In 2017, learn how to cultivate inner peace amid outer turmoil

As a women’s health advocate who is concerned about human rights, the health of our Mother Earth, world peace and justice, it’s clear to me that 2017 will be challenging. But I refuse to be discouraged. After all, the times of greatest challenge offer the greatest opportunity for growth.

I’ve decided to meet the challenges of 2017 by putting more attention toward becoming the change I want to see in the world. Allowing myself to be tossed around by the waves of discord, negativity, and controversy would be an injustice to my true self and a direct assault on my physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. So my first step is to cultivate inner peace and hope — and to help you do the same, here are some tips.

8 tips to find inner peace

  1. First things first: take care of your body. That means get enough sleep, eat regular, nourishing meals and make time for fun and relaxation. Exhaustion, hypoglycemia and over-scheduling don’t promote inner peace.
  2. Set your intention for inner peace. When you wake, take three deep breaths and decide that inner peace is the day’s goal. It may take practice, but what you put your attention on grows stronger in your life.
  3. Give yourself 10 minutes of silence daily. Sit quietly and breathe deeply, inhaling to the count of 5 and exhaling to 8. Focus on the breath and observe the wanderings of your mind. If distracting thoughts arise, simply shift your attention back to your breathing.
  4. Change your mind (literally). Practice being aware of what you are thinking, and when worry or fear shows up, deliberately exchange them for more harmonious thoughts based in love or kindness.
  5. Practice coexistence. Deliberately set aside judgmental thinking. Peaceful coexistence is possible when we respect each other’s unique expression of self, whether we find it pleasing or not.
  6. Follow your heart’s desire. It’s all too easy to become distracted and even obsessed with the comings and goings of worldly and personal affairs. Focus your attention on what makes you happy, not wasting precious energy on criticizing or judging others.
  7. Be kind, no matter what. As President Obama is fond of saying, “We can disagree without being disagreeable.” Let your guiding principle be kindness.
  8. Relax and have more fun. Times are troubled, but this too will pass. Take enjoyment where you find it.

Your social networks and your health

two women laughing with happiness

Scientists have noticed that we tend to reflect the people we’re closest to — if our friends are optimists, it makes us more cheery, and if they have healthy lifestyle habits, we often improve our own. Large, long-term studies have begun decoding how social networks influence not only our moods but also our total health. Here’s what they found:

  • The more social ties people have at an early age, the better their health at both the beginning and end of their life. Young people with a large social network over their life are less likely to have abdominal obesity, inflammation, and high blood pressure.
  • Fewer social ties can lead to health problems. Social isolation increases risk of inflammation by the same amount as physical inactivity, and social integration protects against abdominal obesity.
  • In middle adulthood what matters most is the amount of social support or strain provided by the social network.  At this mid life stage, quality of the social network was more important than network size.
  • In old age, social isolation is more harmful to health than diabetes with respect to hypertension risk.

Researchers also learned these things about happy people

  • Happy people tend to be located in the center of their local social networks and in large clusters of other happy people.
  • The happiness of an individual is associated with the happiness of people up to three degrees removed in the social network. For example, a friend who lives within a mile and who becomes happy increases the probability that you will be happy by 25%.

Happiness is, researchers suggest, a property of groups of people, and changes in individual happiness can ripple through social networks and generate large-scale change.

The happiness bottom line

We are social creatures, weaving social webs that influence our physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual well-being, similar to the Buddhist analogy of a jeweled net in which each jewel, representing one individual, is linked to all other jewels by a complex woven structure. Your actions, deeds, and thoughts influence the whole.  Be the shining jewel that you are!

 

References:
Yang Claire Yang et al., Social relationships and physiological determinants of longevity across the human life span. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2016;113(3):578-583.

Fowler JH, Cristakis N. Dynamic spread of happiness in a large social network: longitudinal analysis over 20 years in the Framingham Heart study.  BMJ 2008;337:a2338.

Vegetables make you happy…yes, really!

vegetables-in-a-bowl

You’ve heard the old saying that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

But would it surprise you to know that an apple — or a carrot — also discourages the blues and makes you more engaged in life? That’s what research has found — repeatedly! — in recent years.

