It looks like we have some snow in the forecast which means many of us will be doing some shoveling in the near future. Shoveling can be rough on a cold and inflexible spine. A quick warm-up before heading out is important. Shoveling is primarily a combination of a bend and a twist if we look at it from a Primal Patterns standpoint. (Paul Chek) Here are six good warm-ups for the legs, spine and core. Start from the top and work down. You do not need to do all of them to get a benefit.
Straighten one leg in the door frame till you feel a stretch. Position the other leg flat on the floor. Raise the down leg up to the position of the up leg. Do twice as many raises on the tighter hamstring.
Wedge your foot at the base of a wall. Try to touch your knee to the wall. Feel a stretch in the ankle joint. Straighten the knee and touch the front of the hip to the wall. Feel the stretch in the calf.
Toe Touch Progression
Place the balls of the feet on a book. Make sure the feet are touching each other. Place a rolled up towel between the knees. Bending from the hips and keeping your back flat , squeeze the towel and touch your toes. Knee bending is ok
Kneel as below. Make sure all three points of contact with the floor are in one line (imagine you are kneeling on a tight rope) Get tall in the spine. Feel the abs, hip, and back engage. If you are able to stay balanced rotate the shoulders, staying tall.
Attach one end of an elastic band to a high point on the door. Get into a narrow kneeling stance. Pull band in close to your chest and then push it down and away. Maintain a tall spine throughout.
Attach the band to a low point on the door. Again get in the narrow kneeling stance. Pull the band in close to the chest and then push it up and away. Maintain a tall spine throughout.
Chiropractic care during pregnancy is one of the lesser known uses of chiropractic. As someone who has an expecting wife I have become acutely aware of the challenges during pregnancy and where chiropractic can help.
So why would you go to a chiropractor while you were pregnant?
Pregnancy can be tough. There never seems to be any constant during it other than that the body is constantly changing and it’s different for everybody. Some weeks there can be nausea, than the nausea goes away but headaches come on, then the midback tightens up as your belly grows, or the low back pain and sciatica start. Sometimes even the joint at the front of the pelvis called your pubic symphysis starts to hurt. This pain can be managed with over-the-counter or sometimes even prescription pain relievers but I personally worry about how those chemicals are going to affect the developing baby. Smoking and alcohol are big no-no’s during pregnancy and I tend to think of medications as being in the same group. If you can help it, try to stay off the meds as much as possible. If there is a true need, no shame in using them.
The great thing about chiropractic is that we have a lot of success managing these painful symptoms without using drugs. Typically, as a mother’s weight distribution changes, her posture starts to change with it and new joints in her body become painful due to the new stresses placed on them. One example is in the picture below.
Also as the pregnancy progresses the body in it’s wisdom starts to pump out hormones that begin to relax and loosen the ligaments in the pelvis. This is a good thing because the pelvis has to expand during childbirth to allow the baby to pass through the birth canal but the negative is that before labor those same pelvic joints become lax and unstable. This is where mothers will feel “something shift out of place” in their pelvis followed by low back pain or sciatica. Check out this video on how those joints work.
Chiropractors are specifically trained to assess the joints in the pelvis and spine and determine if they aren’t moving, are moving too much, or are misaligned.
How is a chiropractic treatment different during pregnancy?
In pregnancy we are specifically focused on three things.
1) We want the bones of your pelvis to be aligned so that there is as much space as possible for the comfort and health of the mother and baby
2) We want the nerves to the uterus to function fully so that the uterus, which is a muscle, can contract fully during labor.
3) We want the pelvis to orientate in a way that the baby can be in a good position for labor and delivery.
Pregnancy isn't a disease that we need to cure. The body knows what it’s doing, we just try to give gentle adjustments to optimize the function of it. The adjustments are much lighter than a regular chiropractic visit as it takes less force to align things due to the laxity in the ligaments of a pregnant patient. Typically, I recommend a chiropractic visit every 2 weeks for the 2nd trimester and then we go to once a week for the 3rd trimester until the baby comes.
Aside from chiropractic here are some other drug-free resources that can help immensely.
Acupuncture and chiropractic go hand in hand. If chiropractic doesn’t work for a patient, acupuncture is always my first referral. Acupuncture is particularly helpful for the unique hormonal issues that women encounter during pregnancy. In St. Paul we recommend Selby Acupuncture
This is our go-to book during pregnancy and after. It’s an expansive resource that we find ourselves going back to again and again.
I have seen essential oils used as an alternative to medications during pregnancy with much success.
SI belts can be a great way to keep the SI joints and pubic symphysis stable during pregnancy and postpartum. I recommend getting an adjustment and then using the SI belts to hold those joints in a stable orientation.
Electromagnetic frequencies from cell phones, wifi routers, and computers are increasingly being shown to have detrimental effects on our cells.. Belly Armor shirts cancel out electromagnetic frequencies for the developing fetus.
