From a wellness standpoint, the best way to improve brain health is meditation—now more than ever. Each generation alive today is bombarded with information and has fallen victim to the “Have Now” culture.
In the recent past, people would have to wait to get music, books, movies, and consumer products. Today–Amazon gets it to you within hours if you want. Think about your life 10 years ago, 15 years ago, 20 years ago. When you were bored, what did you do then compared to now? How often did you sit in quiet contemplation because there wasn’t any other choice?
Today, as soon as we are bored, out comes a device. Waiting in line at the market… Commercials on TV…Waiting at the doctor’s office… I know I fall victim to this as well. When I cook, I listen to an audiobook. When I run, I listen to music. However, when I feel really stressed, I try to switch everything off and enjoy the simple act of cutting an onion or listening to the leaves rustle, and my feet pound the pavement. It is important to train our brains to fight the “Have Now” culture, and remember how to sit in quiet contemplation again.
This is where meditation comes in. Meditation comes in many forms, but it all serves the same purpose: to quiet the mind, increase self-awareness in your emotional, mental, and physical self, and improve your overall life.
Research has shown that daily meditation strengthens areas of your brain responsible for memory, learning, attention, and self-awareness.
Not only that, a daily meditation practice can also help calm the sympathetic nervous system, keeping you out of fight or flight and putting you into a state of calm.
What is meditation? Well, that is a big question because there are so many types. One type that many of you may have tried or at least are familiar with is prayer. It doesn’t matter to whom or what you pray, but you are using quiet contemplation to work through your emotions and give yourself to a higher power.
I’m not saying that meditation is religious. It is not. It is merely a tool to help you calm the body and quiet the mind, which is exactly what prayer does for most.
A popular form of meditation is moving meditations like Yoga, Tai Chi, and QiGong, which all match breath to movement, allowing the mind to relax and help you become more in tune with your body. Anyone can do these styles of meditation, and have tons of variations to accommodate any age or ability.
Another meditation is chanting. Using one’s voice is a powerful tool. With chanting, the vibrations in the throat and nondescript sounds act like white or brown noise. Brown noise differs from white noise by using lower frequencies to affect our emotional state and help improve sleep and anxiety.
Yet another form of meditation is visual or guided meditation. In this type of meditation, a practitioner guides you to a meditative state through visual description and cues to help you relax. Imagine you are in a cool forest under a canopy of trees. Feel the springy grass beneath your toes…
Lastly, is breathwork, which is simply consciously controlling your breath. This is my favorite and has gotten me out of many tough situations. I use it for migraines, pain control, insomnia, memory, and to soothe. Recently, I underwent a cervical spinal fusion, and instead of dipping into the opioids, I used breathwork. Sadly, chanting was out since they went through my throat—which is my preferred pain control.
To sum up, meditation helps us to stop and take the time to reflect on our day and give our brains the chance to absorb and retain those events, feelings, words, or thoughts for the future. In this fast-paced world, we don’t take the time each day to sit with our thoughts; meditation gives us that opportunity. The effects on the brain are one more added perk to the many other benefits meditation can have on your life.
Airmid’s Meditation Offerings:
New to meditation? Try Jesse’s Meditation for Beginner’s Workshop on Fri. November 7th from 7p-8p.
Having difficulty sleeping? Try Radiant Rest Meditation on Sundays at 9:30a.
Need a lunchtime pick-me-up? Try Get Grounded to Manage Stress on Tuesdays at 12p.
Need to relax and pamper yourself? Try Self Care Healing Workshop on Sunday, December 3rd, from 4p-5:30p.
Check out our Movement Classes.
Now that summer is ending, it’s time to prepare your body for the seasonal changes ahead.
The Autumnal Equinox is on September 23 and officially marks the start of fall…so you still have time to eat the fresh fruits and veggies the summer bounty provides.
However, since September is already rife with change due to back to school and the approaching holidays, it is extra important to prepare our bodies for this new season.
