Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Power of Gratitude

By Paula O’Neill, MS, RN-BC
Clinical Program Manager

According to the English Oxford dictionary, gratitude is “the quality of being thankful…readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” Gratitude is appreciating what you have and recognizing the simple pleasures of life…things we often take for granted.

Gratitude is a powerful force that can make us happier and healthier. Many studies, including those by Emmons and McCullough, found that people who focus on and write down what they are grateful for every day showed evidence of greater emotional and physical well-being at the end of the study than those who focused on difficulties. Research shows that people who focus on gratitude experience greater joy, get sick less often, are more creative, have less anxiety, and have stronger social relationships.

So how can you develop and nurture gratitude in your life? Here are some suggestions. 
  1. Keep a gratitude journal—each day before you go to sleep, before you get out of bed, or anytime during the day that works best for you, write down three things that you are grateful for. It can be the laughter of a child, the new job you just got, the smell of the spring flowers. What are those things that brought a smile to your face and joy to your heart? 
  2. If you don’t like to write, replace the gratitude journal with a daily reflection or gratitude meditation. 
  3. Write a thank you letter to someone who has had a positive influence on your life. According to Emmons this is a powerful way to cultivate gratitude. Some experts recommend that you read the letter to the person. 
  4. If you do not have time to write or personally thank a person, thank them mentally. 
  5. Change your perception of a difficult situation. Choose to find something positive about the situation. This can be difficult; however, this will help you to move from a negative emotion to one of gratitude. 
  6. Help others who are less fortunate. Not only does this demonstrate true compassion but it will make you more appreciative of what you have. 
"The more you practice gratitude, the more you see how much there is to be grateful for, and your life becomes an ongoing celebration of joy and happiness." - Don Miguel Ruiz

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Tell Me What You Eat and I Will Tell You Who You Are (Part 2)

By Mary Brighton, M.S., RDN
Integrative Nutritionist

Welcome to Part 2 of Tell Me What You Eat and I Will Tell You Who You Are. This blog is not about the food we consume, but about the most essential nutrient vital for health and life - our beloved H2O - water. In the last decade, the water we drink for our main beverage has changed from tap water to water from a packaged bottle. An average American consumes 300 bottles of water a year! The bottled water industry is a multi-billion dollar drink market.  The good news is that high-sugar soft drink consumption has decreased as bottled water sales have increased, and we know it’s always a good healthy habit to drink water in place of sugar rich drinks. 

Now I ask you: do you know where the water you drink comes from? Let me give you an example of what I mean. Last year I taught a nutrition class at a community college. My students were busy young adults who propped their water bottles on their desks during the lectures. During our lecture on nutrition and water I walked around the classroom and stopped by each student’s desk. I picked up the branded water bottle they owned, held it up and asked that student where the water they drank came from. 

Their typical answer: “I don’t know.” But they were curious. Where does Spring, P.W.S, Mineral or Purified water come from and is one water type better than the others?  Even if my students didn’t know where their water came from, they did consume a lot of it. And this is a good thing. We need about half our body weight in pounds converted to ounces in water daily to function well. As an example: A 160 pound man would need 80 ounces or 10 cups (1 cup equals 8 ounces) of water daily. 

What is the best water for health? That is a harder question to answer because the source is important. A clean water source that has been filtered is my go-to water. Tap water is low-cost and is monitored by the local authorities where you live.  If you drink tap water, you can add a water filter on your pipes or use a Brita-type water pitcher that filters your water for contaminants. 

If you drink bottled water, here are the main different terms and what they mean: 
'
Artesian is water obtained from a well that hits a confined aquifer which is an underground layer of rock or sand that contains water. 

Mineral is groundwater that contains minerals and trace elements from the source and has dissolved solids of at least 250 parts per million. 

Public Water Source P.W.S. is tap water. 

Purified is water treated from any source, including tap water, to remove chemicals and pathogens. 

Spring is water from an underground formation and comes naturally to the earth’s surface
Keep in mind that if you are concerned with your water source, check with the town or company where you drink your water from. Bottled water from a ‘natural source’ like spring water may not fully come 100% from that source, some water bottle companies mix their water sources from what it states on the bottle with purified water. 

Finally, water first is a good health mantra. You are what you eat, you are what you drink; good nutrition and clean water helps to keep the body functioning at its best. 


If you missed part 1, you can read it by clicking here: “Tell Me What You Eat and I Will Tell You Who You Are.”

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

What is Your Morning Routine?

