Silver Linings for Colder Days

Photo by NitroCephal/iStock / Getty Images

It seems like overnight the seasons change. The mornings are crisper, the air is dryer and the days are shorter. As the seasons shift, so do our activities. Perhaps we continue some of the same but move indoors, or just start layering up. Or, for those snow bunnies out there, once the white stuff falls we have an entirely new wonderland we can play in.  Preparing our body for these seasonal changes can be important to avoid injury, and to keep our immune system strong. If you're like me, it also can be challenging to stay as motivated with our activities when our animal instincts may be to cozy up on the couch to eat and hibernate!

As with any goal, planning ahead and setting some intentions can go a long way. Having measureable goals and timelines, enlisting a team of supporters and accountability-keepers to pull you out of a rut are all helpful in keeping on track, particularly on those days that are especially cold and gloomy.  Know that every single day we make a healthy choice, contributes to a healthier foundation. It is much easier to build on a strong foundation than to continue playing "catch-up", especially when it pertains to health.

 

A Fence or an Ambulance

I came across this poem the other day...it truly makes you stop and think. Are our actions truly preventing or reacting? Sometimes there is a solution that seems too simple to be useful. When I was in University, a large focus of our Kinesiology program was how active living could prevent diseases and conditions altogether. I recall thinking to myself "so why don't people just exercise?" I still am not sure why people tend to wait until a state of crisis before taking action. Choosing a healthy lifestyle- what we eat, how we move, healthy stress response and optimal neurological function- is an important fence we can build to live a happy, high quality life!
 
A Fence or an Ambulance   by Joseph Malins (1895) 

'Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed, 

though to walk near its crest was so pleasant; 

but over its terrible edge there had slipped

a duke and full many a peasant.

So the people said something would have to be done, 

but their projects did not at all tally; 

some said, 'Put a fence 'round the edge of the cliff, '

some, 'An ambulance down in the valley.'

But the cry for the ambulance carried the day, 

for it spread through the neighboring city; 

a fence may be useful or not, it is true, 

but each heart became full of pity

for those who slipped over the dangerous cliff; 

And the dwellers in highway and alley

gave pounds and gave pence, not to put up a fence, 

but an ambulance down in the valley.

'For the cliff is all right, if your careful, ' they said, 

'and if folks even slip and are dropping, 

it isn't the slipping that hurts them so much

as the shock down below when they're stopping.'

So day after day, as these mishaps occurred, 

quick forth would those rescuers sally

to pick up the victims who fell off the cliff, 

with their ambulance down in the valley.

Then an old sage remarked: 'It's a marvel to me

that people give far more attention

to repairing results than to stopping the cause, 

when they'd much better aim at prevention.

Let us stop at its source all this mischief, ' cried he, 

'come, neighbors and friends, let us rally; 

if the cliff we will fence, we might almost dispense

with the ambulance down in the valley.'

 

The Power of Perspective

One of the things I love, is serendipity in our daily lives. One of my favourite books, by Deepak Chopra speaks a little about this, titled "Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire". It discusses how in life there are no coincidences and that once we begin paying attention to these coincidences we start seeing more of them, and also start to understand how the event connects to a greater picture. It is fun and easy to see this apply in daily life when its an uplifting event such as running into an old friend, or receiving an unexpected sum of money for example. This can be a little more difficult to dissect when its stressful, hard and uncomfortable.
 
I recently spoke with a friend who was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Prognosis is excellent, and I admire her tenacity and strength, but wow. What an emotional curveball. There are and will be a ton of lessons in this experience for her, and those around her. Here are a couple that came to mind upon hearing the news:
 
1. An event is what you make it. Easier said than done, but in challenge is opportunity to show what you're made of. I am a strong believer that true character shows up when we are at our "weakest". When we feel beat down, stressed, and defeated. We can dwell in the unfortunate or we can say "NEXT" and move forward. My friend is a reminder of this and her strength in the situation encourages those around her to be strong too.
 
2. In the week before I heard the news about my friend, I had been in a few different self critical conversations (as I'm sure all of us can be at times) all around particular superficial attributes. The extra weight gained over summer, the extra baby weight a friend was upset about (and P.S. if you are carrying baby weight give yourself a break! You grew a frigin person! Thats amazing!), how much better shape we were in at 25, comparing where we thought we should be to superficial instagram pics...you know the drill.  Unimportant and irrelevant and mostly untrue. This news stopped me in my tracks and made me realize how self absorbed we can be about such unimportant things. We are healthy. We have amazing friendships. We will look back at our 30-something bodies one day and wonder what we were complaining about. Perspective is powerful. Tragedy, crisis and challenge offers a fast-track to see what is truly important in your world.
 
I'm guessing most people can relate to this in on form or another. The point really is to seek the blessing and lesson in it all. The good, the bad and the ugly. That forms your own light at the end of the tunnel. Whether you have a cancer scare or have chronic neck pain...the lesson is there. It may be as simple as slowing down. Or it can be as big as taking your health more seriously. We may not be able to control an event but we can always control our reaction to it.

 

Lifestyle Hack

I was listening to a podcast this morning (Lewis Howes "The School of Greatness"...HIGHLY recommend it!), and one of the points discussed was how often we have habits that make us feel good, show up at a higher level, and assist us in executing our desired results in life, and then, out of nowhere, we stop. Not only do we stop, but our momentum slows down, we feel more lethargic and we just feel "off"...all the while wondering why. Of all the personal development I have participated in through seminars, books, and coaching, there are definitely common themes around creating healthy habits in life and sticking with them. Life is, of course, a process with many layers, ups & downs and experiences to be had. Nothing though, will replace the importance of daily action steps that nurture your core foundation and set the tone for living the great life we all aspire to lead.

