Tag Archives: Wellness

How to Foster and Practice Gratitude

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Gratitude_Bird-w-quoteHoliday seasons are a wonderful time for love and appreciation, but one could be so easily wrapped up with materials and hectic activities that the individual may forget about gratitude, leading to stress, depression or other negative emotions. A key ingredient for a happy holiday season is gratitude.

Gratitude implies both the thankfulness for help from others and a conscious, habitual focus on all positive aspects of life. Counting blessings has a proven effect on the well-being of humans.

Today, I’m going to emphasize the power of gratitude, and show you top 10 ways to cultivate gratitude.

Power and Benefits generated from gratitude:

  1. Gratitude helps us appreciate the world and connect the people around us.
  2. Gratitude helps us put things or situations into new, different perspectives.
  3. Gratitude helps us refocus on what we have instead of what we lack.
  4. Gratitude helps us reduce stress, increase healing and improve well-being.
  5. Gratitude makes us happier and healthier.

Remember: “It’s not happiness that brings us gratitude. It’s gratitude that brings us happiness.” So, there is no reason not to find something you are grateful for on a daily basis. Here is how you do it.

My name tagTop 10 ways to foster and practice gratitude:

  1. Do it the first thing in the morning. That’s a part of my daily routine. It can set a positive mood or mentality for the day ahead. Pray and thank God regardless of any form of religion.
  2. Use visual or decorative reminders, such as photos, famous quotes, cards or posts.
  3. Apply all your senses and appreciate what you see, hear, smell, taste, feel and touch. One of my favorite analogues is – Only when you’ve lost an arm (just one of the two) can you realize how precious it is.
  4. Count blessings with your family. This gives each member the opportunity to express appreciation for Three Blessings that he/she experienced during the day, week or month. This is also an effective way to sow gratitude seeds in your kid’s mind. I gave my parents credits for their influence on this.
  5. Write “Thank You” note (via cards, emails, or text messages) to people who helped or inspired you and those with whom you enjoyed time.
  6. Say “Thank You” more often and sincerely. Do not take any small, simple things that others do to make your life easier for granted.
  7. Keep a gratitude journal. There are plenty of tips on how to do so, but the key is to take notes regularly and consistently, if not daily.
  8. Practice meditation or yoga. These activities involve concentration on the present moment without judgment and expectation. You can also focus on what you are grateful for, e.g. pleasant sound, beautiful view, comfortable posture, etc.
  9. Replace complains with thanks. Whenever you encounter a tough situation in life, even unfairness, be thankful for the learning opportunity. Recalling difficulties in the past, you’ll discover how satisfied you are with what you have.
  10. Act on appreciation by doing someone a favor or supporting a great cause. Hey, we all know that actions are louder than words.

At the end, gratitude is strongly associated with well-being. Therefore, let’s promote wellness through fostering gratitude with simple practices regularly.

 

Image credit: By BK

10 Joyful Moves to Boost Your Physical Activity during This Holiday Season

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Skating people_3203723978_6ae227e970_nIt’s the holiday season. We all tend to eat a lot and watch TV a lot, especially for football fans or other sports fans. To avoid physical inactivity, and consequently weight gain, here are 10 practical moves that benefit a healthy lifestyle and cancer prevention:

  1. Take a family walk, whether it is long or just around the blocks, or add extra walking by parking a little further from the stores or malls.
  2. Stretch frequently or move during TV time, or walk up and down the stairs as often as you can.
  3. Play a game with kids. It’s absolutely fun and invigorating!
  4. Dance at parties.
  5. Practice yoga together as a family activity. It’s fun and everyone can do it. Your body can tell you what’s the best or the most natural position. Inhale to breathe in joy, happiness and peace, then exhale to breathe out stress, hassles and worries.
  6. Go to a gym or local recreation center to engage in any physical activity.
  7. Go ice skating outdoors or indoors.
  8. Bike, if possible.
  9. Visit a museum, walk more.
  10. Keep up your daily exercise routine. Yes, it’s a challenge during the holidays, and my husband sets the best example!

