Forgive & Forget - Day 17

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Day 17 - Spiritual

“Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” -Buddha

Offense, hurt or pain. These are emotions experienced when feeling wronged in one way or another. Associated with that, you have also likely been on the receiving end of an apology. If so, you’ve been given an opportunity to forgive. Someone says they’re sorry and you (hopefully) choose to give up anger and resentment for kindness and compassion. Giving and accepting apologies, in a life filled with human error, is a common occurrence.

Recently I learned something very interesting about the order of forgiveness. The above scenario has always been how I would describe the forgiveness process. However, that is actually an example of what is called conditional forgiveness. Meaning that compassion comes only on the condition of the request— an intriguing distinction.

In a 2011 article called Forgive to Live: Forgiveness, Health and Longevity, it was shown that those who could only forgive if others said “sorry” first were more likely to die earlier, compared with those who practiced unconditional forgiveness. This positive correlation was evident through healthier endocrine, cardiovascular and immune systems for those that extended higher levels of empathy. You read that right. Your ability to offer unsolicited grace may actually increase your mortality!

If you’ve ever held onto anger towards someone as punishment for their wrongdoing, you were likely unaware of the physical (not to mention, emotional) harm you were actually causing yourself. Below are 5 physical health benefits of forgiveness:

1. Lowers stress levels

According to a study done by Hope College reseachers, one of multiple health benefits of forgiveness is lower levels of cortisol. (Remember that cortisol is our body’s stress hormone. Chronically increased level of cortisol lead to elevations in blood sugar, depressed immune response, increased fat accumulation and loss of cognitive function). Seventy-one participants' physical responses were monitored when speaking of past grudges compared to responses when discussing compassion. Those who displayed more forgiving perspectives had lower cortisol levels and resulting less physiological stress.

2. Keeps your heart healthy

Forgiveness is good for the heart—literally. One study suggests that people who hold on to anger have higher heart rates, while those who are more empathetic and able to forgive tend to have lower heart rates.

3. Lowers pain

Letting go of anger may help your body better adapt to pain. According to a study done by Duke University Medical Center, the ability to empathize and forgive boosted the physical and emotional ability to process pain. Out of 61 subjects who suffered from chronic back pain, those who were more likely to forgive reported lower levels of pain.

4. Lowers blood pressure

In an interview of 108 college students, multiple measures were taken of blood pressure and other stress responses while discussing past betrayals. Those more inclined to forgive had lower blood pressure levels. Multiple studies continue to show the link between lower blood pressure and forgiveness.

5. Extends life

In the previously mentioned study, Forgive to Live, adults ages 66 and older who were more forgiving in nature, tended to live longer. If this isn’t the most compelling reason to give up a grudge, then I don’t know what is!

If the above evidence isn’t enough for you to starting letting past grievances go, there is also a connection between the ability to forgive others and the likelihood of forgiving yourself. Research published in the Journal of Positive Psychology showed that people who made amends with a friend for a wrongdoing were essentially giving themselves an okay to make and accept their own mistakes in the future. Forgive others of their guilt to let go of your own.

If you’re reading this and recalling wrongdoings that hurt you, let them go. The damage only goes deeper the longer you hold such grievances in your heart. Without condoning such actions, we as human beings can extend compassion. We can forgive. Not because forgiveness is requested or deserved but because we require and deserve the peace of body and soul that comes with the offer of unconditional, God-like grace.

Daily Challenge

I often find when I choose to discuss certain topics it is myself that needs that particular instruction. In writing this, I must admit that I had two particular pains from previous relationships continue to come to mind. Even though their occurrence was years ago, the cuts were still fresh, inflicted now by my own hand.

Look inside yourself today. It likely won’t take long to remember a relationship or interaction where you felt wronged. Examine your feelings in regard to this situation and truly ask yourself if you have let this go. Now, choose to forgive. Understanding that in doing so you are not excusing the action but giving yourself the freedom to move on, both in body and spirit. Forgiveness… do it for you!

