil should be kept in the refrigerator, and generally should be consumed within 6 weeks of opening the bottle.
  • replace proteins with beans, lentils, or small amounts of organically-raised chicken or red meat.
  • replace non-organic dairy products with organic milk, cheese or other dairy products and use organic butter instead of margarine. Organic cattle should be grass-fed as this raises the levels of omega-3's and lauric acid in their flesh and their milk, making it more healthy for humans. Chickens should be free-range and any extra food provided should contain flaxseed to increase the omega-3 level in their eggs.
  • the majority of food eaten should be vegetables, beans and fresh or frozen fruits, which keep insulin levels low and contain substances called phytochemicals that help to prevent cancer and promote healing.

Many foods are powerful cancer anti-promoters, which work both in preventing cancer and healing cancer. Food has advantages over chemotherapeutic drugs - it is cheaper, generally taken three times a day, the patients can enjoy the treatment and many foods work on more than one aspect of cancer prevention or cure. Foods are also synergistic in that they enhance one another's healthy properties.

Particularly powerful foods that are good cancer anti-promoters are:

  • Green tea - 2 or 3 cups a day of green tea that has steeped for 10 minutes.
  • Soy, in those who have eaten it from adolescence, helps prevent breast cancer (though it can promote or aggravate cancer when taken as an isoflavone supplement). Soy should not be taken within a few days before or after Taxol treatments.
  • Tumeric - mix 1/4 teaspoon of pure tumeric with black pepper in 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil and add to vegetables, salad dressings or soups.
  • Ginger - grate fresh ginger and add to vegetables or other foods or slice thinly and steep in boiling water for ginger 'tea'.
  • Mushrooms - shitake, maitake, kawaratake, enokitake and oyster mushrooms are powerful immune system stimulants.
  • Berries and citrus fruits - blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, cranberries, strawberries, and cherries are all powerful cancer fighters working on several fronts to prevent and heal cancer. Citrus fruits are antiinflammatory.
  • Pomegranate Juice substantially reduces the development of prostate and some other cancers. Eight ounces daily with breakfast is recommended.
  • Cruciform Vegetables - most fresh vegetables have anti-cancer properties and both prevent and heal cancer, but the cruciform vegetables (cabbage, brussel sprouts, bok choy. broccoli, cauliflower etc.) are particularly powerful and should be eaten every day, lightly steamed or stir-fried (boiling may destroy the anti-cancer properties.
  • Garlic, onions, leeks, shallots and chives promte the death of cancer cells
  • Colourful vegetables including root vegetables inhibit the growth of several types of cancer.
  • Tomatoes when cooked aid longer survival from prostate cancer and olive oil helps assimilation. Canned tomato sauce without sugar can be used.
  • Herbs such as rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano and mint kill and reduce the spread of cancer cells.
  • Edible seaweeds such as nori, kombu, wakame, arame and dulse slow the growth of cancer.
  • Omega-3 oils reduce inflammation so helps prevent cancer cell growth and spread. Small fish (anchovies, sardines mackerel) and salmon are good sources, as are ground flaxseeds or flaxseed oil. If using canned sardines ensure they are not packed in sunflower oil.
  • Red wine slows the three stages of cancer development, but more than one glass a day may increase cancer.
  • Dark chocolate (more than 70 percent cocoa) contains antioxidents, proanthrocyanidins and polyphenols that slow the growth of cancer. Do not eat more than 20 grams a day or mix with dairy products (milk chocolate does not have anticancer effects.)

Although radical changes in diet can seem overwhelming, for those wanting to prevent cancer it can be done reasonably slowly, dropping one food at a time or just gradually eating less of a food and substituting a healthier choice. For those with cancer who wish to maximize their length of survival, changes should be faster, but do not need to be done all at once. Making lifestyle changes to promote healing cancer can reduce the sense of helplessness that many cancer patients feel with respect to their illness. And that in itself is healing.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Natural Ways To Prevent And Help Heal Cancer: Part 1. How Cancer Develops

In the book Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Life, Dr David Servan-Schreiber looks at life-style factors that can prevent and help heal cancer, and gives the science behind them. A neuropsychiatrist who developed brain cancer at the age of 31, Servan-Schreiber was treated and went into remission. It was only when his cancer recurred that he questioned his oncologist’s comment that there was nothing that Servan-Schreiber could do personally to enhance his chance of healing. A search of the medical literature revealed numerous scientific studies that when considered together showed the opposite – people can enhance their chance of both preventing and healing cancer.

