How To Do What Makes You Happy

Happiness is one of the most individual universal feelings or states of being. Everyone wants to be happy; everyone wants happiness in their lives and hearts. For everyone of us, happiness has a different meaning; more than that even, that meaning can change in the course of our lives time and again. What used to make us happy at the age of 15 sure isn’t the same as what makes us happy at 40. And figuring out how to do what makes you happy – thats the great, big mystery.

Happy woman

Today I would like to ask you all for your help. I am trying to figure out what happiness means, trying to figure out if we can create something like a “happiness quotient”, if happiness can somehow be measured. Basically, I need to know what makes you all happy and if / how you actually manage to do those things that make you happy – or if you let time, schedules, responsibilities etc get in the way. What is happiness? Lets have a look:

What Is Happiness?

Most of us probably don’t believe we need a formal definition of happiness; we know it when we feel it, and we often use the term to describe a range of positive emotions, including joy, pride, contentment, and gratitude.

But to understand the causes and effects of happiness, researchers first need to define it. Many of them use the term interchangeably with “subjective well-being,” which they measure by simply asking people to report how satisfied they feel with their own lives and how much positive and negative emotion they’re experiencing. Happiness thus would be measured by the “amount” of positive feelings we experience at a certain moment in timespinning girl

Where Is Happiness?

The ancient Greeks were among the first to explore the link between the physical body and our emotional responses. They created the concept of the “four humors” – yellow bile, black bile, blood and phlegm – to explain the differences in personalities among humans. All four humors are present in each person; too much or too little of one created an imbalance that formed the notable personality traits in an individual.

Although the effects of phlegm and bile as humors have long since been dismissed as theories, after 2,400 years, the link between the physical and the emotional has come into focus once more. In the 21st century, the field of neuroscience proposes that happiness – like every other emotional experience – is the result of electrochemical reactions in the brain brought on by stimuli.happiness

 

This revelation is part of the 5 neuroscience revolutions:

  • the theories of Copernicus
  • Charles Darwin’s theory of Evolution
  • the theories and findings of Sigmund Freud
  • the discovery of DNA
  • Francis Crick’s happiness hypothesis: you, your joys and sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated neurons

Happiness is linked to a reward system in the brain associated with the release of pleasure inducing chemicals, a neurotransmitter / hormone called dopamine; Research has also implicated other hormones, like progesterone, oxytocin and testosterone, in producing other aspects of happiness, like a sense of well-being and connectedness with others.smiley and the brain

 

So – I guess most of us would say when being asked that they feel happiness in their hearts and not their brains. Maybe it is a combination of both?! The concept of happiness is obviously one of the huge cornerstones of neuroscience – the science of the brain; it is also without a doubt a matter of the heart. But the biggest question of all is: What is it for you? What makes you “happy”? How do you define happiness for yourselves? What are the little things that make you feel good? Is happiness a materialistic measure or can it never truly be achieved by materialistic means like money? In other words, can happiness be bought? How in your routines, your hectic and stressful everyday lives do you manage to do what makes you happy?

I am SO MUCH looking forward to your answers! I’d be happy to share thoughts and ideas with you all and I am excited to find out what happiness means for YOU! So please leave a comment and let me / us  know? I will certainly get back to you!! Thanks a lot and have a great, happy day –

Deb

 

 

Am I A Good Parent

Am I a good parent? Are you a good parent? What is a good parent? How do you classify? And why the hell does nobody ever ask: do I have “good” children? 🙂 Today, let’s talk about parenthood and it’s many myths.

I Love My Children BUT …

Have you ever uttered that sentence? And finished it with anything random like: I love my children – but they drive me up the wall sometimes. I love my children – but sometimes I just want to hide from them. I love my children – but if I hear the word “mom” or “dad” just ONE MORE TIME in the following 5 minutes I will blow a fuse! 😉 Sounds familiar? I just bet it does. Does that make you, me, or any of us a bad parent? In a world designed around and about our kids I believe and promote quite the opposite: no, our children aren’t perfect. Yes, we should look at them honestly and critically. They are neither the rosy cheeked cherubs we like to portray in their first baby pictures we send to family and friends (filled with pride and naively thinking looking at our children will always fill us with a sense of peace and deep love (LOL)), nor are they miniature sized  PTT’s  – parent targeting terrorists, who find a myriad of ways to terrorize us and blow up even the best thought out plans. Let’s face it people – our children are a bit of both of that, and then some.

angel and devil

As parents we go through such opposing emotions that the up’s and down’s involved in that are likely to drive us all a little bit insane. If you are a parent, you will know exactly what I am talking about. If you are planning a family …. kudos! You are in for a wild ride 😉pregnant belly

What Is A Parent?

A parent, by dictionary definition, is “a father or mother; one who begets or one who gives birth to or nurtures and raises a child; a relative who plays the role of guardian”

parenting

That doesn’t sound too complicated, does it? Hmmmm. I personally believe that the “simple” process of having children – pregnancy, giving birth – really isn’t what its all about;  in other words: putting children into this world doesn’t make us parents. It makes us biological creators, willingly or unwillingly, by choice or not, in a setting of planned parenthood or even as a sperm donor. The wild ride of becomming a parent may start once you learn of pregnancy, but in all honesty, it really begins to take form the moment there is a living, breathing tiny human who is completely and fully dependant on you in all aspects of it’s being. A lot of women may argue that parenthood means something different for them because of the hormonal desasters they (have to ) go through during and after pregnancy. Again, I disagree. The hormonal clusterfuck a woman is biologically exposed to during these times has a lot of purpose and can be explained when looking at it from an evolutionary standpoint. Pregnancy changes hormones and chemical receptors in the brain. However, we also know that neural changes do occur in the maternal behaviour of humans and certain non-human primates that enable mother–child bonding to occur outside the context of pregnancy and parturition and in the absence of lactation (breast feading). Basically that means that the hormones of pregnancy, parturition and lactation are not necessary for maternal or alloparental care – pregnancy doesn’t make a woman a mother / parent!

Why do women that have given birth tend to somehow feel superior to non-biological moms or dads in general? It’s all got to do with the endogenous opioid system.

Indeed, it has been suggested that the activation of this system at parturition and during suckling promotes the positive effect arising from maternal behavior and thus should support the process of bonding. During the early post-partum period, shortly after giving birth, a mother’s social interactions are almost exclusively with her infant, she is protective and caring toward her child; chemically the opiate receptors in the mother are blocked due to her hormonal state. If those young mothers are given medication to unblock those receptors, the protective and care responses are reduced. In other words: a mother’s possessive preoccupation with her infant child is nothing more than certain chemicals in her bloodstream causing that reaction. Its not an instinct or anything happening on an emotional or transcendental, even magical level. Its basic biology and could be artificially reproduced in ANYONE, regardless of gender or biological genetic link to the child. Biology gets more crafty even. The action of the endogenous opioid system after giving birth has influence on a part of the brain where our “reward system” is localized. We bond, it makes us feel good. Simple as that. So we bond more to make us feel better and eventually many of us fall into the trap of needing that bond in order to feel good and getting overwhelmed by the constant care of our children. Mothers – biological ones at that – experience preoccupations and rituals in the context of maternal care, and even before the birth of their baby they are obsessive with cleaning and creating a safe environment. After birth, safety is the major concern and mothers frequently check on their baby even at times when they know the baby is fine. Primates do the same, girls. What we are prone to do any monkey does – because their hormones dictate it, just as they do with us. Again, no magic involved. It is noteworthy that we see similar hormonal/chemical activity in psychopathological diseases such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and substance abuse as well as mild forms of addictive behaviour (gambling, video games, internet use, and consumption of caffeine and chocolate).

In essence: chemistry doesn’t make a parent a parent. Pregnancy or giving birth doesn’t make a parent a parent. I believe we will all come up with different definitions. I personally believe it is in many small things (like not being disgusted to whipe your own kids’ snotnose but in other kids it makes you cringe) and a few major ones. Lets look at the common conceptions/misconeceptions, shall we?