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[jbox title="About the Author:" border="5" radius="15"] Megan HeadshotMegan is a Doctor of Audiology, Holistic Nutritionist, wife, yoga-lover and ever-evolving health aspirer. Having transformed her own health, she’s eager to help you transform yours. She believes in power in its purest form: FOOD. Whole foods, to be precise. So pick up a fork and join her in a revolution of habits, health and happiness. A WHOLE new life awaits! Read more about her reformation of health and wellness at My Whole Food Habit.[/jbox]

Throwback Thursday - Day 15

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Day 15 - Social/Emotional

Throwback Thursday. I confess that I really had no idea what this term meant until about a month ago. I’d seen it posted behind a hashtag all over social media but quickly dismissed it due to my lack of understanding. Only recently did I learn that this weekly trend encourages social media users to look back and share a fond memory, usually in the form of a picture, from their past.

Let me just say that I’m not a super savvy trend follower on social media sites (clearly). In fact, I occasionally revolt and refuse to participate just out of spite directed at really no one in particular. I only recently caved and joined Instagram solely because my father mentioned in passing the inspirational quotes he continued to see on my friend’s "feed” (I figured that was a pretty clear sign that it was time). Due to this distaste for peer pressure compliance, I had inwardly vowed never to participate in this “silly” social media movement.

The reason I tell you this is because I, Megan Mansfield, am about to not only participate but dedicate an entire post to Throwback Thursday. Why? What does this have to do with health and wellness, you ask. If you’ll allow me to stray from my typical scientific-based review of daily topics and instead share a personal story, I’ll explain.

A few weeks ago I was sitting in a specialist’s office waiting for what felt like an eternity for the doctor to grace me with her presence. This day’s wait seemed particularly lengthy because I was waiting to receive results regarding a potentially serious health condition. As I sat propped up on a paper-covered table clothed in my ever-so-fashionable hospital gown, I felt my thoughts slip from the land of the rational to the depths of negativity. I imagined the doctor speaking the words of the worst possible scenario. It might as well have happened, for as soon as the imaginary-movie within my mind ended, my anxiety meter spiked to epic proportions. Before I knew it, I was feeling near tears.

Dramatic? Perhaps. But the good news is I’d rather lose my pinky toe than cry in public (okay, that was dramatic). Moisture creeping at the corner of my eyes was my check back to reality. I knew I needed to reel it in.

I leaned back and started trying “positive thinking”. Have you ever tried that in the midst of a crisis or cruddy day? As humans, the portal from positivity to negativity is often easy to go through but difficult to return.

Suddenly, for no reason in particular, I started thinking about my family and a vacation we took over 18 years ago. My 3 siblings and I were spending the evening at the hotel while my parent’s enjoyed a much deserved dinner out. We took this parental freedom and played games, goofed off and at one point, I may or may not have been deceived into thinking I had ESP. This sudden flood of favorable times brought such a warmth into my heart and started an avalanche of childhood memories. I remembered the times we played “tester-choice” in the kitchen to see who could create the most delicious treat. Falling asleep to my mother’s stories of her gator-catching Grandaddy infiltrated my consciousness. Lazy days spent drawing upside faces on our chins and then hanging off the back of our blue sofa to record nonsensical conversations between bald-headed faces played across my memory.

Suddenly, I felt the corners or my mouth tweak into a smirk. I might as well have been plucked straight from the physician’s office and been planted firmly in the pleasurable days of my delightful childhood.

What I realized was remarkable. Memories had controlled my mood. This was not a contrived exercise where I tallied off terrifically “positive” things while sitting in a sterile office but genuine joy that sprung forth through a small moment spent reveling in charming recollections. I’d never attempted, or even known, the power of such a simple act.

This is not a new idea— using positive memories to control mood. Memory is a powerful thing and is constantly being studied to better understand its influence on human action. A study completed in 2007 by Gillihan, Kessler and Farah showed a positive correlation in over 300 men and women between memory recall and effective mood regulation. There was also a correlation between negative memory recall and mood worsening— so keep it upbeat cause this is a two-way street.

Interestingly, this memory-mood connection also works in the inverse. When our mood is elevated and focused on positive thoughts, neurons are activated that actually improve your ability to remember (source). This means if you’re studying for an exam or preparing for a presentation, thinking cheery thoughts while you’re working channels improved memory recall, resulting in improved performance.

