I was on my third mile on the treadmill at the gym.  Pound. Pound. Pound.  I was pushing myself to run harder than normal… I find running to be a good stress reliever.  Even if I really hate it.  I’ve noticed that if I chose a treadmill in front of the 12 or so t.v’s that are mounted on the wall, that the time seems to go a little faster.  I was dividing my attention between ‘Top Chef’ (it was a rerun and I already knew the outcome), a cartoon about a little boy who had a talking ball as a friend? I couldn’t quite make out what that was all about and then an infomercial on a new kind of bra for women (well, I suppose they must have bras for men somewhere too).  These women would come out in their robes (quite a few are generously sized women) wearing their usual bras and then were sent backstage to put on this new bra (which for the life of me I can’t remember the name of).

I like to run in a pack (I find I actually push myself harder when I’m competing) so I was ‘competing’ with the guy on the treadmill next to me (he was, of course oblivious).  I was just hoping he wasn’t going to start sprinting at a 10 because all anyone would see of me then, is me flying off the treadmill, backwards, at warp speed.  I would probably then get up and scowl at him leaving him to wonder why women are so crazy.  So, I decided to focus more on the infomercial.  Out walks the first victim… wearing her usual bra.  She opens her robe to reveal… viola! her exposed self.  Now, of course, they want to make sure that everyone can clearly see how badly her bra fits so 1/2 of her breast is hanging out beneath her bra.  I laughed out loud. Loudly.  The guy next to me was suddenly not so oblivious to my presence so I scowled at the tv.  His gaze followed mine and soon he was scowling too.

We continue to watch the infomercial, me and my new nameless, sweaty friend.  It was sort of like watching a train wreck… neither of us could tear our eyes away (all the while I knew that Tre was being sent home on Top chef and the little boy with the weird talking ball was jumping from train to train – seriously, where are this kids parents??).  They continue to parade a number of women out in their old bras (one poor women spent her life having her boobs smashed down to her belly… yikes).  Doesn’t nature do that naturally for us?  Anyway, back to the infomercial… so out comes victim #1 in her NEW bra.  I laugh out loud. Loudly.  In fact, I think I might have snort – laughed but I was listening to ‘Rage Against the Machine’ (how else do you think I can run on the treadmill??) and couldn’t hear myself.  The new bra looks a bit like an oversized, padded, sports bra.  I must admit it is nice not to see 1/2 her breast hanging out the underneath side.  But, it really reminds me of that bra episode from Seinfeld.  What was it called?  the manfro? the mangina? mankini? brobra?  I can’t remember… but, I think Seinfeld might actually own the rights to that bra.  Pound. Pound. Pound.  The bra has lost my interest… I’ll keep it in mind for when I’m 80.

At this point, I’m hoping the guy next to me is getting off the treadmill soon… I have this thing about wanting to seem a bit tougher than I am and visions of me flying backwards, off the treadmill fly through my mind.  I stop.  No reason to make him snort – laugh too.

There isn’t really a point to this blog… we aren’t going to be doing anything ‘with or without’… unless you choose to go without your bra and then, that’s all on you.  I won’t be held responsible for smashed up cars and unnecessary fondling on the bus or the fact that your breasts reach the floor before you do when you bend over.  Nope.  Wear your damn bra… seriously.

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Pay Attention!

10/26/2011

I was sitting, petting my not-so-little puppy this morning and started to wonder if she gets enough love and attention.  I have been busy the past 2 weeks and don’t feel like she’s been given the attention (or training) that I promised when I got her.  I then started to think about my children.  If I felt my puppy might not be getting enough attention then certainly my children weren’t either (as I spend a great amount more time with the pup).  And, that thought led to wondering about other people in my life and how I can sometimes be self-focused.  Other thoughts then arrived along with questions.  And the realization that I frequently say, “I’m too busy” for more things than I should.

I am quite fortunate in that my friends frequently email, call or text me to see how my life is.  They leave little notes on my Facebook wall or text letting me know that they are thinking about me.  They make time for me.  But, do I make time for them?  And how often when I am with them, am I thinking about the 100 other things that I need to do?  I have one friend, in particular, who is so great about texting me to say ‘hi’, to wish me a happy Wednesday or Friday or Tuesday or whenever.  I tried to think back to when I might have done something similar for her without provocation.  I couldn’t come up with more than a few times and I would consider myself a fairly thoughtful person.  But am I really?

