It can be said that most, if not all, of our experience, begins from our perception and the consistent thoughts that we think. These consistent thoughts, for better or for worse, affect all areas of our lives. Most of us can remember a time when we were feeling calm and at peace and something triggered a thought (whether we realized it or not) that immediately changed our mood. Before we knew what hit us, we felt sad, low, and hopeless. Often our environment has not changed, nothing dramatic or traumatic has happened, yet something has shifted and we no longer feel balanced and whole. It began with a thought. We identified with that thought and then became emotionally connected to that thought.
Don’t Believe Everything You Think
It has taken me over a decade of personal and spiritual development to realize that the phrase “change your thinking, change your life” doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be fully in control of your mind. Most of us aren’t able to monitor or control every thought in our heads and if you’ve ever tried, you know it’s quite exhausting of a task. So, I say, cut your brain some slack, it’s just doing its job.
Brains think and, at least in my experience, no matter how much meditation you do, it will still be doing its’ job and pretty darn well. Thoughts will always come and go, but the important piece to remember is you don’t have to believe everything you think. This may seem shocking to some and quite elementary to others, but when I realized this it made a huge difference in how I view my inner landscape. Once I realized that there are many factors that contribute to my thoughts and they are not necessarily what I believe, feel or want to take action on, I felt truly liberated. So I shifted my personal growth work to focus on allowing my thoughts to be just what they are – thoughts. Soon my work became questioning my thoughts and discontinuing to identify or believe in everything I think.
Remember the Mind-Body Connection
There are a few things we can do when we are stuck in a mental rut. Most of us realize that our thoughts affect our actions, but did you know that our actions affect our thoughts? It is important to remember this mind-body connection, especially when it seems difficult to change our thought patterns. For example, it is less likely to think negative thoughts while you are using your body in a positive way: Try dancing around to some uplifting music and smiling in front of the mirror. Put yourself in an uplifting environment such as taking a walk in a park, practicing yoga, or working in your garden. Often you will find your thinking will shift with your body.
Be Your Own Best Friend
Challenging our thoughts and shifting our mindset is a warrior’s journey, yet not everyone is up for the task. For my fellow warrior’s out there, you will need to learn to be your own best friend. During times of change and growth, you may feel alone and changing our thoughts may seem impossible. Ask yourself “what do I need right now to feel better?” When negative thoughts arise, talk to yourself as your best friend would talk to you. Often we talk to ourselves in ways that do not promote positivity and thus, inhibit growth. For example, if you have the thought “I will never get well,” you could think of what your best friend would say to you instead and respond by saying, “You are doing the best you can right now, each day you are making better choices for your life and your body. In time, you will see a difference.” There is no sense in lying to ourselves, so be honest, but be kind – just like a best friend would.
It is important to practice mindfulness and bring more awareness to what we are thinking on a regular basis. This doesn’t mean you have to track every thought but become aware of your most consistent or recurring thought patterns. Our subconscious minds will act on any thought as a command, whether the message is positive or negative. A practice I like to use to generate mindfulness is to sit in silent meditation for at least 5 minutes per day and imagine I am sitting by a small stream of water. There is a tree nearby that has leaves falling into the stream. Each thought I have is a leaf floating on the water. I notice the thought or leaf and I let it pass me by.
Find & Replace
Another practice I have used over the years is to carry a small notebook with me everywhere I go for a week and write down every thought that I have. This may seem daunting, but it is well worth the effort. It will be impossible to write down all of your thoughts, but write down as many as you can. As you write them down, question them: Do I truly believe this statement? Is it true? Only choose to own the statements that are absolutely true for you.
As you look at your list, cross out any negative or hurtful thoughts and replace them with a positive version of that thought. For example a fearful thought about your work or job, such as “I don’t know what I’m doing, everyone is going to laugh at me,” could be replaced with something like “Each day I am learning and growing and improving. It is natural to feel uncertain at times, but I am doing my best.” Consistently replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts and affirmations will eventually become second nature and have an enormous effect on our whole being – mentally, spiritually, and physically.
The Domino Effect
When we make the effort to replace our negative thoughts often we begin experiencing positive emotions and have a brighter outlook for our lives. Positive emotions broaden your sense of possibility and open your mind up to thoughts of a positive future. These thoughts affect not only your mind but increase your body’s ability to heal itself because it no longer has to fight the effects of stress from negative thinking. Positive thoughts become the domino effect of health and are often the beginning of our journey for a holistic, healthy life.
“Earthing,” also called “grounding,” is the concept that our bodies are meant to come into contact with the Earth (a “grounding” force) on a regular basis.
At no point in our history have we been as disconnected or insulated from the Earth as we are today.
We wear insulated rubber-soled shoes that do not conduct electricity but insulate or prevent the Earths’ conduction or transmission. We drive insulated cars with rubber tires and live in insulated homes. Positive electrons in the form of free radicals can build up in our bodies, but direct contact with the grounding force of the Earth balances them out. With the high prevalence of electromagnetic waves, Wi-Fi, and mobile phone waves, many of us have a high amount of positive electrons built up in our bodies. When in direct contact with the Earth, your body becomes suffused with negative charged free electrons which balance the positive electrons.
