Love your Brain

Did you know that June Is Alzheimer’s And Brain Awareness Month? It was declared in 2014 by the Alzheimer’s Association to help raise awareness about the disease, as well as show support for the millions of people worldwide living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. It’s also a time to recognize caregivers for the support they provide to those living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Every three seconds someone in the world develops dementia, with nearly 50 million people currently living with the disease worldwide. Perhaps more alarmingly, that number is expected to reach 132 million by 2050.

I am all too familiar with the disease. My mother suffered from it and spent many years in a nursing home that could give her the support, attention and care that she needed. And even though she may not have been able to recognize us anymore, or carry on a conversation, she seemed to be at peace in her bubble, listening to music and smiling. She remains one of the sweetest and most loving human beings I will ever encounter. Her spirit continues to smile and radiate love every day.

Having had this close to home experience with Alzheimer’s, I pay extra attention to preventative measures. That is why I support the Alzheimer’s Association to encourage Americans to make brain health a priority. Especially as we return to living a normal life as we get to the other side of Covid-19. This past year has been extremely challenging. Stress, depression, frustration, anxiety, and mood swings have all increased and impacted our quality of life. And quality of life dramatically impacts our ability to stay healthy and maintain a strong immune system to ward off illnesses. 
So how do we flip the switch? Here are some suggestions from the Alzheimer’s Association to help us restore our mental well-being.
1. Recommit to brain-healthy basics
Evidence suggests that healthy behaviors took a back seat for many Americans during the pandemic. Gym memberships were put on hiatus, social engagement became more challenging and many Americans swapped out healthful eating for their favorite comfort foods, take-out meals and frequent snacking while working remotely. One study published recently found participants gained nearly 1.5 pounds per month over the past year, on average. The Alzheimer’s Association — through its U.S. POINTER Study — is examining the role lifestyle interventions, including diet, may play in protecting cognitive function. Right now, many experts agree that people can improve their brain health and reduce the risk of cognitive decline by adopting healthy lifestyle habits, preferably in combination, including:
Exercise regularly — Regular cardiovascular exercise helps increase blood flow to the body and brain, and there is strong evidence that regular physical activity is linked to better memory and thinking. Protect your brain by wearing a helmet when cycling or playing contact sports. Prevent injuries through strength training and being careful to avoid falls.
Maintain a healthy heart  — Stick to a meal schedule full of fruits and vegetables to ensure a well-balanced diet. Some evidence suggests a healthful diet is linked to cognitive performance. The Mediterranean and DASH diets are linked to better cognitive functioning and help reduce risk of heart disease as well. Evidence shows that risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke — obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes — negatively impact your cognitive health. Take care of your heart, and your brain just might follow.
Get proper sleep — Maintaining a regular, uninterrupted sleep pattern benefits physical and psychological health, and helps clear waste from the brain. Adults should get at least seven hours of sleep each night and try to keep a routine bedtime.
Stay socially and mentally active — Meaningful social engagement may support cognitive health, so stay connected with friends and family. Engage your mind by doing activities that stump you, like completing a jigsaw puzzle or playing strategy games. Or challenge yourself further by learning a new language or musical instrument. Build a piece of furniture. Complete a jigsaw puzzle. Do something artistic. Play games, such as bridge, that make you think strategically. Challenging your mind may have short and long-term benefits for your brain.
Stop smoking – Evidence shows that smoking increases risk of cognitive decline. Quitting smoking can reduce that risk to levels comparable to those who have not smoked.
Show Gratitude – Be thankful and grateful to be alive, healthy, happy and safe. Life is short, there is uncertainty and constant change. Appreciate the little things for they are the most important.

2. Return to normal at your own pace
Many Americans are eager for a return to normal life following the pandemic, but others are anxious. In fact, one recent survey found that nearly half of adults (49%) report feeling uncomfortable about returning to in-person interactions when the pandemic ends. For those feeling anxious, the Alzheimer’s Association suggests taking small steps. It may also be important to set boundaries and communicate your preferences to others in your social circles.

