Leslie Booker offers step-by-step instruction.In the four foundations of mindfulness, as laid out in the famed Satiphatthana Sutta, the Buddha offers four postures for practicing meditation:
A monk knows, when he is walking,
“I am walking”;
he knows, when he is standing,
“I am standing”;
he knows, when he is sitting,
“I am sitting”;
he knows, when he is lying down,
“I am lying down”;
or just as his body is disposed
so he knows it.
Walking meditation is often described as a meditation in motion.
In this practice, you place your full attention on the process of walking—from the shifting of the weight in your body to the mechanics of placing your foot. Walking meditation is an integral part of retreat life in many traditions and is used to offset and shift the energy of sitting practice. It is a bridge to integrate practice into daily life and can be more accessible than a sitting practice for many people.
Find an unobstructed space where you can walk in a straight line for about ten feet. This short walking distance is the instruction given in the Theravada tradition. Others prefer to walk for greater distances. Bring your attention down to your feet and slowly shift your weight from side to side and front to back. Being in bare feet can bring more awareness to what needs to happen in the body to create balance.
Coming into physical stillness, lift the crown of your head up, slide your shoulders down and away from your ears, and lift your chest with dignity and pride, as if you were a king or a queen. You can clasp your hands behind your back, hold them in front of your body, or let your arms hang loosely to the side.
Lifting your right leg, notice the weight redistribution in your body. Place your attention on what the left side of your body needs to do to hold your full weight—spreading the toes, engaging the core. Extend the right leg forward, placing the heel on the ground and rolling onto the ball of the foot. As your weight shifts forward, notice how the heel of your left foot begins to lift. Swing the left leg forward and repeat.
Adding verbal cues is a great way to establish synchronization and rhythm within the body. As the mind begins to wander, use a simple verbal cue like “lifting, moving, placing” as a reminder to bring the mind back to the body. Incorporating a gatha, a short verse to support practice, is a common technique used in Thich Nhat Hanh’s communities.
Here’s one that might be used for walking meditation:
(Breathing in) “I have arrived”; (Breathing out) “I am home.”
(Breathing in) “In the here”;
(Breathing out) “In the now.”
(Breathing in) “I am solid”;
(Breathing out) “I am free.”
(Breathing in) “In the ultimate”; (Breathing out) “I dwell.”
When you get to the end of your short walking path, come to a complete stop and take a breath. Turn a quarter of the way, maybe taking another breath, then fully turn all the way around, facing where you just came from. Start over with finding your posture and establishing your balance. Again lift, move, and place the foot.
At the beginning of this practice, you might notice that your steps are very calculated and robotic. See if you can begin to find more fluidity as you connect the breath with movement, perhaps letting go of the phrases and just allowing this to be a fully embodied practice. Start with about a ten-minute session, slowly building up to 30–45 minutes.
When you have come to the end of your practice, stand still, seeing where there is energy in the body and what is still. Notice what has risen to the top and what has been let go of.
The winter season can be welcomed as a time to enjoy cozy nights on the couch with your loved ones and your favorite Netflix shows. But after months on end cooped up inside with a dwindling queue of episodes to watch, winter can quickly become depressing. You are not alone in this feeling. About 20 to 35 percent of people suffer from mild to severe forms of seasonal affective disorder, or SAD for short.
So what's the science behind this? When we take a look at our brain, we see that one of the biggest culprits behind these winter blues is a neurotransmitter called serotonin. Serotonin is in charge of keeping you happy, and during the winter months, serotonin transporter (SERT) levels rise by up to 5 percent, which translates to less serotonin in the brain. This depletion of your feel-good neurotransmitter leaves you feeling depressed and lethargic.
Thankfully, there are many things that you can do to naturally up serotonin production and balance your hormones. So without further ado, read on for your guide to SAD!
1. Support methylation
Methylation is a process that happens one billion times every single second in your body. It is responsible for a lot of different aspects of your health, including making feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin. B vitamins are the fuel behind methylation, so make sure to consume plenty of foods rich in B vitamins like grass-fed beef, organ meat, and folate-containing dark leafy greens.
