Meditation Reduces Inflammation says new Study

A new study reports the first evidence of specific molecular changes in the body following a period of mindfulness meditation.  The study looked the effects of a day of intensive mindfulness practice in a group of experienced meditators. Researchers compared them to a group of untrained control subjects who engaged in quiet non-meditative activities.

After eight hours of mindfulness practice, the meditators showed a range of genetic and molecular differences, including altered levels of gene-regulating machinery and reduced levels of pro-inflammatory genes, which in turn leads to faster physical recovery from a stressful situation.

The researchers say, there was no difference in the tested genes between the two groups of people at the start of the study. The observed effects were seen only in the meditators after mindfulness practice.

Meditation Reprograms Your Mind

Each week I attend a Friday meditation class with the amazing Nancy Floy at the Heartwood Center in Evanston.  I attend to be in community with people of like mind and to create new neural pathways.  And I really need them. My thoughts get so stuck in a groove … an endless loop of drama going around and around like the proverbial broken record.  Those grooves are the neural pathways, and with meditation, we can form new ones so our thoughts can more easily slip onto another track. Easier said then done. But with practice it is possible.  Like putting money in the bank, regular meditation has cumulative effects.  In times of great stress and challenge, you can call upon this practice to more quickly bring relief. Having just gone through a deeply challenging situation, I was grateful to have this community and this practice.  What had previously taken months to bounce back from now took a few weeks.  Priceless.

Meditation by Many Names

Not falling prey to habitual patterns of mind is among the many benefits of meditation.  You can also pray, focus on your breathing, laugh or simply say affirmations that help you calm down your system.  You can do it anywhere, anytime, and it’s free.  Among my favorite teachers are Pema Chordon, Thich Nhat Hanh, and of course the Dali Lama, now on Twitter.

Have some favorite mindfulness practices or benefits in your life?  Please share here.

Love,
JoAnn

3 WAYS TO PROMOTE BLOG POSTS

Promoting your blog post is just as important as writing good content. If you build it they MAY come but if you promote they more likely WILL come. So, how can you attract more viewers? Andy Crestodina, Co-Founder/Strategic Director of Orbit Media says publicize your post through:

  1. Social Media
  2. Email Marketing
  3. Search Engine Optimization

PROMOTING POSTS ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Social Media means LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Vine and many others.  Each have their own unique spin.  For most, crafting the opening lines of your post so that it clearly defines subject matter in the first sentence allows you to blast out a coherent message to many media channels – at the same time – with a social media management tool. Hootsuite is such a tool. With it you select where you want to promote you post and it sends your headline, first sentence or two plus a link to your blog. You can also schedule when you want to send your announcements. It’s a fast, convenient and organized way to publicize your posts.

PROMOTING POSTS THROUGH EMAIL

Email marketing can be as simple as creating a database housing all those business cards you collect and sending a summary and link to your post to those you think would benefit from it. If you have a newsletter, be sure to include a link and a one sentence description of your post in your email blast AND in the newsletter itself.  Another way to promote your blog post using email is simply to add a link and quick blog post description to your email signature line.

PROMOTE POSTS THROUGH SEO

The details of how best to do search engine optimization (SEO) are constantly changing.  But knowing what terms people are searching for is helpful when you are writing your posts. Typically people type in a few words in the search box. The main words are called keywords. Which keywords are best to use?  There’s a tool for that too! When asked if there were any free keyword finders, Mana Ionescu, President of lightspandigital offered up Ubersuggest. Just put in the term and see what other suggestions pop up.

The rule of thumb is to include the keyword in the post’s title, within the opening paragraph, and at least three-four times within your post. Also be sure to include keyword tags. While the analytic details about which keywords are driving traffic to your site are changing you will still be able to see which pages people are visiting.

WordPress.org, the publishing platform I use, includes lots of plug-ins that will automate the publicizing process and even help with SEO. While it’s smart to optimize your blog posts, people will return when you provide them with relevant content that can make their work, home, and personal lives better.

According to experts at Social Media Week in Chicago, the ratio of writing and promoting should be at least 1:1 – meaning if you spend an hour writing your post, you should spend an hour promoting it.

How do you promote your blog posts?   Please share your ideas here.

Thanks!
JoAnn

 

ONLINE SOCIAL DIETING

We date online why not diet online?  More than one of my clients have credited various apps for helping them drop a few pounds, improve their food choices and get fitter faster.  And now Greatest Loser guru Jillian Michaels throws down another challenge by partnering with Dietbetter. http://www.dietbetter.com/images/jillian-michaels-main-page.png

Dietbet is a four-week social dieting challenge. According to the company 96% percent of DietBetters lose weight, with an average of over six pounds in four weeks. You could drop those pounds and pick up some cash in the process.

Michaels’ DietBet starts on September 24 and runs through October 21.

