Five Ways to Increase Well-being

Mind Body SoulDr. Kimberly Sieber is a Clinical Psychologist Specialist in Salt Lake City, Utah and we were honored to have her speak to our caregivers group on August 17, 2017. Having more than twenty years of experience in clinical psychology, she is an expert in helping people gain a better understanding of their own minds and well-being.

When we pay attention to our mind, we realize it never sits still. It’s all over the place. We spend a lot of time thinking about the past and why this or that happened and wishing we’d done things differently. This can lead to depression.

We also spend a lot of time planning and worrying about the future. This often leads to anxiety or panic. I appreciated the methods Dr. Sieber shared with us for improved physical and emotional well-being. I’ve felt progress in my own life the past few weeks since I started practicing her five suggested ways, which are:

1. Mindfulness and Meditation

Techniques Dr. Sieber listed:

girl practicing meditation yoga while sitting on mat clipart

  • Notice your senses (seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling and touching)
  • Take a body scan of your physical sensations—tension, pain, etc
  • What are your thoughts and/or emotions
  • Adopt a non-judgmental attitude that the emotion isn’t good or bad, just “is”
  • Accept your current experience
  • Don’t rehash the past (depression), or rehearse the future (anxiety)

Two ways to practice this:

  • Formal – breathing, body scan, imagery
  • Informal – showering, brushing teeth, eating, walking, nature

As we practice meditation, we need to accept that our mind wanders and bring it back to the thought at hand. Each day will be different and some days will be easier than others, but over time our mind will wander less and the more we do it the easier it gets. Gaining the ability to spend more time in the present will tame and control our brains.

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, “mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” When we pay attention to the present, we are in the moment.

There’s more than one way to practice mindfulness, but the goal of any mindfulness technique is to achieve a state of alert, focused relaxation by deliberately paying attention to thoughts and sensations without judgment.

Dr. Sieber’s list of benefits:

Mind Full

  • Helps release depression and anxiety
  • Reduces stress and pain
  • Improves our concentration
  • Boosts creativity
  • Gives us more energy
  • Reduces stress (cortisol)
  • Reduces rumination
  • Reduces emotional reactivity (changes in brain)
  • Improves concentration and memory
  • Improves relationships
  • Improves sleep
  • Improves overall physical health (heart disease, blood pressure, pain)

2) Exercise

 Dr. Sieber’s list of benefits:

Exercises1

  • Releases brain chemicals like neurotransmitters and endorphins
  • Strengthens immune system, reducing inflammation
  • Increases body temperature which can have a calming effect
  • Reduces stress
  • Increases energy
  • Improves sleep
  • Improves self-confidence/self-esteem
  • Distraction from worries and problems

3) Nutrition

Necessary for good health and growth, Dr. Sieber shared these ideas:

Nutrition2

  • Avoid processed foods
  • Fish, meat, eggs, beans, complex carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, whole grains)
  • Omega 3 fatty acids with EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)
  • Vitamins and minerals (B vitamins, folic acid, vitamin D, zinc, iron)
  • Probiotics – yogurt, kombucha, sauerkraut

 

4) Healthy Thinking

How or what we think directly affects our emotions and behaviors. To improve our thoughts, Dr. Sieber listed and discussed a few ideas:

  • Identify the situation that elicited thoughts, emotions, and behaviors
  • Recognize automatic, negative patterns of thought
  • Evaluate the validity of negative thoughts
  • Explore other ways of interpreting situations
  • Avoid negative self-statements
  • Behavioral activation (just do it)

5) Gratitude

To show appreciation and return kindness to others also contributes to our well-being. Dr. Sieber’s list of benefits are:

Gratitude tree

  • Increases positive thoughts and emotions
  • Improves physical health (heart, blood pressure, immune system)
  • Improves sleep
  • Improves relationships
  • Increases self-esteem

Ways to expand our gratitude:

  • Gratitude journal
  • Write a thank you note or mentally thank someone
  • Meditate about what you are grateful for

No Giant Step

Thank you, Dr. Sieber, for this timely presentation on physical and emotional well-being. I enjoyed learning how to turn my thoughts and actions around by consciously seeking peace of mind.