How many times have we told someone we’ll ‘talk to them later’ or given our children, who want nothing more than a hug, a brush off… stating that we are too busy or worse… giving them a half second hug in return, as if their own love and thoughtfulness wasn’t appreciated.  I am definitely guilty of doing this on occasion.

So, the next week (yes, starting at the middle of a week and the end for some people!) try to offer the people in your life your full attention.  Listen to or spend quality (uninterrupted, unconditional) time with your friends, your family, your little people might be trying to say to you.  Listen with patience, try and put anything else you might be dealing with, out of your mind, turn the t.v. off, step away from the computer… whatever it is for you.  It can be so difficult especially when lives seem to be overstuffed with responsibilities and activities.  When we are trying to juggle chores, meals, work, and time for ourselves, but, what you are offering someone, when you give them your full attention, is a gift that is priceless.  You are letting that person know that they are important.  That you care about them… that they mean something to you. It might be the only time in their day where they get a chance to feel this way.

Maybe I am more guilty of this than most 🙂  But, I already know what a difference this will make with the people in my own life.   As for my puppy, she’s probably ok… we often eat our meals together, sleep in the same room (omg she is a snorer!!),  and she sent me out in a foot of snow, in my pajamas, to help her find her missing bouncy ball.  Thankfully I was paying attention or I would never have known where it was  🙂

Autumn… Epic FAIL

09/21/2011

Or a fail of epic proportions… So, I stated that I was going to be giving up sugar for one week starting a few days ago.  I have this fantastic detox plan that I was going to do and share with all of you in case you wanted to participate.  However, pretty much as soon as I published the blog post stating that I was giving up sugar… I went to have 1/2 a cookie… I then went back to eat a few more 1/2 cookies.  Even as I sit here, right this very minute, my fingers are sticky with these delicious “organic energy chews” called ‘Honey Stingers’ in fruit punch flavor.  Excuse me while I grab yet another (now I’m squeezing the package to make sure it’s actually empty… sad).  It’s nearly 6 p.m. so the very last thing that I need right now is energy.

Normally, when I begin to remove sugar from my diet I will look on the package for the “Nutritional Facts” and scan down until I find “Sugars”.  I will limit the amount of sugar (that I will consume) to any one item to 5 or less grams.  Would you like to know how many grams of sugar are in these honey chews?  27!  OMG.  If I’d known that I would have had them for breakfast too… I could have really used some energy this morning.

So, sugar….honeybear, sweet cheeks, gumdrop… I think I shall abstain from using these words and stick with names like:  Beef jerky or maybe Protein shake or Filet Mignon (that sort of sounds like “filet of my own” if you slur the words a little).  Sadly, images of the Marlboro man come to mind… he was certainly a bit ‘beef jerky’.

As I’ve completely blown my low / no sugar quest so far this week, I’m going to…. (I so badly want to say, QUIT) but I don’t like to quit anything and love a good challenge.  I had no idea sugar would be such a worthy opponent 😉  Tomorrow I will try again (and tonight I’m going to eat a 5lb bag of sugar) 🙂

If you are struggling with this too, I can tell you what I have been told.  1) That quitting sugar has been likened to quitting heroin (I’ve never tried any other drug… besides sugar so I can’t verify this), 2) that if you can stop or lower your sugar intake considerably for 1 week then your cravings will diminish significantly and 3) I’m sick and tired of everything that I love to eat being bad for me. (Yes, I’m pouting)

I think I will tape together this detox form I had been working towards (I’d, in a fury, cut it up into the tiniest pieces ever  – think ‘Edward Scissorhands’)… that should give me something to do with all this “energy” that I now have.  And, then, I will stomp off to the kitchen to find something… omg… dare I say it…. green.  Gummy bears come in green don’t they?? 😉

Autumn…

09/18/2011

Autumn is a great time for cleaning.  People generally think of spring as the best time for “spring cleaning” but fall can be a great time too.  Except that it isn’t called “spring cleaning” and “fall cleaning” sounds like some sort of dangerous reality show.  When fall comes around, it’s like we can finally slow down a little. The days shorten, the weather becomes cooler, we get a sense that nature is going to sleep and that can help us to find some peace and relaxation in ourselves too.  However, most people, live in a world, where their lives aren’t going to suddenly become less stressful just because it’s a new season even though the changing of seasons does affect us mentally, emotionally, maybe physically our lives don’t really allow for any of that.  Jobs don’t become any less demanding, schedules don’t become suddenly full of free time, and our anxiety over what needs to be done doesn’t diminish much either.

