choosing happiness
in the midst of life’s messiness

Posted by on Feb 11, 2015 in Ask the Coach, Healthier Choices, Wellness | 2 comments

Choose Happiness

 

I’m excited to be a Happiness Crusader and to be joining over 100 women in spreading the message of #ChoosingHappiness to women around the world. In today’s post I share how I chose happiness in the midst of life’s messiness by answering a few questions from my inspiring friend best-selling Publisher Linda Joy.

Today is the official release of her new book Inspiration for a Woman’s Soul: Choosing Happiness featuring the soul-inspiring stories of 27 amazing women who share their intimate stories of transformation. Choosing Happiness also includes Reflection Questions after each story, which will empower you to integrate the vital lessons of each woman’s journey into your own life.

For a limited time you can get over 40 transformational gifts with your copy of Choosing Happiness. Grab your copy today at  http://bit.ly/Happiness_Book

Q: Was there a pivotal moment in your life when you realized that your happiness was an internal choice that could be made despite your outside circumstances?

When I was 12 years old, my parents divorced and my mother and I moved to another city. That the earliest moment I remember realizing I could either be sad or be happy, despite the momentous changes this meant for my life. However that was a child’s decision in response to some guidance from loving parents who wanted the best for me.

It’s also important to recognize that when an adult chooses to be happy, it’s a more complex and layered decision. My pivotal adult moment was at the time I was diagnosed with autoimmune arthritis. I was experiencing chronic pain, and although it wasn’t my first such experience, it was certainly the scariest. In that moment I fought through the fears and choose to find a positive, solution-oriented, happy approach to the rest of my life.

Q: How do you remind yourself that happiness is always within and catch your footing in those whirlwind moments of life that can throw us off balance?

Just when I think things are settled, life throws me a curve ball and I have to decide how to react. I may duck to try to avoid the worst, or such a move may be impossible. My goal is always to pop back up and stay centered in my life, instead of staying down.

I’ve found that the best way to remind myself of the happiness at the core of my being is to love, hug, and laugh with someone. It can be a friend, my spouse, or even a client. I also take the opportunity to ask someone else what going on in their life. This gets me outside myself, which actually makes it easier to reconnect with my own happy attitude.

Q: What is your personal definition of happiness today?

I recently heard this poem read, and I think it’s the perfect illustration of my definition of happiness.

I Have Found Such Joy

I have found such joy in simple things;
A plain, clean room, a nut-brown loaf of bread,
A cup of milk, a kettle as it sings,
The shelter of a roof above my head,
And in a leaf-laced square along the floor,
Where yellow sunlight glimmers through a door.
I have found such joy in things that fill
My quiet days; a curtain’s blowing grace,
A potted plant upon my window sill,
A rose fresh-cut and placed within a vase,
A table cleared, a lamp beside a chair,
And books I long have loved beside me there.
Oh, I have found such joys I wish I might
Tell every woman who goes seeking far
For some elusive, feverish delight,
That very close to home the great joys are:
The elemental things – old as the race,
Yet never, through the ages, commonplace.

~ Grace Noll Crowell, 1877-1969

Q: Share three things that bring you happiness.

I find the most happiness in simple joys and close relationships. We have a close family, and because we’re also a blended family, it’s a special treasure for me. When my four-year old granddaughter stops to lay her head in my lap before she leaves to go home, I am happy.

When spring comes again and my garden grows with new shoots and blooms, I am happy.

And just so you don’t think I’m a sedentary old lady, it makes me happy to work up a good sweat exercising. There’s a chemical reason for that (endorphins), but it’s also my way of connecting to and nurturing my one and only body.

Thanks to my friend, Publisher Linda Joy, for these inspiring questions! I invite you to share how you choosing happiness moment in the comments below.

Be sure to check out Linda’s new book, Inspiration for a Woman’s Soul: Choosing Happiness and grab your copy today at http://bit.ly/Happiness_Book to receive the bonus gift bundle worth thousands!

 

Do you just wish you could find a set of realistic, holistic tools you can put in practice that will minimize your pain and maximize your energy? Download my free PDF report to learn 17 EASY WAYS TO START MINIMIZING PAIN TODAY!

