The information in Holistic at Heart is not a substitute for professional medical advice, examination, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before starting any new treatment or making any changes to existing treatment. Do not delay seeking or disregard medical advice based on information in this blog.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Working Mom

For any of you who are wondering where I've been for the last two months, I've been working in my clinical internship to get my Holistic Health Practitioner diploma. Until last week, I have been working at a senior's living facility every weekday. For the first time since my daughter has been born, I have been a true working mom.

I'm glad that this experience is now over because I don't think being a full-time working mom is for me (or for my daughter for that matter). I'm not saying that being a stay-at-home mom is in any way easy, but at least when I stay at home I don't feel guilty at how little time I am spending with my daughter and I don't have to constantly leave her while she is screaming and crying that she wants me to stay. As a working mom, the moment I got home my daughter wanted all my attention but I still had to cook supper, and on the weekend I had to run around doing various things like groceries and laundry. It seems like even when I was home, I didn't have much time to spend with her.

The internship was perhaps a little worse than some (though not all) jobs. At rush hour, it was a 45 minute drive from home partly in bumper-to-bumper traffic, which added to an already long day. And after Sarah went to bed at night, I had to complete loads of paperwork, research and various assignments before I could go to bed myself. Since my husband has had a particularly busy schedule himself over the last while, we were lucky if the dishes got done twice a week!

On the other hand, staying at home every day puts me into a rut, drains my energy, and deprives me of adult human contact. I personally find it exceedingly difficult to be the sole focus of my daughter's every demand (and she has no small list) every day and all day. The activities she enjoys doing are not usually what I most enjoy, which is sometimes good for me and sometimes exhausting. I know it's all part of being a mother and I am so fortunate to be able to stay home with her but I need something to fill my own cup a little more.

I think my ideal solution is to work one or two days a week. Now I'm not just talking about going to any old job just to scrounge up a little cash and waste some time, but real, fulfilling work where I'm doing something I really enjoy. Two days gets me that time away from home I need to come back refreshed and ready to be fully present with my daughter.

Now if I could just put that plan into action...

How do you feel about being a work/home situation?

Image: Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Find a Mirror

It never ceases to amaze me how blind we can be to our own problems. We often repeat patterns in our lives time after time before we even notice what we're doing, let alone change it. Sometimes it seems like no matter how hard we try to work ourselves out we make very little progress without some type of feedback like a mirror.

Try a little experiment... Go into your bathroom (or whatever room that has a mirror) and look at yourself. What did you look at? Your hair? Your skin? Your clothes? And what did you purposely avoid looking at? Did you look at your eyes? Did you look INTO your eyes? Go back to that mirror and truly make eye contact with yourself; keep that eye contact as long as you can. How comfortable were you with that experience? Were your thoughts and feeling positive or negative? For many people, it can be hard for them to face themselves. If it was hard for you, consider exploring why and practice until it becomes easier.

While a physical mirror is mostly helpful when dealing with some physical issues, taking the word mirror in a more metaphorical sense is even more useful. There are a number of different things that can serve as a mirror. For me, I can get a lot of insight from trying to answer questions that I find in self-help and spiritual books. Sometimes writing in a journal can help provide a sense of reflection. In fact, most any of the self-awareness practices I describe serve as a mirror in some sense or another. But I think some of the most useful mirrors are the people around us.

People can act as mirrors passively or actively. In the passive sense, you can observe the people around you and your relationships to them to learn more about yourself. Examine why you consistently react the way you do with certain people, whether positive or negative. You may think that will just tell you something about the other person but you would be surprised at what it can tell you about yourself. Many times, something we dislike about someone else is something we dislike about ourselves (even though it may be more obvious and pronounced in the other person).

In a more active sense, you can ask another person direct questions about yourself. Choose a friend or family member you trust to tell you what they think your biggest blind spot is. Others around us tend to be able to see things about ourselves that we miss. Of course not everyone you know is able to give relatively unbiased information about you so choose carefully who you ask or see a professional (such as a therapist, counsellor or holistic health practitioner) instead.

And of course, you can combine your "mirrors." Find a trusted friend to work through a self-help book with or discuss spiritual questions with. Doing so on a regular basis can help you change things that may not be working for you in your life.

What mirrors can you use in your life?

Image: Arvind Balaraman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Voter Apathy: A Sign of the Need for Change

I know I've brought up the health benefits of voting before (see previous blog post A Vote for Good Health), but a federal election is coming up in Canada and I'm saddened by what I'm observing.

