A New Perspective on Habits

We probably have habits we would like to change. There are three parts to habits that make them stick, or hard to break.

The first part of a habit is the cue. The cue (1) is the trigger to your brain to perform an automatic behavior. The cue can be anything from a person, a time of day, or an advertisement, to a set of circumstances.

The cue leads to the routine (2), or habit. The brain gets a reward when the habit or routine is performed.

The reward (3) is the experience the brain is looking for, like comfort or stimulation. This is where the saying comes from: what fires together wires together. These automatic pathways in the brain may quickly set, if the reward is powerful enough, like an addiction.

People may try to stop a bad habit by removing the routine. As an example, a smoker tries to break the habit by throwing away the cigarettes. The better approach to break the habit in the long term is to focus on the cue as well as the routine.

As an example, if you feel that spending time on social media is a habit you’d like to break, you may find it better to pick up a book or newspaper to read when the urge strikes. You might also break the habit by changing the cue. If you find yourself stopping at the doughnut shop on the way to work, then change the route to make the doughnut shop less convenient.

Two good books on habits are The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, and Atomic Habits by James Clear.

Please get in touch to discuss how I can help you on your path to vibrant health.

Book an Appointment

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Did you know that 50% of mental illness starts by age 14, and 75% by age 24? One in five adults experience a mental illness. Nearly 1 in 25 adults live with a serious mental illness. About 10 million adults have mental health and addiction issues.

Common signs of mental health issues:

  • Feeling sad or withdrawn for more than 2 weeks.
  • Significant weight loss or gain.
  • Heavy alcohol or drug use.
  • Changes in mood, behavior, personality, or sleep.
  • Difficulty concentrating or staying still.
  • Unable to do daily activities due to worry or fear.
  • Out-of-control behavior that causes harm to self or others.
  • Harming one’s self or making plans to end one’s life.

On one hand, we have the conventional medical approach to mental illness. There is also the holistic psychiatry and nutritional psychiatry approach to treating mental disorders. You might not be aware of these more integrative approaches to mental health:

  • Self-care is important. It may be more important now with physical distancing and other disruptions during the pandemic.
  • Routine is important. Sleep is better with a daily routine.
  • Stay connected to friends and family. Phone calls, email, social media or writing letters works.
  • Talk about your feelings to someone you trust.
  • Limiting social media and news is important. Watching news may be best done in the morning so you can be prepared for sleep.
  • Be kind and compassionate to others and especially yourself.

You’ll find more information about mental health at:

Getting help is the most important step. There are different approaches. Do some research and decide which approach may be best for you.

Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

New Perspective on Problems

Wicked problems are interconnected, seen as connected nodes
Wicked problems are interconnected

I recently read of tame and wicked problems. I believe our challenge with COVID-19 is a wicked problem.

A wicked problem has complex interdependencies. The efforts to solve one part of the problem may reveal or create other problems. Some examples of wicked problems include economic, environmental and political issues. A problem requiring a great number of people to change their behavior and beliefs is probably a wicked problem. Other examples of wicked problems are climate change, healthcare, pandemics, drug trafficking and social injustice issues.

We don’t do well with wicked problems. We can neither fight nor run away from this type of problem.

These difficult problems may be another reason for bringing compassion and empathy into our lives. We need to remember to have compassion for ourselves and others in this difficult situation. We are all in this together.  

We are living through this a day at a time. We will get through this a day at a time. Remember to be gentle and compassionate to everyone.

Looking to find ways to live healthier? Please get in touch!

Book an Appointment

New Perspectives on Creativity and Health

Have you heard anyone voice their surprise of the creativity happening as we stay at home?  I hear it every day.

Creativity may improve our self-confidence.  We find that we rise to the challenge.

Creativity gives us a new way to use our skills.  This is empowering. Creativity lets us step outside our box and try other new approaches.

Creativity is enjoyable and fun. This reduces stress and stress can be a killer.  We want to take every opportunity offered to reduce stress.

Every cloud has a silver lining. This may be a silver lining for us and our planet.  Let the creativity flow!

I have been enjoying creativity in the kitchen. I’m enjoying many new recipes with substituting ingredients I have in the kitchen now. I am finding new ways of surprising loved ones in the nursing home with small gift boxes of items to enjoy.  Who doesn’t love to open a box and find surprises? 

What creativity have you seen in your world?

Looking for a way to reduce stress and improve your health? Please get in touch to discuss how I can help.

Book an Appointment

A New Perspective on Plastics and Our Health, and the Health of the Planet

Plastic surrounds us. We discovered how to make plastic in the 1850s, and by 1925, the word plastic entered our language. Unfortunately, every piece of plastic made, if not recycled, is still with us.

Plastics contain two especially unhealthy compounds, BPA and phthalates. These chemicals help make plastics more pliable, but they also affect our health. These chemicals interfere with how our hormones work. Hormones affected include estrogen, testosterone, growth hormone, insulin, and thyroid.

