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Review of “When We Were Five: The Diary of an American Family” by Derek Gray

When We Were Five: The Diary of an American Family by Derek Gray
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Derek’s memoir of his life is like watching a “Rocky” movie, as he describes in his book. Much like Rocky, you see him deal with difficult punches being thrown his way left and right. The opponent in the ring is a family history of heart disease that dramatically changes his life as well as his whole family’s. As I read the book, I wondered what the outcomes would be as I watched him ride all the highs and lows he openly shared. It really was like watching a movie, especially with all the photos included in the book. I would never have been able to predict the shocking events that unfolded. I’m so happy I found this book, as it truly is an account of how precious life is and how easy it is to forget this sometimes. It’s about doing it your way, and Derek shows how he found a way to make his life and health his own. His book is heart-wrenching, but also very inspiring and well worth the read.

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Reclaiming the Words Health Care

Health care is a right we all have and can exercise at any point we choose. It’s a lifelong practice that can move and shift with whatever we’re going through. It’s ultimately in our hands, and it hinges on how we treat these bodies we’re born with that are inherently intelligent enough to seek out health.

Yet these days, the words “health care” call to mind a system, a medical authority, and a place we wrap our concerns in heavily for the future of our well being. The word ‘care’ starts suggesting that we don’t know how to engage in this action ourselves without outside intervention. The word ‘health’ takes on the reputation of being scary, regimented, and outside our control. Put together, what could be a couple of words that are empowering toward a vital and self-supportive life become instead a possession of society and mainstream medicine.

Do you feel like it’s time to reclaim these words for ourselves? Health care isn’t just an institution we go to, or legislation that we and politicians endlessly vote on and argue over. It happens, or doesn’t happen at home, from the moment we open our eyes to wake up each morning.

Personal health care has also become focused on a boot camp-style practice of eating and exercising perfectly, constantly swayed by advice from fitness gurus and gluten-free recipe blogs. Not everyone relates to this way of getting healthy, but it’s all the rage in bestselling books and among celebrity fitness experts. Slowly, the idea of health care can get crowded out of people’s lives by what society and mainstream opinion defines as health.

Health, simply put, is treating yourself well and being there for yourself—no matter what you go through. Unlike society’s message to just paste a smile on it, even when you’re feeling anything but happy, true health care is about allowing other reactions and emotions to exist when they come up. It’s about letting yourself be who you are no matter who’s around. And it isn’t fueled by guilt, fear, or the drive for perfection.

When you open your ears to the health advice being given out there in a casual and nonchalant manner, underneath the matter of fact tone you may find a message that is demeaning. It is one that points out your supposed deficiencies and demands of you perfection and perpetually high and unmet expectations. Is that real health care?

If the words “health care” are too loaded for you, just remember this simple phrase for better health: Less is more. We are constantly told to do and be more more more, when we can use our innate potential for health by keeping it low key, relaxed, and easy.

Most of all, health is a skill you already have. So you can reclaim health care for yourself. It belongs to the individual who wants to live his or her own life. It’s something you deserve and can take ownership of.

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Review of “The Sky’s Eyes” by Brian Macrae

The Sky’s Eyes by Brian Macrae
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This tech-style mystery takes place in a world that resembles our own, yet is taken to a whole new level. You’ll learn about an imagined ranking system called karma, which affects the main character’s life and work. Though karma in the book means something different than how you or I define it, it does exist in today’s world in a frenzied and somewhat nefarious way. The main character has to solve a mystery along with a new friend he’s made, all the while watching his own back in the tricky world of karma. The book bravely questions whether this type of karma, which coincides with a constant striving to “make a difference in the world,” is always worth it. Does it come at a cost to individuals who just want to live life on a more natural and simple wavelength? Considering that many commercials we see on T.V. question us to make a difference each and every second of life, this book’s message is very relevant. At times, I got lost in the plot during scenes focused on parkour or technology. Overall though, I enjoyed the book and the social commentary it makes using a creative story line.
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Review of “The Sinking of the Angie Piper” by Chris Riley

The Sinking of the Angie Piper by Chris Riley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is still yet to be published, but I received an Advance Review Copy from the author. I enjoyed the beginning of this book and learning about Alaska and the culture of crab fishing. It was also exciting to meet the characters and get involved in the unique challenge each one was facing by stepping on board the Angie Piper. The characters’ personalities played well off one another. When the going got tough though, and the Angie Piper was en route to sinking (that’s not a spoiler, it’s actually part of the title), the gritty edge of the story wore off for me and what should have been suspenseful and climactic felt almost like an ordinary series of events. The words were there describing a life threatening situation, but the tone of the book and emotions of the characters didn’t match the feel of one. At the end of the book, I also felt like the main character’s internal conflict didn’t get resolved for the reader. There was something he always regretted in his past, which at the end we still didn’t get to see him resolve though he had the opportunity. The book is well written for sure, but the reveal of the book’s main event in its title gets in the way of the story somewhat.

