Archive for December, 2013

Every New Year’s people make resolutions in an effort to start fresh, turn over a new leaf, and in some way, shape or form, improve their lives.  The most popular resolutions made in America today are usually health-related, so here is The Listening Center’s Top 10 New Year’s resolutions to improve your mental, emotional, and physical health in 2014:

1. Eat healthy, nutritious, whole foods.  Minimize processed foods and foods high in sugar, saturated fat and salt. If you regularly consume processed foods high in sugar, saturated fat, and salt, you have to fight even harder to stay balanced.  You have to fight against yourself.  Think of it this way.  Your body is like the car you drive.   If you regularly abuse it and starve it of the fuel it needs to function properly (i.e. essential vitamins and nutrients), then it simply will not be able to perform under any sort of pressure.   Everything is connected – our minds and our bodies are one.

2. Exercise regularly. Our bodies are meant to move.  A natural mood-booster, regular exercise has been proven to reduce anxiety and depression.  It has also been shown to improve memory and brain power.

3. Commit to sleeping 7 – 8 hours a night, consistently. Lack of sleep is proven to cause great stress on the body, physically, mentally, and emotionally.   The importance of good sleep hygiene cannot be stressed enough.

4. Take a fish oil supplement daily. Omega-3s, found in fish oil, are essential amino acids that the body does not produce on its own and, therefore, must be consumed through the foods we eat and supplements we take.  People who don’t get enough omega-3s in their diet face an increased risk of developing conditions such as dementia, depression, attention-deficit disorder, dyslexia and schizophrenia.

5. Adopt a mindfulness practice such as meditation. Meditation has been proven to help relieve stress, manage chronic pain, help with depression and anxiety, as well as enhance feelings of compassion, calm, and peacefulness.

6. Spend time outdoors on a consistent basis. Time in Mother Nature has been shown to have a restorative effect and to help both attention and impulse control.  As a species, much of our evolution is rooted in our connection to the earth.  It is only in recent modern times that we have been disconnected from that source.

7. Practice the art of listening. So often, miscommunication is what leads to our daily stresses and relationship troubles.   Really listening and reflecting back what another has said to you will go a long way to improving your life and your relationships.

8. Begin a gratitude journal. It’s easy to lose sight of all your blessings, especially when you are going through tough times.  Keeping a journal in which you write five things each day that you are grateful for trains your mind to seek out gratitude moments throughout your daily life.

9. Live each day as if it were your last. Just as it is easy to lose sight of our blessings, it is also easy to lose perspective.  When you find yourself getting caught up in your sadness, depression, or anxiety, ask yourself, “How would I handle this if I knew today was the last day of my life?”  It may sound morbid, but it will quickly put things in perspective for you.

10. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Change is not comfortable.  It’s not supposed to be.  If you remain “comfortable” you will never successfully achieve any resolution you decide to adopt.  In those moments when it feels like your whole body is itching to go back to its old ways just for the sake of comfort, push through.  Remind yourself that the itch you feel is just a symptom of the change you are making and that it’s a good thing.

Meditation for Children

In this day and age, with all the research and practical experience, there is no denying the benefit of meditation.  It has been proven to help relieve stress, manage chronic pain, help with depression and anxiety, as well as enhance feelings of compassion, calm, and peacefulness.

Meditation is a practice.  The results get better with time and consistency.  That being the case, it is greatly beneficial to introduce this habit to your children at a young age.  Not only will it help them in their present lives just as it does adults, it will also set them up to reap the benefits of a lifelong practice of meditation.  Many adults who try to adopt a meditation practice encounter some difficulty incorporating it into their daily lives and remaining consistent, especially because at first it is very difficult to settle your mind.  Children who grow up meditating will be at a much better advantage.

Having a regular mindful meditation practice will help your child remain calm and in control of his/her emotions, curb your child’s impulsivity, and help them to be more balanced and compassionate.  In older children, it can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.  Below are some tips for introducing meditation to your child:

  1. Set a Good Example. As with anything you ask your child to do, it’s best if you lead by example.
  2. Help Them to Understand Why. All children want to know why.  Understanding the benefits of meditation will empower them to really try rather than just go through the motions.
  3. Use Guided Meditations. Guided meditation is a great way to start.  It gives your child something to focus on, which is sometimes easier in the beginning than trying to “not think”.
  4. Be Realistic. It’s best to start off slow.  Especially for young children, just 3-5 minutes in the beginning is enough.  If meditation becomes overwhelming, it will cause stress for your child rather than reduce it.
  5. Keep Them Sitting Up. Lying down can be too relaxing and lead to falling asleep.  While naps are great, they do not carry the same benefits as a mindful meditation practice.
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