We’ve found BPA everywhere on the planet, including the air we breathe. You’ll find BPA in baby bottles, water bottles, food and beverage can liners, pacifiers and baby toys, water bottles and cash register receipts. You may see products saying “BPA free” but these are not necessarily safer. The replacement for BPA may be no safer than BPA.

Phthalates are made from naphthalene, the ingredient giving moth balls their distinctive odor. That odor kills moths, but naphthalene is also toxic to us and may cause cancer. Phthalates help carry fragrance in products. Using fragrance-free products, an easy step when shopping, reduces our exposure to the phthalates.

You’ll find phthalates in wellness, personal care and cosmetic products, such as drugs, nutritional supplements, herbal remedies, and nail polish. Commonly used products like lotions, soaps, cleansers, and shampoos contain phthalates as well. They reduce cracking of nail polish, stiffness of hair spray, and allow products to penetrate and moisturize skin more easily. Unfortunately, those qualities are outweighed by their health risks.

Phthalates in plastic food containers can leach out and into the food. These compounds are also linked to certain cancers.

As plastics are found everywhere, studies have found BPA and phthalates in virtually every human tested.

These compounds affect wildlife as well. Young birds may die of starvation because they inadvertently eat plastics along with the food they are given. Fish are affected since much plastic eventually winds up in the ocean. Plastic agitated in water sheds smaller and smaller plastic particles. Ocean life consume these small particles along with their normal foods, and in turn, we eat the plastics in the seafood we eat.

Convenience and utility come at a price, and that price is how our health is affected.

Please get in touch to discuss how I can help you improve your health and well-being.

Book an Appointment

To learn more about how plastic affects our health and our planet:

National Geographic: Planet or Plastic at: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/planetorplastic/

Life without Plastic

My Plastic Free Life

Environmental Working Group

CAFOs and Your Healthy Eating

This is how we picture beef cattle; the reality is far different, and probably unhealthy.

Concentrated Animal Feed Operations (CAFO) is an industrial agricultural system for raising livestock. These operations started in the 1970s. CAFOs place thousands of animals in a confined area, with large feedlots for cattle, large houses for poultry and pork, and confined netted enclosures for fish. CAFOs pose several threats to you directly and the environment. Let’s start with beef.

In large-scale beef production, the cattle are fed corn and soy, an unnatural diet for them. Cattle should be grazing on grass in pastures. Corn is omega-6 (inflammatory) and grass is omega-3 (anti-inflammatory). Grass–fed and finished beef is healthier for you and more humane for the animal. Cows are also given bovine growth hormone to add weight quickly in order to get to market more quickly. A shorter time from birth to slaughter means more money. You probably don’t need a dose of bovine growth hormone to help you bulk up.

These same types of scenarios can be seen with pigs, chickens, and fish. We would like the animals we raise to live a natural and healthy life eating what nature intended. 

Antibiotic used in livestock accounts for 80% of antibiotic use in the U.S. An animal raised in a CAFO needs antibiotics in order to stay alive in this unhealthy environment.  Antibiotics used in this way support the emergence of superbugs. Superbugs may be antibiotic resistant. You may have heard of the growing concern in medicine over drug resistant bacterial infections. The medical community fears we may one day soon have many drug resistant infections with no antibiotic solutions. This scenario would take our world back to days before antibiotics, like penicillin.

Sweden became concerned about the increase in drug resistant pneumonia infections in the 1990s. To counter this increase, they severely restricted antibiotic use in their animal husbandry practices. By also using antibiotics only for bacterial infections in humans, the Swedes saw that antibiotics used for people drop by 43% – 74%, depending on the age of the population being studied. Would you like to live where infections were down?

The animal urine and feces generated by the animals in CAFOs is placed in liquid manure lagoons which may leak into underground water polluting drinking supplies and the natural ecosystem.

CAFOs also account for 18% of human greenhouse gas production. Greenhouse gas helps to fuel climate change that makes it harder for all the animals, plants and humans to thrive, and some even to survive. We depend on the diversity of our home, Earth, for our health and lives.

New Perspectives on Food Choices and the Environment

Wednesday, April 22nd, is Earth Day, and 2020 is the 50th anniversary. We have made some progress in saving the Earth, our home.

But there is much room for improvement. To celebrate the anniversary of Earth Day, the April 2020 issue of National Geographic highlights How We Lost the Planet and How We Saved the Planet, as seen in the covers of the magazine.

Did you know that your food choices are a powerful way to help the planet sustain us? To eliminate greenhouse gases would be a giant step forward, but what about removing CO2 from the atmosphere? There is a movement working on remove CO2 and it is called Project Drawdown. You can find out more at: https://www.drawdown.org/about.