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Review of “Mini Habits” by Stephen Guise

Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results by Stephen Guise
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The book Mini Habits by Stephen Guise was a new find for me, sponsored by Amazon. I hadn’t ever clicked on a sponsored item before, and I’m not sure why I did that day. I have a push pull feeling toward self-help books, even though I’ve written one myself. This genre of books can hurt as much as it can help sometimes, and you always have to take the information with a grain of salt. But mini habits…I had to know what made these special and why the book had sold so many copies and garnered great reviews.

The point of the whole book is, in seven words: Doing something is better than doing nothing. The message is not too good to be true, and is therefore actionable. Whether you read the original book or the specialized one for weight loss (which I’m doing toward my naturopathic practice), you’ll see why the “motivate yourself now, or you’re a bad person” message of society is driving everyone bonkers. We’re seeing motivation being turned into an expensive yet unattainable drug, and the companion message with it says “fake it until you make it.” For once, it was refreshing to find a self-help book that points out how unrealistic it is to get motivated on demand. Wouldn’t that be a strange business to walk into? Come in today and get your motivation recharged in 10 minutes or less for only $99!

Anyway, in my opinion and the author’s, there are too many self-help books out there that claim to do just that, and when you buy them all you may end up spending way more than a hundred dollars. I’m going to try and steer clear of all that and instead do mini actions here and there that can add up to real forward momentum. In Stephen’s book, he shares plenty of clinical and psychological research, cool metaphors, humor, and common sense to express why mini habits work well for anyone. By the way, what is a mini habit? It’s a habit that you start and do everyday that is nearly impossible to fail. You have practically no excuse not to do it, and then you’ll most likely do more than just the minimum because you’ve already gotten going.

Society bombards us with motivation strategies instead of practical inspiration. Maybe society doesn’t want forward motion for individuals. Why would it? Would any of what society is trying to sell us still be interesting if we were more invested in tackling the challenges in front of us. Rhetorical question mark.

Anyways. Time to keep going. Whether you do one pushup as the author Stephen Guise chose to do, or start out writing just 50 words, or go on a 10-minute walk, or shut off all screens for an hour—its less about self improvement and more about paving the way for life to exist. There’s no better indication that you’re helping yourself.

My experience: For a few weeks, I’ve kept up with three mini habits related to fitness, writing, and career. And I have an eight-month-old baby and a toddler at home! Yay me 🙂 Time for my reward.

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5 Great Tips Your Doc May Not Prescribe

Great advice about health can’t always be found at the doctor’s office, and many times you won’t find it there. Doctors are worried about sounding and appearing authoritative, so sometimes they miss having perspective when talking to patients. I’ve been there myself, and I’ve had to learn over time that there are some things more important than being “doctor-like.” I’m still working on that each time I see a patient.

During my learning curve, I’ve been keeping track of the advice I didn’t learn in medical school that patients do really appreciate when I point it out to them. It’s often gut instinct insight that patients already have, that I’m just reminding them of. These tidbits are often more therapeutic for patients than specific lab results and a dietary recommendation. Curious what can boost your health that your doc rarely tells you?

  1. Relaxing is key to better health. I know, everyone’s busy and connected and so on. But there’s always time for taking even 10 minutes out in a day. If you try hard to carve that time, you’ll succeed. And those ten minutes alone will make a difference to how you feel in  your overall health day to day. Try it out!
  2. Enjoying life is medicine. When you do things that spark your mind, creativity, and body to get moving, you’re making a positive difference to your hormones, neurotransmitters, and other functions in the body. Better sleep, good digestion, reduced anxiety, and healthy skin, for example, can all be pretty quick benefits of trying to enjoy what you do in some way.
  3. Let your personality shine, and you’ll move toward better health that’s more in line with who you are. Strict doctorly prescriptions about life, diet, and how to breathe and think can make you feel like you have to be a different person. You can be who you are and be healthy instead!
  4. There is no such thing as perfect health. Health feels different on different days. Who wants to just press repeat on the same day time after time, even if it’s a good one? We all go through challenges, and that’s okay. We can adapt to our situations and learn how to take better care of ourselves in them.
  5. No one knows your health better than you do. You know your day, your environment, habits, preferences, strengths, weaknesses, body, and mind. For that reason, you can consult resources around, but ultimately you are the authority on how you shape your lifestyle toward good health. Great affordable health care, isn’t it?