2. Fuel your brain.
Your brain is comprised of 60 percent fat, and 25 percent of your body’s total cholesterol is located your brain as well. When dealing with the blues, it’s key to continue to fuel your brain with powerful superfoods. When you deprive your brain of what it's made of, you aren’t doing your happy neurotransmitters any favors. By upping your fat intake, you give serotonin and other feel-good chemicals an environment to thrive in. My go-to choices are coconut oil, ghee, wild-caught fish, and everyone’s favorite, avocado. Pass the guac, please!
3. Optimize your protein intake.
Tyrosine is an amino acid found in protein sources such as fish and meat. This helps your body make DOPA, which then coverts to the neurotransmitter dopamine. It is particularly high in wild-caught salmon, cage-free organic eggs, and grass-fed ground beef, so stock up on these during your next shopping trip. If you aren’t too fond of meat, you can turn to legumes, nuts, and seeds, as they contain tyrosine as well.
4. Supplement your sunshine vitamin.
Sun is the most bioavailable form of vitamin D, and it is the one nutrient that every single cell of your body needs to function properly—hormones and mood included! It's synthesized by your body when your skin is exposed to sunlight, which is way less likely to happen in the winter. And since it's impossible to get enough vitamin D from food alone, supplementation can be necessary. A normal range should be between 60 and 80 ng/mL. So depending on where your starting levels are, a good daily dose is between 2,000 and 6,000 IUs per day.
5. Try St. John's wort.
This natural herb is recommended more often than prescription medications for depression in Germany! More research needs to be done to determine just how effective it is, but long-term studies have shown its ability to help stabilize mood.
6. Heal your gut.
Medical literature often refers to your gut as your "second brain" since 95 percent of serotonin is produced and stored in your gut. By making sure your gut is healthy—by bringing in a supplement or probiotic-rich fermented foods—it will help alleviate the feelings of melancholy.
7. Take nature's chill pill.
What can’t adaptogens do? These system balancers of the plant and herb kingdom restore imbalances wherever they are needed in your body. Mucuna pruriens, in particular, is uber-powerful when dealing with the winter blues. It contains high levels of L-DOPA, which is the precursor to your neurotransmitter dopamine. Try adding some to your morning smoothie!
8. Try light therapy.
Blue-light boxes are mini sunlight machines and can improve the winter blues and symptoms of depression by mimicking the sun.
9. Wake with the sun.
Dawn simulators work as alarm clocks, but instead of a loud sound to wake you, there is a gradual increase in light that is similar to a sunrise. Look for ones with full-spectrum light that is the most similar to natural sunlight.
10. Experiment with aromatherapy.
Call your favorite essential oil company and place an order for some essential oils—STAT! Studies have shown that lavender essential oil produces a calming effect similar to the anti-anxiety medication lorazepam, which works by boosting serotonin levels.
11. Get moving.
After an intense workout, it’s not uncommon to experience an intense feeling of happiness, often referred to as "runner’s high." This is due to the increased production of endorphins your body releases after participating in some sort of exercise. In the winter, choose activities that boost your heart rate like HIIT training sessions that can be done indoors.
12. Treat yourself to the spa.
Infrared saunas are great for detoxing and reducing inflammation as well as reducing stress. I like to use my personal sauna throughout the winter to work up a sweat and Zen out. Chronic stress can do a number on your gut, which as we have seen, can affect serotonin levels.
Here's what you need to know about the flu. Remember, even if you've gotten the flu shot, you're not immune to contracting the flu. In fact, recent studies show the flu shot reduces the risk of flu by 40 to 60 percent when the vaccine virus is closely matched to the circulating virus, but this year the CDC estimates that the shot reduces risk by around 32 percent, while other reports put this number closer to 10 percent. Even in a good year, that leaves a large margin for illness.