Autumn has become a great time to give myself permission not to care about everything as much as usual… permission to get up and walk away from things without having the guilt I might normally associate with it.  During this time, it’s also the time I reevaluate my life.  I have a harder look at those elements in my life that might be causing me stress or unnecessary concern.  For me those things are, my diet, relationships, how I’m managing my time, and exercise.  I tend to live inside my head… constantly thinking about this or that.  I believe the technical name for it is:  Ruminating.  I ruminate.  So, to distract myself from ruminating, at least for the next month or so, I’ve decided to completely change my diet.  I’ve noticed that I am living a bit on carbs and protein bars (ones that contain chocolate, of course).  I’m not overweight, but, I’m not exactly feeling great either.

Eating a cleaner diet of veggies, water, unprocessed foods, only low, natural sugars is when I feel and look my best.  So, I’ve decided for this first week to eliminate:  SUGAR.  I LOVE sugar and have even noticed myself sort of sneaking it without being completely aware.  I seem to find things that contain sugar that I wouldn’t have necessarily considered ‘sugary’ (like ketchup).  I tend to use stevia and that works well for me, but, I’m still craving sugar.  There are some tricks for this.  We did this challenge last fall so I know that I, personally, have all the tips I need to avoid sugar and I have loads of knowledge on how horrible it is for the body.  However, this does not stop me… in fact, it doesn’t even slow me down when I want something sweet.

We’ve all heard about the “emotional” eater and other reasons why we might overeat.  Honestly, after hearing from a friend that visited I think we are just bombarded with an overabundance of overabundance which causes overindulgence.  It’s my excuse today in any case 🙂  I also came across this article which suggests that we have a section in our brain that you need to exercise to have better self-control.  It also mentions that by continuing to surround yourself with temptations can cause mental exhaustion.  I can relate to this.  If you’ve ever spent a certain amount of time trying not to eat a certain food(s), had an alcoholic drink, smoked a cigarette… whatever your ‘temptation’ might be, then you know just how exhausted this can leave you.

So, let’s start the process of cleaning up our diet by eliminating one thing.  Maybe sugar isn’t your “thing” and you’d prefer to eliminate bread, cheese, alcohol, etc then go ahead and chose that one thing that you feel is most important to you right now.  That one thing that will with your footing while we spend a month cleaning up our diets (we can tackle the basement another day) 😉

If you chose to do the ‘No Sugar’ challenge with me this week, then you might find this article in WikiHow on how to Stop Sweet Cravings.  If you chose to do something else… let us know how it goes for you 🙂  And, good luck!

 

Shortly after I wrote the blog about bullying, a number of things happened.  First of all, and most shocking (to me) was the story that hit the web about the little 7-year-old girl whose parents had plastic surgery on her ears to stop the bullying.  Her ears, according to the article I read on yahoo, were ‘cup’ ears… think Kate Hudson, Ron Howard, etc.  Usually people outgrow this… or maybe grow into their ears 🙂  But, this family decided that the only choice was plastic surgery. 

I could not imagine having surgery done on my child to avoid bullying, it seemed quite extreme.  I, however, know nothing about their situation but did wonder what kind of message that sends to people who bully and I also wondered if other options had been tried (I’m sure they were). Everyone has to make decisions they feel are best for their families even when they may not make sense to anyone else.

I originally wrote the blog about bullying when my son, who is in 6th grade in Colorado (not Chicago, not NY, not some hardcore city) came home and asked me what “ass-raping” was.  Naturally, I assumed that watching prison movies must be something new they were doing in school.  When he assured me they were not watching prison movies, I started asking what other kinds of ‘names’ they were learning.  He went on to tell me that kids at the school frequently call each other “bitch”, the “n” word, “sexual molesters”, and “gay” (if you don’t have a girlfriend and are male).  My son is also the minority at his school and is frequently made fun of for his pale skin and blue eyes.  It’s very hard to teach your child about racism when they are being targeted.  It hit home with how many people of many different races may have felt at one time. 