We all have dormant cancer cells inside us that may take five to forty years to develop into tumours. But not everyone develops cancer. Why not? Servan-Schreiber found that the body has natural defenses that prevent cancer development and that these same defenses can be used to help the body heal from cancer.

Servan-Schreiber put the information he found into practice during his second round of chemotherapy and afterwards. He has survived 15 years since his first diagnosis, and in the process his life changed and has more meaning and value for him than it did before. His book is a holistic wellness guide for those trying to heal from cancer and for those who want to prevent cancer.

Lifestyle Affects Cancer Risk And Recovery
An estimated 80 per cent of the common cancers (breast, colon, and prostate) are due to lifestyle and the environment. These three cancers are 7 - 60 times more frequent in North America and other Westernized countries than they are in Asia, though Asians who emigrate to the West develop the risk-level of their new country.

Studies of people who try to take charge of their cancer by changing their lifestyle on several fronts, show that they generally live two to three times longer than others with cancer at the same stage of development who did not make a change.

A one-year study by Dr. Dean Ornish provides proof that lifestyle changes have an effect on cancer. He randomly assigned 95 men who had chosen not to have traditional treatment for their prostate cancer into two groups, one (the control group) which had surveillance and regular PSA tests, the other which underwent a specially-designed radical change in lifestyle involving dietary change, supplements, exercise, stress management and participation in a support group.

The results of this study? Of the 49 men in the control group, the cancer worsened in six, who had to have their prostates removed, followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The remainder of this group saw a six percent average increase in PSA, which indicated that their cancer was growing.

None of the 41 men in the other group required treatment, and the this group showed an average decline in PSA of four percent - their tumours were shrinking. Even better, their blood was shown to be seven times better at inhibiting the growth of the cancer cells than the blood of those in the control group was. And the men who had put Dr. Ornish's treatment most diligently into practice were the ones whose blood was the most active against the cancer cells.

Factors Helping Cancer Develop:
Cancers require three things in order to develop into a tumour and then to become larger, spread and overwhelm the body’s defenses. These things are:

  1. A compromised immune-system that is unable to respond to the presence of cancer cells and kill them.
  2. Chronic inflammation in the body that helps cancer cells to quickly invade adjacent tissues. The cancer cells themselves then create more inflammation and spread like wildfire.
  3. An increase in the number of new blood vessels in the area where cancer cells have lodged. These new vessels feed the cells and can turn a small harmless cluster of abnormal cells into a large cancerous tumour that can spread to other organs.

Cancer From Seed To Weed
Servan-Schreiber likens the development of cancer to the growth of a plant from a seed to a weed. First comes the initation stage when the seed settles into the soil - in the case of cancer, an abnorml cell forms in the body tissue.

Then comes the stage of growth. If the soil is fertile, the seed will start to grow and develop into a plant. Similarly, if the body tissues where the abnormal cell settles are inflamed, the cancer will start to grow sooner and faster than when there is no inflammation. It will then create its own inflammation so it can invade adjoining tissues, and will create new blood vessels to feed it as it grows into a tumour and from a small tumour to a large one.

Lastly comes the stage where the plant does not stop at a certain size but gets out of control and becomes a weed. This is the stage where the cancer spreads locally and to other parts of the body to form metastases.

Cancer Promoters and Anti-Promoters
To naturally prevent or help cancer heal, it is necessary to decrease the cancer promoters, those things which help cancer grow, and increase the anti-promoters that either block the mechanisms necessary for cancer growth, or actively kill cancer cells.

What factors promote cancer? As with almost every other chronic disease it comes down to diet, lack of exercise, stress and toxic contaminants. And the anti-promoters are - diet, exercise, and stress reduction.

Diet: In the western world diet has changed substantially over the past 70 years. Over half the calories in the average Western diet now come from sugars, refined grains and vegetable oils. Not only is the body unable to get nutrition from these substances (with the exception of olive oil and perhaps canola oil), but they promote chronic illness, including cancer.

High-glycemic foods like refined-grains, sugars, syrups, and the fructose-glucose found in many processed foods and drinks, cause both inflammation and the release of insulin-growth factor (IGF) which enhances cell, including cancer-cell, growth.

The omega-6 vegetable oils cause inflamation and should be correctly balanced with the anti-inflammatory omega-3 oils (which are found in oily fish, and in flaxseed [linseed] which was traditionally used in animal feed.) The huge rise in the use of vegetable oils since the end of WW II, together with changes in how animals are raised and fed, has moved this ratio from 1:1 or 1:3 omega-3 to omega-6 oil, to 1:15 or higher.

