Naturally Healthy 4 Life's Blog

A blog about health, nutrition, fitness and wellness

The Trinity of Wellness: Body, Mind and Spirit

body-mind-spirit

At the end of each year, like everyone else, I find myself reflecting on the past year and thinking about where I was then compared to today.

Last December, I was in the middle of a long taper Prednisone treatment, following another terrible spike in my flare-up. Hydroxyzine proved to be the magic medicine. I tapered off the Prednisone and each day the hives and swelling were smaller and smaller until they disappeared altogether (mid-February). I have been in remission since. It was the longest stretch of CIU (Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria) that I have ever had, spanning a year and a half this flare.

I am not a sickly person. In fact, I have been very physically fit for the last 15-20 years. While I no longer run (too hard on the knees!), I regularly strength train and do cardio, I practice yoga daily, and I eat extraordinarily healthfully and mindfully.

However, in the years preceding this flare, three of our children left home for college (leaving us with an empty nest), we lost two beloved family pets, my husband and I both changed jobs (with my husband becoming an independent contractor) – all of which caused incredible stress and put a strain on my closest relationships. I denied it existed – particularly to myself. Instead, I buried it all deep inside (“I’m strong – I can handle anything!”). The cortisol in my body continued to build. Cortisol (aka the “stress hormone”) usually fluctuates throughout the day and night, rising in response to a stressful event, then returns to a normal level following the stressful event. However, my cortisol level went up and never went down, causing my immune system to go BANANAS. My body began attacking itself and nearly everything I touched or ingested. Writing about it now actually makes my chest tight. It was a terrible couple of years and I am so grateful to now feel SO good.

The life lesson I finally learned while trying to recover from this flare is that true health is more than just the fitness of my physical body. It includes the health of my mind and my soul, as well. Until this year, I was truly unhealthy in that sense, and it is what ultimately led to this flare.

During the flare, I underwent counseling with a gifted psychologist. I insisted that treatment not include pills. Instead, we talked about how I got here, and he taught me how to listen to my body in response to my emotions – breathing, meditation, and being present – and how to forgive myself for not being perfect.

I am not big on New Year’s resolutions, but last January, I made a decision that 2016 was going to be the healthiest year of my life.   I think I succeeded.

I know I am not as healthy as I could be, and some days are harder than others, but 2016 HAS been the healthiest year of my life thus far. I will certainly try to top it in 2017.

Happy New Year!

January 1, 2017 Posted by | Fitness, Health, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

More than a Best Friend

Jordyn

“It came to me that every time I lose a dog they take a piece of my heart with them, and every new dog who comes into my life gifts me with a piece of their heart.  If I live long enough, all the components of my heart with be dog, and I will become as generous and loving as they are.”  ~Anonymous

We recently lost one of our beloved dogs, Jordyn (to heart failure).  We miss her terribly.  She brought so much joy, comfort and happiness to our lives – simply with her presence and unconditional love.  This post is dedicated to her memory.

Of course, we all know that dogs are used for service – helping those with disabilities and special needs in a functional capacity, and by law enforcement (police dogs, DEA, searching).  Dogs are used for hunting.   Children love playing with and caring for dogs.  However, many do not realize that dogs help us in other ways that are not so obvious and can make a tremendous difference to our wellness and well-being – dogs are actually good for our health!

Spending time with dogs can improve our mood.  Research shows that petting a dog boosts mood-related brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine.  When dogs are near us, we tend to calm down, and speak more slowly and softly.

Dogs encourage us to exercise and socialize.  Dogs need to be walked, which also gets us out exercising and socializing with neighbors and other pet walkers.  Having a dog with us makes us more approachable (ask any man – dogs are chick magnets!).

Stroking a dog (or cat) can lower blood pressure and heart rate.  Heart attack sufferers recover more quickly and survive longer when they have a pet.

Dogs are companions that can help stave off loneliness.  A study conducted at Saint Louis University in 2006 evaluated 37 nursing home residents who all had high scores on a loneliness scale and who were interested in receiving weekly 30-minute visits from dogs.  Half of the residents studied had dog-only visits and the other half shared the dog with other residents.  All of the residents studied felt less lonely after the dog visits – interestingly, the decrease in loneliness was more significant with those that had the dog-only visits.

Dogs have special instincts.  They know when someone is hurting or needs help.   Several years ago, the Lutheran Church Charities developed the “K-9 Parish Comfort Dogs of Addison, Illinois,” which uses dogs in disaster response situations.  They train golden retrievers to provide comfort, help and hope to those recovering from tragedy.  Several dogs were sent to help residents in Newtown, Connecticut following the shootings there.

So the next time you are feeling low or anxious, spend some time with your pooch (or borrow a friend’s) for a fabulous boost to your heart and soul.

Angela, Friend to the Furry 🙂

References:

  1. “How Owning a Dog or Cat can Reduce Stress – The Health Benefits of Pet Ownership,” About.com
  2. “How Pets Comfort Us,” Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Alert, May 27, 2009
  3. “Man’s Best Friend:  Study Shows Seniors Prefer Dogs,” Saint Louis University, January 4, 2006
  4. “‘Comfort Dogs’ Relieve Emotional Stress in Grieving Newtown,” People Magazine, December 28, 2012

January 1, 2013 Posted by | Health, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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