LAUGHTER!! … It’s Good for You!

We all enjoy a good, hearty laugh!

Guess what? As it turns out, laughter on a regular basis is really good for us, too! It is considered one of the most natural ways we can treat ourselves to a greater level of happiness. Adding a little humor to each day can improve our lives – body, mind and soul – encouraging optimal health and wellbeing by creating better balance and enhancing a sense of calmness. Laughter is an important element of emotional health, and part of what is referred to as our “psychosocial dimension of wellness”, essential for healing and quality of life.

Psychosocially healthy people possess a zest for life, are internally healthy and thrive intellectually. Such individuals enrich the lives of others; overall, they are energetic, resilient, focused and open-minded. They feel good about themselves, so they are comfortable around others and meet daily demands with a hopeful outlook. Cherishing experiences that bring a smile to the day, they adapt to change easily and maintain sensitivity toward others. The components of psychosocial health are emotional (feeling), social (relating), mental (thinking) and spiritual (being). They are essential aspects of our wellbeing, especially when dealing with stress. Each of us experience occasional “dips”, downturns during our lives, yet those who utilize sound coping skills are capable of giving and receiving affection and love, working continuously to employ strengths to improve weaknesses. Let’s look at a few of the physical benefits of laughing:

  • Enhances “aerobic activity”, increasing breathing and heart rate, blood pressure and circulation
  • Increases oxygen delivered to cells throughout our body
  • Clears mucus from the lungs
  • Strengthens our heart muscle (20 seconds of laughter = 3 minutes of rowing!)
  • Boosts immune cells and immune-related hormones, decreases stress hormones
  • Breaks pain/spasm cycles through muscular relaxation
  • Decreases inflammation, assisting with sleep

What a phenomenal list ~~ But wait, there’s more! The psychological benefits of laughter are significant, too. Stress relief actually lasts long after laughing, bolstering “stress immunity”. A new perspective can emerge, altering our perception of discomfort and distress, and enabling greater resilience and stress management abilities.

Laughter is contagious and the mere anticipation of a good chuckle makes us feel terrific! A big smile from someone nearby can catch our eye, with the likelihood of laughter, which stimulates one-on-one bonding. Research even tells us that, overall, women prefer a man with a sense of humor; men prefer women who laugh at their wit. Clearly, a daily dose of laughter is valuable, so exercise your skills today:

  • Make a pledge to laugh out loud every day
  • Set aside time to call someone who adds fun to your life at least once a week
  • Start a humor collection (jokes, clippings, cartoons, cards, mugs, books, videos)
  • Watch funny movies
  • Do something silly each day

As one of the most natural and beneficial gifts we can give ourselves, laughter is the perfect Rx to include in our daily diet. Go ahead … let it be the self-induced prescription that spices up your life.

Laughing is good for you … JUST DO IT!

READY – SET – GO! … FLOWING INTO 2015…!

  • THE BREATH = LIFE!

Breathing is normally completely void of will: seldom conscious of it, we enter life with our first breath and end with a final exhalation. Defined as the process that moves air in and out of our lungs, breathing can be explained as a basic delivery system, exchanging carbon dioxide molecules from inside our bodies for oxygen molecules from our environment. Flowing like a mountain stream, it connects moment-to-moment experiences and quietly renewing our energy. We all find it paramount to optimal health and wellbeing, especially individuals who struggle with chronic respiratory challenges (e.g., asthma, bronchitis, emphysema). Enhancing breath capacity is should be an integral part of daily life. READY – SET – GO with the FLOW!

  • THE HEART = LIFE FORCE!

An essential and equal partner of the breath, our heart begins working even before we are born! As the hardest working muscle in our body, it generates a rhythmic, contractile beat, pumping blood throughout vessels of our circulatory system, and teaming up with the breath to provide life-enriching oxygen and nutrients, as well as to remove metabolic wastes (i.e., surplus or toxic substances). The heart not only functions as a physical force. Most appropriately, the dictionary also defines ‘heart’ as the “center of total personality, especially with reference to intuition, feeling, or emotion” … as … “spirit, courage, or enthusiasm” … finally, as … “the innermost or central part of anything”! (Reference: www.dictionary.com) READY – SET – GO with the FLOW!