It was an accidental but influential “Eureka!” moment I stumbled upon that day in the doctor’s office. The truth of it was rooted in research but its significance to me went much deeper. As a woman, or more accurately as a human being, I often feel my emotions are running me as opposed to the opposite. To have gained such exact and immediate control on the brink of breakdown went beyond exciting— it was empowering.

So here I sit, tasting the tartness of every letter I type. Eating my words is beginning to be a staple diet for me it seems. Yet, I’m willing to sacrifice a little ego in exchange for the merit I see in a social media movement as it connects to my experience that day. Perhaps there is something powerful in something that appeared silly. Call it what you may, but today, enjoy the essence of a little Throwback Thursday.

Daily Challenge

Today’s challenge is simple. Participate in your own personal version of Throwback Thursday by remembering a time, event or moment in your life that elicits nothing but pure pleasure. Let these thoughts permeate your mind and mood… they have the power, I promise. Don’t hoard this happiness either. Share your restorative rememberances via picture or post on social media.

I’d love to share in all your cheery recollections so don’t forget to hashtag #MyWholeFoodHabit and #Loveumentary or share on My Whole Food Habit’s Facebook page.

In a show of good faith, I will share my own Throwback Thursday moment— a commemoration of the original memory that brought a smile to my face during a dark moment in a doctor’s office all those days ago.

Chin smiling MM

P.S. I highly recommend you go out and redo, reimagine or recreate your memory to really leave a happy imprint in your heart. This was just as fun to replicate with my hubby now as it was to remember doing all those many years ago as a child.

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[jbox title="About the Author:" border="5" radius="15"] Megan HeadshotMegan is a Doctor of Audiology, Holistic Nutritionist, wife, yoga-lover and ever-evolving health aspirer. Having transformed her own health, she’s eager to help you transform yours. She believes in power in its purest form: FOOD. Whole foods, to be precise. So pick up a fork and join her in a revolution of habits, health and happiness. A WHOLE new life awaits! Read more about her reformation of health and wellness at My Whole Food Habit.[/jbox]

Busting the No-Brainer - Day 14

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Day 14 - Intellectual

"It's a no-brainer.”

Sound familiar? You’ve likely heard or even spouted it off yourself when responding to what you feel is any easy choice. We are creatures of habit, often deciding issues based on snap judgments and gut reactions. This can result in “no-brainer” behavior with little to no mental effort influencing our perceptions and selections.

Do the following: Repeat the word “joke” out loud three times to yourself. Now quickly, what’s the white part of an egg called?

A majority of you likely responded by saying yolk. However, the question was what the white part of an egg is called... albumen. Your brain was conditioned to the “oak” sound simply by reciting it three times. You just conditioned yourself in less than 5 seconds! Isn’t that amazing? That is a no-brainer. A response formulated by habit. No thinking applied. responded with a no-brainer— yet completely incorrect— response when presented with a straight-forward question. You reacted in habit-bound behavior.

Now try this: Fold your arms. Which arm is on top? Mine is always my right. Quickly reverse the position with your bottom arm on top. Not so easy, is it? When I attempted this simple switch, I literally had to slow myself down. It required focus, making me feel akin to a kindergartener taking my first crack at scissor skills. Clearly, folding my arms in a specific way is habit-bound behavior for me.

We are all human beings and that means we are susceptible to, and often are, preconditioned. What makes this phenomenon truly intriguing, though, is that these programmed perceptions, and their resulting reactions, are as unique to the individual as code is to a computer. Even when we all receive the same stimulus input, the output varies.

For example, we’ll use the following image you may have seen previously.

Young women and old lady photo

What do you see? Is it the profile of a young woman with her head turned away or a weary old beggar woman with face downcast?

There is no right or wrong answer in this case. Again, part of what makes us beautiful as a human race IS our ability to perceive similar stimuli in new and different ways. This capacity opens the door to creativity, invention and problem-solving. However, if you either cannot or choose not to see beyond the initial image (whether beauty or beggar) you are undoubtedly missing something, losing out on potentiality and possibility.