Reference: Bullet points and images came from Dr. Kimberly Sieber’s slide presentation.

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The Land of Well

“How was it going back to church today,” my daughter, Katie, asked last Sunday just after I finished my article, There’s No Place Like Home.

Being in the mindset of the Wizard of Oz I said, “It seemed a bit strange to be in the Land of Well around a large group of people without apparent physical challenges.”

She seemed surprised by my response so I explained, “I was so involved with health problems I forgot there are many more people who are physically fit. Seeing people with all their limbs intact and joints which appear to be working without any thought can seem strange after being around many who struggle.”

Most people don’t realize how fortunate they are for their good health. After being around others with limitations and struggles, I promise myself I will appreciate my body more. However, it doesn’t take long after being in the “Land of Well” for me to fall back into that category of people taking for granted a body that works with ease.

I’ve recommitted to take better care of my own body. I vacillate back and forth from weight loss to weight gain, from being energetic to feeling sluggish. It’s a quirk of mine I want to change. I admire those who stay steadily motivated to eat right and exercise. I enjoy being physically active, but you wouldn’t know it to look at me. I weigh more than ever, missing a summer of walks, biking, hiking and gardening. It’s difficult to find the time with all the other responsibilities. For me it’s an issue of finding balance and making priorities. When my diet is good and my weight down I feel dynamic, full of life. During which time I can’t imagine falling back into my old habits. However, the patterns and routines creep back into my life at such a slow pace I don’t realize it’s happening until I find myself back or even further behind the place I vowed to never go to again.

What can be more important than taking care of my body? I know the answer, but find it difficult to put it first, before the other stresses and responsibilities of life. It takes time and planning to prepare nutritious meals and exercise—time that my relentless habits tell me I don’t have. I may have fallen off the band wagon again, but I can pick myself up, dust those bad habits off and start again.

Land of WellIn January of 2014 I wrote For Health’s Sake—Make a Date. I’m going to do it again, for I know my body needs to be appreciated by taking the best care of it I can. I’ve learned so much from people with physical limitations and realize their spirits make up for what their bodies can’t do. They remind me of the importance of appreciating what I have and taking care of it to the best of my ability. I enjoy the Land of Well and want to be there for as long as I can. I’m taking the leap, how about you?

Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel

2015,  My Dad

“I just need to work it off,” Dad says whenever he has an illness or any physical trial. He grew up on a farm and made his living working construction, so work for him has always kept him physically active. He’s a talented heavy equipment operator, but has never shirked from digging with a hand shovel if needed. My parents taught me how to work at a young age. No excuses were ever accepted. My dad still goes to work every day operating equipment and some days when they’re short-handed he’s also found with a shovel doing the hand work. He’s amazing and willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Dad believes work will cure whatever ails you. I’m proud to be his daughter.

Work for me is sitting at a desk in front of a computer. Tapping my fingers across the keyboard or calculator as fast as I can isn’t much of a workout. I have to intentionally exercise to be physically active and I haven’t been able to do much of it lately. I’ve noticed my mood isn’t as pleasant as it should be and I don’t feel as well as I do when I exercise or can spend time outdoors hiking, biking or gardening. I’m missing my Vitamin D and unfortunately, summer ends in a few short weeks.

I shouldn’t complain because I’m surrounded by people who have physical challenges that make it difficult to be active. A few are like Mark and it’s impossible to do exercises on their own. At the rehab center most are concentrating on therapy to build strength and improve coordination.

I’ve notice a few people which resist therapy. I’ve heard a few say they don’t need it or give excuses to get out of it. Others push themselves with exercise and hope the insurance company will prolong the benefit because they feel the improvement. I suppose it all depends on the circumstances and their pain tolerance, but it’s evident to me that the ones who push themselves are the happy ones.