For starters, it's important to remember that the flu is viral—meaning antibiotics aren't effective at fighting it. It also has two different strains, types A and B, and subtypes within them. There can be multiple sub-types of the flu circulating at the same time, and the virus can change over time, either slowly (which is called an antigenic drift) or rapidly (called an antigenic shift). This is why it can be hard to formulate a perfect flu vaccine year after year—and why protecting yourself in other ways is vital.
How to prevent the flu. Luckily, there are a lot of ways you can reduce your risk of getting sick from the flu this year. Most of them have everything to do with strengthening your immune system by healing your gut and reducing stress.
Here's where to start:
1. Simply wash your hands.
Hand washing is your first defense against any infection, including the flu. Use warm water and soap and wash your hands thoroughly. If you don’t have access to soap and water, hand sanitizer if your next best bet. Remember to wash your hands before meals and after commuting or being in other public spaces, like the gym, grocery store, or library. Cleaning your cellphone regularly is also a smart move.
2. Reduce stress.
Chronic stress can decrease your immune cell numbers and increase certain mechanisms that suppress your immune system. It also promotes inflammation, which makes you more susceptible to illness. Activities like meditation, journaling, exercise, and spending time outdoors are all proven ways to relieve stress.
3. Prioritize gut health.
We should focus on our gut health year-round, but it’s particularly important during flu season because a thriving microbiota leads to greater immune response. Taking a daily probiotic containing lactobacillus and bifidobacteria can improve your gut health. Eating whole foods, including lots of greens and other veggies, also helps to feed your gut bacteria beneficial prebiotics.
4. Get your vitamin D.
An estimated 42 percent of Americans have a vitamin D deficiency, and this number may be higher during the wintertime, when we get less sunlight, which is necessary to produce vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with an increased susceptibility to infection due to its role in immune function. Get your levels checked and ask your doctor about supplementing if you’re low. Fish like salmon, mackerel, and tuna are also good natural sources of vitamin D.
If you do get the flu:
Here are your go-to natural flu remedies and treatments. If you find yourself feeling ill this flu season (which runs through March), symptoms may include fever, chills, runny or stuffy nose, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, fatigue, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. Not everyone will have all of the symptoms, and the severity of symptoms can range from mild to severe.
If some or all of these symptoms sound all too real, try these natural remedies to combat flu symptoms, and contact your doctor if symptoms worsen:
1. Stay home.
Once you have the flu, you’re contagious for one day prior to experiencing symptoms and up to seven days after you start feeling sick. The virus can spread to others up to 6 feet away through droplets in the air just by breathing and also through coughing or sneezing. Touching a contaminated object can also spread the flu. Staying home is the best way to prevent spreading the flu to other people.
2. Get extra rest.
Don’t feel bad about sleeping in or napping while you’re home sick: It can actually help you recover faster from the flu. A recent animal study discovered there is a specific protein found in mammal brains that interacts with the sleep-regulating protein interleukin 1 to signal the body to sleep more when infected with the influenza virus. The extra sleep may help the body to bounce back more efficiently by facilitating an immune response, according to research in Sleep.
3. Get upright.
Yes, you want to sleep more, but you also need to spend some time with your lungs in a vertical position, even if you are just watching Netflix. Influenza is a respiratory virus, so allowing your lungs to open up by being upright can make coughing more productive. You can also lie on your back propped up on yoga blocks under your upper spine and back of the head, breathing deeply, which can help the lungs open. This is important for preventing complications from the flu, like pneumonia. A vertical posture will also aid with lymphatic drainage, which helps to remove toxins.
4. Stay hydrated.
When you’re sleeping more, feeling lousy, and outside your normal routine, it’s easy to forget to drink water throughout the day. But hydration will ensure that your kidneys have enough water to do their job of eliminating waste and fluids and also keep the rest of the processes in your body running normally, allowing your natural defenses to take over. If you have a fever, it can also worsen dehydration and vice versa, so fluids are key. Hot liquids, like broth or herbal (noncaffeinated) tea, will help to loosen mucus and are easier for the body to absorb.