I see one group of people who are desperately trying to get people to vote against a particular party to the point where they almost don't care who you vote for otherwise. Others are devoted to a single political party and will vote for that party no matter what has happened in the party or with the leader. Some people take the time to research current events and make an informed decision election by election.

But even with all these types of voters and more, what I see the most lately is apathy for this election. Looking at the 2000 Canadian general election, statistics show that most people who did not vote didn't like the choices of parties/candidates, had a sense that their vote wouldn't matter, or didn't care about the issues.[1] I might even go to say that there is a distinct lack of hope in Canadian voters and it's gotten worse over the past few years. I really think people feel that it doesn't really matter who they vote for, nothing will change anyway. Isn't it funny that here in a supposed democracy, people feel like they have no power? If we were living under a dictator, we might be rising up for our rights but because we still have some perceived freedoms we throw up our hands and say that the loss of our democratic rights, erosion of our health care system, slow deterioration of our beautiful environment and many other things are simply out of our control. My heart breaks just thinking about it all.

ANY political party that tells you that this is not the time for change is lying. The lack of hope and power of the individual Canadian is a clear sign that change is needed and as soon as possible. What can you do? Well, at the very least, if you are Canadian or when it comes time for your own country's elections, please vote. If you don't like the leaders, vote based on the candidates in your own riding. If you want to do more, start speaking up for voting system reform. Educate yourself about voting system reform and the different options. Write to your representative and ask for change.

If you think that the issues in this election don't matter to you, then you have missed something because this election affects all Canadians. Please vote!

If you are looking for more information on voting...
Elections Canada
Election Almanac
Fair Vote Canada
Rick Mercer's Rant on Youth Vote
Join a Vote Mob

[1] Rhonda Parkinson. Voter Turnout in Canada, 2007. Accessed April 18, 2011 from http://www.mapleleafweb.com/features/voter-turnout-canada

Image: Keattikorn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Power of Positive Thinking

When I was younger, I hated hearing someone say "think positive!" I thought, "I can be negative if I want to!" I didn't see how thinking positively would change anything. After all, I was being realistic, wasn't I?

There are a wide variety of beliefs on positive thinking. Some people go as far as to believe that your thinking creates your reality. While that might be true on a certain level, let's look at the less disputable effects of positive thinking.

According to the Mayo Clinic, health benefits of positive thinking include:[1]
  • Increased life span
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Lower levels of distress
  • Greater resistance to the common cold
  • Better psychological and physical well-being
  • Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  • Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress

Positive thinking isn't going to change what happens to you but it can change your ability to deal with what happens to you. Some people think that positive thinking means you can never be sad, down, or angry. Being positive doesn't mean you have to walk around with your head in the clouds singing "la la-la la-la," or pretend that the world is a perfect place. And of course, it isn't an all or nothing thing - there are degrees of positive thinking.

If you're not already a positive thinker and want to start moving that way, chances are that it will build over time - you probably won't be there overnight. It can take some time and effort to change your thinking unless you're willing to use some practice that helps change your unconscious thinking (like Neuro-Linguistic Programming or hypnotherapy). However you choose to do it, it's worth learning to think more positively to improve your health and quality of life.

Is your glass half-empty, half-full, or somewhere in between?

[1] Mayo Clinic. (2009). Positive thinking: Reduce stress, enjoy life more, accessed April 11, 2011 from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/positive-thinking/SR00009

Image: Graur Codrin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Statistical Probablility or Divine Mystery

The world is an interesting place. Countless hours of scientific work gives us more and more hints as to how things work and yet we're nowhere near truly understanding the world. In all this, I have discovered two very different ways of looking at everything. You can see the world as a fabulous mystery or you can try to analyze everything into statistics. Neither view is necessarily better than the other but it is good to know that you have a choice and that at any given time one view may serve you better than another.

Let's look at an example... Statistically, it is clearly a bad idea to buy a lottery ticket. The chances of winning the big jackpot on a lottery ticket differ from lottery to lottery. Say the odds are 1 in 13,983,816 - that's 1 in 14 million odds of the big win. But if 14 million tickets are bought, there's a good chance that one of those tickets will win it and that one person will have beat the odds. At the individual level, the statistics seem to rule but when you look at the world as a bigger place the statistics take on a bit of a different meaning. I'm not saying that you should spend all your money on the lottery because it's still clearly not the way to make money, but if you're inspired to buy a ticket for the fun of it, don't let the stats ruin your fun.