Environmental toxins play a huge part in degrading your health over time and when you look around it’s surprising to find how toxic a typical home can be. Fortunately there’s plenty of simple steps you can take to drastically decrease the amount of toxins that absorb into your body
I don't know much about detoxing from heavy metals but in alternative medicine it’s a big deal. I honestly don't know if I believe it all or not. The little that I know is that heavy metals tend to accumulate in the body and the body will tend to sequester them away from metabolically active areas and put them in mainly fat. Since fat tends to just be a reserve of energy and doesn't have much blood flow the metals can sit there and be relatively harmless to the body. One hypothesis as to why some people will lose a large amount of weight but then will plateau and stop losing all of a sudden is that the body can't mobilize the rest of the fat stores because it is so toxic. People will go on chelation therapy and once they pull that stuff out they can lose the rest of the weight. The brain is high in fat as well and practitioners say the problem is when it accumulates in the brain. When people try to get it out of their body they use chelation agents which bind with the metal and pulls it into your blood and then you urinate it out. You can look up chelation therapy and you'll find a lot. I never got into it cause I never completely bought into it. The guys that I saw advertising it generally would just use it as a one size fits all thing, no matter what you came in with they'd say it was heavy metal toxicity and sell you the chelating agents. I do remember though that at a seminar a guy that I really respect told us that chelation therapy really works but it can really mess you up as well if you don't know what you're doing. If your pulling all these heavy metals into your bloodstream it can get redeposited somewhere else in the body before you urinate it out.
That all being said, it’s smart to stay away from this stuff. The main sources off the top of my head are the mercury amalgams from dental fillings, aluminum and mercury in the flu shot, aluminum in antiperspirants, nanoparticles of titanium in some sunscreens that can easily slip through your skin, and aluminum as an anticaking agent in food. I saw it in baking powder the other day. If you think of more post them to the comments and I’ll add them in.
Teflon cookware is particularly nasty. If you get a teflon pan too hot the fumes will actually kill pet birds. If it can literally kill the “canary in the coal mine” why would you heat it up and put your food on it? Cast iron or ceramic coated cookware seems to be the best alternative. It takes a little practice but a properly seasoned and cared for cast iron pan will last forever and will be more nonstick than teflon.
Cleaning Agents and Artificial Scents
For cleaning floors, counters or the bathroom white vinegar and baking soda will work for pretty much everything. I also like water, a rag, and elbow grease. The antiseptic cleaners are mainly just a marketing ploy. Living in a completely sterile environment is not a good way to build an immune system. For laundry detergent we use a mixture of castile soap, borax and washing soda. For air fresheners you can use a couple drops of an essential oil and a $20 diffuser off of Amazon. ( https://www.amazon.com/URPOWER-Essential-Humidifier-Adjustable-Waterless/dp/B00Y2CQRZY/ref=sr_1_1_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1468081905&sr=8-1&keywords=urpower+diffuser) We make beeswax candles as well that give off a nice smell. Once you give up the artificially scented candles and air fresheners it's crazy how you get more sensitized to smells. When you're in the grocery store you walk down the laundry soap aisle and it's overpowering. The same for scented candles and air fresheners, when I get in someone’s car with the air freshener it's almost nauseating. We also use house plants for detoxifying the air. NASA actually studied which indoor plants were best for pulling volatile organic compounds out of the air for use in the space station. When we moved into our apartment there were some fumes from cigarette smoke as well as fresh paint. We packed the apartment with ferns and other plants to help with cleaning the air.
Deodorants and Soaps
You want to stay away from antiperspirants. They actually block your sweat pores from excreting sweat. You’re body is trying to eliminate that sweat for a reason and keeping it inside your body is asking for trouble. I’ve never had much luck with natural deodorants except for one. That was a homemade recipe where you use coconut oil, baking soda, and cornstarch or arrowroot powder with a few drops of essential oil. It works great. Deodorants are better than antiperspirants but avoid the ones with aluminum in them.
For soaps I’m a big fan of Dr Bronner’s Castile soap. When I read the ingredients label I recognize everything. They don’t use foaming agents etc.
Fluoride is great for avoiding cavities when used topically on your teeth. Ingesting fluoride however is another story. On most fluoridated toothpastes you’ll see a warning that reads, “: “Keep out of reach of children under 6 years of age. If you accidentally swallow more than used for brushing, seek professional help or contact a poison control center immediately.” Yet, we ingest fluoride in our drinking water daily and in a totally uncontrolled dose. There is a lot of information on the negative effects of ingesting fluoride. We bought a filter for $130(https://purewaterfreedom.com/fluoride-filters/countertop/white/countertop-replaceable-double-fluoride-water-filter-system.html) that attaches easily to the faucet and pulls out the majority of fluoride and other contaminants from tap water.