Still feel less interested or less motivated? One secret – connect your activity with something greater than yourself. It could be for getting healthier to see the grandkids’ graduation, or being happier around the family, or more energetic to help others, etc. you get the idea.
Photo credit: By Let Ideas Compete

Let the Season Joys Boost Your Immune System, Not Stress Ruin Your Happiness

Holiday Season is approaching! Are you excited? Or stressed out? The primary cancer risk factors during holidays are diet and stress. We covered the diet factor in our Newsletter December issue, and focus on coping stress here.

Holiday realities

The holidays are both a wonderful and stressful time of the year. Besides the usual work loads and family commitments, we have new functions, as we rush around trying to meet looming deadlines. Parties and social events, holiday shopping, decorating, trips, holiday meals, going to the new movie releases, entertaining guests, … see how much we try to cram into the festive season! It gives me a headache just naming all the things.

The key danger of stress

Now imagine doing all that. It’s certainly a recipe for stress. Holiday stress normally falls into categories of financial, physical, psychological/emotional drains. Stress has a negative effect on your health. This is not just a theory. Many studies have found key mechanistic evidence at the cellular level. Chronic stress and/or depression can increase the body production of cytokines, that is, immune-modulating substances. One of them is called interleukin-6 (IL-6). High serum levels of IL-6 have been linked to risks for several adverse conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, mental health complications, and some cancers.

The relationship between stress and cancer is complex. Many factors may come into play. However, research has demonstrated that stress factors (e.g., the death of a spouse, divorce, social isolation, and medical school examinations) alter some white blood cell functions and promote immune dysfunction. Taken together, stress reduction is of importance for many health reasons.

Win control over stress with top 8 effective tips:

Since stress can translate into negative changes in the body, this year I challenge you to have the least holiday stress ever, and let the joyful spirit of the season boost your immune system! I’m here to help you achieve that.

1. The keywords are Prioritize, Be realistic, and Simplify (PBS). So, plan ahead based on PBS.

2.      Take it easy. Make the holidays enjoyable rather than perfect. If a card cannot get to its destiny on time, give the person a surprise call on that holiday morning! If you don’t feel like cooking or baking, buy some packaged prepared meals as an alternative, or go without one or two “traditions”. Instead of spending hours in the malls or sitting in the traffic, shop online for gifts to save time and get good deals.

3.      Tap the resources within your family, from neighbors and friends. Do what you enjoy, and make it fun for everyone. If you love decorating trees and hate shopping or dishwashing, trade chores within the family, so everyone picks up their favorite task.

4.      Create a budget within your means to avoid “New Year Depression” on debt. Folk wisdom tells us to shop ahead of time for bargains. However, we all can be creative and spend less, believe it or not. If your budget doesn’t allow you to buy expensive gifts, buy a small one. Everyone appreciates a gift regardless of its size. If it’s too costly to attend a fancy party, organize a new, fun activity to celebrate at home or go to a movie.

5.      Listen to your body and take care of it. If you are tired, acknowledge it; if you need a treat or massage, get it; and if exercises or physical activities make you feel good, go for it.  Also, be sure to get enough sleep.

6.      Practice stress-relieving techniques, particularly those that work for you. Breathe deeply, meditate freely, visualize a peaceful scene, or listen to soothing music. Enjoy some quiet time or “down” time for yourself, especially when you feel over-stressed or under uncomfortable conditions. Caution! Just because the letters in desserts can be used to spell stressed, it doesn’t mean you need to relieve stress with desserts. Avoid over-eating, particularly high sugar and/or high calorie foods.

7.      Laugh, laugh, and laugh! Laughter is an effective medicine.

And perhaps the most important tip of all is:

 

8. The holiday season is a time of Family, Friends and Fun! Connecting with others for laughter and love is the best stress-reliever and most effective immune-booster. And remember, for some, this is a time of loneliness and depression. Invite them to your home; show kindness to them. If you are alone during the holidays, reaching out to help others can benefit your own physical and psychological well-being.

If you like this post, please share it.  Sharing is caring and giving.

