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mindful minute

We are freed and imprisoned by our thoughts

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Mark Fontaine

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A weird dual form of waking consciousness has emerged in our modern world. Many of us struggle nightly with poor sleep and we become chronically tired. At the same time, the excessive stimulation the wired world drives us to feel wired ourselves.

 This is rapidly becoming the new normal. We see wired people everywhere– friends, family, neighbors and co-workers. Insomnia is becoming endemic.

 Many people with insomnia report feeling energized during the day. Yet, they also complain of exhaustion.

 Insomnia is associated with hyperarousal. Do you lead an excessive, turbo-charged life? Racing brain? Rapid heart rate? Feeling flushed or hot? The result is dysfunctional hormonal rhythms which serve to impair sleep and hide daytime sleepiness.

 Hyperarousal pulls us one direction and sleepiness and fatigue pull us in the other. We are stretched by equal forces and going nowhere. Depressing, isn’t it?  We are stuck.

 Modern life overwhelms us with information and entertainment options. It is easy to become addicted to activity and productivity. Walking fast? Talking fast? Speeding?

 We live in a world of neverending motion. Slowing and stopping is discouraged. Has your world world lost its sense of rhythm? The natural world is rhythmic, it is tempered by rest. Things come and they go. Seasons change. Tides rise and fall. The sun rises and sets.

 Have you forgotten how to rest? Have you lost your brakes?  The solution may not be a grand vacation and certainly not inebriation or tranquilizers. As ordinary or boring as it may seem, the prescription for managing the hyperarousal epidemic is learning and regularly practicing true rest.

 Slow down and then stop. Come to a complete stop. True rest is not simply the absence of activity. Cultive a state of serenity. Meditation? Yoga? Deep breathing exercises? Long slow walks in the woods?

 Slow the body and mind. Learn to modulate the velocity of your waking life. Build a bridge to quality sleep and dreams.

 In a world gone crazy with motion, seek to step out of the herd mentality. March to a different drum. Find peace in the rhythms of nature and rediscover your own true nature.

 

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How do we create more happiness?  Is the key to happiness found in letting go? Are you willing to give up the following 5 things?

1. The habit of blaming. Blaming others does not absolve you of taking responsibility for your own well being. It takes away energy from you moving forward and finding a solution.

2.  The need to impress. Accept who you are. Embrace your flaws, skills and vulnerability. Get comfortable in your own skin.

3. Being a victim.  Bad things happen to good people. Life can be unfair. If you identify as a victim rather than a victor you can not nurture your ability to move beyond unhappiness.

4. Feeling entitled.  If you live your life with the feeling that you are owed things, you will be disappointed. Be grateful for what you have. See positive things as bonuses rather than owed expectations.

5. Pretending. Are you trying to show the world that you are flawless in hopes that you will be liked? There is beauty in our vulnerability. If we are authentic, we open ourselves for a true connection with others.

Deciding what not to do may be more important than deciding what to do. In an age of excess everything, can we add value to our lives by subtracting? If you find yourself already overburdened, stressed and miserable, loosen those white knuckles and let go. You have a lot to lose. And, that may be a good thing.  

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Mark Fontaine

Are you overfed and undernourished? Most people in North America are nutritionally deficient.

It is a mistake is to think that if you eat a lot of calories, your diet delivers the nutrients your body needs.  The average diet is too energy dense (too many calories) but nutrient poor (not enough vitamins and minerals).  These “empty calories” confuse the metabolism and pack on pounds.

Processed food is less nutritious. It is stuffed with high fructose corn syrup, refined flours and trans fats. These foods are inexpensive and convenient. Our grandparents wouldn’t recognize most of the foods filling the aisles of our grocery stores today. Most store bought foods today are laced with chemicals, such as nitrates, used to process and preserve.

Soil is being depleted. Industrial farming is depleting the nutrients in farmland. Most vegetables harvested today have fewer nutrients than those just two generations ago. Because foods contain fewer nutrients, the servings we do eat don’t deliver as much nutrition as before. Fewer nutrients lowers immunity and increases vulnerability to chronic disease and obesity. If your body doesn’t get the right nutrition, it asks for more food. This creates a cycle of craving, eating more, getting fatter, but still not feeling satisfied and craving more.

