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Your March Issue of Natural Healing
February 28, 2013
Hello, and welcome to this edition of my Natural Healing E-zine!
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IN THIS ISSUE:
2) PAIN HAS A PURPOSE
3) 10 FRUITS RICH IN CALCIUM
“Natural Forces Within Us Are The True Healers” ~ Hippocrates
1) WHY MEDITATE?
All day long our mind spins stories about our work, our health, our finances, our family, or that funny look the store clerk gave us. Often we’re not even conscious of the internal soundtrack unspooling in our mind and yet it is the greatest source of stress in our lives. Although the mind is capable of creating life-affirming stories, it has what neuroscientists refer to as a negativity bias, a tendency to pay more attention to negative experiences than to positive ones. The negativity bias evolved as a survival instinct millions of years ago, as our ancestors focused much more attention on avoiding potential threats than on rewards. Stopping to savor a delicious meal or admire a Paleolithic sunset would have used valuable attentional resources, leaving our ancient ancestors more vulnerable to attack by a predator. Those who survived to pass on their genes paid a lot of attention to danger. Their legacy is a brain that is primed to focus on negative experiences and has a tendency to get stuck in conditioned patterns of thinking, returning again and again to thoughts of anxiety, depression, and limitation.
Meditation is one of the best tools we have to counter the brain’s negativity bias, release accumulated stress, foster positive experiences and intentions, and enjoy the peace of present moment awareness. A large body of research has established that having a regular meditation practice produces tangible benefits for mental and physical health, including:
Decreased blood pressure and hypertension Lowered cholesterol levels Reduced production of “stress hormones,” including cortisol and adrenaline More efficient oxygen use by the body Increased production of the anti-aging hormone DHEA improved immune function Decreased anxiety, depression, and insomnia Let’s look in more detail at how meditation benefits the body, mind, and spirit.
Chronic, unmanaged stress can make you sick and accelerate aging. As many scientific studies have found, prolonged stress can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease, stomach ulcers, autoimmune diseases, anxiety, cancer, insomnia, chronic fatigue, obesity, depression, and accelerated aging.
In meditation, your body releases stress and reverses the effects of the flight-or-fight response – that ancient instinct we all have to either run from perceived danger or take it on in battle. Intended as a short-term protection mechanism, fight or flight causes our body to speed up our heart rate, increase our blood sugar, suppress our immune system, reduce insulin production, pump out stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, and reduce the blood supply to our digestive organs. All of these reactions happen so that our body can focus on either running away as fast as it can – or staying to fight. Although few people reading this face daily threats to their bodily existence, many live in a prolonged state of fight or flight, generating stress in response to bad traffic, criticism from a spouse, or a disagreement.
Regular meditation dissipates accumulated stress and cultivates a state of restful alertness. There are many compelling studies showing the power of meditation to relieve stress and promote inner calm. For example, a 2011 study published in the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine Journal found that full-time workers who spent a few hours each week practicing mindfulness meditation reported a significant decrease in job stress, anxiety, and depressed mood.
As researchers have found, meditation can help you tap into your brain’s deepest potential to focus, learn and adapt. While scientists used to believe that beyond a certain age, the brain couldn’t change or grow, we now know that brain has a quality known as plasticity, enabling it to grow new neurons and transform throughout our lives. Meditation is a powerful tool for awakening new neural connections and even transforming regions of the brain. A recent study led by Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital found that after only eight weeks of meditation, participants experienced beneficial growth in the brain areas associated with memory, learning, empathy, self-awareness, and stress regulation (the insula, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex). In addition, the meditators reported decreased feelings of anxiety and greater feelings of calm. This study adds to the expanding body of research about the brain’s amazing plasticity and ability to change habitual stress patterns.
Many other studies provide evidence for the value of meditation in improving the ability to stay focused in world filled with increasing distractions and demands on our attention. For example, research conducted by the UCLA Mindful Awareness Center showed that teenagers and adults with ADHD who practiced various forms of meditation for just eight weeks improved their ability to concentrate on tasks, even when attempts were made to distract them.