I heard more than one story about boys bullying girls into having sex, about sweet, smart kids going completely crazy on a bullies and trying to smash their heads in (and then being suspended for it), suicide, depression, failing grades, fear. Is bullying an epidemic?  So, what is the cure?  My brother suggests he pay a ‘visit’… lol.  No, we aren’t Italian in case you are wondering… we’re worse… we’re Flemish. 😉

One of the most drastic but best suggestions I’d heard was avoidance.  Normally, I’m not an advocate of avoidance, but, after considering carefully what it was I would be helping my own child avoid it was:  lack of self-worth, lack of confidence, pain, suffering, and peer pressure.  What I’ve heard in response to this is that I will be teaching my child to run away and not face their fears, but, am I seriously going to put my child is a situation that could hurt him mentally, emotionally, maybe physically to build character?  My job as a parent, is to keep my child safe.  He is my responsibility.  I’m raising an adult.  Someone who will need to go out and function successfully in our society.  Someone that may have a family of his own one day.  And, I just can’t see how dealing with bullying will help him in any of those situations.

So, for us, possibly home-schooling and learning some kind of martial arts that teaches respect for others and oneself is what I feel is best.  It’s true, I’m altering our lives to avoid bullying, same as the family, that had plastic surgery on their daughter… but, at what point would one ever stop trying to protect their children?  Or should?

Thanks for reading.

Bullying.  An issue that is worldwide and not gender or species specific.  I’ve seen footage of killer whales playing “kick ball” with a baby seal, chickens imposing their “pecking order” and monkeys bullying a lower ranking member of their troop.

Bullying at some point, may have affected all of us.  I was lucky enough to have been bullied (to the point where I thought I might be beaten up) once.  It was over a note that was passed in high school and a misleading bit of information.  It all started when my friend, who will remain anonymous, Jenn… I mean, Gertrude, and I were passing notes in class (getting the most out of our public education) and she was saying how she thought “Scott” was soooo cute.  Now, I’m not exactly sure how… but, the girlfriend of Scott intercepted this note and my ‘friend’ told her that I was the one who thought ‘Scott’ was cute.  I remember understanding that her fear was insecurity based, not to mention, that she ran with a group much different from my own, AND I was a bit afraid of their group.  They would corner me in the stairwell, shove me into my locker, and generally threaten me on a daily basis.  This was a loooong time ago, long enough that I should not remember all those details, but, it left an impression.  A couple actually (and no, in case you are wondering… none of them permanent).  But, the one thing that had really scared me the most, was that they really didn’t care what the truth was… they enjoyed bullying me.

Why do people bully?  Maybe understanding the “why” of it can assist in knowing how to deal with it properly.  I think we’ve seen all too often when a gang of people bully and terrorize someone for something they may not understand.  Because they were “told” to do this by another?  Because they fear being “bullied” and outcasts themselves?  Because they need that validation that badly?  Maybe because they like to pick on others… who knows.

We are seeing on youtube and other places about bullies taking it to the point where a suicide is committed.  Or, where the bullied turn and end up bringing weapons to the school to do a little intimidating (or worse) of their own.  So, what is the answer?

I’ve posed this question on my facebook account:  Looking for a few creative / non-violent way of dealing with bullies.  So far, I’ve received a reply about using tennis balls and duct tape and another stating that they prefer to do the bullying with psychological, intimidation, etc.  lol  Now, I just need one that suggests wearing a Jason mask and wielding an axe and my list will be complete.

I’ve seen little blurbs on using humor to deal with bullying and also to ignore it.  Ignore someone picking on you?  In theory, that is a really great suggestion, however, in the real world, you just want to kick that person’s ass.  So… I thought I would do a search on the internet to see what suggestions it has for dealing with bullying.  Here are just a few suggestions and links from friends, the web and my own experience:

  1. One of my most trusted friends says to enroll your child (or self) in a martial arts class.  I think this can be excellent especially if the person who is being bullied struggles with self-esteem and confidence.  Martial arts teach children and adults about control, about body awareness, and using your mind instead of emotions.
  2. For my own children, I think seeing that the world is full of people outside of the 100 or so in their class is another way to help deal with this.  I have signed up my son (and I) for volunteer work in a serving kitchen once a week.  It may not help with being bullied, but, it will broaden his horizons and put him in touch with dealing with people who are more interested in the “greater good” than what his hair looks like that day.
  3. This article at kidpower.com has a lot of great advice on how to handle yourself and bullying situations:   http://www.kidpower.org/resources/articles/safety-tips-bullying.html has lots of great information on how to deal with bullying.
  4. When I was in my 20’s I took kickboxing (real kickboxing… not cardio kickboxing).  I worked one on one with a martial arts teacher for over a year.  One of the best lessons I learned from him was to stand up tall.  Walk with confidence and don’t show fear even when I felt it.  I honestly, think that advice alone may have saved me a few  times when I was alone in vulnerable situations.  So, whenever you are feeling scared or insecure in yourself… sit or stand up, pull your shoulders back and look straight ahead.  Bullies are going to be less inclined to pick on someone who looks confident than someone who’s shoulders are hunched over and their head is down.
  5. Get help.  Call a teacher or a friend (although we are all tempted to call our hot-headed friend who we know will do some serious arse kicking… refrain) 😉
  6. This article here on how to “Deal with Bullying at School” at wikihow is good too:  http://www.wikihow.com/Deal-With-School-Bullies

Lastly, at least for right now, with all of the cyber bullying that goes on it is easier to block those people, report them, or avoid them.  Don’t give bullies full-time access to your life or the lives of your children.

We all may know someone or have someone in our life that enjoys getting their little “digs” in.  Putting you down in a way to make themselves feel better only you can decide if that is the kind of relationship you want in your life OR, if you are the antagonist… are you the villain in your own story?

The whole point of this blog, is to try to make our lives a little better a week at a time.  Some of it will stick and some of it we will be happy to abandon (like the week without sugar) 🙂

Hopefully, the links here will help you or someone you know who is dealing with bullying.  Never hesitate to share your constructive thoughts 🙂

Your Challenge: This week, make yourself aware of any bullying going on in your life, a friend’s or your children’s and implement one or two of the suggestions above and don’t forget to check out the links… great source of information there.

I was working out the other day.  I like to lift weights… yes, I’m a real She-Ra.  Okay, not really… but anyway, that’s not the point here… stop looking at me!  I was in the free-weight section and it’s mostly populated by men (no, of course that’s not why I go to that area! lol) and I started looking around… and something occurred to me.  People that workout look constipated.

You think I’m joking, but, I’m not.  Next time you see someone running down the road or at your gym or wherever you go to workout, look at the expressions on people’s faces.  They look constipated (and maybe a little bit mean… but being constipated might make you feel mean… anyway).  Which is ironic because when you workout, your body releases endorphins which are supposed to make you feel happy.  So, maybe people really are constipated… I have no idea.

But then I had an idea… well, it was more like an idea for an experiment because I love to experiment.  I started smiling at people when they would look at me.  Normally, I do smile a lot and I like to smile at strangers, most of the time people will smile back, however, at the gym this is what happens:  Me:  Walking towards a constipated man.  We make eye contact.  I smile at him.  He: Stops dead in his tracks.  The constipated look falls off his face.  Which is replaced by a scowl (and beady eyes).  Me: (okay I made up the part about the beady eyes) Take 2 giant steps to the left and let Mr. Constipated pass.  Luckily, I do have a friend there that smiles nearly as much as I do (Gabe) but he’s getting paid to be there and I’m paying some crazy amount… aha! now I know why people there look constipated. 😉

Can smiling change your life?  Absolutely it can!  Now that is something to smile about for sure 🙂

Once, in one of my yoga classes… it was packed with about 60 people.  And, they looked a little grouchy too, so, I’d heard that Thich Nhat Hanh had tried this (don’t quote me on that) and decided I would like to try it too (and yes, I was a bit terrified).  All you had to do was take your hands to the sides of your body… and tickle yourself.  So, of course, at first no one laughs (and my anxiety sky rockets), then, suddenly, I see smiles and hear giggles and then laughter.  Then, the entire class was laughing (except for someone in the back who I believe truly was constipated).

So, what are some solid reasons we should smile?

1.  It will make you more attractive.  Seriously.  Haven’t you ever seen a person smiling and felt drawn to them?  You want to know why they are happy… just seeing their smile makes you smile, which brings us to,

2.  Smiling Is Contagious.  When one person smiles it can make other people smile… you can brighten a whole room.  You can be the sunshine that everyone is drawn to.  Smile.

3.  Smiling can make you look younger.  It strengthens the muscles of the face and makes you appear younger.   You will feel younger, you will have more confidence, and these are all things that help keep us looking and feeling youthful (I think 3 is a perfect age for me).

