I truly believe that even with everything we are facing right now, even with the stress of social distancing over the holidays, we can feel healthier than ever if we intentionally set up some supportive, comforting and deeply healing health routines.
So all winter long, I’m going to be giving you a weekly blog post full of uplifting ways to improve your health, and every single idea is something you can do right in the comfort of your own home.
It’s a new mini-series I’m releasing for you to help improve your health over these next three winter months. Forward this newsletter to a friend or a family member so that they can take part in this healing mini-series with you!
The series started last week with Topic 1: Movement.
Today I am introducing Topic 2. You might enjoy these tips so much that they become part of your new health care routine… not just in the weeks to come, but forever into the future!
This Week’s Topic: Listen
By focusing on listening today, we can create a calm and comforting awareness of our sanctuary, of our body, of our breath.
We can also intentionally shift the energy of our living spaces with the use of music, chimes, singing, breath work and so much more… so let’s get started:
Idea #1: Mantra
In medicine, we know it only takes three deep breaths to significantly support your vagal nerve tone, which helps modulate your autonomic nervous system. Meaning your heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure and more all get calmed and centered and soothed… and pain actually significantly decreases as well.
In addition, and equally exciting, is that medical studies have now shown that simply repeating a word or phrase (mantra) is actually more effective for treating PTSD than traditional talk therapy.
Even better, the improvements from mantra therapy were sustained for months after the treatment ended, with more patients being PTSD free after mantra therapy than traditional talk therapy (60% of mantra patients were PTSD free at 2 months after intervention, compared to 40% of the talk therapy group.)
Mantra is simple, it’s convenient — and it’s free (as a huge advocate for grounding therapy, you know I am a big fan of free therapies that allow patients to take control over their own health.)
This study is so incredibly valuable I feel, because as someone who admittedly has a very difficult time with meditating for any length of time, I feel that knowing that just repeating a single word has literally been clinically shown to make a significant difference in improving quality of life and treating insomnia, anxiety and other PTSD symptoms is such a relief.
Slowing down your thoughts and practicing sustaining a point of attention on just a single repeated word or phrase was shown to help patients cope with daily anxiety, fear, anger, depression and insomnia.
You can practice a healing mantra any time, any where. It’s very private and very powerful. All you do is select a word or phrase to repeat to yourself as a way to center inwards.
The mantras I suggest on my Daily Healing Cards are:
breathing in: I am lovable
breathing out: I am loved
but any words or phrases that speak to you are perfect to use.
You can read the mantra study for yourself right here, and I’d also love to share with you my favorite Mantra work class.
It is a three week long self guided course by Deva Premal & Miten — if you want to take your mantra work to the next level, I highly recommend this guided mantra course.
Idea #2: Dive Into Cymetics
One of the reasons that mantra works, in part, is because of the principle of cymetics — that is, that sound waves create a pattern in physical matter.
That means, the sounds that are in your environment 100% impact your physical body.
This is a fabulous overview on Cymetics Research on Gaia.com. I highly recommend you give it a read, it will help explain why mantra is so effective, why chanting and music and other sounds (including the earth’s heartbeat, discussed next) impact our health so much, and also why background noise can be so detrimental to our well being too (more on that below too).
Idea #3: The Earth’s Heartbeat
Did you know the earth is constantly resonating out it’s own mantra of sorts?
It does… repeating a mantra over and over and over, as a heartbeat that we are connected to at all times, whether we are aware of it or not.
Today, I want you to become aware of the heartbeat of the earth too.
One of the reasons I’m so in love with grounding is because during the filming of The Grounded, the heartbeat of the earth was captured in cymetics for the first time.
Above is an image of the heartbeat of the earth, taken from the film, and you can watch it in real time as it was filmed in the movie The Grounded, for free on YouTube right here.
The earth pulses a frequency out that, while our naked ear can not hear it, we are bathed in day and night. It does everything from comfort and soothe us to support proper vagal tone to deepen sleep to regulate our day/night rhythms.
Plugging directly into this heartbeat is as simple as touching our conductive bodies directly to the earth outside. I have so many healing articles on the many health benefits of grounding and suggestions to get you started… you can run through a list of some of those here.