Studies have found that grounding provides health benefits, such as better sleep, less pain, reduced stress and tension, and better immune function compared to study participants who were seldom grounded.
According to an article from the Journal of Environmental and Public Health of the National Institute for Health (link below), “Omnipresent throughout the environment is a surprisingly beneficial, yet overlooked global resource for health maintenance, disease prevention, and clinical therapy: the surface of the Earth itself.”
The article goes on to say “The surface of the planet is electrically conductive (except in limited ultra-dry areas such as deserts), and its negative potential is maintained (i.e., its electron supply replenished) by the global atmospheric electrical circuit. Mounting evidence suggests that the Earth’s negative potential can create a stable internal bio-electrical environment for the normal functioning of all body systems. Moreover, oscillations of the intensity of the Earth’s potential may be important for setting the biological clocks regulating diurnal body rhythms, such as cortisol secretion.”
In addition, it states the following: “Emerging scientific research supports the concept that the Earth’s electrons induce multiple physiological changes of clinical significance, including reduced pain, better sleep, a shift from sympathetic to parasympathetic tone in the autonomic nervous system (ANS), and a blood-thinning effect.”
Earthing: How To
We practice earthing by connecting our body with the earth by touching any bare skin to a conductive material such as grass (preferably wet), wet sand, a river, lake, or sea. Grounding to the Earth changes your physiology immediately. The more you ground, the more you can benefit because you are at your most natural electrical state when connected to the Earth. Your body is immediately electrically balanced and flooded with free electrons.
If you live in a city where the actual earth is hard to find, concrete is also a conductive substance made of water and minerals. It sits on the Earth and retains moisture. So free electrons will pass through just as they will if you are sitting or standing on grass or open ground. Asphalt, on the other hand, is made from petrochemicals and is not conductive.
Take your socks off. Get your bare feet in grass, sand, or mud as often as possible.
During the winter months, some people benefit from an earthing mat under their desk or they sleep on an earthing sheet. Both of these are connected to a grounded outlet in your home. Please note that these are good options when necessary, but nothing comes close to your bare feet or other parts of your body in the grass as often as possible.
Benefits of Earthing
Grounding benefits are particular to the individual, that is, the amount of time it takes to experience relief of anxiety or inflammation-related pain symptoms differs from person to person. Some people report feeling better after just 20 minutes of grounding and research has shown physiological changes and significant improvements in the body’s electrical activity after 30 to 40 minutes.
For people with chronic conditions, it may take longer to experience any relief of symptoms such as arthritic inflammatory pain; relief may be significant, overnight, gradual, total, or partial. Generally speaking, benefits of grounding are dose-related – that is, the more time spent regularly grounding, the better one’s chances of symptom relief. Isn’t it worth a try?
Journal of Environmental and Public Health of the National Institute for Health
We are our bodies and our bodies are continually communicating to us. For women, and the communities we are a part of, menstruation is, or can be, a source of power and deep wisdom. The challenge, if we choose to accept it, in our process of creating holistic health and balance in our lives, is to take time out to listen during this time each month. Priceless pieces of information about our physiological and emotional well being are shared with us if we tune in and become aware.
My own journey toward holistic balance has involved a process of owning my femininity and healing a deep wound about what it means to be female. I was a late bloomer and did not begin menstruating until I was 17. I was deeply ashamed of this as it seemed that all the girls had already “become a woman” and I felt left out. I have memories of “pretending” I was having my period so as to be accepted by my peers.
Once I did begin to menstruate, I spent much time and effort trying to hide my menstruation out of shame that I would not be accepted or would be viewed as weak or “high maintenance” by friends, lovers, or my coworkers at my corporate job. As I write this I find it ironic that when I was not bleeding I tried to pretend I was and when I was bleeding I tried to pretend I was not. We just can win with ourselves sometimes!
A New Way To Be
Now I am on a new path, and with the help of reading books like Her Blood Is Gold, by Lara Owen, I’m teaching myself a new way to be. I no longer pretend that I am “just one of the guys” or try to hide my menstruation. I have realized that I need space and quiet time during my moon time, as I refer to it. I do not apologize for my need for space during this time and I have made intentional, and some times uncomfortable, choices that have led to my being surrounded by friends, family, and a lifestyle that supports this. My moon time has become a sacred time for me to reflect on the previous month and prepare for the upcoming month. I take time to rest and nurture myself during this time, even as painful as it often is, and I use this monthly wisdom and learning to nurture my life and the lives of those around me.
One of my favorite meditations to do during the most painful times, is to visualize that I am connected (be that physically, emotionally, spiritually or mentally) to all of the women who have bled before me, all the women who are bleeding with me now, and all the women who will bleed in the future. This is a powerful thought and visualization that gives me strength and empowers me to use the gift of menstruation to go deep within myself and connect with the wisdom of others.
