Monthly Archives: November 2013

Finding The Best Diet For You

The Best Diet For You!! It sounds like something you might win on a game show – in my mind I hear it said like “A New Car!” Like it’s the mythical prize that people might win with the spin of a wheel. It’s like unicorns or other mythical animals – we all want to find it, and yet it remains elusive.  Actually the problem in finding the best diet for you is not that you can’t find it, it’s that you’re looking for it to be validated by an outside source, instead of by the only source: you.

I think the thing that we forget in our frantic search for the newest, best, shiniest, most promising diet is that the people who created the diet in every case created it to be best for a whole bunch of people, but not necessarily for you as an individual.  I think in general we fail to recognize how wonderfully, beautifully unique we all are – and that includes right down to our meat and bones. To our physiology and what makes us tick. It also means that there is some fluidity in “best diet” that has to happen even for each of us through our lifespan. The best diet for me when I was 18 wasn’t the same as the best diet for me now in my 30s, nor will it be the same when I’m in my 60s. Just as I as a human am (god willing) changing and evolving, my body is also changing and evolving.  What does all of this mean? It means that the only person who can discover the best diet for you, is YOU, and you will have to revise and edit that best diet over time to stick to what your body wants most of all.

Your best diet has fruit in it.

Yummm for apples. © Ed Isaacs | Dreamstime Stock Photos

There is a best diet for you and it’s unique to you – to how your body processes nutrients and to the demands you place on it. The greatest part is that you can discover it at home.

Discovering Your Best Diet:

The great news is that there are some things that are truly good for everyone, so lets start with that.

The Basic Best Diet:

  1. Lots and lots of veggies. Everyone and their brother agrees that every healthy diet should have a bunch of vegetables in it.  This is where the bulk of our vitamins, minerals and nutrients come from along with our fiber and antioxidants.  Vegetables are the powerhouses of the food world – don’t ever skimp on these.  If you can only make one small change to your diet, make that change be an extra veggie with each meal.
  2. Eat Variety. Eating kale is awesome.  Eating lots of kale is also awesome. The only bad thing about eating lots of kale is that kale only has the nutrients that kale has, you know? You’re not getting tomato nutrients from kale, or salmon nutrients, or beef nutrients.  So even if you’re eating awesome foods, if you only eat one or two different ones then you’re automatically limited.  Throw off those limits and learn a little about squash or star fruit or mung beans. There is a limitless array of choice out there – why be dull?  Your body and health will thank you for the variety even as your taste buds do a little dance with the excitement of all the new flavors.  It can be scary at first if you’re expanding from a highly limited diet, but keep trying.  Try new foods at least three different times before you make a decision about them and keep an open mind to new flavors.  Don’t automatically dismiss the new and different.
  3. Eat Clean: I’m guessing it comes as no shock to anyone that preservatives, artificial colors, artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners, and other food additives aren’t actually food.  They don’t add any nutritional value and there isn’t any great reason for you why they should be added to your diet. They make it easier for companies that manufacture food to keep it shelf-stable, stop it from molding, make it slightly addictive or make you crave it – but none of those things make it any better for you and let’s be clear – your food should be all about you. Likewise genetically modified food is usually modified so that it can grow more easily or spoil more slowly or do something differently so that it’s easier to use as a commercial product but that has nothing to do with how your body uses it. All of these pseudo-foods are no part of the best diet for anyone.
  4. Get a Little Nutty: Nuts and seeds are packed with good oils, fiber, and protein and are a fantastic food for just about everyone.  They are high in minerals and represent a tremendous source of balanced nutrition for just about every type of person or constitution out there.
  5. Not Too Sweet: It’s pretty obvious to everyone that sugar packs on unnecessary calories and leads to inflammation, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and lowered immunity.  This can’t be a dietary staple no matter what – it isn’t that good for anyone at all, although real sugar and other real sweeteners are better than the artificial variety.
  6. Moderation: Food is our basic source of nutrients, vitamins and minerals.  We need it to survive and we enjoy it for pleasure. Food also is a tremendous amount of work for your body and creates a number of breakdown products that have to be dealt with in your daily processes of metabolism.  Research has shown consistently that the key to a longer, healthier life is actually a little bit of moderation in the food department.  Eating less actually helps you live longer and healthier because you’re not wasting so many of your body’s precious resources on food processing. Consistently people who eat fewer calories live longer lives with less chronic disease.