By Lisa Sussman, Psy.D.
Health Psychologist

Do you start off your day feeling stressed, overwhelmed, reactive, and/or foggy in your brain?  Is your mind racing with things to do, dread about a challenge you must face, or self-deflating thoughts?  Is your body feeling sluggish, achy, or resistant to getting up?  How you start off in the morning sets the stage for the day, and there are things you can do to cultivate intentionality, balance in your mind and body, productivity, and resilience to the day's challenges.  Whether you have 2 minutes, 15 minutes, or an hour, there are a myriad of self-care activities to choose from which research has shown to be effective in giving yourself that best shot at making the most of your day ahead and feeling good about it.  It all starts with being mindful that when you open your eyes in the morning, you know you will be taking a little time to calibrate your mind, body, and energy to prepare yourself for the day ahead.  
In an ideal world you would do this before your kids wake up, the dog needs to go out, and before you check your email and social media (but also be flexible with the timing as things will come up that you cannot control).  Feel free to use your smart phone as a tool for accomplishing some of the activities below such as listening to a favorite song or doing a guided meditation from YouTube or an app.  Here are some activities to consider as you start to put together your custom morning routine. How long you engage in each activity and how many you do will depend on how much time you have in any given day.  You can be flexible and don't have to do the exact same thing every morning. There's always time for something, and even doing 1 thing for a minute is better than doing nothing at all.  If you don't have a morning routine yet, start by picking 1 or 2 things from this list, or another activity you come up with that interests you and you can see yourself trying.  

1.   Meditation/guided imagery

2.   Deep Breathing (eliciting the Relaxation Response)

3.   Considering your top 2-3 priorities for the day and imagining yourself accomplishing them and overcoming possible obstacles

4.   EFT/Tapping

5.   Stretching/yoga poses/energy routine

6.   Application of mood regulating, tension reducing, and/or immune boosting essential oils

7.   Journaling

8.   Prayer

9.   Reading a spiritual/inspirational passage

10. Reading/audio of your self-development book
11. Listening to a favorite song that energizes you and makes you smile. You can even sing along and/or move to the music. 

12. Aerobic exercise, HIIT exercise, and/or strength training

13. Get outside, take in some fresh air and nature, look up at the morning sky, go barefoot on the earth (grounding)

14. Gratitude and compassion practice

15. Drawing/coloring

16. Mindfully preparing and eating a nourishing and healthy breakfast

17. Smile at yourself in the mirror and say "I love you" or 3 qualities your like about yourself.

18. Text your accountability buddy what you did that morning and how it made you feel. Or tell your partner, your kids or a friend.  

19.  Meet a friend for an early morning walk 

20.  Listen mindfully to the sounds outside your home (or window if you're inside) such as birds chirping, the weather, cars and people going by.

21. Snuggle or play with your pet, your partner, your kids or a friend.  Really pay attention note the connection you have to one another.

22.  Congratulate yourself for taking whatever amount of time you could today to intentionally prepare your mind and body for your day.

As you can see from this list, which by no means is exhaustive, there are so many self-care activities to choose from in creating a morning routine that's right for you.  Although it may seem awkward at first, and that you are crunched for time, please stick with it.  Commit to doing a morning routine practice for 2 months, and then check in with yourself on how you feel in the mornings and throughout your day, and what's different than before you started.  If you miss a day (or more), don't panic, just pick back up on your intention and morning routine the next day, without being critical of yourself.  The new neural pathways and habits need time to take hold and create lasting change in your body and mind.  It's well worth the wait!   Please comment below about your favorite morning routine self-care activities and how you feel after doing them. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

You Know What You’re Supposed To Do, So Why Aren’t You Doing It?


By David C. Leopold, M.D.
Medical Director

As a physician, I have long been fascinated by what people do NOT do when it comes to taking care of their health. Why do we not make the choices that we know are best for us? As I have discussed before, healthy living choices in many ways are simple and straightforward, and definitively lead to healthier and higher quality lives. So why do people not do the things that they know they should? Some recent studies and papers have examined this and found some very interesting things.

There are 8 prominent reasons why people do not do the things that they know are better for them, and I will examine a few of them here and some in later blogs.

1) WE WANT IT NOW! As everyone is aware, we are creatures of immediate gratification. To sort of quote the late great Tom Petty (R.I.P Tom!), “Damn the Torpedoes! (full steam ahead)”.  (Well, actually that was Tom quoting U.S. Admiral Farragut , but you get the point).  We want what we want now; we don’t care about what happens in the future. If it is food or that new giant TV and the cost is to our bodies or our bank accounts, we want it now. And none of this makes for very good long term results.

2) GOOD STUFF CAN WAIT, BUT WE FEAR THE BAD. We are concerned with the bad stuff that can happen but not as much when it comes to positive outcomes. This may be because we are wired to be concerned with risk - particularly immediate risk, and avoidance of danger, but we are not really set up to appreciate the benefits of healthy behavior, and certainly not benefits that are in the future. So not making a healthy choice for activity is actually compounded by the immediate gratification of the poor choice (particularly relevant to food choices). The healthy outcome is just too far down the road.  We care a lot if we just had a heart attack, we don’t want another one, but until that big one hits, well, one more cheeseburger sounds pretty good….