Research shows fruits and vegetables boost emotional well-being

  • A 2016 study that focused on the food diaries of over 12,000 Australian adults found significant increases in emotional well-being of individuals who increased their intake of plant foods. This occurred within a relatively short (2-year) time span and could not be explained by other life changes.
  • A 2014 study that looked at emotional health in 100 volunteers, half of whom snacked on fruit and the other half on chocolate or chips in mid-afternoon, found that those who ate fruit scored lower on measures of anxiety, depression, and emotional distress than those who ate junk food.
  • And a 2015 study in 405 British young adults found not only improved emotional well-being, but increased creativity and curiosity as well, were reported by the subjects — not only in general, but in particular, on the specific days the study subjects reported eating more fruits and vegetables.

Changes can happen almost immediately

We’re all well aware of the long-term physical health benefits of a diet loaded with plant foods. Now these studies indicate that benefits to our emotional well-being occur in the short term once we start incorporating more fruits and vegetables into our daily food intake. The British study suggests that such changes may happen almost immediately!

Keep this in mind, the next time you reach for a snack like the delicious Green Agua Fresca.

Green Agua Fresca recipe: Combine a fruit and vegetable in this snack!

  • 3 cups fresh watermelon
  • 2 cups fresh spinach or other mild green

Mix in blender until smooth. Your drink will be bright green and taste entirely of sweet watermelon.

 

References:

Smith AP, Rogers R. Positive effects of a healthy snack (fruit) versus an unhealthy snack (chocolate/crisps) on subjective reports of mental and physical health: a preliminary intervention study. Front Nutr. 2014 Jul 16;1:10. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2014.00010.

 

Mujcic R, Oswald A.J. Evolution of well-being and happiness after increases in consumption of fruit and vegetables. Am J Public Health. 2016 August; 106(8): 1504–1510.

Published online 2016 August. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2016.303260

 

Conner TS, Brookie KL, Richardson AC, Polak MA. On carrots and curiosity: eating fruit and vegetables is associated with greater flourishing in daily life. Br J Health Psychol. 2015 May;20(2):413-27. doi: 10.1111/bjhp.12113. Epub 2014 Jul 30.

 

Tune up your health with singing in groups

There was a time a few years back when I felt isolated and a little bored — so I shelved my concern about being anything but “musically gifted” and joined our local Community Choir. After just a few weeks I found myself bonding with all sorts of people beyond my usual circle. My spirits soared […]

10 minute anxiety-busting tips

woman-calmly-looking-at-oceanOf the four children in my family, I was known as the “worry wart” and I’m still familiar with anxiety. Sometimes  it pops up as chronic low-level worry or other times it’s a gut-gripping body-wide distress.

Even low-level anxiety limits our enjoyment of life and can have a negative effect on bone health. That’s why I want to share with you some of my personal anxiety reducing tips, and each of them can be done in 10 minutes or less.

Take 10 minutes to find calm

1.   Use awareness. Acknowledge that you are uneasy, a bit nervous and even anxious. At times I even sit down and say, “My old friend Ms. Anxiety, so you are visiting me again.” Remember, worry and anxiety are not real things, but emotions that we take on. These energies can go just as they come, especially if we acknowledge them.

2.   Slow down. Sit down, close your eyes and take a several deep breaths. Breathing deeply and gently with intention can often orchestrate a mind-move from panic to waltz.

3.   Get out of your mind and into your body. Do a few yoga postures, jump up and down, hit a few golf balls (my favorite) or take a 10 minute bike ride. This morning I did a “walking meditation” and it really helped me get centered. Whatever you do, put your attention on how your body feels during the physical activity.

4.   Think on purpose. Once your mind is a bit quieter, experiment with “thinking on purpose.” For a few minutes try shifting your attention to a thought that brings relief. This can be as simple as, “I’ve been through this before and I know things will get better” or to a thought of appreciation for a nearby item such as a colorful flower or person in your life. You might try thinking of what you want “I want to feel calm, hopeful, happy or at ease” using a memory of when you felt these uplifting feelings. Relive them.

5.   Eliminate or reduce certain foods. Consider eliminating caffeine, excess sugar and most processed food.

Finally, my own tendency to worry is associated with an elevation of stress hormones — particularly cortisol. I find that meditation, mild exercise and adrenal support formulas help me. For me personally, one of the best stress/anxiety-busting formulas I have come across is the Women’s Health Network Serinisol adrenal support formula which helps to control cortisol, calm me and improve my sleep.

Building community to build bone

group-of-3-women

Community is a powerful force for change — and all the better if the community is one that learns and shares together.

I recently became a fan of one such group — The Bone Girls Club of Tucson, Arizona — and wanted to tell others about their inspiring story.