And if you prefer to listen, here is an interview I gave that gives a great introduction to grounding and some easy tips on how to get started, all of which you can do right where you live, even if you live in an urban setting with no green spaces.
And the best introduction to grounding of all is my book The Earth Prescription, available here (and everywhere books are sold, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indiebound.)
Idea #4: Reach For Music
This is how powerful music is: if you play music that holds special meaning to a patient experiencing memory loss, they can recover context and depth and recognition in the form of long term memory recall while the music is being played.
Playing music that is personally relevant to a patient has been shown to:
- increase communication skills
- increase long term recall
- increase activity level and energy level
- increase social function and engagement
- decrease high blood pressure
- improve mood
- reduce pain levels
- enhance sleep
It’s so effective that I would go so far as to say it’s a good idea to incorporate a list of your favorite music into your advanced directive, because the music that people respond to the most, and the music that tends to increase quality of life, is music that they enjoy, resonate with, and have personal associations and memories to.
Getting a playlist together for any elderly loved ones is now a crucial part of elder care… improving the quality of daily living and keeping long term memories intact. This is particularly important in a nursing home or rehab situation, where over 90% of a patient’s time is spend inactive and non-interactive.
In fact, sadly, half of residents of nursing homes in the United States never get a sing visitor… ever.
This decrease in meaningful interaction accelerates decline.
Music is a very vivid, beautiful, expressive, natural, holistic, non-invasive way to bring life and meaning (and wonderful long term memories!) back into an elder’s life.
Activities to consider:
1. Add a song list to your advanced directive. Help create a song list for the elders in your family as well.
Dan Cohen, director of the important film Alive Inside, offers these helpful suggestions on how to create a playlist for a loved one with dementia that can not relate this information to you directly.
Ask family members:
- “Did they play an instrument when they were young?”
- “Did they sing in a choir or a chorus?”
- “Did they like Broadway musicals or religious music?”
- “Did they have any records or recordings of old music found in their home?”
- “Did they play a special song at their wedding or high school dance?”
2. Use music at any age to soothe nerves… for example:
- before athletic competitions
- before school exams
- before and even during surgical procedures, medical or dental interventions
- to ease stress during “stay at home” pandemics
- or even to energize you to do a task you are dreading, such as before public speaking or while making a meal after a long hard day.
3. Create several emotion regulating playlists:
- create a playlist that uplifts you when you feel down
- create a playlist that soothes and relaxes you when you feel anxious
- create a playlist that you can exercise to
- create a playlist that you can bathe and/or do your self massages to (see last week’s blog post for self massage ideas)
- create a playlist to play while cooking in the kitchen
- create a playlist to dance to
- create a morning “rise and shine” playlist
- create an evening “wind down” playlist
I’ll starting you off with a suggestion of a song I’ve been listening to a lot lately. It’s called “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” by PJ Morton. I hope you love it, then go on to create your own playlists!
Music is an invaluable tool for self-soothing and decreasing anxiety and depression rates. So play music out loud and use it to connect with everyone in your family — seniors through the youngest children — everyone can benefit! Take turns playing your favorite music, having a family dance battle, or creating playlists for different times of the day.
Also, watch to the trailer to the Alive Inside Documentary to see the immediate impact that music has on health — the trailer alone will inspire you in a big way! And if you have time, the entire film is available on this website as well.
Ideas #5: Practice Breathwork
Because we can actively control our body’s air exchange through intentional breathing, there are lots of awesome ways you can play around with using your breath to calm you, invigorate you, increase your stamina, and more.
I have done tons of research for you — from personally attending Transcendental Breathing in person events to workshops on yoga breathing techniques to more traditional medical training in respiratory rate and oxygenation patterns and lung physiology and respiratory interventions like incentive spirometery and lung percussion, etc… and my favorite, simple, fun, effective tips are these from Dr. Weil.
The first one I would not recommend you do as long as he recommends — he states breathing rapidly for up to a minute — this is actually a self induced hyperventilation and in short doses of 10 seconds or so is very nourishing and stimulating, but at longer intervals can cause dizziness and fainting. I think 5 to 10 seconds of this Stimulating Breath Work is enough.