Food touches everything in our world. Food influences our environment. Local sustainably raised food requires healthy soils. Sustainably–raised produce uses less, or better, no pesticides or herbicides. This may allow farm workers to experience less disease due to lower exposure to these harsh chemicals. Court cases are now being won by farm workers harmed by pesticide exposure.

Our bodies need the most nutritious food we can give them.

Food produced with pesticides and herbicides may negatively impact bees, insects, the microbial diversity of the soils, as well as wildlife and ourselves. Sustainably grown produce may be more nutritious because the produce has less pesticide residue. In addition, the soils are healthier fewer beneficial insects and microbes are killed by pesticides.

Locally grown, sustainably–raised produce helps your community. The nearby farms can sustain themselves financially while providing food that is fresher and not grown for shipping, but for taste. Fresher equals more nutritious food since it may be eaten closer to the time it was picked.  Locally grown means lower transportation costs in getting your food to you.

Victory Gardens planted during World War II made up 40% of our food needs. Victory Gardens were instituted not only to help feed people, but also to free up transportation and labor for the war effort. We could learn from those times and reap the benefits of fresher nutritious food grown closer to home. This may be important as we learn how supply chains can be disrupted. COVID-19 gives us the opportunity to appreciate how we can help to make ourselves more resilient going forward.

Our bodies need the most nutritious food we can give them. The building blocks of optimal nutrition need to be present to give us the best possible health. Food can indeed be our most powerful medicine.

Looking for guidance in making good food and wellness choices? Please consider setting an appointment to discuss how I can help.

Book an Appointment

New Perspective on the Dandelion

Dandelion blooming in early spring

When you see a dandelion, do you think, “oh no, a weed?”  Weed is a term we use to label plants we have decided are undesirable. Another definition is a plant we have not yet found its virtues or have forgotten its value. Do you believe that nature would spend the energy and resources to evolve a plant that was not useful?

Dandelions are food. People used to forage dandelions in the spring for their nutritious greens, blossoms, and harvest their roots in the fall. Today, you would only want to pick dandelions if you were certain they were never sprayed with chemicals or herbicides. I harvest dandelions from our garden and use the greens in salads. You can find recipes that use dandelions sautéed, in salads, and jellies.  The blossoms can be used for making syrup and cookies. The root can be dried and used for teas.

Before refrigeration and advances in transportation, people had to rely on their local environment to sustain them. Shipping was by boat and by horse and wagon. People may have more easily understood the importance of protecting their environment so that the plants and animals could thrive.

Bees will thank you for making peace with a few dandelions as they look for pollen. More bees mean more food since we need bees to pollinate our plants that give us fruits and vegetables.

The hardy root of the dandelion breaks up the heavy clay soils and allows oxygen to get to roots and the soil’s bacteria. That reduces the need to aerate that lawn.
The bees and insects need diversity in their diet just as we do. Lawns are the second or third largest monoculture in the United States. Our green lawns require water, petroleum-based fertilizers, and pesticide and herbicide to keep that green appearance. But what is the cost to our environment of a weed-free lawn?

More biodiversity everywhere is what the earth and her bees, insects, birds, and wildlife are crying for. Are we willing to dedicate part of our lawn to allow more biodiversity into our lives with appreciation and thankfulness?

We are a part of the web of life.  All life is connected.

New Perspectives on Sleep

Sleep regenerates and repairs our body. Sleep helps us stay mentally sharp. In this challenging time, we need to be mindful of choices that interfere with the best quality sleep.

News and social media may make us anxious. It may be helpful to pay attention to the news and Facebook early in the morning and pay less attention later in the day and evening. Viewing earlier will allow us to be more relaxed in the evening.

Caffeine stimulates our body’s systems. Caffeine may make it more difficult to fall asleep and reach deep restful sleep. If you decide to consume caffeine, it may be best to have caffeinated drinks early in the day. No later than 3:00 in the afternoon is best. Your body will have time to metabolize the caffeine before bedtime.

Melatonin is our sleep hormone. Blue light wavelengths turn off melatonin production which cause us to be more awake. Blue light is emitted from TV screens, phones, computer and tablets. It is best to turn off these screens 2 hours before bedtime. As an alternative, read a book or magazine printed on paper.

Be aware that LED and compact florescent lights emit blue wavelengths also. Wearing Blue Blocker glasses or TrueDark glasses in the evening may decrease the amount of blue light reaching your eyes. You may also consider a red LED bulb in your bedroom by your bed. A red light will allow you to see if there is a need to get up in the night but will be less disruptive to your sleep.

Meditation may also help you to quiet your mind and drop more easily into deep restful sleep. You’ll find some helpful ideas on meditation in this post.

Disclaimer: This information is being provided to you for educational and informational purposes only. It is being provided to you to educate you about healthy eating and lifestyles and as a self-help tool for your own use. It is not medical or psychological advice. This information is to be used at your own risk, based on your own judgment. For my full disclaimer, please go to donnakkelly.com\disclaimer