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Beautiful Mindfulness

July 11, 2021 by  
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Recently, I re-read Pema Chödrön’s great book, Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change. It got me thinking again about the human mind and how our thinking can be super helpful or just terrible for us.

It’s so very, very important that we try to “live in the now” as much as we can. It’s not easy but we do need to keep working at it because it really can lift our life and happiness.

In last week’s blog, I talked about meditation and how important and helpful it can be for our lives. Pema says in Living Beautifully that, “Meditation is one form of mindfulness, but mindfulness is called by many names: attentiveness, nowness, and presence are just a few. Essentially, mindfulness means wakefulness–fully present wakefulness.”

I totally agree with her.

She goes on to say that, “The specific details of our lives will, of course, differ, but for all of us, wakefulness concerns everything from how we make dinner to how we speak to one another to how we take care of our clothes, our floors, our forks and spoons. Just with other aspects of this commitment, we’re either present when putting on our sweater or tying our shoes or brushing our teeth, or we’re not. We’re either awake or asleep, conscious or distracted.”

Later she says, in reference to creating a comfortable life that this, “means setting up your life so that you have time for meditation and self-reflection, for kindhearted, compassionate self-honesty”. Those things and thoughts are so very important to our happiness. We all need to put a lot of effort into really living in the present moment. Doing that can lift our mood and our life tremendously.

To help me with this, I’ve made a list of what I call My 10 Natural Mood Boosters:

1. Get into a routine

2. Set goals

3. Exercise

4. Eat healthy

5. Get enough sleep

6. Take on responsibilities

7. Challenge negative thoughts

8. Take good supplements

9. Do something new

10. Try to have fun

I’d like to add one extra thing that has always worked for me when I am feeling down. It’s so simple — just go outside and take a walk to anywhere, although a place that’s new for you is best. And yes, it’s very important to live in the now as much as you can—you will be glad and much happier if you do this as often as possible!

You Don’t Have to Age

April 18, 2021 by  
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 Source: New York Times, Oct. 31, 2006 Photo Jeff Miller, U of Wisconsin

I am only 35 months away from hitting the big 80, so I have been thinking about age a lot lately. That’s why I’m pulling from an old blog post of mine, one that hits close to home and that I would like to share with you.

Have you ever wondered what you will look like when you reach age 85? More and more Americans are living that long and longer. Statistics from the Society of Actuaries and the Annuity for the year 2000, shows that a male, aged 65, has a 50% chance of living beyond age 85 and a 25% chance of living beyond age 92. A female, aged 65, has a 50% chance of living beyond age 88 and a 25% chance of living beyond age 94. But what will make the difference for any one of us?

There is some evidence to show that calorie restriction and resveratrol could make the difference between which side of those life expectancy statistics you’re on.

Above you see two rhesus monkeys. The one on the left eats a calorie-restricted diet, while the monkey on the right eats a normal diet. Both monkeys are in their late 20s. Their normal lifespan is 30-40 years. As you can see, they look to be in quite different conditions. Here is how the New York Times made note of their differences:

At 28, getting on for a rhesus monkey, Matthias is losing his hair, lugging a paunch and getting a face full of wrinkles.

Yet in the cage next to his, gleefully hooting at strangers, one of Matthias’s lab mates, Rudy, is the picture of monkey vitality, although he is slightly older. Thin and feisty, Rudy stops grooming his smooth coat just long enough to pirouette toward a proffered piece of fruit.

Tempted with the same treat, Matthias rises wearily and extends a frail hand. “You can really see the difference,” said Dr. Ricki Colman, an associate scientist at the center who cares for the animals.

The scientists believe it’s the restricted calories that made the difference between the condition of the monkeys but have found that resveratrol, a molecular mimic of calorie restriction, may deliver the same benefits without food deprivation. There is more human testing to be done, but researchers themselves became so convinced of this they begun taking resveratrol pills themselves.

How does resveratrol work? Studies have shown that Resveratrol turns old cells into young cells. Old cells typically accumulate extra copies of ribosomal DNA that clog the cell and impair cellular function. Resveratrol reverses this.

I think it may also be important to note that recent studies indicate that resveratrol works best when taken in small amounts. There are varying opinions on how much that actually is, however. From 200mg a day or less to simply drinking a glass of red wine has been suggested. The idea is that more is not better with this compound. Too much can actually block the mechanisms that allow resveratrol to help keep up young.

So, if you want to look good as you age, you can go on a nutritionally smart restricted calorie diet or try resveratrol or a little of both. Also, don’t forget to keep having novel experiences, make and reach for big goals, stay social, and exercise. We all get older every year, but there is no reason to age faster than necessary.