4.  Smiling can make you HAPPY.  Yep, when you are sad or mad or hurting…. maybe you feel like crying… you just smile.  And, all of a sudden you feel like smiling.  You feel happy.  It can’t be a fake smile… that will never work!  But, the muscles in your face work because your brain tells them to.  So, if you make the muscles work… then, maybe it tricks our brains into thinking we are happy.  Try this test:  Smile.  Now think of something negative without losing your smile.  It’s really hard to do!  We want to be happy 🙂  It’s natural for us (well, most of us anyway).

5.  Smiling: lowers blood pressure, releases endorphins (yeah, those same things working out is supposed to do), relieves stress, releases serotonin.  Smiling is a natural drug.  And, it stimulates your parasympathetic system (this among many many other functions, helps us to relax, slows our heartbeat… LOL… relaxes the sphincter muscles… omg… I think I peed myself.)

Your challenge this week?  Smile. Smile. Smile. 🙂

If you are really at a loss and have no idea how to smile then this article on “How To Smile” will be perfect for you:

http://www.wikihow.com/Smile

And, a warning:  Hmmm… it was a little more difficult to think of a warning that someone might need with this ‘challenge’, but, I can definitely say smiling while riding a motorcycle… big no no.  Big, bug teeth… not attractive.  Ack.  Actually, I thought of another one.  There was some cop show on at the gym and this officer had this little 2 year old… an apparent hardened criminal, in handcuffs.  I guess this little… candy burglar had snuck some candy… without paying!  Shocking.  Everything was going fine until… the kid smiled at the officer.  That’s when he actually got cuffed.  The officer said, “I knew when that kid grinned… I had to take him down hard”.  Okay, that’s not exactly what he said, but, I can’t be expected to remember everything!  And, maybe the kid was more like… 14 and maybe it was more like a smirk… 😉   The point is… don’t smile at an officer while being arrested for stealing candy! ~Toodles

Dr. Goulston once said, “I have become convinced that our skin has a memory separate from our minds – of good touch, bad touch and no touch.  There is not enough good touch in the world, and too many people walk around settling for no touch, in an effort to avoid bad touch.”

Teaching yoga has taught me quite a bit about reading people.  Sometimes when I walk over to offer a gentle adjustment to a student I can feel them pull away before I even touch them.  They are shying away from the touch and sometimes I won’t push the issue with them, but, offer spoken support instead, but, most of the time, I will continue with offering the adjustment and gentle touch.  I can usually feel this amazing amount of stress and tension initially and then, feel it melt away from them.  They realize that I’m not there to hurt them and that having the support of a teacher can be really nice.  And, a safe place to be.  I’ve even had students come up to me after class, in tears, thanking me because they haven’t been “touched” in a very long time.

We are all connected.  I can feel your stress even if you are trying very hard to hide it and I think a lot of other people can too.  Maybe you don’t realize what you are feeling is someone else’s stress… maybe the stress of another country that is suffering… but, we can and we do.

So, to counteract some of the negativity going on in the world today, I thought it might be good to work on something we all could use more of… HUGS! (I love hugs)

Health.com (http://www.health.com/health/) has a great article on hugging it out and I will include their suggestions in this blog 🙂  There is so much research on hugging and what happens and even shirts that you can buy that will simulate hugging!  I haven’t tried it myself, I’m not sure I want my shirt to be that tight.  I’d hate to get the urge to get away from the ‘hugging shirt’ in the middle of the mall.  News Flash:  “Crazy Women Strips Down to Her Bra While Stomping On Shirt Yelling ‘NO MORE HUGGING!!’.”  Yeah…..

Getting a hug from someone you care about (even a little) feels good 🙂  It releases cortisol and lowers blood pressure.  Fights anxiety and encourages happiness and a sense of calm.  So, just what can a hug or gentle touch do for you, let’s find out 🙂

Get a rubdown
Anyone who’s ever gotten a massage — even a quickie at a mall kiosk — knows that it helps you unwind. That’s not just a mental sensation: Getting massaged causes muscles to unclench, a racing heart rate to slow, heightened blood pressure to fall, and levels of the stress hormone cortisol to drop. In that relaxed state, your body is able to regroup and recharge. One happy result: a more robust immune system.
“Cortisol suppresses the immune response,” explains Roberta Lee, MD, vice chair of the Department of Integrative Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. “Anything that increases the relaxation response triggers the restoration of your immune response.”
Recently, researchers measured immune function in healthy adults who got either a 45-minute Swedish massage or 45 minutes of lighter touch. The massaged group had substantially more white blood cells — including natural killer cells, which help the body fight viruses and other pathogens — and fewer types of inflammatory cytokines associated with autoimmune diseases.