Assumptions can block our ability to see novelty based on our brain's conditioned response. The egg white question, in contrast to the picture activity, most certainly had a correct answer. Yet, most of us (myself included) answered incorrectly.

This leads me to my capstone question for today:

Are you missing out on answers or even potential possibilities due to your preconceived notions?

You may apply this question to any of the following: a life problem, a political stance, health beliefs, religious or spiritual predisposition, professional opinions, and/or relationship disagreements. Whatever your individual circumstances, still ask yourself.

We will never be effective problem-solvers or possibility-spotters if we do not exercise the ability to go beyond the no-brainer mentality and examine our assumptions.

As the philosopher Marcel Proust once said:

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands, but in seeking with new eyes.”

Daily Challenge

Part of being intellectually well is being open to new ideas and opinions both in life—and in love. Looking (and responding) beyond our immediate assumptions or beliefs is the key to opening a door to fresh understanding that can deepen companionship and character. So don’t delay. Take your darling by the hand and dare to discover what new ideas await.

Items you’ll need:

•Two pencils

•Two pieces of paper

•Your preconceived notions (oh wait, you already have those)

As a couple, select a topic that you and your spouse disagree on. This may range from an opposing political opinion to a disagreement on whose responsibility dish duty is.

Give yourself a few minutes and write down every immediate thought, idea, aspect or argument you have for feeling the way you do.

When you’ve completed this, switch papers. In the last 3 seconds, you have just obtained your law degree (you’re welcome) and with it has come your very first case. You must now present the evidence to defend your partner's opinion only using the evidence written on the paper before you.

Don’t do this half way. Really act as though your reputation, profession and payout relies on your understanding and explaining the merits of the arguments that sit before you.

At the end of your dialogue, discuss your experience. How does it feel to go against your natural inclination? What do you see now that you’ve viewed this picture from an alternative angle? Most importantly, what insight have you gained into the personal perceptions that drive you and your partner’s ideas?

Next time you open your mouth to disagree, think about this exercise and have the courage to examine your assumptions. You many find there’s an entire wealth of new ideas—in life and love—just waiting to be explored. That's a no-brainer! ;)

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[jbox title="About the Author:" border="5" radius="15"] Megan HeadshotMegan is a Doctor of Audiology, Holistic Nutritionist, wife, yoga-lover and ever-evolving health aspirer. Having transformed her own health, she’s eager to help you transform yours. She believes in power in its purest form: FOOD. Whole foods, to be precise. So pick up a fork and join her in a revolution of habits, health and happiness. A WHOLE new life awaits! Read more about her reformation of health and wellness at My Whole Food Habit.[/jbox]

High on Hydration - Day 13

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Day 13 - Physical

The human body is more than 60 percent water. Blood is 92 percent water. Both your brain and muscles are made up of 75 percent water. Your skin contains 64 percent water. Even your bones aren’t “bone dry”- water is 22 percent of their makeup.

H2O. It’s what makes us work!

A human can survive over a month without eating food but only a week without water.

There’s no denying the importance of this essential element and I’m confident I’ll not be the first or the last to counsel you regarding adequate consumption. So if we all know it— why are seventy-five percent of Americans still chronically dehydrated?

We spend hours working our muscles in the gym, days reading books about the best diets and countless dollars on health food every year. Yet, we’re missing the mark when it comes to providing what nearly every major system in our body depends on to function. Perhaps we don’t fully comprehend beyond quenching our thirst what water really does after it passes our lips: brain function, hormone production, temperature regulation, shock absorption for the spinal cord, digestion, blood and body oxygenation, lubrication of joints, waste elimination, saliva formation, cellular survival and reproduction… need I go on? If we were told there was a “superfood” out there that would improve almost every biological function in your body, you bet your bottom dollar that most of us would be scrambling for the supermarket to get our hands on it.

So what happens when we don’t get enough of it? Dehydration. Simply put, this is when your body is using up more water than its taking in. This can lead to symptoms such as dry mouth, fatigue, thirst, decreased urination, dry skin, headaches, constipation and dizziness. With more dehydration, symptoms become even more severe: rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, fever, sunken eyes, no urination, extreme thirst, shriveled skin, delirium and even unconsciousness.