  • THE MIND = POWER!

This element of our being includes cognitive faculties that provide intellectual ability to reason, think, feel, will, perceive, remember, desire, imagine and make sound judgments. Its physical “home” is our brain, which consists of soft, convoluted matter, housed within the cranium. It can serve us well as controller and coordinator of thoughts, words, and actions when we choose to listen.

Increasing awareness and understanding of the inner voices of our mind, our life-giving breath, and the rhythmic beat of our heart can decrease everyday stress by helping us relax tense muscles, cope with pain, deal with anger, attend to relationships ~ day-by-day, moment-by-moment. No matter the challenges or circumstances we face, consistently tapping into these personal “friends” through empowering practices will allow them to become more familiar and effective.

Try this simple hands-on practice that utilizes the powers of breath, heart and mind:

  • Tune into your breathing during the day: consciously observe your breath with a sense of keen interest, as if for the first time; feel your breath in your belly; observe it rising and falling;
  • Develop increasing awareness of your thoughts and feelings at these moments, just consciously observing them, but not judging either yourself or them;
  • Take time to notice any changes in the way you feel about yourself and life. Take mental notes.
  • Wait awhile ~ Check in again … and yet later, again!

IMG_1009READY, 

 

  SET, 

 

   GO with the FLOW! 

    ENJOY the JOURNEY! 

Making Life’s Balancing Act Work for YOU!**

Creating and maintaining balance in our lives …

…seems difficult, impossible at times, due to today’s fast-moving, technological world interfaced with daily challenges. Stress from changes in our “routine” stems from our perception and appraisal of the situation and specific reaction. When some “stressor” disrupts our sense of equilibrium, we receive an inner call for help. Our body’s built-in system immediately jumps into action, resulting at least in increased heart rate and blood pressure. If this acute reaction persists, becoming repetitive – day after day, week after week – the “stress reaction” ultimately develops into chronic ailments: high blood pressure, arrhythmias, sleep disorder, headaches, backaches, and pervasive anxiety. Effects can be devastating emotionally, psychologically, physically, and even professionally. What we ALL know is that stress is not going away. It is a natural part of our human experience. Without gaining a deeper sense of the full context of life experiences, we can be taken down by chronic stress, perceived threats and change. Developing focused problem-solving strategies fosters quicker recovery of mental equilibrium and physical homeostasis. Internal stability can be well maintained when new options are used that bring calmness and balance of mind, body and energy. Attention to carefully perceiving and intentionally working realistically to alleviate each situation that is “stressing us out” makes perfect sense.

IMG_0571

To be in balance within the complexity of our day-to-day routine is to be “in synch”. Thus, we convey a sense of equanimity, projecting serenity, calmness, and composure, even in the midst of unsettling circumstances. To be balanced in life means that we feel relatively calm, clear-headed, and motivated – overall sensibly grounded. Dimensions to consider for bringing our lives into greater balance include two basic classifications: internal (core elements: mind, heart, health, wellbeing) and external (outer elements: family, work, social activities, fun). At times, we are pulled to focusing on one dimension more than the other, throwing our life balancing abilities out of whack! When this happens, realigning this balancing act we call “life” truly becomes critical to our health and wellbeing. How can we accomplish this task?

Take some time to examine lifelong foundations that promote the ability to handle whatever life brings. To overcome habitual stress, reflect on personal values, starting by setting just a few goals, then plan some goal-achieving tasks. Reflect, prepare, and – little by little, moment by moment – build upon coping strategies, such as these:

  • Pleasurable joys (giving/receiving hugs, laughing, warm baths, listening to music);
  • Physical nourishment (physical activity, rest and relaxation, a variety of foods);
  • Social connections (cultivate random acts of kindness, volunteering, spending quality time with family, pets and friends);
  • Emotional welfare (nurture an uplifting attitude, respond to stressful situations with others in honest, fair and direct ways);
  • Spiritual harmony (connect with nature daily, take time to meditate/to pray)

Make this life balancing act work for you as the unique – yes!! – one-of-a-kind spiritual being that you are ….