Hug it out
The act of embracing floods our bodies with oxytocin, a “bonding hormone” that makes people feel secure and trusting toward each other, lowers cortisol levels, and reduces stress. Women who get more hugs from their partners have higher levels of oxytocin and lower blood pressure and heart rates, according to research done at the University of North Carolina.
But a hug from anyone you’re close to works, too. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin at Madison tested that when they analyzed stress levels among volunteers giving a presentation. Afterward, participants who got hugs from their moms saw decreases in cortisol levels an hour after the presentation.

Hold hands with your honey
Twining your fingers together with your one-and-only is enormously calming. James Coan, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, discovered this when he administered functional MRIs to 16 married women while telling them they might experience a mild shock.
The resulting anxiety caused the images of their brain activity to light up like Christmas trees. But when the women held hands with one of the experimenters, that stress response subsided — and when they held hands with their husbands, it really quieted down. “There was a qualitative shift in the number of regions in the brain that just weren’t reacting anymore to the threat cue,” Coan says.
Even more intriguing: When you’re in a happy relationship, clasping hands reduces stress-related activity in a brain area called the hypothalamus — which lowers the levels of cortisol coursing through your system — as well as in the part of the brain that registers pain, which actually helps keep you from feeling it as much.

Have sex
No surprise — after all, lovemaking involves total-body contact. All that skin-to-skin stroking (not to mention orgasm!) floods us with oxytocin and feel-good endorphins that do wondrous things for our emotional well-being.
Regular sex also does the physical body good, possibly even preventing us from getting sick as often. People who had sex once or twice a week had 30 percent more infection-fighting immunoglobulin A (IgA) in their saliva than those who didn’t do the deed as often, according to a study done at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
Not partnered up? Solo sex counts, too: At least one study links masturbation with lower risk of depression.

Cuddle up with your pet
If you’re a pet owner, you’ve no doubt noticed you’re less tense when scratching your animal behind the ears. In fact, research shows that people’s blood pressure drops when they pet dogs, particularly if it’s a dog they know and love. Dog petting has also been shown to improve immune function and ease pain, or at least the perception of it.
“You’re focusing on the animal, not on you, so your mind isn’t able to ruminate about the pain,” explains Brad Lichtenstein, a naturopathic physician and assistant professor in the counseling and health psychology department at Bastyr University in Seattle. (Experts say snuggling with any furry pet should be just as soothing.)
So don’t resist when your pet curls up with you — spending quality time together may be just what the doctor ordered.

*And, as always a word of warning:  If you are trying to hug someone and they are beating at you furiously or dialing 911… please let go.  Let’s stick to hugging and touching people we know who we know who might even give you one back 🙂

For More on Hugging:

Psychology Today ‘The Art of Hugging’:  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/debunking-myths-the-mind/201007/the-art-hugging

How To Hug:  http://www.wikihow.com/Hug

NYTimes ‘For Teenagers, Hello Means “How About a Hug”:  http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/28/style/28hugs.html

Did you know that when you experience something traumatic, when you speak about it… you actually relive it?

It’s important to watch what you say and how you describe a ‘bad day’ or something traumatic when speaking to others.  Coincidentally, it is just important how the people you are talking to respond to you.

Have you ever been talking to someone and confiding in them some tragedy or pain and they tell you how much stronger you are.  You Are Strong.  You Are A Good Person.  Read those words again…. how do you feel?  Do you feel better?  Well, you should 😉  Because when we are told these things we believe them and can become those very words.  On the flip side, when confiding in someone and they are being too sympathetic, too much pity for you… this can actually increase your pain.  Interesting.

In 2000, a researcher named John Bargh, completed a (famous) study that showed how much what we say (the science of language, linguistics, semantics, phonetics, etc) can affect our behavior.