Good Parent / Bad Parent

  • safety. Thats non-negotiable. Your children should always, always, always feel that they are safe with you and that you are their safe haven.
  • provide home, nutrition, care – sure. Thats part of the “job description” also non-negotiable
  • now, the bummer: UNCONDITIONAL LOVE ……..

Unconditional Love

The basic idea behind unconditional love seems quite reasonable. You should love your children just for who they are, regardless of what they do. Children shouldn’t have to worry whether their actions will cause you to love them less. They should be able to count on your love no matter what.

unconditional parental love

But unconditional love is a rather new phenomenon. As recently as the 1950s, conditional love was the dominant parenting approach. It was a way to maintain control, foster conformity, and instill certain values and beliefs held by parents and society at large. Then the Sixties came along and with them a sort anti-reaction to the rigidity of the post-World-War-II era. People decided to raise their children with unconditional love. Within a short time, America went from “Love if you obey and behave” to “Love without limits.” And that, boys and girls, backfired big time. By taking away conditional love, parents lost their ability to influence their children. Parents gave their children carte blanche in the misguided belief that this freedom would build their self-esteem, foster maturity and independence, and allow them to become successful and happy people. The truth however was that what it actually did was hurt self-esteem, encourage immaturity, and ill prepare children for life in the adult world. What is the answer then, what is the solution, how do we become better parents who love their children not too much and not too little? Lets have an honest look at reality. Love, my dear fellow parents, is really the ultimate form of reward. Our children have to learn – and it is our job to teach them – that their actions have consequences. What more powerful inducement to good action is there for your child than the threat of losing your love? I know I know. A lot of you will almost recoil from that notion. But listen: we all do that EVERY DAY we just don’t realize it…..

I think we should give up on our belief that unconditional love exists. Most things in life have strings attached and love is no different. In reality, you constantly use love to reward or punish your children’s behavior. When you show disapproval toward your children, you are actually showing them that your love can be momentarily withheld, that your love is, in fact, conditional. For example, you probably do not act lovingly when your children are disobedient, selfish, whiny, or are cruel to their siblings. Are you truly withholding your love in these situations? Probably not; you still love them. But children are not sophisticated enough to tell the difference between “We disapprove of your behavior” and “Because of what you did, we are taking away our love.” Your child’s perception is that love has been temporarily suspended. To your child, it feels like, “I did something wrong and my parents don’t love me now.” Why do you think parenting experts tell you that, after you have given your children a time-out, you must tell them how much you love them? So don’t recoil. Instead, learn how to do it right. There are many books out there for you to read if you are interested – check this out: Parenthood

How To Do It Right

After the reversal of the Sixties and Seventies many children were lazy, disinterested, and out of control. These children weren’t good people and they weren’t successful or happy. Clearly, a change needed to be made and many did; the wrong one. Again 🙁  Perhaps because of the economic uncertainty in recent decades, parents decided to direct their conditional love toward their children’s achievement activities, believing that this approach would motivate their children to work hard, become successful, and overcome the difficult economic times. Parents began to make their love conditional on how their children performed in school. If Johnny got an A, his parents heaped love, attention, and gifts on him. When he received a D, they withdrew their love by expressing disappointment, hurt, embarrasment or anger. As a result, children’s self-esteem became overly connected to their achievement efforts. This conditional love caused achievement to become threatening to children because success and failure was too intimately linked with whether their parents would love them.

At the same time, parents maintained their unconditional love for their children’s behavior. Parents gave their children unfettered freedom, few responsibilities, didn’t hold them accountable for their actions, provided no consequences, and continued to love them not matter how they behaved – as long as they did well in school, it didn’t matter if the children were spoiled brats!

WE as parents must reverse our use of unconditional and conditional love. You need to give your children unconditional love for their achievements so that they will be free from the fear that you will not love them if they fail to meet your expectations. This unconditional love will liberate your children from the specter of lost love and encourage them to give their best effort and achieve the highest level of which they are capable.

At the same time, you can encourage your children’s achievement efforts by using conditional love for the values and attributes that will help them succeed, for example, in school, sports, and the performing arts. When you use conditional love to instill essential qualities, such as hard work, discipline, patience, persistence, and perseverance, you then give them the tools to achieve their goals.

 

 

 

 

Similarly, you should make your love conditional on whether your children behave like decent human beings, namely, they act on healthy values such as honesty, kindness, respect, and responsibility. If your children behave poorly, they know that you will withdraw your love-at least temporarily. If they behave well, they know that you will give your love. In time, your children will learn to internalize this healthy conditional love and it will guide them in acting in ethical ways.

Love, be a guide, a good example, a pillar of safety and strength …. but is that what our children would experience as us being “good parents” ?

I asked my daughter today what makes or doesn’t make us good mothers. These were her somewhat surprising answers:

  • to do a lot of really nice things with them
  • to allow them a lot of “electricity” – meaning tablets, television, smart phones etc
  • to allow them to have pets, preferably many
  • to laugh a lot with your children and make jokes with them
  • to cook a lot of tasty stuff, preferably with your kids helping you
  • to give them pocket money
  • to go shopping with your daughter
  • give them the space they need (she meant their own rooms)
  • don’t be too strict with your children
  • sit down with your daughter and together with her think of nice stories to tell to other children
  • play nice games with each other
  • she claimed that other stuff would be more important to our son or boys in general 😉 :  give them great weapons (toys), let them climb trees, let them fight with other boys because they really love that. And finally if your kid has pain you should take care of him/her straight away instead of just ignoring him/her or tell him/her to man up!

She did assure me that we provide all of that so I guess we’re doing an OK job 🙂

Look, to conclude this long post I can give you one piece of advice: look to your kids for the answer to the question whether you are a good parent or not. Our kids are not the center of my universe. I don’t put their needs before ours and neither do we put them before our relationship as a couple because we strongly believe that we can be better parents if we are happy, content people who get to have adult time, who get to have ME time, who get to have uniterrupted US time as a couple. We love our kids. I would go to any lengths to protect them and keep them safe and happy. I spoil them way too much and I give in way too often 😉 but I also correct them, keep them in check and occassionally yell at them when they go past every single limit. I clean their butts if they don’t manage themselves, no probs; and occassionally they are allowed in the shower with me or the bath; but I don’t want them using my towel or my toiletries, and rooms like our bedroom or dressing room or OFF LIMITS to them (except for the Weekend Mornings cuddling ritual). They don’t ever sleep in our bed. I love them but I am and will always be an individual with individual needs that I am neither willing nor able to give up for my kids.  Our children know without a single inkling of a doubt that they are loved and protected. And yeah, it is one of the greatest feelings in the world if they hug me and tell me that they love me. I didn’t have to sacrifice myself for that. So my advice is: love them but more than that, love yourself  and your partner. Love being a parent and devote yourself to it but never at the cost of yourself or your marriage. And never ever feel guilty about that!  You will be “better” parents for it!

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them below. Happy parenting and thanks for reading!

 

 

 

Furry Kids

Okay guys – today, let’s take a look at your pets & you!

 

At the beach with Barnabas

If you are an animal lover (like I am) you will most likely actually have pets (if life circumstances allow) and quite a few of you will refer to them as their furry kids :-). If animals aren’t really your thing then, needless to say, you probably don’t have pets and at the very least, that last comment of mine made you raise your eyebrows. Furry kids. OMG. 🙂

Bella and Aramis

You may be a parent more or less forced into having a pet because yeah, your kids wanted a dog, a cat or a cobra (like our son…); you may be allergic to cat/dog/animal hair and either hate that you are (because you really want a pet) or love that you are ( because you actually don’t like  pets and that gives you the perfect excuse not to have one). Or you may genuinely care for or not care for animals. You are all welcome to read today’s post of course but be warned – I am a passionate mom to my furry kids ;-).

