Category Archives: health

lazy summer days

Summer days are meant for doing a certain amount of nothing.  It rarely seems the case these days, as I watch my friends and their children rushing to summer hockey camps, day camps, intensive swimming lessons, and a plethora of other activities to fill their summer days.

What happened to just having nothing to do?  To the days of going to the park and playing, or reading?  What happened to just being a kid?

This isn’t a popular perspective where I live, and I would wager it isn’t where you live either.  These days, everyone needs to be scheduled to the hilt, because if you aren’t busy, you are wasting your time, right?

Wrong.

There is so much benefit in just allowing yourself time to be.  Time to sit and just watch the day go by is so mentally therapeutic!  Being busy does not equal being productive.  This is something I have learned after years of having too much going on in my life.  There is still too much going on, but I am still a work in progress too.  I am officially on holidays for two weeks, and while my time clock may be stalled, work wise, my actions have not.  I still have lists of things I wish to accomplish during my time off, but I know full well that there are too many lists and too little time.  Where do I fit in time for me?

It’s ok to let the dust settle in the corners once in a while, or for the dishes to wait until morning.  We all need to recharge our batteries once in a while so that we can function optimally.  Don’t forget to take time out to relax and do nothing.  There is so much value in just being.

adding karma to your kindness bucket

Doing things for others isn’t just a selfless act.  It is a selfish act also.

I’m not referring to the you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours mentality.  When we do things for others out of the goodness of our hearts, we receive gifts back in the form of good karma that we get to add to our buckets.  This good karma comes back to us in a multitude of ways.  Perhaps it is that unexpected settlement cheque that comes in the mail after a minor accident, or the person in the drive thru ahead of you who decided to pay it forward and covered the cost of your pick-me-up mid-afternoon latte.

Beyond that, we also also experience that whole neuroscience of giving part of ourselves to others.  When we help others, we also help ourselves.  We experience an increase in endorphins, the feel-good chemicals in our brains.  Yes, science actually backs up being a good person.  When we have a surge of endorphins, our bodies actually feel healthier.  So there is the selfish part of it.  When we help others, we are helping ourselves too.

The best part is, that helping others is contagious.  Going back to the pay it forward idea in the drive thru, where I live, this has become a bit of a thing that goes on from time to time.  Maybe it is the Canadian kindness mentality, maybe not.  But, when this begins, it can often continue on for a dozen people or even more.  This positive energy leads to more positive actions which means more goodness in our world.

So, keep adding karma to your kindness bucket.  Let it grow and overflow.  Because it’s good for the world around you, and it is very good for you too.

the future of dietary recommendations?

I have enjoyed my Sunday ritual of sitting at my computer and writing my weekly blog.  To those of you who follow along weekly, and for those who have popped in today or once in a while, I want to thank you for joining me.

Recently, the Canadian government released a draft of the new version of Canada’s Food Guide.  I was interested to read that under the Guiding Principle 1, there has been a shift from “meat and alternatives” to “protein-rich foods – especially plant-based sources of protein”.

Now, those who know me well would tell you that while I have a predominantly plant-based diet, with the odd bit of seafood and a little cheese once in a while, I do not force my diet or opinions on anyone.  I do believe that everyone is free to choose for themselves, and the same is true for my children.  My older son is the same as I am in his choices.  We have plant-based milk to enjoy.  I like soy milk in my coffee, and he is crazy about coconut milk.  Conversely, my younger son still enjoys dairy milk, and so I buy that for him to consume.

What the current draft of the dietary recommendations has done for me is reinforce what I have been doing.  It will also help to bring along a shift in the thoughts of the general public.  Plant-based diets are highly nutritious, providing all the essential components needed, particularly when it is a diet with a variety of different plant foods.

I know there are some people out there (my ex-husband for one) who would say that you need to eat meat in order to gain the proteins and amino acids required for a healthy body.  I am not going to argue anyone’s opinion.  But I do encourage people to do the research for themselves and choose the diet that meets their needs.  There is no one perfect diet for every person.  We are all individuals with individual needs.

For myself, and for the positive environmental impact that these changes will produce, I am quite excited to see Canada taking the bold step forward so far with these recommendations.  While it is still in a draft form and there are many changes that could still take place, I am proud to see that the steps are being taken to recognize how plant-based nutrition is advisable for the majority of people.  I would like to congratulate the Government of Canada for taking these steps, and I hope to see this movement expand beyond borders and move into other countries to create a global movement.

authenticity

Be your authentic self.  Buzz words.  Everyone is saying things like this it seems these days.  But what does it truly mean?

I’m sure we all have our own take on what it means to be authentic.  But without spending time alone with yourself, how do you truly know if you are your own true authentic self, or if you are picking up on pieces of stronger personalities?  How do you know you aren’t just being what you are expected to be?