Moving forward, try some of these strategies –

– Create your own –

 

– AND ENJOY FULLY this thing we call the “human experience”!

 

(**This is my recent Sheridan Press “HEALTH WATCH” article, in case you missed seeing it … I am elated to be invited to write for them again!)

GRATITUDE

In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich”
–Dietrich
Bonhoeffer

 

Over my many years of studies, I have been blessed with learning experiences through the wisdom of many incredible mentors, professors, and friends and family who have touched my life. I continue to benefit so much by the work of Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., the world’s leading expert on the psychology of gratitude that I just must share more about him with all of you. Dr. Emmons contends that promoting a national state of gratitude would definitely change our world as much, if not more than, anything else our government, education and business leaders could possibly recommend ~ I AGREE!!

I met Dr. Emmons when he gave a lively presentation, “What Good is Gratitude: The Memory of the Heart and the Science of Well-Being”, at the same conference in Sedona, AZ., at which I was presenting my dissertation research and hands-on work I do in stress management through mindful awareness and relaxation practices ~~ I did just fine, AND he was a HIT!

He started his presentation with this quote about gratitude and its benefits: You feel a deep sense of peace and internal balance  – you are at harmony with yourself, with others and with your larger environment. You experience increased buoyancy, vitality and flow. Your senses are enlivened – every aspect of your perceptual experience seems richer, more textured. Surprisingly, you feel invigorated at times when you would usually have felt tired and drained. Things that usually would have irked you just dont get to you as much. Your body feels regenerated – your mind, at last, clear… At least for a period of time, decisions become obvious as priorities clarify and inner conflict dissolves. Intuitive insight suddenly provides convenient solutions to problems that had previously consumed weeks of restless thought. Your creativity flows freely. In this state of inner harmony and deep fulfillment, you experience a sense of greater connectedness – to other people, to a larger whole, perhaps to God, or to a higher aspect of yourself.”  (from his book, entitled “THANKS! How the new science of gratitude can make you happier”)

SO, what is the BEST Rx for enhancing our “gratitude scale”? ~~ How can we open our hearts more widely to others?

Let’s look at some of the practices we can experiment with, on our ‘road’ to opening our hearts, our minds, and using our energy to live more fully in daily life:

1) Make a vow to practice gratitude in quiet ways … doing little things, random acts of kindness, and then just keeping them in our own hearts and souls.

2) Keep a gratitude journal. Then add to this journal daily, weekly, monthly (whatever works in your schedule, but DO keep a schedule!)

3) As a monthly practice, make a personal list of 50 things you are grateful for, with no repetition.

4) Watch language use in daily life ~ watch what you say and the tone in which you say it.

5) Communicate thanksgiving in letters, emails, telephone conversations (verbal AND texting) and other forms of communication.

6) FOR ONE WEEK:

Every morning: Record 5 things you are looking forward to during your day that you know are going to take place;

Every evening: Record 5 unexpected things that you were grateful that happened this day (that you did not know would happen!);

At the end of the week: Notice how you feel …

7) Check out this wonderful video ~ I keep it bookmarked and go back to it often…!! https://www.youtube.com/embed/gXDMoiEkyuQ

 

GRATITUDE IS A CHOICE ~~ LIVE FULLER ~~ KEEP PRACTICING! 

Honoring Our Earth

Lupin in BHMtns 

New Earth Prayer 

I arise today

Through the strength of heaven:

Light of sun,

Radiance of moon,

Splendor of fire,

Speed of lightning,

Swiftness of wind,

Depth of sea,

Stability of earth,

Firmness of rock.

     ~~ Saint Patrick ~~

 

NO Comparisons ~ Accepting our Uniqueness with FLAIR!

There has never been another person like you since time began, so there is nothing and no one to compare with…

Sharing part of this delightfully uplifting affirmation by Louise L.Hay from her book: “Meditations to Heal Your Life” is my way of welcoming you ALL into 2014! Enjoy the journey, moment by moment ~ keep breathing and taking time for your own self-care!

