Question: It seems like we hear the word gratitude a lot these days, but what does it really mean?
Common ways to define gratitude are: Counting your blessings, looking at the bright side of things, appreciation, wonder and not taking things for granted.
Question: Are there benefits for expressing gratitude?
Recent research has found that people who consistently express gratitude are happier, more energetic, and appear to be more helpful and empathetic. The more a person in inclined to express gratitude, the less likely they are to be depressed, anxious and lonely.
Expressing gratitude can help with your self-esteem. When we realize what we have accomplished, you feel more confident. Most of us can rattle off 20 things we don’t like about ourselves, so practicing gratitude, can help us break this habit of negative self talk.
Expressing gratitude during tough times…like during loss or an illness can help you adjust, move on, or hopefully begin again with a different attitude. Practicing gratitude during the times that is especially hard to see the good, might be the most important thing we can do.
Acknowledging the things that we are grateful for is completely incompatible with negative emotions, and can help diminish feelings such as anger and bitterness.
Question: Can you tell me some ways to practice gratitude?
Gratitude journals can be effective, or thinking of five things you are grateful for every night before you go to bed. These do not have to be monumental things, but rather ordinary things that you take notice of…like how beautiful Pikes Peak looks with the snow on it and the clear blue sky outlining it, or the face that you were able to get through a joke and actually tell the punch line correctly.
When others are complaining, do not join in, but use that as a trigger to search out something you are thankful for.
Express your thankfulness for what others have done. Write them a note, e-mail, or call, or better yet, make it a point to be able to thank one person every day for something they have done.
If you or someone close to you is interested in becoming more grateful, please contact Penrose-St. Francis Women’s Behavioral Health Services at 634-1825.
Question: Why self-care?
Most of us have flown in an airplane before, and most of us have heard the flight attendants give their speel before the plane takes off. They tell us how to buckle our seatbelts and where the nearest exits are. But they also tell us something that is vitally important to our survival. They say if the cabin pressure should change, then oxygen masks will drop in front of us. And if you are traveling with small children or older adults, you are supposed to do something with that oxygen mask. You should put yours on first. Why is that? It’s because you are no good to anyone passed out on the floor.
Not taking care of yourself is like not putting the oxygen mask on. You are going through the motions, but gasping for air.
Question: So, how do we put the oxygen mask on ourselves?
If you or someone in your life would like to explore self-compassion, please call Penrose-St. Francis Women’s Behavioral Health Services at 634-1825
Question: What’s the difference between pessimism and optimism?
We all have heard the question about how we look at a glass that has water in it. Is it half full or half empty? We have determined that the pessimist sees it as half empty and the optimist sees it as half full. Clearly, both are accurate, however, the person who sees the glass as half empty, sees what’s been taken away, and the person who sees the glass as half full, sees the hope, the possibilities and is much happier.
Today we are going to talk about optimism, and in particular, learned optimism.
Question: Is optimism something we can learn or are we born with it?
Obviously, some people are born with a personality that approach life more relaxed and are able to let things go easier when negative things happen. But, for the rest of us, it is a skill that can be learned.
Question: So how can we learn to be optimistic?
We can acquire the skills of optimism by consciously making choices of doing what an optimist appears to do intuitively.
Optimists describe good things that happen as permanent and pervasive in their lives. Pessimists describe good things that happen as temporary and likely not to happen again…(it was just luck or it was just good fortune that I made a good presentation)
In turn, optimists describe bad things that happen as temporary and likely to not happen again…while pessimists describe bad things as pervasive and a permanent part of their life…(This always happens to me)
How we explain things that are happening in our life have a huge effect on our mood and outlook. We feel the way we thing. In other…what we say can lead to happiness or unhappiness…it’s our choice.
Working on ways to correct sweeping negative statements can help to go a long way to learn the art of optimism.
If you or someone in your life would like to learn how to be optimistic, please call Penrose-St. Francis Women’s Behavioral Health Services at 634-1825.
Question: We all say we want it, but what exactly is happiness?
Webster’s dictionary definition of happiness is:
- a state of well-being and contentment
- a pleasurable or satisfying experience
Gandi says: Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.
Aristotle stated: Happiness is the meaning and purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.
Happiness is hard to define, but happiness is a decision. It requires actions on our part and actions require decisions.
Question: How do we go about getting happiness?
1. You need to understand that you deserve happiness. If you believe you aren’t worth of it, then you could subconsciously sabotage your efforts to achieve happiness. Remind yourself every day that you DESERVE to be happy, and tell yourself what steps you will take to achieve the happiness you desire.
2. Take steps to maintain your health. Being overweight or not eating nutritious foods can have a negative effect on your mood. And most of us know that exercise has been known to release endorphins that give you a feeling of happiness.
3. Focus on what you can control. We are truly only in control of our reactions to situations, not what is given to us. This is huge…as it requires decisions about how we will react to situations. You can’t change how people around you behave, but you can change your behavior.
4. Help someone else. Giving to others is an essential key to happiness. Someone once said…happiness is like a kiss…you must share it to enjoy it. Find someone in need and lend a helping hand.