Not all the best advice is at the doctor’s office. Most of it you already know and just need a reminder from time to time. Happy Mother’s Day and good health to moms, kids, and families all around!

 

In The Art of Health: Simple and Powerful Keys for Creating Health in Your Life, I aim to cut out the health care BS both for myself and my readers. Example chapters include:

  • No Such Thing as Perfect Health
  • Enjoying Life is Medicine
  • The Part Fear Plays in Health
  • Avoid Fixating on Symptoms
  • Personality and Health
  • Rip off That Health Label
  • Doctor, Why am I so Tired?

Plus lots more… To purchase a copy of the book for yourself, click on the button below. $0.99 e-book Mother’s Day Special through May–normal price $5.99  🙂

Why Don’t I Feel Like Myself These Days?

Unfortunately, these days we are too eager to search for health “solutions” that aren’t honest in their approach. Weight loss gimmicks. Anti-aging supplements. Magic cure pharmaceutical drugs. One hundred percent toxin free environments. I know this search, I’ve been there. As a naturopathic doctor who was once an eager medical student, I wanted to try it all and convince myself the offerings were not only solving my health concerns, but also me as a person.

Yes, it’s true. Whether it’s allopathic medicine or natural medicine being sold, the implication is that the treatments and fixes will solve all of you. Eventually, as I saw patients in practice, I had to ask myself:  What is it that needs to be solved in the first place? Mind you, right around this time I became less reliant on supplements and short-term diet and exercise plans. I encountered a more relevant topic that my patients were presenting to me in the form of a question during their visits. It struck to the heart of what I feel health is about. They asked, “Why don’t I feel like myself these days?”

That is a great question to ask if you’re wanting to approach health at its roots. Tons of people may have insomnia out there, and digestive issues, unwanted weight gain, anxiety, and headaches. I can tell you that not only have I seen patients with these complaints, but I’ve experienced these symptoms myself. I call it the “modern day health dilemma.” Too many people are experiencing the unshakeable cloud of general malaise and fatigue that is not always related to how we’re eating and exercising, but more so how we’re treating ourselves as human beings. Do we allow ourselves to exist anymore? The message we’re absorbing must be so strong that it’s not just one or two people you’ll hear asking why they feel “out of it,” but almost everyone who talks about their health will allude to it. At least in my office.

The message to fix ourselves or disappear is something we live with regularly, but the source of it is not born from who we really are. We all have an innate potential for health and vitality that we can tap into. But society does not encourage health or autonomy for individuals. So we’re encouraged instead to seek health care solutions everywhere around us—from the healthcare industry, at the doctor’s office (even if the doc is rude and dismissive), in a health or celebrity magazine, and Good Morning America (or your version of a morning talk show wherever you live).

I know when everyone else “seems” game for buying healthcare solutions that aren’t producing results, that it can be tempting to want to approach health in this manner too. Except that everyone isn’t game, and more people are becoming dissatisfied with the current system of medicine and the fear-based messages we’re exposed to—not just about our health, but even about who we are as people.

We can take the BS (pardon my abbreviated French) out of health for ourselves. It takes courage, cynicism (no, this trait isn’t always bad), the good kind of selfishness, a suspension of the “rules” we’re being told that everyone else is following, and some creativity.

In The Art of Health: Simple and Powerful Keys for Creating Health in Your Life, I aim to cut out the health care BS both for myself and my readers. Example chapters include:

  • No Such Thing as Perfect Health
  • Enjoying Life is Medicine
  • The Part Fear Plays in Health
  • Avoid Fixating on Symptoms
  • Personality and Health
  • Rip off That Health Label
  • Doctor, Why am I so Tired?

Plus lots more! To purchase a copy of the book for yourself, click on the button below:

 

How Image Influences Our Lives

In our society, which has become more dominated by screens, image is a big deal. It’s not just the realm of celebrities, performers, and athletes these days. Image affects all of us in today’s world. How we portray our lives and selves to others can become such an influential part of daily living that it can affect how we treat our bodies, health, and those close to us. Image can impact both physical and mental health in ways that can eventually lead to chronic health issues and take us farther away from what we want in life.

