Oh holidays, how joyous you are. Driving to and fro. Coordinating schedules with friends, family, and somehow squeezing in your own personal life somewhere in there. It can get a little overwhelming to keep your sanity or as I call it sometimes, your positive thinking in flow.
Make your happiness your New Year’s resolution this 2016. I’m dead serious. Make the conscious effort to make your joy an everyday reality. It’s an exercise, mediation, whatever you want to call it. Make it your 2016 practice. With so much focus on what we put inside our bodies, let’s talk about our mind, and how it plays such an important part in our health.
Have you ever caught yourself in the car replaying a conversation? How someone treated you? Talked to you? Did you keep yourself focused on those negative feelings instead of realizing how lucky you are to be driving, while looking at a beautiful purple sky.
“Change your thinking,” I heard myself say. I let myself realize I was playing negative stories on loop. It’s the worst. It keeps you in a bad mood. You get nothing productive done, and then you end up snapping at everyone else around you. When all you have to do is practice letting go of those negative thoughts only you can hear.
Ending the negative loop also gives your body other benefits. When the Mayo Clinic extolls the virtues of positive thinking you gotta take notice.
Increase your life span
Lower your rates of depression
Lower your levels of distress
Have greater resistance to the common cold
Have better psychological and physical well-being
Reduce your risk of death from cardiovascular disease
Have better coping skills during hardships and times of stress
The way you’re mindful at the grocery store for your health, is the same way you gotta increase your positive thinking. You put veggies in your cart, do the same with your mind. Think of it as positive mental veggies. Your body will love you.
So how do you start? How do you practice positive thinking when you’re fighting traffic on the 405? Barbara Markway Ph.D,. of Psychology Today, has some great ideas for better headspace thoughts in 2016.
Ask yourself necessary questions about your thoughts such as:
Is this thought true?
Is this thought important?
Is this thought helpful?
Instead of saying “I’m a loser,” say, “I’m having the thought that I’m a loser.” Instead of saying, “I’m going to blow this test,” say “I’m having the thought that I’m going to blow this test.” The difference may seem subtle, but it can help you gain the perspective that you are not your thoughts.
Thank your mind.
If you’re having anxious thoughts such as, “I hope this plane doesn’t crash…I hope the pilot knows what he’s doing…” say, “Thank you, mind. Thank you for trying to keep me safe. But there’s nothing that you really need to do right now. I’ve got it covered.” I’m big on notes to myself, so sometimes I write my mind a letter of appreciation for its efforts, but also let it know it can take a break.
Let them float away.
This one involves imagery. You put each negative thought on a leaf and imagine it floating down a stream. When you have another thought, as you will, you put it on another leaf and watch it float by.
Sing your thoughts.
Try singing your thoughts to the alphabet song or to Row, Row, Row Your Boat. Your thoughts will certainty sound absurd this way, which is the whole point. Say them in a funny voice. Try saying your thoughts in a funny voice. Maybe do an imitation of a cartoon character.
Name your stories.
Many times our thoughts are repetitive and involve the same stories. My story frequently is, “I don’t really know what I’m doing.” When thoughts come up along that storyline, I can say, “Oh, here’s my I’m Incompetent story, and just let it go.
Do it anyway.
Perhaps the most important tip is to remember that you can have a thought and perform any kind of behavior at the same time. If it’s something you care about, it’s worth it to let the thoughts simply be. You don’t have to do anything about them.
I know this post broke a little bit of the norm. We take such good care of our physical bodies with exercise and diet, but those aren’t the only things that matter. Positive thinking for 2016 will make our lives better, and the lives of everyone else around you. Let good things happen to you.
What goes in must come out. That rings true for what we eat or drink – or the lack thereof. Urine color is one of the body’s indicators if it is receiving enough water. When a person is dehydrated, urine output is decreased and color is darker. Certain diseases (or food!) can change the color of urine completely! Either way, keeping track of what you eat and drink and what comes out of your body after is a must to keep healthy.
A soothing bath with a few drops of lavender essential oil is perfect to unwinding from life’s stresses. Just make sure you don’t accidentally slip anything vanilla scented in there as well, since that creates a spell that summons a ghostly, howling spectre from the world beyond. And that’s just not relaxing at all.
Check out the latest post on Building A Simple Life
Naturally Healthy Sweeteners 101
We’ve chosen to give up poisonous refined sugar – what are our alternatives for sweetening our coffee without changing the taste; which sweeteners are healthy and compatible for baking and cooking choices? As we learned with choosing healthy fats, so much of the ‘choosing factor’ lies within how the raw natural product is processed. We will share some ‘good’ sweetener options for similar taste and compatibility in recipe ingredient replacements – I was surprised about one product that I thought fell into the ‘good’ category… Let’s begin with why artificial sweeteners are so bad for us. As you may imagine, every natural healthcare provider has great in depth information around this subject – let’s check in with a couple, beginning with Dr. Mercola who has several good articles around this subject. Numbered resources can be viewed in the linked articles below.