BarnabasMurphy

Adopt, Don’t ShopAdopt Don't Shop

I am a firm believer in the concept of “adopt, don’t shop”. If you are a regular on this site you know, by now, that we live in an old farmhouse with lots of space in the countryside. My wife and I both love animals. All our babies are from the shelter / animal rescue. Look – I don’t judge if you go to a breeder and pay a few hundred or even a few thousand dollars for a specific breed; that’s entirely your business. I don’t judge it – I just don’t get it.

I know people have a multitude of arguments for it – that they have kids and want to know exactly what to expect, that they connect best with a certain breed, that they want to be able to predict character and so on and so forth. I personally believe that that is all a load of crapola. We have seen in the recent years that, for example, specific family dog breeds have obviously been bred to a point where its suddenly exactly those supposedly reliable family dogs that develop uncalled for, unmotivated aggression. We are all shocked when we read articles about, i.e., a Golden Retriever or Labrador Retriever having bitten a child. But then, miraculously, we forget – and when Xmas comes around and the kids want a pup, we start googling (“dogs suited for families”, “child friendly dogs” etc), then look for breeders and voila – a few weeks later and a thousand dollars shorter, we are the proud owners of a pure bred puppy. Those articles we read be damned!

My point is – you can never know what to expect or what character/personality your dog will develop to have, just because its pure bred or a mix or a mongrel. I believe we know our dog by looking at him/her, studying his/her behavior on its own, with humans, with other dogs, with cats, with our kids. If you want to know what likely to “expect”? Learn DOG LANGUAGE. Thats as “simple” as it is. I believe pure-bred or rescue dog is a CHOICE.

Darcy

grew up to be –>

Lifetime Choice

I truly believe that if you are an true animal lover, then that choice is a no-brainer. There are millions of unwanted cats and dogs (and of course other animals!) in the world; the death machine is running on high, animals are caught and put down everywhere, everyday. We tend to not want to see that. We tend to look away. My German grandmother, born 1921, claimed until she died that the “German People” didn’t know about concentration camps. Just as we all know that thats bullshit, we have ALL – each and everyone of us – heard about the KILLING STATIONS for stray dogs and cats in e.g. Eastern Europe or the meat factories in Korea. You cringe with that comparison? I invite you to google pictures of such killing stations or read up on the meat factories. That will make you cringe even more.

If you love animals, you save a life. Period. You like Labs? Go to any shelter, look up any rescue homepage. There will be Labs, I promise you, just as about any other breed. So, make a choice. Support the puppy mill or save a life. How easy can a choice be?! And never forget this: deciding for a cat or a dog is a lifetime choice. Cats can easily live to their twenties, dogs – depending on size and breed – can live up to 15 years of age, easily, too. They cost you money – vet, food, medication, sitter, toys etc. They change your life but can also “limit” it – for example – if you like to travel (not being able to take the dog(s)) – who will watch him/her/them?

Deb & Murphy

Kir & Barnabas

 

 

 

 

 

I believe when you decide for an animal / pet it is like deciding for a child. They are creatures who trust you, rely on you to provide food, shelter and care and love –  and you have a responsibility for them until they die; and if you should die before them, you have a responsibility to make sure they are well taken care of after you depart. Puppies or kittens are fun and cute and cuddly and sweet; but they grow up to be dogs and cats with individual characters that may just turn out to be the opposite of all that. Will you still want them or love them then?! Are you prepared to be a friend, a caretaker, a sitter, a parent to those furry kids of your’s? Are you prepared to be as dedicated as this dog papa? Sean Ellis – Kubrick The Dog

Kir with Murphy and DarcyDeb with Murphy and Darcy

 

 

 

 

Our animals (come back for a later post to hear all about them 🙂 ) are one of the best things that ever happened to me, each in it’s own right. They make my life better, everyday. They brighten my mood, make me laugh, offer unconditional love. They love me even when I don’t love myself, they comfort me when I feel down. They “force” me to exercise, to be responsible, and through them I have learned from an early age on what it is like to take on a lifetime responsibility for another breathing living being. They are essential for my well-being. If you feel the same about your furry kids (or don’t feel that way at all!), please feel free to leave a comment or question below and I’d be happy to answer!

Barnabas and Deb beach Barnabas & Deb

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for taking the time to read this and remember – adopt, don’t shop!!!

 

The Power Of A Book

Open book

I was a smart kid. Without a doubt also a smartass kid 😉 I started to try and figure out letters and words when I was three; by the time I was four I could read fluently, by the time I was 6 I could also translate that into writing; by the time I was 10, speaking, reading and writing in two languages (English and German) came naturally to me. At first I didn’t realize how fortunate that made me. My preferences as a child lay more in spending my time outdoors, learning about nature and animals, fixing engines, learning how to use power tools, hanging out with my friends, biking, skating, playing sports. I didn’t realize the power of a book. I didn’t realize that when you can read (and enjoy) the world will open up for you and it has the power to take you away to Child reading in the back of a cardifferent worlds. I didn’t realize reading can help you relax, wind down, redirect your focus, change your perspective, give you knowledge and even heal you. When I realized all that, I became an avid, passionate reader.

For the longest time I was outspoken and openly against electronic readers. I hated them! I was a REAL reader ;-), I needed the feel of the book in my hands, the paper between my fingers, the accomplishment of turning yet another page. Then one of my good friends ignored my ramblings and gave me my first E-Reader as a gift (knowing full well that it would be impolite to turn that down or not use it). I remember it well. It was an Amazon Kindle, one of the first on the market. Back then, the electronic readers were still pretty rudimentary – but I got to see the advantages pretty quickly. Thousand of books can be stored and are at your free disposal; they are light-weight, can be taken anywhere, you don’t even need a reading light anymore because the brightness of the screen can be adjusted. And the books are a lot cheaper in their electronic version! Needlesss to say, I fell in love with the concept and have, by now, advanced to a Kobo Aura H20 which I absolutely love. I have literally really thousands of books I store on there; I also still have an old fashioned library in our house hosting all my “real” books! old books in libraryBooks are great. Books are magic. Books are diverse.  Basically, all books are either non-fiction or fiction. Non-fiction books contain factual information, such as biographies and history books. Fiction books contain a story which was made up by the author. All genres can fascinate! Come and find out!

The Power Of A Book – Fiction

The most commonly read works in the world are works of fiction. Why? Because fiction books are ones that have been made up. They are stories. They have the power to take you away to other worlds, times, continents; they let you use your own fantasy; they allow you for a short while to become acquainted with their heroes and heroeines (and with their villains, of course); to become their “friends” for the duration of reading a book or a series of books, maybe to even identify yourself enough with a main character to seamlessly slip into their persona and become him or her for the time being. Some elements of fictional books may be based on hints of truth, but they are usually elaborated, fabricated, and used to embellish into a new story. Fiction doesn’t have to scare us. None of it is actually “true” or happening around us. We can read about murder and war or love stories or sexual deviance of any other topic without any of that actually happening in our real world. Fictional books can give us a sense of a break, a mini vacation, away from our usual routine, away from our stressful or hectic or boring lives; when our minds get lost inside fiction, nothing and no one lays claims on us or wants anything from us. Our brains can shut off and rest from the responsibilities of reality and we can just drift away. To me, reading fiction is an ultimate means of relaxation. I read thrillers from well known authors like James Patterson or J.D.Robb; I like the occassional Stephen King; I read spy books and love stories and romance; I like to read lesbian fiction, too, because when you are gay (like I am), the stereotypical heterosexual relationships in most fictional books by straight authors can get tiring. Sometimes, you just want to read something thats closer to your own lifestyle or that you can relate to better. And with my kids I have rediscovered the joy and fun of children’s books, ranging the full spectrum from sweet fairytales to Joanne K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. If you are not a fictional reader I can only advice you try it out 🙂 Choose a book over a movie. It will do wonders for you!