When you’re feeling balanced and centered, it is much easier to respond with awareness rather than have react in a knee-jerk way or say something that creates toxicity in your relationships. Meditation cultivates equanimity and compassion, allowing you to be present with a loved one, client or co-worker and really listen to what they are saying and what they may need. As you meditate on a regular basis, you develop what is known as “witnessing awareness” – the ability to calmly and objectively observe a situation, notice when you are being triggered, and consciously choose how you want to respond. The ability to be present and aware is extremely valuable in every relationship.
Meditation Improves Your Creativity and Problem-Solving Skills
We each have an estimated 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts a day – unfortunately, many of them are the same thoughts we had yesterday, last week, and last year. The mind tends to get stuck in repetitive thought loops that squeeze out the possibility for new ideas and inspiration. Meditation is a powerful practice for going beyond habitual, conditioned thought patterns into a state of expanded awareness. We connect to what is known as the field of infinite possibilities or pure potentiality, and we open to new insights, intuition, and ideas.
The world’s great innovators, athletes, and other high achievers have described this state as “being in the flow,” being in the right place at the right time, or a state of grace. Time seems to stand still and instead of struggling and trying to force things to happen, everything you need comes naturally to you. You do less and accomplish more. You aren’t burdened by the past or worried about the future; you’re flowing in the ever present eternal now. This higher state of consciousness is the birthplace of all creativity. The mind is in an open, receptive state and is able to receive flashes of insight and fresh perspectives. As Marcel Proust wrote, “The real journey of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in seeing with new eyes.”
The emotional effects of sitting quietly and going within are profound. The deep state of rest produced by meditation triggers the brain to release neurotransmitters, including dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins. Each of these naturally occurring brain chemicals has been linked to different aspects of happiness:
Dopamine plays a key role in the brain’s ability to experience pleasure, feel rewarded, and maintain focus. Serotonin has a calming effect. It eases tension and helps us feel less stressed and more relaxed and focused. Low levels of this neurotransmitter have been linked to migraines, anxiety, bipolar disorder, apathy, feelings of worthlessness, fatigue, and insomnia.
Oxytocin (the same chemical whose levels rise during sexual arousal and breastfeeding), is a pleasure hormone. It creates feelings of calm, contentment, and security, while reducing fear and anxiety.
Endorphins are most commonly known as the chemicals that create the exhilaration commonly labeled “the runner’s high.” These neurotransmitters play many roles related to wellbeing, including decreasing feelings of pain and reducing the side effects of stress.
Meditation choreographs the simultaneous release of these neurotransmitters, something that no single drug can do – and all without side effects. A growing body of medical research is providing scientific evidence that meditation and mindfulness alleviates depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mood-related disorders. A pivotal study (published in the April 2012 issue of Emotion) led by scientists at the University of California, San Francisco, found that participants who underwent a short, intensive meditation program were less depressed, anxious, and stressed, while also experiencing greater compassion and awareness of others’ feelings.
Meditation also can benefit people suffering from chronic pain, potentially decreasing or eliminating the need for medication. A study conducted by Wake Forest University School of Medicine (published in the April 2011 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience) found that participants who attended four 20-minute training sessions over the course of four days experienced a sharp reduction in their sensitivity to pain. In fact, the reduction in pain ratings was significantly greater than those found in similar studies involving placebo pills, morphine, and other painkilling drugs.
Beyond the substantial benefits meditation creates for the mind-body physiology, the greatest gift of meditation is the sense of calm and inner peace it brings into your daily life. When you meditate, you go beyond the mind’s noisy chatter into an entirely different place: the silence of a mind that is not imprisoned by the past or the future. This is important because silence is the birthplace of happiness. Silence is where we get our bursts of inspiration, our tender feelings of compassion and empathy, and our sense of love. These are all delicate emotions, and the chaotic roar of the internal dialogue easily drowns them out. But when you discover the silence in your mind, you no longer have to pay undue attention to all the random images that trigger worry, anger, and pain. When you meditate on a regular basis, all of your thoughts, actions, and reactions are infused with a little more love and mindful attention. The result is a deeper appreciation and a profound awareness of the divine quality of existence.
For more about meditation for health click here.
2) PAIN HAS A PURPOSE
If the purpose of pain is to protect the body from further damage, we need to listen. Usually, only when the pain is acute and limiting we are forced to pay attention. In most cases, we just ignore the pain as when we have been sitting for hours in front of a computer and the overloaded muscles are asking for a change in posture. Because we ignore pain, our muscles tense and develop spasms, which contribute to deform our posture causing misalignments. If we stop using groups of muscles they will shorten and weaken and in time, unattended areas become vulnerable to injuries.