 

Photo Credits: By dtweney; By Just a Temporary Measure

 

 

25 Unbeatable Ways to Strengthen Your Immune System

Your immune system is your body’s natural defense against diseases. Its functions range from fighting off harmful bacteria and viruses to destroying potentially cancerous cells. However, our immune systems are under attack in our daily lives from a variety of sources such as free radicals in the body, bacteria, UV radiation, environmental pollutants, and stress. It’s critical not only to ensure your immune system is always healthy but to maximize its natural defense function. Luckily, there are actions we can take to achieve this goal. This post shows you how.

1.  Eat a healthy diet. Mindfully include immune-boosting foods to everyday meals.
2.  Exercise and be physically active, from all-body workouts, running, walking, and dancing to gardening. The key is to keep moving.
3.  Cultivate a new hobby that’s physically demanding, makes your heart beat faster, and your blood circulate better. As a result, you’ll become more fit.
4.  Practice quietness. A quiet mind may promote inner peace and relaxation.
5.  Take a hot bath or shower. Soaking in a warm bath is another way of relaxation.
6.  Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep or sleep deprivation can impair immune system function.
7.  Reduce stress. Everybody gets stress from different areas of life. There can be a long list of stress management tips, but not all work for everyone. Have fun discovering and developing whatever works for you.
8.  Be kind. According to a good friend of mine who is an experienced oncologist, my dad’s prolonged life was certainly attributed to his extraordinary kindness, which made this doctor want to learn more about my dad’s kindness.
9.  Appreciate the “little things” in life and always maintain a positive and grateful attitude. Research found that individuals who have a negative frame of mind have difficulty properly recruiting their immune response and thereby pose a higher risk for illness compared with those with a positive attitude.
10.  Get outdoors. Whether you walk, ski, bike or hike, the combination of enjoying the beauty of nature and a dose of exercise boosts the immune system.
11.  Maintain a clutter-free home and workplace, because clutter is a stress-trigger. Clear those mental clutters, too.
12.  Laugh and smile often. Laughter boosts your immune system at no cost. The more folks laugh, the less depression they experience. If you have any difficulty laughing, seek “Laughter Yoga”, by checking out a local group that practices it.
13.  Have a sense of humor. Yes, some people have more of a funny bone than others. Yet, many people just don’t foster their funny side, a dimension that almost everyone possesses in some ways.
14.  Practice deep breathing and stay calm. Count 1,2, 3… before any anger takes over.
15.  Nurture your emotional well-being and be happy. If you don’t promote emotional health, your physical body will pay the price. Emotions are intimately involved in the initiation and progression of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and HIV.
16.  Take time off, and take breaks during the day.
17.  Eat a healthy breakfast, not just any breakfast. Skipping breakfast is even worse.
18.  Take whatever it takes to maintain a healthy weight. Remember, it could be a fun marathon, rather than an overnight remedy.
19.  Stop eating sugar. Sugar suppresses the immune system; even a teaspoon of sugar can reduce the activity of your body’s natural killer cells for hours. There are many wonderful foods that help boost your immune function, explore them and replace sugar.
20.  Eat more soups, especially chicken soup.
21.  Drink a lot of water. If possible, filter your drinking/cooking water.
22.  Drink more tea, especially green tea.
23.  Get plenty of fresh air; in particular, keep your indoor air clean and fresh.
24.  Deal with any health concern even a pain or an unusual spot as soon as possible. Fix any small problem for the optimal function of the big machine – your body.
25.  Develop good relationships around you. A strong family bond, a happy marriage, and good friendships can help you during good and tough times.

Bonus: Take multivitamin and mineral supplements to ensure an adequate supply of the essential nutrients that are needed by your body yet lacking from your diet. However, make sure you take a quality-controlled supplement rather than “just another supplement” or “cheap supplement” (see the tips on our website).

Our immune system is effective most of the time. Following the above tips will remarkably boost your immune system and promote your happiness.

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Photo credit: By thephotographymuse

How to Smile

Smile – Is it easy or not?

Everybody can smile, it’s an ability we’re born with — no need for training. Yet, in our modern world, it’s amazing how many people walk around with frowns.

In addition to allowing us to spread our happiness, smiling stimulates our immune system and relieves stress. When one’s life is overwhelmed with stress and negativity, it’s hard to smile.

