Category Archives: Healthy Living

Healthy living articles, healthy living tips, healthy living resources, and information on Intent.com

The Search for Ultimate Happiness

Yesterday a friend dropped an email into my inbox.
It said, “I just have to share something with you …..on Sunday, Brian
and I went to see the feature film, Hector and The Search for Happiness…
we laughed, we cried…it is funny, inspiring, transformational….we just loved it.”

By the end of the day, I’d watched the trailer several times, remembered how much I loved Simon Pegg, and had some great answers to questions about happiness from director and co-writer Peter Chelsom.

May I present “Hector and the Search for Happiness”…

As the man who filmed a man traveling the world in search of happiness, Chelsom seems pretty qualified to offer insights as to what makes people feel whole and satisfied. We’re happy to share the interview and his wisdom here!

Intent: Why do you think “Hector and the Search for Happiness” is important for today’s audience?
PC: We have lost sight of what happiness really is. We have become too “needy.” We are more pre-occupied with being interesting as opposed to be interested. And credit and advertising have made sure that we are never going to have enough!

Intent: What is one thing you think the world doesn’t get about happiness?
PC: Making happiness the goal doesn’t really work but what does work is understanding that real happiness is a by-product of giving yourself over to life, being in the flow, being inspired. What does work is that real happiness is richness. Richness is the full spectrum of all of the emotions, all the colors.

Intent: What/where is your happy place?
PC: Being with my family. And, being with my family at our home in Italy.

Intent: What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone who starting their own search for happiness?
PC: I say to my sons. “Come on boys, what is the secret to happiness and they reply kindness.” I love that because it’s a mission, a plan, an transitive action, something you can do. The by-product is surely happiness.

Intent: Were you surprised to learn anything over the course of filming- about yourself, about your career, about life?
PC: Very much. How lucky I am. How far I’ve come. As writers, Tinker Lindsey and I had to get personal and look to ourselves.
I genuinely feel that the zero on my axis has risen so that the lows are not as desperate and the highs are more cherished.

Intent: Has there ever been a big risk that you took and ended up being really glad you did?
PC: Yes. Becoming a filmmaker, is a ridiculous risk. What bugs me about non-believers and atheists, they talk about deluding yourself and I say, if I had NOT deluded myself, I would have never become a filmmaker. If I had been a realist, I would have never had tried. You say delusion, I say faith.

Intent: When it comes to making choices about your life, what criteria do you use when deciding yes or no?
PC: The criteria used to be selfish, now that I am a family man, family has become the criteria.

Intent: What fears are left for you to conquer?
PC: Growing old.

Intent: What is the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
PC: Having children. I wouldn’t have said that I am naturally qualified, now I think I’m pretty good!

Intent: If you could go on an adventure, where would it be and what would it look like?
PC: Having been round the world making this film, my idea of adventure is not a check box of lots of different places, but exploring one place, one area in massive details. Probably, me, the family, the car and 8 weeks to travel through all of Italy.

So go see it.
Go take a couple of hours to rest your brain, laugh, cry, and then ask yourself what you want out of this life. Every day is a day where everything can change. It might was well be today.

Name It to Tame It

A Powerful Tip I read about in “Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain” by Dr. Dan Siegel

I was dropping off my 12 year old daughter to her 7th Grade retreat, and I could see that she was nervous. It was a 2-night trip with new classmates from her new school. She is not one who is keen on retreats – in fact, she generally doesn’t like sleep-overs and has never wanted to go to a sleep away camp. At the same time, she was excited with the discovery of independence at Middle School, and knew that the retreat was a great opportunity to make new friends.

I reminded her that when she is feeling anxious, the first step is to breathe. Pause. Take deep breaths. One. Two. Three. Let the air coming in help push the anxiety out. She didn’t smile exactly as I spoke, but I could see her slowing down with deeper breathes as she listened.

I added a new twist to the exercise – something I had just read about in Dr. Dan Siegel’s book, Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain.

“In the brain, naming an emotion can help calm it… Name it to Tame It.”

He explains:

“For all of us, as teenagers or adults, when intense emotions erupt in our minds, we need to learn to feel them and deal with them… Learning to deal with emotions means being aware of them and modifying them inside so that we can think clearly. Sometimes we can name it to tame it and help balance our brains emotional intensity by putting words to what we feel… There are even some brain studies that show how this naming process can activate the prefrontal cortex and calm the limbic amygdala!”

As Tara was away on her retreat, I found myself practicing the Name It To Tame It technique, and the effects were dramatic. When feeling stressed or upset, I would pause, breathe, recognize the sensations in my body, name the emotion (frustration, anger, anxiety), and continue.  In fact, in a particularly frustrating work situation, I named my feelings through my negotiations, and felt I was much more calm, clear headed and non-emotional.