5. Lastly, count your blessings. Learn the attitude of gratitude. There are so many things we can be grateful for and find joy in…but often we focus on the negative. Make it a point to find time everyday to reflect in positive things that have happened during the day.
If you or someone in your life needs help in finding happiness, please contact Penrose-St. Francis Women’s Behavioral Health Services at 634-1825.
Sodium: The secret ingredient that is eroding our health
Question: We’ve talked about eating more nuts and soy and beans; are salted nuts OK?
Salt or sodium is a much too frequently added ingredient in our diets. We have an inherent love for salt and that in theory keeps our electrolytes in balance. However our taste buds have overpowered the electrolyte need in recent times and created problems with our health.
Question: Really?! Salt is that much of a problem?
Yes, while there has been controversy regarding the effect on our bodies, there is no question Americans get too much of this mineral. Excess sodium can increase blood pressure which is a key risk factor in heart disease. Sodium is hidden everywhere in our foods. Most people are unaware of how much sneaks into their diet unless they are avid label readers.
Question: What should I be looking for on the food label?
Sodium is one of the nutrients that must be listed on the food label in the US. The recommended goal is 1500-2300mg/day for heart health. Most Americans get closer to 2-5000mg/day. One teaspoot of salt, whether regular or sea salt is 2300mg of sodium. Most of the sodium in our diet comes from dining out and processed foods such as macaroni and cheese and rice mixes. Restaurants often “brine” their meats which means they soak them in a salt solution to pull in water to make them more juicy and tasty. We have become very accustomed to this taste.
Question: What other foods are high in sodium?
Instant pudding boxes often contain 300-400mg sodium per half cup; breads can contain 200 or more milligrams/slice and even breakfast cereals can contain alarming levels. A 6 inch turkey Subway sandwich with no cheese is over 1000mg sodium or almost your whole days worth! Reading labels is the only way to know for sure.
Question: So what is the buzz about a “Portfolio Diet” that can lower cholesterol as much as a statin drug?
The portfolio diet came from researchers at the University of Toronto that created a mix of foods that has been proven to lower cholesterol and heart disease risk as much as a statin drug such as Lipitor. Lipitor is the top selling drug in the US with 25% of the population taking it. The Portfolio diet is even more powerful than the TLC diet from the National Cholesterol Education Program that we discussed earlier.
Question: What do I get to eat on the portfolio diet?
The Portfolio Diet is largely a vegetarian diet that has a mix of cholesterol lowering foods. It is the combination of foods that have the most benefit for heart health. It includes soluble fiber (the kind that absorbs water) such as oat bran, beans and barley 10-20g/day, Nuts: one ounce or about 23 almonds/day, soy protein: about 25g/day from whole soy foods such as tofu, edamame or tempe and plant sterols such as those found in the Promise Activ margarine, Benecol margarine or Minute Maid heart wise orange juice. 2 grams/day of plant sterols are recommended and this can come from a supplement such as Cholest-off as well.
Question: That sounds hard to figure out; how do I learn more about the Portfolio eating plan?
Your best bet is to meet one-on-one with a Registered Dietitian who can taylor the eating plan to you. It is a challenging diet to follow as it is so different from the typical American diet. However, even adding a few of the suggested foods such as eating nuts more regularly and eating more plant stanols such as those in the enriched margarines can make a big difference in lowering harmful LDL cholesterol.
Heart disease is still the number one killer of Americans. Nutrition science continues to evolve over the years as we learn more about the mechanism of foods and nutrients. Unfortunately with the addition of medications, many Americans believe that lifestyle changes are unnecessary which could not be further from the truth. Medication in addition to diet and exercise significantly decrease heart disease risk.
Expert: Sharon Jacob, Clinical Dietitian at St. Francis Medical Center
Chocolate is good for your heart!
Question: We have been talking about the heart healthy fats and oils, tomorrow is Valentines Day, so chocolate is also good for my heart right?
While a heart filled box of chocolates sounds tasty, the health benefits of the cocoa bean are real if you don’t have the high fat sugary fillings.
Question: So if I just eat the outside of my chocolates I am ok?
Well, not exactly! The active ingredient promoting the cholesterol lowering benefits are the flavanols, which is a phytochemical or plant chemical in the cocoa beans. These flavanols relax the blood vessels and improve blood flow to our heart as well as slow down the plaque buildup in our arteries. Dark chocolate has the highest level of flavanols. Unfortunately dark chocolate is too bitter to eat without the added fat, sugar and calories that make it taste so good.
Question: So how much chocolate do I have to eat a day for benefits?
1-2 ounces of dark chocolate per day has been shown to have a 37% reduction in cardiovascular disease risk and 29% decrease in stroke risk. Milk chocolate is much lower in flavanol content and white chocolate is not even chocolate at all, just cocoa butter which doesn’t contain any flavanols. Cocoa Via is a new supplement that contains 250mg flavanols/serving without the fat, sugar or calories. However, eating the whole food is much more enjoyable and likely more beneficial for your heart.