In this world, being authentic is hard.  There are expectations out there.  Go to University.  Get a high paying job.  Get married, have a family.  Don’t get divorced.  But where in all this does it fit to be truly authentic?

It doesn’t.

I have lived that life.  I was who everyone wanted me to be.  I did the education, I had great aspirations and hopes for a career.  I had the six figures.  I had the marriage and the family.  And all the illusions I had to maintain to keep up that façade.  I was miserable.

I got separated.  Parts of the false me started to fall away.  I opened up about the horrors of my relationship and people were shocked and stunned by what I had kept hidden.  But this is part of my story.  The true me.  I looked at my life and realized I wasn’t happy in that career.  I wasn’t truly interested in doing research or the other things I needed to do in order to be successful in that world.  I dropped it.  And I can tell you, it felt good.  It was a burden lifted off my shoulders that I didn’t realize I was carrying around.

I started exploring who I felt I was.  It was a redefining period of time.  I explored things that made be happy.  I sat.  I meditated.  I did yoga.  I went and spent time with just myself.  I was lost for over two decades, but somewhere in the silence, I found me.

Not everyone likes the me I am today, and I am ok with that.  I have been passed up for opportunities that I am more than qualified for simply because I no longer follow the corporate rules, and that is ok.  I forgive the people and the situation.  I thank the Universe for the experience and go forward knowing that I am exactly where I need to be, because where I am, is where I am accepted for who I truly am.  I am welcomed and encouraged to be my own authentic version of myself.  It has turned out better than anything I have ever expected or imagined.

That feels better than all those goals I had been chasing.  I wouldn’t say that I didn’t enjoy pieces of that time because there are many parts that I loved and would do again.  But knowing now what it is to be fully me, I will not sacrifice my authenticity for any of the chairpersons, department heads or managers that think they have control over my fate.  They don’t control anything.  I am free.

And I am very happily and authentically me.

what strength means

You could look at the literal word and think of bodybuilders or construction men or firefighters even.  That is simply physical strength though.  What about the other strengths out there?

Strength to me is determination and courage.  Strength is the struggling student who works a full time job, still makes it to classes and still completes all the requirements to graduate and move their life into a new plane.  Strength is the cancer survivor who stays positive during the surgeries, the radiation treatments and the chemotherapy while still being that positive beacon for her children and her husband.  Strength is the father going into that surgery knowing full well that he may not wake up from the anesthesia yet taking the chance because if he doesn’t, the cancer still wins.  Strength is the wife who stands by his side and supports him because that’s all she can do.

Strength is the child who stands up for his friend against the schoolyard bully, even though he fears being the next target.  Strength is the single mother who gets up and goes to work every day to a job that causes her pain, yet she goes anyway because that is what her children need her to do.  Strength is the woman who leaves an abuser before it goes too far.  Strength is the man suffering depression, but he still gets out of bed every day.

I see all these people around me.  Perhaps they do not see their strength, but others do.  Strength is all around us.  We all have our own battles.  Some are more visible than others.  Don’t judge others based on what you think you see, for their story is like an iceberg: you may see the tip poking out above the surface, but the rest of the story and reasons for who they are and why they do what they do are hidden underneath in the dark waters.

Have an open mind and an open heart.  Give acceptance and love.

simply you

The other day I went to visit my doctor.  As usual, he asked how I was doing and if I was seeing anyone.  My doctor likes to keep tabs on me since he knew the issues that occurred before and during the divorce.  He always asks how my children are coping as well.

Am I seeing anyone?  No, not really.  But do I want to be?  Well, that got me to thinking.  Then the next day I read a brief article on the benefits of being single.  That got me thinking even more.  There are a lot of benefits to being single.  You are the only one spending your income, so you choose where it goes.  You decide if you use a credit card for a high-cost item or if you decide to save up before purchasing it.  You decide how to pay off debt (like divorce debt), and how you allot your dollars.  You decide how to decorate your home.  Are you a minimalist or do you like to fill your home with things?  Your choice.  You decide if you want a pet, and if so, what kind?  Do you want to travel?  Where do you want to go?

Here’s the best one.  You become utterly and solely you.  When in a relationship, partners tend to pick up on certain pieces of the other partner’s personality.  Quirks, sayings, behaviours.  These things tend to blend.  The dominant personality tends to overshadow the less dominant personality.  You essentially become the same person.  However, when you choose a life of being single, you know that who you are is simply you.  And that is a good feeling.

body and mind

With the days getting longer, I can feel spring is just around the corner.  The sun is almost cresting the horizon as my alarm calls me to wake in the mornings, which makes it easier and more pleasant when I start my day.  I am sure that many others feel the same way.

Winter can take a hold on us.  Seasonal Affective Disorder makes it harder and harder to get through the day for many living in the northern hemisphere.  I have discovered how it truly can affect our mood and outlook.  It’s like a seasonal depression that you can feel being lifted with the longer days and warmer temperatures slowly returning to us.  I have also found that taking the time for self care and physical exercise also helps quite a bit.  It gives me a bit more energy even when I think I’m tapped out.