BPA is well-known now as being a bad chemical that is present in plastic. Unfortunately, a great deal of BPA free plastics now have other compounds that are just as detrimental to health. I avoid mixing plastic and food as much as possible. We slowly transitioned out of our plastic Tupperware to Pyrex glass as we found deals on it here and there. The glass lasts forever and doesn’t leach chemicals into your food. We still have a few pieces of plasticware but we never place hot food in it as heat seems to cause the leeching. For water bottles we use glass or stainless steel.
This is pretty straight-forward. Pesticide residues are all over food and when you ingest those foods you are putting those pesticides into your body. Monsanto, the maker of Roundup will tell you that it’s so safe that you can drink it. There’s actually a funny video where a reporter asks a Monsanto rep to do this on camera and he quickly back pedals
There’s another article where a highly regarded pediatrician stated that having a little Roundup in a breast milk wouldn’t do any harm to a newborn. (https://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2014/05/06/mass-general-pediatrics-chief-says-glyphosate-poses-no-danger-in-breast-milk/ )This was after an organic group tested the milk from new mothers and found Roundup in it. I don’t care what the experts say on this one. I’m not eating Roundup or any other pesticide if I can help it.
It’s a lot of stuff to consider but if you just do it over time one by one it really isn’t that hard. One of the best parts of the whole process is that you actually save a ton of money in the long run. Your pans and glassware never wear out. Your detergent, cleaning products, deodorants etc costs go down. Organic food costs more but ideally if you buy less processed boxed food the costs equal out. All those little costs add up. Most importantly though you’re healthy, you have energy, your kids aren’t sick and you can enjoy all that life has to offer.
Many times a patient will come in who has had long term pain for a number of months or years. This could be an old shoulder injury that has never healed, hip pain that is constantly gnawing, or widespread symptoms of fibromyalgia. Being a chiropractor I have seen how capable the body is at healing itself. When given the right environment, time and stimulation the body can heal just about anything. When someone comes in who isn’t healing and hasn’t for a long time I have to ask what is happening internally to block these natural processes. Below are the five most common issues that I have found.
If your blood can’t bring oxygen to your tissues, your tissues can’t heal. Anemia disrupts the oxygen carrying capacity of your blood. I have found anemia to be most common among menstruating women, vegetarians and vegans. People with chronic stomach ulcers or who are taking a lot of anti-inflammatory medication can also be anemic. People who are anemic are usually very fatigued and apathetic because their body is starved for oxygen.
2) Blood Sugar Imbalances
Your brain and body relies on the sugar that floats around in your blood for fuel. If that fuel supply is interrupted or can’t be relied upon your body can’t heal. It’s no wonder diabetic patients have such a hard time with wound-healing. If you get tired after eating a big meal, go long periods of time without eating, or get dizzy/lightheaded when you don’t eat, you probably have a blood sugar issue. These can be corrected by changing what you eat and what times you eat.
Your mind is an excellent servant but a terrible master. Use it correctly and amazing things happen, allow it to run rampant and it will wreak havoc on your health. Science has shown that cortisol is released when you’re stressed and cortisol is a potent hormone that lowers your immunity and slows healing. It also affects your blood sugar balance. If someone is over stressed, healing will slow or stop.
Deep sleep is the main time when your body recovers from the last day and gets ready for the coming one. Nutrients are deposited throughout tissues during this time. Toxins and wastes are primed for excretion in the morning and the majority of major healing happens. In fact, seventy percent of human growth hormone, the major healing hormone, is released during deep stages of sleep. Medicated or alcohol-induced sleep fails to let you reach these deeper stages. If you’re not getting 8-9 hours of quality deep sleep your healing systems are not functioning at 100%
5) A Dysfunctional Nervous System
The nervous system orchestrates the incredibly complex task of healing. If the nervous system is not functioning optimally the body has trouble healing at full potential. There are many ways that the nervous system can be stimulated. Chiropractic, exercise, yoga, breathing exercises, acupuncture, tai chi and chi gong, music, dancing and singing are all practices that stimulate your nervous system. Chiropractic adjustments stimulate and reset a dysfunctioning nervous system in much the same way that you would hit the reset button on a malfunctioning computer. When the nervous system is working you not only heal but also feel better. This can be similar to how you feel after a good workout. Your body feels awake and alive.
published in the Summer 2016 issue of Pathways to Family Wellness magazine
When it comes to health and almost everything else I am a huge fan of simplicity. Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough." Getting healthy, mentally and physically doesn't have to be complicated. A patient reported to me the other day, that she gets the deepest most restorative sleep while on camping trips. While at home however it is usually light and restless. She also made me aware of a small study where camping completely normalized circadian rhythms in a group of people in only a week. This is a great example of how simple getting healthy can be. It’s amazing how being in nature can just make us feel good and it’s weird to think that we now live in white boxes, that are mainly devoid of natural sunlight and fresh air and that our bare feet hardly ever touch the ground. We literally and figuratively almost never connect with the earth.