The other two are great as well — the 4-7-8 breath is centering and calming… and the Breath Counting is my favorite of all — a great way to sustain mindfulness and breathing together — I find the Breath Counting so much easier than other forms of meditation and is my go to way to clear my throat chakra and release any pent up agitation there, allowing me to find my center easily at the end of a very vocal or stressful day.
Give all three a try! Here we go:
1. The Stimulating Breath (also called the Bellows Breath)
The Stimulating Breath is adapted from a yogic breathing technique. Its aim is to raise vital energy and increase alertness.
- Inhale and exhale rapidly through your nose, keeping your mouth closed but relaxed. Your breaths in and out should be equal in duration, but as short as possible. This is a noisy breathing exercise.
- Do not do for more than 5 seconds on your first try. Each time you practice the Stimulating Breath, you can increase your time by five seconds or so, until you reach a maximum of 15 seconds.
- If done properly, you may feel invigorated, comparable to the heightened awareness you feel after a good workout. You should feel the effort at the back of the neck, the diaphragm, the chest and the abdomen.
- Try this breathing exercise the next time you need an energy boost!
2. The 4-7-8 (or Relaxing Breath) Exercise
This 4-7-8 Breath Exercise is simple, takes almost no time, requires no equipment and can be done anywhere.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
- This is one breath. Repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
- Exhalation takes twice as long as inhalation.
- The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important; the ratio of 4:7:8 is important.
- If you have trouble holding your breath, speed the exercise up but keep to the ratio of 4:7:8 for the three phases. With practice you can slow it all down and get used to inhaling and exhaling more and more deeply.
- This exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. Unlike tranquilizing drugs, which are often effective when you first take them but then lose their power over time, this exercise is subtle when you first try it but gains in power with repetition and practice. You cannot do it too frequently.
- Use it whenever you are aware of internal tension. Use it to help you fall asleep. This exercise cannot be recommended too highly. Everyone can benefit from it.
3. Breath Counting — this one is my very favorite!!!
Breath Counting is a deceptively simple technique often used in Zen practice. Sit in a comfortable position with the spine straight and head inclined slightly forward. Gently close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Then let the breath come naturally without trying to influence it. Just allow your natural breathing cycle to emerge. Don’t make it deeper or slower than it naturally wants to be.
- To begin the exercise, count “one” to yourself as you exhale.
- The next time you exhale, count “two,” and so on up to “five.”
- Then begin a new cycle, counting “one” on the next exhalation.
- Never count higher than “five,” and count only when you exhale.
- You will know your attention has wandered when you find yourself up to “eight,” “12,” even “19.”
- Try to do up to 10 minutes of this form of meditation — I find even one minute of this incredibly helpful and centering!!!
Idea #6: Refresh The Air
At some point today it’s worth considering purifying the air in the living space (or work space) or sleeping space that you spend the most time in.
You can actively intend for your air to be energetically clean, supportive, and free of toxic thought patterns, energy forms, morphic fields, etc… from old baggage, visitors, guests, old energy patterns you have outgrown, and emotions you have released.
Out with the old, allowing space for the fresh and new.
My favorite three ways to do this are with sound, aromatherapy and flame (lighting a candle or incense.) I routinely do all three to my living and working spaces and I feel huge shifts and benefits immediately afterwards.
I make it a habit to do these things each time I clean… I’m giving you links to the items I use so that if you are interested you have some ideas and directions to take it:
- First, I make a point to open windows whenever possible — as I wrote about in this blog post, fresh air is absolutely crucial to a pandemic resiliency plan! It’s medically proven that open air clinics had better pandemic survival rates than closed air clinics… read more here.
- I ring a chime in each room as I clean it (if you don’t have a chime, any bell or even whistling through the room, singing, chanting, drumming, etc… can work too!)
- I light a candle, a stick of incense, or a sage smudge stick after it’s been decluttered and wiped down and freshened up (more on decluttering later in this course)
- I set my humidifying aromatherapy diffuser to diffuse a healing scent into the air. My favorite scent to use in my aromatherapy diffuser is: Purification Synergy Blend by Eden’s Garden
All three actions work immediately to help clear the energy in the air and give our living spaces a clean neutrality from which to start the next phase of our journey. If you are social distancing and staying home over the holidays, there is no better time for you to make a commitment to do at least one (if not all three!) to your living space at some point this week.