I take that as a reminder that looking out for our physical health is a key factor in our mental health also.  It is a natural anti-depressant that helps me to keep going.  So do what works for you.  Go for a run, take a class, lift some weights, join a yoga studio.  Meditate.  Breathe.  Accept yourself and carry forward.

second chances

How do you decide who is worthy of a second chance in life?  How do you deem the worth of one’s value?

I know this is far too broad a topic, and extenuating circumstances will change the outcome for many people, depending on what the situation looks like.  But in general, are we programmed to cut people off or to continue to give them chances to succeed?  Where do we draw the line for our own mental or physical security?

This has nothing to do with past relationships that are creeping back in, although I know that is often where people tend to consider the second chances coming into play.  I am taking this as a much broader topic.  Think about reformed drug addicted individuals, gamblers who no longer gamble, military personnel who have come back from deployment with severe PTSD, or the teenager who has tried to take his/her own life.

It seems to me that the majority of the topics that I have considered have a mental health component attached to them.  Whether it is an addiction, or there is something else happening that causes mental unwellness, the bottom line to me is that it is an illness.  There are so many stigmas attached to mental illness, and that in itself is a hurdle to conquer.  Mental illness needs the same care and attention as physical illness.

Do people suffer the same lingering prejudices if they had pneumonia, broken bones or even cancer as those who have ADHD, bipolar disease or schizophrenia?  Generally, no.  Why?  Because if it is a physical ailment, people can visually see that the individual is better.  But with mental illness, it takes trust and a leap of faith to believe that the individual has healed or is under control.

Trust.  Faith.  Support.

Everybody is worthy of a second chance.  Particularly those who have realized their need for help and sought it out.  Why should they be shunned for this higher level thinking?  Because they have identified their own need?  It could happen to every one of us in some form or another.  Life is full of second chances.  You may be that second chance for someone who needs it.

value human interaction

I have been reminded lately of the importance of human interaction.  In this, I mean how important it is to have contact with others.  Physical contact, verbal communication, or whatever it is that satisfies that personal need.  We all need to be valued in some way.  To be appreciated.  To be wanted.

To be loved.

Remember those who play a role in your life, no matter how small.  Thank the person holding the door open for you as you enter the mall to buy those last minute gifts.  Smile at the lonely woman sitting and looking out her window as you walk to collect your children from school.  Give a compliment to a stranger for no other reason but to spread a little joy to the life of another.

In this world of smart phone abuse, I watch as people walk down the street and hallways with their faces buried in screens.  People no longer notice those around them.  I feel the isolation of technology affecting society, and I urge everyone to be part of the resistance here.  Let’s not forget our humanity and our human interaction.

living a good life

This has been a challenge of a week.  It’s been a week of pondering, and of considering the words spoken to me merely seven days ago, although it feels like it was a lifetime ago.

My father has cancer.  The big C.

Huge deal right?  Well, my mother had cancer also.  She spent a couple years in treatment, and her follow up appointments have all been positive, showing no signs of new growth.  All positive.  She’s not without her health issues, and the scare we had in summer thankfully was not a malignant tumor but still dangerous in its own right.  But I digress.

The words my father spoke left me feeling oddly at ease, even though we still do not know all the details of the severity or chances of survival.  I’ve had a good life.  I have no regrets.  I have done in my life what I aimed to.

Nobody likes to consider life without their loved ones.  I am not the exception.  My father came back into my life once my marriage fell apart.  My ex kept me from having a relationship with my family, so once he was out of the picture, they were there, waiting all those 20 years for me to come back to my senses.  I feel like I have just gotten my father back, so of course I have considered life without him once again.  I’m not ready for him to go.

My father explained some things to me, and I understand completely.  He is not afraid of death, and for the record, nor am I.  I do not believe it to be the end of our existence.  He has lived the life of his choosing.  He has done all the things he has wanted to do, he has no regrets in this life.  He has lived a good life, by his standards.  He was never rich in monetary ways, but that never mattered to him.  He was rich in much better standards.  He has a family he loves dearly.  He has friends who are family of his choosing that he loves equally as much.  He gives from the depth of his heart and would give what he had if it meant someone else could use it more.  Don’t get me wrong, my father is not a saint.  He is human, and in that, he has made mistakes.  He has made some choices that were less than desirable.  But in that, he is 100% human and we all know there is no one living on earth that is perfect by any stretch.

So I considered the words he spoke.  All week, and likely still will.  I know that he will fight for his life should he need to, but if it is meant for him to leave our realm in any short time frame, he will have no regrets.  He will not weep for the things he had not yet done.  He does live a good life that will be celebrated whenever that time comes.  But I still pray that time is not too soon.