You see, the thing is, if we really believe that we must look at our lives from a holistic perspective in order to foster health and wholeness, which I do, then we have to look at all parts of our experience as a feeling, sensing beings. As women, when our bodies ache before or during menstruation, it may be trying to tell us that it is tired of being told to go away. It’s tired of being put last, it’s ready to have a bigger voice in our life. There may be a message there if we slow down and listen. In my experience, the more I try to pretend I am “just one of the guys” or hide that I need to nurture myself during my moon time, the more it requires my undivided attention.
Symptoms Wake Us Up
As Lara Owen states in her book, “Symptoms wake us up…They are messages from the body. If you have a healthy lifestyle, a good diet, and enough sleep and you still have menstrual symptoms, you have to go deeper and ask yourself what your body is trying to tell you.” I invite you to listen and use what you learn to nourish your body and your spirit. I am on the journey with you.
If you own a pet you are probably very familiar with the way they make you feel after a long day. Our bodies and minds relax and unwind when playing with, petting or cuddling with our furry friends. A key component to overall health and wellness is experiencing love and joy daily and as often as possible. Our pets can help us with this and, over time, generate positive emotions and feelings in our bodies which will contribute to holistic health.
The Love of Otis
I was a late bloomer when it came to owning a pet. Although I grew up on a farm with many dogs, cats, and other animals, none of them were ever “mine.” They were family pets who loved us all but preferred no one. So when my 13-year-old son decided he wanted a dog, then purchased it himself and lost interest in two weeks, I became a doggy mom. It was one of the highlights of my life. Otis was a black cocker spaniel who knew my every mood and seemed to know every thought. A divorcee at the time, I considered him my soul mate. I believe God brought him into my life because he knew how much I was going to need him and Otis got me through some very tough times. Having recently lost him, I am acutely aware of how much he did for me. He was there when I was depressed or fearful, pressing himself against my side and making me put my attention on him instead of my worries. He was there when I was happy-bouncing, smiling, and sharing my joy. He was there anytime I needed him for whatever reason. I miss him so much. I wish all of us could have such a friend and confidante full of deep, unconditional love, especially in difficult times.
Pets Can Improve Your Health
Because of Otis, I believe in the numerous studies that have demonstrated that the average companion animal can deliver extraordinary physical and mental health results. They have shown that in some cases, having a pet can improve your health more than medication alone – or at all. It’s no wonder then that more than half of households overall have a pet in the family.
WebMD.com lists the following ways pets help our health:
- Uncomplicated love: Are your relationships with family and loved ones complicated and frayed? A pet can be a great antidote. “With a pet, you can just feel,” says Teri Wright, Ph.D., a psychologist in private practice in Santa Ana, Calif. “You don’t have to worry about hurting your pet’s feelings or getting the advice you don’t want.”
- Responsibility: You might not think you can take care of a pet right now. Taking care of yourself may seem hard enough, but experts say that adding a little responsibility can help. It adds a new and positive focus to your life. “Taking care of a pet can help give you a sense of your own value and importance,” Cook says. It will remind you that you are capable — that you can do more than you might think.”
- Activity: Are you barely getting off the couch these days? You need to get more physical activity. Pets can help. “If you have a dog, that dog needs to be walked,” Cook says, “A little extra physical activity is good for your physical and mental health.”
- Routine: Having a daily schedule helps people with depression. An animal’s natural routine — waking you in the morning, demanding food or walks — can help you stay on track.
- Companionship: Depression can isolate you. It can make you pull back from your friends and loved ones. If you have a pet, you’re never alone. That can really make a difference.
- Social interaction: Having a pet can gently push you to get more social contact. You might chat with others while walking your dog at the park or waiting at the vet. Pets are natural icebreakers and other pet owners love to talk about their animals.
- Touch: Studies show that people feel better when they have physical contact with others. Pets offer something similar. There’s something naturally soothing about petting a cat on your lap. Studies have shown that petting a dog can lower your heart rate, too.
- Better health: Research has found that owning a dog can lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormones, and boost levels of feel-good chemicals in the brain. One study of Chinese women found that dog owners exercised more often, slept better, reported better fitness levels and fewer sick days, and saw their doctors less often than people without dogs.
Caring For Another Gives Us Purpose
Pets love us unconditionally, although my cat, Phil, doesn’t show it like a dog, he interacts with me consistently, brightening my day with his unconscious arrogance and deciding that he (not me) needs a snuggle. Caring for another brings us out of ourselves and gives us purpose, whether we wish it or not. When we have a loving relationship with a pet, we are less lonely, less stressed, less depressed, more joyful, better able to relate to others, and have a greater sense of well being. Your pet can be a best friend or even like a child. You can share secrets with them and they will not judge you. They can help bring you lots of laughter and joy. They like to be touched just like you do and they need you. We all love to feel needed. Pet personalities are as varied as they are for people. Some are stubborn, timid, mild-mannered, mean, grumpy, shy, happy, sad, or any number of other things. But one thing is common among them all… they love you! We all need to feel loved and to give love. Our companion animals and furry friends can open our hearts if we will only allow them to.