3. Help others and be socially engaged
There is evidence to suggest that helping others during the pandemic may not only make you feel better, but it may be good for you as well. Research shows that helping others in a crisis can be an effective way to alleviate stress and anxiety. One study published during the pandemic found that adults over age 50 who volunteer for about two hours per week have a substantially reduced risk of dying, higher levels of physical activity and an improved sense of well-being. To help others and yourself during June and throughout the year, volunteer in your community, run errands or deliver meals to a home-bound senior or donate to a favorite cause, such as supporting participants in the Alzheimer’s Association’s The Longest Day event on June 20. Staying socially engaged may support brain health. Pursue social activities that are meaningful to you. Find ways to be part of your local community — if you love animals, consider volunteering at a local shelter. If you enjoy singing, join a local choir or help at an after-school program. Or, just share activities with friends and family.

4. Unplug and disconnect
Technology has dominated our daily lives during the pandemic like never before. While technology has kept us connected through COVID-19, it has also created fatigue for many Americans. Experts warn that excessive stimulation coming from our phones, computers, social media sources and news reports can add to our already heightened anxiety levels. To avoid technology overload, experts advise setting limits on your screen time, avoid carrying your phone everywhere, and disconnecting from digital devices at bedtime.

5. Control your stress before it controls you
In small doses, stress teaches the brain how to respond in healthy ways to the unexpected, inconvenient or unpleasant realities of daily life. Prolonged or repeated stress, however, can wear down and damage the brain, leading to serious health problems including depression, anxiety disorders, memory loss and increased risk for dementia. Reports indicate that Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers are especially vulnerable to physical and emotional stress. The Alzheimer’s Association offers tips to help manage caregiver stress. Meditation, exercise, listening to music or returning to a favorite activity you have missed during the pandemic are just some ways to manage stress. Do what works best for you.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been an overwhelming time for all of us,” said Amelia Schafer, Executive Director of AA in Colorado. “It’s important for people to know there are steps we can take to lessen the stress and anxiety we might be feeling. It can be easy to take brain health for granted, but now more than ever, it’s a good idea to make it a priority.” Some studies link a history of depression with increased risk of cognitive decline, so seek medical treatment if you have symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns. 

Learn more about the Alzheimer’s Association, available resources and how you can get involved to support the cause, visit alz.org.

With Light and Love especially for our Brain this month,
Karen
 

Petco’s Approach to Whole Health!

Have you seen the Petco commercial “It’s What We’d Want if We Were Pets? A New Approach to Whole Health!” The first time I saw it, I was a bit startled. It is truly revolutionary and gives one food for thought on not only our pet’s health, but our own. One line in the commercial really calls out to me. “Our physical, social and mental health all cared for in one place!” Another line states that Petco is now a Health and Wellness Company. The framework consists of five interconnected dimensions of pet health – physical health, mental health, social health, home health and accessible health – created with the focus to improve pet well-being. 

According to Petco, their philosophy is to help pet parents go beyond the basics to provide their pets with full, rewarding lives focusing on total pet wellbeing. The fresh, creative campaign is intended to educate and motivate pet parents to consider their pets’ whole health. According to Tariq Hassan, Petco Chief Marketing Officer, “The Whole Health philosophy is at the core of our journey from pet specialty retailer to a 360-degree health and wellness partner. We know pet parents want to do the best for their pets; they just need support to know how. This provides a clear framework for pet parents to act in the best interest of their pets, further defines our mission to improve lives for pets and pet parents, and sets a baseline for what’s to come from Petco in the health and wellness space.”

This strategy has application to our own health and wellbeing as well. By providing education and resources needed for our pet’s health, it causes one to reflect on how we are taking care of our own and our children’s lives. And we can always improve by learning new ways, new insights, new thinking, new habits – if we are open to them. For we all desire to live a healthy, long and fulfilled life. 

So, if you have not seen the commercial, I invite you to watch it or find it on You Tube. Let the message in. Hear what is being said. 

Take the time to assess how you are doing in the 5 key areas of:
Physical Health – Providing the nutrition, activity and preventive care that keeps you, your family and your pets fit inside and out. 
  
Mental Health – Ensuring you, your family and pets can lead joyful, enriching lives free from boredom and anxiety.
  
Social Health – Nurturing yourself, your family and pets to feel confident and comfortable around other animals and humans. 
  
Home Health – Creating safe, stimulating environments where you, your family and pets feel like they belong. 
  
Accessible Health – Getting affordable, convenient access to everything you, your family and your pets need to live their best lives.