HOW TO LOSE IT
The rules for The Jillian Michaels DietBet are simple. Players all bet $30 into the pot to begin. Everyone who loses four percent of their starting weight over the course of the four-week game splits the pot equally at the end. Dietbet is not winner-take-all; everyone who reaches the finish line is a winner and receives an equal share of the pot. To validate weight loss, players submit multiple photos of themselves on their scales to DietBet’s human referees.

Find DietBet on Facebook and Twitter. An iPhone mobile app is also available.

Good luck and let us know how you do!

Love,
JoAnn

MONEY CAN BUY YOU HAPPINESS

Turns out the old adage that money can’t buy you happiness is not true.  Money CAN buy you happiness IF you know how and where to spend it.  In this Ted Talk , Michael Norton shares fascinating research on how money can, indeed buy happiness — when you don’t spend it on yourself. Listen for surprising data on the many ways pro-social spending makes a difference in your life and the lives of others.

Michael I. Norton,  is Associate Professor of Business Administration in the Marketing Unit and Marvin Bower Fellow at the Harvard Business School.

For more on creating happiness in your life, check out the book: Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

Life is what you make it.

Love,
JoAnn

 

Laughter as Medicine

If you’re of a certain age, you’ll remember the Reader’s Digest series, Laughter is the Best Medicine. Those days you had to read all about it on actual paper. Today a simple search brings you instant funny on a screen that’s touted as almost as good as paper.

It feels good to laugh.  But, come on, really? Medicine? Yes.  Laughter has shown physiological, psychological, social, spiritual, and quality-of-life benefits. So say researchers from around the world … so it must be true.

SELF-MEDICATE EARLY AND OFTEN
Turns out it doesn’t even matter much of you make yourself laugh or if you spontaneously laugh at joke.  The brain doesn’t really care either way.  In this era of evidence-based medicine, laughter is now discussed in the realm of alternative medicine.  And if you want to self-medicate – it’s OK, there aren’t any side effects, unless you count your checks hurting from laughing too much.

The many benefits of laughter include:

  • Exercises face muscles (hey free cosmetic benefits)
  • Increases oxygen levels (can you say aerobics?)
  • Releases endorphins (non-addictive feel good body chemicals)
  • Reduces stress (no laughing matter)

It’s no wonder there are so many images of the Buddha laughing.

These days there are laughter therapists helping cancer patients; , laughter yoga;  and of course a ton of comedy clubs, jokes online, and on TV.  It’s easy to get your daily dose.  So go ahead. Laugh. Chuckle. Smile.

Just keep in mind:

  • On the other hand, you have different fingers
  • Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm.
  • The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese in the trap.
  • Support bacteria. They’re the only culture most people have.
  • OK, so what’s the speed of dark?

More here.

Love,

JoAnn

STOP

The other day I attended a very different kind of meditation which the practitioners called, Flowing with Musical Expression. Essentially it was people making all manner of odd sounds, chirps, whistles, hums, ooos and ahhhs – randomly and loudly for 30 minutes. I thought I was in room with people who had Tourrents. It was distracting and uncomfortable. According to literature at the center, the founders said that Westerners always need to be “doing” something. So their active meditations were a response to that.

There are of course, many different ways and reasons to meditate.

NOT DOING
I thought of a dear Baha’i friend who once said to me that meditation BahaiTempleFacingNorthdoes not have to be formal. It can be during a walk with your dog, a simple stopping to appreciate the beauty in a cloud, architecture or perfectly made crème brûlée. For me, it is about the stopping. I think and do way too much as it is.

Poetry helps me to stop and to savor. One of my favorite poets is Mekeel McBride who I met at women’s conference just after I graduated from college. I’ve memorized many of her poems; the pages of her book all dog-eared and yellowed now. I’ve never been one to keep books pristine. I underline, highlight, and bend the pages.

“… Just that some people love words
as much as a locksmith loves the machine
that duplicates keys, allowing the lost
to once again enter familiar rooms,
touch the chipped blue china cup,
stand quietly in the sun-drenched kitchen,
amazed that such return in this word is possible.”
From The Going Under of the Evening Land by Mekeel McBride

Love,
JoAnn

PILATES FOR PLANTAR FASCIITIS

From blisters to bunions, most of us will suffer from foot problems more than once during our lives. Some issues can be resolved with over-the-counter remedies, targeted Pilates exercises, reflexology and gently rolling your feet on a tennis ball.

But if the pain you feel is in your heel and it doesn’t go away within a week or so, Plantar Fasciitis, Heel Spurs, Heel Painsee your doctor.

The pain is usually caused by the inflammation of the plantar fascia, also known as plantar fasciitis, a chronic irritation due to abnormal biomechanics. Wait too long and you could be headed to surgery. The pain often feels like you bruised your heel on a stone. It can also radiate through your arch.

MADE FOR WALKING
The triangular structure of the feet allows the weight of our bodies to efficiently spread out over a broad base. The plantar fascia is a tight band underneath your foot. Its job is to prevent the foot collapsing out when you walk. When this band is overly stressed, it can tear, causing pain.