Adding Variables to Your Best Diet:

Now for the parts that everyone seems to fight about.  Some diets say you should eat a ton of meat, some say little to no meat, some say fruit is too much sugar, others say fruit is the best thing in the world.  And what about fats? My god there are so many ways to get your feathers ruffled over this. So let’s talk:

  1. Meat: Just the word sounds like a controversy waiting to happen.  I am actually a huge fan of meat, but it’s one of the things that you really need to adjust to your body type.  My constitution is lean and muscular so for me meat is essential to keep my body running – the best plan seems to be small servings of meat regularly and generally higher protein – but even that means small amounts of meat, not slabs of it.  For people with heavier constitutions a diet that is lighter on the meats may work out better to minimize  the impact of the high calorie and fat density that comes with animal products. The paleo diet advocates insist that meat should be a main component of every diet, and that’s true if you’re actually living a paleo lifestyle involving lots of physical activity and days filled with heavy athletics, but if you’re a desk jockey that may not be the best plan for your arteries or your saddlebags. The other extreme of vegetarianism or veganism is also incredibly  hard to do right and requires tight unwavering attention to your nutritional status, which many “vegetarians” (read: carbetarians) neglect to uphold.
  2. Dairy:  For centuries and across many cultures dairy products have been a valuable source of proteins and fats in the human diet.  For most of those centuries the animals were grass fed (not grain fed) and were obviously not treated with chemicals, hormones, and antibiotics.  Likewise the actual milk wasn’t bleached, preserved and processed to the extreme.  Also people centuries ago were not likely as sensitive to foods as we seem to be today.  Now the benefits from dairy depend largely on the quality of the dairy you’re able to get and your body’s own reaction to it.  I personally am a proponent of clean, organic, grass-fed dairy just as long as you’re not sensitive to it. If you’re not sure if you’re sensitive to it then read about uncovering your hidden food sensitivities here. Just to thow another wrench into the dairy debate there is the question of raw milk or not (I say yes, but there’s lots of controversy). For more information on raw milk you can do some reading here.
  3. Fish: Fish are obviously fantastic food, or at least they used to be. They’re high in omega 3 fats and a great source of protein and many of the minerals that are found in good concentrations in a sea environment.  They’re also, however, repositories for heavy metals and toxins because the ocean is a soup of heavy metals and toxins. I certainly advocate fish, but sticking mostly to younger, smaller, non-predator fish like anchovies and sardines could be a good idea, save the predator fish for rare treats.  This is simply because predator fish eat smaller fish and end up concentrating all of the heavy metals and toxins that those fish had in their bodies, so the levels of toxins are much higher than in smaller fish that are lower down on the food chain.  If you’re pregnant, be especially careful with ocean fish – in the UK the guidelines are fish no more than once a month (!!) Farmed fish also aren’t a great alternative because they’re usually grain fed (which means the fats from these fish aren’t omega 3 fatty acids, they’re omega 6 fatty acids just like grain fed cattle). Also they’re no less toxic, and sometimes more so, than their wild-caught brethren.
  4. Fruits: It seems like fruit shouldn’t be controversial, but it is.  Many diets advocate limiting sugary fruits because they contribute to a high sugar diet.  Fruits, however, are a valuable source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants – right up there with vegetables.  My general guideline is one fruit per two veggies and I’ll limit the carbs and sugars by limiting grains and sweets. If you are already diabetic you may need to limit fruits for a while until you shift to a no- or low-grain diet and cut out the sugars and artificial sweeteners.  Once your blood sugars have dropped back down to normal levels and stabilized there then you can start to re-introduce the fruits.
  5. Grains: Right now grains are the big bad.  Grains are basically just complicated sugar for your body and excessive consumption has been linked to diabetes, obesity, fertility issues in PCOS, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome as well as Alsheimer’s disease, which is now being called “diabetes type III.” Grains include wheat, corn, rye, oats, rice and all of the less-used alternative grains like quinoa, amaranth, spelt, buckwheat, teff etc… There isn’t really anyone that I feel should be eating a high grain diet and in general I trend toward the fewer-the-better.  Grains provide a lot of calories without too much nutrition – especially our favorite super-starchy grains like wheat, corn and rice.  There is some fiber and nutrients if you’re eating whole grains, but all in all the starch is the main component.  Starch is what you make your body fat out of. In general, minimize the grains and your waist line and blood sugars will thank you.  Gluten is a whole different topic, but certainly if you haven’t taken the time yet to figure out if you’re gluten sensitive, now is the time to do it.
  6. Fats: Your body needs fats and thrives on them, but there’s still the question of which fats and how much. General guidelines – good fats come from nuts, seeds and vegetables; grass fed animals, and wild-caught fish.  Bad fats come from the deep-frier, processing plants (hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils) and grain-fed animals. Every body needs good fats and should avoid the bad fats, but how much of the good fats is a question for you.  Again, listen to your body. Fats help you feel full and satisfied, build healthy skin and connective tissue and help to nourish your neurological system, but also add a fair amount of calories to your diet.