Meditation and the Quiet Mind

April 4, 2021 by  
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Myself and the Dalai Lama

Meditation. Hmm. That’s something that I haven’t done a ton of, but recently I read a great book about the mind and how you can calm it down and make it quiet. It’s making me think about it more seriously.

When I do meditate, it raises my mood and helps my brain, which helps my life a ton. I’m writing this week’s post, in part, because I know I should meditate more. I’ve found, over the years, that almost anytime I write about something we humans should be doing, my own writings on the subject motivate me to just go and do it. So, I guess I’m being somewhat selfish. But if my experience and words are helpful to others, then that’s great!

I’ve sure noticed that the older I get, the more I want to help others. Okay, part of that is because when I help others, I get such a good feeling from it that I want to do it more. Oops. I guess that’s being a bit selfish too. But maybe that is a good kind of selfishness. And that means everybody can be a winner!

I just read a great book called Quiet Mind, compiled and edited by Susan Piver. In this section written by Tulku Thondup, it says, “Through meditation we can realize the awareness of the peaceful and joyful nature of our mind. From there we can interact with mental objects with greater peace and ease on our own terms, from a position of mental strength.” He goes on to say that “in order to find and employ the healing power of our mind and the healing qualities of mental objects, we must consistently and repeatedly meditate on the four healing powers: positive images, positive words, positive feeling, and positive belief.”

Thondup goes on to say, “Like food, exercise, rest, and medicine, meditation is a very important component of healing and keeping healthy.” His advice is to start easy and slow, but be consistent. Even just 5 minutes a day at first is a good start. Then later, he advises, “Early morning is generally the best time to meditate, as your mind could still be in peace and your energy still calm. The best place is a solitary place. Whatever you pick, you should choose the best time and place that you can afford and feel good about.” Then, after enough 5 minutes sessions, he says you should try to meditate for about an hour.

Earlier in the book, another contributor, Sakyong Mipham said, “Decide on a regular time to practice each day and try to stick with it. A ten-minute period in the morning is a good place to begin.” Mipham also suggests that consistency is key.

I really like some of the other simple advice Mipham gives: “If you’re agitated, a slow walk might be in order. If you’re drowsy, a cool shower before beginning the session might help.” He also notes that “It can be inspiring to read a little about meditation first as a reminder of why you’re practicing.”

So, I have a lot of great thoughts about meditating now. As I said, I may not have done it very regularly, but it’s not new to me. As a matter of fact, I had the great privilege to meet, greet, and introduce the Dalai Lama at an event years ago. Through our conversations that day, I got to know him a bit, and he certainly knows and practices meditation. I’m sure he knows quite well how much it can help anyone’s life. We just need little reminders to do it sometimes.

The Benefits List

January 31, 2021 by  
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In these tough times of COVID it’s easy to become very negative about so many things. In the book Letting Go, David R. Hawkins talks about choosing the positive thoughts to push out negative thoughts. He says, “There is an inner reality that we can term our ‘inner greatness’ or ‘higher self’. It has much more power than the inner negativity. In return for letting go of the payoffs that we were getting from the negative position, we are now surprised by the positive payoff. We are subject only to what we hold in mind…The body will respond to what we believe.”

Years ago, I came up with a simple trick that keeps my mind on a positive track. I know how easy it is to let goals slip away from me so I take time to write down, not only the goal, but all of the benefits that sticking with and achieving my objective will bring me. And then when I think of more benefits, I add those to my benefit list. I called this B-RAM, which is short for Benefits, Rewards and Motivation. I also call it my “Big Brain Booster”.

I would strongly suggest that you try it out. Take time to write down all the benefits that sticking with your goals will give you. We certainly have enough time in these COVID days to think these through and come up with lots of benefits we’ll get from reaching our goals.

Now, we may not be able to get out and about to pursue all our goals, at least right now. But given time, this pandemic will be over and we can be so very ready to go after our preset goals and find ourselves glued to them because we can see all of the benefits as we review our list.

Here’s how I came up with this B-RAM concept. Years ago, I had been reading a great book called Beyond the 120-Year Diet by Dr. Roy Walford, a leading expert on longevity. As I read the book and saw how difficult some of the calorie restrictions were on the diet he recommended, I began writing down the benefits that would help me stick with this tough calorie restricted diet. I needed extra motivation so my list made it much easier to stick with the diet. After that, any time I got discouraged, got weak, or got diverted on this diet, I looked at my list and it remotivated me and reminded me of why I set the goal in the first place.