Interesting that a pet commercial is creating so much buzz, in a positive, encouraging way, to improve not just our pets lives, but all of our lives. We only need to listen, learn, be accountable and take the necessary steps to ensure our total wellbeing. It is our choice. Choose wisely!

With Light and Love and Whole Health for All,
Karen

 

Ikigai (生き甲斐, “a reason for being”)

Ikigai diagram of Japanese concept of finding happiness. Vector illustration chart

I read an article this morning regarding this Japanese concept and loved it!
What’s your reason for being?
What do you live for?
What is the reason you want to get up in the morning?
Many things to reflect upon, but first let’s dissect the word:

Wikipedia states that the word consists of ‘Iki’ (“to live”) and ‘gai’ (“reason”). The term ‘ikigai’ compounds two Japanese words: ‘iki’ (生き, meaning “life;alive”) and ‘kai’ (甲斐, meaning “(an) effect; (a) result; (a) fruit; (a) worth; (a) use; (a) benefit; (no, little) avail”) (sequentially voiced as gai), to arrive at “a reason for living [being alive]; a meaning for life; what [something that] makes life worth living; a raison d’être”.

Ikigai can describe having a sense of purpose in life, as well as being motivated. Feeling ikigai usually means the feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment that follows when people pursue their passions. Activities that allow one to feel ikigai are not forced on an individual; they are perceived as being spontaneous and undertaken willingly, therefore they are personal and depend on a person’s inner self.

Ikigai is the union of four fundamental components of life: passion, vocation, profession, and mission. It roughly means the “thing that you live for” or “the reason for which you get up in the morning.” In a nutshell, it encompasses the idea that happiness in life is about more than money or a fancy job title.

On Japan’s Okinawa Island, nicknamed  the “island of longevity”, locals refuse to die. Residents have low levels of heart disease, cancer and dementia, and Okinawans’ robust social life and strong sense of ikigai (a unique purpose in life) often keeps them alive and healthy past the age of 100. Okinawa is one of the world’s five “Blue Zones” of longevity, and Ikigai plays a big role in keeping it that way. 

According to the book, Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Héctor García and Francesc Miralles, Okinawans eat a diet rich in vegetables and antioxidant foods, consume just a third of Japan’s average sugar intake and eat their meals on small plates. They regularly exert their bodies in low-intensity exercise and only eat until they feel 80% full, which aligns with ancient wisdom advising against overeating. Okinawa’s Kitanakagusuku village even holds a yearly pageant in celebration of women aged 80 and older. 
The key to Okinawans’ joy and good health is their ikigai, the core of one’s true nature that needs not be centered on a lofty, material or power-driven goal. Discovering and pursuing your ikigai every day, the authors write, will keep you busy doing the things that give your life meaning. But also, they say, it’s important to reconnect with nature, surround yourself with people who love you and stay active. 

As I reflect on my lifestyle, I have been practicing bits of Ikigai all along. However now, with this increased knowledge of it, I can be more purposeful and focused on it. I intend to live to 105 and my husband has set 95 as his goal. So look out world,  here we come.

An article in Forbes from Chris Myers in 2018 titled “How to Find your Ikigai and Transform Your Outlook on Life and Business,” states that Ikigai is about finding joy, fulfillment, and balance in the daily routine of life. It’s all too easy to fall victim to siloed thinking, that our job, family, passions, and desires are all separate and unrelated aspects of our lives. The fundamental truth of Ikigai is that nothing is siloed. Everything is connected. We are one.

Knowing these can improve your quality of life, and you’re longevity.
So, what’s your passion?
What’s your reason for waking up in the morning?
What do you live for?

With Light and Love and Ikigai,
Karen

Pandemic Re-entry Adventure

Yes, I changed the term Pandemic Re-entry Anxiety to Adventure on purpose!
Quite a few articles have been written lately discussing the high level of anxiety that people are feeling as they re-enter into post pandemic life. What we have been through over the last 15 months is quite shocking.. We have changed and made adjustments to almost every aspect of how we live, and now we are changing again. With that comes anxiety or I prefer to look at it as an adventure. For those of you that know me, you know that is how I am wired. Attitude is everything. It sets the tone, it shifts ones perspective, it enables us to thrive versus just survive. And it works for me.
However I do acknowledge that not everyone thinks, feels or behaves like me.
Change can be uncomfortable. 
Change can be scary. 
Change can be feared. 
Change can be risky.
However change can also be exciting. 
Change brings in fresh and new ideas. 
Change can improve our lives.
It is through change that we grow.

Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher said, “Change is the only constant in life.”

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new” -Socrates

“You’ve done it before and you can do it now. See the positive possibilities. Redirect the substantial energy of your frustration and turn it into positive, effective, unstoppable determination.” -Ralph Marston

As we venture out now and face a new “normal”, it will be different for each of us. What is key is to make the changes that are right for you. Not what is being told to you via the media, press and peers. You need to feel right about your decisions.
So if you still want to wear a mask, wear it. If you don’t, then don’t unless local enforcement is in place.
If you only want to socialize outdoors, then do that. Enjoy being in nature, feel the sunshine, feel the breeze, listen to the birds, hear the waves crash, feel the sand between your toes.
If you want to go to a restaurant and eat indoors with a large group and feel comfortable, then go ahead.
If you want to go shopping again in a mall, then have fun.
Do what works for you.

Some thoughts to help you not stress out as you begin your adventure.
Breathe. Take a few deep breaths before you set out on rediscovering the world.
Think about what you want to change and why. What have you missed? What is important? What makes you happy?
Think about what you want to continue doing that became part of your routines over the past 15 months. Have you upped your exercise routine? Have you improved your nutrition? Have you balanced your work life and personal life better? Have you enjoyed spending more time with your spouse or partner? Keep what is working for you and continue doing those things.

Slowly, as you feel comfortable, begin to add more things back into your life. See more friends and family. Hug someone. High five someone. Or just knuckle or elbow touch. 

As I review my life and how I will move forward, I intend to continue focused on health, happiness, peace, joy, love, kindness and compassion. I have throughout the past 15 months, continued with my running and hiking and strength training. I have increased my formal yoga practice to 4 days a week by subscribing to an online program. I stayed committed to a healthy diet and getting quality sleep. Those practices and disciplines will continue as well as spending as much time being with my husband. Since we are retired from the business world, that is easier for us to do. I give thanks for that.

I continue to informally interact with friends that I see on the beach and in the community. What I look forward to is traveling again. My husband and I usually take at least 2 incredible trips a year to far off places. That definitely went on hold last year. And I have not yet felt the desire to book our next adventure. However it is on the radar.

What’s on your radar?

With Light and Love and Adventure not Anxiety,
Karen

 

 

You are Not Alone

Since 1949, Mental Health America and affiliates across the country have observed May as Mental Health Month. Mental health affects everyone. Through readings, lectures, seminars, help lines, video presentations, podcasts, apps, and so many other venues, we can educate ourselves on how to identify, help, prevent, and treat ourselves and others. You are not alone! You are not the only one going through post Covid issues of not feeling your Best Self. If you are experiencing excessive or long lasting signs of panic, worry, anxiety, depression, irritability, extreme mood swings, social withdrawal, eating or sleeping changes, acknowledge that you may need help. Be honest. Be strong. Be brave. You deserve to live the life you want. You are valued. You are appreciated. You matter.

With everything we have been through for over a year now with Covid, racial injustices, violence, financial instability, unemployment, war, climate disasters…all this has contributed to a greater number of mental health conditions. Now, more than ever, it is critical to reduce the stigma around mental health struggles, which often prevents individuals from seeking help. One organization, NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, will amplify the message of “You Are Not Alone.” by focusing on the healing value of connecting in safe ways, prioritizing mental health and acknowledging that it’s okay to not be okay.

For too long, mental health was not talked about. People did not feel comfortable to discuss what they were really feeling. Some may have felt weak, less than, not valued, and chose to remain silent. Unfortunately, that leads to continued issues and a spiraling down. 

Education is key to improving mental health for all. We often misunderstand what we do not fully comprehend. So let’s break down a few things:

Mental health relates to one’s social, emotional, and psychological well-being. It includes physical, intellectual, environmental, vocational, social, emotional and spiritual health. Mental health affects thoughts, feelings, moods, behaviors, and actions. When one has positive mental health, they are better equipped to handle stress, be more productive, and realize their full potential.