Practicing these S-M-I-L-E tips will make smiling easy.

S- is for serve.  When you serve, give, or help others, you feel good inside and out, and end up smiling.

M- is for manage. Manage stress and control negativity, which will make you relax and smile.

I- is for inspire. Are we all inspired by people who are upbeat, positive, and passionate? Be the one!

L- is for love. Love people and lighten up the world. What comes back to you is mostly based on what you give out.

E- is for enjoy. Life is short, enjoy the moment, and enjoy whatever you do — read, play, or work.

S-M-I-L-E and you will end up smiling, gaining all the benefits— socially, mentally, emotionally, and physically. You will be on the road to health and happiness.

Wear a smile and have friends; wear a scowl and have wrinkles. What do we live for if not to make the world less difficult for each other?” – George Eliot

“It isn’t what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about.” – Dale Carnegie

Can you smile to ten people tomorrow?

Photo credit: By Nanagyei

Small Lifestyle Changes Can Promote Longevity

Longevity_1085754525_88f695837e_mDuring a recent family crisis, I had the opportunity to get to know several respected elderly individuals in their 90s and listen to their inspiring stories about their longevity. It has been a very valuable experience. What we’ve been advocating for cancer prevention is actually reflected in the practices or habits of real people who have managed to outlive many around them. Through my informal conversations, I learned that small lifestyle changes can go a long way to boosting longevity.

There is a wealth of information about longevity out there. You may have read some of it. However, I’d like to share what I learned from the real folks by briefly summing up these 7 tips:

1. Be physically active. Exercise, walk around, enjoy gardening, keep moving, and get involved in church, social groups and the community. Simply put, find things to do.
2. Eat healthy and properly. Make sure to eat more fruits and vegetables and don’t over-eat. Taking care of your body is crucial to longevity.
3. Be positive; keep your eye on the big picture and the purpose of life. Why do you get up in the morning? Helping others can be rewarding. Both my father and my father-in-law always made time for others; they helped a lot of people.
4. Work at creating a happy marriage. Happy marriages can positively impact your life expectancy, for sure. I personally know several folks in their 80s and 90s whose marriage lasted over 50 or 60 years.
5. Take a nap and sleep well. In today’s rush to get everything done and an emphasis on healthy eating and exercise, we often forget about the huge benefits of sleep. Taking a midday nap is one of the best ways to lower stress from work and stress on your heart. Lack of sleep weakens the immune system and adversely affects health, especially mental health. People I know who have lived a long life make time to take a nap now and then, and some almost everyday.
6. Relax and reduce stress from life. Peace of mind adds to your longevity.
7. See you doctor regularly. If you are experiencing what may be a medical issue, don’t put off seeing a medical professional. Most of the elderly folks I have had the privilege to meet have had their bouts with health complications, such as bypass surgery, cancer, or other illnesses, but they overcame the challenges and lived well by being proactive and taking preventative measures.

A Final Word from the Wise

Clearly, people living a simple, healthy lifestyle — not smoking or consuming alcohol, engaging in physical activity, eating healthy and staying happy experience longevity. Again, living a healthy lifestyle is a simple matter.

Photo Credit: by M@rg

A Quick Glance at the Dangers of Stress

Stress_3088120425_0eeb73ecef_mStress and its negative effects may have accumulated over the winter months, fueled by darkness, extreme cold and snow, limited outdoor activity, work, deadlines, and worries over holiday debt. It’s really getting to you, right? Well, it’s time to get rid of it. With spring coming, an increase in natural sunlight, greening trees and blooming flowers can all improve your mood. So, embrace spring beauty!

What does stress do to you?

Obviously, it causes negative emotions and unhealthy behaviors (e.g. overeating, increased consumption of alcohol, and smoking), but I’m going to show a few “pathophysiological facts” associated with stress.

Firstly, stress over-produces inflammatory agents/factors, resulting in an imbalance of immune regulation. Chronic stress and/or depression can increase the body’s production of proinflammatory cytokines, such as interleukin (IL)-6. According to researchers, high serum levels of IL-6 have been linked to risks for several health problems, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, mental health complications, and some cancers.