“You’ll be surprised what you can do when you put your shoulder to the wheel,” is a phrase my dad said to me often. “If we all put our shoulder to the wheel we’ll get this job done in no time. Many hands make light work,” are the encouraging statements I grew up with. I can’t sing “Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel” without thinking of Dad. If you haven’t heard it, here are the lyrics:

  1. The world has need of willing men
    Who wear the worker’s seal.
    Come, help the good work move along;
    Put your shoulder to the wheel.

(Chorus)
Put your shoulder to the wheel; push along,
Do your duty with a heart full of song,
We all have work; let no one shirk.
Put your shoulder to the wheel.

  1. The Church has need of helping hands,
    And hearts that know and feel.
    The work to do is here for you;
    Put your shoulder to the wheel.

(Chorus)

  1. Then don’t stand idly looking on;
    The fight with sin is real.
    It will be long but must go on;
    Put your shoulder to the wheel.

(Chorus)

  1. Then work and watch and fight and pray
    With all your might and zeal.
    Push ev’ry worthy work along;
    Put your shoulder to the wheel.

(Chorus)

Text and music: Will L. Thompson, 1847-1909

What does put your shoulder to the wheel mean? The metaphoric term, alludes to pushing a heavy handcart as many pioneers did. The dictionary states: “To apply oneself vigorously and make a concentrated effort.” I’m inspired by those who do. .http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/put+shoulder+to+the+wheel

Last week while I was visiting the new Neuroworx, Dr. Dale Hull said, “there are some sad stories here of people and their struggles, yet this is a happy, positive atmosphere.”

“No surprise to me,” I said. “In our years of experience, I’ve noticed people are happy when they are striving for self-improvement.”

I try to imagine what it’s like to be trapped in a body that can’t function like most of us do, with ease and with little thought. How shattering it must be to lose abilities you once took for granted. It must be disheartening to see others move freely with capabilities you were never given. The world has need of willing men and women who wear the workers seal. I’m so grateful for those who come and help the good work move along by putting their shoulders to the wheel. I appreciate many who do their duty with a heart full of song. I’m inspired by the need for helping hands, with hearts that know and feel. The work to do is here for me and you, so lets put our shoulder to the wheel.

It’s a proven fact that exercise is good for us physically and mentally. It doesn’t matter what your age or limitations are. Everyone benefits from being as physically active as possible. It’s why I work and watch and fight and pray with all my might and zeal. Therapy for Mark is a worthy work which needs to be pushed along. If it isn’t, he suffers with blood clots and joints that calcify and are no longer able to function. Some days I wish I could stand idly looking on, but the fight for improvement is real. It will be long (a lifetime long), but must go on because it’s better than the alternative.

I’m trying to do as I’ve been taught. Working energetically towards a goal. I realize we all have work and I don’t want to be the one that shirks.

I was raised with the philosophy that work cures whatever ails you. If it can’t cure you, at least it makes you feel better. I’m grateful for a mom and dad who taught me this valuable lesson.

Marathon vs. Sprint

Long Distance Runner

Imagine Credit: tobyamidornutrition.com

I loved the analogy in Evey’s Story Update by Cally Johnson, when she stated, “We continue to learn that our caregiving journey is a marathon and not a sprint.” The quote reminds me that often caregiving is a long run which tests endurance, rather than running full speed over a short distance. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the enormous responsibility. A single life is busy enough, but add the care of another person and you may be dashing at full speed to doctor’s appointments, therapy and taking care of whatever other necessities they may have. How do we take care of all these responsibilities without exhaustion?

A few ideas I’ve come up with while thinking of Cally and Nate’s caregiving example:

  • Make time for recreation. The Johnson’s take family vacations and do other fun activities often. From personal experience I know it’s not easy to pack up a family and go somewhere. When you have added equipment and medical issues, it becomes cumbersome and more difficult. Doing it anyway gives you a change of scenery, a break from routine and builds memories that get you through the hard times.
  • Regular date nights. If you’re a couple caring for a child, it’s important to make time for your relationship. Hopefully during a date night you can forget about the cares at home and just enjoy one another’s company while building a stronger relationship. If you’re a caregiver to a spouse, dates are equally important for the same reasons. Hopefully you can forget you’re the caregiver for just a few hours while enjoying each others company, building a stronger relationship and just being a spouse for a time. Hopefully, your spouse will enjoy it too.
  • Make time for yourself. Pursuing a hobby is refreshing, whether it’s reading, writing, gardening, sports or playing an instrument. Doing something you enjoy which rests your mind and body from the worry and care of another person builds strength for enduring the hard times.
  • Be physically fit. Just as a marathon runner should train for a race, so should caregivers. A weak person is not capable of dressing, transferring, bathing, pushing wheelchairs, preparing meals and feeding another. Exercise improves muscle strength and boosts endurance. It’s essential for safely managing the physical help needed for your loved one. Don’t forget that exercise can also improve your mood and releases stress.
  • Let others assist. If someone offers to help, let them. They will feel better and so will you. When they realize you’ll accept rather than reject their offer they may be encouraged to do more. Remember, a marathon runner gets encouragement from others, lots of drinks and snacks along the way. The support helps the runner complete the race. As Cally also stated, “There continue to be highs and lows and battles to fight, but we’re feeling more seasoned and continue to be in awe of all the goodness that surrounds us.” Let goodness surround you also.

What other tips do you have for the daily or weekly scurry to the finish line?

Begin Now

Begin nowA New Year brings familiar goals of eating healthier and more exercise. It seems a lot of people have the same goals. How’s it working out for you? We are twelve days into the new year and I’m struggling. Every day that passes, I resolve to make a better plan for the next day.

For Christmas I got a fancy new blender—so now I’m acquiring a taste for green smoothies. Actually, they’re not too bad. Last week I went to a workshop put on by the “Green Smoothie Girl” herself, Robyn Openshaw. It was interesting, but my problem starts with my brain not my taste-buds, which work all too well. They enjoy everything! I drink the green smoothie and think, boy I’ve just done something really good for my health, I should treat myself to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. They actually go well together, but it doesn’t help move the scale downward and is probably not recommended by the Robyn.

I admire people with good self-control. That’s what my goal should be for 2014—improve self-control. To resist treats and eat less would be an important habit to form while trying to lose weight. Another is exercise. In the morning, the alarm goes off early so I can exercise before I have to get Mark up. But my brain tells me, I’m tired and need an additional hour of sleep. The bright idea of exercise before going to bed at night comes to mind. Determined to exercise later, I turn off the alarm and go back to sleep.

When evening rolls around, my brain prompts me to make dinner, clean the house and finish up some other project before bed. I always run out of energy before I’ve completed all the tasks I’d plan to do in a day. My brain reminds me how important sleep is. And another day has passed and I have avoided exercise again—unless there’s been snow to shovel on my walks and driveway . . . hopefully that counts as exercise.

Over the past several years I have bought several pieces of exercise equipment. From a treadmill to stationary bike, along with the smaller gadgets such as a thigh master, ball and weights just to name a few. Can you guess which month I purchased the equipment? Yes, January, the New Beginnings month.  I have a room that looks like a very small gym, but staying motivated to use it is a problem. This year, I resolved not to buy another piece of exercise equipment unless something breaks or wears out.

I do enjoy exercising, but my brain often tells me more important or more pressing things need to be done. When I actually do get to the exercise task, it feels like a mini-vacation, particularly when I can do it with a friend. An exercise partner definitely helps to move the task up on the daily priority list. But since the weather isn’t conducive for bike riding or walks right now, I need to find other ways to motivate myself. I don’t think I should wait until Spring before I start exercising again. Maybe reading a book while I’m on the stationary bike or treadmill will take me to another place.

I sit at a desk most of the day and evening, working on the computer. I’ve often thought if I had better coordination, I could have a desk top on my treadmill so I could walk and work at the same time. But I  don’t think my brain could handle that.

If you have any ideas that could help motivate me, I’d love to hear them. I need to reprogram my brain and improve my self-control!

I should end this article now and get on the treadmill.

Oh yeah, it’s Sunday, I’ve got to get ready for church! But there’s always tomorrow—another new beginning.