While we focus on our physical wellbeing, the food we eat, exercise, and getting regular check-ups for vision and dental care, we often forget to take stock of our emotional and spiritual needs. Everyday demands take their toll. Mental disorders can affect one’s ability to relate to others and to function each day.

Throughout my life, I have focused on my physical wellbeing and devoted time to my spiritual and emotional self. Some years better than others as Life got in the way! For It takes time and work and daily practice. However I have learned that the more I take care of myself, the better I am. It is my responsibility. It is my choice. It is my decision and practice. Maintaining a positive outlook, reducing stress and negative influences, and surrounding myself with love, harmony, peace, joy, kindness and compassion is what I am about. 

Together, we can realize a shared vision where anyone affected by mental illness can get the appropriate support and quality of care to live healthy, fulfilling lives. To be their Best Self.

With Light and Love and remembering that You are Not Alone,
Karen

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Mother’s Day

Happy Mothers Day Everyone! Every year, the second Sunday in May, is designated as International Mother’s Day worldwide. Celebrations vary, however we all can benefit from celebrating the meaning as we honor our own mother, motherhood, maternal bonds and the influence of mothers and women in society.

How it began:
The American incarnation of Mother’s Day was created by Anna Jarvis in 1908 and became an official U.S. holiday in 1914. While dates and celebrations vary, Mother’s Day traditionally involves presenting moms with flowers, cards and other gifts.
Celebrations of mothers and motherhood can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who held festivals in honor of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele, but the clearest modern precedent for Mother’s Day is the early Christian festival known as “Mothering Sunday.” Once a major tradition in the United Kingdom and parts of Europe, this celebration fell on the fourth Sunday in Lent and was originally seen as a time when the faithful would return to their “mother church”—the main church in the vicinity of their home—for a special service. 

Over time the Mothering Sunday tradition shifted into a more secular holiday, and children would present their mothers with flowers and other tokens of appreciation. This custom eventually faded in popularity before merging with the American Mother’s Day in the 1930s and 1940s.

Even though I am not a mother myself, I celebrate all the traits I learned from my mother and all the women in my Life: Love, Compassion, Caring, Empathy, Forgiveness, Determination, Strength, Positivity, Trust, Faith, Persistence, Resilience, Imagination, Ambition, Creativity, Individuality, and many more.

I have so many fond memories of all the women in my Life starting with my Mom, Grandmothers and Great Aunts. Then onto teachers, professors, ministers, doctors, mentors, business leaders, colleagues, coaches and friends. I learned so much of how I wanted to be. Their lives impacted me and helped me frame my world. And I still learn today from all of them and the new women I meet. I am grateful and thankful.

So today and everyday, I encourage you to give thanks for the lessons we all have learned from our mothers and women in our Life. As you go about your days, share those lessons to support and encourage other women to be their Best Selves. We all have something to say and to learn. We are powerful! We are strong! We are Love! We are kindness! We make a difference! 

With Light and Love and Heartfelt Thanks for you Mom,
Karen

 

Be Like a Squirrel!

This past week we have enjoyed watching a squirrel in our backyard scurrying about, climbing up and down the side wall, the trees, standing up on hind legs, shaking his tail and munching on peanuts. I became curious after a few days as we had not been aware of them before. What does it mean? For you know, life presents messages, signals and encounters for a reason. As long as we remain aware, we can identify them. Let’s explore what the squirrels can mean!

Squirrels symbolize energy, practicality, and playfulness. They teach us work-life balance by showing us how they playfully collect nuts, all the while keeping up with playful antics. A squirrel literally seems to be telling us, “you need to have more fun in your life!.” 

Squirrels are also a symbol of preparedness. They indicate saving up for a rainy day. You can always see them stocking up on nuts for the cold, dark winter days ahead and then coming back to find them. Therefore, seeing a squirrel could mean that you must invest in your present for a better tomorrow. It may mean working, hard, or even multi-tasking for a better future.

Squirrels are also playful by nature. You will always see them chasing their friends, jumping up and down a tree, and engaging in other playful antics. So, seeing a squirrel in your dreams could be an indication that you will soon meet your friends. 

Alternatively, it might mean that you are working too hard, are too serious, or that you need to relax a bit and have some fun.

Squirrels also represent an abundance of money, food, warmth, love, health, comfort, and rest. They are a good representation of hard work and determination. Seeing one means: no dilly-dallying around – we need to focus on getting the job done!