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I’m not going to “unlove” you

Posted by on Jan 29, 2015 in Ask the Coach, Healthier Choices, Wellness | 2 comments

I'm Not Going to "Unloved" YouLast year at this time, I was struggling with my health. It was hard to feel like myself at work, at home, and there was no “at play” in my life then. Physically, I was dealing with unexplained vertigo, hearing loss, and disequilibrium. While not actually painful, it made me nauseous, irritable, and was accompanied by deep feelings of fear and depression. (If you’ve read my book, you may remember some of this story.)

One day, I was trying to explain to my husband Cris how sorry I was that I couldn’t be the wife he married and the wife who had enjoyed nearly two decades of togetherness. Of course, I was crying and it both hurt and made me mad to be in this situation.

And my best friend, companion, and husband just looked at me and said, “I’m not going to ‘unlove’ you because you’re sick.” His words still brings tears to my eyes as I write this. I can’t tell you if he thought about those words much before he said them. I can tell you that his words lifted my soul in that moment and chased some of the fear away.

Now imagine you’re a person with chronic illness or chronic pain. You might not really have to imagine – this could be you already since over 100 million people in the U.S. have experienced chronic pain. And according to one study in 2013, nearly half of all Americans have at least one chronic illness. This means many of you have felt what I was feeling that day last winter.

Has my health improved since then? Well, yes and no. Have I cried more tears? Definitely. Have I had some priceless moments of joy and happiness? Absolutely. And every SINGLE day I think of that one precious phrase, “I’m not going to unlove you.”

I realize this is a unique and amazing gift from my spouse. And so are all those nights when he’s not only cooked dinner but also done the dishes – all because I needed to get off my feet and rest. It’s not uncommon for a spouse to feel burdened by the challenge of their partner’s chronic pain. Many relationships and marriages struggle and even fail because of it.

Do Cris and I have the secret to a happy marriage despite chronic pain or illness? Well that bin of magic fairy dust was empty at the store this month, so I have no fail-safe secret. I will however, give you my top three strategies for enriching your loving relationship even when you have chronic pain or illness.

  1. Choose to be happy and find happiness in all the little ways you can. Each of those little choices add up to a big difference in how you approach each day. And research shows that optimism and a sense of hope (which go hand-in-hand with happiness), play a big part in improving your health. What makes you happy will be completely individual­—maybe it’s a child’s laughter, a bright sunny day, or some yellow roses. It could be the comfort of a warm meal shared with someone. Or bubbles in the bathtub. You choose!
  2. Let them know how much it means to you! Don’t forget the “thank you” moments, even if you think you’ve already said it a few times today or this week. Do what you can when you can. When you have a good day, use some of your energy to do something nice for your partner even if it’s just emptying the dishwasher. But most of all thank them more than you think necessary.
  3. Hug your partner every single day—more than once! Being heart-to-heart in a hug is healing for you both. It improves blood pressure, lifts your mood, and generates pain-relieving endorphins too. It reminds you both that you’re the most important people in each other’s lives, no matter what pain and health challenges your family is dealing with.

Love them because they love you. Face the challenges together, hand in hand, heart to heart.

 

Do you just wish you could find a set of realistic, holistic tools you can put in practice that will minimize your pain and maximize your energy? Download my free PDF report to learn 17 EASY WAYS TO START MINIMIZING PAIN TODAY!

 

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what’s an elimination diet really like?

Posted by on May 8, 2014 in Anti-Inflammatory Ideas, Ask the Coach, Cooking at Home, Gluten Free, Holistic Pain Relief | 0 comments

Broiled Salmon

Gluten Free and Migraine Friendly

As you’ve heard me say before, I went gluten-free a few years ago to help holistically manage my chronic arthritis pain. It was a big decision, and a big adjustment at the time. We re-vamped a lot of the things we do in the kitchen, and also changed the way we eat out.

But that was a tiny change compared to the migraine trigger elimination diet I’ve followed since March 1st—almost 70 days. An elimination diet is recommended many times by health coaches, nutritionists and even physicians. There are lots of different types of elimination diets, and just as many reasons why someone might embark on one.

In my case, a physician recommended the changes because I was having severe, chronic atypical migraine activity. Severe meaning it was massively impacting my quality of life and ability to work, play and simply function. Chronic meaning the migraine activity had lasted at this extreme level for several months prior the physician appointment. Atypical meaning there was very little headache activity involved but many other symptoms that health care practitioners and patients often don’t associate with migraine. More on my story is here.

