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WHY MOST NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS FAIL

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I’m going to go ahead and assume that most of us are very familiar with the cycle: You're ambitious and determined in January, only to find yourself off track and unmotivated within a few weeks. You begin the process of beating yourself up for failing to achieve your full potential despite your best intentions…and then cycle begins again a few months later. Before you know it, several failed resolution attempts have passed you by.

So, why is it that most New Year’s resolutions fail? Well, I believe that many people fail to realize that creating serious, long-term change is less about willpower and more about designing intelligent, effective goals! In fact, you don’t deserve or have to settle for another failed attempt next year. Keep reading and try out the new method I’m about to share in order to get the results you want this time around!

Turn Your Resolutions Into Questions

If you think about it, when people say or write down their New Year’s resolutions, it’s always a statement. Well, according to countless research findings, asking questions and then answering them is a much more effective method for reaching goals of all contexts!

What It Looks Like

Let’s stay you want to make a resolution about starting your own consulting business next year. Turning it into a question would sound something like: “What’s the first step I need to take to get my first client?”

Why It Works

The question is more like a riddle that prompts a psychological response. In other words, once you create the question, the gears in your mind automatically start turning and it’s like you almost can’t help trying to solve or answer it. This form of engagement causes your brain to even subconsciously go to work breaking down the problem, structuring your next steps and creating the path to achieving your goal!

Life Application

I have some great news for you! This method can be applied beyond New Year’s resolutions, to help you achieve goals you’ve been trying to conquer within your everyday life. Remember, this method inspires innovative and flexible thinking that allows you to step away from the typical mindset full of worry and doubt about doing things the “right way”. This can literally change the way you think, enabling you to get unstuck and realize the momentum you need to succeed!

Life Application Examples:

“I want to be a better me.” “What if I spent one hour a week learning a new skill?
“I want to lose weight.” “How might I fit exercise into my day?”
“I want to boost my business.” “What if I blogged regularly?”
“I want to improve my health.” “How can I increase my water intake on a daily basis?”

Happy New Year, and best wishes to you on achieving your goals!!! Make the new year great!

Also, please be sure to stay tuned to the website for more mind, body and spirit wellness blog posts!

 

Katherine Igah-Phillips, MD, MHA

Returning to Nature, LLC.

www.returning2nature.com

FB: www.facebook.com/returning2nature

IG: @returning2nature


IS IT POSSIBLE TO HAVE A HEALTHY THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY?

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With the Thanksgiving holiday being later this week, I know what you’re thinking:

“All of your clean eating habits will need to be placed on hold...time for cheat week number one…there’s no possible way to maintain a healthy lifestyle during the U.S.’s most gluttonous part of the year…”

Well, before you set yourself back, let me step in and offer some words of encouragement:

All of your clean habits do not need to be put on hold; you do not need to cheat like you think you do; and there are ways for you to maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout the holidays!

I’d like to offer you ten tips on how to do just that, avoiding a future of self-sabotage!