Refining kills nutrients. Foods are stripped of their nutrients during the refining process. A primary example is wheat.  Refining whole wheat flour into white reduces the fiber by 80 percent and reduces essential minerals, vitamins, and phytonutrients. Food manufacturers sometimes add synthetic versions of the most important vitamins and minerals back into food and call the food “enriched.” Beware of “enriched foods” because theses products have been stripped in the first place.

How can I get more nutrient-rich calories?

  • Eat more organic plant-based foods: Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains They are high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds, fiber, and essential fatty acids. These foods eliminate many triggers of chronic illness, such as saturated fat, trans fat, sugar and toxic food additives.
  • Use healthy plant-based fats: extra-virgin olive oil, flax, nuts, and seeds.
  • Eat modest amounts of lean animal protein: fish, turkey, chicken or wild game.                                                                                                                                                                                                                         
  • Food is your best medicine. Whole foods have nutrients that work synergistically to optimize your health. They reduce inflammation, boost detoxification, balance hormones, and provide powerful antioxidant protection.  If you choose to eat mindfully, you can repair the underlying causes of disease.

 

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SMART Goals

Written by Mark Fontaine

Begin with the end in mind.  Visualize the outcome.  Create a clear mental picture.  Resist the temptation to fall into the popular multi-tasking mentality that confuses frenetic activity with accomplishment.

Your life is a work of art.  The key is to start with an empty canvas.  It is important to approach goal setting with a beginners mind.

When you choose to improve your life, you also improve the lives of those around you.  

There is a price for greatness and that is control over your thinking—each and every thought.  Be mindful that you can’t afford the luxury of a negative thought. 

S = Specific

M = Measurable

A = Attainable

R = Realistic

T = Timely

Specific

What are you going to do?  Why is this important to do at this time? How are you going to do it?  Be sure the goals you set are very specific, clear and easy to understand. Instead of setting a goal to lose weight or be healthier, set a specific goal to lose 2 inches off your waist or to walk 5 miles in an hour.

Measurable

If you can measure it, you can manage it.  You can see the change occur.

Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal you set. When you measure, you stay on track, reach your target dates, and experience the exhilaration of achievement. This will spur you forward.

Attainable

If your goals are too far out of reach, you probably won’t commit to pursuing them. You may start with the best of intentions, but the knowledge that it’s too much for you will undermine your efforts.

A goal needs to stretch you and it will need a real commitment from you. If you aim to learn how to speak French in one week, you know that isn’t achievable. Set a goal to master 500 words that first week.  When you’ve achieved that, aim to learn a further 500.  Your first success will motivate a second.

 Fix your gaze on the journey.  If you focus on the destination, it will slip through your grasp.

Realistic

A realistic goal may push your skills, knowledge and resources, but it shouldn’t break you.  Focusing on process goals as opposed to outcome goals can break the task into “do-able” pieces.  For instance, it may be more realistic to set a sub-goal of eating a salad for lunch each day for two weeks, rather than losing 2 inches off your waist over the next 90 days.  You can then choose to work towards reducing the amount of poor food choices gradually in the most realistic manner for you.

Be sure to set goals that you can attain with some effort. Too difficult and you set the stage for failure, but too low sends the message that you aren’t very competent.

Timely

Are you going to be finished this week, month or in 90 days?  An end point gives you a clear target to work toward.  Without a set time, the commitment is too vague.  Nothing happens because there’s no urgency.

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Mindful Fitness

 Written by Mark Fontaine

 Exercise does more than just tone your body, it boosts self-esteem, improves mood and revs up metabolism. So suck it up and get moving! 

 Set a goal. Working towards something helps motivation.  Make your goal realistic.  If you have been a couch potato for over a decade, don’t set yourself up for failure by having a goal of running a marathon by Easter.

 Record your progress. Write down what you have achieved regularly. Seeing how far you have come is a great motivator.

 Start small. Don’t over do it. You may want to consult your doctor. Stay at around 70 percent of your maximum heart rate at first. As the weeks progress and you become stronger and more fit, begin to up your intensity for best results.

Accommodate your body clock and schedule.  Are you a morning person? Do you have childcare obligations in the morning or after work?

Be consistent.  Say to yourself, “I eat every day so I need to burn calories every day.”

Make physical activity fun. Listen to music.  Run on a scenic trail.  Watch a favorite television program while you ride an exercise bicycle or walk on a tread mill.