The elimination diet that was recommended to me means that I have had to eliminate around 50 foods from my diet. It means that no foods (and even some personal care products) can be purchased without reading their ingredient list. It also means that eating out is practically impossible.

On the UP side, the elimination diet almost completely reversed my migraine activity within about 30 days. Some symptoms were eliminated in the first week!

But how do you take the dietary recommendations from paper to practice?

Gluten Free and Migraine Friendly

Gluten Free and Migraine Friendly

STEP ONE: Get a bound blank book to use as food log or diary. Since I am specifically trying to connect foods with migraine symptoms, I wanted to have something I could flip around in to see those connections. The same thing would apply if you want to connect pain-related symptoms to food.

STEP TWO: Make copies of the list of do’s and don’ts. One is attached to my refrigerator. The other is inside my food log/diary book. I’m working on making one virtual or “in the cloud” to access from my smart phone (helpful while shopping).

STEP THREE: On the list of do’s and don’ts, highlight those foods you use most in your food and cooking choices. For us, it was things like avocados, nuts, onions, and soy sauce!

STEP FOUR: Start reading labels in the kitchen to see what was “safe.” For example, the list said tuna was okay. But the list of ingredients on our tuna cans had vegetable broth in them, which is often “code” for MSG. So now when we shop, we look for brands of tuna without added broth in them.

STEP FIVE: Begin researching possible substitutions for your favorite foods on the “don’t” list. For example, switching shallots for onions. While it’s not the same exact taste, it works. And we’re also serving sauces on the side to accommodate my needs and all the other diners. With some regular experimenting and brainstorming, Cris and I have been able to enjoy a lot of fantastic “whole food” dinners together—all gluten-free and migraine-friendly.

Gluten Free and Migraine Friendly Broiled Salmon

Gluten Free and Migraine Friendly

The time I’ve spent in this elimination diet “phase” is a time when I have to give a LOT of thought to every bite. In our world of convenience foods and overscheduled lives, this isn’t easy. But trust me, living with pain or illness is harder than making extremely conscious food choices. For me it’s all about my mindset. I can either focus on the 50 foods I can’t have, or recognize the 1000 other options I do have. I also try to stay focused on the results that these changes have made in my health and my life. And like many challenges, elimination diets aren’t designed to last forever. So I often say to myself: “this too shall pass.”

Hopefully in just a few weeks, I’ll be able to start testing each trigger food and creating my own personal “trigger list.” Once I have that list (which may take a few months to solidify), I hope to be adding some of these eliminated foods back into my diet.

 

Do you just wish you could find a set of realistic, holistic tools you can put in practice that will minimize your pain and maximize your energy? Download my free PDF report to learn 17 EASY WAYS TO START MINIMIZING PAIN TODAY!

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holistic relief for migraine activity

Posted by on Apr 10, 2014 in Ask the Coach, Holistic Pain Relief | 0 comments

Migraine Brain.jpgNever in a million years did I expect a doctor to tell me I needed an elimination diet. Most physicians have limited training in nutrition, and as a health and holistic pain relief coach I have a LOT of training in nutrition. I never anticipated being told that dietary changes were the right path for me.

How did this journey start? Well, back in early November, I caught a cold and then it developed into a sinus infection. Just as I started to feel better, it seemed like I felt worse again. The process of alternately feeling better and feeling worse continued for several weeks. During some of the “worse” intervals, I had some vertigo and quite a bit of disequilibrium. Disequilibrium is when you feel like you’re on a boat – and you’re not! Both of these experiences can be very disconcerting. Then I started to lose hearing in my right ear, including a distortion of low-frequency sounds.

The bad days began to outnumber the good days. Things were going from bad to worse, and no one seemed to have any answers for me. Some medications (like prednisone) worked for a time, but didn’t solve the problem and had scary possible side effects. I was too unwell to try to determine if there were holistic methods, except for getting lots of rest. Doctors, chiropractors, clinical nutritionists, acupuncturists … no one could tell me what was really wrong.

And then I was referred to the specialist I mentioned above. He spent about 20 minutes talking with me about the symptoms I was having. We also talked about the progression of symptoms over not only the several months before our appointment, but over many years prior.