The Power Of A Book – Non-Fiction

Just as fiction can open the doors into other worlds, non-fiction books can lighten the way inside the vast corridors of subjects or topics that you already know a bit about but want to find out more. Those can be biographies, journals, travel books, “How To” books, support books, self-help books, educational books etc etc etc. The range is sheer endless. Non-fiction books can be a source of information, a well of knowledge; they can be very technical but they can also be good, light reads – biographies are a good example of that. Reading non-fiction is a great way to widen your horizons and to gain more general or specific knowledge in a fun, easy way. The last non-fictional books I read were biographies of Donald TrumpHillary Rodham ClintonDonald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

 

 

And I listen to my wife ramble on about the books of Mark Douglas, a sort guru for anyone who is serious about forex market trading. I read a lot of scientific books, medical books and so on. I personally can’t lose myself in the same way that I can in fiction but I still enjoy the genre!

The Power Of A Book – Holy Books

Holy Books

 

I feel that when we talk about the power of books, I really have to mention the books that make the world go round – the Holy Books. Obviously, every religion has their own Holy Book – the pillars and backbones of their beliefs.  I grew up with both Jewish and Catholic beliefs – and I have taken great interest in reading the Holy Books from every major religion in order to be able to understand those beliefs better. In any religion we can find extremes and extremists. I find it difficult to form an opinion about, e.g., Islamic jihads fighters quoting the koran if I don’t have a first clue what they are talking about. Here is a list (with no claim to be complete!) of the most “common” religions and their Holy Books:

  • Bible: Christianity – The Bible is a collection of sacred texts or scriptures that Jews and Christians consider to be a product of divine Inspiration and a record of the relationship between God and humans
  • Thora/Talmud/Tanach: Judaism The Torah is the Hebrew Bible, and while some people think of just the “Five Books of Moses” Torah refers to all of the Hebrew Bible, including such books as Joshua, Psalms, Book of Ruth, etc. The Talmud is the compilation of the historic rabbis “discussing” or “debating” what the Torah means.  Some of the tractates come to conclusions, but many leave the debate open ended.  This is part of why Jews can continue to study Torah and Talmud, and continue to debate meanings, in all times and cultural changes. The Tanakh or Mikra or Hebrew Bible is the canonical collection of Jewish texts, which is also a textual source for the Christian Old Testament. These texts are composed mainly in Biblical Hebrew, with some passages in Biblical Aramaic
  • Koran (Quran) / Sunnah: Islam – the Islamic sacred book, believed to be the word of God as dictated to Muhammad by the archangel Gabriel and written down in Arabic. The Koran consists of 114 units of varying lengths, known as suras ; the first sura is said as part of the ritual prayer. These touch upon all aspects of human existence, including matters of doctrine, social organization, and legislation. Sunnah ( Arabic: “habitual practice”) also spelled Sunna , the body of traditional social and legal custom and practice of the Islamic community
  • Gita: Hinduism – The Bhagavad Gita, often referred to as simply the Gita, is a 700- verse Hindu scripture in Sanskrit that is part of the Hindu epic Mahabharata (chapters 23–40 of the 6th book of Mahabharata).

I am not a very religious person but I really feel that everyone should read those books. They help understand the world and it’s differences to a much deeper and better level.

If you have enjoyed today’s post please feel free to leave a comment below. If you have any questions please feel free to ask them here or shoot me a PM at deb@vitalisvitae.com

Thank you for your time and Happy Reading!

 

 

 

Phoenix Rising

Phoenix rising Good morning everyone!

While my wife and I were busy working in our yard yesterday (we are lucky to live in a farmhouse build in 1900 with quite a few surrounding acres), Kir came across this flower growing out of our barn’s stone wall and she was utterly charmed. She shared it with me and that gave me the idea for today’s post: what may it feel like to be that flower? How much resilience, strength, and sheer will to survive must that tiny beautiful flower possess? It is nothing short of amazing. Somehow, this plant must manage to find all it needs to grow and thrive in the seemingly unnutritious and unfriendly stone-wall environement. It has risen, majestically, like a phoenix rising from the ashes.Phoenix rising from the ashes

I reckon a lot of us have gone through periods in their lives where they felt like the phoenix IN the ashes – burnt (out), down, sad, desperate, unwilling or unable to make the effort to rise again, to get better, to battle our demons. Today I want to talk about the fact that no matter how down we feel, rising from those ashes is indeed possible. In different posts I would like to concentrate on a few examples, situations that can happen to all of us, that have happened to a lot of us and that still too many of us don’t manage to get out of for a myriad of reasons: addictions, surviving abuse, surviving cancer,  becoming unemployed, becoming homeless, suffering from a mental illness.

Today’s topic will be addictions. I want to try and help us all understand that we shouldn’t judge; that we should bear in mind that for most of the people in these situations, it wasn’t a free choice. That instead of turning away we may want to consider lending a helping hand. Maybe if we all just help that one person that we know in our social circles that has been in any such situation, or support that one organization trying to help – each one of us can make the world a little better.Support

Addiction

We have all heard the term. We have all used it. The question is, do we understand what an addiction really is? Let’s see:

There is a great many different types of addictions out there. Some are specified as actual diseases in the DSM the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, others are more controversial and not as clear-cut in their specific symptoms, so they never make their way into the official categories – although they are certainly no less serious conditions.

 

 

 

Addicitons associated with drugs are referred to as substance abuse and substance dependency in the DSM. Neither equates to addiction directly but rather, refers to harmful use of substances – which really sucks. Drug addiction of any kind is serious business and should be treated accordingly.

Definition

Addictions are both psychological and behavioral, they are characterized by craving, compulsion, and the inability to stop using the drug of choice and they are always paired with a certain lifestyle dysfunction due to the drug use.

Behavioral addictions are those not involving a substance; in the DSM they are referred to as impulse control disorders.

Substance Abuse – What Is Your Drug Of Choice?
  • alcoholAlcoholic
  • tobacco
  • opioids – for example heroin
  • prescription drugs ((sedatives, hypnotics, or anxiolytics like sleeping pills and tranquilizers)
  • cocaine
  • cannabis (marijuana)
  • amphetamines (like methamphetamine, known as meth)
  • hallucinogens
  • inhalants
  • phencyclidine (known as PCP or Angeldust)
  • other unspecified substances

Wow. That is quite a list there 🙁 . Now think. Is there anyone you know that is addicted to any of those? I bet that all of you reading this post know at least ONE PERSON addicted to any of the above. See how there is a need to become aware, not judge and rather choose to help????

Impulse Control Disorders

Those are disorders where impulses cannot be resisted, which could be considered a type of addiction.

  • intermittent explosive disorder (compulsive aggressive and assaultive acts)
  • kleptomania (compulsive stealing)Pyromania
  • pyromania (compulsive setting of fires)
  • gambling

The same holds true here. Do you know anyone suffering from any of these disorders?

Behavioral Addicitions

  • food (eating)
  • sex
  • pornography (attaining, viewing)
  • using computers / the InternetVideo Game Addiction
  • playing video games
  • working
  • exercising
  • spiritual obsession (as opposed to religious devotion)
  • pain (seeking)
  • cutting
  • shopping

Yeah, pretty damn sure one of those sounds familiar….right?

Addicts And Their Addictions – Definitions

When does normal behaviour turn into addiction? Where is the threshold? What makes an addict an addict? Is someone who likes to party more than others (involving drugs) necessarily to be seen as an addict or just as someone who likes to party?? Is someone who likes to gamble to blow off steam a person who just likes to gamble -or a gambling addict? We tend to bagatalize behaviour we see in people around us, mostly because we don’t really like to acknowledge that a friend or a spouse or a relative or a coworker may have a “problem”, may be an addict. But in actual fact, when scrutinized, these people are really showing signs of addiction. But what are those then?

SignsSign

The first major sign of addiction or abuse is the effect the addiction has on the daily routine of a person. If you are using, if you are addicted, the addiction or behavior is going to be noticeable and it is going to cause problems. Say you like to gamble and you loose some more money than you should have, you may have to cut back on movies, or eating-out or Starbucks for a week to make up for the dent in your wallet. An addict however will max out any credit card they own and rob themselves of any means to balance their financial losses JUST SO THEY CAN GAMBLE.  In short, whenever someone chooses an action, behavior or substance to the exclusion of all else, this person is likely an addict.