The squirrel’s messages are so timely and appropriate. They are all relevant in times like now. And I especially love the one about having FUN!

Considering all we have been through this past year, the tendency was to become more serious, concerned, worried, frustrated, fearful, scared and stressed out. However, in order to recover from all that, what we need to do is recharge, refresh and renew ourselves by following squirrel wisdom: Be more playful, find joy, prepare for tomorrow but live today, identify opportunities, be resourceful, find your balance, practice self care, be kind and share with others, and have FUN. Lots of it!

With Light and Love and Wisdom from the squirrels!
Karen

 

Simmer or Boil?

While running up a hill Saturday morning, a fellow runner passed us and as she did she gave my husband and I a thumbs up. We smiled and responded with a “Yes, Way to go” and a double thumbs up. Loved it. My husband commented “She’s cooking.” To which I replied “Yes, she is! I am simmering and she is boiling!” We chuckled as we continued up the hill.
I started to think about simmering and boiling and the different paces and speeds we go at in our lives.  Did I feel outpaced by her? Did I get the urge to pick it up a bit? How did I feel?
Well, to be totally honest,  I am purely thankful that I can still run, hike, do yoga, strength train and be active. At 67 and a half years young, I feel grateful and appreciative of what I can do. My focus is on participating without injury, and I intend to continue for as long as I can. To 105 or older! And I was inspired by her! 

As I reflected on my life and all my experiences, I realized that depending upon the circumstance, we make adjustments to either turn up the heat to high, or lower it to a simmer. Some things are better slow and steady while others are better fast and intense. And it is different for each of us. We could be conditioned one way until we are inspired to try another way. That is what makes us uniquely me, or you. There is no right or wrong. It really is an individual preference. 
Spicy or mild.
Sweet or salty.
Hot or cold.
White or black.
Left or right.
High or low.
Expensive or cheap.
Quality or quantity.
New or used.
Old or young.
Silver or gold.
Night or day.
Moon or sun.
Mountains or beach.
The list goes on and on. And of course, there is always the in between, the many shades of grey!

So as you go through your stages of life, savor the varying speeds, temperatures and intensities. Let others go at their own pace. You do you! 
Life is not a competition against someone else.  Or even against yourself. Today is today. Yesterday was yesterday. Tomorrow will be tomorrow. Sure, we can always improve upon our capabilities if we choose to do so. Just make sure to do it for the right reasons.
Experiment with the in betweens. Find what feels right for you.
Remember, you have control. You can decide to change it up. You can set the temperature to whatever degree you want to. Accept it. Be okay with it. Enjoy it.

With Light and Love at your own pace and temperature,
Karen

 

 

 

Celebrating Earth Week

Time to celebrate! Time to get involved! Time to Restore and be Restored!
Friday, April 16th, kicked off Earth Week 2021, which runs through Earth Day on Thursday, April 22nd. This year’s official theme is “Together, We Can Restore Our Earth,” and activate change for good. In addition, National Parks Week runs from April 17 through April 25, with parks offering special programs, events and digital experiences focused on the natural world.

By having a weeklong celebration of the Earth allows students and all of us to spend more time learning about the environment and the challenges we face. It is a time to rethink how we do things, make adjustments and form decisions that will preserve, protect and positively impact our world. It is a global environmental coming together to activate change for good.

Earth Week allows companies, schools and individuals to celebrate and reaffirm their commitment to care for nature, plants, and the land. We rediscover that by doing so, we realize how integral that is for our own health and well being. Individual responsibility lies with each of us!  Whether it’s a healing walk through the woods, parks, beaches and canyons, picking up litter (while walking!), or buying more Earth-friendly products, we all can do our part to care for our planet and each other. 

Most years, Earth Day events range from river cleanups to removal of invasive plants. With social distancing still in place for many of us this April, Earth Day has gone digital with virtual events, environmental lectures and films. However we can still all go outside and enjoy nature, doing so responsibly. Nature is not canceled!
Check out your local listings for events and activities near you. To help get you started, here are 10 Earth Day activities and ideas from The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

1. SUPPORT OUR POLLINATORS! 
Bring native bees and other pollinating creatures to your garden. Select plants that will attract them. Local nurseries can help you identify the right plants for your gardens. 