Phew. Did we cover everything?  If I left out any major categories let me know and I’ll add them in. The bottom line is eat real food that grows from the earth, not a chemical company and always listen to your body. If eating a certain way is supposed to be healthy but doesn’t feel good for you then it’s most important to listen to you.  If you know certain foods make you gain weight or make you eat more then those aren’t the best for you.  Eat for YOU.

Methylfolate Side Effects: MTHFR problems

We’ve talked about the MTHFR mutant problem before (right here) but haven’t really addressed the actual taking of methylfolate.  Folate sounds so benign, so harmless but sadly there can be methylfolate side effects. 5-MTHF fallout, if you will. We mutants are out there, walking among you unable to convert regular old folic acid into methylfolate, or 5-MTHF for short.  I will stand with pride among you my brothers and sisters because yes, I too am a mutant.  Deep shuddering sigh.  As it turns out, using gene markers alone to plan a healthy nutritional protocol is not as straightforward as it would seem.  The reason being that every system in the human body has a glorious level of redundancy – we are literally designed to fail in eight thousand ways and still function normally.

Simply having the MTHFR mutation doesn’t actually mean that high-dose methylfolate like Deplin® which is prescribed in either 7.5 mg or 15 mg doses is a good idea.  The reason for this is that your body has literally hundreds of overlapping systems that are involved in every function that is even remotely related to the ways you use folate in the body. These overlapping systems and layers of function help our body to function normally even with multiple mutations that may result in genuinely low levels of 5-MTHF. Obviously that’s awesome when you don’t have methylfolate, but it can be a little overwhelming when all of a sudden you have a ton of it.

methylfolate side effects can happen even with a great product like this 5-MTHF 5-MTHF – One of my favorite methylfolate supplements, but there can still be methylfolate side effects.

Picture flooding your system with methylfolate when there has been relatively little (and when your body has been functioning reasonably normally with relatively little). Your cup literally runneth over. In some cases, your body has been starving and so it’s a welcome relief like rain in the desert – all functions get better and you’re ridiculously glad to have some resources to work with.  In other cases the flood of 5-MTHF is literally a flood and you’re stuck trying to clean up the mess.

Methylfolate Side Effects:

  • Mood changes: depression, irritability, severe anxiety
  • Pain: sore muscles, joint aches, headaches, migraines
  • Physical Symptoms: rash, acne, heart palpitations, nausea, insomnia

You will notice that some of these side effects are exactly the symptoms we’re looking to fix by taking the methylfolate, which seems a little ironic and inconvenient.  Such is the way of medicine, no? Like the drug you take for constipation that may cause constipation.  Thankfully here the benefits far outweigh the risks, you just have to know how to do it right.  Remember that methylfolate is something your body actually needs, so it’s important to find a way to take it well.

Avoiding Methylfolate Side Effects:

    • Start slow:  Some people with the MTHFR mutation have no trouble taking methylfolate and feel a world of difference from it.  For the rest of us it’s a little too much, a little too quickly.  If that is you then backing the dose way down to what might be in a good multivitamin (400 – 800 mcg) is a great way to start.  From there you can slowly adjust your dose to find your own optimal dosage level.
    • Personalize: When we’re talking about your genes it really is all about YOU.  Just because something works for lots of people with the MTHFR mutation doesn’t mean it will work for you, so above all trust your body and your symptoms.  If you’re having a problem doing something one way (even though that way works for your doctor or your neighbor or everyone else on a forum) trust that and change your strategy.
    • Pulse Your Dose: For some people it helps to have some days on and some days off, meaning to take methylfolate at whatever dose your body can tolerate for some days but not others.  For my body personally the best strategy I’ve found so far is taking lower doses five days per week and taking weekends off (convenient too!) For some of my clients it’s a week on/week off plan at a higher dose.  This really does come down to experimenting with your body to find what is right for you.
    • Expect Some Adjustment: Remember that your body has been compensating for all of your mutations for as long as you’ve been alive so suddenly changing the entire playing field is bound to create a few waves.  Before you make a snap judgement about what works for you and what doesn’t give things a few days to calm down. Your body will constantly astound you with it’s flexibility, it’s adaptability and it’s ability to cope with ridiculously huge changes but even your miraculous body may take a couple of days.
    • Niacin to the rescue: 50 – 100 mg of time-release niacin can be incredibly helpful to counteract some of the side effects of methylfolate if an alternative dosing plan isn’t enough to make you feel awesome. Niacin helps your body to use excessive SAM (S-adenylmethionine) which can build up in some people taking methylfolate. It’s important to also experiment with your dosing to find the right level of niacin for you, and in larger doses niacin, even in it’s time-release form, can cause flushing.

  • Antiinflammatories: Some of the problem is just basically that your body was probably inflamed going into the methylfolate therapy and changing your protocol can stir everything up.  Also by taking 5-MTHF you are allowing your body to start to catch up on detoxification and repair, which can also increase your level of inflammation while everything is being sorted out. Good strong natural anti-inflammatories can help to decrease symptoms and help your body to adjust, especially while you’re finding your optimal dosage. A lipid-soluble form of curcumin (from turmeric) like Meriva® can make your life far easier.  Other great natural anti-inflammatories include fish oils, green tea, pycnogenol, boswellia, resveratrol and cat’s claw. Following an anti-inflammatory diet is tremendously helpful as well.
  • Hydroxycobalamin: In an odd twist this non-methylated form of vitamin B12 can help to control some of the side effects of 5-MTHF as well.  One of the benefits of taking methylfolate is that it increases your levels of nitric oxide, which is the signal that helps your blood vessels dilate.  Which is exactly why it helps with cardiovascular risk and headaches and lots of the other things it helps with.  Like with everything else in life, too much of a good thing is sometimes a really bad thing.  So if your nitric oxide levels end up becoming too high then your body starts to make free radicals, and those free radicals create side effects.  Hydroxycobalamin can help you to counter this effect. Again, experiment with your dosing.

Remember that if you have MTHFR mutations then your body will function better on so many levels by getting the methylfolate that you’ve literally been starving for, so it’s worth it to find the right dose and the right way of taking methylfolate for you.  This can save you from heart disease, stroke, heart attack, periodontal disease, anxiety, insomnia, depression, mood disorders, reproductive problems, even birth defects in your children. Just because you have methylfolate side effects doesn’t mean your body doesn’t need it, so keep trying to find the way that works for you.

Recovering From Overeating: Because Shankenstein is a Thing.

So – some weekends just really need a whole lot of indulgence (read: overeating). Those same weekends seem to also need some serious remediation, so here’s the story and the toolkit.

Recovering from Overeating:

For those of you who know me or are my clients, you know that I am as much about giving yourself what makes you happy (even if it’s not always healthy ) as I am about taking care of your health because when it comes down to it, those are the same things.  So this weekend, for a variety of reasons, what I needed was some major feel-good overeating indulgence that doesn’t fall into the health category.  This indulgence fell into the yummy category and included  a nice gin martini and some amazing fries. Also something called “Shankenstein” which NoVa restaurant here in Austin claims is fried pork and beef terrine (read: the most awesome salty, fatty, crispy-on-the-outside deep fried meat thingy ever), blueberry doughnuts and lemongrass panna cotta with (not joking) meringue “fruit loops” suspended in it. My god.

What that actually amounts to is five million calories (approx) and about a gallon of fat, seasoned with sugar and washed down with alcohol. Quite obviously when I indulge I do it big. It was actually pretty awesome and probably not what my body wanted but certainly what my soul needed – I wouldn’t do it any differently.  So for you I will share my tools to make this necessary soul-salving awesomeness not quite so health-damning. Here’s the recovering from overeating or overindulging tool-kit:

Great night to be recovering from overeating in Austin, TX

Great night to indulge.