If you find yourself tired of the same old exercise routine, chances are your body is too. It’s time to switch things up if you want to see results.  Do you need to enlist a friend to push you to workout when you really don’t want to and vice versa? Is it time to invest in a workout video game, or purchase a martial arts, yoga or pilates DVD?  Don’t be afraid to mix things up.

Work around the weather. You may need to run before sunrise or sunset to beat heat.  You may need to walk in a mall to avoid cold or rain. Do not let unfavorable weather sideline your program.

Eat mindfully.  It takes about 30 minutes on a treadmill to burn off the calories in a donut. Eat a couple donuts and you could be running for a very long time. Regular workouts will increase your metabolism and help you burn off even more calories between workouts. Do not exercise without proper nutrition.  If you workout on an empty stomach, you will burn muscle as opposed to fat.

Gradually increase the intensity of your workouts. Work toward 85 percent of your maximum heart rate for optimal results.

Throw in some circuit training. This is an exercise technique that uses a series of moves in rapid succession without any rest in between. For example: push-ups into squats followed by jumping jacks. This method allows your workouts to attack several muscle groups as well as strengthen and burn fat at the same time.

Another way to intensify is to try incorporating high intensity interval training. This simply means working short 30 to 60 second bouts of cardio into your strength training routine.

It is very important to be mindful of your form when exercising.  This will not only help prevent injuries, it is the key to getting the results you want quickly. Think quality over quantity. Take the time to perfect your form.

Remember, six pack abs are not about crunches. You cannot spot reduce fat. The best way to get washboard abs is by burning the fat off on top of the muscle through nutrition, cardio, and total body resistance training.

Are you pressed for time?  Each little thing helps.  Can you squeeze in 3-10 minute blocks into at least 5 days a week?  Be creative. 

Choose a nutrition plan that fits your body type.  It should be adjustable to your lifestyle so that you won’t get off track with your goals.  Be mindful that nutrition and fitness go hand in hand.  If you are not eating right you will not achieve the best results.

Buy clothing and shoes that are comfortable.  Good shoes may be expensive but are essential.  You may want to extend the life of your expensive shoes by limiting their use to indoor workouts. 

Never get down on yourself if you suffer a setback. We all skip a workout here or there.  The key is to not fall into a pattern of avoidance.  If you are feeling particularly tired, sore or sick, could you at least manage a 15 minute stretch routine?  If so, do it.  At least you will have done something and will have some momentum going forward.

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Drama Addiction

Written by Mark Fontaine

 I am sure that you are familiar with chemical addictions to intoxicating substances. An unappreciated addiction in our society is the addiction to drama.  It manifests itself in relationships.

If you are undertaking a healing journey to achieve more balance and peace within your life, drama comes up and tests you. People who really want serenity in their lives and relationships are turned off by drama.  When it appears, they quickly move on

 Drama addiction is actively encouraged in our media. Relationships in movies, reality T.V. and talk shows usually involve lying, deception, affairs and dysfunction in far greater proportion than real life. 

If you have an uninteresting or monotonous life, chaos helps you feel alive. If you feel a need to create drama in your life and relationships, you are likely compensating for emptiness. You may only feel alive when you get an adrenaline rush that lets you know you have manufactured another crisis.

Are you drawn to chaotic, unstable people? Do you feel compelled to help people who aren’t taking responsibility for the problems in their lives? Do you create unnecessary drama in your life by choosing chaotic people or by creating chaos yourself? Do you have an inability to handle stress without acting out?  Are you quick to lash out when other people say or do things you don’t like?  Do you accomplish little in your life plan because all the focus is on your toxic relationships?

If you recognize some of these traits in yourself, examine the types of relationships you have created. Did you mistake intensity, need, lust or drama for love? What did you do to promote the drama?  What provoking remarks or behaviors did you engage in?

Awareness is a first step. Then become mindful of your environment and relationship dynamics.  Pay attention.  Observe the people around you.  Watch how they relate to each other and to you.  Are you getting too involved in the outcome?  Should you simply be there to witness, not to participate?  Collect information that will help you deal with upcoming interactions you may be involved in. Begin to recognize when drama addiction is happening.

It is still up to you to choose whether to play the game or choose to see it for what it is and let it move by.  When you are looking to create peace and calm within your life, drama takes a back seat.  Adrenaline is no longer needed if we develop exciting lives, set goals, and find things to do that interest us.

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