3) WE THINK NOTHING IS REALLY GOING TO HAPPEN TO US. This one is particularly interesting to me; we have a false sense of optimism. We think: that won’t happen to ME. Smokers don’t think they will be the ones to get cancer, people who continually make poor dietary choices  don’t think they will be the one to get diabetes or have that heart attack; it will always be someone else. I can tell you right now, I have spent much of my career taking care of people who did not think they were going to be in a doctor’s office suffering from what they are suffering from. And the unfortunate part of this is that so much of our chronic disease is preventable. People have a false sense of their ability to avoid disease. Most don’t realize that they are on their way to an official diagnosis until it is too late, and then it is often very difficult to reverse what has occurred. An ounce of prevention is really better than a pound of cure, but few see it that way.

4) WE ARE ALMOST ALL IN SOME STAGE OF BURNOUT. Being in a constant state of depletion and fatigue often leads to making bad choices. These may be comforting in the moment, but are usually detrimental to our long term prospects. Who does not want to reach for the Ben & Jerry’s or that delicious chocolate scone when we are tired or feeling down? I have yet to meet the person who makes consistently great choices when they are feeling lousy, frustrated, down or hopeless.

So what can we do about all of this? Well, first realize that although the path to good health is clear and should be easy, in the modern world it is not. Temptation is everywhere and making poor choices is supported by industry and advertising all around you. Easily available poor and nonproductive options (e.g. sit around, eat poorly, take the elevator, pretend you are not a ball of stress, etc.)  are the constant devils on your shoulder, encouraging any amount of “bad” behavior you can image.
I was really struck once again by this recently watching the NCAA Basketball Tournament. This event is a paragon of athleticism, which is ironically completely dominated by ad after ad of things to eat that will absolutely wreak havoc on your physiology. How do we stay healthy when we are constantly inundated by things and ideas that want to pull us towards the unhealthy?

So, how to improve when the odds are so stacked against us? Good news, it is not hopeless, although it can be challenging. It can also be liberating and empowering and lead to a better life in our bodies and minds, and the same for those around us. (Here’s an added bonus; study after study shows positive health is contagious. People are healthier when they associate with healthier people. Imagine the implications to your family and friends if you take up the mantle of becoming a shining example of health for yourself and those close to you.) 

Next time, we will talk about the ways to accomplish these goals by focusing on immediate benefits, avoiding too many choices, making commitments to ourselves, being prepared, keeping it simple and believing in ourselves that we can make these positive changes. We will see how we can use the same principles that advertisers use to get us to do detrimental things, to do the good stuff. 
You will soon find that you can actually be feeling better by tomorrow, and soon you can be well down your path to wellness! 

In health and happiness,

David C. Leopold, M.D.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

How to Really Know Your Health Coach


By Kathleen Welshman RN-BC, BA, NBC-HWC
Integrative Nurse Health Coach

Health Coach? Wellness Coach? Life Coach? All trendy titles these days that catch people’s attention. But, what do these titles mean and what is the education and credentialing behind them?  If you google “health coach”, you will find varying information from how to become a health coach to where you can find a local health coach.  Consumer be aware. Because this is a new field, anyone can hang a shingle out calling themselves a health or wellness coach.  This does not mean they have any formal training or expertise.  There are many folks out there calling themselves by these titles, some with very little, if any, educational background in the healthcare field.  At Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine, we set the bar quite high.  All of our health coaches are Registered Nurses first. Our nurses have varying backgrounds and areas of expertise, all with at least 10-20+ years of nursing experience before becoming a health coach.  This background has given these nurses a solid foundation on which to build. 

Our registered nurse health coaches have all attended and graduated from coaching programs in “integrative health coaching,” not just “health coaching.”   Their knowledge in integrative approaches to health and well-being are based on evidence-based practices.  Our health coaches have attended programs at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and The University of Arizona, Center for Integrative Medicine.  Both of these schools have met all the standards and requirements by the International Consortium of Health and Wellness Coaches (ICHWC).  The ICHWC has joined with The National Board of Medical Examiners to develop a national standard for Health and Wellness Coaches.  They have set a measure of foundational competencies, knowledge, tasks, and skills essential to the practice of health and wellness coaching.  The application of coaching knowledge is assessed by the Health and Wellness Coach Certifying Exam.  Our health coaches have sat for the very first qualifying exam, have passed and are now National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coaches. They are among the elite, approximately 1,000 NBC-HWC in the country.  Add to this, the requirement of coaches at Hackensack Meridian Health, also are Registered Nurses.  So, when seeking out a coach to partner with on your wellness journey, do your research first and turn to Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine for highly qualified and credentialed RN/Health Coaches. 

Meet our health coaches and learn more about health coaching here.