Top Apps for Healthy Living

Staying healthy can be tough! It is hard to stay on top of the latest in healthy eating, shopping, and fitness. Luckily, there’s an app for that!

Dr. Samelak has put together a list of her Top Apps for Healthy Living.

vegetables-3386212_1920.jpgFooducate

Fooducate is a free app that makes shopping a breeze! Simply scan the barcode on your food to learn more about it. The experts at Fooducate have created a database that grades your food based upon its ingredients. It even provides suggestions for healthier alternatives! Did you scan something not in their database? Simply submit it for evaluation by the Fooducate team and they will research the ingredients and add it to their list!

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The Environmental Working Group, EWG, is a US based environmental group that, “specializes in research and advocacy in the areas of toxic chemicals, agriculture subsidies, public lands, and corporate accountability”. [Wikipedia] EWG has released a Healthy Living App that works like Fooducate for your personal care products. This helps take the guesswork out of buying shampoo or toothpaste. Suddenly, you don’t have to be a chemist to shop smarter and healthier. EWG touts that you can, “scan a product, review its rating, and pick the better choice” in your purchases.

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We’ve all heard about the benefits of meditation in a myriad of areas in our lives… but where to start? Many times, we set out to meditate only to end up writing our grocery list in our heads or worrying about whether you were the one in charge of carpool pickup from soccer tonight. Enter: Headspace. The Headspace app specializes in providing guided meditations that are themed for different needs and work to help busy people take a break and create some headspace.

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There are a lot of fitness apps and they all have their benefits and drawbacks. My personal favorite is Runkeeper. I use this app to help myself stay accountable to my fitness, track workouts of various kinds, and ensure that I don’t put too many miles on my running shoes. The app even includes a goal setting area and even training workouts. If you need the push, you can even allow notifications from the app to your phone’s lock screen to encourage you to get out and move.

Do you have an app that you can’t live without? Let us know about it in the comments!

Gratitude… More than just a holiday?

It is upon us! Thanksgiving is in just a couple of short days and, while the original historical background of Thanksgiving is controversial, it remains my favorite holiday. If we look at Thanksgiving in completely modern terms it has become a holiday of excess. Too much food. Shopping instead of family. Capitalism. Overall, it has been a holiday celebrating successful harvest, has been called a holiday commemorating the beginning of the persecution of the Native Americans, has been about a giant rock on the East Coast, getting great deals on shopping, gluttony, and- I am going to propose- Gratitude.

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Gratitude is the main reason Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It is a time for family and friends to gather together over a meal (modest or grand) and be grateful for the blessings of the year and for each other. Gratitude is a choice and by choosing to express it, we improve ourselves.

I was reading an article in the New York times about gratitude that cited studies demonstrating that people are genuinely happier when they choose gratitude. Not to mention that the brain, when studied with fMRI actually fires differently for pride and gratitude than with anger or jealousy. This indicates that we have the ability to use neuroplasticity to change our brains to be wired for gratitude.

What could this mean for us!? As individuals, choosing to be thankful and positive means enriching our own lives. As members of society, making this same choice means that those around us benefit from our gratitude. When we elevate the positive, we tip the balance in favor of light.

As the great Martin Luther King, Jr said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

It can be difficult to choose gratitude when things seem dark or hard. I mentioned on Facebook last week, one way to choose gratitude is to remind ourselves. You can use a gratitude journal where you list 3 things you are grateful for each morning. (I like to enhance this with 3 things that I am excited about and also 1 thing I will do for myself that day) Sometimes this is incredibly hard and I fall back on some classic things to be grateful for like family, shelter, education, my silly cats. Other times I am truly moved by the world around me into a place of profound gratitude and I can’t stop at 3. My planner also has a column for “Good Things That Happened” AKA Gratitude!!! If structured journaling isn’t your thing, try creating a list like this that contains things that are positive from your life/week. One of the benefits of writing it down is this: when times are the hardest or things seem to be the darkest, you can look back and see all that you have to be grateful for.

Choosing gratitude is more than a holiday, though Thanksgiving is an excellent excuse to start your practice. If you happen to be at my house for Thanksgiving, on the table is a sheet of brown paper and crayons instead of place mats. This provides an excellent excuse ample opportunity to make hand turkeys or to write down what you have to be grateful for.

I am thankful for so many things and people in my life- I am even thankful for you (whether we have met or not).

The Place Between Breaths

The past week has been a very stressful one for me, personally. I am having a lot of things going on in my family and have been relying heavily upon meditation, journaling, and exercise to elevate mood and keep myself centered. These are techniques learned through trial and error and through many different teachers that have come to be a solid basis of self-support for me.

This would be an incredibly long blog post if I ran through all three, so we will zero in on meditation today.