It can be easy to forget why you set certain goals but when you go back to your list of benefits, it’s easy to remember why and it keeps you on track to achieve your goals. And believe me, it’s not easy to stay on a very restricted calorie diet as you probably can understand, especially if you’ve ever been down that road.

As I’m sure you know, if you have followed my posts or read my books, writing down your goals and objectives, putting a timeline on those goals, and revisiting what you wrote increases the chance of you reaching them. It doesn’t matter whether your goals are health or wealth. It works for those goals and many more.

So, now, in these COVID times, let’s all spend more time making benefit lists for our goals. And don’t forget to put your list of goals and benefits in a very convenient place so you can visit them often and easily!

Get Past the Depression

January 10, 2021 by  
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The news this week, and through much of this past year, has been terribly sad and is sometimes almost too hard to process. There is been a lot of news about depression and how much more of it there is right now. It’s understandable. So, I thought I’d share my thoughts on the subject with thoughts from past posts. Because although depression may be hard to avoid in times like these, it can be minimized and only fleeting if you are vigilant.

First of all, we need to deal with our disappointment and the restrictions this pandemic has put on our lives. Our advanced technologies have led us to habitually expect that we can access our wishes immediately. Super-fast internet, instant downloads, and multi-functional cell phones give us the ability to have some level of access to whatever or whomever we want whenever we want. But life, in general, doesn’t work that way. As a result, we are experiencing tremendous frustration and impatience with a world that is not changing quickly and fulfilling our needs and wishes immediately. This can ultimately lead to depression or anger.

In my book How to Ignite Your Passion for Living, I touch upon some of the depressive episodes I have been through and some of the ways I have dealt with them. I also think Eckhart Tolle, in his book, The Power of Now, has hit upon the true source and the most effective ideas to combat depression as well as other mood disorders.

The first few ideas on his list are some of the most important, at least in my experience. They deal with becoming a watcher of one’s thoughts and redirecting the mind when we start to buy into the idea of being a depressed person:

  • Learn to recognize how your mind labels thoughts and sits in judgment so you know what ideas lie at the source of your pain.
  • Accept whatever the present moment contains as if you had chosen it.
  • The pain or depression wants you to unconsciously identify with it, allowing it to survive in your mind. If you are not a careful watcher of your thoughts then you may come to believe that you are a depressed person and then this becomes your identity.

Letting your mind create this depression identity will make it very difficult to get past the dark feelings and the pain because you will then believe this is who you are. But if you start with these first few ideas of Tolle’s, recognizing how your mind is working and seeing the present moment as something under your control, you can avoid the mindset that makes you think of yourself as a depressed person.

These ideas are true for any issues of mood. I choose to talk about them in terms of depression because that has been a difficult battle of mine. However, if you are dealing with anger, guilt, low self-esteem, fear, etc. watching your thoughts and taking control can help you with all types of painful moods and attitudes.

So, if you are depressed, don’t just live with it. Find its source, accept that it exists, and then aim to let it go. Give yourself goals and make plans you can look forward to. Eat healthy and whole foods as refined and sugary foods have been shown to feed depression. Get out and move and boost that serotonin and dopamine in your brain.

You may also want to turn off the TV, stop reading those dramatic headlines, and unsubscribe from all those pessimistic reports. Instead, read up on all the great success stories you can find on-line and in responsible and inspiring periodicals. You can, literally, change your mood by changing your view of the world as well as your mindset.

 

Raise Your Energy

November 1, 2020 by  
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As I said last week, I did let my social life go down the toilet, even though our social lives are a very important part of our life. Of course, COVID-19 didn’t help any but then I had a big health set back this last weekend. It jolted my brain and made me realize there was a part of my life that didn’t get flushed down. As a matter fact it took a big jump up.

So you know, my health setback was in the form of big stomach pains that were so painful I couldn’t sleep at night. It also really messed up my thinking and activities the next day and beyond.

It was during these episodes that I realized that even though my social life slipped a ton, my physical movement and life had taken a leap up. Of course, with this damn coronavirus, and not getting together with friends and family very often, it left me with plenty of time on my hands, or should I say in my “on my feet”.

My long walks around our new neighborhood and in the canyon really took off. I’ve written before about my walking goal of 20,000 steps a day (Thank heavens for my FitBit!) but with lots of time on my hands I started walking 25,000 steps every day and sometimes 30,000. My all-time high for one week was 210,000 steps and, wow, does that ever make a person feel good! Well, I am tired at night but overall, it feels good and lifts my health big time.

