I remember one summer day back in 5th grade. My mother was taking my sister and me to the lake. We stopped at a gas station, and I immediately noticed a girl from school everyone used to pick on. "Ooh, Ugly Becky!", I shouted. My mother turned around and gave me a look like, "What the fuck just came out of your mouth?". So you know what she did? She walked over to Becky's father who worked at the gas station, and asked if Becky would like to spend the day at the lake with us. Becky was totally down with that, so into our car she jumped.
That was my mother - ferocious, kind, and just. I wasn't able to appreciate the lesson she gave me that day. Like a punk, my only thought was that she had ruined my fun. But now her act of kindness reverberates in me with the subtlety of a 1000 sticks of dynamite. We all hold such awesome power to impact each other. And make no mistake, a small act can alter the trajectory of another person's life.
When I lived in NYC and decided to buy a bike I remember reading something about how on one hand riding a bicycle raises your risk of suffering acute trauma, but on the other hand it provides the health benefit of cardiovascular exercise. The piece went on to make the point that the benefit outweighs the negative... as long as you don't get hit by a bus. Haha.
If you do Crossfit or some other form of intense exercise long enough you will experience injury either on the acute or nagging level. Similar to the bicycle in NYC, I would argue that the benefits of exercise, community, and fun outweigh the occasional injury. But as any crossfitter will tell you, injuries can really mess with your mind and bring on feelings of depression. I had a string of injuries recently, and it taught me some important lessons.
Don't shut everything down
Avoid exercises that directly irritate the injury, but keep moving. Work around it. There is magic in movement - both physical and psychological.
Have a good support system
When I tried to throw myself a pity party my coach called me on my bullshit with something like, "At least that's the story you're telling yourself". But at moments when I was truly shaken he provided moral support - "Your body WILL heal itself".
We take our bodies for granted until we get hurt. Show your body some love. Take time to acknowledge all the parts that aren't in pain. Your body is a miracle, and it's gotten you through all kinds of shit. Return the favor by being patient.
Remember the pain
You will heal, and when you do... don't forget the pain. Harness the misery of being injured, and channel it into proactive mobility, stability, and strengthening work. Don't let that snake bite you again... at least not in the same spot.
Recently, a client shared with me the challenge she is having implementing a healthy diet for herself when her spouse is not interested in making changes. I quickly realized I had no experience in this area. What do you do in that situation? So I did some research. Short answer? It isn't easy.
First, you have to be very clear about your "why". Why are you doing this? To feel better, to move better, to get the most out of life. If you know your "why" you can bear almost any "what". Now it's time for a heart-to-heart. If your spouse doesn't support you at this fundamental level then, "Houston, we have a problem". Your spouse doesn't have to eat the same as you, but they do have to respect your decision to do so.
Once you clear this relationship hurdle there are some practical tricks you can implement. When cooking meals use common ingredients to produce individual dishes. For example, when making a stir fry remove your chicken and vegetables from the pan before adding the sauce and rice to your spouse's. Designate a separate space in the pantry for your foods so you don't have to sift through unhealthy processed stuff looking for yours... and tell him, "Hands off", so you know it's there when you need it.
Over time as your spouse sees how committed you are and the positive impact it's having on your life, he is likely to jump on the wagon. But be ready to pull that wagon by yourself for a while before he is ready to make the leap.
The other night I engaged in some Netflix binge watching... with absolutely no remorse. Wanna know why? Because Kimmy Schmidt is my freakin hero. I'm serious. In the show, Kimmy is rescued from a doomsday cult where she had been abducted as a teenager and kept in an underground bunker for fifteen years. Now, rather than return home to Indiana she attempts to reboot her life in New York City.
Kimmy is determined to be seen as something other than a victim. She will not allow an unfortunate event to define her. Unbreakable. Look, we've all had shit happen to us over which we had no control. Hopefully it didn't involve being held in an underground bunker. Ultimately, it is still your responsibility to create a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul. Either get busy living... or get busy dying. Kimmy Schmidt, I salute you.
Is it possible that the same stuff that made you forget where you parked your car as a youth may actually help reverse mental decline as you age? That's what they found in a recent study performed on mice. Elderly mice given a small dose of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, saw their maze test scores improve dramatically. Groovy! Meanwhile, the young mice test scores plummeted as they sat around eating Doritos and freaking out about government conspiracy theories.
Marijuana contains compounds that mimic our brain's own marijuana-like molecules, referred to as endogenous cannabinoids. Our cannabinoid system is homeostatic which means both too much or too little have negative effects. Since endogenous cannabinoid production declines with age, it makes sense that the older mice received a mental boost from the exogenous source. It also makes sense that the young mice were negatively impacted by the dosage since they already had an optimal amount.
It's hard to extrapolate human guidelines from a mouse study, but retirement may have just gotten a little more interesting.