Blessings & Peace ~~ Teddy

“I am incomparable! I am here to learn to love myself and to love other people unconditionally.

Even though every person has measurable things about them, such as height and weight, there is far more to me than my physical expression.

The immeasurable part of me is where my power is … 

… We are ALL unique, wonderful beings, each different and special …

… Everything in the physical world changes.  As I flow through these changes, I keep relating to that which is inside me that is deeper than any change.” 

L. L. Hay

 

ANIMAL ZEN!

Think all yogis are human. Think again. ~~ from ‘Best Friends Magazine’

Thanks to Cel Hope from Sheridan Dog and Cat Shelter, my friend who cherishes the little 4-legged creatures as much as I do, who recently gave me a terrific article  on “Animal Zen” with fantastic animal Yoga pose photos (September/October 2013 issue of BEST FRIENDS MAGAZINE) ~~ Ahhhh I  THOUGHT !! ~~ PERFECT for my next blog ~ !!

How great is it that we remind ourselves that our “best” friends and other little creatures we observe in nature can teach us about the importance of relaxation and awareness practices in our daily lives.

IMG_4812

Buddy, my little 11-1/2 year old Maltese and my best friend for almost 12 years is a prime example! As I sit here typing away on this blog, Buddy is relaxing (in ‘Child Pose’) right at the doorway of my home office. He will not miss a moment (VERY MINDFUL!), and he will follow close behind me when I leave “my space”, even to the bathroom. AHHHHH ~~ best friend, keeping tabs on me throughout the day.

I notice every morning, as we start our day, how Buddy bends ~~ twists ~~ and stretches ~~ right into Downward Dog! Then he continues his early morning “Yoga practice” with more stretching ~~ Upward Dog, Puppy Pose, Hunting Dog, ‘Galloping Happy Dog’, Warrior Poses galore ~~ and OF COURSE ~ his own perfect version of Savasana at the end of a long day! (better known as ‘Pet My Stomach Pose’ at our place:-)))

There has been much research recently on the health and wellbeing of pet owners versus those who do not have pets in their lives. Some of those studies have found that pet owners overall make fewer visits to their doctors, have lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Of course, there may be other contributing factors to consider, but at any rate, what I know is that my little Buddy keeps me sane, when all else appears to be completely chaotic in my life. He is there for me at all times, providing not only company, but licking my tears away, settling next to me when I meditate (I am SURE he is meditating too!), doing his Downward Dog as I practice my early morning asanas (poses). He always is strutting ahead of our Dog and Cat Shelter “gal” Tika on our walks, leading the way in his own “Warrior” manner.

I am definitely better off physically, emotionally, mindfully, and no doubt spiritually because of my little Buddy!

In practicing mindful awareness, we learn to accept both our pleasant and unpleasant daily experiences, through time well spent in our formal meditative moments. Word of wisdom from John Kabat-Zinn: “Since you have moments to live, why not live them completely, and find out what it might mean to be true more of the time to your own deepest, most authentic nature.”

I have learned so much from my dear Buddy, who brings me such a special gift of unconditional love ~ he is truly also one of my best teachers.

OFF TO WALK MY KIDS ~~ Blessings & Peace to ALL ~~

TAKE TIME by our Mom, Edythe K. Araas

 

IMG_0451

 
 
 
 
 
 

TAKE TIME

(Author: Edythe K. Araas ~ “Mom”)

Too close Life crowds. There is no place to hide.

From feverish days my heart throbs in my side.

Let us take time, take time.

Let us take time to know the thoughts of men.

Time to know beauty;

and time to feel again calm and content of soul.

The quiet power of meditation through a gentle hour.

Time for the book, the song, the golden weather made for the happiness of friends together.

Time to believe, and time to lift the bars between us and truth,

Between heartbeat and the stars, before our day is spent ~~

Before Life’s mill grinds all to fine,

Let this hour be still.

Let us take time, take time.

 

May Day … May Day!!! – Adding Meditation to your Springtime Blossoming!!!