Clean the room, clear with a chime, diffuse with EO, and light an incense stick and enjoy the new, freshened energy of the air in your home!!!
Idea #7: Active Listening
Active listening is the ultimate way to gift someone with the power of your full, complete, undivided attention.
Dropping the need to prepare, recite, think of, or formulate your response when people are talking frees you up to access the power of the present moment — accepting that what shows up in a spontaneous way when it is your turn to speak is VALID and PLENTY and ENOUGH and PERFECT and does not need to be pre-thought of.
If you are thinking of what you want to say while the other person is talking, then you are absolutely not active listening.
The compliment to this is that when you fully focus on what the other person is SAYING (instead of thinking about what your response should be) you are gifting them and you with an intensely accessible and palpable connection — they feel the attention of you listening to them as they speak, so immediately they feel more validated and HEARD.
Generally, this means they are more open, more honest, and more able to listen to you and validate your expression when YOU speak.
But regardless of how they respond to your pure, intentional listening… do it for you.
Do it as a practice.
Do it as a way of life.
Over time your love relationships will benefit, your children will benefit, your friendships will benefit, your co-workers and employees will benefit.
Active listening with full attention will become your default mode once you start to sense the shift in energy, the connections become deeper, the response of the person speaking becomes more authentic, and ironically own power in the conversation actually increases.
Find out what it can transform for you today to become an active listener. If your connections must be digital for now, you can still 100% connect with others and be an active listener digitally, through:
- Marco Polo (my favorite video messaging app)
- Zoom Meetings (live online chatting)
- Phone Calls (yep, an oldie but goodie!)
- Facetime (live video calls)
Do your best to enter into a discussion with the pure positive intention to actively listen for the entirety of their speaking. You absolutely can and should reply to them — it doesn’t limit your talking or expression at **ALL** to actively listen. On the contrary, it frees you up to access your own deep seated inner knowings as you respond directly from inner truth and not from premeditated thought.
Active listening will strengthen ***everything*** about your communications, from what you speak, what you hear, and what you offer in return. Being an active presence for someone while they are talking is **enough*** — actually, it is more than enough! It’s more than they are likely to get from anyone else all day long. And they will feel the difference!
Active presence, authentic presence, witnessing…
…this energy transforms everything.
Idea #8: Examine Your Background Noise
Chronic background noise doesn’t just irritate you… it’s actually impacting your long term health.
Chronic levels of noise found frequently in modern society has been shown to significantly increase your risk of heart attack, heart disease, heart failure, stroke, even atrial fibrillation. Not to mention upping your risk for insomnia, a huge health crisis in-and-of itself!
And it doesn’t stop there.
Not only is chronic noise increasing your blood pressure, increasing inflammation in your arteries leading to heart attack and stroke, but it’s also increasing your risk of metabolic diseases and type two diabetes! That’s right, if you have stubborn abdominal fat that just isn’t falling away, on top of considering what your diet is and what your exercise goals are, you should also be considering what chronic noise pollution you are exposed to!
Chronic noise is absolutely part of the reason you have stress induced metabolic change. Because the disease burden of chronic noise is so directly linked to heart disease, high blood pressure and increased inflammation of the arteries, it’s important for clinicians to start treating noise pollution as a cardiac risk factor on par with smoking history, family history of heart disease, age, blood pressure, and weight.
What is interesting is that it’s not just loud sounds that affect your health, it’s the small chronic ones that do too. So it’s not just an airplane passing by or the occasional sound of construction, but the level of normal talking, phones ringing, and sounds of cars on the street all impact your heart attack and stroke risk, and they all up your risk for metabolic disease too.
Noise pollution is no longer about loud noises causing long term hearing issues. It’s not even about loud noises at all any more. We are now aware that normal volumes of speaking and car sounds result in much more insidious health risks over time — compromising the health of your heart, of your brain, of your body. The new term is Noise Annoyance — which is all that is needed to produce these increased rates of chronic, life threatening health issue.