Does the addict him/herself realize they are addicted? In the beginning, actually, most don’t. Or if they do, they go through a period of denying their addiction. Here is where your help may already come in handy because those around an addict usually spot the addiction signs early. If you manage to persuade that person to get help or support you may have cut the vicious circle before it could actually begin. How can you “spot” addictive behavior? Here are some guidelines:

  • addicts obsess about their addiction; they talk about it constantly and may try to get others to do it with them
  • addicts seek out and engage in their addiction, no matter what the cost, even if that means hurting themselves or othersAddiction
  • addicts aren’t able to exercise any form of control over their addictive behaviors
  • addicts often deny their addictive behaviors and that they have a problem
  • addicts tend to hide their addictions
  • addicts are often prone to failure when they try to stop – that is called a “relapse”

Its not just those signs that “identify” an addict. Other symptoms may only be apparent to the addict him/herself:

  • Craving
  • Compulse behavior
  • Fixation on the addiction
  • Loss of control over the addiction
  • Psychological or physiological withdrawal when they can’t engage in their addiction
  • Feeling a need to engage in the addiction more and more
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling a loss of control

So, now you are prepared and fit to spot signs of addiction in your peers and help. But in order to not fall into the trap of judging them for their addictions you may want to understand the reasons why!

How An Addict Becomes An Addict

Thats the Million Dollar question. To be honest, there is not one single reason or unified cause, just as much as, even if addictions often run in families, an “addiction gene” has yet to be identified. Since we really don’t know what the reasons are, we come up with many theories. One of those is the idea of an “addictive personality”. Someone with an addictive personality is more likely to become addicted to a substance or behavior. If you wonder whether you have an addictive personality, you should be looking for the following traits in yourself: impulsive behavior, nonconformity, lack of interest in goals and achievement, social alienation and high stress levels.

But do addictions actually have an influence on your brain? Well. The impact of addiction on the brain is better understood for psychoactive substances such as alcohol and cocaine. While each substance impacts the brain differently, the addiction cycle tends to be similar: psychoactive substances initially quickly produce euphoria from the flood of certain chemicals in the brain. After the euphoria, unpleasant withdrawal symptoms occur. The addict, wishing to again experience the euphoria, or to escape unpleasant withdrawal (craving), is highly motivated to use the substance again. This cycle is thought to be, in part, because of the reward circuit in the brain. When the brain finds something rewarding (pleasurable), it creates a pleasurable memory and increases the motivation to experience pleasure again. This can alter the brain’s neurotransmitters (chemicals).

Phoenix Rising – How to Battle Addiction

12 steps

The good news is that there are many different types of help and/or support available for addictions, since no addiction can be compared to the next. Some addicts might also require more than one course of treatment in order to gain control over their addiction. Addiction treatments include:

  • Psychopharmacology (drug therapy)
  • Therapy (changing thoughts, beliefs and behaviors around the addiction. Addiction therapy may also focus on the underlying issues behind an individual’s addiction)
  • Inpatient rehabilitation
  • Outpatient treatment programs
  • Support groups
  • Self-help programs; lifestyle changes
  • Therapeutic community living

Types Of Addiction Therapy

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – focuses on altering the addict’s faulty beliefs which perpetuate the addiction. The goal is to change addiction-related behaviors.
  • Multidimensional Family Therapy – an addiction therapy primarily created for adolescent addicts and their families; designed to improve overall family functioning.
  • Motivational Interviewing – enhances and capitalizes on an individual’s willingness to treat their addiction.
  • Motivational Incentives – primarily used in drug addiction treatment. This addiction therapy uses rewards for positive drug screening tests as a motivational tool to continue staying clean.
  • Individual and group counseling – a variety of help for addiction can occur in these formats. Common in individual addiction therapy is psychodynamic therapy, while group addiction therapy is often in the form of a support group.

While addiction is complex, overcoming addiction is possible with proper addiction treatment. Each person’s addiction treatment plan is different and must be adhered to if an addiction is to be overcome. A plan can consists of:

  • Taking medication as prescribed
  • Attending all medical and therapeutic appointments
  • Creating a network of people who can support you while you overcome addiction
  • Learning about the addiction and its treatment
  • Proper diet and exercise
  • Reducing life stressors and learning how to cope with stress to avoid relapse
  • Getting additional addiction treatment help when needed

What I am trying to say here, People, is this: addiction is common. Its part of our society, whether we like it or not. An addict isn’t someone who is weak or who chooses to engage in addictive behaviour. We all know someone with some addiction or other. We all can help. And if you read this and think: oh f***, a lot of these things described are true for me then please don’t panic. There is help out there, and there are “cures”. Turn to your spouse, friends, doctor. Turn to support groups, online or in real life. No one has to fight this battle on their own, and no one should. And even if you are really down and broken and you think you may be ready to give up: please don’t. Look at that little flower. If it can grow out of a stone wall, you can rise again, too. Being an addict is not a choice. Staying one however is. Make the right choice!

Railroad Tracks

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below or send me a PM at deb@vitalisvitae.com

Thanks for reading! I appreciate it!

 

 

 

 

 

How To Make Time For Yourself

… and what that has to do with the Internet. Let’s take a look, shall we?Time

I don’t know who you are, I don’t know what kind of life you lead, where your responsibilities lay, your commitments, your work schedule, your agenda. I don’t know YOU, and yet I know OF YOU. You are a wife/husband/spouse; you are a (grand-)parent; you are a daughter/son or an -in law; you are a friend, a boss, a co-worker, a supervisor; you are single, dating, a student, a teacher, or you work the job mill at minimum wage. You are sick, healthy, strong, weak, a native or a foreigner, short, tall, thin, overweight, social or a hermit. In short, you are EVERYONE, and EVERYONE is you. I don’tEveryone need to put a label on you to know that of all the things money can’t buy, time is what you have the least of. We live in a 24/7 world that expects our presence and availability for the same insane hours. We want to be, need to be “online” always, everywhere – linked, connected, in the loop. Our lives are only experienced as fullfilling because they are, indeed, full. As a matter-of-fact, they overflow. Job, family, friends, social media, exercise, Social Media blogs, posts, news, headlines – every “event” facebooked, a picture taken of every more or less memorable moment and put on Pinterest or Instagram, we SnapChat, we WhatsApp, we Skype and Google ALL DAY LONG. Being virtually connected to the whole damnLinked world has somehow become the mother lode. Its not even that we don’t have enough time; we just waste so much of it telling our Facebook friends that we have just bought condoms at the local drug store, that we will make lasagna for a romantic dinner, that we just spent an hour and a half getting ready for our date. Privacy is a term that no longer exists nor is it valued. We don’t want to privately get it on with our hot Tinder date – we want the WORLD to know. In the clusterfuck of social media we lose ourselves and we have forgotten what to actually do with time for ourselves other than be online. And we don’t even realize that that MAKES US SICK. We become socially inept people who can’t interpret their own emotions unless there us a LIKEthumbs up or down beside the post we just put on our profile. We get stressed, our brains go on overload – too much information too fast. We actually check our phones 200 times a day on average, and one in four people spend more time online than they do asleep. To add to that, 70 % of 16 to 24-year-olds prefer texting to talking and 34 % of adults and teenagers admit they find it hard to disconnect. people online

I will make a shocking suggestion: MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF. I will tell you HOW. YOUR task is to log off. Switch off your phone. Put away your tablet. NOW WHAT? At a loss? Can’t think of a single thing you want to do (other than logging on again as quickly as possible of course)?