In this study, he gave 2 groups of people lists of different words.  The words were scrambled and it seemed as though the actual test was to unscramble the words.  One list contained words that suggested agitation, impoliteness, basically, hostile behavior.  the other group was given words that suggested the opposite:  tolerance, courteousness, basically a peaceful behavior.  So, the ‘real test’ was that they had to bring their unscrambled list of words to the person in charge.  However, this person was in a deep conversation with another co-worker (and was supposed to ignore the person who was trying to turn in their list).

Of the participants who were given the ‘hostile’ list of words became the very words they had unscrambled.  They interrupted the Director and weren’t nice about it 🙂  Yikes.  But, of the group that had the words that suggested ‘peace’ over 82% waited patiently for the Director to finish his (or her) conversation.

Words are powerful.  So whether you read them, speak them, hear them… it’s important to be mindful of what it is you are subjecting yourself to (and possibly others).

This weeks challenge speak with strong supportive words to yourself and to others.  When you are feeling down, write or read words that will help elevate your mood.  Call or speak with someone who you know will be there for you to help boost you up and remind you of how strong you are.

Give it a try 🙂  Let me know how it works.

*As always, a little warning.  IF you decide to jump over to the dark side and torture some poor co-worker (whose office you’ve had your eye on for quite some time) with loads of sympathy and pity talk so you can watch them crawl to the corner where they curl into a ball and suck their thumb…. then, you will most likely be visited by the Karma Fairy (a giant, hulking, drooling, panting Karma Fairy….think about it).

It’s been one of those days where I just can’t seem to get motivated to do much of anything.  Even though, I know I will regret it as I might feel like I “wasted” a day.  So far, I’ve watched part of “Journey to the Center of the Earth”… when I say “part of it” I really mean about 5 minutes.  I walked 1/2 way to the park with my daughter before she and I realized we were freezing and turned back.  I did learn the neighbors giant poodle’s name:  Snowflake.  My 6-year-old and I had an in-depth conversation on how “Snowball” would have been a much better name since poodles don’t really resemble flakes.  I have manged to do dishes… and drag my feet all over the house in a kind of grudging avoidance of all other chores.  I managed to take some pictures today… but, haven’t bothered to remove them from my CF card or the pictures I took the other day either (now that I think of it).  I set out to go to the gym, but, was instantly deterred by an argument with myself.  I’ve eaten all kinds of things I wouldn’t normally allow, oh, and I spent a great deal of time…. way too much time, watching the satellite move around the globe.  A friend sent me a link and I seem to be obsessed with learning all the countries and surrounding areas.  Somewhere along the way, probably in 3rd grade when I thought that the new girl, Cherokee, must certainly be an Indian and wondering if Indian’s still lived in teepee’s, I missed all about geography and have for way too long thought that if I drove south through Mexico I would one day reach Africa.  I’m not exactly sure what this says about the American school system, but, the satellite has set me straight on how driving to Africa is going to be a bit more challenging than I originally thought.  And, no, driving to Africa is not going to be my personal challenge.

I’ve considered myself a photographer for quite a while now.  But, recently really started to question the validity of that statement.  Is a photographer still a photographer if that photographer isn’t taking pictures?  And, I’m talking for the sake of creativity.

I’d had a personal rule with my photography that I would only shoot images in natural light.  So, (as I look to this giant light tent that I can’t figure out how to get back into this teeny tiny container it came in) I am wondering where all of this gear came from?  Light tents, flashes (which I did need), backdrops, lights, etc.  I’ve gotten away from what I really loved and enjoyed and tried to do something new.

Now normally doing something new is fantastic!  It’s a great way to grow in your skills and learn something about yourself, maybe meet some new friends… but, I have a personality flaw.  Yes, I know, you were all fooled into thinking I am perfect… but, sadly there is ONE.  Just one that I will confess to.  And, that is… if I can’t figure something out… and I mean very quickly… I will beat myself up about it until I do.  Unfortunately, sometimes due to time constraints or just not wanting to have to kick my own arse again… I’ll leave it.  Promising to come back to it later.

So, that is what I have done.  And, months and months later… my camera sits, mostly, unused.  So… the biggest problem… where am I going to put this light tent?!

My new personal challenge:  Take one GOOD photo a week.  I will even stretch this to say that I can turn a bad photo into a good photo by using some of my presets… lol.  I miss feeling creative… and this challenge is purely personal.  However, if you have something you love to do and are missing it… you could make it your own personal challenge to do it too.

Happy Creating 🙂