So how do you know if you’re getting enough water? Waiting till you feel thirsty or until you feel the above symptoms likely means your body is already feeling the drought. A common recommendation is the 8x8 rule: an eight ounce glass, eight times a day. This is a good guideline but keep in mind that your body’s water requirement may vary from your neighbors depending on your health, lifestyle, exercise-level and/or food choices. A person who exercises regularly will require more water to replenish what is excreted by sweating. When illness strikes, increased fluid intake is essential to restore what is lost through side-effects such as diarrhea. A breastfeeding mother will need to consume more water to maintain an adequate milk supply. A good indicator to know if you’re adequately hydrated is the color of your urine. According to the Mayo Clinic, clear or light-colored urine indicates healthy hydration. Dark or amber-colored urine is typically a signal your body is dehydrated.

I hope we feel appropriately educated regarding H2O up to this point. However, I’ve learned through experience that education without inspiration means very little when putting knowledge into practical application. So pop over to my blog, My Whole Food Habit, to see some fresh ways to boost your water intake, including how to liven up your liquids, fun tools to tote your H2O and innovative apps to keep your hydration on track.

Daily Challenge

Today’s challenge is to make a water wager. First: Pick a companion. This may be your significant other, a co-worker or any of your daily comrades. Each of you set a goal for the amount of water you will consume today. Use the 8x8 guide (an eight ounce glasses eight times a day) as a starting point and adapt as you feel necessary for your health and lifestyle. Second: Pick your prize. Each of you select a specific reward you will give yourself at the end of this day if you meet your goal. Mine was as simple as a good book in a bubble bath to close out my night. Yours may be purchasing that new song your ears can’t get enough of on iTunes. Now drink your way to victory!  Soda, sports drinks or coffee— they don’t count— so keep your water free of sugar and additives today. Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of peer pressure. Text, email or otherwise remind your hydration partner throughout the day to ensure you both finish this day off with a water win.

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[jbox title="About the Author:" border="5" radius="15"] Megan HeadshotMegan is a Doctor of Audiology, Holistic Nutritionist, wife, yoga-lover and ever-evolving health aspirer. Having transformed her own health, she’s eager to help you transform yours. She believes in power in its purest form: FOOD. Whole foods, to be precise. So pick up a fork and join her in a revolution of habits, health and happiness. A WHOLE new life awaits! Read more about her reformation of health and wellness at My Whole Food Habit.[/jbox]

Cold Courage - Day 12

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Day 12 - Social

Today we’re trying something new. A reprieve from reading. In lieu of my post, I present to you a special treat to kick off our week.

For those of you who’ve never had the opportunity to watch a TED Talk, you’re missing out on a wealth of inspiring messages and presenters offering innovative ideas and research. TED was started in 1984 under the slogan, “Ideas Worth Spreading”… and this particular one I’m about to share (a favorite of mine) most definitely fits the bill.

Ever wanted to speak to someone but been too intimidated to try? Longed to take a leap towards a life dream but fear of failure prevented the launch?  

We’ve all been there— the spot where comfort and familiarity stand off against discomfort and fear. In this TED talk, Joel Runyon, a javelin-throwing, world-traveling, triathlete talks about taking on the seemingly impossible by starting with an intriguingly simple daily practice. S0 cuddle up with your companion for 10 minutes of learning about some serious (and literal) cold courage.

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gb0h8ZKvJW4[/embed]

Daily Challenge

I think you already know where this one is going. My challenge and Joel’s challenge are one and the same. Don’t focus on 30 days. Just commit to tomorrow. It’s one day. One unique opportunity towards getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. And who knows? You may discover that "impossible" lies closer than you think after stepping outside that confining cage we call comfort.

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[jbox title="About the Author:" border="5" radius="15"] Megan HeadshotMegan is a Doctor of Audiology, Holistic Nutritionist, wife, yoga-lover and ever-evolving health aspirer. Having transformed her own health, she’s eager to help you transform yours. She believes in power in its purest form: FOOD. Whole foods, to be precise. So pick up a fork and join her in a revolution of habits, health and happiness. A WHOLE new life awaits! Read more about her reformation of health and wellness at My Whole Food Habit.[/jbox]