Artificial Sweeteners Are Worse Than Sugar – Sweetener lesson 101 is to avoid artificial sweeteners like the plague. There’s little doubt in my mind that artificial sweeteners can be even worse for you than sugar and fructose, and there is scientific evidence to back up that conclusion. In 2005, I wrote the most comprehensively documented book I ever wrote called Sweet Deception, in which I expose the many concerns related to the consumption of artificial sweeteners. It’s an extremely well-researched book, and it’s as valid today as it was when I first wrote it. I spent over three years and had five health care professionals work on it with me, and the maker of Splenda, Johnson & Johnson, had their legal firm write me a 20-page letter threatening to sue me if I published the book. Needless to say, the book was published and they did not sue me as the information was all true. Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know:
Aspartame – Aspartame is a synthetic chemical composed of three ingredients
– two amino acids and a methyl ester bond. Aspartame is the ingredient found in NutraSweet. It is also found in Equal, Spoonful, Equal Measure, AminoSweet, Benevia, NutraTaste, Canderel, and many popular “diet” foods and beverages. I’ve gone on record saying that aspartame is a bigger public health threat than high fructose corn syrup and can lead to birth defects, cancer and weight gain, among many aspartame side effects. It’s also been linked to brain tumors. Forgetting for a moment that aspartame is metabolized inside your body into both wood alcohol (a poison) and formaldehyde (which embalms tissue and is not eliminated from your body through the normal waste filtering done by your liver and kidneys), the trouble with the component parts of aspartame is one of volume…
is actually NOT sugar, despite its marketing slogan “Made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar.” Rather it’s a chlorinated artificial sweetener in line with aspartame and saccharin, and with detrimental health effects to match. Sucralose (Splenda) was approved by the FDA in 1998 as a tabletop sweetener and for use in products such as baked goods, nonalcoholic beverages, chewing gum, frozen dairy desserts, fruit juices, and gelatins. Sucralose is also permitted as a general-purpose sweetener for all processed foods. The approval was given after the FDA supposedly reviewed more than 110 animal and human safety studies, but as you’ll soon find out, out of these 110 studies, only two were human studies, and the longest one was conducted for four days! The Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health found even further disturbing news besides weight gain. Sucralose (Splenda):
Reduces the amount of good bacteria in your intestines by 50 percent
Increases the pH level in your intestines, and
Affects a glycoprotein in your body that can have crucial health effects, particularly if you’re on certain medications
Be Critical of “All Natural” Sweetener Claims – With artificial sweeteners out of the picture, let’s look at some all-natural sweeteners. Natural sweeteners such as honey and agave may seem like a healthier choice, but not only are they loaded with fructose, many are also highly processed. In that regard, you’re not gaining a thing. The health effects will be the same, since it’s the fructose that causes the harm.
Honey is also high in fructose, averaging around 53 percent, but contrary to agave
it is completely natural in its raw form, and has many health benefits when used in moderation. Keep in mind you’re not likely to find high quality raw honey in your local grocery store. Most of the commercial Grade A honey is highly processed and of poor quality. All in all, it’s important to realize that regardless of the source (be it HFCS, honey or agave), refined fructose:
Tricks your body into gaining weight by fooling your metabolism, as it turns off your body’s appetite-control system. Fructose does not appropriately stimulate insulin, which in turn does not suppress ghrelin (the “hunger hormone”) and doesn’t stimulate leptin (the “satiety hormone”), which together result in your eating more and developing insulin resistance.
Activates a key enzyme that causes cells to store fat; this is the so-called “fat switch” revealed in Dr. Richard Johnson’s book by the same name.
Rapidly leads to weight gain and abdominal obesity (“beer belly”), decreased HDL, increased LDL, elevated triglycerides, elevated blood sugar, and high blood pressure—i.e., classic metabolic syndrome.
Is broken down in your liver just like alcohol, and produces many of the side effects of chronic alcohol use, including non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Interestingly enough, research has shown that soft drinks increase your risk of NAFLD independently of metabolic syndrome #9. Over time leads to insulin resistance, which is not only an underlying factor of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, but also many cancers.
As we look into Agave Nectar, Dr. Josh Axe has a great article in which he quotes Dr. Oz’s changed stance of Agave after further research… this one surprised me – but just as with other naturally healthy foods being ‘good’ in the raw form, it is all about the processing that changes how dangerous they are for our health. Numbered resources can be viewed in the complete article.