Ever come across comedian J.P. Sears? He likes to poke fun at, well... everything. I remember once he posted the following status update.
I've got big plans today. I'm going to look at other people's profiles and compare their lives to mine.
Facebook enables us to connect with others, but it also has a dark side. It's natural to compare ourselves to others. It's part of the ancient software running in our heads. Back in the day, jockeying with other cave men and women was important for the survival of our gene pool. But just as the modern world makes it too easy to over-eat, Facebook makes it too easy to compare yourself to others. What makes it an especially debilitating practice is that you are comparing the messy innards of your life to the carefully curated outsides of somebody else's.
So what should we do about it? It's an interesting topic, and one that I'm going to discuss over future blog posts.
The other day I was trying to replace the filter of my water purifier. It's like trying to open an over-sized mason jar. You sort of realize that neither of your hands are large enough for the job. If you purchased the one I recommended in a previous post, you'll see what I'm talking about in 6 months. Being the neanderthal that I am, I decided to go outside to look for some implement that would help me unscrew this coconut.
On my way out the door, my 16-year-old son asks what I'm up to. He replies, "Dad, I'll just hold the bottom, and you twist the top". I thought, "Shit... that sounds like a better idea than wandering the apartment complex looking for some cro-magnon tool". So, we go into the kitchen. He holds the bottom. I twist the top... and the damn thing unscrews. I had to apply quite a bit of torque, but he was able to hold the bottom in place.
I realized that it hadn't occurred to me to ask him for help because I still thought of him as a child. It's funny what will trigger an a-ha moment. As I looked up, I saw that it was a man who had just helped me.
I have fond memories of family vacations at the beach... running around all day, and then checking out the "reverse swimsuit" in the bathroom mirror that evening. Burn, baby, burn. The following week as part of our grooming ritual my sister would pull impressive sheets of dead skin off my back. Groovy.
OK, so that probably wasn't the healthiest thing in the world. Many of us probably had similar experiences, and so the current conventional wisdom of applying sunscreen anytime we go outside seems to make sense. Sun exposure equals skin cancer, right? Well, it's not that simple.
There are many benefits of sun exposure. Vitamin D is the obvious one. Every cell in our body has a receptor for this hormone, and having optimal levels minimizes the risk of a whole host of health issues. Reducing sun exposure may lower the risk of melanoma, but it simultaneously raises the risk of many other forms of cancer that are much more common. Sun exposure increases nitric oxide production which relaxes blood vessels lowering blood pressure and improving immune function. And check this out - the mitochondria in our cells are sensitive to the infrared spectrum and use this light to enhance energy production. We're similar to plants in that way.
Now, take a look at the ingredient list of sunscreen, and consider the chemical shit-storm you are applying to your skin. Your skin is an organ... and a very important one. It keeps all the nasty environmental stuff away from your internals. Would you rub that lotion on your liver, heart, or lungs?
For the hour-a-day (or less) that most of us spend outside we are better served by not using sunscreen. Of course, for long days at the beach it's better to use sunscreen than burn, baby, burn, but choose one from EWG's list to minimize the toxic load. Or better yet, if you're old like me just cover up with a hat and shirt. You won't be Instagram worthy, but the ride home will be a lot more comfortable, and your skin will thank you.
An interesting thing happened the other day. My daughter came home from the gym, and I suddenly noticed that she was freaking shredded! She's been serious about working out for over a year now, so I knew it wasn't that. It had to be due to something more recent. We eat a whole food diet and have for years, so that wasn't it either.
I was concerned, so I asked her what was up. She confessed that she had always snacked on processed junk at school and after school at friends' houses, but that in the past month she cut that out and only ate the foods she brought from home. I laughed because I had been unaware of her little snacky snack ways. Kids hide a certain amount from their parents. They operate under the principle that the less you know... the better off they are. Haha. I was the same way.
I'm actually glad things went down the way they did. She learned a valuable lesson that she'll never forget because she learned it herself. Processed junk can really sabotage your efforts. Once you mindfully balance the pleasure and pain associated with a behavior it's easier to take control. Props to you, Maia. Oh... she is going to be sooo embarrassed when she reads this.
I just watched a really good video about meditation by Jewel. I'm much more of a reader than a watcher, so it took a lot for me to commit to the 8-minute video, but I was happy I did, and so I wanted to share it. I've blogged about meditation before, specifically recommending the app Headspace, but some people may have a fear of commitment to apps the same way I have for videos. You never know what will resonate with you.
You might think, "What does a pop singer have to teach me about mindfulness?", but if you watch the video you'll see she has a practical soulfulness about her. She relates some of her emotional trauma and how meditation gave her the ability to step towards her problems rather than running away from them. She gives a couple of simple techniques to get started. Give it a listen. It's 8 minutes well spent.