Here are a few easy hacks to help you embrace the seasonal shift with ease:
1 – Eat Warming Foods & Drinks: Spices and root vegetables are on the menu for fall. Bring on the soups, stews, and pumpkin-flavored everything! Shift from your iced lattes and cold brews to hot beverages, especially spiced teas like chai, cinnamon, clove, and ginger. The key is to eat and drink warm foods and drinks to warm the body as the cold begins to set in.
Health Hack – Eat Pumpkin! It is high in beta-carotene, which your body turns into vitamin A. Studies show that vitamin A can strengthen your immune system and help fight infections. Give it to your dog. It gives them a shiny coat and helps them transition into colder weather as well.
2 – Monitor Your and your Kids Stress Levels: Back to School, Fall Sports, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the sprint toward Christmas and Hanukkah lay ahead. The lazy days of summer are a memory, and we must wait another year for those sunny, carefree days…or do we? Don’t wait to deal with stress. You should practice stress relief techniques daily and be a role model for your children. Healthy meals and non-screen family time, such as walks and crafts, are needed.
Health Hack: Fill the crockpot with root vegetables and warming spices in the morning. When you and the family get home to a dark house after practice or a hard day at work or school, you can skip the fast food lines and enjoy a healthy meal together.
3 – Prepare for Fall Allergies: Mildew, mold, and dust mites can trigger many unwelcome symptoms in the Fall. Dust mites are rampant in schools that have been shuttered all summer.
Health Hack: Local honey is pollinated by local bees, which helps you fight allergies. Nettle leaf, peppermint, and red raspberry leaf teas are a great supplement to antihistamines.
4 – Stay Active & Connect with Nature: No one can deny that the change of season is beautiful. The changing leaves make everyone pause, but for how long? A look out the window as you rush from one commitment to the next? Connecting with nature plays a significant role in improving our physical and mental health. Just 10 minutes in nature reduces stress and depression and helps you feel happier.
Health hack: Daily evening walks with the family enjoying the beautiful foliage.
5 – Moisturize and hydrate: Dehydration causes stress on the body, and drinking at least 5 glasses of water a day is an easy way to stay healthy. The fall weather is dry, which dries out our skin. Skin is the biggest organ in the body and helps regulate body temperature and protects us from the external environment, so it is vital to keep it nourished.
Health Hack: Set water intake goals in your family, and make it a fun competition.
Want more? Need help preparing? Try Juli Eckmeier’s Wholistic Health for the Fall on Sunday, September 24th, 6p – 8p.
Tips for Beating Back-to-School Stress
It’s that time of year again. The kids are getting restless, and folders, notebooks and markers, crayons, and art supplies galore are taking over stores!
Just thinking about it makes me anxious. I’m sure it does for every parent from August through September. However, this doesn’t need to be the case. Here are a few helpful tips to help you stay present and calm during the dreaded Back to School season.
- Take a Day Trip – School is still a few weeks away, so take a day off from work and take yourself and the kids to the beach, the Poconos, or something else you had been planning to do all summer but haven’t. Time goes by so quickly. Enjoy some time with your kiddos before they are all grown up.
- Find Grace – You don’t have to be perfect. Your kids don’t have to be perfect. Stopping at the drive-through for dinner when you don’t feel like cooking is okay. Telling your child that the test they failed is no big deal rather than lecturing them is a gift that will help your child learn to deal with failure in a healthy way.
- Say No – We all know times have changed, and we are desperate to give our children all the things we didn’t have, but sometimes it is too much. Kids don’t have to do a sport every season; they definitely don’t need to do multiple. If all you do is run children to and from practice or activities, when are you spending time with them or finding time for yourself?
- Organize – We have a large dry-erase monthly calendar in our kitchen. I use different markers for each person. It helps a lot. My schedule varies, so it helps my husband know where I am. It also keeps you from double booking, which will help reduce your stress.