Now, think for a moment of yourself and how you came to be on the Earth as you are. Your parents had to survive long enough to meet each other and have children together. Each of their sets of parents had to do the same as did their parents and their parents and so on and so on. Some of those ancestors lived through horrible diseases, terrible accidents, horrific wars, ice ages and countless other life-threatening experiences. Some of those terrible things may have even brought some of those men and women together. What would the statistical probability of each of those people surviving and procreating with each other exactly as they did? YOU, in a way, are almost statistically impossible. Of course, some people would say that for the race to survive somebody has to have survived and been born and that it's just random that you happen to be someone who ended up here. But that is one of the choices you can make... Either you are a product of luck or you are a beautiful divine mystery that has already beat the odds. I prefer to look at it the second way.

There are lots of common present-day situations where people "beat the odds." There are many people who have been told that statistically they won't make the Olympics, they won't get the job, they won't have children, or even that they won't survive their disease and some of those people have made the Olympics, gotten the job, had children, and survived their diseases. Each of those people had the choice of seeing themselves as a statistic or of living their life as they chose.

Every time you think that you can't do something, for whatever reason, remember that you may have defied reason to even exist. If someone's statistics are standing between you and something you want, go for what you want and forget the statistics!

Image: Graur Codrin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What is Energy?

Recently I was in one of my classes and the topic was energy. My teacher asked us "what is energy?" I thought this should be a cinch for me to answer... After all I studied computer engineering for 4 years including classes in physics, chemistry and electrical engineering. As I listened to my teacher, I was amazed to discover what I did and did not know about energy.

According to the dictionary, energy is "a fundamental entity of nature that is transferred between parts of a system in the production of physical change within the system and usually regarded as the capacity for doing work."[1] In other words it can get transferred and it can do work. So that's what energy can do, but what IS it?

There are different forms of energy including radiant, chemical, thermal, mechanical (kinetic or potential), electric, nuclear and electromagnetic. Energy can be changed from one form into another. So that's where energy can be found or what it can look like, but what IS it?

Then there's the famous E=mc2. Almost everyone can spout out the formula but considerably fewer people actually know what it means. Without actually describing the formula itself, it basically explains how all matter (matter = anything that takes up space) is just a form of energy. Energy is energy and matter is energy... everything is energy. So everything is energy, but what IS it?

I'm not really here to give you any answers on this point, but to get you thinking about energy. As "good" as science is, it doesn't have all the answers in this area. There may be forms of energy we haven't quite figured out how to measure yet. Sometimes when people hear about energy healing they get scared; but if on some level everything is energy, then healing on an energetic level makes some sort of sense. The universe of energy is only beginning to be discovered and I can't wait to see where it leads us!

[1] Merriam-Webster, s.v. "Energy," http://www.merriam-webster.com/ (accessed March 27, 2011).

Image: Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Body Scanning: Learn About your Body

It's amazing how little most of us are aware of our bodies! As you sit reading this right now, can you list every part of your body that is holding tension? Unless you have a lot of practice paying attention to your body, I bet you would miss a few spots.

Body scanning is the practice of paying attention to your body. I prefer to start at my head and work my way down, but you could also start at your feet and work your way up. Pay attention to every muscle group as you go: forehead, eyes, cheeks, jaw, neck, shoulders, upper back, and so on and so on. As you pay focus on each muscle group, notice how it feels. Is it tense, relaxed, somewhere in the middle? Do you feel any pain there? If you want to relax the muscle group, take a deep breath and imagine the stress and tension leaving the area.

What can just paying attention do for you? Well, it's a matter of self-awareness and learning to relax more fully. For one, the time you spend paying attention to your body is time you aren't worrying about what you have to do for the rest of the day or that your socks didn't match today. Over time, if you continue to practice body scanning, you will more easily be able to identify stress in your body and when you might need some relaxation. Believe it or not, the benefits might eventually extend past relaxation. Becoming more knowledgeable about your body, you will be more aware of the things in your life that serve your body and those that don't.

If you want to go one step further with body scanning, you can engage in Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) where you intentionally relax every set of muscles as you are bringing awareness to them. If you find that you are easily distracted and can't complete a body scan, you can find recordings that will help guide you through the exercise. If you want to do it for free or like things a little more personalized, write up a script, put some soothing music on and record a friend reading your script.

If you are experiencing challenges, you can see a holistic health practitioner to help you through the process. Body scanning can help you relax the very first time you try it and can help you become more aware of yourself as you continue to practice regularly.

Image: photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net