“The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing…not healing, not curing…that is a friend who cares.”
Friendship is an art. We are born into families but we must cultivate our friends. A true friend is priceless- someone you can call when you are confused, have a problem, or when you are excited and want to celebrate. Sometimes we need a friend to listen and not fix our problems or advise us with the best solution. Yet, how many people have someone in their life who will listen and love unconditionally without an ulterior motive; without asking for anything in return; someone whose own spirit is lifted by allowing you to share your dreams, worries, fears, confusion, anger, and other emotions.
This is rare in today’s society because we are in a hurry and listening takes time. It is also difficult these days because much of our communication is lost in texting, e-mail, facebook, and lack of self-awareness and mindfulness. How can we understand what someone else is feeling if we never take the time to understand our own inner world? Make friends with yourself first and you will be able to open your heart to others.
Like doctors, we want to give our friend a solution. Often we don’t want a solution; we just want to talk it out. A true healer will listen until they don’t exist so the other person can come up with their own solution, but this takes time.
There was a time when I went to a doctor and I said to him, “You know, Doctor, I think there is an emotional component to this and I really want to heal at a deeper level.” He looked at me with a sense of helplessness, and said, “Well, get up on the table and let me listen to your heart.” After putting the cold stethoscope on my chest, he proclaimed, “You are just fine.” Isn’t that funny? Would he really take the time to listen to my heart and soul and mind? No, not because he doesn’t want to, but because he doesn’t have time. Listening to someone’s feelings and emotions is difficult. We quickly want to solve the problem, hurry the pain away, and heal the person. We can’t expect our doctors to be our friends, but if we had more friends we might not need as many doctors.
You may have a “ton of friends,” but how many of your friendships are open and unreserved allowing you both to expose your soul and unleash your feelings and emotions without fear. You are fortunate if among the multitudes of people you know, you have one or two trusting friends who will be there for you even when they don’t understand you.
Cultivating friendship takes time and thought and the ability to give and to forgive. It is the desire to want to be in a relationship with another human being for no other reason than the healing energy of knowing you can count on that person and they can count on you in life when it is challenging or when it is exciting. This kind of friendship is the best medicine.
I have spent over 40 years studying the body and health, both illness and wellness and how the physical systems work and break down. I have also spent the last 30 years studying how we can prevent those systems from breaking down by adhering to a healthy lifestyle. I have dedicated the last 25 years of my life to studying how our thoughts and attitudes influence our health and wellness. I can summarize my findings by using four questions to evaluate your health and wellness or lifestyle.
What are you eating?
What are you drinking?
What are you doing?
What are you thinking?
Chances are if you are not feeling “well” or suffer from “dis-ease” one or all of these questions include some unhealthy practice. The most important question is What are you thinking? But first let’s look at the others.
What are you eating?
Let’s look at what you are eating. There is so much written about diet today that many have been suffering from mass confusion. The truth is the laws of nutrition have not changed much and we still need to eat a variety of foods to stay healthy. There is no magic bullet and no magic diet. We are hear to enjoy food and eat what feels good and healthy and give us pleasure. We need to eat to live and live it up while we eat.
So what feels good and what does feel good mean.
In a nutshell after studying all the diets and after going on many of them myself, I conclude the healthiest way to eat is:
- With variety
- Not too much meat
- Fish at least once a week
- More plant based
- Limit dairy products
- Lots of vegetables and a some fruit
- High fiber grains in breads, cereals and pasta
- Protein at every meal
- Limit simple sugars and avoid high fructose corn syrup
- Eat what your body is calling you to eat.
- Eat the foods that bring you joy and energy.
- Eat in moderation
What about drinking?
It is no secret that water is important. Our body consists of 75% water. Our cells and organs need water to function. Water keeps every thing flowing. Water is cleansing. The most important thing you can drink is water. There is controversy about the amount of water one needs, but there is no argument that we don’t live very long with out water. Can you over do water? Of course! We can overdo everything.
What about other beverages? There are other ways to get fluids into our body. Fresh fruit and vegetable juices are wonderful supplements for health.