  1. Take your enzymes.  I know I’m not good with wheat and gluten (ahem. doughnuts) but some days, like this weekend,  I do indulge.  For me, it’s important to have an enzyme that I can take with my food that covers the wheat and gluten thing (the ingredient to look for is DPP-IV) but for you, it might be something else.  More lipase or even ox bile if you know you don’t handle overeating fats well, lactase if you’re lactose intolerant. Protease if you have trouble with heavy protein-rich meals or betaine HCl if your digestion is weak overall. I took mine and they helped me recover and spared me some of the wheat-related fallout the next day. Obviously, if your big indulgence isn’t food-related then you can probably skip the enzymes, but if there’s food in there then plan ahead.
  2. Don’t forget your water. It sounds mundane, but obviously, I’m asking my body to process a whole boat-load of salt, sugar, and alcohol so I’d better give it some extra water to help flush those things out effectively. Otherwise, I’d turn into stay-puffed marshmallow woman and feel horrid the next day (for the record I did just fine). Not just the usual amount of water, but actually extra water to help your body recover from the extra indulgence.
  3. Move around some. Thankfully the uber-meal was followed by walking and then dancing.  Not a whole lot, but enough to remind my body not to settle and congeal into a lump of poorly-moving blobbiness.  The walking and little bit of dancing reminded my body that it can use some of those calories for actual fuel and not just store them away as a keepsake of this evening. Outside of that, gentle activity helps to keep blood flowing and actually encourage my body to work through all of that.
  4. Indulge, but slowly.  The best meals are enjoyed slowly and in good company. When the meal is a several hour process there is time for your body to cope with the onslaught of overeating and overindulgence and not get over-full or skimp on the digestive steps that will make this recovery quick the next day.  Take the time to laugh, share stories and generally connect over the meal and it will all work out much more easily. Obviously the same goes for alcohol.  Slamming the drinks down will only get you blind-drunk, where savoring gets you the joy of a great drink or two without the accompanying hangover and ridiculousness.
  5. Get what really matters to you.  Good food is my thing. It’s my go-to happy place of choice if things are rough or rocky. Not just food, or lots of food, but *good* food. Given the options, it would have been easier to just have crappy food but a lot of it and really overeat – but that wouldn’t feed my soul the same way.  Better for me to indulge in the thing that will really make me happy and get it out of my system. There are always substitutes, but that kind of defeats the purpose. If you’re going to indulge choose the thing that will feed your soul the most. For me, that’s great food and dancing (camping is right up there, but harder to arrange). For someone else it might be a day trip out of town, an entire day in bed with Netflix, a pedicure, a massage or whatever else you can think of that brings joy.
  6. Drop the guilt.  Guilt, although we’re culturally good at it, doesn’t actually help anyone do anything at all (except if you’re really looking to give yourself an ulcer. Then it will help). Life is difficult and messy and wonderful and painful and sometimes it requires a little bit of taking-care-of-you.  In fact, I think life requires far more taking-care-of-you than most people do.  I’m not talking about the things you do because they’re easy (like fast food) or the things you do because you’re burned out (like reality TV) – I’m talking about the things that help you to feel alive and joyful and like yourself even when things aren’t going the way you want them to.  Now – if that thing for you is reality TV then by all means, but choose your pleasure to maximize your benefit. Give yourself the gift of an indulgence with permission – no strings attached. No guilt, no judgment, no negative self-talk. None of that. Overeat or indulge, recover, and move on.
  7. Enjoy every second. It’s so easy, especially when you’re not in a great place, to choose your big treat and then not notice that you’re having it because you’re so busy thinking about your troubles.  Drop the worry, skip the troubles and really focus on your gift-to-you (SHANKENSTEIN).  If you notice your mind wandering in a dark direction, just focus again on whatever it is that you’re enjoying at the moment.  Indulgence as a form of meditation?  Oh yes.  That’s the whole point.
  8. Know the difference between self-indulgence and self-destruction.  There is a difference between enjoying a great meal with alcohol, and enjoying a bottle of alcohol, a blackout and a trip to the ER to get your stomach pumped. Likewise enjoying a fantastic meal is self-indulgence where eating your way through a bag of mini snickers and a box of doughnuts is overeating à la self-destruction. Indulgence makes you happy and isn’t exactly healthy and probably isn’t part of your normal routine, but it’s also not going to do you any serious damage. If you get into the seriously damaging category then you’re probably crossing over into self-destruction, self-punishment, and self-harm.  Give yourself an evening of overeating, recover and be glad for it, but keep your eyes open. Don’t wander down the road of self-destruction because those lessons often turn out to be much harder than whatever the original trouble is that you’re dealing with.