Tara returned from her trip with a big smile and lots of stories about their adventures. She noted that there were moments when she felt alone and anxious, but she reassured me she took deep breaths, recognized her feelings, and proceeded.

Dr. Dan Siegel is a prolific author and presently a clinical professor of Psychiatry at UCLA School of Medicine. Learn more about him at his website or purchase your own copy of Brainstorm: the Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain and let us know what you think!

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Facing My Ebola Fear

On July 23, gravely ill Liberian-American diplomat Patrick Sawyer flew into Murtala Mohammed Airport. He died at a Lagos hospital four days later, after exposing scores of airline passengers and medical personnel to the Ebola virus.

Ebola had arrived in Nigeria. It has since spread to other areas of the country.

Ebola Virus Particle
Ebola Virus Particle

I live in Lagos but on the day Patrick Sawyer delivered his terrible gift, I was an ocean away. My three children and I were on vacation at my parents’ house in suburban Massachusetts.

It was disconcerting to be far from Lagos when it was in crisis. I read articles about Ebola in the newspaper, watched reports on CNN, and tried to ignore the panicked emails from expat women I know.

My parents urged us not to return to Nigeria. They suggested I enroll the kids in the elementary school down the road, which I attended as a child.

It was tempting. The children could walk to school along the same forest path I had used. My mother would cook delicious Indian meals and my father’s wine cellar would allow me to remain in a continuous state of inebriation. At 41, I would have no responsibilities and could spend my days in the basement hula hooping and taking naps.

My children, however, were sick of America. They missed their father, their friends, and their toys. They were desperate to return. My husband, John, assured us we would stay safe in Lagos, that Ebola in Nigeria could be contained. But it is very unnatural to willingly travel into danger. It takes courage, which I lack.

I couldn’t decide whether to stay or go. And then one day my husband phoned me from Lagos to complain about our housekeeper. He had broached the subject of Ebola with Marie and was annoyed by her response.

“What do you know of Ebola?” John had asked her, intending to discuss precautions to prevent the spread of disease.

“I don’t know him,” Marie replied. “Is he Yoruba?”

“Can you imagine,” John told me, “she thought E. Bola was a man’s name! Has she been living under a rock?”

And that was how I decided it would be safe for us to return to Lagos. If Marie—my barometer for all matters West African—had never heard of Ebola, it must not be a big deal.

The kids and I arrived in Nigeria in mid-August. As we taxied to the gate, the newlyweds beside us slipped on latex gloves.

reaching out for nothing

After deplaning, the passengers queued up in neat lines for body temperature scans. This was the first time I had ever seen thermometers used at an airport or anyone in Nigeria stand in a line without trying to cut to the front.

The ordinarily bustling terminal was silent. It was as unsettling as in the weeks following 9/11 when New Yorkers stopped honking their horns and giving each other the finger. I felt like a cold hand was squeezing my heart. This wasn’t the Lagos I remembered. Was coming back a mistake?

I noticed a number of people pulling out bottles of hand sanitizer and squirting their palms as we cleared customs. Suddenly every surface seemed to be writhing with toxic germs. I wished there was a giant barrel of sanitizer I could dip my children into by the ankles, Achilles-style.

We exited the airport, dropped the suitcases at home then drove around looking for a place to eat. It was 10:00 p.m. on a Saturday night and Lagos was dead. We tried three restaurants but they were all closed.

We ended up at The Radisson, a shiny hotel perched on the lagoon.

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I took a seat by the water and waited for my family to join me outside. From my table I had a view of the lobby. I saw a man near the bar lurching back and forth, vomiting. Then his face tipped up and I saw white discharge covering his mouth. At that moment, John and the kids walked by him.

John was stoic. As I saw my husband and children become infected with the Ebola virus, my eyes filled with tears. We had just become a cautionary tale.

My 4 decades on the planet, my 22 year romance with my husband, and my 3 beautiful children were about to be reduced to a handful of hysterical Facebook posts and a few mistakenly pressed thumbs ups.

Then the man straightened and I saw a shiny vacuum in his hand. His back was bucking because he was cleaning. What I had thought was white vomit was a surgical mask over his mouth.

John and the kids joined me at the table. They appeared to be Ebola-free.

Our first week back in Lagos was tense. I considered offering Marie an immediate early retirement because she coughed twice in an afternoon.

Despite my anxiety, we settled back into Nigerian life. My daughter got her hair twisted at the salon. I went grocery shopping. The children spent a happy day at the pool splashing with friends.

My fear began to dissipate. The number of Ebola cases in Nigeria, meanwhile, began dropping.