  1. Don’t stress about your Thanksgiving dinner plate. How you eat on Thanksgiving Day does not determine your over-all health; how you eat the other 364 days of the years does. Knowing how to maintain BALANCE will be your biggest tool in helping you to bounce back from any damage done on that one day. So don’t feel guilty over what you chose to load on your dinner plate…just get right back on track immediately afterwards.
  2. Be sure to start your Thanksgiving Day off with a hearty and healthy breakfast. Especially one fully loaded with healthy protein choices (i.e. whole grains, nut butters, eggs, oats, etc.), and veggies! Many people feel that fasting all day creates more space for the calories of the dinner to do less damage, and that notion is actually false. In fact, it actually does more harm to you in the long run because you end up draining a lot more of your calorie reserve by overindulging on “belly busters” like a FULL ladle of gravy (about 800-1000 calories) vs. a tablespoon-size taste (about 50-70 calories).
  3. Contribute to the dinner prep. By asking ahead of time what will be served, and by even OFFERING to bring a dish yourself, you can off-set any surprise temptations, curve-balls and even the awkward situation of showing up to a dinner that has nothing you feel comfortable consuming. If you discover that one of the dishes is particularly unhealthy, offer to bring your own version of that same dish. Traditional sweet potatoes are often a good example of this because people tend to typically make it loaded with butter, syrup, sugar, marshmallows, etc.
  4. Know your vices! There’s always that one part of the meal, or that one food item that could send you over the edge temptation-wise. For instance, for some it could be alcohol and for others it could be a dessert item. Go into the situation prepared ahead of time with realistic boundaries and limits. If alcohol is your vice, instead of saying “no alcohol at all” you can enjoy a half glass of red wine with appetizers, and a half glass with dinner.  You can even decide to do water alone at first, saving your alcohol for the main meal.
  5. Don’t be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Piggy-backing on #4 a little bit, if your vice is sweets, then you might not want to chose the spot to stand or sit that’s right next to or in front of the candy dish! Distractions also come in handy here.
  6. Make healthy plate portions. I always educate on taking your standard dinner plate and devoting ½ of it to vegetables of any kind (including salad). Then, ¼ of your plate should be your lean meat/protein (i.e. the white turkey meat); and the other ¼ your healthy starch (i.e. sweet potatoes).
  7. Watch your eating speed. The slower you eat, the better. Put your fork down between bites, and really savor each mouthful. This will help prevent over-eating and going overboard on calories.
  8. Be comfortable and secure with your actions. Don’t fall victim to thinking that everything you do is on display. Many believe that if they pass up on certain dishes, everyone notices, or the host is insulted, when in fact there’s a very good chance that no one even noticed at all. You can even play it down by simply saying that you’re full.
  9. Start the day with some calorie burning, and then continue to exercise throughout the course of the day. For instance, after a nice morning workout, later on you can go for a walk once you’ve finished eating your dinner. Or even participate in an outdoor group physical activity/game.
  10.  Stay focused on your wellness goals. Before dinnertime, remind yourself of what they are and why you are even doing them in the first place. Remember, these holidays that our society has wrapped around food are actually more about the time spent and memories created with your loved ones.

 

Katherine Igah-Phillips, MD, MHA

Returning to Nature, LLC.

www.returning2nature.com

FB: www.facebook.com/returning2nature

IG: @returning2nature

 

UNLOCKING THE MAGIC OF MEDITATION

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Now that you understand the power behind meditation, let’s dive into just how you can begin to incorporate it into your daily routine! While I’m not saying it’s easy, you can start small and get better and better as you practice. Don’t expect to be good at first — that’s why it’s called “practice”!

These tips aren’t aimed at turning you into a meditation master overnight…they should help you get started with then provide the encouragement to keep going. You also don’t need to implement all of these tips at the same time; you can try a few, then for the next session, come back to this blog post and try a couple more!

  1. Develop an attitude of love and tranquility. When you notice thought/feelings popping up during your meditation (because as we discussed in the previous point, they will), receive them with a friendly attitude rather than seeing them as intruders or opponents. They are a part of you, though not all of you. Be loving and not harsh in your response to their arrival.

  2. Practice conscious breathing! If you are unsure about what this is, or haven’t quite mastered the art of conscious breathing yet, feel free to visit my previous blog posts about it! Count your breaths. Begin your conscious breathing by counting “one” as you take in the first breath, then “two” as you breathe out. Repeat this to the count of 10, and then start again at one. Then be sure you are following the other steps of conscious breathing as outlined for you in my previous blog posts…this is a huge component of successful meditation!

  3. Don’t get caught up in the “how”…just do. Most people worry too much about irrelevant things when comes to meditation, causing them to want to abort mission. People tend to consume themselves so much with where to sit, how to sit, what cushion to use, what position to assume, how their hands should look, etc. These are things that are not mandatory to determine when you are just getting started.  You can begin now by simply sitting on a chair/couch, your bed, or the floor.  Sitting “Indian style” is completely up to you in the beginning stages…do what is most comfortable for you and we can graduate to that later.

  4. Sit for just five minutes. It will seem ridiculously easy to meditate for just five minutes, but it’s perfectly fine. Start with just five minutes a day for a week. After the week is over, you can then increase by another five minutes and do that for a week. If all goes well, by increasing just a little at a time, you’ll be meditating for almost half an hour a day in the 2nd month, which is amazing! The key here is starting off small first (baby steps).

  5. Try to meditate first thing each morning. It’s easy to say, “I’ll meditate every day,” but then we tend to get absorbed in the tasks of the day and forget. Try setting a reminder or phone alert for every morning when you get up that says “meditation time” or “meditate”. Get it in before the day even begins so that you know that it will be done. Also, doing it in the mornings help to set the tone for the rest of your day!

  6. Become present to how you are feeling as you initially begin to settle into your meditation session. Do a quick assessment of yourself (including your mental status). How does your body feel? Are you tense anywhere? What is the quality of your mind? Busy? Tired? Anxious? The key here is to see and accept that whatever you’re bringing to the meditation session as completely okay.