While it began as a group of women exercising together who found they all had an interest in bone health, the Bone Girls Club has blossomed into a self-education community with a Facebook presence with international followers. After I noticed this club was sharing my Facebook posts, I gave them a call to learn more.

What does the Bone Girls Club do?

What started out as a “let’s learn and share” group has turned out be a significant force for bone health advocacy.

Meeting twice a month, they discuss research articles on osteoporosis and bone health, and share tips, recipes, and their own success stories. Occasionally there’s an invited speaker, but mostly they read research/educational articles and share their insights. I’m impressed that they aren’t shy about tackling the more obscure causes of bone loss. In fact, they are currently researching how an overactive parathyroid causes bone loss and what to do about it.

A model of self-empowerment

To me the Bone Girls Club is a model of self-empowerment. One woman — one dynamic woman named Sandi — got the ball rolling after a horrendous experience with bone drug–induced fracture. (Nine years on Fosamax for osteopenia led to the development of osteoporosis and two insufficiency fractures of the sacrum and another of the pelvis.)

This painful experience propelled Sandi into taking charge of her bone health. She began learning and sharing with others all she could about osteoporosis, bone drugs, the causes of bone loss, and bone health recovery.

How you can get started

No one cares about your bone health as much as you do, so consider taking charge. Read, learn, explore, and share what you learn! A simple way to begin right now is to forward this blog to a friend to start the conversation about natural bone building. You might also begin by picking another article or blog here or from the Bone Girls Facebook page and discuss it with a friend or two. Who knows what will happen!

May is National Osteoporosis Awareness & Prevention Month

You can celebrate May as National Osteoporosis Awareness & Prevention Month with the May Better Bones Challenge. Each day, we give you a option to build your bone health by eating well, moving, learning or restoring. Look for the icons at the bottom of the calendar for an explanation of what each icon means.

Creating community is a powerful and fun way to learn, educate, and build bone!

 

1 minute with Dr. Brown: Does keeping a positive mindset really affect my health?

Got a minute? Every week I receive dozens of questions from women like you with concerns about their bone health. In my new series, “1 Minute with Dr. Brown,” I will try to answer your most pressing questions. If you have a question, send it in to us at center@betterbones.com

Question: Does keeping a positive mindset really affect my health?

Mindfulness my way: Intention, attention, keep trying

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I once heard someone ask Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, “What is the best way to evolve?”  The great guru answered simply, “Pay attention to everything you do.”

In other words, be mindful.  This appeared simple enough, so I gave it a try — and to my great benefit, I am still trying.

To me mindfulness involves directing my awareness to what I am doing/thinking/being/feeling at that moment. The opposite is my all too familiar state of distraction, mind racing, one-thought-to-the -next, hyperactivity. Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy both physical and mental hyperactivity, but does that state of mind serve me as well as focused attention?  “No” shout my staff, and “no” whispers my inner being.

Here are my personal steps to becoming more mindful:

1. Establish the intention

Everything begins with a thought.  For me to have any success at mindfulness, the thought must be transformed into a forceful intention.  This intention needs enough power to keep resurfacing, and I must affirm it.  I mean constantly reaffirm it — especially given my pull towards multi-tasking and distraction.  I set the intention to pay attention to my one action, thought or feeling at a time.

2. Rethink attention

When I give attention to something, I flow my awareness/consciousness to it.  With the conscious flow of attention I become enlivened and so does the object of my attention.  What’s more, by giving my full attention I slip open the door to receiving greater insights from the deeper levels of my own being. To me my attention is one of the most precious powers I have.

3. Keep trying

Ok, so I have the intention to give attention and this works for a bit…and then I slip back into my multi-tasking/multi-thinking distracted mode. Hopefully your mind and resolve are stronger than mine. But if you’re like me, you may need to keep trying.

Humbling as it may be to face my “distractibility”, I know there’s an opportunity for growth. That’s why I try again — setting my intention, playing with the power of myattention and opening to the new awareness that arises.

How about you?  I’d love to hear your ideas and experiences regarding mindfulness.

——-
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1918-2008), founder of the Transcendental Meditation Movement, introduced mediation to millions around the world and inspired thousands of scientific studies on the benefits of meditative mindfulness.

Why cute animal videos are good for your bones

As you may have noticed, cute animal videos have overtaken the internet. One of my favorites is Nature magazine’s Top 10 Cutest Animals in Science 2014 which includes everything from dancing frogs to new species of monkeys to koalas enjoying a nap.

