Thursday, February 27, 2014

Think Twice - Mammograms - Friend or Foe?

Cancer seems to be the plague of our times. Is there anybody who hasn't lost a loved one to this menace? Everywhere we turn, we are advised on what behaviors to avoid and which actions to take if we want to minimize our chances of having to deal with this horrible set of diseases.

No one wants to hear the words, "You have cancer." So, we follow the advice of our doctors - keep your weight down, get regular exercise, don't smoke - you know the drill. And, if you're a woman over the age of 40, what have you been told over and over? That's right, be sure to get your yearly mammogram, it's your first line of defense against breast cancer.

But now, the scientific community is all abuzz about the not-so-great aspects of mammograms.

Like what?

Well, for one thing, regular mammogram screenings don't reduce breast cancer deaths.

Yes, you read that right.

Mammograms apparently don't do the one thing that they're supposed to do.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

40 Pieces of Advice Challenge - Day 6

Do you think that playing games is just for kids? Or that, even if you wanted to, you couldn't possibly find time in your busy schedule for something as trivial as a game?

You may want to reconsider. 

Playing games is fun.

OK, seems pretty obvious. We all have our preferences. Whether you favor more physical games like tennis or softball, or you're more of a Scrabble or chess player, there's at least one game that gives you a feeling of joy and freedom from everyday concerns. And in today's world of constant busy-ness, we seem to have forgotten the need to regularly unplug and replenish our mental and spiritual energy. In fact, we have subverted this need for rest by indulging in the equivalent of junk food for the mind - we become nightly zombies in front of our TVs and computers, we lose ourselves in our smart phones and tablets . But do these activities actually do us any real good? Do we feel rejuvenated and renewed after yet another evening on the couch, with our eyes glazing over while staring at a screen that doesn't know or care that we are in the room?

Wouldn't it be better if we turned off the TV, put our phones away and reached out to an actual human in a friendly game as simple as hangman or more mentally challenging like chess? What if we actually got a group of friends together and spent a few hours shouting, laughing and getting our hearts pumping by engaging in a few rounds of charades or Pictionary? 

Playing games builds relationships.

Your child comes home, goes to the fridge, grabs a snack and heads to his room. You call after him, "How was school?" You're lucky to get a "Fine" before hearing his bedroom door shut. Sound familiar? What if you asked him to go out and shoot some hoops or throw a ball back and forth? Do you think that the shared fun activity would open up more lines of communication? When was the last time that you spent a few hours playing games with your children? 

Maybe you don't have kids, and your life seems to be an endless loop of going to work, coming home and getting chores done on weekends. How about breaking up the monotony and making new friends by joining a bowling league or an adult dodgeball team?

Playing games keeps you young at heart (and at mind).

Increasingly, studies are showing that certain games, specifically ones that challenge the mind, may protect us from age-related afflictions like dementia. And, it is now well known that isolation, which increases in our society as we get older, is a major contributor to declining health. One great way to get mental stimulation while also building a community is to play bridge. This article by Matthew Solan explains not only why bridge is an ideal game, but also gives many valuable resources for learning to play it, as well as listing some pretty surprising fans of the game. 

Playing games is a wonderful way to blow off steam, reconnect to the carefree child within, stay healthy and build supportive communities. So, go out there, find a new game or rediscover one you haven't played in years, have fun and reap the rewards in all aspects of your life! What game will you play this day?

Monday, February 10, 2014

It's Soy Bad For You

Often, when people embark on a change of lifestyle toward a more healthy way of eating, they start to include a lot of soy products in their diet. I can't tell you how counter productive that is. Here is an excellent article that Wellness Mama wrote about the prevalence of soy in our foods and why we should be very careful about the amount and type of soy products we put in our bodies.

By the way, if you haven't checked out Wellness Mama's website, you're missing out! She posts wonderful recipes and articles about health and has really impacted the wellness community. Click here to see what all the fuss is about!

Friday, February 7, 2014

40 Pieces of Advice Challenge - Day 5

This was kind of a difficult post for me to write. And I was really surprised by that. After all, who wouldn't agree that energy, enthusiasm and empathy are great attributes to live life by? I think that any reasonable person would immediately see the value of having the 3 E's in one's daily toolbox, so what's there to talk about? Right?

Well, upon further reflection, I thought that, while we might have every intention of living with this attitude, often, life circumstance might make it difficult to actually follow through on this intention. I mean, if you're dealing with illness, or working in an environment that doesn't align with your true self, or struggling through financial worries, the last thing you feel up to doing is working up a sense of energy or enthusiasm. But, think about it this way. Is being down in the dumps going to improve your situation? Wouldn't you rather open yourself up to new possibilities that may help you find solutions, or at the very least, give you a different outlook on present circumstances? 

I always keep in mind that idea that time stands still for no one. So, if the minutes are rolling by anyway, why not make the best of them? Does this mean that we can't ever feel sad or angry? Of course not. Feel what is appropriate and necessary to feel. And then, and this is the important part, move on! Don't wallow. Just as actions can become habits, so can ways of being. 

Ever known someone who, regardless of what happens, is never happy? Can find something to criticize in every situation? How do you think they got to be that way? 

As for empathy, I think that it's one of the most significant human traits. It's the ability we have of putting ourselves in someone else's shoes and feeling what they feel. Ever heard of the Golden Rule? Treat others as you would have them treat you. It's so basic and important that even very young children, who have not yet been taught society's rules, instinctively understand it. Often they express it as, "It's not fair!" Being empathetic is also a central aspect of many spiritual paths, often expressed as an attitude of non-judgement. 

While the 3 E's may not come easily, they can be cultivated on a daily basis. If you catch yourself at any moment not living with energy, enthusiasm and empathy, the solution is easy. Take a deep breath and invite these ways of being in. It's really nothing more than an attitude adjustment. 

In parting, I'd like to pass on this allegorical story, which has been shared many times all over the internet. I believe that it's a valuable reminder about how attitude affects not only our lives, but the lives of everyone around us.

Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room's only window. The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back. 

The men talked for hours on end. They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation.

Every afternoon when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window. The man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the world outside.

The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flower of every color and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance.

As the man by the window described all this in exquisite detail, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine the picturesque scene.

One warm afternoon, the man by the window described a parade passing by. Although the other man couldn't hear the band, he could see it - in his mind's eye, as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words.

Days and weeks passed.

One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep. She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away.

As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and, after making sure that he was comfortable, she left him alone.

Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the world outside. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window beside the bed. It faced a blank wall. the man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate to describe such wonderful things outside this window.

The nurse replied that the man had been blind and could not even see the wall.

She said, "Perhaps he simply wanted to encourage you."