Monday, April 29, 2013

The physical effects of obesity on happiness

Did you ever hear  “eat all the food on your plate-somewhere in the world  children are starving”?  A  grave concern  for far too long was that there was not enough food in the world and children were starving. We still have countries where there is not enough food and they do need help—but malnutrition rates are falling.

Sadly obesity rates are rising. Our world is getting “too wide”  Obesity is now a global epidemic the World Health Organization reports that over 1.5 billion adults are overweight and 550 million are obese.

Too many of us are eating more and moving less.

Infertility, memory loss, cognitive dysfunction-Alzheimers, blood sugar imbalance,  heart disease, diabetes, certain types of cancer, chronic pain and lack of energy are some of the many conditions now recognized as the physical  effects of obesity. Did you know that   being overweight has an actual physical effect on our happiness. People who become obese and stay that way have a 55% chance of becoming depressed. People who are depressed have 58% chance of becoming obese.

It’s a sad cycle of becoming rounder… the worse one feels- the worse they eat. How easy is it to feel happy when we don’t feel good? How easy is it to make healthy food choices when you actually feel bad?

Our brains are smart! Our brains are designed to help us feel good with something called the “reward center” located in the back of our brain. This reward center  sends out signals which tell us whether we are feeling good or bad. What we eat, what we feel, the activities we do, how we sleep, where we live, what we think-- ALL OF THIS triggers a response in our  brain to create sensations of feeling good, bad or neutral. If the sensations make us feel good our reward center signals pleasure and sharpens our attention so that what makes us feel good becomes a learned habit.  We want to repeat it again and again to keep enjoying what is bringing us pleasure.

The reward center works both ways ….when we have a bad experience- the same process occurs only different chemicals trigger  responses of  anger, fear, anxiety, depression and negativity-- teaching us that we may not want to repeat the activity that makes us feel bad.

It is easy to understand that eating something delicious will make us feel good even if it is only temporary. But too many of us are eating too much and  much of what we eat is making us feel bad.
There are many ways to stimulate our reward centers and increase our pleasure so we don’t have to use food as our primary reward. Surprisingly the following steps  enhance well being and with a little practice they can become positive habits that help us feel happier:

*being kind
*performing an act of giving
*listening to relaxing music
*exercising in a manner that you enjoy
*breathing deeply
*sleeping longer
*speaking words of gratitude and appreciation
*being in nature
*having a pet

If you are overweight nutritional coaching or instruction in what foods can help you feel better and make weight loss successful can be quite valuable. Remember it can take some time for a weight loss program to be successful.  In the meantime think about making these steps permanent habits to enhance your well being and increase your happiness so that you feel better and enjoy life more.

You may also enjoy reading Beating Obesity, Three Essential Ingredients for Joy

Monday, April 22, 2013

Three Essential Ingredients for Joy

The natural state of being for our heart and soul is Joy. When we experience Joy our truest nature is revealed to us -our creativity and consciousness expands naturally and as they grow we know more Joy. Joy unfolds within us in our hearts- when we recognize our magnificence and self worth, as well as the magnificence and worth of others- and know how to express gratitude for all of it.

There are well known steps to increase Joy: meditating, practicing gratitude, loving oneself, loving others, helping others etc.  For some it may be easy to adopt these practices for others it may be difficult to even think a happy thought. If you are in the midst of a painful crisis -- Joy and Happiness can feel impossible. At these times it may be more authentic for you to step back and allow yourself to take the time that you need to just be with whatever is going on for you.

When extra care is needed during challenging times the ingredients for Joy can help you take into account what is happening inside you and around you.  At the same time the three essential ingredients for Joy are also what brings more Joy to us.

Remembering, Recognition & Gratitude.

Remembering who you are in the fullness of your being: What causes your heart to expand?  What makes you happy? Think about your life and what made you happy.  When you remember your heart expanding and being happy let your awareness drift back to that moment. How did you feel? Breathe deeply and relax into those sensations. Find the center of your awareness and deep inside that center say Yes! I want more of this. You will feel a warmth and relaxation- a lightness of being. Keep breathing and allow yourself to fully feel and remember these beautiful feelings again.

Recognize what you are doing and what is going on around you. Stay in relationship with yourself. Ask yourself what you need to do to take good care of yourself and learn to be kind to yourself. Take care of your relationships with others. What do you contribute and what do you receive? Become responsible for how you feel without making others wrong.  Finding beauty each day and acknowledging it keeps us relaxed and brings happiness. Recognizing that we are all part of the interconnected web of life can inspire us to act with enthusiasm and purpose- which brings a great sense of fulfillment and joy. 

Express Gratitude to those around you and to yourself .Look inside and figure out what you appreciate. Expressing thanks and thinking about whom and what you appreciate around you rebalances your relationship to yourself and others.  Becoming aware of what you enjoy and how it comes to you can be developed into a permanent habit  of choosing to be grateful and that shift brings more joy not only to us but to those we express gratitude to.

Joy is already there in your heart and mine because Joy is in every heart just waiting to be known and shared.  Use these three essential ingredients of Joy to amplify it’s presence in your awareness and see how your life changes.

Sometimes your JOY is the source of your smile,
but sometimes your smile can be the source of your JOY.
                                                                                                                                     Thich Nhat Hanh

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