Coffee and tea have some benefits, but only in moderation. They are caffinated beverages and actually encourage our system to eliminate water. They actually can dehydrate us. The plusses of coffee is that it is a stimulant and can give us energy when we are tired and also, let’s face it-those of us that love a cup of coffee with the morning paper are drinking it because of the ambiance of it-for how it feels as it goes down and more than likely because we are in the habit of drinking it.
Tea is a little different. Caffinated tea can be a stimulant and Green tea has been reported to prevent and even attack some cancers. All the data is not in.
Tea has been found to have some strong antioxidants that help prevent disease and in some cases aid in curing cancers.
Decaffeinated herbal teas are not only refreshing but can have some medicinal value. Herbal teas have a connection to relaxation and quiet.
Wine and alcohol seem to have a place in a healthy diet, when consumed very moderately. For men this is about 2 drinks a day and for women no more than 1 drink a day. A drink is 6oz of wine, 8 oz of beer, 1 oz of liquor. Beyond this amount alcohol does more harm than good. Alcohol adds calories to the diet and also can be dehydrating.
Whenever you are consuming any beverage other than water it is best to have a glass of water with the other beverage. This allows you to enjoy the beverage of your choice but also to dilute it and allow the water to rehydrate your system.
What are you doing?
Whatever you do it must be in line with your values and goals. Your body needs to move so hopefully you are doing something other than sitting or driving. Your body needs walking and bending and stretching and playing. Without movement on a regular basis your body will become stiff and your entire system will suffer.
The doing should include daily exercise of some sort. It needn’t be so strenuous you dread doing it, but it should be enough that your body has to make some effort and in the act of doing the body is lubricated. Walking is by far the best and most natural exercise. Buy a pedometer and make your goal 10,000 steps (5 miles) a day.
Are you working at a job you love? Gardening is great doing. What about traveling. Are you doing some traveling – even if it is exploring a local park or place you have never been to? Pretend you took an airplane to come to this beautiful place and enjoy all the sites.
Do what you love.
What are you thinking?
This is the most important question, because if your thinking is in order all the other questions will fall into place. We do not over eat or drink or become sedentary because we are happy people and it feels good to our system. Generally happy people are full of life and enjoy what they eat, what they drink and what they do. Unhappy people abuse food and drink and either do nothing productive or resent everything they are doing.
This is the most important question to ask yourself.
Recently I was talking to someone who said, “You know, I am doing everything right. I am eating practically a vegetarian diet, I don’t drink, I don’ smoke, I work out with weights every other day and then walk and do aerobics 4 times a week, but I still feel like crap.”
So I asked – “What are you thinking?” she said – well –that is a problem. My thoughts are very conflicted. “ She proceeded to share some of her most recent issues. The main source of conflict is her interpersonal relationships and some issues at work.
That was it. She could do all of the exercise she wanted and eat very healthy indeed, but if her thinking stays conflicted she will continue to feel bad.
Each person needs to examine his or her own thoughts. What do you think from one moment to the other? What motivates you? What are your values? Who are you? What do you believe?
These are the questions that need to be examined in order to fully be healthy and alive.
And while you are questioning you may feel like crap, because it may be the first time you are really honest with yourself. It may be that for years you covered up all of your conflicting thoughts with distractions. Some people become workaholics. Being deep in thought about a project that needs to be completed prevents you from looking deeply within at your true thoughts.
Everyone is struggling in his or her own way with the existential questions. Some have found answers enough to move forward and live life fully. Others retreat to a mountain where they feel most comfortable with themselves and no interpersonal relationships to contend with. Look deeply within. You can only hide from yourself for so long
I love walking
I hear this often -“I’m having a hard time getting exercise-I’m bored, get interrupted, it’s too cold and just don’t like it. What can I do to get my exercise and stay motivated?”
I always ask, “What is an activity you enjoy? Walking? Dancing? Ballet/Bar? Yoga? Tai Chi? Meditative movement? And then what is the best time for you to take 30 minutes to dedicate to a workout of some sort?” For me it’s walking and dancing. I love to walk.
30 minutes 5 days a week gives you the recommended 150 minutes for promoting and maintaining health and wellness. Add two days in your week to do resistance exercises using weights, bands or even your own body. Make the 30 minutes your sacred half hour and find something you like to do. Walking can be boring. I usually listen to podcasts or make phone calls. Some people love to listen to music and walk to the beat.