Most of us run looking for medication to alleviate a symptom. But is it really necessary or desirable to counteract a normal defensive bodily response? It is preferable to listen to our body. Forcefully silencing the body cuts our relationship with it.
If necessary, natural therapies such as Reiki, Trager, relaxation techniques and acupuncture will help reduce pain without the undesirable secondary effects of medication. Only in extreme cases should we go for pain killers, and always under a physician's advice.
3) 10 FRUITS RICH IN CALCIUM
As you’re likely aware, calcium is an absolutely essential mineral that helps support development of healthy teeth, bones, muscles, and much more. Calcium plays an integral role in the secretion of a number of hormones and enzymes that are vital for your body function efficiently. As such, it’s important to get adequate calcium; dietary is best but supplementation may also be necessary for many people. Research has repeatedly discovered relationships between calcium deficiency and serious illness such as osteoporosis. Getting enough calcium is a goal everyone needs to be consciously working to achieve.
Why Do We Need Calcium?
Calcium is frequently associated with healthy skeletal health and that association is accurate. However, calcium is needed by the body for much more and calcium deficiency can cause more problems than weak bones and teeth.
Research has established that a low dietary intake of calcium is a risk factor for developing high blood pressure. Conversely, increased dietary calcium intake has been shown to help lower blood pressure in persons with hypertension.
Oddly enough, the Department of Chemical Pathology at Dumfries and Galloway District Hospital in the United Kingdom has published information that shows calcium deficiency to be a cause of rickets.
Making conscious eating decisions is important if you’re going to meet your daily nutritional requirements, it won’t happen by accident. With this comes a thin line between routinely getting the nutrients you need, without it being too routine. If you’re eating the same thing every single day, you’re going to get bored. Here are ten delicious fruits you can alternate between are great sources of calcium, not to mention other nutrients!
Loaded with 43 mg of the recommended 1,000 to 2,000 mg daily intake for the average person, oranges and tangerines also contain a powerful dose of vitamin C and that makes them an excellent choice.
As if their delicious taste wasn’t enough, dried apricots contain 5mg of calcium in a 100g serving. A perfect choice for everyone, but especially hikers, bikers, and campers.
This tropical fruit looks rejuvenating because it is. Kiwi provides 34 mg of calcium per 100g serving. To put that into perspective, a single cup contains 60 mg.
Dates are a tasty treat and each date contains around 15 mg of calcium.
Dried figs may be the best fruit source of calcium there is? At 241 mg of calcium per cup and 13 mg per each individual fig, on average, a small serving of dried figs can go a long way in achieving the goal of adequate calcium intake.
A New York court decided in 1947 that rhubarb, then labeled a vegetable, could be considered a fruit. Despite the identity crisis, what’s solid is rhubarb as a calcium source, containing 348 mg of calcium in a single cup.
An exotic treat, prickly pears, also known as red tunas, contain 58 mg of calcium per each pear.
In addition to aiding the colon, prunes (specifically dried prunes) can offer up 75 mg of calcium in a single cup.
Mulberries are not sold in many grocery stores and can be hard to find. It’s a shame too, they contain up to 55 mg calcium in 1 cup. If you can find them, try them, they’re great!
Kumquats have a rich flavor, are high in vitamins A and C, and contain up to 12 mg of calcium. These little power pellets can be a great boost.
Increasing your fruit and vegetable intake positively impacts your bone health by providing the micronutrients that are absolutely essential for healthy bone formation and potent, antioxidant phytochemicals that resist inflammation. Develop a healthy rotation habitually enjoying the fruits on this list, organic when possible, and not only will you experience the benefits of getting enough calcium, but also the other health benefits that accompany a diet rich in fresh fruits.
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This newsletter is for educational purposes only. It is your right to educate yourself in health and medical knowledge, to seek helpful information and make use of it for your own benefit, and for that of your family. You are the one responsible for your health. You must educate yourself in order to make decisions in all health matters. My views and advices are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medicine, but simply a help you to make educated changes in order to help your body heal itself. If you have a medical condition or concern you should consult your physician.
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