Hippocrates the father of modern medicine recognized this when he said “Nature is the physician of diseases.” Teddy Roosevelt also knew the power that nature has to heal. On the Valentine’s Day 1884, both his mother and wife died hours apart. The grieving politician left his political career and headed West to hunt and ranch for two years. Being in untamed country helped heal his mental wounds and he, with John Muir, became a driving force for creating the National Park system. John Muir believed in nature’s healing powers with absolute certainty. In one of his books he advised “Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away, once in a while. Climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”
Scientific studies have also documented what Hippocrates, Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir intuited. Earthing or grounding is the practice of purposefully walking or lying barefoot on the ground. Scientists have found that the earth gives off negative ions that can help decrease inflammation in the body and reduce blood pressure. I routinely tell patients to walk or lie in their backyard barefoot for a half hour a day. It sounds too easy but it really does help with a myriad of issues.
I am a city dweller and when I first moved to St. Paul I was surprised to find that there are plenty of places to find nature very close to home. Harriet Island or any of the other great parks in the city are a great place to start. The Mississippi River is also an amazing, uncrowded ecosystem to escape to. Gardening in the backyard is also a good option where you can get on the ground and get dirty without leaving home.
With kids it’s great to see how fast getting them outside can change their mood. Generally with my four year old the first go-to if it’s a rough day is to get outside and move until he’s worn out. The same goes for myself. I strongly believe that movement in nature is a basic requirement for health. If I’m having a depressing or lethargic day, the first thing I do to reset is to go exercise outside. There is a great quote from the classic book Moby Dick that I think about when I’m just blue or irritated for no reason. It goes:
“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off - then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.”
I think most of us have felt that “damp, drizzly November in my soul” feeling and getting back into wild and untamed nature is oftentimes the cure. In chiropractic, we call the healing power of nature “innate intelligence.” Innate intelligence is the inborn wisdom of the body to heal itself when there isn’t outside interference. One thing I love about chiropractic is that it can be summed up very simply. When we take away outside interference, be it physical, mental, environmental or nutritional the body will naturally heal using its inborn wisdom. Nature is one way to remove a great deal of interference and should a be a regular part of everyone's daily health routine.
I don't know if there's any better sound than a young child laughing uncontrollably while being tickled. When I was a kid my sister and I tickled my three year old brother relentlessly. He eventually developed a stuttering problem and my grandma believed that the tickling was to blame. She enforced a moratorium on any future tickling while she worked with him on slowing down and sounding out his words. It worked and my brother got through his stuttering phase.
I don't know if the tickling was the cause but now that I am a parent I do notice that I use tickling a great deal with my three year old. It's basically the toddler version of waterboarding. When he's lying on the floor curled up in a ball refusing to get his coat on a good tickle will soften him right up and make him like putty in my hands. Timeouts are still necessary but sometimes instead of threatening or taking something away we can both change the mood in the house, interrupt both of our negative patterns and get a good laugh. With a toddler some days just aren't easy and he as well as myself need a mental reset.
As a chiropractor and dad I'm always interested in how we can stimulate the nervous system and tickling is a massive stimulus to a young child’s nervous system. Neuroscientists tell us that tickling stimulates multiple areas of the brain, particularly the areas that give signals for pleasurable experiences. Research suggests that we have evolved to laugh when tickled to show our submission to an aggressor, to dispel a tense situation and prevent us from getting hurt. I guess in an evolutionary way tickling is my way of showing that I'm still the silverback of the family. Also when he laughs he is building those neural pathways for happiness. Hopefully the more he laughs as a child the more his nervous system is primed for happiness throughout his whole life.
We know that laughing or just smiling instantly changes our physiology for the better. Studies have shown that when a sad person physically forces a smile, their biology changes to a state similar to as if they were emotionally happy. This is one reason I am infatuated with something called laughter yoga. Laughter yoga is where you intentionally force yourself to laugh with a group of people for an hour. No jokes are told, no funny skits are watched, you literally just go through some fun exercises where you laugh. Through the course of the hour the fake laughter becomes genuine laughter and everyone else’s laughter becomes contagious even though you are literally laughing for no reason. Afterwards, the endorphins and bonding hormone oxytocin are surging through your body and you feel strangely close to this room full of strangers you just laughed with.
Athletes have been known to use this effect during moments of extreme exertion. World record freedivers that dive insane depths on one breath of air will crack a small smile as they are ascending which allows them to relax and conserve oxygen as their body is screaming for air. This is also a common technique that is used in yoga as well. When struggling through a difficult asana a tiny smile will often steady shaking and allow you to relax into a pose.
Laughter is good in any shape or form not only for a child but for everyone. In my mind tickling is just another way that we as parents can adjust the nervous system of our kids and set them up to be happy healthy adults.
I once attended a nutrition seminar where the speaker was joking about how one of his colleagues, who was from Italy, was asking him what the healthiest oil for cooking was. He jokingly berated her saying “How could a full-blooded Italian question the merits of olive oil? Clearly, it's been used for thousands of years by Italians and it seems to be working out pretty well for them.”