There are other problems with the polyunsaturated omega-6 oils used in food as they are refined, degrade when exposed to light or heat, and form trans fats when hydrogenated. They cause other diseases besides cancer.

Lack of Exercise: Bodies are made to move. Exercise strengthens the immune system, reduces blood sugar, lowers inflammation, and moderates the production of hormones that in excess can stimulate certain cancers. Lack of exercise removes these protective effects.

Toxic Contaminants: Since WWII the annual production of synthetic chemicals has risen from one million tons to 200 million tons. Most of these sunstances are carcinogenic. Many find their way into the food chain and all eventually get into the oceans (apparently the polar bear is the most contaminated animal on earth.) Many pollutants accumulate in the body fat of humans and animals.

Meat, milk and dairy products, and large fish at the top of the food chain provide over 90 percent of human exposure to contaminants. The risk of certain cancers increases in those who regularly eat more than one ounce a day of red meat.

Stress: While it is unlikely that stress alone will create a cancerous cell, it can influence the soil in which the cancer grows. Prolonged stress causes the release of hormones that, among other effects, depress the immune system and activate inflammation, while simultaneously taking energy needed for the body's growth and healing functions. Feelings of helplessness appear to be particularly harmful in their effect on the immune system.

All this sounds pretty dire, but evidence shows that decreasing the cancer promoters and increasing the anti-promoters can help both prevent and heal cancer. More on that in the next post.

If you want the book, go here Anticancer: A New Way of Life.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Mental Traps: Persistence

Mental Traps, Andre Kukla's book on unproductive thinking skills, describes 11 forms of thinking that produce nothing of value, but sap our energy and waste time. It's not the content of the thoughts, but the way we think about the content that makes a mental trap.

Mental traps tend to stay around because people may be unaware of their thoughts, do not see their thinking as unproductive, or from force of habit. However, once a mental trap is recognized as such, it can be eliminated like any other bad habit. The outcome is generally less stress and more energy.

The first mental trap Kukla addresses is persistence, which he defines as continung to work on projects or be in situations that no longer have value for us. Persistence differs from perseverance where we pursue our aims despite obstacles. To persist is to stubbornly continue without enjoyment in a task or situation simply because we started it. Situations where we may persist range from boring television shows to daily routines, jobs, and relationships.

Why do we persist? Sometimes because we feel that stopping will waste the time that we have already put into an activity. But that time is irretrievable while the time we will save by stopping could be put to something more rewarding. Often though we persist becuase we fail to re-evaluate our goals or because we think that the alternative is even worse. We think that leaving a relationship will lead to being alone for life, or leaving a job will result in penury. Once we buy into our rationalizations we are tied into perpetual persistence, but being aware of the dilemma can lead to breaking free from inertia and making a change.

Persisting in things we are not doing is more difficult to recognize and to change. How long will we persist in not eating olives, which we once tried and disliked, or in not going skiing because we fell down so often on our first lesson? Doing an activity tells us whether it still has value for us, but when we refrain from doing something we cannot tell if the value has changed. Kukla suggests that we never give up on anything forever. Our likes and dislikes, courage and abilities can change over time, and we may be surprised to find value in something that once held no value for us.

To learn about the other mental traps read Mental Traps: Stupid Things That Sane People Do To Mess Up Their Minds or keep checking back here as the other traps will be covered over time.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Guided Meditation -

For those just starting meditation, and even for those with experience, a recorded guided meditation can be very helpful. The site DIY Dharma has a lot of useful information, and many free guided meditations by different people. I find Malcolm Huxter's guided meditations particularly useful. His Body Scan has achieved a star status as it was downloaded from DIY Dharma 45,000 times in the first month it was on the site. However, I have enjoyed all of his recordings on the site, especially the Open Awareness meditation.

Visit and see what you think.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Holistic Healing Tools: Gaining Self-Knowledge Through Self-Inquiry

Once the mind becomes quiet and still in meditation, spontaneous insights and images may arise bringing information that till then had been unconscious. The temptation will be to analyze these images and information, or to somehow interact with them, but if you do you will break the mind's silence and the link to the hitherto unconscious information. It is better to just observe the image or insight, without trying to modify it or work out what it means. Understanding may come later, perhaps when a number of insights combine to provide new meaning to a situation.

If there is a particular issue you wish to explore through accessing your inner wisdom, then the time when the mind is quiet at the end of meditation may be good time to do so. Ask yourself a question about the issue. For example, if you are ill you could ask your illness why it is here, or what you can do to heal. It is important to be open to hearing the answer, and again not to go into analysis mode, but to hold the intention that the answer will come, and to simply observe or listen to it it when it does.