And he told me it was all migraine activity! I could have fallen out of my chair, because I only get the occasional tension headache! In all the years I’ve been doing bodywork and coaching, I’ve always treated people living with migraines. And every time I was grateful that I didn’t live with the kind of pain levels migraines can bring. Here is the lesson for me: sometimes there’s a LOT more to a condition than you realize. Migraine is simply the inflammation of the blood vessels in your head and neck. And because of their location, that inflammation can affect so many different parts of our body.

Migraine includes symptoms throughout many systems of your body – not just your head. And many things, including what we eat and drink, can trigger migraine activity. Since we have more control over what we swallow, a migraine trigger elimination diet was the first step for me.

I thought going gluten-free was tough, but now that I’m forty days into this diet, I am here to tell you it’s much tougher. On the up side, I’ve experienced HUGE amounts of symptom relief. I am SO grateful for the fantastic good days that I am having now (even if it does mean I had no excuse to get out of spring cleaning)!

It would be wrong to tell this story without a shout out to my amazing husband Cris. He was there every step of the way, helping and supporting me with his whole heart. I am so lucky and grateful that he is in my life!

My message for you is this:

1. Even the experts have challenges to face and more to learn.

2. Food and nutrition are intimately connected to wellness.

3. Persist in looking for the solutions – pace yourself, but persist.

4. Asking for help is okay.

This experience has been (and continues to be) life changing. Since it does relate to holistic pain relief, I’m sure I’ll have more to share in the future. Stay tuned …

 

Do you just wish you could find a set of realistic, holistic tools you can put in practice that will minimize your pain and maximize your energy? Download my free PDF report to learn 17 EASY WAYS TO START MINIMIZING PAIN TODAY!

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my 3 favorite 2013 books about chronic pain

Posted by on Dec 4, 2013 in Ask the Coach, Holistic Pain Relief, Wellness | 2 comments

Books about Chronic PainThe world of chronic pain, holistic pain relief, and wellness is a place of vast information. It can be overwhelming even … there are so many options that it’s hard to know where to start. Since I’m a voracious and consistent reader, I wanted to share my favorite 2013 books on these pain relief topics.

And as a person living with chronic pain, I am so grateful for e-readers and electronic books. Why? Because they are MUCH lighter to hold than regular books! And when I’m away from home, I can carry quite a few digital books with me. It wouldn’t be easy to do that if they were paperback or hardback. 😉

The Battle for Grace

This wonderful memoir by Cynthia Toussaint is both excruciating and inspiring. If you’ve lived with chronic pain, or know someone who does – this is a must read. It’s brutally honest and detailed. I couldn’t put it down. I had the pleasure of meeting Cynthia in September, and you’d never know she’s been through a life like this. Her experiences with chronic pain and slow diagnosis / treatment will make you think twice about your own situation. It made me remember (again!) how important it is to advocate for myself. And it also gave me tremendous hope!

In the Kingdom of the Sick: A Social History of Chronic Illness in America

Both memoir and scholarly work, this book reads like a novel and packs a tremendous information punch. While it’s primarily about chronic illness, the author Laurie Edwards spends quite a bit of time discussing the role of chronic pain in our society. She is both a journalist, a professor, and a woman living with chronic illness. She shows the reader the connections between the consciousness and social movements of the time with the concurrent medical innovations and approaches. I found the whole thing fascinating!

The Last Best Cure: My Quest to Awaken the Healing Parts of My Brain and Get Back My Body, My Joy, and My Life

When I was first diagnosed with RA, one of the first books I read (and loved!) was by Donna Jackson Nakazawa—The Autoimmune Epidemic. So I think when her 2013 book arrived, I was anticipating great things. And she delivers! Not only did I spend the whole book rooting for the author to rediscover her health, I enjoyed every bit of science and detail she infused into this very readable book. I was reading this book just at the time I was discovering my own path to holistic pain relief coaching. And it was inspiring to know that there are scientific studies being done that connect meditation, yoga and acupuncture with healing and relief. I loved this so much I bought  copies for the acupuncturist and yoga teachers I know!

I hope you’ll read all three books in 2014, and let me know what you think! They are 100% worth your time and effort. And won’t you please let me know the books that inspired you in 2013?

