Tag Archives: mind body health

Embracing the Beauty of Autumn: the health benefits of beauty and nature

This Autumn, I have become aware of the gift of beauty we are surrounded by as the trees burst into the colorful palette of crimson red, lime green yellow, sherbet orange. As I experience the beauty, I am reminded to stay present in the moment and appreciate the beauty that stands in front of me. It is so easy to drift off into thoughts of dread…uggh leaves to rake…cold weather coming…bare trees…etcetera. As it turns out, the Fall foliage show is a gift worthy of appreciation, so long as you can stay present in the moment and embrace the beauty that stands in front of you.

tree 4

Time in nature can be restorative. In research that was carried out in Japan, the group of people was sent to visit the forest and urban environments and to view forest and urban landscapes randomly for 3 days. Four times a day researchers monitored their cortisol levels (stress hormone), blood pressure and heart rate. It turns out, that when participants were in forest environments, all measures were lower and subjectively, they reported feeling more comfortable, soothed and refreshed after viewing forest landscapes.

As it turns out, the experience of beauty is one that stimulates the medial orbito frontal cortex (MoFC) of your brain. The frontal cortex of your brain houses your highest thinking centers. This is also the part of your brain that is activated while eliciting the relaxation response (ie. meditation, yoga, MBSR, etc.). According to neurology research by Tomohiro Ishizu of University College London, the MoFC area is activated when experiencing beauty, both visual and musical, on functional MRI (which is an imaging modality that allows us to see areas of the brain that are activated in real time) . The more intense the perception of beauty, the more the activation of the area.

Putting this research together, and of course the research on the health optimizing benefits of mindfulness and exercise, save yourself some green by giving yourself a truly restorative “spa walk” outside to embrace the autumn beauty. Come back home and curl up with cozy afghan and a hot cup of spicy herbal tea and suddenly, the doom and gloom of the Winter to come might not seem so overwhelming.

tree2

© Regina Zopf MD 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Regina Zopf MD with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Accessing this site means you agree to the disclaimer that can be read here.

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#EBOLA and Mind Body #Health in the US

ebola-virus-close-up

With CNN blasting “RED ALERT” headlines and updates of the Ebola crisis all day long, it is not surprising that many people are developing a good dose of fear of a wide spread ebola outbreak here in the US. Admittedly, I myself awoke with an Ebola nightmare at 2 AM this morning with heart pounding. And in some ways, it is understandable. The thought of getting infected with a virulent virus that pierces your cells, hijacks your RNA equipment and kills senselessly and suddenly in a very dramatic way is downright scary.  However,in our country at this point in time, the fear is largely unfounded for the general public. The news alerts are sending your amygdala into a frenzy and it is time to serve yourself a healthy dose of cold hard cognitive FACTS.

1. Ebola Virus is not transmitted through the air, like with coughing or sneezing, meaning it is only transmissible when in very close contact with bodily fluids and only after symptoms (especially fever) are present. In other words, you are much more likely to be infected and affected by the usual suspects like flu, GI bugs, and the common cold while riding the subway to work or boarding a domestic airplane.

2. In countries where infrastructure and education are good, the virus has been contained even when there was some local spread, as in the case of Nigeria. This article by the NY times does a very nice job of illustrating the current status of Ebola and where it has spread inside and outside of the US. The countries with the highest number of cases have very limited infrastructure and literacy rates under 45% as compared to the US’ 99%. This means that myths about doctors or healthcare workers spreading the disease can flourish and it is very hard to get good information to people on how they can prevent contracting the disease for themselves allowing the disease to spread further.

3. But why did we have transmissions in the US then? The transmissions that happened in the US happened are thought to be due to a breach of protocols to a hospital that was ill prepared for Ebola and much has been learned since then how to prevent this from happening again. Indeed, the CDC is beefing up its efforts related to preparedness for treatment of Ebola will be sending out SWAT Teams to be sure that what happened in Dallas does not happen again in the US. “Meet the CDC SWAT Team”

So now that your fear is cognitively controlled, what do you do to further your mind body health. The answer is COMPASSION. There can be no lack of compassion that the affected people and families are experiencing. Here is a guided loving kindness meditation narrated by Buddhist Sharon Salzberg:

Feeling compassionate? Don’t just feel it, do something about it. Remember, studies show that giving makes us happier. And in this case, given that you become involved in the fight against Ebola when you help fund organizations fighting it, it might just help you feel more empowered too. Donate in tribute to someone else and you will get a double bang for your buck when it comes to happiness.  There are many aid organizations working hard to combat the Ebola Crisis. Here are some links to the ones that are very reputable and active at this time:

MSFDoctors Without Borders

red crossRed Cross

cdc foundationCDC Foundation 

Alice G. Walton has published an extensive article on aid organization for Forbes.com if you want to delve into the details a bit more before donating.

© Regina Zopf MD 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Regina Zopf MD with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Accessing this site means you agree to the disclaimer that can be read here.

Dieters? Go ahead, INDULGE! but do it mindfully

With all of the varied diets that are promoted all over the place, what’s a woman that wants to stay healthy to do?