As recommended in one of my favorite little books, Inner Simplicity by Elain St. James, “Start a healthful exercise program such as walking and a limbering program such as yoga or stretching.”

That stretching, which I do before my long walks, has helped a lot and is especially important as we get older. St. James also says that “studies have shown that it’s the loss of elasticity in our muscles and the tightening of our joints that create the immobility of our advancing years.”

We all need more energy but as we get older, we notice the energy levels dropping quite a bit. Elaine says sleep is important to keep your energy up but she also warns you to “become aware of the situations and people that drain your energy.” So, try to avoid or limit time with those people.

Additionally, she says, “Sometimes you can find yourself completely deprived of energy for no apparent reason. It’s important at those times to examine what you’ve been doing, talking, or thinking about, or what you’ve been eating or drinking, so you can eliminate as much as possible not only the obvious energy drains but the subtle ones as well.”

In conclusion, she wrote that you should “keep your eyes and feelings open for the situations and the people and the happenings that raise your energy, lift you spirits, and make you feel terrific.”

For me, it’s kind of strange that all my thousands of steps, out in the wonderful outdoors, rather than draining me, lifts my energy as it lifts my spirits! So, just a little advice to you, which you probably already know—if you are feeling down go outside and walk around. The sky, air, and nature will almost certainly lift you spirits and life.

 

Appreciating Great Health

August 9, 2020 by  
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Most of us humans don’t really think a lot about good health when we are totally healthy. It’s so easy to take our good health for granted when we are feeling great. But when something bad happens and we become very sick, then we sure look back at those healthy days and want to be back there again.

This brain of mine certainly has me looking back before my fall and my big, bad concussion. It’s been about a month now and I still have dizzy spells and vertigo plus my memory has been damaged. I’ve been doing better each day although it did suddenly get worse recently. However, the trend is that I am getting better in the long run.

Man, oh, man … talk about big changes in a few seconds. My life is so different now. It’s not just that I miss playing that tennis that I love so much, but I’m also not supposed to watch movies, TV, or even look at the computer screen (which I’m doing now, of course!) but I bought some special blue light glasses that help protect me. And, until yesterday, I was not even driving my car.

I started thinking about a book I wrote in 2006 where in one chapter entitled “An Umbrella Goal for Life,” I talked about how important health was in our lives. Many people think that more exercise is the most important key to living a long life. Quoting from my own book I wrote, “If you had to choose calorie restriction versus a lot of exercise to attain a longer and healthier life, animal studies prove beyond a doubt that eating less calories, and calories that are nutrient packed, will lengthen your life and cut disease by a huge factor compared to exercise alone. So, the plan is do both but especially watch my intake of calories. When I recover from this darn concussion, I am going to watch my diet more carefully and exercise more because I want to live a very long life which is more important than so many other things to me.

Next week, I want to give you a list of items you can do that will help you stay healthy and live a very long time.

Boosting Your Daily Energy

July 5, 2020 by  
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In these times of staying at home and there being a lack of social life we need ways to boost our energy. So, here’s 12 proven ways to boost your energy that have worked for me. Hope they help you a bit too!

  1. Set exciting goals that will put your big dreams into action and be sure to add a timeframe and an exciting game plan to those goals.
  2. A daily “to do” list, looked at or thought about in the morning adds extra energy to your day.
  3. Eat more nutritious foods.
  4. Drink green tea to overcome a mid-morning slump.
  5. Get plenty of exposure to natural light.
  6. Ease your stress by simplifying your life and mainly, or exclusively, pursue your life’s priority items. Delegate the rest.
  7. Heal yourself by being grateful and loving and letting go of all anger.
  8. Think positive thoughts to stimulate those good neurotransmitters called endorphins.
  9. Play and exercise hard to release more endorphins and dopamine.
  10. Get more sleep.
  11. A few minutes of yoga stretching will give you a morning boost, along with your favorite cup of java or tea.
  12. Listening to your favorite music. For some people it may be music with a heart pounding beat while for others it may be inspirational symphonic music.

Whether it’s for work or play, family or friends, we all need more energy, especially as we age. So, try a few of these above and add to the list with your own energy boosting actions.

Your Routine Replacement List

April 5, 2020 by  
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All I can start with on this week’s blogs is just … Wow. Double Wow.

In my 75 years of life I have never ever seen anything like this COVID-19. It’s certainly changing the world right now and undoubtedly will continue to do so into the near future. But what is a normal person going to do without going absolutely stir crazy until it leads to big time depression?