5. Try immune-boosting foods.
There’s no cure-all food for the flu, but it won’t hurt to try foods known to assist the immune system or ease symptoms. Fresh gingerhas been shown to have antiviral properties, while turmeric (with a pinch of black pepper to aid absorption) is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Berries are another good source of inflammation-fighting compounds. In general, try to stick to whole foods with lots of fruits and veggies to get a dose of vitamins and minerals that will strengthen your defenses.
6. Take these supplements.
At Parsley Health we recommend professional-grade supplements including vitamin D3/K2, which we recommend increasing to 10,000 units daily when you are sick (and then reducing this back to 5,000 units for day-to-day). We also recommend high-dose buffered vitamin C, at 2,000 mg twice daily, which has antiviral properties, especially against the flu during early stages, and an herbal immune-booster.
And always, if you have a fever above 102 degrees F, are unable to keep down liquids, or are in respiratory distress, visit your doctor or the emergency room. The above does not replace your personal doctor’s medical advice.
When tragedy strikes, surrendering to your sadness and staying in bed all day sometimes seem like the only option.But it's possible to have an entirely different reaction to a serious setback: You can actually come back from something hurtful or tragic stronger and with a better perspective on life. This theory, a trending topic of discussion in the world of psychology, is called transformative resilience. And transformative resilience isn't something you have or don't have in your DNA—experts agree that it's something you can learn.
"Transformative resilience is the art of realizing you can really only succeed from failure and tragedy," explains Ilene Ruhoy, M.D., Ph.D. "We learn to navigate our lives through the downturns since it helps us to understand who we are, what we want, what we need, and how best to serve our purpose."
Understanding how transformative resilience works. When we get knocked down, it's hard to imagine whatever difficult time we're going through ever being something we grow from. But Alison Stone, LCSW, says healing from emotionally difficult experiences is a lot like healing from a physical injury. "Perhaps your physical injury healed on its own through rest, or maybe you needed medical intervention like a cast or physical therapy. Regardless, most of us have witnessed our bodies recover," she explains. "Transformative resilience works because our brains, like our bodies, are hard-wired to heal and adapt. Our brains are very capable of taking in new information and using that to guide our behavior moving forward."
Of course, sometimes that adaptation doesn't happen naturally. In that case, Stone explains, most people seek therapy to help move the process along. Sometimes that adaptation or healing doesn’t occur so seamlessly, which is often why people seek therapy."
Who displays transformative resilience? If you're thinking, That sounds great, but it doesn't sound like me, think again. If you've ever stepped foot in a therapist's office—or even thought about it—you're likely to experience transformative resilience at some point. "I’d say most people who come into my office are displaying transformative resilience," says Stone. "If you're willing to be open and vulnerable in order to heal, I think that’s something that should be celebrated."
A more concrete example Stone sees often is people who come to her because they've been hurt by someone close to them. "Often the instinct is to want to change the other person. Well, we aren’t going to have much luck changing other people. But, we can heal the wounds inflicted and decide if or how we want to participate in these relationships going forward," she explains. "I’ve also seen how crucial a shift in perspective is. Many people blame themselves for traumas they have suffered, and releasing this burden can ignite their inner resiliency."
How to set yourself up for transformative resilience.With the right training, anyone can develop transformative resiliency," explains Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., author of Better Than Perfect: 7 Strategies to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love. "It is a skill that can be learned and practiced."
Lombardo emphasizes that the belief that you have the power to respond to a specific situation the way you want to is key to transformative resilience. "You can 'train' yourself by looking for positives, even in less-than-positive events," she says. "For example, looking back in your life, when were some times when you were upset about what was going on, only to realize in the long run it was a blessing? Maybe your relationship ended, or you did not get a job you wanted at the time. And yet, with time, you found a better partner or work."
It may not be easy, but remembering the power of transformative resilience when you're going through a hard time is crucial to coming out stronger than ever on the other end.
Fascinated by the concept of transformative resilience? Here are five things resilient people do differently.
M.Om., Dipl. Acu (NCCAOM) L.Ac.
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