Posted on June 30th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Medical Insights

Get Happy: Lessons from the New Field of Positive Psychology

Is happiness possible for all of us? How do we take the first step?

Cheryl Kain, Guest Blogger

Because the Constitution declares our right to pursue happiness, contentment can seem, for many Americans, like a birthright. At the same time, the quest for happiness can feel like herding cats—elusive and frustrating. We’re failures if we aren’t “happy” all the time—that’s why scores of books are written promising the secrets to happiness. But the search for happiness as an aggressive imperative can have the opposite effect, especially since happiness is relative for many people, including those facing poverty, health problems, or deep despair. The questions become: Can we ever truly achieve happiness? And could there be a set of universal prescriptions for getting there?

Teacher and author Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD, a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology and author of Being Happy: You Don’t Have to be Perfect to Lead a Richer, Happier Life, says the number-one predictor of well-being is the time we spend with people we care about and who care about us. “Latin Americans are happier than North Americans, because of the emphasis on relationships,” he says. “Friends and family play a much more central role in their lives.” This certainly rings true for me: In my own life, I have been far happier in my thirties and forties than when I was a singing-career-obsessed twentysomething. According to Gail Sheehy’s New York Times bestseller, Passages, I am a “deferred nurturer” and, admittedly, I did not value relationships as much as I did getting ahead in those earlier years. Smack dab in early midlife, relationships trump all for me now. My daily relational experiences, whether with my bestie or the grocery clerk, far outshine the pleasure of those long-ago pipe dreams.

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Posted on June 29th, 2012 by in Nutrition

Have Fun with Flavor

Play with the flavor palate of whole foods by thinking beyond sugar and salt and invigorate your favorite recipes.

There are classic flavor combinations that many foodies find exciting and most of us find satisfying: sweet walnuts, arugula, and pears; strawberries and balsamic vinegar; blueberries and lavender; and, here at Kripalu, spicy chutney with sweet Indian spices, to name a few.

Using taste as a tool to come back into balance is something that Ayurveda has taught us, and when it comes to plants, following your taste buds is a health-enhancing idea. The bold flavors and bright colors of pungent, zesty, or bitter herbs and vegetables are bursting with healing phytonutrients such as flavanoids, which protect against the imbalances that can lead to cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. One way to play with flavors is to begin with a popular combination—say the lemon, mint, parsley, and olive oil at the heart of tabouli salad. Then create your own variation—try, for starters, that dressing on sautéed greens and quinoa, then as a marinade for tofu or fish. Find inspiration from the fresh herbs coming into season now; why not try Kripalu’s Cilantro Mint Chutney.

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Posted on June 28th, 2012 by in Yoga

Turning Point: Julie Sorichetti

Julie Sorichetti, the first Yoga Ed.TM trainer in Canada, has successfully delivered the Yoga Ed. curriculum and Tools for Teachers program to the Ontario Physical and Health Education Association, the Ontario Database for Daily Physical Activity, and the Ministry of Education’s Registry of Bullying Prevention Programs. A mother of three, Julie is a child and youth worker as well as a certified Kripalu Yoga teacher and DansKinetics instructor.

Q Describe what you do in 15 words or less.

A My mission is to see that all children have the tools and resources to help them through any situation.

Q Tell us about a turning point in your life.

A When I was 20, I was a child and youth worker in a group home outside my hometown in Canada. I would see the in-house doctors prescribe medication for all these young people, who were constantly questioning their diagnoses and prescriptions. I found myself questioning this as well. I felt there had to be more than medication to help kids, youth, and also adults. It was around that time that I found myself in a yoga class. Yoga wasn’t a prescription, it was a solution.

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Posted on June 27th, 2012 by in Yoga

Kripalu Yoga Posture Clinic: Downward-Facing Dog

Welcome to the Kripalu Yoga Posture Clinic! Here, Devarshi Steven Hartman, Dean of the Kripalu School of Yoga, and Jovinna Chan, Assistant Dean, share sound tips to help your yoga practice soar. These videos can be enjoyed independently or as a series for a complete practice, once they’re all published. Come back every Wednesday for this 12 week series! Enjoy!

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Posted on June 26th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Medical Insights

Vitamin D: On the D List?

Vitamin D has been the subject of great debate in recent years, with most experts agreeing that we’re dangerously deficient but little consensus regarding just how much we need—or how we should be getting it. According to the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, nearly half of all U.S. adults are vitamin D deficient, and even more have levels that are lower than is ideal.