Looking at the traditional wisdom and applying those lessons to our modern world is something that is very popular now in alternative healthcare. One big idea in eating that really introduced me to this concept was the Paleo Diet. This diet was created by an anthropologist who studied the diets of Paleolithic ancestors of humans. He found that grains didn't exist in any part of these people’s diets and therefore he deduced that they probably shouldn’t be a part of our diets either.
Practices that evolved alongside humans and that were seemingly discovered by a mix of trial and error, evolution, and intuition over thousands of years generally work out to be a safe bet when it comes to health. Michael Pollan has written about how in America we have only several hundred years of history and a melting pot of so many different cultures. Comparing that with a continuous culture for thousands of years in Europe and Asia, he argues that maybe this is why our diets are so terrible. We jump on every new fad and change our diets every time the news has a report that a certain food is good for something or a certain diet is trending.
In nutrition it is now easy to see and follow what past generations and even cavemen were eating and preparing. In exercise it’s not that hard to see either. We have drastic changes in how modern man now uses his body physically. We sit more than we ever have before and our amount of physical activity is tiny compared to past generations. I like gyms and organized exercise but there’s always a tiny part of me that thinks that lifting a heavy object over and over or running around the block for no reason other than to wear myself out is a little silly.
Cavemen were doing those exercises not by choice but so they could survive each day. Most forward thinking trainers are now moving towards exercises that mimic how our body would move in nature. Basically a "Paleo Workout." Paul Chek, a trainer I love, calls these exercises Primal Pattern Movements. He breaks down exercise into focusing on doing particular movements (squats, lunges, bends, pushes, pulls, twists etc) rather than focusing on specific muscle groups (back, bi’s, chest, tris, legs and abs). As an added note, I am a firm believer that exercise in nature such as surfing, paddling, swimming, hiking, sprinting etc, have a much greater benefit to your health as compared to exercising indoors. Our bodies evolved outside, it’s not too far of a stretch to assume that moving outside is better for us.
The biggest contributor to poor health in my opinion however is not diet or exercise. For the vast majority of people, mental stress is number one. Comparing what we do today versus what our caveman ancestors had to go through, one would think that our lives now should be relatively stress free. The chances of us dying from day to day are very low. We live in ultra comfortable, climate controlled, sterile surroundings. Food is relatively cheap and easily accessible. We never have to worry about going without a meal. Medical care for traumatic injuries is outstanding. The days of worrying about being eaten by a hungry carnivore, killed by a neighboring tribe, or suffering an injury that will ultimately lead to death are all gone. On the surface it seems that the days of survival of the fittest are over and our stress levels should be relatively low. Why is it then that we are all still stressed out?
The reason is that the days of survival of the fittest never ended. The stress of predators and impending doom that our ancestors had never went away it just evolved. Instead of fearing lions and bears we now have to be vigilant of banks offering easy credit, salesman promising riches and politicians lying to us to gain influence and power. I am a huge fan of having a positive mindset while also having a firm grip on reality. Actually accepting that there are still predators out there can be very motivating to keeping a healthy body and mind.
Our ancestors had to stay mentally sharp, physically strong and rely on their local community to succeed in their world. In our world it’s the same. If you are too physically and mentally tired and you don’t have a community behind you in times of weakness you may get swindled or be influenced by a corporation or person that is only looking to profit at your expense.
I think about this a great deal when reading to learn, exercising to become stronger and more energized, or meditating and breathing to focus better. You feel like you aren’t such an easy prey for all the predators out there. You feel resistant and defiant to the aspects of society that are looking to take advantage of you. The TV ads, evening news and politicians can't scare you or influence you. You can see through the b.s. and choose not to look at the world the way they want you to see it. You can influence yourself and see the world as you choose to.
Also on a more positive note it's good to be reminded that our bodies are relatively the same as that which our caveman ancestors had. People have a great fear of their bodies now. For instance, we are afraid that a wrong step getting out of the car or one fall on the pavement can injure us for good. It’s good to be reminded that our bodies are pretty much the same bodies that once slept in caves and killed woolly mammoths with spears. We are much tougher and resilient than we give ourselves credit for and given the right care we heal back as well as ever. It's empowering to feel tough and strong despite all the challenges out there and when you feel that way mental stress radically decreases.
D.D. Palmer, the founder of chiropractic wrote that health sits on a theoretical three-legged stool. The three legs that hold up that stool are your mental, physical, and nutritional needs. We have to address all three. They all support your health and if one falters the other two won’t be able to keep that stool standing. They interrelate in the positive direction as well. Improvements in one will help strengthen the other two. In this way, when we are suffering from a great deal of mental stress one of the best things that can be done is to focus on your physical and nutritional needs and the body will naturally become more resilient to mental stress. It's the old adage of "focus on the things that you can change and don't worry about the things that you can't". If you can't change what's stressing you out strengthen the areas of your life that you can. When the body get's stronger your mind gets little more bulletproof with it.