Another method of gaining self-knowledge is to silence your mind and then ask to contact your inner healer. An image will likely arise, and you should check that it is your inner healer by asking the image directly. If it is, then ask if he or she will be willing to give you some information - if the answer is 'no' then leave it for that time, and try again following another meditation session. If your inner healer is willing to give information, ask your question and sit awaiting the answer. Don't force it, just hold the question in your mind. The answer may come as an image, a thought or feeling, or from an inner voice. Once you have the answer, you can continue to ask your inner healer for information as long as he or she is willing.

A quiet mind combined with self-inquiry can lead to a fuller understanding of a situation than is possible through thinking about it. Inner silence gives space for inner wisdom to come forth. The result is a deeper understanding of an issue, which may lead to self-healing physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Coming to Our Senses for Holistic Healing

Jon Kabat Zinn writes about coming to our senses in his recent book of that name. Founder of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusets, he has helped many patients to access their inner resources and promote healing through mindfulness and meditation. Kabat Zinn sees coming to our senses, and he includes the mind as a sense, as vital to healing both ourselves and the world.

Blessed by a visit from my sister and her friend Jan, I have learned a lot about coming to my senses in the last couple of weeks. From 25 feet, Jan can smell the scent of a flower that I can barely make out even when I bury my nose in it. She can distinguish nuances of flavour in foods that I cannot even taste, and is constantly touching things to feel their texture. Since she has been here I have walked barefoot on beaches and in the grass, things I have not done for years. I an starting to wake up sensually, really just at the point of starting to stir out of my sleep, but with practice I can come to my senses and stay in them.

Coming to our senses brings us into present moment awareness and takes us out of the endless stream of thoughts, 50,000 a day apparently, that keep us out of our senses and out of awareness of ourselves and the present moment. When we are aware we notice things inside as well as outside ourselves. We become aware of patterns of thought or emotion, and how they affect the choices we make. We may develop awareness of physical patterns like habitual posture, rhythms of breathing, or muscular tension that we have not noticed before. We notice our judgments and we notice whether our minds spend most time in the past, the present or the future.

Awareness is the key to wholeness and wholeness is the key to healing. In fact both wholeness and healing come from the same etymological root.To become whole is to heal. Holistic healing means committing to and embracing wholeness, and while physical health is not usually the main focus, illness may be the factor that starts someone on the road to becoming whole. Even when the only desire is to heal physically, healing has to encompass more than a focus on the body alone. But focus on the body through coming to our physical senses, can lead to a greater awareness of neglected aspects of ourselves.

The problem is that we resist present moment awareness. A friend who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer told me that she did not feel it necessary to explore aspects of herself that she either needed to change or had not paid much attention to in the past, because she prefers t0 play to her strengths. We all do. It's easy to get results quickly and efficiently that way. But when we stick in our comfort zone we tend to focus on what we know and to lose awareness of new data, or of unexplored areas in our life. Just as I have lost awareness of smells and tastes by not coming into my senses, it is also possible to lose awareness of connection with something greater than ourselves, or of the feelings we may have about a relationship.

This week you may want to practice coming into your physical senses and into awareness of the present moment to see how this feels. Perhaps go outside and connect deeply with a plant by using as many senses as possible. Or eat a meal in silence. or with your eyes closed, and focus on how the food tastes and feels in your mouth. Or sit quietly and watch your posture and your breathing pattern without wanting to change either - just notice them for a while.

It may help to keep a journal of your practice and progress in coming to your senses. Writing things down will help you remember what happened and will signal to your subconscious that this is an important activity.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Holistic Treatment

Because holistic wellness views illness as stemming from an imbalance between different areas of life, holistic treatment focuses on the whole person and not just on the body. Consequently, a wide variety of holistic practitioners can be used. These may include physicians as well as holistic practitioners in areas such as ayuveda, naturopathy, homeopathy, massage therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture, nutrition, and neurolinguistic programming.

These holistic practitioners do not heal people, but rather help patients to heal themselves. All healing is self-healing. Bodies are built to be self-regulating and when in balance are capable of healing wounds, broken bones, infections, diseases and even cancer. Being out of balance makes the body prone to disease and prevents it from healing diseases in their early stages.

Holistic practitioners will often speak of dis-ease in the body in order to emphasize the loss of the natural state of ease that results from imbalance, and to de-emphasize the particular physical or mental disorder the client may have.

