Healthy Living

Get inspired by stories on ways to maximize your health, have more energy, and live more fully.

Posted on September 15th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Studies, News, and Trends

Think… Negative?

It’s not the thoughts that are the problem. It’s what we do with them.

A recent New York Times op-ed took issue with positive thinking. “What if we’re trying too hard to think positive?” asks Oliver Burkeman. According to research, he writes, visualizing a successful outcome, under certain conditions, can make people less likely to achieve it. “Or take affirmations,” he writes, “those cheery slogans intended to lift the user’s mood by repeating them: I am a lovable person! My life is filled with joy! Psychologists at the University of Waterloo concluded that such statements make people with low self-esteem feel worse—not least because telling yourself you’re lovable is liable to provoke the grouchy internal counterargument that, really, you’re not.”

But is this really true? According to the principles of Positive Psychology, focusing on growing happiness, love, success, and strengths through positive thinking is far more effective than trying to overcome anxiety, neuroses, and weakness alone. At the same time, overcoming anxiety and finding happiness needn’t mean denying less desirable emotions, such as fear, anxiety, or sadness. “Negative emotions are fact of life,” says Susan B. Lord, MD, who leads many Kripalu Healthy Living programs. “Instead of thinking about how we can live without them, we should be thinking about how to deal with them.” That is, it’s not negative thinking that‘s the problem—it’s how we choose to react to it. “Sadness is part of life, grief is a part of life, but depression means your sadness has gotten stuck,” she says. “The idea is to be mindful of the kinds of thoughts we have. Some are positive and some are negative. Our lives involve both.”

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Posted on September 12th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Life Lessons

Moving Forward After Cancer

A cancer survivor explores bold new directions

When I plopped into the Radiance program’s opening night welcome circle, I was exhausted. That morning, I had attended the memorial service for my dear friend, Dara, who had passed a week before. A couple hundred people gathered to share stories, laughter, tears, and outrage that this beautiful, lively, loving soul had left at age 40, from cancer.

And now, a train ride and time warp later, here I was in the branch-filled Berkshires, sitting in a back jack, meeting eight cancer survivors and our co-leader Maria Sirois. In that moment, “life after cancer” looked to me like throwing a rose on my friend’s coffin and hearing it thud. It looked like crying myself to sleep every night for the last two weeks.

But as I settled in and heard tales of diagnosis and survival, I remembered: Oh. We’re all still here. In my fellow workshoppers—eight people from their 30s through 50s—I saw stress and fear and bravery and resilience and resistance. I saw myself. Diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma seven years ago at age 31, I had almost been forgetting that I was a survivor, too.

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Eating Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) one-quarter of Americans report having occasional sleeplessness, and 10 percent of us struggles with chronic insomnia. In late July, released an analysis of the CDC data to help us determine if we are well rested or sleep deprived.

By any measure, challenges to a restful night’s sleep are on the rise, and it’s of concern since sleeping well supports our positive energy, cognitive health, and better moods, as well as our physical health. And most of us have had the experience of how poor sleep can lead to less-than-stellar eating habits. Several recent studies, covered in depth by Michal Breus PhD in the Huffington Post, illustrate the mechanisms by which we are more likely to reach for sweeter, saltier foods when we’re overtired.

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Posted on September 6th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Studies, News, and Trends

Declutter Mentally and Physically

How to clear your head—and your life—of all that stuff.

For their book, Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century, a team of researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles visited the homes of 32 typical middle-class, dual-income families in Los Angeles and recorded what they saw. The book was intended to provide, as they wrote, “an unflinching examination of actual homes amid all the joys and messiness of real life.” And messy it was:In the first house they went to, researchers logged more than 2,000 possessions—in the first three rooms alone.

Our well-documented obsession with stuff has spawned a backlash, naturally, including a movement of people who aspire to pare down to no more than 100 items—and utensils and underwear count. Many claim that among reducing the wastefulness associated with over-acquiring, a less cluttered home will lead to a less cluttered mind. But does it really work that way? Not necessarily, says Coby Kozlowski, MA, E-RYT, a professional life coach, inspirational speaker, and yoga teacher at Kripalu. “I don’t think it’s so black and white, though I do think having less stuff creates space in your life that can be supportive to reducing stress,” she says. “Stuff requires maintenance, which can eat up time and energy.”

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Posted on September 4th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Life Lessons

Writing Home: Finding Myself Through Journaling

Lisa Pletzer, guest blogger

It was the first day of my junior year of high school, and my English teacher had just handed each of us a blank notebook.

“You’re all going to keep journals this year,” she said. “I’ll periodically collect them to count pages—not to read—so I want you to feel like you can be totally open and honest.” She told us that our final exam would be writing a paper about our observations of how we’d grown through our journal writings from the entire school year.

I’d always loved to write and had kept a diary in the past. But after a bad experience a couple of years before involving my mother reading my diary (“I thought you were writing a book!”) and discovering my growing interest in having sex with my boyfriend, I’d basically sworn off putting anything in writing. But this, I thought, might be different. It was a school notebook, after all. No reason for anyone to go snooping there!

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Posted on August 31st, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Kripalu Kitchen, Studies, News, and Trends

Breakfast—Not Just for Champions

Mom was right: It really is the most important meal of the day.

For 20 years, researchers at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health followed 5,000 men and women, looking specifically at their breakfast habits: what they ate and when. The results, presented recently at the annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association, found that people who ate breakfast every day were significantly less likely to become obese or develop type 2 diabetes than those who ate breakfast three times a week or less. These findings are significant, if not particularly surprising. Haven’t our mothers been telling us to eat our breakfast for years?

“This study affirms everything nutritionists have been talking about,” says John Bagnulo, PhD, MPH, who teaches nutrition in Kripalu’s Healthy Living programs. “When people eat breakfast, and in particular foods that give them less of what I like to call a ‘blood sugar tsunami,’ they make much better food choices throughout the day.” This includes avoiding foods containing sugar, not overdoing it on caffeine, and practicing portion control. “It’s all related to blood sugar,” says John. “If someone misses breakfast, their blood sugar levels come way down. They’re starving by 10:30 or 11:00, and because they haven’t eaten all morning, they crave foods that have a higher glycemic index,” like muffins, breads, candy, or pasta. Then they crash again by 1:00 pm—and look for yet another sugary pick-me-up. Sound familiar?

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Posted on August 29th, 2012 by in Healthy Living

Simple Habits for Healthy Living

Ashley Winseck, guest blogger

Most of life is a habit. We tend to fall into habitual ways of thinking and being and doing, and we’re living in a world where there are a lot of expectations and demands built up around us—bills, children, work, and more. Giving yourself moments of self-care—even if it’s just five minutes each day—can greatly improve quality of life.

The first step is admitting that you might have some habits are not working for you. Take a look at your daily routines and identify moments that cause you stress or could be improved upon. Then, determine what tools you can incorporate into your routine, what new habits you can establish. When you put some of these tools into practice, you can easily shift the state of your body, mind, and heart away from stress and back into your center.

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Posted on August 22nd, 2012 by in Healthy Living

Finding Balance

Balance is an important component of being physically fit. Unfortunately, this complex skill deteriorates as we age, leading to falls and fractures. The good news is that balance can be maintained—and even improved—through training and practice. Here are some suggestions:

• Try functional exercises such as walking, climbing stairs, or sitting down and standing up without using your hands.
• Practice yoga, Pilates, and tai chi to strengthen your core muscle groups.
• Include stretching and resistance training in your workouts.

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