It’s still a dog eat dog world out there and the challenges of everyday life have drastically changed over human history. Despite this, when we honor what our body and mind needs to stay healthy and strong we are all very well equipped to handle what the world throws at us.
A big part of what a chiropractor does is coach people on how to make changes to their health. Making change, whether it be health, job, or any other part of life has some common difficulties.
A well-known chiropractor once said that, “Change is easy, thinking about change is hard.” As a person that loves sailing I often see aspects of sailing that are great metaphors for life. One such aspect that relates to this is when you are out on the ocean and there are storm clouds looming. The anticipation of that incoming storm is the hard part. Sitting in the calm wondering how bad the waves and wind are going to get and what is going to break on the boat is incredibly nerve-wracking. Once you are in the middle of the storm however it rarely is as bad as you anticipated and you don’t have time to worry because you are busy managing the boat. It’s the same for making changes to your health. Thinking of how hard it’s going to be and how you’re not going to be able to do it is the hard part. Once you get out of your head and into your body and begin taking real action, things fall into place and it’s easy.
I go to a local shop frequently and occasionally chat with an older guy that works there. One time he was poking fun at his marriage and said “It’s amazing how comfortable two people can get being uncomfortable with each other.” It made me laugh but I think it applies to making changes to health. We’re comfortable being in the ruts were in. It makes us uncomfortable to think about getting out of those ruts.
Once the change has been initiated there is another roadblock that commonly gets encountered. The initial excitement of making that change begins to wear off and you start to slog through months of imperceptible shifts from day to day. An acupuncturist and mentor of mine, Dr. Alan Arnette, says that true healing takes seasons, not days or weeks. This can be frustrating when we all to some degree have that “quick fix” mentality. We begin to lose momentum.
An author I enjoy reading named Captain Fatty Goodlander, says that “Tenacity trumps knowledge and talent every time.” In other words, you’ve got to “keep on keepin’ on”. This helps me to break through this second blockade. Captain Goodlander offers us more advice that I remind myself of weekly; “If you can’t move forward, move sideways but never give up. Because a door will eventually open up and if you’re still in the game you’ll be able to step through to the next phase.”
The last roadblock occurs when someone is getting close to reaching their goal. This is self-sabotage.
In the foreword to the book “The Alchemist” Paulo Coelho says that this is “the fear of realizing the dream...” He goes on to say that “The mere possibility of getting what we want fills the soul of the ordinary person with guilt. We look around at all those who have failed to get what they want and feel that we do not deserve to get what we want either. We forget about all the obstacles we overcame, all the suffering we endured, all the things we had to give up in order to get this far.” “This is the most dangerous of the obstacles because it has a kind of saintly aura: renouncing joy and conquest.”
I see this almost every day with parents of young children. These parents do indeed have this saintly aura because they have neglected their health and passions in order to be more attentive to their kids. It’s difficult to remind ourselves that more than anything our kids need us healthy and living their lives with passion. Why do we tell our kids to “Go out and live your dreams; you can do anything and be anything you set your mind to”, but then as soon as they do, we tell them “Shut up and stay in school.” (Captain Fatty) All the while they see us telling ourselves “I’d love to exercise more, eat better, and do what I love but I can’t because I’m just too busy.”
One more time Paulo Coelho gives us a little wisdom, he says “if you believe yourself worthy of the thing you fought so hard to get...then you help the soul of the world” By making positive changes in your life you are not only bettering yourself but also the lives around you, and ultimately our collective World.
In our modern world where American children now spend on average close to 8 hours per day in front of some form media such as TV, video games, computers and cell phones. One can’t help but wonder what these “weapons of mass distraction” are doing to our health and wellness.
In his excellent book, The Blue Zones, Dan Buettner examines the four areas of the world that have the highest density of people living to be 100 years or older. In these cultures he finds common traits that hold true for all of them. One of these traits is the emphasis on maintaining a social circle throughout life. Through this he concludes that if one wants to live a long a fruitful life one needs a strong social support system.
In fact the Journal of the American Medical Association recently validated this conclusion in a recent study. In this study several hundred volunteers were exposed to a cold virus. The volunteers with the most socially diverse networks were the most disease resistant.
One would think that with the advent of cell phones and social networking sites like Facebook that relationships would be even easier to strengthen and maintain. We can now reach virtually anyone we know instantly 24 hours a day. In many cases however this media has actually robbed us of our communities leaving us more isolated than ever. My Grandpa’s generation spent their evening’s playing cards, roughhousing in the yard with their kids, telling jokes, or going dancing. We now spend our evenings surfing the internet, relentlessly updating Facebook with status updates, or zoning out on TV. We have signed off to reality in favor of reality TV.
Fortunately, technology does have an upside. We have infinite opportunities for forming and strengthening personal relationships. The internet is a great tool for finding activities to do with your family and friends, and if you lack a social circle, the internet has sites to find like minded people to hang out with.