2. CLEAN UP PLASTIC IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD OR LOCAL PARK
One of the best ways to connect with the Earth is through cleanups! Go on a walk with a trash bag and help to clean up any plastic that you find. You’ll start to realize that plastic permeates every aspect of our lives. Think about ditching single use plastics and recycling those you do use. 

3. SWAP OUT YOUR KITCHEN AND HOUSEHOLD PRODUCTS!
Think 100% recycled aluminum foil, chemical-free parchment paper for baking, compostable bags made with potato starch, and even vegetable-based inks for packaging.  Use cloth towels instead of throw away paper towels. Use reusable containers and covers instead of plastic wrap. Look for cooking and cleaning products that are biodegradable, without chemicals or plastic. It is great to see more companies offering these items.

4. PLANT A TREE!
Trees capture carbon, cool overheated places, benefit agriculture, support pollinators, reduce the risk of disease transmission, and boost local economies. Did you know that planting one oak tree brings in more insect and bird species than an entire yard of plants? Talk to your local government about planting more trees and native garden beds in public spaces or consider planting your own on your property! 

Another way to make a difference is to ditch printed catalogs. Contact the company and ask to be removed from their print list. Look to send digital greeting cards. And also, monitor what you print out. Is a hard copy really necessary? You will be surprised.

5. USE WILDFLOWERS AND NATIVE PLANTS
Wildflowers and indigenous species are not only beautiful but also attract native and beneficial insects that improve both pest control and pollination—meaning bigger flowers and bigger harvests. Try to simply add a couple of native plants to your garden each year, and you’ll be amazed at the difference—they’ll bring in pollinators as well as birds!

6. REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE IN THE GARDEN
Caring about yourself and nature means being less wasteful and saving money, too. If you are a gardener, here are just a few ideas:
Buy in bulk when you know that you’ll need a lot of topsoil, mulch, compost, or other materials. This cuts down on plastic bags. Also check with your city recycling center or Department of Transportation—they might offer free compost, soil, sand, or other materials.
Reuse, recycle, or return old plastic pots and trays.

7. STOP PESTICIDES AND CHEMICALS IN THE GARDEN
Start growing without chemicals or pesticides—in a way that works and even saves money. Much of this is simply about focusing less on the plant and more on the health of the soil that supports the plant. If it’s nutrient-rich with organic matter, plants thrive. 
You don’t need chemicals to get rid of pesky garden pests: Companion planting, natural remedies, and attracting predators to your garden can save you money and also save your plants. Some bugs are good for the garden! Check with your local nursery for the right ones for you.
Use an organic plant fertilizer—made from just weeds and water. 
Gardening and farming methods such as not tilling the soil, growing cover crops during the off-season, and rotating crops (and grazing) help to retain organic materials in the soil.

8. CONSERVE WATER!
We waste a lot of water. Improve plants health by avoiding overwatering. Water your garden vegetables and plants at soil level, not overhead, which invites fungal disease. Consider setting up sprinklers on timers or convert from sprinklers to a drip system. Harvest your rainwater from a roof, gutters, and sky with a rain barrel.  If you have a low-lying area, consider planting a rain garden, which captures runoff, filters out pollutants, and provides food and shelter for butterflies, songbirds, and other wildlife. 

9. THINK ABOUT YOUR DIET!
About one-third of the food that we produce every year goes to waste annually! Usually, this happens after we buy the food. How do we avoid waste in our own lives (and save money)? How can we improve our diet so that it’s healthier for ourselves (and the planet)? One way is to care about your “foodprint,” which is the result of everything that it takes to get your food from the farm to your plate. Think local farmers markets, think plant based, think about buying what is fresh and in season.

10. GET KIDS INVOLVED!
Pass down a love of nature and plants to kids. There are so many ways to actively involve children. As the weather continues to warm up and we spend more time outdoors, it is the perfect opportunity to garden, enjoy the fresh air and nature, get your hands dirty, and watch the flowers and vegetables grow.

Here’s to Celebrating Earth Week!