Why Solitude Is So Important And Why It Scares Us

Solitude

I am promoting that you log off to seek a span of twenty minutes to an hour (at least) every day for OFFLINE SOLITUDE. Why? Solitude can be a break. It is a resort, a vacation for our minds and souls away from all the hectic and online chaos. We have forgotten to understand our need for solitude, to translate our bodies’ and minds’ signals into acknowledging a deep and true craving TO BE ALONE. Why is that? Nowadays we measure our success in terms of  acquisition and accomplishment. The society we live in sports a huge complex about “being and keeping busy”. We live in a “get it done” culture. Most of us, to be honest, have the time we could devote to simple relaxation, but we don’t. We choose to convince ourselves that something always needs to be done, another email needs to be checked, another blog Social Mediaposted, another picture instagrammed, another social media friend of the 1213 that we proudly present on FB asks for our attention. Imagine telling all those friends that you are logging off, that you are now taking an hour for yourself and no, you won’t keep them in the loop as to what you are doing….. chances are you wouldn’t get a lot of support. More than we fear social shunning we fear ourselves, though. We actually go to any length to avoid ourselves because we are scared of what we might find when its just US with no one else around, OFFLINE, NO MAKE UP, RAW. Maybe, just maybe, we will see a forlorn, flawed someone. Maybe we will see someone with flaws and fears, someone imperfect, someone who we wouldn’t want to link ourselves to on Facebook…….

So, when we accidently DO look we convince ourselves that we see someone who, now that they are offline and alone, is missing out on life’s party. We choose to confuse solitude with isolation because we have actually forgotten HOW TO BE ALONE. Its a downright scary idea. Alone.

Have you ever watched a young child play by itself? They are content and self-sufficient, absorbed in their fantasy worlds, charmed by the stories they create inside their heads, KId drummingtheir own company. They don’t need social affirmation or confirmation and they don’t need to be “liked” or “befriended” by a thousand nameless, faceless strangers. They actually like themselves, are proud of themselves, think for themselves. WHY CAN’T WE?

We have become what I call “online society dependant narcissists”. We think we are the world’s greatest and we just have to share it with everyone for it is only their feedback that will confirm our Status Quo. If all those people like us – what we post, our pictures, our online life diary – then thats enough for us to like ourselves, too. We don’t actually have to be great. We just have to make enough people believe that we are. Sad really, isn’t it???Social media concept

LOG OFF

I am not kidding. Take an hour a day to log off. An hour a day that you usually would have spent on the internet – now spend it with just yourself. What will you accomplish when you follow that admittedly scary and controversial advice?  Let’s see:

  • if our focus is on external stimulation only we miss opportunities for inner growth and renewal. We don’t think about our mistakes and accomplishments, we don’t learn from them. Focus on yourself and be amazed at how much you begin to understand or see differently
  • we are scientifically proven more creative alone. Write, paint, sing, dance, create a flower bed in your yard … whatever comes naturally to you!
  • solitude can cure. If you develop symptoms that your doctor tells you are not related to a grave physical illness and can’t really be explained, look for solitude. Meditate, reflect on your life. Listen to your body, attune yourself to your core, to your inner wisdom. What scares you? Moves you? What is on your mind when you are too scared to look? It wouldn’t surprise me if your symptoms miraculously vanish
  • in solitude, we see more clearly. We are constantly pulled outside ourselves—by other people, by the media, by the demands of daily life. Nothing in our culture or in our education teaches us how to go inward, how to steady the mind and calm our attention. As a consequence, we tend to devote very little time to the life of the soul, the life of the spirit. Alone—in moments of prayer or meditation, or simply in stillness—we breathe more deeply, see more fully, hear more keenly. We notice more, and in the process, we return to ourselves

How To Actually Make More Time For Yourself

  1. Make time: sounds stupid, but can be done. Delegate, recruit your kids and spouse, re-evaluate how important stuff is.
  2. Some Things you do won’t be perfect. Learn to live with that!  Accept that you can’t get everything done. At a certain point every night, put everything down and focus on doing something you want
  3. Schedule in your free time. Hey, you make everyone else’s schedule – why not your own?? Put in a slot each day, or at least a few times a week, that are as solid as a work or family commitment. Block off an hour in the evening that you can’t break unless its an emergency
  4. LOG OFF and spend the extra time for yourself
  5. LOG OFF and instead of an hour on Facebook, do something in real lifeDigital Globe
  6. LOG OFF and exercise. It will make you feel better and give you more energy to stay up longer or get up earlier – hence more time in the day
  7. Prioritize yourself. Yes, your kids are important, your spouse is, your friends are. But PUT YOURSELF FIRST. You will be a happier and better parent, spouse and friend if you are a happier, healthier, stronger and more content person who is more in tune with herself/himself because (s)he actually dared to LOOK

Making time for yourself isn’t impossible. Stop hiding. Stop texting. Start looking, and start talking. You are real. Become real!

Thanks for reading and bearing with my ramblings again 🙂 If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below or shoot me a PM @ deb@vitalisvitae.com

 

 

 

Healthy Late Night Eating

Late Night EateryHealthy Late Night Eating. Unless we are talking about a bunch of raw carrots without dip at 1.33 a.m. – is that evenCarrots possible?! I remember my mother telling us kids that we shouldn’t eat after 8 o’clock at night because it was “bad for us”. No further explanation, no reason, just “it is bad for you”. Years later I eventually figured out that the only one for whom eating after eight was bad for, was, in fact, my mother herself because she a) really didn’t feel like making sandwiches etc for us while her favorite series were on TV and b) she didn’t care for cleaning the kitchen late at night. However, the thought and warning stuck in my head, so for many years to come, I tried to follow that rule. Then, as I grew up, my life and my time lines and schedules changed. I started hanging out with my friends until late and more often than not we would all get hungry before we parted ways so I got used to at least snacking after 8 pm 😉 . Then I started working different jobs to support myself and my education, did a lot of night shifts andLate Night Shift everyone who has ever worked the graveyard shift will know exactly what I am talking about now: The Hunger Hits After Midnight. That really is true. And your body ain’t asking for no Hungry Goatcarrots, no sir. After midnight, the only ideas in my brain’s food center seemed to be pizza, pasta, burgers or fries. So, rather impactful and sudden, my eating habits changed. But lets take a look on whether or not eating at night is really bad for you and if there is really such a thing as eating healthy after the sun goes down!

Food Matters – You Are What You Eat – Change Now

Why The Midnight Snack Is Bad News

A guy I studied medicine with asked me one day out the blue: do you indulge after midnight? I will admit here and now that the first thoughts this question evoked were on something other than food ;-). My answer was accordingly irritated, telling him that I didn’t think that was anything of his f***ing business. Okay. My whole face lit up like the red-light district with embarrasment once I figured out he actually wanted to know if I routinely ATE after midnight. As it turned out, he was part of a study group that looked into the effects of late night binges. Oops…..

So the question is, do those night Calorie Calculatorcalories “weigh” more? Do they wreak havoc? Are they likely to add to causing modern chronic diseases such as diabetes? Scientists used to say “a calorie is a calorie no matter when you consume it”. But extensive research that has been done on the subject shows that to be far from the truth; at what time you choose to eat your meals may have more impact than you like. The fact of the matter is that when food is consumed late at night – that means after dinnertime or outside someone’s normal routine sleep/wake cycle – your body will store those calories differently and thus you actually gain more weight. We simply seem to process our food differently at different times of day and night. Our body functions change according to the time of day – varying core body temperatures,  biochemical cycles, hormone levels etc. and we just have a different level of physical activity. Eating food when your body should sleep and all functions are in sleep mode can cause excess weight gain and high blood sugar levels. Does it matter then whether you choose that bunch of carrots or the pizza pie? Of course it does. It matters at lunchtime, it stands to reason that it would matter even more at night when your digestion seems to be working at low speed. It doesn’t really help to know that it is scientifically proven that at night the human brain lusts for food which is either sweet or salty, both more often than not high caloric in nature. So yeah, looking at all of these facts it seems indeed that the midnight snack is bad news ……Clock

Why Do We Eat Late Then?