The most common cause of plantar fasciitis is faulty biomechanics (walking abnormalities) that place too much stress on the heel bone and the soft tissues that attach to it. It can also be caused by walking, running, or jumping on hard surfaces; wearing poorly constructed shoes; or being overweight.

To learn more about heel pain and taking care of your feet, visit the American Podiatric Medical Association.

NEW HOPE FOR RESISTANT BREAST CANCER

Take a look at any pharmaceutical drugs insert leaflet and you’ll see something called “indications.” Often times, a drug can be used or indicated for more than one health problem. For example, anti-seizure drugs can be used to treat pain. According to a Duke Cancer Institute study, an osteoporosis drug approved in Europe has been shown to stop the growth of breast cancer cells, even in cancers that have become resistant to current targeted therapies.

The findings, presented June 15, 2013, at the annual Endocrine Society meeting in San Francisco, indicate that the drug bazedoxifene packs a powerful one-two punch that not only prevents estrogen from fueling breast cancer cell growth, but also flags the estrogen receptor for destruction.

Paradoxically, in bone tissue, bazedoxifene mimics the action of estrogen, helping protect it from destruction. Because bazedoxifene has already undergone safety and efficacy studies as a treatment for osteoporosis, it may be a viable near-term option for patients with advanced breast cancer whose tumors have become resistant to other treatment options. In clinical trials, the most often reported side effect was hot flashes in the bazedoxifene treatment groups.

BREAST CANCER STATS AND FACTS

A healthy lifestyle can help prevent both breast cancer and heart disease.  Which means:

  • don’t smoke
  • limit alcohol
  • be active
  • breast feed
  • control your weight

While we can not know what will end our lives, we can improve the quality of our lives by choosing  a healthy lifestyle.  It’s not just about preventing diseases.  It’s about enjoying life more.  I believe that once you experience how good it feels to live in a healthy fit body, that will motivate you to keep it that way.

Love,
JoAnn

Dating a Smoker Who Wants to Quit

“Quitting is easy,” said Mark Twain, “I do it all the time.”

If you smoke or have a loved one that does, how many times have they quit?  Bunches right?  Well I have a predicament now – how to help my new man stop smoking.  Yes,  Me health writer, fitness instructor and all things wellness is dating a smoker.  He said he smoked “casually” but as we became more comfortable the rate of lighting up increased. And frankly at nearly a pack a day, that ain’t casual.

Fact is it takes people MANY times of quitting before it finally sticks.  But people do succeed. It is possible.

It’s not the second hand smoke that bothers me so much because he’s steps away outside. It’s his cough.  It is my father’s cough.  My father who died of lung cancer. This is the cold hard fact.  Heavy smokers will die sooner because of their nasty habit.  This makes me sad.  He’s got young kids and well, there’s this lovely budding relationship… American Lung Association - Fighting For Air

The American Lung Association has a program that might help and I will offer it up to him.  Here’s one testimonial:

“The program was there when I was ready not to smoke.  I had something to reach out for.  Not to take away from the program’s content or research but I just wanted to give [smoking] up. I went to the program every week. I enjoyed that there were people to talk and to listen to. I even went to follow-up meetings and tried to give back, to help at the hospital.” – Steven, 58

Some say acupuncture. I just want him to pick something and start the process.  But only he can do this. In the meantime, I offer my love and support. And will incorporate these tips on helping others quit.

Comments from quitters and those who love them welcome!

Love,

JoAnn

Chobani Yogurt Recall

If you love Greek style yogurt chances are you’ve enjoyed Chobani.  According to the CEO, they’ve voluntarily recalled products due to a type of mold commonly found in yogurts that don’t have preservatives.

The problem affected about 5% of it’s product and is reported to be solved now.

AFFECTED PRODUCTS
If you purchased yogurt with the code 16-012, Best By: 9/11/2013 – 10/7/ 2013, toss it. To get replacements or refunds,  contact their Customer Loyalty Team at chobani.com/care  or call 877-847-6181 between the hours of 9am and 5pm EST.

Chobani 6 oz. cups – all flavors
Chobani 16 oz. tubs – all flavors
Chobani 32 oz. tubs – all flavors
Chobani 3.5 oz. cups – all flavors
Chobani Bite™ 3.5 oz. cups – all flavors
Chobani Flip™ 5.3 oz. containers – all flavors
Chobani Champions® cups 3.5 oz. – all flavors
Chobani Champions® tubes 2.25 oz., 8, 16 and 36 count – all flavors

FIZZY IS NOT FINE IN YOGURT
The mold caused the packaging to swell and some customers had said that it tasted fizzy or had an alcohol overtone.   The company started pulling the products from the self last week. The potentially affected products were distributed from their Twin Falls, Idaho facility.

In short, it’s best not to eat yogurt or any other product if the packaging is torn, punctured, or swelling. You just never know what contaminants natural or otherwise may lurk inside.

Love,
JoAnn