Aside from the strategically placed dispensers of hand sanitizer that had materialized around Lagos, it was business as usual.

Hand Sanitizer

I had no way to know how severely the Ebola virus would impact our lives when we returned. My decision was a bit impulsive, perhaps, but was borne from a desire to reunite my husband with his children. And I am certain I made the right choice. This is home.

It is in moments of adversity that we see the true worth of a people. Against all odds it seems that this awful virus has been contained here. Nigeria has been tested and I’m proud to say that she has come through with flying colors.

In the end, all I suffered was anxiety, nightmares and sleepless nights. Compared to thousands of our fellow Africans, we got off easy.

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Back To School Intents

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Last week, after dropping Leela off to her first day of 4
th grade at school, I came home and a wave of exhaustion, relaxation, elation and depression all hit at once. My 7th grader, Tara, started a new Middle School two weeks earlier.

Back to school bliss or back to school blues?! I couldn’t decide. 

We had had an adventurous summer, with lots of friends and family visiting us. But we also truly relaxed, enjoying days with no schedules. My summer intent for my kids was to let them get bored – rather than sign up for camps, we did a few classes and they spent the days at home figuring out what to do. They read, they watched television, played video games, painted, wrote, and hung out. I let their minds wander, aimlessly, happily, with no agenda.

Yet, within hours of them back in school, I was on my calendar, scheduling after school activities, logistics of two different drop offs and pickups, work commitments. I found myself mentally scheduling time to relax with our new Fall schedule! Why does it seem inevitable that our modern life gets us busy again? I find that despite trying not to get my kids too busy, the homework/music lessons/sports/friends life balance already seems an untenable goal.

As I begin the Fall, I decided to set some Back To School intents for me and my kids.

So here goes:

My intent is to meditate regularly.
This is top priority for me. And if I can commit to it, and show my girls through my example its value, I believe they will want to do it as well. I love meditating with my girls. We sit together in our favorite spots in the living room, we cuddle a bit, talk about the day, close our eyes, meditate, and then set intents for the week or day.

My intent is to make sleep a priority in our life.
My girls are growing, and need their sleep. For the last few months, we have been able to sleep without waking up with an alarm clock. I know the health and emotional benefits of good sleep, and don’t want to compromise on this for our family. We have an early morning schedule now, so if it means compromising some activities, that’s ok. Sleep is more important.

My intent is to focus on nourishing foods.
I just completed a two week cleanse, and for the first time since I can remember am feeling good without my cookies, ice cream, brownies, and heavy carb-filled pastas, pizza’s etc.

Also, while writing my book, Living With Intent, I was more mindful of my eating habits and why I was choosing the foods I consume. I realized that I am passing on my own eating habits to my kids. Once again, if I can guide them through my own example and through the changes in our meals at home, I hope I can teach them better habits.

My intent is to be flexible.
If we need to adjust schedules, skip a dance class, drop tennis, forgo doing extra math homework, I need to let go and know that it’s ok. Together we can figure out schedules and think about “time management”, but at the end of the day our journey is about love and service. I do believe flexibility is one of the keys to finding joy, and want to embrace that idea fully this school year.

My intent is to cherish the love of learning.
My kids are learning so many incredible things in school this year. I want to celebrate the love of learning, and engage in conversations with them about new ideas and discoveries.

My intent is to express gratitude every day.
Early mornings, new schedules, lots of homework – its easy to fall into the back to school blue mode. Instead I want to focus on gratitude, and incorporate it into our daily conversation. I want us to share at least one thing daily that we are grateful for.

 I’d love to hear your intents for the Fall here in the comment section. 

Please do share them on www.intent.com as well, so we can keep the dialogue going!

Demystifying Health Fads

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Here in Los Angeles alone, it feels like you can find a restaurant to accommodate any dietary needs or preferences. Restaurants that serve only cold-pressed juice, vegan items or traditional fare from countries you’ve never even heard of. Gluten-free Southern food sounds like a paradox, but people can try.

There is a lot of talk about what you should be eating more of and what you should be avoiding so we decided to review three of the biggest buzzwords in health and diet these days.

Gluten: 
Everyone’s going gluten free because it’s healthier, right? That’s right, right? Interestingly enough, gluten is only a problem for the approximately 1% of Americans diagnosed with Celiac’s disease who’s immune system actually damages the lining of the small intestine while trying to process it. The problem with everyone else avoiding gluten, according to some experts, is not with the ingredient so much as how easy it is to miss out on other vital nutrients like iron and fiber by avoiding foods like whole wheat. There are certainly grains without gluten but the key here is knowing that going gluten-free isn’t necessarily the key to a healthier lifestyle.