What is image? Image is typically what we want others to see despite what we’re feeling underneath or what is truly going on in our lives. We all have an image, and that in and of itself is not a bad thing. Image, or persona, can help create healthy boundaries between ourselves and our environments, including other people. That bit of distance helps us have space and privacy where we need it. Everyone doesn’t need to know everything. What becomes dangerous is when image evolves into more of a lie that we start believing even when we’re alone.

We may want to believe that we’re perfect, and try to show that to others instead of facing fears that are surfacing. These days, you may also notice social and media-induced peer pressure to show happiness to ourselves and to the world, even when we’re feeling sad, angry, disappointed, or some other feeling instead. The idea of image can then start to encroach on personality and even become who we are to some extent, often to the detriment of our physical and mental health. The pull to be immune and safe in this world using an artificial image is something each person goes through at times.

Image is a tool that can be helpful in the roles we play at work and in life, when it is mostly in tune with who we are already. When it instead plays a more suppressive role in blocking out real emotions, thoughts, and expressions of who we are, it can also harm the natural rhythm of our health, hormones, neurotransmitters, and personalities. It can become a cage in which we live with our unacknowledged fears and emotions.

The price of image overtaking who we are can be costly. Yet, it’s okay to admit this and honestly look at what image you’re showing to others, and ultimately to yourself. We live in a culture where image too easily becomes everything, and many people are dissatisfied with this way of living. Even when image affects health and stifles life, it can still be an addictive thing to pursue. However, if you remind yourself of what you really want in life, it can become easier to see how the image you’re portraying might be blocking that. And then you can ask, what benefit is image really bringing to your life?

What influence do you notice image is having on the world around you, and more importantly in your life? You know who you are inside, so what price are you willing to pay for image?

Your Health and Social Dynamics

A patient who had Crohn’s Disease came to see me in my natural health practice a few years back, and I was shocked by his honesty in answering one of my intake questions. I do a homeopathic interview with each patient, and if you’re unfamiliar with what that involves, I have to mention that there are some unique questions that come up during homeopathy.

The question I asked my patient was, “What are your pet peeves?” Without skipping a beat, he answered “people.” He laughed for a second after answering, but he was also serious. I went on to find out how different people in his life had betrayed his trust over the years and how his chronic health condition had started right after some family drama. Each time he reentered this same environment, his symptoms would flare up.

Was my patient inviting drama into his life? I would hardly describe him as drama-seeking. As it turned out, he offered his candid insight into a sentiment that I heard echoed in my practice from a variety of other patients over time, and which each of us can relate to.

I noticed in practice that chronic symptoms would start or get worse after challenging social situations. Whether someone was dealing with acne, weight gain, hormone imbalance, trouble sleeping, anxiety, digestive complaints, or headaches, based on my experience I had to ask about any existing stress and social experiences that may have been related to that stress.

Patient lab results kept showing hormone and neurotransmitter levels that backed up what I was hearing from health histories. Cortisol is a stress-triggered hormone that is released from the adrenal glands. When someone described that their energy felt drained around family, friends, or work-related drama, I would frequently see cortisol deficiency. When I told a patient about the results, they were hardly ever surprised. They seemed to understand on an instinctual level that suppressive, controlling, or judgmental influences in their lives were in fact affecting their health. After discussing these factors out in the open, people were able to take a more honest approach to their social lives and experience better health over time.

I started to wonder, why won’t mainstream health care look at the connection between chronic illness and social influences? Meanwhile, we are typically open to exploring the effects of so many other external and internal environmental factors on our health: Pollutants, toxins, gluten, lactose, free radicals, carbon footprints, preservatives, xenoestrogens, parabens, pharmaceutical drugs, processed foods, global warming, allergens, sugar, caffeine, butter, junk food, unfiltered water—phew! I know there are other suspected culprits that I’ve missed. At a certain point, it seems like we are focusing on the details of our physical environments—both inwardly and externally—in the hopes of avoiding a more difficult challenge that is ailing health.

What exactly is born from unhealthy social dynamics that negatively impacts our health?

It is the messages—spoken, or implied by anyone who disrespects and unfairly judges us—that can become internalized and then affect health. These messages can strongly influence how we see ourselves, take care of ourselves, and ultimately manage our own health. The messages sprout from the perfect image that society employs to stamp out individuality and character; the unrealistic expectations we are taught to pursue; and the pressure to do and be for others at the expense of ourselves.