  7. Bring yourself back to the present time when you drift away. Accept now that as you begin, your mind will wander…this is a fact, but not a problem. Whenever it happens, just acknowledge it, remain calm, smile, and simply gently return to your conscious breathing. Count “one” again, and start over. It’s ok to feel a little frustration, but the key is to master returning your mind back to your present, meditative state of being. Practice makes this get better and better with time!

  8. Very similar to point number three, try not to let yourself worry about whether or not you are “doing it wrong”, because there will come a point in time when you will want to do that. Just know that you are not doing it wrong, simply because there is no perfect way to do it! Just be content with the fact that you are doing it at all!

  9. Try not to let yourself get caught up in the hype of “clearing your mind”.  Many people think meditation is about total mind clearing or being able to pause all of your thoughts. Although this can sometimes happen, it is not the complete intention or goal of meditation. Again, having thoughts is a normal thing…we all have them. So simply “shutting your brain down” should not be the focus here. Instead, just try to practice focusing your attention, and returning to your present state of meditation when your drift away.

  10. As you do more and more sessions (maybe in your second or third week, or so), you can begin to practice staying a little while with whatever thoughts/feeling arise in the midst of your session, before returning to your conscious breathing as I mentioned in points six and nine. We tend to want to avoid feelings that don’t make us feel too good like frustration, anger, anxiety, etc. However, an amazingly useful meditation practice is to stay with the feeling for a while. Just stay, and be curious. Get present to its effect on you, where it is coming from, etc.

  11. Again, as you move deeper into your session count, you can now shift your focus to something deeper…like really getting to know yourself and how your mind works! Begin to untangle what’s going on inside there? It will be a little cloudy at first, but eventually, by paying attention to things like point number 10, you can can begin to understand yourself. Then, you can advance to actually becoming friends with yourself! Showering yourself love, rather than criticism.

  12. Do a quick physical/body scan, one body part at a time. You can do a sweep from head to toes, or in the reverse from toes to head. Along with your conscious breathing, become present to what each body part is doing in the midst of your session. How does each body part feel? Each joint? Each muscle group? Has anything tensed up? How fast/slow is your heart rate now?

  13. Again, later on (after meditating for at least a week), you can now begin to place your attention on external or surrounding stimuli! You can begin to notice the light around you, the sounds around you, the energy around you.  Just keep your eyes on one spot, and notice the light in the room you’re in. Another day, just focus on noticing sounds. Another day, try to notice the energy in the room all around you (including light and sounds).

  14. Seriously become intentional about committing yourself to meditating. Don’t be one of those that just say, “Sure, Ok, I’ll try this for a couple days.” Really commit yourself to incorporating this as a piece of your lifestyle. So, in your mind, be locked in, for at least a month so that you can reap its true results we discussed in part one of this meditation blog series.

  15. Know that you can meditate anywhere. If you’re traveling or something comes up in the morning, you can do meditation in your office! You can do it in a park! You can do it on a beach! You can do it during your commute! You can do it as you walk somewhere! As discussed in previous points, sitting meditation is the best place to start; however keep in mind that as you continue your sessions, you are practicing for this kind of mindful and meditative state of being in your entire life!

  16. Feel free to follow guided meditations. It may be helpful, especially as you’re first starting out, to try following guided meditations which kind of prompt you on what to do, where to shift your focus, etc. until you are able to “freestyle” it all on your own. These guided meditation links can be easy pulled up on your computer, tablet, cell phone, etc. from a site like YouTube for free!

  17. It may also be helpful for you to find a community of meditators and join them. The support you can get from a group like this is phenomenal. It will also help you to establish accountability in regards to your meditation schedule, and making sure that you are sticking to it despite life circumstances or distractions that may arise.

Begin unlocking the magic of meditation today! 

 

Katherine Igah-Phillips, MD, MHA

Returning to Nature, LLC.

www.returningtonature.com

FB: www.facebook.com/returning2nature

IG: @returning2nature

BLACK IS THE NEW GREEN

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I can’t tell you how many times I have spoken about using food as medicine. This topic always sneaks its way into most all of my presentations, lectures, webinars, etc. I spend a lot of time educating and promoting the consumption of whole organic fruits, veggies and grains; making sure to incorporate as many colors on your plate at a time as possible. This is because each color carries a different nutritional benefit for your body, and it is therefore very important for you to not leave any out of your diet. But, what about the black foods? No one seems to ever mention that color…they haven’t exactly gotten the same press as the greens!