Secondly, stress increases stress hormones, leading to increased DNA damage. During psychological stress, our bodies produce such stress hormones as epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol that may affect many cells directly. These effects can be temporary, like heart rate and blood pressure, or lasting, such as permanent DNA damage, which may cause the development of cancer. Research shows that short-term exposure (<30 min) of mouse fibroblast cells to any of stress hormones mentioned above, at physiological concentrations, induced at least five-fold increases in DNA damage in treated cells compared with untreated controls.

Finally, stress may weaken one’s immune system, which indirectly contributes to increased risks for cancer, such as some virus-related tumors, which have been shown from both animal and human studies. Furthermore, both stress and depression may decrease activities of cytotoxic T-cells and natural killer cells, thereby compromising immune surveillance against tumors. More studies to illustrate a cause-and-effect relationship between stress and cancer development are on the horizon.

There are many ways to manage stress, which is not the focus of this post. However, exercise is one of the most important keys to minimizing stress. Keep active in the spring. The easy one is walking, so easy that everyone can do it. By moving your body, you can increase circulation, while improving your mood and clearing your mind.

Gardening, landscaping, running, hiking, walking, sightseeing, and boating…the spring activities are endless. Just get out of the door and have some fun.

What’s your favorite spring activity or regiment to relieve stress?

Photo Credit: by chmeredith
References:
J.P. Godbout, R. Glaser. Stress-induced immune dysregulation: implications for wound healing, infectious disease and cancer in the December, 2006 issue of Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology.
M.S. Flint et al. Induction of DNA damage, alteration of DNA repair and transcriptional activation by stress hormones in the June 2007 issue of Psychoneuroendocrinology.

Seasonal Beauty Clears the Mind and Benefits the Body

If you live around the Washington, DC area, you may have seen the cherry trees in full bloom around the Tidal Basin. If not, have a peek of these wonderful shots taken at the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

Cherry Blosm_4495310685_cb11c3bc83_mJ.Memorial Blosm_4495277343_b1f87ae2e6_mBack to our topic on spring cleaning. This is a great time to de-clutter not only our spaces but also our minds. The winter doldrums have passed, and spring speaks of new beginnings. Human emotions and/or thoughts, negative and positive, influence our bodies and can be reflected in physiological and immune interactions. It has become abundantly clear that positive emotions and psychological well-being have beneficial effects on physical health. Conversely, negative emotions or attitudes, as well as stress, appear to weaken one’s natural resistance to carcinogenic attacks. So if anything needs clearing, it’s our mind.

There are many ways to clear your mind, such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing, listening to relaxing music, going outdoors, writing journals, or simply doing less. Let’s just talk about the joy of seasonal beauty like cherry blossom viewing in America’s capital. I’m sure that folks outside DC can also enjoy their own variety of nature’s splendor during spring time.

Monument Blosm 2010_4495311641_78832c8c30_mGorgeous sunshine and spring wind are accompanied by a magnificent show of pink and white flowers at the peak of blooming. Taking a walk along the Tidal Basin, indulging in nature’s beauty and spectacular views — water, trees, and flowers, plus such national treasures as Washington Monument and Thomas Jefferson Memorial — brings with it a positive and relaxed mood, one easily shared with family and loved ones. A good long walk takes energy, yet amazingly such peaceful scenes can create energy as well.

Do you know there are 12 kinds of cherry trees that grow around the Tidal Basin? Well, I can also list more than 12 positive emotions and actions I associate with cherry blossoms: appreciation of nature, time with family and friends, relaxation, happiness, joy, love, energy, positive feelings from walking, positive moods and thoughts, smiling and laughter, de-cluttering of the mind, taking a break from stress, favorite activities, engaging in the present, and letting go of negatives. All of these effects promote physical and psychological well-being.

Do you have similar experiences? Without a doubt, they too benefit your immune system and aid in cancer prevention.

What’s your experience of cherry blossom viewing? What are your favorite ways to clear your mind? If you like this post, please bookmark it or share it. Thanks.