In our modern times and lifestyles we have adopted a certain food rhythm that is aligned with our schedules. In the mornings we are all rushed and busy getting the kids to school, getting the dogs walked and ourselves to work or to the gym. That morning rush doesn’t really leave any time for a lengthy breakfast (high caloric, which would be best in the morning!) so we settle for a bowl of cereals or a piece of fruit and of course, a cup of coffee. Pretty much the same holds true for lunch. If – and thats a big “if” – we do get to have a lunch break, we usually opt for something light and fast, a salad or a Sandwich for instance. And then at night we all sit down together for our multi-million-calory extensive family dinner. It is high time we started re-thinking our routines and even if we choose to eat a full dinner at night, at least make sure that it is healthy.Family dinner

How To Reprogram Food Culture Evolution

Why do we like to eat at night? Is it just because it fits better into our lifestyles? Into our routines? Or are there other reasons that make us tick from deep within our evolutionary memory?

For our primal ancestors when food was scarce one of theStone Age Cartoon most efficient things to do in the evening was to eat. That’s when the body can store energy as fat and glycogen, so that you’re ready for what might happen the next day without having to immediately replenish calories by eating. So Mr. Neanderthal Forefather ate his fatty mammoth at night in order to be able to still feel the energy of that in the morning when he needed to be out and hunt again. Smart, actually. But what was smart from an evolutionary standpoint is just plainly out-of-date now in the age of 24/7 stores and restaurants, fridges and an abundance of food. So again, we need to re-learn. We need to rewrite our routines and habits if we want to avoid the negative effects associated with late night eating.OPen 24/7 sign

Not All Bad – Late Night Eating Can Help With Muscle Repair

So far, late night eating sounded like an overall bad idea. Are there any scientifically proven positive aspects at all? Well. Surprisingly, there are!

 

A number of recent small studies have shown that consuming a 150-calorie protein shake 30 minutes before bed may help muscles grow, quell morning appetite, boost metabolism, help the body recover from tough workouts and have other positive effects. In one study, 44 healthy young men who had a protein shake before bed gained more strength and muscle mass from a three-month resistance training routine than those who did not.

The hypothesis here would be that by having a small protein snack before bed, you keep a constant influx of protein in your blood, so it can help build and repair muscle tissue while you’re sleeping. And since the body has to burn calories to digest the food, there’s a chance it might keep the metabolism a little more revved up overnight.

Use Protein To Improve Yourself – Try This!

Conclusion

If my study buddy were to ask me again today whether I indulge after mignight I would smile and say: sure, who doesn’t? Yes, eating late may have negative side effects on the blood sugar levels and it may hinder weight loss – so if you are diabetic, pre-diabetic, overweight or struggling to lose weight you should definitely stay away from eating a lot after lunch. Make breakfast or lunch your main meal and eat lightly, healthily at night. However, I personally have decided not to worry about it too much. If I occassionally get a craving for chips or Popcorn or icecream while watching a movie with my wife after 8 p.m. I will indulge myself. I will also make sure to not skip any work-outs ;-). Like everything in life, the key is the right balance!Movie night

Hope you found my post interesting. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below or shoot me a PM at deb@vitalisvitae.com

Thanks!

Fired Up Burned Out

Hey there Boys and Girls, men & women of our times, hey there generation of the 21st century! Have you ever noticed, maybe recently even, that we are actually Generation Burn Out? I am not joking. Look around you, be aware (advice that you will keep hearing back from me!) – I bet you know at least one person (and likely more than one) in your vicinity – a friend, relative, co-worker, neighbor – who has suffered from or has been officially diagnosed with BURN OUT SYNDROME. The question is really why have we arrived at this dark chapter in human history where so many of us seem to be all fired up and burned out? Lets take a look, shall we?

Burn Out Syndrome Female

Burn Out Male

Burn Out – Definitions

When you type in “burn out” at www.google.com, what they first will come up with are the following definitions:

  • be completely consumed and thus no longer aflame
  • cease to function as a result of excessive heat or friction.

Well, that sounds about right, doesn’t it? When we “burn-out”, we do so because something (or someone) or a combination of things in our lives consume us completely, cause, in a methaphorical sense, excessive heat (stress) and our flame (life spirit, energy) burns out until we eventually cease to function. Most of us think that “burn out” is a result of work-related stress and I will freely admit that when the term was first used, it was mostly in that respect. But in theman running meantime our lives have been put on speed dial. Everything is and needs to be fast, faster, more, greater, better in order to be able to compete, as do we need to be faster in order to stand up to our peers or even stand out in a crowd. Everything has become Superlative. Normal isn’t enough anymore, average not good enough either. But do we push ourselves, are we pushed by our parents, why do we even enter into this spiral, why the need to best everyone and everything? Peer pressure? Should it be THAT simple?!

Burn Out – Self Sacrifice Or Narcicism At Its Best?

The term “Burn Out” was created in the 70’ies and originally used to describe a state of exhaustion and depression engaged professionals would suffer from that, by definition, help and care for others – doctors, nurses, cops, firemen and so on. It was seen as a sort of self-sacrifice, those people exchanging their own health for helping others. Nowadays, the term is not only used for the dark side of self-sacrifice. It seems it can affect anyone, from stressed-out careerists and celebrities to overworked employees and homemakers. You would think with it being so “popular” that there’d be a clear definition out there of what Burn Out really is but nope. We still pretty much don’t have the first clue what it is exactly or how it can be diagnosed. This also makes it impossible to say how common it is.  There are no reliable scientific data about how many people are burned out ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD.

A stressful lifestyle can put people under extreme pressure; the result can be that they start feeling exhausted, empty, restless, with no anchor or goal, unable to cope with even everyday life. But why are our lives so stressful? Why is YOUR life stressful? Is it because you try to keep up with the

high speed tachometer
High Speed – Life Spped?

DEMANDS on you, trying to make a living and support your family? Or is it because you gain your self-worth from being able to swim with the big fish at the top, NO MATTER WHAT THE COST? Is it a result of selfLESSness or selFISHness?? Do you feel stressed because you are overworked or underchallenged? Because you give too much of yourself to someone or a cause or you feel like you need to give more permanently? It seems that “Burn Out” really is an ENIGMA. I have a creeping sensation – does it even really EXIST?

Exhaustion is a normal reaction to stress. It is NOT a sign of a disease. What makes it so different if you are burned out Stressthen? And what sets “Burn Out” apart from e.g. depression? Even the experts disagree. Some think that other conditions are behind being burned out, such as anxiety disorders or depressions; others think that it has to be caused by an underlying physical illness. The trouble is – if we don’t know what it is how are we able to effectively treat it? Or do we even need the LABEL “Burn Out”? Why isn’t it allowed anymore in our society to admit that you are tired, exhausted and stressed and that you just want to hang on the couch for the weekend instead of spending 27 hours at the gym or take 12 boxes of work home….? Why does admitting that make us feel like a LOSER? When did we stop understanding that fatigue and exhaustion are NORMAL HUMAN CONDITIONS? Whatever happened to our sense of self-worth, self-esteem and why on earth do we automatically judge and label our peers when they do falter from it all just being too much?

Case Study – Look Around, Be Aware, Re-Evaluate

Okay, so lets look at your hypothetical friend Bob. Bob is a father of three Kids aged 6, 10 and 13. He is married to Susan who used to be a full time homemaker & wife and has just recently picked up a part-time job in her old profession as a teacher because she felt bored and frankly, because they need the money. They live in the suburbs in a pretty 5 bedroom house with a moderately sized back yard and a mortgage that runs another 25 years; they own a dog, a cat, two cars (that they are paying off) and Bob’s co-worker Ed (8 years younger than Bob with a University degree) has just been promoted to become Bob’s supervisor.  Bob is slightly overweight, grossly unfit, and more often than not he eats fatty, high caloric fast food in front of the television. At work, they are laying off people because of the recession and everyone needs to be at their best, make more profit, put in more hours. Bob may be the next one to get sacked. And at home, nothing is like it used to be. His wife doesn’t function like she used to, no more dinners on the table at 6.00 p.m. sharp, no more house cleaning and laundry on her own because yeah, dude, she has a job now, too. And there hasn’t been any sex in so long Bob can hardly remember. Their kids are all stages of annoying and he tries desperately to keep up with PTA, soccer practice, rehearsals, parties, birthdays, school. Recently, Bob has started to feel down. He feels weird and he shows the following symptoms:

  • Exhaustion: People affected feel drained and emotionally exhausted, unable to cope, tired and down, and do not have enough energy. Physical symptoms include things like pain and stomach or bowel problems.