Whenever these messages take hold of the body and are not processed or dealt with honestly, they remain “undigested” in a way, and the body’s systems get derailed in the process. The adrenal glands call on their forces of fight-or-flight molecules, the immune system gets involved in defense and surveillance around people, and the neuro-endocrine system (made up of the neurotransmitters and hormones in the body) becomes disrupted.

Social interaction can of course be a healthy and supportive influence in our lives too. In this case, you often find people giving each other the space to be who they are and to grow as people. You will see the mutual respect of people rooting each other on in life. Most importantly, people who interact with each other in a healthier way are more aware of their insecurities and fears and therefore don’t make a habit of taking these feelings out on others. It’s great to have people like this in our lives, and I’ve seen from my patients and personal experience how refreshing and valuable these interactions can be.

Not all social spheres share these qualities, however, and it’s helpful to recognize this dynamic too. When social messages trigger symptoms, the effect is usually bigger than what something like gluten or an allergen could exert on its own.

We may be living with social stress that we’re not even aware of. Unhealthy aspects of socializing can become “normal,” because society encourages people to be extroverts and social all the time, regardless of how we’re really feeling. Turn on a T.V. commercial or sitcom and you’ll see what I’m talking about. You’re supposed to tuck away your real reactions in favor of positive and “cool” responses. Suppressed feelings over the long-term is what leads patients to my naturopathic office more than anything else.

Harmful messages we may hear from those we know (or society) are good at convincing us to turn on and betray ourselves. That is why they affect our health so much, because they can easily use our own minds against us. These messages affect everyone on some level, regardless of who you are. However, sometimes people are drawn toward and align with the messages so strongly that they are taken far away from themselves. In these situations, a person often seeks to take out how they are truly feeling underneath on others. The message perpetuates itself from person to person. What is the main point of the message being touted? You are wrong for being who you are.

Why don’t we look at the relationship between social dynamics and health more closely in our society? There is no concrete evidence of the connection from research being done today. There is no drug that can fix this, and no money to be made from being honest about it. In fact, it’s not in society’s best interest to take a look at this.

Society runs on people feeling like they are wrong for being who they are.

So, what can we do for our health with these influences all around us? There is no easy remedy or answer to this question. However, we can be more honest with ourselves when we’re feeling mistreated and are told to believe that someone else knows us better than we know ourselves. No matter which insults someone speaks or implies; judgments they make about your character or worth; or declarations they have regarding who you are, your body and mind are equipped to let you know that the message itself is wrong–not you. Chronic symptoms can be a wake up call, but of course it can be scary at first to listen to what the body is really trying to communicate to us.

If we pay close attention to the body and what it’s relaying using symptoms, we can understand that health is not about perfect diets, hours spent at the gym, natural or pharmaceutical treatments, zen-like meditation, avoidance of gluten, or any other solution out there. It’s about living your own life and taking care of yourself, and it involves standing up to anyone who tells you it’s a crime to do so. It’s about remembering what you want even when surrounded by naysayers or people who don’t care. And it’s about acknowledging and facing, if only to yourself, social influences that may be interfering with your health.

In today’s world, we can’t hold the social sphere as sacred and above reproach when it comes to seeking better health and relief from chronic symptoms. Drugs are not going to do the trick. Neither are supplements. Keeping our eyes open in the face of harmful social messages will help the most, even when we’re being pressured to close our eyes to what’s really happening. There is no medical language that helps us talk about how social dynamics can affect health on a chronic and pervasive level. It’s up to the individual in each of us to summon the courage to face this challenge in our own lives first. Health is an innate potential we’re born with, and it’s worthwhile to stand up for it no matter who’s around. Someone once told me to block out the noise and keep doing what I’m doing. At the end of the day, that might be the best tool we have.

Sharing Is Caring, but so Is Wanting

The story goes that when I was a toddler and my brother was born, I tried to throw him out of my Swing-o-matic because it was mine. I’ve heard this memory retold countless times, and rather than feeling like it’s being shared as a funny tale, the deeper meaning seemed to be, “she doesn’t like to share, and she never did.” Oh no – I thought when first hearing about my actions – other kids are born with a sharing nature, but I was the exception because I didn’t feel that generosity toward my own baby brother! What kind of a person am I?!

Lately, I’ve been reconsidering the “sharing is caring” adage, thanks to my two-and-a-half-year-old son. Read the rest at Parent.co.