When it’s cold outside, walk in place or turn on a You Tube Walking Workout video. You Tube has just about any kind of workout you’re in the mood for.
Here are the links to a couple of my favorite indoor walking workouts:
FAST Walking in 30 minute
30 Minute Boosted Fitness Walk
10 STEPS To Help You Stay Motivated
- Make this your time to feel good. The best motivation is what comes from you internally instead of trying to please someone else or because you feel guilty. Call it movement instead of exercise or workout if that makes you feel better.
- Get a pedometer and track your steps-go for 10,000 but start from whereever you are and make 10,000 your goal. (More below)
- Make it fun. Put on some cardio dancing music and dance for 30 minutes. Or add variety. You can do some cardio and whole body work.
- Walk around your house when you are making phone calls or listening to podcasts.
- Put on a You Tube video.
- Join a Zoom exercise class.
- Buy a new exercise outfit that makes you feel comfortable with your movement. And don’t forget good shoes.
- If you can, create a special place in your basement or home just for exercise. You can put mats on the floor and posters on the walls that motivate you and help you to visualize your success at feeling and staying fit.
- Forgive yourself if you a miss a day or two and just get back to it. It’s not all or nothing, it’s something – whatever you will do.
- Reward yourself. After you are done, you can take a soothing bath, read magazines, play a game on your phone, or make a relaxing phone call.
More on 10,000 Steps
If you want to begin with lifestyle changes and exercise is your top priority, go out and buy a pedometer and work up to 10,000 STEPS PER DAY. I love my pedometer. I put it on in the morning and track every step. You would be surprised how little walking you get in if you sit at the computer all day. On the other hand if you have steps in your house and you vacuum daily, run errands, do the gardening, and walk to the mailbox, you may find that by mid afternoon you have over 5, 000 steps. Now all you have to do is go out and take a brisk walk for less than an hour and you will have your 10,000 steps. You can sneak steps into your day by parking your car farther away, walking up and down every aisle in the supermarket, window shopping at the mall, or simply walking around while chatting on the telephone. I wish I had invented the concept of 10,000 steps. 10,000 Steps is equal to about 5 miles of walking. In the beginning don’t worry if you are getting sufficient aerobic exercise at your target heart rate, just WALK. Once 10,000 steps is a habit increase your intensity and frequency, but for now just clip on your pedometer and get walking, and of course, if you are not used to exercise, check with your doctor to make sure you are ready to begin.
I found a great web site using this concept.
Writing and Healing-Reflections
Putting your deepest feelings on paper or into a journal can be a journey into your own soul and a tool for self-discovery and inner peace. There are also some surprising health benefits. There is research that shows that writing what you feel may be a boost to the immune system and help prevent illness. James W. Pennebaker, a psychology professor, did a study where he asked people from all walks of life-prisoners to medical students to write about traumatic events in their life. The control group was asked to write superficial events of their life. The group that wrote the traumatic events had fewer doctor visits and showed a boosted immune response to hepatitis B Vaccine and the Epstein Barr virus. (Important – it seemed the writers used negative response words in the beginning and showed new incites about the incident by the end).
Another study was done at State University in New York, where 51 people with rheumatoid arthritis were either asked to be part of a group that wrote about traumatic events or a group that wrote about neutral events and again the group that wrote about the traumatic events reported less stiffness, swelling, pain, and fatigue than the group that wrote about neutral events. All of this is showing that in fact, writing your deepest feelings is every good for your health.
I started keeping a daily journal in 1985. My first journals were written on 3×5 cards. Eventually, I kept my journals in actual notebooks, and today, I have two bookshelves full of the writing I have done to record my life. Some days are simply – that -simple-what I did with my kids, how I felt, where I ate, traveled, etc. Other days the writing is deep-maybe a poem or reflections from a book I’m reading or feelings I would not necessarily want the world to read. Sometimes I think, “Who is that crazy person? Me!”
One of my goals is to go back and read my journals. I have begun the process, and it’s sometimes fun to look back and think about those early years as a Mom and an older college student pursuing a degree. Sometimes it’s hard to see how serious I was taking life and how many moments I missed worrying too much about things that today seem trivial. It will also be hard to review a time when my spiritual journey took me away from those day to day moments-maybe too much. Eventually, I had to come back to the middle way.