As scientists, we’re not content to just look at cute animal photos or videos, we’re also discovering the effects they have on humans.

For example, Japanese researchers found that after viewing images of baby animals, study participants performed tasks that required focused attention more carefully than those who hadn’t seen the images.

I look forward to seeing work that shows a more important effect of animal videos is the joy that many of these images bring to us.  I believe that being happy, choosing optimism and laughter enhance every aspect of our health. Here are just a few example of how happiness and joy affect our bones:

  • A recent US study found a significant association between marital quality and spinal bone strength for women. Women who reported increase in spousal support had a significantly higher bone density than women who do not have such support. It is reasonable to suggest that greater spousal support would translate into greater happiness, adding support to my long-and held theory that happiness strengthens bone.
  • A Finnish study published January of this year showed older women who were satisfied with their lives had higher bone density and are less likely to develop osteoporosis than unsatisfied peers.

Why not get started building your bones now by taking a look at my favorite video of the Top 10 Cutest Animals in Science 2014?  I do love the dancing frogs — what’s your favorite?

 

References:

Nittono H, Fukushima M, Yano A, Moriya H (2012) The Power of Kawaii: Viewing Cute Images Promotes a Careful Behavior and Narrows Attentional Focus. PLoS ONE 7(9): e46362. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0046362. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0046362 (accessed 1/21/2015)

Miller- Martinez, et al., Marital histories, marital support, in bone density: findings from the Midlife in the United States Study. Osteoporosis international, published online 15 January, 2014.

Nursing Standard. 29.22,16-16, in print 28 January 2015.

Why I Value Meditation

iStock_000006845147XSmall“Do less and accomplish more, do nothing and accomplish everything.” I heard these words from a great meditation teacher some four decades ago.

Today I am still fascinated by this concept referring to the fact that deep within us is a supreme intelligence with an amazing organizing power. I find it remarkable that, without the least effort on our part, our 37 trillion cells carry out thousands of functions per second in coordination with each other and with awareness of what every other cell is doing.

The benefits of meditation

Meditation is a simple technique in which we still the body, slow down the breath and quiet the mind… releasing stress and coming closer to the dynamic, yet silent, core within each of us. This silence within rejuvenates our entire miraculous body.

Volumes of scientific research document the multifaceted health benefits of meditation. These range from lowering blood pressure, stress hormones and heart disease to increasing intuition and the capacity to love. One of the most recent studies, published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology reports that meditation actually alters gene expression. A single day of intensive meditation was found to turn “on” and “off” selected genes to result in:

• Down regulation of harmful pro-inflammatory genes (COX2 and RIPK2)

• Faster recovery from stress

A few years back, we realized that our choice of foods can impact gene expression, and now we see that our thoughts and mental activity can also impact our basic genetics in a favorable way. My meditation experience I have meditated for more than four decades with uplifting, health-enhancing, sustained benefits. It’s not always easy for me to quiet my mind. Some days my mind relentlessly jumps from thought to thought as I meditate. When I find myself thinking, I just come back to my breath. By sitting and paying attention to my breath, I experience greater happiness and enhanced energy. Even more striking, I become clearer as to my most heartfelt intentions. And, the clearer I become, the more easily my heart-felt goals are fulfilled. Truly, meditation allows me to do less, to sit and do nothing, and accomplish more!

Getting started with your own meditation

Coming into contact with your own great intelligence through meditation, prayer or visualization is an important part of the Better Bones Program. If you’re already meditating, keep it up and go deeper into the silence. If you haven’t started yet, jump on board. You might well start by trying the short meditations I created just for you on my new Meditations for Bone Health CD. I guarantee you will find it worth the time and effort.

 

Reference:

Kaliman, P. et al. Rapid changes in histone deacetylases and inflammatory gene expression in expert meditators. Psychoneuroendocrinlogy, vol 40, Feb 2014: 96-107

 

 

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We created the Better Bones blog as our forum to express opinions and educate the public about natural means of supporting and improving bone health and overall wellness. As part of this forum, we sometimes discuss medical issues and medications, and their effects on bone health in general. However, we cannot advise readers about specific medical issues in this forum. If you wish to obtain advice from Susan E. Brown, PhD, about your specific bone health and nutritional concerns, please visit our Consultations page. Other specific medical questions should be referred to your healthcare provider.