 

Do you just wish you could find a set of realistic, holistic tools you can put in practice that will minimize your pain and maximize your energy? Download my free PDF report to learn 17 EASY WAYS TO START MINIMIZING PAIN TODAY!

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gluten free sauces on the fly

Posted by on Oct 2, 2013 in Anti-Inflammatory Ideas, Ask the Coach, Cooking at Home, Gluten Free, Healthier Choices, Wellness | 2 comments

Well, today you’re in for a special treat. Yours truly and Confident Wellness’ COO wrote today’s blog!

As you may already know, I love all aspects of food—planning, shopping, cooking, and most of all eating the food that I cook. I’m the “chef” in our family and enjoy preparing meals not only for Barb and I, but also for friends and our VERY large family.

Family Dinner

One of our family dinners — as you can see, it’s a very informal affair served “family style.”

November will mark Barb’s one-year anniversary of being gluten free and, of course, my anniversary of cooking gluten free.

A couple of weeks ago, one of Barb’s clients who knows that I cook, asked her for easy sauce recipes as alternatives to purchasing jarred stir-fry and barbeque sauces that are typically loaded with gluten and unwanted ingredients. This created a unique challenge because (maybe like you?) I rarely use recipes when I whip up my culinary specialties. Hmm, what to do?

Being of Asian descent, I prepare many different stir-fries. However, I was now tasked with creating a recipe for one of my “mad-professor”-style cooking sauces. I went to the kitchen, pulled out a pot, measuring utensils, and ingredients that I thought would pull together as a simple, layered, and tasty stir-fry sauce. Here’s what I scribbled on a Post-It note as I made my 10-minute sauce:

Gluten Free Stir-Fry Sauce
1 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons (or to taste) gluten free soy sauce
½ teaspoon of garlic powder or a couple of cloves of fresh, finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon sesame seed oil
¼ teaspoon (or to taste) cayenne
Pinch of Chinese Five Spice (careful, it has a strong flavor)
1 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds

Dry roast the sesame seeds by placing the sesame seeds in a hot, pre-heated fry pan until golden brown and set aside. This should take roughly two minutes.

Pour the chicken broth into a water-tight container and shake with the corn starch until dissolved.

Pour mixture into a small sauce-pan, heat on a medium flame until it thickens. You may need to add more cornstarch if you like a thicker sauce.

Add the soy sauce, garlic powder or chopped garlic, sesame seed oil, cayenne, and Chinese Five Spice.

Let the mixture simmer for five minutes.

Add the sauce to your favorite stir-fry combinations. One of my favorites is thinly sliced chicken breast added to a combination of diagonally sliced celery and carrots, bok choy cabbage, and bean sprouts. Be careful not to overcook any of the ingredients, particularly the cabbage and bean sprouts. Oh yes, and use fresh bean sprouts. The canned bean sprouts are downright nasty.

Sprinkle the roasted sesame seeds on top of the stir fry as a garnish.

Notes: My favorite soy sauce is made by Kikkoman, however, their gluten free soy sauce may be difficult to find. We got ours at Wegman’s, a great grocery chain headquartered in Rochester New York. On a recent trip to an Asian store, I found what was termed “vegetarian soya sauce”. Although I don’t like it as much, it can still be used since there are no gluten components.

 

I was also asked to write a recipe for a barbeque sauce. This is one of our favorites since neither Barb nor I enjoy “heavy”, ketchup-style sauces. We prefer something like this:

Gluten Free, Carolina-Style Barbeque Sauce
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon of your favorite pepper sauce. We use some of the hotter, habanero sauces (not for wimps).
2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
4 tablespoons tomato paste

Place all ingredients in a jar and shake. Let it sit in the refrigerator for a day or two before using.  If refrigerated, it will last for a fairly long time.

Notes: This is very similar to some of the Carolina barbeque sauces that can be found online. The sauce is great on top of shredded pork or grilled chicken. It can be used as a marinade for other barbequed meats.

I think you’ll enjoy both of these sauces as much as we do.

 

Do you just wish you could find a set of realistic, holistic tools you can put in practice that will minimize your pain and maximize your energy? Download our free PDF report to learn 17 EASY WAYS TO START MINIMIZING PAIN TODAY!

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