Meditation is more of an awareness heightening practice in self-care, as opposed to just relaxing, although that can be one of the benefits, too. Physical benefits include enhanced central nervous system functioning, improved heart health and better sleep, plus the emotional, mental and spiritual benefits that can occur…. TYQ (Check the other tabs on this website for further explanations)

Meditation Myths – Let go of these and allow yourself to take some time for self-compassion & self care:

If you have not yet tried meditating, you might have some preconceived notions about what such a practice involves ~~ these may even be standing between you and reaping great benefits of your personal meditation practice.

1. You do not have to turn off your brain.

Sometimes you are able to fully quiet your mind, but turning off all thoughts and emotions is not the idea in a mindful meditation practice, not even possible as human beings. Thoughts and emotions will naturally come and go, and mindful meditation is about acknowledge, accepting and attending to them ~ bringing some understanding to yourself about them, then allowing yourself to come back to your focus, whether it be your breath, your heart rate, or even a mantra sound.

It IS absolutely natural to experience these outside thoughts and emotions while you are meditating. Again, just allow yourself to “sit” with them ~ pleasant or unpleasant ~ acknowledge and accept that they are just thoughts or emotions (NOT reality/NOT fact), then let them go as you return to your meditation focus (mantra, breath or other).

2. You do not have to meditate for long, extended periods of time.

Even 5~10 minutes of meditation can benefit your health & well being. You CAN fit it into your day ~~ before you get out of bed, on your lunch break, while supper is in the oven or just before you go to bed. Make it practical and a part of your day!

3. You do not have to tune out sounds.

You cannot make sounds disappear while you are meditating ~ in fact, the “soundscape” can become a wonderful background for your meditating time. If you are meditating and unpleasant sounds occur, just acknowledge them (like your thoughts/emotions), and direct your focus back to your inhalations and exhalations ~~ the sounds will soon fade into the background and become that “soundscape”.

4. Sitting up straight is NOT a requirement.

You do not have to sit up to meditate. It is a way of really bringing focus to your meditation and “taking your seat” ~~ but it is essential to find a position that works for you. Sometimes, lying down on the couch or the bed can work – on a yoga mat on the floor, propped up by blankets, bolsters and/or pillows can help, too.

You are more apt to fall asleep mid-practice if you are lying down ~ so keeping your eyes open for awhile will help! But if you do fall asleep, you probably really needed that type of rest. No worries ~ NO STRESS! You are still learning to focus your mind.

On Monday and Wednesday evenings at Santosha Yoga, I am offering Meditation 101 from 6:40 ~7:00pm ~ a short 20 minutes! – These sessions are free to students who take the 5:30 pm evening calming yoga class on those days, and offered free (donations accepted) to all! Hope to see you all there soon:-))) – find Santosha Yoga location on this website on the SY tab!!!

The Breath = LIFE!

Breath is life.

You could think of the breath as being like a thread or a chain that links and connects all the events of your life from birth, the beginning, to death, the end.  The breath is always there every moment, moving by itself like a river.

Have you ever noticed how the breath changes with our moods – short and shallow when we’re tense or angry, faster when we’re excited, slow and full when we’re happy, and almost disappearing when we’re afraid?  It’s there with us all the time.  It can be used as a tool, like an anchor, to bring stability to the body and mind when we deliberately choose to become aware of it.  We can tune into it at any moment during everyday life.

Mostly, we’re not in touch with our breathing – it’s just there, forgotten.  So one of the first things we do in mindfulness-based stress reduction is to get in touch with it.  We notice how the breath changes with our moods, our thoughts, our body movements.  We don’t have to control the breath. Just notice it and get to know it, like a friend.  All that is necessary if to observe, watch, and feel the breath with a sense of interest, in a relaxed manner.

With practice, we become more aware of our breathing.  We can use it to direct our awareness to different aspects of our lives.  For example, to relax tense muscles, or focus on a situation that requires attention.  Breath can also be used to help deal with pain, anger, relationships or the stress of daily life. 

_______________________________________________________

Reprinted by permission.

Personal communication: from Karen Ryder, Stress Reduction Clinic, University of Massachusetts Medical Center