With Light and Love and deep Appreciation and Respect for you and our Earth,
Karen

 

Afformations vs. Affirmations

Yesterday while on our beach run, my husband and I ran into two very special friends that we have not seen in awhile. We are always happy to see Monique and Norvell, as we share similar philosophies about Life, Love and Joy. We have a connection. As we talked about staying healthy and the importance of positively affirming it, Monique said she uses afformations versus affirmations. I had heard of the method, however was not that familiar with it. I have used affirmations consistently through the years and have benefitted from them. Being highly curious and inquisitive,  I am always open to making adjustments to enhance my life. What better way to research it than to write about it in my weekly post. Thank you Monique for sharing your wisdom!❤️

Let’s take a look at the two methods.
Positive affirmations are statements that can be used to overcome self-sabotaging behavior and negative thinking patterns. By repeating these phrases, and believing in them, positive changes will manifest in your life. Think of it as exercise for your brain: we do sit-ups or pushups regularly, to improve our body’s strength. When we repeat positive affirmations regularly, we train our brains to become stronger—more positive, and more resilient. Saying them aloud adds passion and strength. Some people love to affirm in front of a mirror. Consistent and frequency of affirming is a powerful tool. I usually say mine first thing in the morning, as I start my runs, and at night before drifting off into sleep. I became more focused and disciplined during my cancer recovery 16+ years ago. 

Do affirmations work?
Yes and No! There is a scientific reason why. Our brains have a Reticular Activating System (RAS). Its function is to fill our awareness with things that we think about. So if you think about red and then look around in your room, you’ll notice red all around. Similarly, when you tell yourself that your life is amazing, you’ll find more and more amazing experiences as your life unfolds.

But sometimes affirmations may not work. Why? Because they go against our beliefs. Affirmations must align with your beliefs. Suppose your affirmation says “I exude happiness all the time”. But if you are sad most of the time, even the most powerful affirmations will become useless. 

What should you do? Experiment with various affirming statements. You will notice how you feel as you say them. Go with what resonates with you. Just pick the ones that fill you with conviction. It’s that simple. A few examples:

  • I am love. I am healthy, happy and whole. I am at peace and remain calm.
  • I am successful, powerful and strong. I am thriving. I am thankful for all the opportunities presented to me.
  • I am in charge of how I feel today and I am happy. 
  • I am enough.
  • I let go of all that no longer serves me.
  • I deserve the best, and I accept the best now.
  • I remain positive and optimistic even during trying times.
  • I am kind, compassionate and treat others with respect.
  • I appreciate the beauty that surrounds me.
  • I embrace the rhythm of life and let it unfold.
  • I focus on taking the steps to create the life I want. 
  • I believe in my intuition.

Repeating positive affirmations can help you control feelings of frustration, anger or impatience; raise your confidence before an important meeting or presentation; overcome bad habits; improve your self-esteem and improve your productivity. And when you find yourself having negative thoughts or behaviors, refocus and repeat your affirmations.

Positive afformations, on the other hand, serve the same purpose as positive affirmations…but are based on the principal that the subconscious mind responds more effectively to questions rather than statements. An afformation is simply the question form of an affirmation: an afformation asks empowering questions that focus on affirming answers that manifest into your Life. Example:

  • Affirmation: I deserve the best. I accept the best now.
  • Afformation: Why do I deserve the best? How can I accept the best now?

According to Noah St. John, author of The Secret Code of Success and responsible for coining the afformation term, afformations work better because our minds appreciate questions and are eager to search for answers automatically. It challenges our mind to figure out a possible answer instead of repeating some statements that don’t seem convincing. When you allow your mind to gather evidence of a possible answer on its own instead of forcing it into believing certain things, the idea becomes less invasive and your mind is less tempted to fight against it. 

As with most things in Life, we have a choice. Therefore choose the approach that feels right for you – Affirmations or Afformations – or possibly both!. Start by taking your goals and create two things:
#1 Your personal, positive, emotionally charged statements (affirmations) that inspire you.
#2 Your brilliantly crafted set of great questions (afformations) that trigger the “auto search” function in your mind.

Use both or one of these powerful methods. You will know what is best for you. However, remember that training your brain to intuitively default to positivity won’t happen without consistency and commitment. But the power of positive thinking is real, and can transform your life.

With Light, Love, Affirmations and Afformations,
Karen

References: 
Teri Karjala, counselor, therapist and founder of the Creative Counseling Center 
Noah St. John,  author, coach,  keynote speaker famous for inventing Afformations