Michael Bernard Beckwith said, “The only things that are missing in your life are the things that you’re not willing to give to another.” If you feel lonely, reach out to someone who is lonely. If you feel disconnected to your family, turn off the TV and reconnect. The health of our society depends on each one of us working diligently to improve our interconnections and strengthen our social networks. Make sure you do your part.
There are several great websites for families to find activities to do and for individuals to make new friends. Meetup.com is a site that holds gatherings such as hikes or get-togethers based on similar interests. I, as well as my sister, Susan, have used this site very successfully when relocating to new areas. Yelp.com is good for finding hikes, restaurants, parks, playgrounds etc. Taking a class at a community college also works like a charm!
For the past year I have experimented with drastically cutting out “weapons of mass distraction” (as coined by Bruce Lipton) such as TV, radio, and newsprint from my everyday life. It started for me when I began to get fed up with the advertising on television and what I felt those ads were telling me. “You’re not good enough, you don’t have enough money, you need drugs and alcohol to feel better, life is hectic, and there are people out in the world that want to kill me” were a few things I was hearing. In fact, just watching one half-hour episode of the evening news with the added bonus of a pharmaceutical ad every commercial break was enough to make me feel depressed and unhealthy.
The founder of Chiropractic, D.D. Palmer, wrote back in 1910 that poor health is a result of “thots, traumas, and toxins.” D.D. Palmer was truly ahead of his time in making this observation. Today it is fairly common knowledge that there are mental, physical and nutritional causes of ill health but in that day and age it was a stretch. We know now that we have to eat better foods and move our bodies well to be well, but most of us are guilty of disregarding what we put into our minds. D.D. Palmer equated this to a three-legged stool. If you are focusing on your physical and nutritional needs but neglecting your mental well-being, the stool will fall over.
In response to this I started to “fast” from the media. In essence I wanted to “turn off reality television and tune into reality” (Bruce Lipton again!) We unplugged the TV and stored it in the garage. On my drive to work I turned off the radio and visualized great things happening in my day. On the way home I listened to a great album or stimulating speaker to unwind (TedTalks, Spinal Column Radio). I gave up the newspaper and limited internet use to only when I was in the clinic; none at home.
There were times when I was incredibly bored at home. I had to revert back to reading books daily. When I couldn’t get myself to read I’d rent a movie and watch it on the computer. I figured at least there would be no advertisements in a rented movie. We started playing board games and we began having dinner with friends on the weekdays. My dog enjoyed much more attention and playtime. I played more too! I went to bed earlier. I was able to be more present with my patients and my results with them improved. When I did happen to catch a news piece or ad it was easier for me to read between the lines and see what message they were really trying to convey to my subconscious. In short, I think I was able focus my mind more on the “now” and less on the negative messages and distractions media presents that have no bearing on our day-to-day lives.
There are negatives to tuning out. I can’t follow politics or sports very well. I feel like an irresponsible citizen. I have no idea who I will vote for or even if I’m informed enough to vote. In my mind, however the positives outweigh the negatives. Mother Teresa was asked one time “What can we do to promote world peace?” She replied simply, “Go home and love your family.” For me it’s more important to feel connected, focused and engaged to the people and events within my day-to-day life rather than be up-to-date every hour on the latest political scandal or natural disaster on the other side of the globe.
Chiropractic at its core is focused on empowering people to thrive throughout life rather than just survive till death. When we take into account how we treat our bodies, what we eat and what we choose to put into our minds, the body heals all on its own and true wellness happens, no medication necessary. Try it for yourself. Do a one month news fast. Use the extra time you gain to do something fulfilling, engaging, or fun. Share what you discover with others. It’s enlightening to discover what lies beneath all that mindless chatter.
I hear all the time about supplements, foods or lifestyle changes that will make people live longer. I’ve given out so much of these life-extending and health-promoting tips but majority of the time the information goes unused and forgotten. Why is it we have all this information that will make us healthy but we just can’t make ourselves use it?
I see my neighbor sitting outside her doorway smoking every couple of hours and then retreating back into her dark house, day in and day out. Why would she want to quit smoking I wonder? She looks like she hasn’t experienced any type of fear, excitement or joy in a long time. It’s so sad. What does she have to look forward to? Why would ten extra years of life matter to her?
There are many people who can’t care about their health because they aren’t excited about living. They are stuck in a rut, doing the same routine, experiencing the same non-emotions. I’ve caught myself in these ruts many times and I manage to fall back into them often. We all do. But life is meant to be a rich and joyful experience the majority of the time. Joy and happiness can even be thought of as a compass for living. If I’m feeling rich emotions on a regular basis I’m heading in the right direction and doing the right things. If I’m stuck in a non-emotional rut it’s time for a change in course.
Aside from joy we need to experience fear or excitement from time to time as well. How many times a year do you get butterflies in the pit of your stomach because you have pushed your limits and overstepped your boundaries? I used to hate that feeling, but now I get happy when I feel it because it means I chose to expand past that comfort level and the old routine is changing.