****Disclaimer****
I have never trained formally in meditation, but I do practice regularly. Scroll all the way to the end for sources of additional information on meditation and resources to help you find your own path.

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Meditation is incredibly easy in concept and difficult in practice. It comes in different forms. It can be guided. It can be mediated by the inhale. It can focus on the exhale. It can even be focused around the space in between the breath- that little moment between inhalation and exhalation where stillness takes place. Below I am outlining 3 of my favorite kinds of meditation techniques.

Self-guided meditation (envisioning your greatest self)

I learned about this type of meditation at the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association’s Freedomfest in 2014. Dr. Joe Dispenza spoke about the power of the brain and about his book, You Are The Placebo. I am about 1/3 of the way through this book and am learning a lot about how we make our thoughts become a reality. But I digress…

Each morning, I take 9 minutes (the time between my alarm and my snooze) and meditate. Before my feet touch the ground. Before I check my email. Before I let the world take me away from the peace of rest. I meditate. I begin by remembering back to a time when I was truly, completely, sincerely joyful down into and out from the core of my being. Once I have that moment, I allow that feeling to surge through my body and make its way all the way from the crown of my head to the tips of my fingers and toes. Thus embraced in a moment of pure joy, I picture my physical self in total fitness. My best self. I choose the facial expression, the shine of my hair, the tone of my muscles- you get the picture. And I let these two things come together. The Joy and the Best Physical Self.

This lets me step backward and see myself as I truly am.

Some days this is incredibly easy and I can slip right into that state of joy and gratitude and wellness. Other days I have just found the joyful moment when the alarm sounds. No matter what, I accept what my practice was and take it forward into the activities of the day.

Meditation with Outside Guidance

A couple of years ago, I did a series with Deepak Chopra and Oprah about mindfulness. It was a series of guided meditations and journaling from Deepak. I had never done meditation guided by another person before- and have discovered that it is a great way for me to get to meditate when I am having a hard time finding my own quiet. Deepak has a ton of meditations (even on Spotify and Pandora) that you can listen to and follow along. He walks you through your meditation from what to do with your feet and hands to your breathing. It is incredibly helpful, especially for the crazy busy type A person. When I am having trouble stepping out of my life and into my heart space, I turn to  Deepak.

“To make the right choices in life, you have to get in touch with your soul. To do this, you need to experience solitudem which most people are afraid of because in the silence you hear the truth and know the solutions.”

– Deepak Chopra

Silent, Breath Focused, Meditation

I am not really sure how to describe this one. Breath focused meditation is exactly what it sounds like. You are aiming to find stillness with focus on nothing except the breath- be it the inhale, the exhale, or the pause. This is not to say that there will be no thoughts in your head and that you have to reach a place where you are totally blank. It means, that we acknowledge the thought and let it pass without our focus. I generally prefer to focus on the space in between the breath because otherwise I find myself trying to control the tide of my breathing. (Type A much?) I have found that this type of meditation does not at all come easily to me and that I do best with it after yoga or a good workout. As though I have to get out the physical energy before I can bring my focus internally. I have also found that practicing in a group/structured setting helps me with breath meditation. To improve my skills in this, I have visited many Buddhist temples for meditation practice.

I still find that I do my best meditation in nature (see the photo at the top of this post). Something about the stillness of the forest makes it easier for me to find my own stillness.

What all of this boils down to is this: We as humans have an incredibly hectic and chaotic way of life. We focus so much external energy that we often deplete ourselves. There are many ways to take care of yourself. Some people schedule resort vacations where they can recharge their batteries with sun, sand, and tropical drinks. Some people work out. Some people camp and hike. I would suggest, though, that we take a second to assess ourselves and make sure that we are taking care of ourselves routinely. Meditation is an excellent way to stay centered and focused.

For years my mom told me that I needed to meditate or at least take quiet time for myself. I brushed her off and coped in different ways. It wasn’t until I was sitting on the floor after work one day crying and feeling so far away from myself that I began to pursue meditation as a technique to come home to me. Now, my husband will sometimes look at me concerned and say, “Have you been meditating lately? You don’t seem like yourself.”

I hope you find something of use in this post that you can apply to your life- or even that it inspires you to research another form of self empowerment and fulfillment. If you want to chat about it or learn more about any of the practices that I do, please feel free to contact me through my website!

Resources:

Dr. Joe Dispenza‘s webpage where you can see his books. I also recommend following him on Facebook!

Some tips on meditation for beginners. They broke this down a lot more succinctly than I could!

Bold Tranquility is a Yoga Nidra meditation designed for women. I have had many patients rave about her work!

Deepak Chopra‘s website for a 21 day meditation experience (I love just about everything he does…)

So many more resources are out there! What is your favorite meditation practice or resource?