- Routine– Establish a routine from wake up to bedtime that gives everyone their own tasks to do, so it doesn’t all fall on your overburdened shoulders. Rather than doing it all yourself, ask your kids for help with age-appropriate tasks. My 11-year-old sets the table, checks the mail, takes out the recycling, and dusts. He knows he needs to do these things before he can play video games or watch TV.
- Take time for yourself – This is the most important one. Don’t let months go by without spending a night out with a friend or having a date night. Being a good parent means taking care of yourself before your loved ones.
- Skip it – If you aren’t feeling something you have planned, skip it. Don’t do it all the time, but if you are having a day where one thing after another goes wrong, or you wake up feeling like you can’t…don’t- skip it! I know it’s trendy, but a self-care day is a thing. It isn’t going to the salon and getting your nails done. It’s saying no thank you to the day ahead.
- Reflect – At the end of each day, sit with your thoughts for about ten minutes: no TV, no music, no talking in the background. Sit quietly and reflect on what has happened, good or bad, without judgment, and process it. It’ll keep your stress from turning into anxiety or depression.
Good luck, and if you see someone in the back-to-school section of Target struggling with multiple lists and whiny children, wish them luck, too. Halloween will be here before you know it, and the pressures of creating the perfect Christmas will raise your blood pressure again. So take a few deep breaths and dip into the list above when you need a little more help.
Interested in learning more about ways to cope with stress? Try Kathleen Megahan’s workshop “Stress Relief for Busy People” on Friday, September 29th, from 6:30-7:30p. Learn More
There is only one certainty in life—we are born, and we will die. It is up to us to make the most out of what falls in between. This can be challenging as there are so many things to fit into our day.
Most people wait for vacations to relax and destress, but that just isn’t enough! It is essential to add wellness to each and every day.
How, you may ask?
Well, I wish the answer was simple. But it isn’t. Each person has to find what works for them. Plus, as our responsibilities change, our needs change as well. So supporting mind-body wellness in your life will not look the same today as it did a year ago, five years ago, or even five years from now.
The key is to take one day at a time. Don’t wait until next month for your vacation or weekend to find some stress relief. If you don’t manage your stress now, it will turn into anxiety, which is a slippery slope toward depression and hopelessness. You should practice it daily.
Some of the most important things to add to your daily life are:
Healthy Work-life balance – Take breaks. If you work from home–choose specific hours to work and stick to them. Take time to talk with your coworkers and get to know them. Take days off when you are healthy to do something fun.
Daily Exercise or Movement – You don’t have to train for a marathon, but you can go for daily walks with a pet or on your own. Take a yoga or exercise class (We have many virtual options if you can’t find the time to get away). Stretch at the kitchen counter while you cook. Garden.
Quiet Reflection – Your brain needs time to reflect, so it can process and store your memories. Let yourself sit with the events of your day and think about them. If you spend 10-15 minutes daily doing this, you’ll fall asleep easier and wake up refreshed.
Water! Water! Water! – Dehydration causes stress. Try to drink between 75-100 ounces of water a day, depending on the amount of your activity. Your skin will be thankful for it as well!
Hourly screen breaks and movement – The blue light from devices can have multiple ill effects on the body, so give yourself frequent breaks. Look out the window and give your eyes a break. You can also add some movement with the screen break for even better results.
Healthy Diet – This one can be tough, but it is so important! Think of your body like a car. You won’t get the maximum performance out if you put cheap fuel in. It doesn’t have to be drastic. Perhaps switch carbohydrate snacks like pretzels and chips with nuts or fruit. Switch out soda, iced tea, and fruit juices with water. Once you get rolling, you’ll find yourself changing more and more as you feel the benefits.
All these things aren’t your responsibility alone. Your employer should be helping you lighten the load and giving you some of these things at work.
No, seriously, they should. Multiple studies have shown this!
Did you know that greater employee well-being is tied to higher company valuation and greater profits? Multiple studies have reflected that employers investing in their employees’ health boosts their profits.
Why? When an employer invests in their employee’s well-being, they are less likely to take days off, become ill, and need extended sick leave. They are more productive when working and create a community amongst their colleagues that boosts morale and improves communication and collaboration.