If you aren’t experiencing these rich emotions very often, something needs to shift. One great example I see where this happens is with the non-athlete marathon runner. Marathons have become huge, especially with middle-age working mothers. Marathon training is a big undertaking and can be quite stressful. Why would an already stressed-out and overworked person take on more? I believe it’s because it provides us with these emotions that we're looking for. Be it the fear of setting an impossible goal, the butterflies and worries before the start, and the excitement and accomplishment after the finish. These are the emotions we were built to experience on a regular basis. I’ve never wanted to run a marathon while watching a race. A marathon runner at the tail end of a grueling run isn’t a very appealing sight. I have many times however, seen the joy on a finisher’s face and have been envious of what they were feeling. If someone is feeling that, why wouldn’t they want to do everything they can to live a longer and experience more of these great feelings?
In chiropractic, we adjust the spine to optimize the communication of the mind’s innate healing intelligence to the body. Aspects of our life that interfere with this intelligent force can be physical, mental or nutritional. When this force is working at its full potential you are able to feel and appreciate life on a deeper level. It’s life in high def instead of black and white. Chiropractic provides the physical adjustments to our nervous system and these rich emotions provide the mental adjustments. When we get adjusted we remind our nervous system that life is meant to feel good. When we feel good, and see life as good, health becomes a priority.
I believe this is where health begins. If you are having difficulty motivating yourself to improve your health, it’s time to check your emotional compass. Life is supposed to be fun and exciting. Seek out those experiences and emotions and you’ll find what motivates you to live longer and healthier.
In the last week how much have you thought about your great-grandparents? I would venture to guess that most of us would answer not at all regarding these important family members. It’s a bit scary to think that in more or less three generations you will be forgotten. When my wife first thought of this idea, it immediately summoned up a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. How can the memories of us all but vanish that quickly?
I think that feeling in my stomach was my ego getting very uncomfortable. Ego or self-importance can create a great deal of unnecessary stress. Most of us think of ourselves as being important, with important things to accomplish. Sometimes when this self-importance gets a little over-grown in our minds we start to exaggerate the things that don’t matter in our lives. A large amount of unnecessary stress can come from “sweating the small stuff.” Realizing how brief and rather insignificant our life is can put things into perspective.
I like to use this exercise of knowing that I’ll be forgotten as a tool when I’m stressed and I need to manage my thoughts. Dr. Wayne Dyer calls it “being the observer.” In other words, stepping back and realizing that in the grand scheme of things we are but a small piece of something larger and these trivial worries that start to run our lives are so tiny that it is laughable in how much it invades our well-being.
There’s nothing wrong with being forgotten in three generations, in fact it can be very comforting. Who is going to remember my shortcomings, mistakes and failures? Why should I ruin my health and enjoyment of life stressing about everyday problems? Why shouldn’t I take risks and do what I love without fear of failure or what others think? When we see that we aren’t all that high and mighty, our sense of self-importance gets out of the way and allows for what really matters to surface.
My first son was born a short time ago. When he was lying in the baby warmer being weighed I was looking at him and thinking about how he had been allotted roughly 100 years of life. When that first 24 hours was over I was thinking how 100 years seemed like such a small amount of time and how already one day was gone. They pass so easily and as I’ve gotten older the weeks and months start passing by faster and faster. I thought of how a quarter or more of my time here on earth is gone. It scared me that I’m already that far along. Had I wasted my time here so far? Could I have used it in a better way? Do I have regrets?
I’ve heard a great analogy about life as a roller coaster. When we enter into life or a roller-coaster we step onto this ride knowing that we are going to be experiencing a wide range of ups and downs. But we step onto it knowing that it’s just a ride, that it’s only temporary and that we made a choice to be on it. When we experience the thrills or fear of the ride, it feels real through our whole body, but we know that the ride will come to an end and that we’ll be let off safe and sound back where we began.
It helps me to think of this when times get tough. It’s very easy when life isn’t treating you well to feel like your whole world is crashing down and that this one bad experience will ruin you forever. When I look at life like a ride, it helps me to step back. I remind myself that I chose to experience these emotions and hardships. I know it’s only temporary and I know that in the end I will return back to where I began. In this perspective it seems less serious and grave. I don’t have to worry about “wasting” days or losing time. I don’t have to worry about my success or regrets. I’m just experiencing the ride, and in the end I’ll be getting off none the worse for wear.
When I look at my boy I hope he doesn't take life too seriously. I hope he enjoys it and realizes that it is only a ride and the ups and downs and thrills and spills of everyday life are just temporary. As long as he's happy and serving others for the majority of it, it's time well spent. It's too short to be spent dwelling on worries and pain. It's just a ride; there are bigger and broader things out there. Eventually in 100 years or so he'll be undoing his lap bar and stepping off of it like all of us do. As long as he's learned a few lessons for what’s next, and as Ralph Waldo Emerson puts it “knows that even one life has breathed easier because he has lived.” He’ll have succeeded in my book; and if not, I'm a believer in do-overs :)