So by now, most of us know we shouldn’t “diet”. It is really about making healthy food choices that become a part of our everyday life and habits. Does that mean you can’t sneak a sweet treat every now and again? ABSOLUTELY NOT. But if you do, be sure to fully indulge. Here is a great posting on NPR from yesterday. When folks were given the same exact 300 calorie delicious milkshake, one was labeled low calorie, fat free, and guilt free, while the other was labeled with exactly what it was, 300 calories. Well what happened next was yet another window into the mind body connection and the miriad of ways that what we believe can actually affect how our body responds the food we put into our bodies! The folks that drank the mislabeled “healthy milkshake” secreted more Ghrelin. This hormone basically makes you think you are hungry and leads you to seek out more “satisfying foods”. But wait…there’s more, it also slows your metabolism, making it harder to burn calories and easier to gain fat and store sugars.

WHAT!!!!

So what does this mean? It means, fully enjoy in your food. Eat mindfully and indulge in your food. Even if it is healthy food. When you are mindfully eating, enjoying your food and the way it is nourishing your body, your mind is sending out all the right hormones to satisfy your hunger. If on the other hand, you are restricting your diet with health foods you really don’t want, you may actually be shooting yourself in the foot.

You can try mindful eating on your own the next time you eat. If you have a grape handy, it is always fun to try with that. Take a quiet moment to savor a grape in a way you never have. Slow down. Pick up the grape. Feel it in your fingers, note how it feels or any thoughts you may be having about eating the grape. Place the grape in your mouth. Notice any sensations on your tongue. Slowly bite into the grape and feel the texture, the pressure on your teeth. Feels the juicy sweetness that bursts onto your tongue as you bite into the grape. Take your time as you savor the flavors and aromas. Notice how you feel while you are eating the grape. Note: You can try this with any food.

Want to try a free webinar on mindful eating? Check out the Center for Mindful Eating. They have a webinar coming up on April 24, 2014. For further reading, check out a NY Times article on mindful eating to avoid binging here.

Mother Nature’s Network author and registered dietitian Jenni Grover recommends these 5 tips for mindful eating:

  1. Eat Slower
  2. Savor the Silence
  3. Shut off the phone and TV
  4. Pay attention to flavor
  5. Know your food

You can read more about these tips from the original blog post here.

Exercise: A must for mind-body health

We all know those fitness people we encounter in our lives who are happy, healthy and glowing. They definitely have the best career because they are getting paid to do what they love and getting paid to move. They are definitely my happiest patients. (We all know them and secretly love to hate them)!  But they’re not dumb for choosing that lifestyle…You do not need to quit your career and become a personal trainer to feel great. You do, however, need to move.
The most important thing to actually exercise is your personal motivation and drive to do it. Making the commitment to yourself on a deep level has to be the starting point. It might help to reframe why you are exercising. The payoffs from exercise are slow to come. It does not give you the same instant gratification that you get from say, eating some chocolate ice cream or having a glass of wine while you snuggle up to your favorite (dramedy, sit com, game show,…) on the couch. Therefore, if you are doing for a specific goal, like fitting into a pair of jeans, or even for losing weight, you might feel dejected and disappointed in your progress. Instead, it might be helpful to focus on a desire to do it for long term health and wellness, ie. Sticking around a bit longer to have time with the ones you love, having more energy to function in your daily life, or feeling well enough to enjoy that retirement you have been working so hard for.  Making the choice for something positive you really, really want!
I find that my patients who are able to exercise every day have made it a part of their daily routine.
If you don’t do it, you won’t do it.Here, self-awareness is key. Observing your daily actions and mindfully deciding where you can actually fit your exercise in, what you actually need to accomplish it, and what some barriers to doing it might be. Then taking the time to make a plan and commit to it. Also, find something you love to do for exercise. If you love it, you are much more likely to do it. If you can’t do it for one day, or even one week, it is okay, don’t let this drag you down into the guilt cycle and into stopping altogether, just ask yourself again what might be getting in your way and make your choices. We all fall off the horse sometimes, and let’s face it, the hardest thing to change is habits. But it CAN be done!
The benefits of exercise are far reaching and the importance to mind body health cannot be overstated. It has to be a part of your life or you will never achieve balance in your mind body health. It does not need to be much. Just 30 minutes out of 24 hours, but the more you can do, the better.
Remember to combine strength training and aerobic activity to reap the full benefits.
Here is a list of what exercise can do for your mind body health:
  • Burns the stress hormone “cortisol” and is crucial for hormone balance.
  • Can help to keep your period regular and less painful
  • Increases will power and motivation
  • Decreases blood pressure and improves digestion of sugar
  • It can improve your symptoms around your menstrual cycle, decreasing bleeding and pain
  • It improves sleep patterns
  • Builds bones and improves posture with long term prevention from osteoporosis
  • Trims your waist line reducing your long term risk of diabetes heart disease and all those other chronic diseases that lead to sudden death prematurely
  • Silver lining? Eventually it gives you that svelte figure you’ve been hoping for, but I strongly precaution against doing exercise for physical appearance and instead focus on accepting yourself just as beautiful as you already are.

Here are some links for excellent free exercise resources that you can do at home, FOR FREE!

Site Homehttp://www.fitnessblender.com 

Homehttp://www.doyogawithme.com/

Lionsgate BeFithttps://www.youtube.com/user/BeFit?feature=watch

http://www.bodyrock.tv/

© Regina Zopf MD 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Regina Zopf MD with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.