Airmid Wellness is here to help! We offer many wellness options for you as an individual and for businesses and groups.
Humans are social creatures, and we don’t like to feel alone. If you bring a culture of wellness to your business or group, your employees will feel more connected and eager to work together toward a common goal.
Not the boss? Tell your boss or HR department that you think wellness options should be made available to you and your coworkers. Here are a few stats from the Gallup poll to throw their way:
- 72% of employers saw reduced healthcare costs after implementing a wellness program.
- 87% of employees consider health and wellness offerings when choosing an employer.
- Wellness programs can reduce absenteeism by 14-19%.
- The average return on investment (ROI) for employee wellness programs is six-to-one.
- 56% of employees who participate in company wellness programs say they have fewer sick days due to these programs.
- Employees who don’t exercise regularly are 50% more likely to have high presenteeism than regular exercisers.
- 57% of workers with high health risks became low-risk after completing a work-provided exercise program.
- 84% of employers reported higher employee productivity and performance due to wellness plans in 2019.
Learn More about Airmid’s Wellness for Businesses & Groups Programs. Contact Jen Leary to set up your first Lunch & Learn or add a weekly, biweekly, or monthly mindful movement or meditation class at 215-293-0744 (Option 3) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sleep is one of the most essential elements to consider regarding the health and well-being of the body and mind.
Poor or insufficient sleep has been found to increase negative emotional responses to stressors and decrease positive emotions. Sleep problems are particularly common in people with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Sleep deprivation studies show that otherwise healthy people can experience increased anxiety and distress levels following poor sleep.
Did you know it is as dangerous to drive sleep impaired as driving under the influence of alcohol?
Why is sleep so important?
While we sleep, our brains are essentially washed, toxins are removed, events and memories are sorted and filed, and our brains are reset and refreshed.
Needless to say, a bad night’s sleep, consecutive bad nights of sleep, or insomnia can leave a person feeling awful, and this can cause a host of other issues in both body and mind.
Here are some of the things that happen while you sleep:
- Almost as soon as we fall asleep, changes will occur in the body and the brain.
- Body temperature drops, heart rate slows, breathing slows, and brain activity settles down.
- During the night, the body goes through multiple sleeping cycles; these cycles last between 70 to 120 minutes and are made up of different stages.
Without proper sleep, multiple studies of both humans and animals suggest that being deprived of REM sleep interferes with memory formation. Other issues include:
- Difficulty concentrating during the day
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Forgetfulness or poor memory
Over time, chronic sleep deprivation is linked to health conditions like diabetes, depression, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
Without adequate sleep, your cognitive performance will decline. You may find yourself forgetting things more often, as sleep deprivation highly affects working memory. In fact, short sleepers, who regularly sleep fewer than six hours per night, can experience the same impairments to their working memory as people who haven’t slept for two nights in a row.
So, how much sleep should you get?
Our sleep requirements can change with age, gender, health, and what is happening in our lives; generally, 7-9 hours of sleep each night is recommended for adults.
This all sounds great, right? But what if you can’t fall asleep?
Here are some tips and tools to help you practice good sleep hygiene.
Create an ambient environment – our unconscious mind is always at work determining whether or not we are safe. When we create an ambient environment, it can help our sympathetic nervous system to calm down and switch off, allowing our parasympathetic nervous system to take over and feel calm. To create an ambient environment, keep your room clean, tidy, and feeling fresh, and keep the temperature comfortable; a cooler temperature will help you sleep. White noise can help you to feel calm. Try playing calming, ambient music or having a fan in your room. Keep lighting to a minimum; this can help you to feel calm and peaceful.
Seek regularity – a great way to train your body to sleep well is to go to bed and get up around the same time each day. This can help to set body clocks to a good rhythm; falling asleep and getting up at the same time may not always be possible; however, setting an intention for regularity can be helpful.