“The Blacker the Berry…”

Most of you already know that antioxidants are a key health benefit for us; but how many of you knew that black or dark foods are even more powerful antioxidant powerhouses? In fact, black foods have more antioxidants than light-colored foods because of their high pigment content. One particular antioxidant from the dark side is the superstar anthocyanin. The most concentrated natural sources of anthocyanins are purple, blue, red, and black whole foods including spices and seeds! Studies suggest anthocyanins can help reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, various cancers, vision acuity problems, etc.

Black Super Foods

Ready to take some notes? I’m going to list eight super healthy black foods for you to try to add to your diet as soon as you can! Some you may have already tried, and some may be new for you and your family. Have fun looking up new recipes on how to creatively incorporate these into your meals, and begin reaping the health benefits they carry as Super Foods!

  1. BLACKBERRIES: These berries are not only very easy to find at your local grocery store, but they also carry the potential to provide you with a nice amount of fiber and anti-aging qualities. I absolutely love blackberries, and like to incorporate them in my own diet by tossing them into a smoothie; a bowl of cereal, oatmeal, or yogurt; or just snacking on them plain by themselves, or with other berries! tumblr lsr50ubCYn1qm4r5m
  2. BLACK GRAPES: Believe it or not, black grapes actually contain even more anthocyanin than blackberries! Pay close attention to the skin color of the grapes as you pick them out from amongst other grapes…the darker it is, the more antioxidants is has.  Want even more health benefits? Chose the ones with seeds. Numerous studies have revealed tremendous health benefits behind not only the black grape, but also the grape seed itself, including heart health, brain health, blood sugar regulation, etc. Sometimes, as a healthier alternative to popsicles/ice cream, I’ll freeze my grapes for a sweet frozen treat!                                                                       BLACK GRAPES
  3. BLACK PEPPER: Black pepper does wonders for your food digestion, as well as nutrient absorption. For several decades, it has also demonstrated impressive antioxidant and antibacterial effects. As if all of this wasn’t enough, not only does black pepper help you derive the most benefit from your food, but the outer layer of the peppercorn stimulates the breakdown of fat cells, keeping you slim while giving you energy to burn. You can buy black pepper whole, crushed or ground into powder. To ensure the best flavor, I’d recommend buying the whole peppercorns and grinding them yourself in a mill just before adding to a recipe. In addition to superior flavor, buying whole peppercorns will also help to ensure that you are purchasing pure pepper, since ground pepper is often times mixed with other spices.                                                              BLACK PEPPER
  4. BLACK LENTILS: Although the black lentils are not as common as the green and yellow ones, they still carry the most health benefits. For instance, in just one serving you can load up on iron (around 8mg), along with a ton of fiber and protein. I think my personal favorite way to incorporate lentils into my diet would be in my soups, chilies, and stews!                                                                              BLACK LENTILS
  5. BLACK TEA: This type of tea is easy to find, and all you need is one cup to benefit from a healthy dose of antioxidants. One study done on black tea discovered that it actually reduces inflammation recovery time and muscle soreness after an aggressive workout! I like to have a cup of black tea in the mornings (vs. coffee). During the hot summer months, I like to fill a pitcher with it, freeze or refrigerate, and enjoy it cold as refreshing iced tea!                                                  BLACK TEA
  6. BLACK RICE: Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE rice!! So any diet that requires me to abstain from it is usually not for me. It was such a relief to find that I could still eat rice; I just had to be wise in my selection of the type. Looking for a healthier alternative to white rice? Tired of using brown rice as the substitute? Well, black rice may be your answer! It’s pretty readily available in most grocery stores now, and contains about six times more antioxidants than white or brown rice. I love the rich, nutty flavor of black rice…and sometimes, to “tame” the smoky, robust taste, I’ll cook mine in almond milk rather than water! BLACK RICE
  7. BLACK BEANS: Black beans are packed full of so many antioxidants (bioflavonoids) that they had to be elevated to the Super Food level. Packed with protein and fiber, they’re good for energy, maintaining blood sugar levels, and digestion. I’ve enjoyed black beans in soups/chilies, salads, and dips…but I’d have to say, my favorite way to consume them is as a good old black bean burger!                     BLACK BEANS
  8. BLACK GARLIC: Black garlic offers nearly twice the amount of antioxidants as white garlic! I’m sure you’re wondering what makes this garlic black in the first place…well, the black color in this Super Food is the result of the sugars being drawn out of the garlic cloves during the fermentation process. You’ve probably enjoyed this caramelized garlic in a few Asian dishes. Its taste is commonly described as “a perfect mix of molasses-like richness and tangy garlic undertones”.                                                             BLACK GARLIC

 

For more information on black super foods, feel free to email your inquires to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Also, please be sure to stay tuned to the website for more wellness blog posts!

