Preparations for a Wonderful Day

How do we begin our day once the alarm goes off at 6am, or for those lucky enough to sleep until 7am. How do we prepare ourselves to have a calm, productive, pleasant day? 

Apparently research is saying we gain 30% productivity by not checking our emails in the first 60 minutes at the beginning of our day. Emails create reactivity and diminish our strategic proactive intentions for our day. It is important to activate the body and mind with calmer intentions. 

Create Rituals

- Consider doing some gentle stretches in bed, or throw in a little healthy sex

- Incorporate some deep breathing techniques to awaken circulation to the body before jumping out of bed. Grounding ourselves in breath will give us a connection to the earth and can prevent muscle spasms upon rushing out of bed too quickly.  

- Meditation - I have found the morning to my best time for meditation, as it creates calm within and my day always seems to go smoothly. Research says 15 minutes a day is sufficient.  At least that is a beginning but if you can progress to 30 -40 minutes the benefits are even better.

- Write 3 things you appreciate in your life in a journal.  Ensure each day is different.  Your appreciation journal can be on any topic for eg: family, health, time, work, friends, environment, global issues, even YOU.  You may not feel the affects of positive energy in the beginning.  It will be like stopping a drug or vitamin for pain and then seeing what happens. 

- Some people find a vigorous morning exercise regime prepares them for their day. This will be more beneficial if it was done outside, ultimately increasing your vitamin D intake and waking up the pituitary gland in the brain for energy. Yet, if your morning starts too early- say 5am- you might be doing more harm than good. You would need to move your bedtime up earlier to ensure your adrenal's have time to rest and rejuvenate after a very long day.  Even a good morning walk in nature has beneficial effects on the body and mind.

I have found over the years many people are burned out. The adrenal's no longer have energy to supply the body with the correct amount of neurochemicals needed to function. With the function of adrenal's waning, acute and chronic illnesses are becoming more apparent. 

It is therefore very important to focus on getting enough sleep. Research points out that most people start to feel tired around 8-9 pm, which means BEDTIME. But how many of us can crash that early with so much to do in the evenings- like taking care of the kids, tending to tasks you didn't complete during the day or managing the home?  

And than there is the television. Many people view TV as relaxing "down time" before bed. If the program is humorous like "The Big Bang Theory" all sorts of happy neurochemicals are being emitted into the body, prepping it for a good nights sleep. However, many of us often choose programs that over-stimulate us, like news or dramas, setting us up for a" lousy" sleep.

Keep in mind- the brain needs to be calm before bed!

So if you are hoping for a Wonderful Day, begin it with some pleasant morning rituals and end your day calmly.   

The importance of yoga

This past week was the yoga show in Toronto.  Why practice Yoga?  Yoga has been scientifically proven to reduce the physical and emotional effects of stress on the body.  By encouraging relaxation, yoga helps to lower the levels of cortisol, our stress hormone.  In turn heart rate and blood pressure will lower, digestion will improve, and the immune system will strengthen.  Emotional symptoms like anxiety, depression, fatigue, frustrations as well will be eased. 

Yoga helps to improve circulation and as a result of various poses, more efficiently moves oxygenated blood to the body's cells, naturally allowing for better flow of energy in the circulatory, endocrine, reproductive, digestive and all major systems in the body.  

With the cortisol lower yoga can also assist in weight management and burn calories even with a less vigorous style of yoga.  It will encourage proper eating habits through improved mind-body awareness which will enhance ones self esteem 

Yoga is a four fold awareness:  "Awareness of body, awareness of emotions, awareness of mind and awareness of awareness.  One should start with the awareness of just how unaware one is" Swami Gitananada

Studies have shown and demonstrated that practising yoga asanas (postures), meditation or a combination of the two, reduced pain for people with conditions like auto-immune diseases, arthritis, hypertension, back and neck pain from various injuries, even cancer can be reduced.  Dr Kabat Zinn who has opened the medical realm to mindfulness based meditation has proven that yoga and meditation together can assist in pain management. 

Yoga teaches people to take slower, deeper breaths.  This helps to improve lung function, relax tissues, increase oxygen to the body and brain.  Deep breaths also calm the mind which will calm the emotions.  

Besides all of the above the basic benefits are increased flexibility and joint mobility.  With regular practise over time the ligaments, tendons and muscles lengthen, increasing elasticity, making deeper postures possible.  Though the depth of the posture is not as important as the technique and postural awareness. 

Yoga can also help with focus, being more present in the moment, opening the way to improved concentration, co-ordination, memory and reaction time. 

Originally yoga was developed to help the student to reach higher states of consciousness and spiritual growth, thereby freeing the person from the monkey mind.  In today's society yoga is so much more important because of the urban fast pace and demands on a person and little time for rest and pleasure .  

So if any of the above appeals to you from any aspect of health either it be mind, emotion or physical, it might be worth your time to get a flavour for the type of yoga that resonates with you and your body.


Thoughts on Mental Illness

Photo by agsandrew/iStock / Getty Images

Anxiety, depression, and bouts of explosive anger can be indicators of an early medical problem and not just psychological.  The main information processing systems of the body – the endocrine, central nervous and immune systems are in constant communication with one another to inform the body about the internal and external environments.

Most recently in the 2015 edition of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, a group of Italian researchers explored whether depression, anxiety and other psychiatric mood disorders might be early signs of a physical problem. Such physical problems may be Cushing’s Syndrome, hypothyroidism, hyperparathyroidism, pancreatic and lung cancer, myocardial infarction, Wilsons disease and aids- to name a few possible causes.

All too often it seems physicians struggle to recognize the connections between the physical and mental, referring a person to a psychotherapist or psychiatrist for treatment.  However, it is important to remember our minds and bodies are intimately connected.  Physical problems can influence the brain/ mental state and the mental states can affect the bodily functions.

When we are sick, our bodies try to fight the disease, the infection, and or the injury.  It takes a lot of energy and we can end up very fatigued.  In time, our emotional and mental states can be affected through fear and anxiety or depression- often to avoid the reality of a serious illness, or problem and hence, a condition can be misdiagnosed as mental, rather than physical.

The DSM5 (the most current version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association) provides examples of medical conditions that may be associated with mood and anxiety disturbances; but not a list of medical disorders characterized by early physical symptoms. 

This is all to say that it may not be just in your HEAD.  Hence, at times antidepressant drugs may not be effective for anxiety/depression. It is then very important to ask your doctor(s) to conduct a physical exam as part of a treatment plan, in order to potentially rule out any other medical issues that may be causing a mental symptom.