But regardless of how it feels to go back and self-reflect, I have always found the journaling process to be healing and an excellent tool for gaining inner peace. My journals are often my best friend.
My journal goes with me wherever I go as much as possible. There are days that I don’t take the time to journal, but I always go back to those days and add reflections on what I did or how I felt that day. Lately, I enjoy taping my daily newspaper horoscope in my journal and then write about what that could mean to me.
When I travel, I love to journal the sights, sounds, experiences, food, and people from my trips. At the beginning of the summer, we toured Eastern Europe with our Rabbi and Members of our Synagogue. This trip was structured around the history of Jews before, during, and after WWII. There were both painful and joyful moments filled with reminders of the Holocaust and the effects of the War in Eastern Europe and the Renewal of Jewish life today. I was the only one with a journal in my hands throughout the trip. I am currently transcribing those journals and my reflections and hope to include some of the 2500 photos I took while there. I plan to share some of this writing with you.
If you have ever thought of journaling, it is never too late to start. Just get yourself a notebook or writing journal and a good pen and start writing. Write as if no one will ever see it. It is your private conversation with yourself or a dear friend as in Dear Diary.
There are no rules for journaling. Do it your way-the way that feels most comfortable for you.
Here are a few tips to get started.
Choose your writing tools. The sky is the limit. You can use binders, notebooks, decorative journals, or even 3X5 cards.
Find a quiet place and time for writing. I can journal anywhere-at home, in restaurants, on airplanes, or doctor’s offices. But it is really comforting to journal with a cup of tea or glass of wine. Light a candle for an even sweeter effect.
Let go of obstacles that get in the way. If you are worried about someone reading your journal, find a private place to keep them-your secret place. You can even buy lock and key diaries, but they are bulky. A journal is for you. They can also be used if you are writing a memoir or autobiography and wish to share some of your story with others.
Let go of your inner critic. Most important is to let go of an inner critic and editor. Don’t worry about grammar and punctuation. Just write. Later if you want to share your story, you can worry about editing.
Use prompts to get you started and keep you going. As I said, I sometimes cut out my daily horoscope as a prompt for writing about my day or life.
Write the good, the bad, the ugly. Write when you’re happy and when you’re sad. Write when your grateful. Get it all out in your journals. Just Write.
You wake up and notice throughout the day that you’re not feeling quite right. You wake up and still feel tired. You feel an odd sensation in your body. Your throat is a bit scratchy. You may even notice your glands near your ears are a bit tender or even swollen. I call this the eewy jeewies or that punky feeling. I know when I feel this way that my immune system is weak and I am at the tipping point for illness. My awareness of this feeling tells me I need to take care of myself with diet, exercise and stress management. I may need to rest, increase my Vitamin C by eating fresh fruits and vegetables. I may even crave oranges or foods with the vitamins my body needs. I notice I don’t crave my normal cup of coffee. Instead I want a cup of hot tea. At lunch I want hot soup. Our bodies are amazing. If we pay attention, we will get warning that our immune system wants to work for us.
What is it that prevents us from getting sick? And when we do get sick, what is this marvelous system that helps us heal. It is our immune system. This system is working all the time, whether we are sick or well. It is a system of specialized organs and cells. The organs are the thymus gland, lymph nodes, spleen, and bone marrow. The cells are white blood cells, T cells, called T helper cells and T killer cells, and B cells. These cells are smart and know when germs or foreign particles don’t belong. They all have a job and work together to fight organisms that cause disease. They are living breathing cells. Each cell has a job, much like an army.
To boost the power of your immune system you need to eat a healthy diet full of fresh vegetables and fruits, limit simple sweet sugary foods, and increase pure water and liquids. Your body needs to rest if you get sick, but to avoid illness and keep the immune system strong you need to keep your body strong with exercise and play. Most of all you need to do a mind check. There is power in positive thinking. Laughter, smiling and joy increase immunity. Conflict, sadness and pessimism weaken immunity. Daily meditation and listening prayer reduce the frenzy of thoughts in our mind and lessen stress, thus improving function of this powerful internal warrior. Funny that for this warrior system to fight illness, it helps to have a peaceful heart and mind.