The bottom line is to enjoy your indulgence when you need it and then get on with actually dealing with whatever it is that’s getting you down in the first place. Recovering from overeating isn’t a big deal as long as you plan accordingly and don’t just keep overeating. Sometimes you really do need to make your joy a priority.

Positive Remembering: Amazing Lifehack for Trauma

You have the capacity to change the past through positive remembering, no matter how horrific it was or how much you’re still troubled by it. This amazing lifehack for trauma is so simple and yet so effective. Your brain is amazing.  A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.

You have no idea how much your brain is capable of and what it can actually accomplish – it genuinely is the greatest, most wonderful tool you will ever possess. Your brain can actually change and adapt to do whatever you ask it to do – including re-write your history.  The darkest, scariest, most nauseating parts of your history as well as the annoying, the humiliating and the humbling.  Your brain is the tool you need to heal those old wounds and to get happier because of it. Let’s call it Positive Remembering, and it’s such a powerful lifehack to cure a bad past.

All of us have bad memories from our own lives – some of those are little snapshot memories of one particular incident (like almost stepping on a snake in the woods) and some are entire chapters (like that whole relationship with He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, or that little thing called “childhood”). For many people these memories are there, but not called upon. Stuff happened and they’ve moved on and it doesn’t really matter. For others these memories are part of waking life – popping up at random times and interfering with emotions, happiness and even health. Positive remembering is the key to reducing the impact of those past traumas on your life now.

Positve remembering changes your mental stories. Once Upon A Time... It’s all just a story – why not make it a better one? Practice positive remembering

Positive remembering is a way to free yourself slowly from these negative memories and re-frame the whole experience into something less harmful, less emotionally charged and to allow some healing to happen.

Positive Remembering in the First 24 Hours

The first 24 hours after a trauma is a powerful time to impact the way your brain holds and stores that information.  In those 24 hours if you can focus on the good things that are happening, the people who love you, the help you received, the blue of the sky while you were flat on your back, the wonderful things in your life. By doing this the overall impact of the trauma will be greatly diminished because your brain lays down that memory differently and with less emotional charge. Of course this is also the hardest time to focus on the good things, and for many of us the traumas that concern us were years, if not decades, ago. Never fear, positive remembering works for long-past memories too.

Changing Your Past To Change Your Present

If you know that some negative part of your past is still there, haunting you then it’s time to take some proactive steps to changing that situation.  Nothing you do can change the past, but the great news is you don’t have to. You just have to change the way you think and feel about the past. We’re going to call that Positive Remembering. Here are some of the tools you can use to change those memories.  Try to use one of these, quickly, every time you are confronted with a negative memory and soon that memory will lose it’s power over you:

  • Feel Your Body – Notice what reaction your body has to the memory. Often you’ll clench your jaw, tense your shoulders, your heart rate will accelerate or your stomach will start grinding because your body is re-living the stress, anxiety, sadness or fear from that moment.  Consciously bring your attention to that part of your body and instead of focusing on the memory, focus on relaxing that body part. You can pretend there is a warm, soft light shining there, or the feeling of a warm blanket, or just imagine that part turning to water or melting.  If it’s your heart rate think of something that would calm your heart rate down like lying on a beach or getting a massage.  I know, there is a little bit of a “go to your happy place” feel to this, but if your body lets go of the tension from the memory then you’ll start to re-wire your brain to let go of some of the tension too.
  • Banish The Boggart – For anyone who isn’t a Harry Potter fan, a boggart is a type of creature that takes the shape of whatever you fear most (your memory). To banish it, you must laugh at it in a genuine and meaningful way.  This produced all kinds of hilarity in books and movies as the boggart of a hated teacher was forced into a hideous and embarrassing drag-grandmother ensemble, thereby giving Harry and friends a great laugh.  Much like boggarts, memories can be changed too. If you had a horrible car wreck that still wakes you up in cold sweats, you can positive remember it: picture the same scene but in bumper cars and give the whole thing a cartoon “boing” noise.  Make the whole thing as ludicrous as possible.  This works even with the really scary memories too. Just be creative – what would make that scene silly or ridiculous. Every time you have that negative emotionally charged memory, banish it with your newer, sillier version. It’s really hard at first, espcially if those memories are still raw but the more you practice the easier it becomes and the less that memory bothers you.
  • Give Yourself a Gift – Memories are yours to play with. Nobody says they have to actually look like what happened. They can look like whatever you want them to.  So why not give that story a happy ending?  Chances are in your bad memory you  needed something that you didn’t have at that moment. Positive remember it! If you’re remembering childhood trauma you may have needed a big hug from a kind adult and a teddy bear – so just add that part in. Any time that memory pops up, just add in the part where you get what you need at the end.  Sure bad stuff happened, but start telling your brain that at the end you got what you needed and your brain will start believing you.