Your choice of holistic practitioners will likely depend on where you are experiencing the most difficulty in your life. If you have an acute or chronic disease you will certainly need a primary care physician. While naturopathic physicians may be able to oversee much of your care, in most countries only medical doctors can refer you to services or to others within the medical sector. If you can find a holistic medical doctor so much the better.

You should have a team of holistic practitioners, which may change as you do. Practitioners may work on specific wellness dimensions or be more global, but because the parts of your whole person are interconnected, an intervention in one dimension will have an effect in all the other dimensions. So theoretically you can start in any dimension.

In her excellent book Getting Whole, Getting Well: Healing Holistically from Chronic Illness Dr. Iris Bell presents a table of the levels of holistic care that lists the level of care options, the different holistic treatment options available in this level, and the world view assumptions that the care at each level is based on. I have listed the levels of care and beside each have put the types of holistic treatment options that Dr. Bell sees as appropriate within this level. (My additions are added in brackets at the end of each list of types).

Note that these levels of care do not all align with the wellness dimensions.

Biochemical Biological Care Level: Drugs, nutrients, botanicals, herbal medicines

Preventive Foundations Level: Exercise, diet and sleep (posture, breathing/breathwork).

Structural Manual Manipulation Level: Osteopathy, chiropractic, massage, (rolfing, postural reconstruction physiotherapy).

Mind-Body Level: Meditation, biofeedback, yoga, guided imagery, journaling (hypnotherapy, neuro-linguistic programming, psychotherapy).

Subtle Energy Level: Therapeutic touch, healing touch, reiki, johrei, qi gong (cranio-sacral therapy, tai chi, pranic healing).

Constitutional Level: homeopathy, traditional chinese medicine, acupuncture, ayuveda (accupressure).

Spiritual Level: Intention, prayer (spiritual instruction, participation in a spiritual community).

Dr. Bell suggests starting with a healing intention, and then choosing which interventions to start with. This will be covered in the next posts.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Coach Yourself to Success

Now that you have completed the wellness health assessments (congratulations to those who managed to get through them) it’s time to choose what you want to change first. If you have a physical problem you may want to start there, or you may decide to start in another holistic wellness dimension where you have more pain. Another way would be to choose something that is easy to change so you can see quick results.

Another decision will be whether you need help from a holistic practitioner. Even with professional guidance you will essentially be changing yourself so learning how to do that is a good way to start. Here are six steps you can use to coach yourself to success in any holistic wellness dimension

Step 1: Know What You Want

When you coach yourself to success you have to know what success is so you’ll know when you’ve reached it. Decide what you want to change first and what the end result will look like after the change.

If you are not sure what you want instead of the current situation, look at the opposite of what you don’t want. If you don’t want to weigh 200 pounds, how much do you want to weigh?

Step 2: Choose One Thing to Change

It’s important to take baby steps as you coach yourself to success. Initially choose one small thing to change. You are more likely to be successful and this will give you confidence and motivate you to continue.

Step 3: Set a Goal

To coach yourself to success, you must know what you want and keep the focus there, rather than on what you don’t want. Goals focus you on the end result and keep you moving in the right direction.

Your overall goal is holistic wellness, but getting there will require many smaller specific goals. Start by setting a goal for the one thing you are going to change first.

Your goal should be SMART – specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timely. For example, ‘I will weigh 120 pounds by September 1st 2009’ meets these criteria, provided it would be possible to achieve that weight by then.

Step 4: Take Action in Small Steps

Choose one action that will move you towards the goal, and raise your satisfaction level in the chosen holistic wellness dimension by just one point. Choosing an action that you can repeat for 21 to 30 days will develop a habit. Habits make actions effortless.

Step 5: Set Up Structures

In coaching, a structure is any device that reminds the client of their vision, goals, or actions that must be taken on a regular basis. Structures that remind you to take action might be: entries in your daily agenda; pop-ups or calendar reminders on your computer; messages you send yourself on voicemail or by e-mail, or putting your running shoes by the bed where they will remind you to go for a run before breakfast.

When coaching yourself to success, be sure to set up structures that will keep you acting until habit kicks in.

Step 6: Evaluate Regularly

Once a week hold a coach yourself to success meeting with yourself. Celebrate your successes in carrying out the planned actions or meeting your goal and decide what you will do in the week to come.

Do not beat yourself up if you were not successful.– instead find out what went wrong. Ask yourself questions like: What got in the way of me doing what I had planned? How will I do it differently next week? Be curious and gentle with yourself – commitment to holistic wellness requires you to become your own best friend. Set yourself a goal for the coming week that you think you can meet.