Sleep rituals – setting up a good atmosphere can be enhanced by sleep rituals. Sleep rituals can indicate to your mind that it is time for sleep. Some rituals that could be tried are breathing practices, gentle yoga stretches, or a calming cup of caffeine-free chamomile tea.
A relaxing bath – having a warm bath 1-2 hours before bedtime will raise your body temperature, then as your body temperature begins to drop again, it is scientifically proven that this can help you to feel sleepy Health benefits of sleep The health benefits of sleep are many, getting good sleep is potentially one of the best things we can do to achieve overall health of the brain and body.
Remove electronic devices – such as TVs, computers, and smartphones, from the bedroom. If you can’t remove them, set limitations. Don’t watch television or use your phone in your bed if possible. Otherwise, stop these activities 30 minutes before sleep. This will signal to the body that this is a place of rest. Set quiet hours on your phone that will limit the distractions technology presses on us at all hours of the day.
Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime – alcohol decreases REM sleep; since REM is a very mentally restoring phase of sleep, it is critical for learning, memory, and emotional health. If we are waking up feeling like we are not well rested, considering our alcohol intake could be a good idea. Alcohol fragments sleep, so you will actually wake up more often during the night; however, you won’t be conscious of each time that you wake. You will not feel restored when you wake up, so you will know you haven’t had good quality sleep.
Get some exercise – being physically active during the day can help you fall asleep more easily at night.
I was having a conversation with my 11-year-old the other day about a movie we had just seen, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
No spoilers, I promise!
To stage the scene, there is a bad guy that is trying to create the “perfect species.” There is a lot of cruelty and murder along the way. That’s where I’ll leave the movie analogy.
My son said, “Why was that guy so obsessed with perfection? What is perfect anyway?”
I got really excited and put on my teacher’s hat, and said, “Wow! That is a great question.”
And here is, in a nutshell, what I told him…
What may be perfect to you won’t be perfect to me or anyone else.
For example, you love the color purple. So you may see a shirt that is the perfect shade of purple and think, “This is the perfect shirt!”
However, Daddy doesn’t like the color purple, so he won’t think that shirt is perfect. The blue one will seem perfect to him, and yellow for me, and so on.
Rather than striving for perfection, you should strive to be “good enough.” Put in your best effort, and that, for you, is perfection.
He smiled and ran off to play, but I kept thinking about this idea of perfection. I remember all the times in my past, I thought, I’ll never be good enough. Or why bother? It’ll never be perfect.
Somewhere along the way, whether in childhood, our tumultuous teens year, or adulthood, we are bought into the idea that we aren’t good enough, so we decide to try and become perfect, which is an endless, tireless pursuit.
Because, again, your ideal of perfection is different than the person you are trying to impress. Think back to your teenage years. How many times did you change your look to attract someone you liked? Then when they didn’t think you were ‘perfect,’ it was devasting. Why? Because a boy or a girl didn’t find us attractive enough? Smart enough? Athletic enough?
“We learn our belief systems as very little children, and then we move through life creating experiences to match our beliefs. Look back in your own life and notice how often you have gone through the same experience.” – Louise L. Hay.
It’s never too late to change this perception because…guess what?
YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH.
Repeat it to yourself a few times right now.
Now, take some time to reflect and consider how this limiting belief, ‘I’m not good enough,’ affects your life. Get out a notebook and answer honestly.
- In what ways do you recognize this belief in your own life?
- How has your life been affected as a result of carrying this negative limiting belief? What results have you got?
As we begin to think differently and take ownership of new ideas, we can change the way we think, change the way we interpret the past, and change and modify our expectations of the future.
If we’re bold enough to accept the fact that who we are as individuals is ‘good enough’ – not perfect – but ‘good enough’, then this sets us free for the rest of our lives.
We no longer have to strive for perfection and can simply commit to a journey of self-improvement, where we work on being a better version of ourselves today than we were yesterday.
Every time you start to think, “I’m not perfect or good enough,” stop yourself in your tracks and say proudly, “I am enough.”