 

Katherine Igah-Phillips, MD, MHA

Returning to Nature, LLC.

www.returning2nature.com

FB: www.facebook.com/returning2nature

IG: @returning2nature

THE POWER BEHIND MEDITATION

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I’d have to say, the most impactful habit I’ve sharpened in the last five to ten years of forming habits would definitely have to be meditation! In fact, meditation has helped me beyond all of the ways that I studied it would. It has helped me to become a more peaceful person, more aware, more appreciative of life and everything in it. It’s helps me worry less, especially about those things that were already out of my control in the first place!

Probably most importantly, it’s helped me in comprehending my own mind. I’m sure many of my fellow introverts can relate, but I spend a considerable amount of time in my head. It’s so easy to become consumed in my own little world of thoughts, mental connections, and self-conversation…following commands like an automation. Now, don’t get me wrong, meditation doesn’t eliminate these things, it just enables me to be more aware/conscious of what’s going on, allowing me to have the choice to succumb to it or not. It’s a wonderful form of freedom to experience…the freedom from the restraints of one’s own mind. Whew! This is why I highly recommend meditation to everyone!

Health Benefits

I always like to approach things from a holistic point-of-view when discussing health and wellness. Meditation is another practice that has been in use for decades, and has been effective in providing healing and balance mentally, physically and spiritually!

THE MIND: Meditation has been demonstrated to bring the pattern of our brain waves into a relaxed state, thus promoting healing mentally. The mind becomes rejuvenated, free and peaceful. Regular practice of meditation can help you achieve the following mentally:

  • Decreased anxiety
  • Emotional stability
  • Increased creativity
  • Increased happiness
  • Increased intuition
  • Increased mental clarity
  • Increased peace of mind
  • Increased focus an concentration
  • Decreased anger/frustration

THE BODY: Many people assume that the benefits of meditation are all mental or spiritual. However, surprisingly enough, during meditation our physiology undergoes a definite change. How so? Well, to begin with, each and every cell in the body is filled with more energy. This then leads to a boost in pleasure, harmony, excitement, and tranquility as the level of energy in the body continues to increase. Regular practice of meditation can help you achieve the following physically:

  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Decreased anxiety/panic attacks
  • Decreases tension-related pain/problems (i.e. headaches/migraines, ulcers, muscle aches, joint aches, etc.)
  • Increased serotonin production (this improves your mood)
  • Enhanced immune system
  • Increased energy levels 

THE SPIRIT: Next to prayer, meditation is probably the most important activity I do for spiritual nourishing and enhancement. It’s definitely one of the secret weapons I use to elevate to higher levels of consciousness while on my path of spiritual awakening. It is a very important piece in my connection to God, and my conversation with God. Imagine having a conversation with someone that was one-sided, where that person just talked and talked and talked, giving you no space or opportunity to get a word in. The same goes for your relationship with God. Prayer to me is my opportunity to talk. Whether I’m requesting something, expressing gratitude, showering praise and worship, it’s still me talking. However, what is a true conversation without listening? Well, meditation is just that. I use meditation to listen for God’s responses…cues manifesting within the universe, direct messages from God, making sense of synchronicities, and just being aware of all I am connected to (i.e. the earth/nature, other people, other species, etc). Meditation is like having a spiritual cleansing whenever I feel unstable, overwhelmed, confused, or even just in need of additional peace of mind. Regular practice of meditation can help you achieve the following spiritually:

  • Spiritual and emotional steadiness
  • Spiritual harmony
  • Closeness to your Creator and all things created
  • Enhanced spiritual awakening
  • Increased communication/confirmations from God
  • Personal/spiritual transformation
  • Self discovery

How to Begin

In order to experience the full benefits of meditation, regular practice is necessary. Doing it every now and then, sporadically, will not allow you to experience its true power. No matter how busy you feel that you are, just know that it only takes a few minutes; and once it’s become an automatic part of your daily routine, you’ll find that it may just become the very best part of your day! Stay tuned for part II of this blog to get specific directions and tips on how to easily begin incorporating meditation into your daily schedule. Namaste.

 

Katherine Igah-Phillips, MD, MHA

Returning to Nature, LLC.

www.returningtonature.com

FB: www.facebook.com/returning2nature

IG: @returning2nature