Kale:
Traditionally a winter crop, this hearty green that’s sneaking it’s way into salads everywhere is actually super good for you. It’s got a ton of Vitamins A, C and K. We’re talking 684% of your daily value of Vitamin K in just a cup. It’s low in calories and while it might be an acquired taste, it’s worth considering as a dietary staple. Something to note- Kale will be less thrilling if you are low on calcium or taking anticoagulants as it blocks calcium absorption and can mess with certain medications, so check with a doctor before you start eating it by the bucket loads.

Probiotics:
We spend a lot of money on cleaning products every year to get rid of bacteria from our homes, but so why are buy bacteria to put into our bodies? Made more well-known thanks to the family favorite, yogurt, Probiotics are good bacteria that, when added to your digestive system, can help ease bloating and get your body processing food like it should. Stress, sitting on planes for hours, eating like a maniac can wreck you, or more specifically, the living microbes in your body that break down and retrieve the nutrients you need. Probiotics are valuable to keeping your intestines in good shape otherwise. We’ve also learned that just having some yogurt here and there won’t be enough to set everything back in balance which is why many opt for a probiotic supplement like SCD Essential Probiotics as opposed to consuming more miso soup than you know what to do with.

Before you hop on the health fad popping up in your grocery stores, make sure you know what works best for you and your body. If it means cutting the gluten, by all means. If not, you’ve made a knowledgeable decision. The point is that you’re in the know.

So, maybe have a donut. Not too many donuts. And maybe wait for dessert ’til you’ve had a kale salad.

 

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Our Intent: Better Ways to Approach Pain, and America’s Pain-Pill Epidemic

And I swear you're just like a pill Instead of makin me better, you keep makin me ill You keep makin me ill

By Deepak Chopra, M.D., FACP, and P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, FRCP, Professor of Psychiatry, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina

You may have noticed headlines about the rise of prescription drugs as a major cause of addiction and death by overdose. Pain pills are overshadowed by illegal drugs like heroin and their dangers masked by a certain air of respectability. Yet America is in the midst of an epidemic of painkiller overuse as well as addiction. As a nation we constitute only about 5% of the world’s population, but we consume some 80% of the prescription drugs called opioids, the strongest and most addictive pain pills, that go by names like Vicodin, OxyContin, Dilaudid, codeine, and Percocet. We consume 99% of the global supply of a particular opioid called hydrocodone, which is used in combination with other drugs for pain relief but also cough suppression. In 2014 the FDA approved a new version of a pure hydrocodone despite the objections of its own medical advisory panel (which voted 12 to 2 against approval) and 30 states. Today opioid overdose deaths (one every 30 minutes) exceed deaths from motor vehicle accidents as well as the combined total of deaths by heroin or cocaine overdose.

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My Intent is to Read More: 13 Tips for Getting More Reading Done.


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Of my hundreds of happiness-project resolutions, and of the habits I’ve tried to form, one of my very favorites is to Read more

Reading is an essential part of my work. It forms an important part to my social life. And far more important, reading is my favorite thing to do, by a long shot. I’m not a well-rounded person.

But reading takes time, and there aren’t many days when I can read as much as I’d like. Here are some habits that I’ve adopted to help me get more good reading done.

1. Quit reading. I used to pride myself on finishing every book I started. No more. Life is short. There are too many wonderful books to read.

2. Read books you enjoy. When I’m reading a book I love—for example, I’m now reading Charles Portis’s True Grit — I’m astonished by how much time I find to read. Which is another reason to stop reading a book I don’t enjoy.

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Smartphone Apps: Can They Help Health Intentions?

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In the never ending quest to reach that ultimate pinnacle of what I feel is my utmost best health and fitness, I’ve tried many different foods and workouts. As with almost everything else in life, smartphones are quickly becoming the first line of defense against slipping back into old habits, and I wondered if this technology could be my answer to improving my health without allowing the goal of treating my body better to seem too large or general to accomplish. We’ve all heard the phrase “there’s an app for that” but really, almost anything health related has an app. A quick scan of the  iTunes App store boasted thousands of medical apps ranging from an encyclopedia of medicinal herbs, to a baby heartbeat monitor for pregnant women to use on their growing bundles of joy.

 

In the beginning stages of my research, I noticed that even the medical community is getting in on the game, using some very specialized apps which have allowed doctors to quickly and efficiently diagnose and treat a variety of conditions. At first I was leery, since according to the health tech industry blog HealthITjobs.com, users should always consider carefully what information they’re inputting into apps: “There are real concerns with regards to privacy and HIPPA compliance within this new wave of health related apps. Most of these apps are not regulated by the government for safety or security so right now the responsibility lies in the hands of the app developers. On the flip side, these apps are empowering individuals to take control of their own health and enabling healthcare providers to make better decisions with more data.”

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