We need D. Studies have shown that vitamin D—which is, in fact, not a vitamin but rather a hormone—may help prevent a number of serious illnesses, including multiple sclerosis, certain types of cancer, and cardiovascular disease. What’s more, it’s believed to be an important factor in ensuring healthy bones, since D aids in the body’s absorption of calcium. But in recent years, deficiencies have climbed in direct relation to our awareness of the need to wear sunscreen. Our bodies produce all the D we need through the sun’s UVB rays most—though not all—of which a decent sunscreen filters out. And though certain foods are rich in D—including fatty fish, eggs, and fortified dairy—most experts have thought that we don’t eat enough of these foods on a consistent basis to take in all the D we need. And so until recently, the smartest move, experts have said, was to get a little D from the sun and the rest from supplements. (The most recent recommendation by the Institute of Medicine put the amount of D we need per day at 600 i.u. for those ages 1 to 70, and 800 i.u. for those over 70, up from the previous recommendation of 200 to 600 i.u.)

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Posted on June 25th, 2012 by in Life Lessons

The Practice of Being Present

Yoga teaches us how to reestablish the innate balance that exists between body, mind, and spirit. When our minds get out of balance, they overextend, becoming busy and overworked. As a result, we lose connection to the wisdom of our bodies and the depth of our spirits. Practicing being in the moment trains the mind [...]

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Posted on June 24th, 2012 by in Moment of Quiet

Restorative Moment

Every Sunday we provide a space for quiet, calm, and peaceful introspection. Enjoy this restorative moment.

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Posted on June 23rd, 2012 by in Wake-Up Call

Wake-Up Call: Heading Outside to Nurture the Inside

I grew up with TV. I don’t know how old I was when I started watching, but I remember spending a lot of time with Kermit and Fonzie and Jack, Chrissy, and Janet. I remember being ushered to bed after Walter Cronkite shared his mantra, “That’s the way it is.” I didn’t know it as I was growing up, but this ubiquitous watching was embedding a sedentary pattern into my body, mind, and spirit. My parents would always encourage me to “get out” and get away from the screen, and I did this during the day, but I still probably ended up being exposed to two to three hours of TV daily from the ages of 1 to 12. I estimate that I ingested about 5,000 hours of television before hitting puberty.

When I was in high school, I was friends with people who were outdoorsy. Some talked about taking a bike trip in Maine, others of an adventure at sea, and others still of a NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) trip to learn how to rock climb. As I saw photos of their epic adventures, which included cute boys; sun-kissed, wind-blown faces; and bright eyes on a monumental journey, my call to the wild began to take hold. At age 16, I applied to attend a mountaineering course in Montana with Outward Bound. I trained for a couple of months before the trip. I’d been smoking cigarettes so I figured swimming would be a good training sport (yeah, real smart). I swam like nobody’s business, but it in no way prepared me for 14 days of hiking that entailed traversing 110 miles of rocky, barren terrain. When I spent the first day trudging up a slope of the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness with tears streaming down my face and a 60-pound pack on my back, huffing and puffing the whole way, I knew I was in for a rough ride.

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Posted on June 22nd, 2012 by in Kripalu Kitchen

Foodie Friday: From Farmer’s Market to BBQ Bliss

Contrary to my last post, where I was extolling the virtues of planning meals to save money, I have to admit that I also love that last-minute rush of creating something spontaneously.

We got really lucky this year as West Stockbridge, the small Berkshire town where I live, decided to host a weekly farmer’s market. This means that every Thursday, I get to walk down the street and see what can be made for dinner from only farmer’s market offerings. This past week, since the market and the summer season are new, there still weren’t that many vendors, and the pickings were light. Since my refrigerator was bare from my new commitment to eating everything I have before buying more food, this week’s Thursday dinner would be interesting.

Shopping at farmer’s markets are fun, and my partner Jim and I enjoyed talking to the farmers and producers. We came home with some beautiful ribs (something we rarely make but the local farmer who was selling it was so sweet that we couldn’t resist). We also discovered a local woman who was making fresh tempeh, so we bought some of that so there would be a vegetarian choice on the table as well. Some fresh broccolini, bread, and strawberries later and we were whistling our way home. Now what to do with this stuff?

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Posted on June 21st, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Medical Insights

Eating for Good Behavior

What’s really causing your kids’ ADHD?

Here’s some food for thought—literally. About 10 percent of kids in the United States have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), leaving many parents to weigh the pros and cons of treatments that often include behavioral therapy, medication, and dietary modifications like coffee before school (really!). But researchers in the Netherlands argue that 64 percent of those diagnosed kids are actually experiencing a hypersensitivity to food, and that the key to treating ADHD—and perhaps even preventing it—is as simple as a change in diet.

The study, published in the medical journal The Lancet, suggests that with a dietary overhaul—which often calls for an elimination of some combination of sugar, dairy, gluten, and preservatives—kids with ADHD could experience a serious reduction in symptoms like excessive fidgeting, outbursts, and the inability to concentrate. A follow-up study published in the journal Pediatrics reported that a diet rich in fish, vegetables, whole-grain foods, fruits, and legumes seemed to improve symptoms for kids with ADHD, while an Australian study found that kids who typically eat a Western-style diet—often including fast food and high-fat dairy—were significantly more likely to have ADHD than kids who ate a more healthful diet.

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