Keep going through the steps until you achieve your goals. Achieving holistic wellness may be a life-long process, but coaching yourself to successful change will become second-nature after a while.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Physical Wellness Health Assessment: Part 2 - Nutrition, Hydration and Supplements

Do you eat a healthy balanced diet? A wellness nutrition health assessment evaluates your nutrition in terms of the balance of the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and macronutrients(carbohydrate, proteins and fats); whether you eat acid or alkaline foods, the nutritional value of the foods you eat, and whether you eat frequently enough to maintain stable insulin and blood sugar levels. It also identifies substances in your diet that are harmful to health. A healthy balanced diet is based on natural whole foods
In answering the following questions, you can either use your gut-feelings to come up with your answer, or click on the links to the calculators if you want to be more exact.

1. Are you markedly under or over-weight?

2. Is your daily caloric intake adequate, but not excessive for your body type and lifestyle?

3. Is your diet balanced between 40 to 60 percent of calories from carbohydrates, 15 to 20 percent from protein, and 20 to 30 percent from fat?

Carbohydrates and protein contain four calories per gram and fat contains nine calories per gram Find gram equivalents of the caloric percentages above – enter the number of calories you need from the calculation in question 2 and use the moderate ratio.

4. Do uou have an alkaline diet?
At least 75% by weight of your diet come from food that becomes alkaline in the body? You will need adobe acrobat to view this file. Download it free here.

5. Do you eat fast food, processed food or junk food less than twice a week?

Unnatural foods make thr body acid, which can cause disease. Most of your diet should come from natural whole foods. Unlike processed foods, natural whole foods contain needed vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) in correct proportions for your body’s needs. For a healthy alkaline diet, the majority of your food should be vegetables and fruits, with some whole (unpolished) grains and naturally raised meats, fish or vegetable protein.

6. Do you maintain stable blood sugar and insulin levels by eating 3 small meals and two nutritious snacks a day?

1. Do you drink 8 -10 glasses of fluid per day excluding alcohol?

Optimum fluid intake varies by body weight, and a certain amount of fluid comes from food. A study that looked at the difference between males who drank 64 ounces of water or water plus a variety of beverages (including water, coffee, juice, and carbonated soft drinks) found no difference in blood and urine constituents regardless of the type of beverage, but all lost weight during the day, which indicates that 8 glasses of fluid may not be enough to maintain hydration.

When choosing fluids, bear in mind that coffee and soft drinks are acidic in the body and will acidify the body, contribute to calcium loss from the bones and to inflammation which leads to disease. Soft drinks also contain sugar or sugar substitutes which also contribute to body acidity.

1. Do you take a good quality multivitamin daily?
2. Do you either eat oily fish at least three times a week or take an Omega-3 supplement (fish oli, flax oil, ground flax seeds or other) daily?
3, Do you either spend an hour in the sun without sunscreen daily or take a Vitamin D3 supplement?

Score each section in the physical wellness assessment by taking the number of yes answers and expressing them as a percentage of the total number of questions. Then put a line at the level representing that percentage in the appropriate section of the physical wellness wheel – see how to do a wellness health assessment..




Sunday, June 7, 2009

Physical Wellness Health Assessment: Part I - Exercise, Rest, and Health Habits

To a do physical wellness health assessment of the body you will look at the areas of exercise, rest, health habits, hydration, nutrition and supplements and identify where and how you need to make changes.

Because there are several sub-domains involved in this domain, this physical wellness health assessment may require a wellness wheel of its own. Use the previous instructions to draw a physical wellness assessment wheel with six sections either on the back of the wellness health assessment wheel you already made, or use a separate piece of paper or page in your wellness journal.

Label the physical wellness health assessment sub-domains: exercise, rest, health habits, nutrition, hydration and supplements.


  1. Do you get at least 30 minutes of exercise per day through walking or other means?
  2. Do you get 30 – 60 minutes of aerobic exercise at least three times a week.
  3. Do you get regular exercise (yoga, tai chi. pilates) that develops strength, flexibility and balance?

Rest and Relaxation:

  1. Do you get at least 8 hours of sleep per night?
  2. Do you get to bed by 10pm?
  3. Do you meditate or practice some form of deep relaxation that reduces stress?
  4. Do you have a hobby or pastime that you engage in frequently?