When all of a sudden you are confined to your house without your normal routine, that can mean big trouble. Routine can really be a good thing, even a simple routine like going to work every day. You really don’t think or fret about that routine because you just do it and it feels fine. But you take that routine away that you have at your office or place of business or your active social life and, ouch, that can be a game changer.

I like what author James Wallman said about time, especially leisure time. He said, “Leisure doesn’t improve the quality of life unless one knows how to use it effectively.” The first time I got hit without a routine that about drove me crazy was when I retired and found myself at home without any routine and seemingly nothing to do. I did discover how to overcome that huge dilemma and, now, with this huge virus thing going on, I thought that I could share what we can all do to survive, and even thrive.

I think I will call it the anti-stir-crazy list. “List” is the key word. If we just take time to begin working on a list and making those items on the list our new routine it can, and will, enhance your life.

Here’s some of to do thing on my list as an example:

  1. Set a specific timeline and schedule to exercise every day. I’m talking, lots of walking, hiking in the hills, lifting weights, stretching, push-ups and pull-ups, etc.
  2. Take time to get super organized. There are so many things that have just been postponed that I can easily spend time doing what should have been done before
  3. Seek out and find some good books to read, both fiction and self-help.
  4. Begin and make an outline for a new book that could be written.
  5. Call, text, and/or email old friends and new ones.
  6. Make a list and an outline of what could be accomplished with my life in the next 5 or 10 years.
  7. Be more attentive and playful with kids and grandkids.
  8. Begin making a list of people or charities that I can help.
  9. Begin to learn a foreign language–download Duolingo or Rosetta Stone that makes it easy and fast.

When making this list, keep in mind these questions: What do I enjoy doing the most? Is there anything I am not adding to the list because of negative self-talk? What gives me a great sense of purpose? And don’t neglect to write the list down. If you write your goals and to-do list down you are much more likely to follow through and do those things.

I hope these ideas are helpful and might push you to work on some things to better yourself and your life as well as add to the list of what motivates you and things you like to do.

By the way, when I wrote item no. 4, I thought through my book writing and was somewhat in awe that I’ve actually written 9 books! I would have never ever guessed, those many years ago when I was a construction worker, that I would ever write even one book!  So, my advice is to push yourself to make and live by your own list. You could even brainstorm with friends or family to come up with a bigger and better list!

 

Keep Your Brain Busy

March 22, 2020 by  
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Now may be the best time in your life to focus on your brain in a way that it won’t get trampled by the news and all that’s going on in the world. Yes, I’m talking about the coronavirus and the huge damage that it’s doing. It really is a game changer and can be so horrible for many people mostly because of how they use their brain in a time like this.

The human brain can be the most incredible part of your body, but it also can be a huge downer for your happiness and mental stability if you do nothing but worry.  Yes, the virus is a very bad thing and, wow, just look at what it is doing to our economy, not to mention that huge fear factor around whether one might get the virus. That’s bad stuff, but if you use your brain in the right way and keep it busy you can avoid some of the really bad stuff that’s happening.

Just don’t forget that you will most likely not get the virus, even though worldwide many people have, but the percentages are on your side, especially if you are careful and do all the things that reduce your odds of catching it. It’s true that you and I can’t stop the spread of the virus or the fear gripping so many people, but we can take steps to make this huge event less traumatic so that when it’s all over, we can look back at and give ourselves a pat on the back and congratulate ourselves for what we, and our brain, just did.

I can see a lot of good as well as some very bad things coming from this dangerous situation.  Since most everything is closed, I can easily see how many people can become almost bored to death and might be going crazy since they think they don’t have anything to do. They’ve lost their routine, are not going to work and being productive, and are not having their usual social interactions with others. However, with some thought and effort you can come up with projects and things to do that are helpful to yourself and others.

I mean, in the lockdown situation many of us are experiencing, you could read a bunch of books, do some writing of your own, and, hey, how about some at home exercise. No, you don’t need a gym to run when you can run around the neighborhood. Push-ups, sit-ups, and at least some weightlifting can be done at home. You could come out of this disaster looking like Rocky Balboa if you really want to. You could also have a book written and ready to sell and could even set yourself up to give your own seminars since you would have plenty of time to prepare a great presentation.

Think about the many positive things that you can do to help yourself, your friends, and your relatives, things that will also keep you and your mind busy and productive.

P.S. We here in Salt Lake City got a double dose of bad stuff. My wife and I were suddenly shaken from our sleep by a powerful earthquake that shook our house so bad I thought it might fall down on us. It was 5.7 on the Richter scale, but we did survive and mentally and physically we plan to thrive.

 

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