Photo credits: by daveynin

8 Simple Ways to Keep Moving at Home

Yoga4253072108_d746a36dc9_mPart of this week we were on the road to visit a dear family member who is in the hospital. Driving on the highway during our eight-hour trip each way naturally made me think of the topic of Ways to Keep Moving at Home.

It’s natural to want to stay comfortable and relaxed, particularly at home, which of course is not a gym. But sometimes home life can become too cozy for folks who really need to use excess calories that would otherwise be stored as fat. And too much physical inactivity can do considerable harm, including increasing your risk for heart disease and cancer.

Sometimes efforts that seem insignificant can actually provide significant rewards. Several years ago, I had lower back pain. The physical therapist didn’t expect the set of exercises that are routinely recommended for such a problem to help me much. But I went ahead to give a try anyway. Every day after coming home from work, I lay on the carpet doing the moves the therapist had suggested for about 20 minutes while watching TV—my “cheerleader.” To my surprise and pleasure, my back pain disappeared 2-3 months later and has bothered me little since then.

Physical activity not only benefits you by helping you maintain a healthy weight while promoting good circulation and strengthening muscles, it is also a boon to your emotional well-being. It really pays off in the long run.

Staying active was a proven life-enhancer even in ancient times. During the Tang dynasty in China, the average lifespan was a little over 30. But China’s only female Emperor, Wu ZeTian, had amazing longevity, living for over 80 years. Staying physical active throughout her life was likely her secret. She was trained in multiple GongFu with her parents while growing up, and consistently practiced healthy QiGong. She also rode, shot, and was fond of other activities.

Since what was good way back then can still work wonders today, here are 8 ways to help you keep moving while at home:

1. Schedule a “move appointment” with yourself and commit to it.
2. Exercise at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.
3. Take a walk around the neighborhood, do jump rope in the yard, or try running up the stairs (but not too fast—be careful!). Have you ever done 20 rounds? If you can do that, you are probably in pretty good shape.
4. Exercise while watching TV, or dance around the living room with the music.
5. Walk to the local grocery or convenience store instead of driving.
6. Take your kids to the park or the pool, and play with them instead of watching them.
7. For fun and motivation, learn a new sport that you can play out in the garden or indoors.
8. Work in your yard or garden.

What keeps you moving at home? What can you add to the list? I would love to read your comments.

Photo credit: by Rance Costa

My Memory of Herb

I was so saddened to hear about the passing of Herb McCullough after he lost the battle to cancer.

Cancer took another precious life. And it just happened too quickly for me. Although I experienced how hard it was when my dad passed away from lung cancer, I cannot imagine what this is like for his family.

When I first met Herb at a business meeting about two years ago, I captured his gentlemanly side, plus his not so obvious “joker” side. When I think of Herb, I see a nice man, down to earth, friendly, kind, and helpful. He loved his daughter. He got excited when he came up with a business idea, no matter what it was.

When I think of Herb, I see a good businessman. One thing about him was his punctuality. He was always on time for an appointment or service. Another striking thing about him was his mastery of plumbing. He could spot a problem precisely and solved it efficiently—even his wall cutting was so neat. I was quite impressed with how he fixed our bathroom plumbing system. “This is Herb. He is a master plumber.” That was how I always introduced him to people. Actually, he was quite fun to be around, too.

When I think of Herb, I see his strong faith in God. After he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, I witnessed his emotional transition from understandable anger to inner peace. I also saw his physical improvement, from a seriously ill condition to getting back to normal and stabilized for several months. In fact, his situation had gotten better to the point where he was able to keep up a part-time business. I talked with him about what inspired and sustained him since he did not take medicine or go through any therapy. He attributed all his recovery to his faith in God, in addition to his daily diet that included nutrient-rich juice. I was concerned about his financial needs in light of his illness and the effects that the economic downturn was having on his part-time business. Yet he expressed amazing gratitude that God had been providing him enough to survive, although it would not be enough for many people.

My heart is heavy. I lost a business associate, and a friend. In Herb, I saw an ordinary person, just one of us, living in peace, kindness, and gratitude, doing his best to survive while serving others.

My deepest condolences to his family.

Life goes on. Let’s win as many battles as we can.