Health Habits:

  1. Do you always wear a seat belt when in the car?
  2. Do you always protect your brain by wearing a helmet in activities such as biking or skiing?
  3. Do you floss your teeth daily?
  4. Do you drink no more than seven alcoholic drinks per week, or three drinks per occasion (women) or 14 drinks per week or four drinks per occasion (men)?
  5. Are you a non-smoker?
  6. Do you practice safe sex?

Nutrition, hydration and supplements will be covered in the next post

Score each section in the physical wellness assessment by taking the number of yes answers and expressing them as a percentage of the total number of questions. Then put a line at the level representing that percentage in the appropriate section of the physical wellness wheel – see how to do a wellness health assessment..

Friday, June 5, 2009

Environmental Wellness Health Assessment

Where and how you live has a big environmental impact on wellness. Environmental wellness is both the effect that your surroundings have on your health and wellbeing and the steps that you take to protect your environment. Your home and work environments should sustain and nourish you and provide the opportunity to live a healthy life. In turn, your actions should sustain the health of your environment; both the natural environment and your workplace, home and possessions.

We are part of the natural world and so need to interact with it in order to be whole. If you are physically able, get out and walk in the elements and natural surroundings at least daily. If you are housebound then try to bring nature to you through houseplants, a natural view from your window, or sitting in the open air for a while.

Many other things have an environmental impact on wellness. Clutter or broken or malfunctioning objects drain your energy, as do noisy or polluted environments, or unfriendly relationships with neighbours.

You can decrease your impact on the environment by reducing the number of items you buy or use, reusing things for a similar or different purpose, and selling, giving away or recycling what you cannot use.

Some question to ask when doing your environmental wellness health assessment are:

1. Do you like your home and the surrounding area and community?
2. Do you interact with the natural world every day?
3. Do you know your neighbours and have cordial relations with them?
4. Is your living-space neat and well-ordered with no broken or malfunctioning items?
5. Do you reduce, reuse and recycle?
6. Do you conserve water and protect the groundwater from pollution by using non-toxic biodegradable cleaning agents, compost rather than fertilizers, natural pest control, and other methods.

Score your environmental wellness health assessment by taking the number of yes answers and expressing them as a percentage of the total number of questions. Then put a line at the level representing that percentage in the environmental section of the wellness wheel – see how to do a wellness health assessment.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Vocational Wellness Health Assessment

Vocational wellness is similar to occupational wellness but more inclusive. A vocation is a calling, something that expresses who you are, which a job may not do, Vocation encompasses interests, hobbies, and volunteer work, as well as occupation, but more important is the tie between vocation and personal values.

In the Vocational Wellness Health Assessment you look at your personal values and how they are expressed in what you do. Some things you do may fit your abilities, but may not fit your personal values. Wellness, and happiness, increases when vocation and personal values are congruent.

To identify your personal values think first of a moment (a few hours at most) in your life when you felt completely fulfilled. What was it about that time that was so important? Probably one or more personal values were being expressed. Try and identify them. Then think of something that someone does that really annoys you. Probably one or more of your personal value is not being honoured. Can you identify them?

Some question to ask when doing your vocational wellness health assessment are:

  1. What are you top five personal values in order of importance?
  2. Where in your life are you expressing your personal values?
  3. Is there one or more areas in your life where your values are dishonoured?
  4. Is there a balance between work and other areas of your life?
  5. Do you feel happy, creative and innovative in your current life?
  6. Overall, do your interests, hobbies, job, and volunteer work (vocation) and personal values appear to be congruent?

Scoring the vocational wellness health assessment will be somewhat different than for the previous wellness health assessments. The answer to question six will tell you where you are, between a score of zero to 10, on the fit between vocation and personal values. Enter this score as a dotted line on the vocational segment of the vocational wellness wheel. See how to do a wellness health assessment for an example

Social Wellness Health Assessment

Social wellness is the ability to connect with others and to build supportive, nurturing meaningful relationships that enhance the quality of life for all involved. It also includes making a contribution to society in some way.

The social wellness health assessment questions below reflect the skills needed to foster a relationship in which both parties feel safe and heard. Because conflict is part of the relationship territory, developing relationship management and conflict resolution skills is essential.

1. Do you have more than one relationship that is mutually supportive and nurturing?
2. Can you accept the other for who they are?
3. Can you set boundaries that clearly identify what you need in a relationship?
4. Do you focus on the positive qualities of the other person rather than on the qualities that you don‘t like?
5. Is giving and taking about equal within the relationship?
6. Do you frequently appreciate and thank the other for what they do?
7. When there is conflict can you state your side and listen to and acknowledge the other’s point of view?
8. Do you give some time to helping others or contributing to society in some way?