Agave Nectar – Being a relative new product on the market, limited research has
been done on the health benefits and risks of agave. Yet, as research surfaces, we’re starting to see these types of official definitions and descriptions from medical dictionaries, which highlight that agave may not be what it’s cracked up to be: “Agave is not healthier than honey, sugar, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), or any other type of sweetener.” ~ A.D.A.M Medical Encyclopedia (2) In fact, the truth about agave nectar has come full circle and now a number of health experts are actually condemning it. A perfect example is how Dr. Oz has officially changed his official stance on the sweetener. “Over the past few months, I’ve become increasingly concerned about a sweetener that I’ve recommended on my show in the past. After careful consideration of the available research, today I’m asking you to eliminate agave from your kitchen and your diet.” (3) Reading this may shock you because you’ve probably heard that agave is a “natural” health food. It is actually manufactured using a highly processed procedure that basically strips the naturally occurring agave juice (referred to as piña) of all nutritional value. Shockingly, the end product contains more fructose than HFCS, which makes it extremely dangerous to consume!
Keeping in mind that moderation of use and raw organic is best for any of the ‘sweeter things in life’ whether it be fruit or sweeteners – we do have some options. As we learned above, honey in its natural raw form is a safe alternative to the other sugars and works great in baking and cooking. Let’s go back to Dr. Mercola’s article to check out four others.
The Safest Sugar-Alternatives – Two of the best sugar substitutes are from the plant kingdom: Stevia and Lo Han Guo (also spelled Luo Han Kuo). Stevia, a
highly sweet herb derived from the leaf of the South American stevia plant, is sold as a supplement. It’s completely safe in its natural form and can be used to sweeten most dishes and drinks. Personally I believe Steviais the best sweetener available today and is the one I personally use and travel with. Some people object to a bitter metallic type of aftertaste but it has been my experience this is related to the way the Stevia plant is processed. If you were to eat the whole fresh leaf of the plant there is no metallic aftertaste. So if you are one of those that have objected to the taste of Stevia, considering using a different brand until you find one that tastes good. But you won’t be able to look for this in the sweetener section in the U.S. as the FDA made Stevia illegal to use as a sweetener. You have to purchase it in the supplement section. Lo Han Kuo is another natural sweetener similar to Stevia, but it’s a bit more expensive and harder to find. In China, the Lo Han fruit has been used as a sweetener for centuries, and it’s about 200 times sweeter than sugar. It received FDA GRAS status in 2009.
A third alternative is to use pure glucose. You can buy pure glucose (dextrose) for about $5-7 per pound. It is only 70 percent as sweet as sucrose, so you’ll end up using a bit more of it for the same amount of sweetness, making it slightly more expensive than regular sugar—but still well worth it for your health as it does not contain any fructose whatsoever. Contrary to fructose, glucose can be used directly by every cell in your body and as such is a far safer sugar alternative.
Sugar alcohols can be identified by the commonality of “ol” at the end of their
name, such as xylitol, glucitol, sorbitol, maltitol, mannitol, glycerol, and lactitol. They’re not as sweet as sugar, and they do contain fewer calories, but they’re not calorie-free. One reason that sugar alcohols provide fewer calories than sugar is because they’re not completely absorbed into your body. Because of this, eating too many foods containing sugar alcohols can lead to abdominal gas and diarrhea. It’s also worth noting that maltitol, a commonly used sugar alcohol, spikes blood sugar almost as much as a starchy new potato. Xylitol, in comparison, does not have a great effect on your blood sugar, so from that perspective may be a better choice.
So, in moderation, some sugar alcohols can be a better choice than highly refined sugar, fructose or artificial sweeteners. Of the various sugar alcohols, xylitol is one of the best. When it is pure, the potential side effects are minimal, and it actually comes with some benefits such as fighting tooth decay. All in all, I would say that xylitol is reasonably safe, and potentially even a mildly beneficial sweetener. (As a side note, xylitol is toxic to dogs and some other animals, so be sure to keep it out of reach of your family pets.)
I have never used Lo Han Kuo or pure glucose, so I am not sure how they would be in baking or cooking. Stevia and Honey are good alternatives in cooking and baking – Xylitol is a great replacement for your coffee as it is very similar to refined sugars taste. I have used Xylitol in baking – it works, but it doesn’t brown your cookies and adds a different texture to your baked goods. So there are options that are safe and tasty! As with any naturally healthy food, drinking or eating anything in excess is not beneficial for our bodies – it is all about moderation and variety…