In this blog post, I go into more depth on the latest medical studies on noise pollution and also give you 10 actionable ways to reduce your noise pollution… even including a free printable handout for you to print!
Idea #9: Outdoor Sounds
On the flip side of the noise pollution information from above, you can actually connect to background noise in a positive way — as a way to anchor into the present moment and release the anxiety of fearing the future or the trauma of reliving the past.
Anchoring in the present moment allows you to release the stress of figuring out your next moment or carrying tension from the past moment into right NOW.
So today, go outside (or sit next to an open window while staying indoors) and take three deep breaths while becoming aware of your outdoor surround sounds.
Simply close your eyes, and draw your awareness outside of your body. Breathe in and listen for the sounds that you can hear. Birds, wind, cars honking, children laughing, distant music playing, dogs barking, or simply the full presence of stillness in the air. Even complete quiet has a felt sense, a sound quality if you listen to it.
As you exhale, expand into the environment and become one with the sounds. Repeat several more times until you truly feel connected to the outdoor sounds in your living space.
Practice this daily to get outside of your own head and drop your awareness into the present moment.
Idea #10: Indoor Sounds
Today, sit in stillness in your living space and take three deep breaths while becoming aware of the background sounds of your home.
Simply close your eyes, and draw your awareness outside of your body, expanding to fill the room you are in. Breathe in and listen for the sounds that you can hear. Pets napping, the refrigerator humming, plumbing, air conditioning, neighbors murmuring, even complete silence has a noise if you listen to it.
As you exhale, expand to fill the room and become one with the sounds. Repeat several more times until you truly feel connected to the energy of your indoor living space.
Practice this daily, in every room in your home, even while in the bathroom — it will help you get out of your own head and drop your awareness into the present moment, which you will find is incredibly centering and stress relieving once you get into a habit of doing it.
Idea #11: A Journal Activity
If you enjoy journalling, it may be incredibly eye opening to journal about communication patterns you were exposed to as a child… it will help you to understand your level of noise tolerance as well as understand any difficulties you may have in using your own voice as an adult.
Journal questions inspired by: The Sevenfold Journey, by Anodea Judith and Selene Vega!
Get out some paper or a journal and free flow your thoughts and words and inner truths out onto paper… don’t sensor yourself in any way. Here we go:
1. What were the patterns of communication in your family growing up?
2. Were you encouraged to speak your truth or discouraged from speaking up? How was this encouragement or discouragement done?
3. How often did you feel sincerely listened to growing up? Who was the best listener, who made you feel most heard?
4. Who was the worst listener? Who made you feel the most invalidated or shamed?
5. Do you have any difficulty feeling heard now? What do you look for or need from a listener in order to feel validated and heard?
6. What are your hesitations or fears in speaking out? Where do you feel these sensations in your body?
7. When you feel shy, what part of your body do you shut down? What is your posture? What does your energy do?
8. Is there anyone you have unfinished communication with? Make a list of all the people you have unfinished communication with. What do you want to say (or wish you had said?) to them?
If possible, communicate directly with anyone you listed as a response for question number 8 as a way to facilitate a healing release.
If not possible, if the person is deceased or if the sharing of your inner truth with that individual feels too daunting or unsafe, let’s write a letter to get this energy expressed and released.
You can write anything you like — do NOT censor yourself this time, as you may have felt the need to do in the past. This letter is for YOU.
Often you have to learn to give YOURSELF closure, especially from relationships where you have been violated in some way and are not likely to get respectful closure from sharing and reaching out.
Write about your feelings, about your truth, what you’ve learned from the situation, what you would have liked or requested from them in return for this sharing, and release it.
Burn it over a flame and drop into a bowl of water or simply shred it and throw it away. Release, release, release.
Do this as often as necessary and with as many people as necessary until you feel a palpable unburdening of any inner suppressed truths that you have carried silently.
Today, practice awareness of the sounds in your environment… outdoor, indoor, and even with your own voice and breath.
You can create major energy shifts in your living space simply by clearing the air, intentionally using music and mantra, and focusing on listening over speaking.
Create a few playlists and have fun watching a documentary or two tonight and I will see you back here again next week with more ideas on a whole new healing topic.
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To your naturally resilient, astoundingly incredible human body!