Positive Remembering: Your Memories are Just Stories

I know this sounds kind of silly and ridiculous, but the point is that the things in your memory are over – they aren’t happening right this second.  Right this second you’re just fine. You are breathing, your heart is beating, you’ve had enough food and water to stay alive until this moment.  Whatever that bad memory was, it didn’t actually kill you and at the end of the day that means it’s all kind of okay (I believe at the end of the day it’s *always* okay even after the whole death thing, but for the sake of brevity we don’t have to discuss that part today).

Essentially those memories are just stories you tell yourself over and over again so lets just change the story into something you can live with, something that doesn’t make you feel hollow, something that will let you heal and move forward. Positive remember it and start to get out of the clutches of negative memory. It’s your story – so make it whatever you want it to be: RE-member it differently.  You’re not trying to sell yourself on this new version being the truth, you’re just softening up the whole picture every time it comes up and by doing that, you also soften up the effect it has on your overall level of joy. Positive remembering helps you rediscover the joyfulness buried under the rubble.

13 Small Choices That Can Change Your Brain

One of my favorite bloggers of all time – Harvard neuropsychiatrist Jon Lieff, MD – wrote a fabulous article for MindBodyGreen about the 13 simple changes you can make to change your brain to have a healthier brain, and more happiness today. These are choices to change your brain and your life.

13 Small Choices That Can Change Your Brain and your Life In Great Ways:

Make Choices to Change Your Brain and your Life! Walk in Nature Make Choices to Change Your Brain and your Life. Walk in Nature – it’s a detoxification for your mind.

Choices to Change Your Brain and Get Happy Now:

  • Get plenty of sleep – Sleep allows the brain to clean debris between cells and increases memory.
  • Take naps – Back to the sleep thing. Naps consolidate learning, increase memory and enhance learning.
  • Practice positive remembering – Changing your memories can reduce the emotional impact of trauma.
  • Get regular exercise – Exercise is critical for brain function and brain health.
  • Eat real food – Processed foods can unbalance your brain chemistry the way a drug would. Eat real food, whole food. Things that grow and live on the earth.
  • Focus on the Positive – What you choose to think about is what your brain becomes best at thinking about so choose well. You can learn optimism just like any other habit.
  • Nurture positive relationships – Loneliness is a killer. Get out there and care about people.
  • Do positive things for your community – Generosity and community service boost your immunity and just plain make you happier.
  • Believe in your capacity for extraordinary experiences and talents (!!!) that is all that needs saying about that.
  • Know that nature is more intelligent than you realize – You are surrounded by intelligent animals, birds and even insects.  Stop to marvel, just a little.
  • Walk in nature – “Being in nature is like mental cleansing or fasting”  It’s not just me that thinks so  – this is straight from a Harvard neuropsychiatrist’s mouth.
  • You have free will – use it! – Don’t fall prey to random media suggestions, advertising hypnosis and malicious gossip. You have free will and if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. Making choices to change your life means making choices to change who influences you.

Can you see why I’m such a big fan of Dr. Lieff (here’s his blog btw)? Today is the day. Make one small choice to change your life. You will never regret making more time for nature. You will never regret loosening the hold of the office gossip mill or the advertising avalanche. Make choices to change your life just a little each day. Imagine how much everything could change in a month? A year? Five years? Choose to change your life now.