My cell phone rang during dinner with friends. Scott, my husband, had collapsed and was being taken to the hospital.
Panic rose in my chest as I made my way to the ER. The doctors struggled to make sense of his symptoms. Was he suffering a heart attack? An aortic dissection? A strange cardiac rhythm? I gasped for air as the doctors wheeled him from room to room for tests– and again when he landed in the ICU. Breathe, I told myself.
Soon after entering the ICU, Scott flatlined. My heart flooded with terror. The medical team rushed to his room and after a few minutes his heartbeat picked up again. I held fast to only one thought: Breathe.
Scott was taken to the operating room for a temporary pacemaker implant. Breathe, I reminded myself. Ten days later we were told that Scott has a very rare heart condition. Breathe, I thought. One breath at a time.
Food has an amazing ability to affect your mental clarity, mood, memory, and your ability to focus and to feel calm. If you’re looking to boost your focus, one of the places you should start with is what you’re eating. Below are some general suggestions and specific foods that may help you improve your focus.
Eat Breakfast. Studies have found that eating breakfast may improve short-term memory and attention. Foods at the top of researchers' brain-fuel list include high-fiber whole grains, protein, dairy, and fruits. Just don't overeat; researchers also found high-calorie breakfasts appear to hinder concentration.
Keep Regular Mealtimes. Your mid-day meal should be the largest if possible with a light meal at supper. Eat moderately, neither fasting nor indulging in large meals.
Relax. Take time to relax after eating. You'll digest better and feel more calm, satisfied, and ready to focus on your next task.
Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.
Where do I go when I feel burned out? I head to the mountains, forests, rivers, lakes, and desert landscapes for rejuvenation and a sense of calm. That simple step of heading outside almost magically shifts my internal landscape. I think of this immersion in a wild environment as “swimming with the senses.”
As a physician, I’ve sought out the scientific support for how these healing effects of nature take place. It's a free activity, there are no side effects, but is it just good for me or is something my patients should do too?
Well-known authors, poets, political leaders, and healers from all over the world have understood this connection between health in mind, body, and spirit, and the natural world. I love Seth Adam Smith’s...
You've likely been told that you HAVE to meditate. Perhaps even in a particular seated position, in a particular outfit, in a particularly-decorated room.
Have you tried that strict meditation technique only to discover that you're more stressed out when you finish than before you began it?
Don’t worry! That meditation technique is just one mind-body practice and there are many others to explore that can offer the same benefits. Finding a better fit is worth your time as many mind-body practices will work to enhance your ability to deal with symptoms related to depression, anxiety, or focus. This ability is often called “emotional regulation” or “self-regulation.” At Natural Mental Health, we also refer to this ability as resilience.
Additionally, as you find practices that fit you better, you'll be more likely to practice consistently and for longer durations at a time. This is key because the time you practice and the positive...
Our bodies have five senses: touch, smell, taste, sight, hearing. But not to be overlooked are the senses of our souls: intuition, peace, foresight, trust, empathy.
The differences between people lie in their use of these senses; most people don't know anything about the inner senses while a few people rely on them just as they rely on their physical senses, and in fact probably even more.
-C. Joy Bell
In order to wake up your senses, it’s important to understand them a bit better. You probably learned about the five senses in health class: touch, smell, hearing, seeing, and taste. One appealing and straight-forward quality of the five-sense model is that each of the senses is paired with a specific, highly visible part of the body. You can point to your eyes, ears, mouth, nose, and skin. However, depending on how you define the human sense organs, functions, and abilities; there may be many more senses beyond just five. And you can access them!
Last month's theme encouraged you to add more activity to your day with attention to more rhythmic and diverse movements. This month, you'll activate your system in ways that may seem more subtle, but are just as enlivening and nourishing.
The focus this month is to awaken your senses in ways that can help you feel more energized and connected.
Three strategies to focus on:
Why: Inhaling aromatherapy scents can stimulate or soothe your system and provide a way to come alive in new and different ways.
Specific action: Take just one minute daily to focus on smelling something that you enjoy. Give your full attention to the smell and notice how your system responds.
Not sure what to smell? Try sniffing an aromatherapy product (find some here), a flower, fruit, or another natural element.
Why: It's easy to get consumed by all the things happening around you. Those...
In an earlier post, Dr. Culbert discussed more about motivation and apathy and some very practical ways to deal with these concerns. In this article, I want to offer you some ways you can apply a mindfulness perspective to help you when you just can’t get yourself going.
First, a confession: I’m not always very motivated. But, neither are you…or anyone else! The reality is that motivation is a transient state. Sometimes you have it, and sometimes you don’t. That’s an invitation to stop seeing yourself as bad, broken, or lacking when you feel unmotivated or apathetic. You are human, and like everything else that you desire, motivation is impermanent.
It’s also helpful to know that motivation exists on a spectrum. You have varying degrees of motivation that are constantly in flux from one moment to the next, from one day to the next. On the days that motivation is low, try to remember that yesterday, a month ago,...
Do you struggle with low energy, decreased physical activity, or feeling like you just don’t want to do much, even though you have things you should do? Understanding your motivation and the role of apathy can help you tailor strategies to help you get back to feeling and moving more like you. Let’s dive in...
Motivation waxes and wanes naturally for all sorts of reasons. Those fluctuations are normally no big deal. Humans are complex and life is complicated, so lots of things can cause temporary decreases in excitement, energy, and the ability to get things done. Stressful events; a bad night’s sleep; or even subtle seasonal changes in activity, light exposure, and lifestyle habits can reduce motivation in ways that may just require a day or week of patience and recovery.
But, what if motivation remains MIA for too long? When does a lack of motivation or productivity become worrisome or represent something that needs to...
“There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once, but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time.”
The above quote is from the 1740s. Today it is uncommon to get even one hour of truly uninterrupted, focused time. While working on your computer you might occasionally check your Facebook page or Twitter account, receive a text or voicemail, read or respond to an email, or be interrupted by a colleague. How often are you able to complete even one task without another message popping up and demanding your attention?
So, does it really matter if you’re distracted? Yes, it does if you care about your mood, stress level, sleep, brain health, and longevity. Human beings, it turns out, are not very good at dividing their attention.
No matter how great the demands placed on you, the idea of multitasking...
Spring brings with it the desire to declutter, simplify, and cleanse. This craving usually applies to the physical spaces we occupy liked packed closets, overstuffed junk drawers, and tucked away spaces. Cleaning out those external spaces can be very freeing (tip: take the “Pick and Purge” and/or “Clean Up” challenge from the April newsletter). However, extending that effort to your internal landscape can help identify and release unwanted emotions that have become burdensome and which clutter up your mind and heart. Shame and guilt are two very common emotions that could likely use some spring cleaning.
Guilt and shame are self-conscious emotions, often brewed up in response to a perceived transgression or shortcoming. Though similar in many ways, these emotions are different. Shame is particularly characterized by the desire to hide and escape. It’s usually about the “self” and can even take shape...