That being said, I have observed my habits and results through the years and there is an undeniable correlation between when I am eating well, exercising regularly and feeding my soul with positive, happy thoughts, with those times when I am happy, less stressed, decisive, in-tune to wants and needs and overall at my best physically and emotionally. It is easy to say "I am busy and stressed thus don't have time for xyz (insert healthy behaviour here)", but what I have experienced is, it is during those times where it is MOST important to engage in healthy, nurturing action steps. As a result, we actually free up more time (because we are more efficient), reduce stress (because we can clearly see through rational eyes and heart what we need to do to move forward), and feel a greater sense of control over our experience.

The podcast today made me stop to reflect what behaviours move me towards my ideal life. I encourage you to look at your own life and see what is working and what isnt, what has worked in the past that you may no longer be doing (and start doing it!), and eliminate what is bringing you down. Here are some of my essentials:

  • Yoga- I have found that starting my day with an early morning yoga session clears my head and sets a positive tone for my day. I am not a morning person, but ALWAYS feel better after class. If I can't make it to class, even a few sun salutations help to get my body moving and blood flowing.
  • Physical Activity- yoga can fit into this category too obviously, but although there are obvious physical benefits, I am attracted to yoga for the mental/ emotional aspect. Physical activity for me, is anything that gets my heart rate elevated and causes a good sweat. Running, swimming, spin/ road biking (yay for spring!), hiking, you name it. Having a number of activities I enjoy keeps it motivating for me, because it no longer becomes a question of if I'm going to do something or not, but more WHAT I'm going to do.
  • Water! I feel SO much better, especially in our dry climate, when I'm consuming water throughout the day. Seems simple, and I recommend it to my practice members, but it's easy to forget...I now ensure I have a full water bottle when I leave home and work and bring one with me when I have to drive anywhere.
  • Words with impact- I always feel more grounded and centered when I am feeding my brain with healthy perspectives, either in books I'm reading, conversations I have (friends, practice members, colleagues, family), or audio books and podcasts. I am far less-stressed driving place to place, when I am listening to a great message.
  • Eating well- Don't you find that the worse you eat, the worse you eat? I find my cravings as a symptom to how kind I have been to myself in the previously weeks. Unhealthy behaviours breed more unhealthy behaviours, but the opposite is true too. Healthy habits, be it exercising or eating more vegetables, are truly a reflection of how much respect you have for yourself. You are afterall, more valuable than a freaking mazaratti...so treat yourself that way!
  • Keeping my body "in tune" with regular Chiropractic adjustments. The adjustment keeps my nervous system working at its prime, allowing all of my other behaviours to integrate optimally. 
  • One of the biggest lessons I learned at a personal development event, was the importance of keeping agreements...not only with other people, but most importantly with yourself. If I set an intent for my day or week, it is more likely I will adhere to it (vs. winging it, hoping for the best, and complaining when it doesn't work out). 

We all know what we need to do, so find that anchor that links the daily habits with your greater purpose and intended outcomes, and get started! We are all works in progress, the question is if we are progressing in a direction toward health and vitality or one of illness and dis-ease.

Posture Perfect

As a Chiropractor, I talk about posture a lot. It is sort of expected, which is evident when people stand taller when we are introduced. The topic of posture used to be dry and boring to me, but the more I learn, the more I see how much it is a window to our overall health and can affect how we experience the world.

There really are two forms of posture: conscious and reflexive. Conscious posture is that which we correct when we adjust our seat to sit up straight, or draw our chin back when we see how far our head is reaching forward. The majority of postural control however is in response to reflexes in our body to prevent us from falling forward. In other words, it starts with our spinal alignment. Our spine is designed to support the weight of the body via curvatures and proper "stacking" of vertebrae. Any shifts in our body, from moving our arms, to tilting our head, must be countered with muscle contractions and compensation to allow us to remain upright. Imagine the compensation that occurs in response to chronic postures, such as sitting and working at a computer for 8 hours a day (insert forward head carriage and rounded shoulders). I could go into much further detail, but long story short, posture is important and the more we compromise it throughout our day, the more we must do to correct it. 

So why does this even matter? Aside from altered motion (which leads to degenerative change over time), a poor posture consumes a lot more energy (fatigue), reduces lung capacity (reduced oxygen intake = fatigue and brain fog), contributes to muscle imbalance (weak muscles opposing tight muscles = aches, prone to injury), and on an unexpected note, can alter people's perception of you, and your perception of the world. 

The last point may seem a little out-there, but walk with me through this. When you encounter someone, their stature sends immediate clues as to their confidence, mood, etc. In fact, a TED talk* explored this topic form both directions. The fact that one's confidence/ mood can affect posture is not a new idea, but researchers wanted to explore if posture could actually change one's level of confidence. You can probably imagine what they discovered. It was found that a 2-min power pose could increase a person's level of confidence in a situation they previously felt apprehensive about. Watch the video in the link below...its fascinating. 

Long story short, your posture may be one of the biggest clues to your overall health, and if properly maintained can be a catalyst to living a more full and healthy life. Pay attention to the people around you, what their posture is reflecting, or more importantly, have someone properly assess YOUR posture, and take proctive steps to optimize your health!

*Click here for Body Language Ted Talk