Score the social wellness health assessment by taking the number of yes answers and expressing them as a percentage of the total number of questions. Then put a line at the level representing that percentage in the social section of the wellness wheel – see how to do a wellness health assessment for an example.

If you want to make a start on developing or improving your relationship management and conflict resolution skills, this site is a useful resource

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Emotional Wellness Health Assessment

Emotional wellness is a key dimension in the journey to wellbeing, because feelings generally influence how people react to events in their lives and, as mentioned in a previous post, they directly affect the health of cells in the body. Emotional healing is essential in physical healing.

The good news is that managing emotions, by paying attention to what you are feeling and not instantly reacting to uncomfortable emotions, leads to emotional healing and enhanced wellness.

These emotional wellness health assessment questions are an initial assessment of where you currently stand in this dimension. They will also indicate where you need to focus on any needed emotional healing. When answering the questions, look at what you do most often.

  1. Do you recognize when you are feeling an emotion?
  2. Do you stay with the emotion and allow yourself to feel it without blaming (yourself or others), or instantly reacting?
  3. Do you experience pleasant emotions (e.g., love, gratitude, peace, joy) more frequently than uncomfortable emotions (e.g., depression, anxiety, fear, unworthiness, anger, hurt, resentment)?
  4. Do you identify what others may be feeling and allow them to have to have those feelings without trying to change them?
  5. Do you talk about your own feelings and those of others without judgment?

Again, score the number of yes answers in this emotional wellness health assessment as a percentage of the number of questions, and draw a line at that level in the emotional wellness segment on your wellness health assessment wheel. Knowing where you are is the first step to emotional healing and wellness.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Spiritual Wellness Health Assessment

What does it mean to be spiritual? The spiritual journey is somewhat different for everyone – for some it is linked to religion, but atheists can also be spiritual. The wellness health assessment questions below touch on some of the commonalities in spirituality, but are by no means comprehensive..

The commonalities are that the spiritual journey is an inner voyage of seeking to know and love the self, and finding purpose and meaning in life. It also involves openness to new ideas, and coming to understand the true nature of consciousness – and that life is more than we see on the surface. Connecting with others and coming to realize that individual differences are not important, that we are all more alike than we are different, is also part of being spiritual.

Spiritual, mental and emotional wellness are closely related, because thinking habits and skill in managing emotions will affect the ability to take the spiritual journey.

Some questions to ask when doing your spiritual wellness health assessment are:
1. Can you identify a meaning or purpose in your life?
2. Are your goals and actions congruent with your life’s meaning/purpose?
3. Do you take time each day to still the mind either through meditation, prayer, or another focused practice?
4. Are you willing to consider new ideas, even those that initially don’t make sense to you?
5. Can you accept yourself even when others do not?
6. Do you make generally allowances for others, or do you tend to judge them for their actions or their qualities?
7. Have you forgiven everyone you need to, including yourself?
8. Have you sought forgiveness from those you may have wronged?

Again, give yourself one point for all the questions to which your answer was yes. Then estimate this score as a percentage of the number of questions, and draw a line to represent this in the spiritual section of the spiritual wellness health assessment sheet - see how to do a wellness health assessment for an example.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Wellness Health Assessment of the Mind

A wellness health assessment can start with any of the seven wellness dimensions, but it makes sense to start with the mind, because the major factor affecting your physical health, and all other wellness dimensions, is your thoughts. Thinking positively affects wellness more than diet, exercise, supplements or health care.

Thoughts have positive or negative effects on all wellness dimensions. Thinking positive thoughts to affect wellness involves letting go of fear and of your inner and outer critic. It may also mean changing beliefs and attitudes.

In this assessment of wellness and health of the mind, look truthfully at how you are most of the time.

  1. Do you usually see the glass as half-full rather than half-empty?
  2. Do you tend to focus on the things you or others did well rather than those done badly?
  3. Do you usually expect the best to happen rather than the worst?
  4. Do you see things in shades of gray (neither bad nor good) rather than black or white, bad or good?
  5. Overall, do you believe that people are kindly disposed towards you?
  6. Do you see your self, rather than outside circumstances, as determining your happiness at any give moment?

Scoring your test: Take the percentage of questions where you answered yes, and put a line at that level on your wellness health assessment wheel – see how to do a wellness health assessment for an example.

How did you do?

However you did is fine – it’s just showing you where you are now. See if you can see a link between your thoughts and your wellness. Is your level of thinking positively affecting your wellness in dimensions other than the mind? What could you do in the next few days that might make a difference to your score?