    Running on Empty
    Running on Empty
  • Alienation from (work-related) activities: People  find their jobs increasingly stressful and frustrating. They may start being cynical about their working conditions and their colleagues. At the same time, they may increasingly distance themselves emotionally, and start feeling numb about their work.
  • Reduced performance: mainly affects everyday tasks at work, at home or when caring for family members. People are very negative about their tasks, find it hard to concentrate, are listless and lack creativity.

    So, what is your take on the situation? Remember, Bob is your best friend. Do you think he is sick, even suffers from a mental disorder? Do you secretly think he should “man up” and stop being such a whiner? Get his act together? Or do you feel compassion for him? Do you think he is burned out, or just exhausted and fed up? Do you think he needs professional help? Pills? And now, be completely honest: are you PROUD of Bob that he comes forward with his symptoms and admits he is at the end of his rope ….. or would you be Integrity CompassPROUDER if he got promoted at work?? Which situation would elicit a whooping shoulder clap from you??? Probably the second one. Does that make you a bad friend? And what does it say about your own sense of worth and achievement? How prone are you to fall into the trap of the Burn Out?

I guess what I am trying to convey here is this: we live in a stressful world. We actually do need to adapt to everything being faster and being reachable and available almost 24/7; we can’t change the world around us. What we CAN change however, is how we perceive it, how we perceive our peers, and how we handle the stress thrown our way. Look around, see the beauty and the worth of friendship and honesty. Be aware of your judgements and your labels and your Core Values estimations. And most importantly, please RE-EVALUATE. What is really important? What makes you feel better about yourself? Is working yourself to the bone really worth it? Shouldn’t you be proud of everyone you know who is BRAVE enough to come forward and admit their weaknesses when we live in a world that condemns everything that falls short of a superlative. Look at yourself. Admit to yourself what you can and cannot do. Your limitations, your needs. Be honest about them with your peers. And don’t feel like a loser when you fall short or skip the gym once or twice. Don’t let anything or anyone completely consume you. In a world of acceleration: stop. Slow down. Re-Charge. Re-program yourself. You are good. You are worth it. And you can do it – at your own speed. Log off for a few minutes every day. Its a luxury you have to re-learn to grant yourself.Midsummer Night

 

Success!

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them here or send me a PM at deb@vitalisvitae.com

 

 

Just When You Need To Take A Breath

Hey folks, lets talk about those moments during the day when we start to feel stressed. Those moments when you just need to take a breath but feel like you can’t allow yourself to. When we know we haven’t ticked off enough items on that popular “To Do” list. When we start to feel those first stirrings of negative energy in the pits of our stomach. We have to do, do it now, work, sweat, accomplish! Oh yeah, and sure, make money…..We have to make lunch for the kids oh but f***, that’s hardly possible without going grocery shopping first. To Do List Damn. Another item creeps onto THE LIST. It ain’t Schindler’s List, but OMG, right now it might as well be because it just keeps on pressing and pushing and screaming at you.  And of course, people, fellow women, men, parents and other humans,  you are RIGHT. We need to do all of those things but remember how the negative stress hormones can f*** you up? So take a breath. Look outside. Cherry treeHere outside my living room window I look across our beautiful yard with the sun coming through the clouds, coloring everything brighter. The lush green grass, the rows Tulipsof colorful blooming tulips, the birds chirping, the cherry tree in full white brilliant bloom – all that makes me happy. It makes me breathe easier. It make me reconsider if getting stressed out is really worth it. It makes me feel that little Wonder Woman of Positive Energy inside of me slaying those bad stress hormone demons ;-). And if I am still not convinced I look over to the couch and see one of our dogs enjoying her day. Bet that all she thinks is: when on earth is Momma gonna get her butt up to let me out?! I look at Bella and for just a moment, I wish I was her. Not a care in the world, sleep whenever I want, be showered with cuddles and love and given all the best treats. And when I look at her, for a moment, I am.

Our dog Bella

Take a moment now. A moment for yourself to become aware of something beautiful or happy or good. Your kid’s laughter or the sun, the smell of fresh fruit in your local market, your dog or cat or maybe even an image just inside your head. Take a breath. And then another. Life is good. You can do it. We’ll get there. And if you feel you want to dive away and shut the world out completely for a while, I have found music to be a really effective means. I just put in my earbuds and sail away from it all. Luckily, I have found a really good device for that which I enjoy and am grateful for everyday. If you’d like to know more about I’d be happy to share it with you at My “I shut the world out and breathe” device 😉

If you need any support or want to comment, please feel free and don’t hesitate to do so below or shoot me a PM at deb@vitalisvitae.com

 

 

Negative Emotions Affect Health

We all know that phenomenon. We are stuck in a life crisis; our partner is too chummy with his or her ex causing a myriad of “bad feelings”; our favorite sports team loses an important match, our work situation is tense, deadlines need to be met, our children choose that first perfect spring day when you just want to sit in the sun and read a book in peace to invite a bunch of kids over to play keeping the noise at a steady “annoying to unbearable”. All of a sudden, we start feeling physically weird. Yes, negative emotions affect health. But how?Angelo Bronzino Envy

All day, every day, our bodies and minds deal with a varying multitude of emotions. More often than not we don’t understand what exactly they are, where they are coming from, and certainly not how to deal with them. So instead of blindly following down that path of destruction those “negative” emotions can cause, why not try to understand what they are in the first place? Emotions are, in their base, chemical signals pinged back and forth between the brain and the “heart” – I am using that term as a sort of understandable place in the human body where feelings take up residence. Our emotions are translated into according chemicals, which means that there are different chemicals for both negative and positive emotions. At moments when we experience what we would typically call negative emotions Reaction to Stress like anger,hate, jealousy, and rage, annoyance or fear, those emotions are by definition irregular and chaotic, and this is precisely what the signals they send to the brain look like. Compare it to the stock market on a volatile day with a lot of movement. Our minds and thus our bodies experience those signals just as they are – chaotic, and stressful, and begin to put in motion coping mechanisms that will help us deal.

Changing Heart Rhythms

Figure 4.1. A comparison of the signals between the heart and the brain in two extremes of emotion: the “negative” emotion of frustration and the “positive” emotion of appreciation. Source: The Institute of HeartMath.

On a purely physiological level, that means that stress causes both the levels of cortisol and adrenaline to rise in our bloodstreams, which is why they are often referred to as, indeed, the “stress hormones“. Those hormones are designed Adrenaline Chemistryto prepare us to react to the stress with action, quick and powerful, as our forefathers would have had to do when being faced with a bear or a mammoth would have caused stress. Our bodies redistribute their resources. Blood that is needed in the periphery – muscles and limbs , hands, feet etc – in order to make us ready to fight the bear (or strangle the screaming kids on the trampoline in our back yards ….) is pulled out of the organs in our depth. The key here lies in understanding that those responses and the according chemicals and physical changes are supposed to be brief and temporary. In our daily life experiences, however, they have become more of a constant occurance, meaning the levels of stress hormones just doesn’t return back to normal anymore. We can’t kill our bear (for example work situation/ our bosses), and we can’t run away from them either. So we respond almost ALL THE TIME. Hormones that are supposed to make us almost supHair pulling stresserhuman in life threatening situations now drain us of all energy.

Stress Hormones – Superhuman Powers or SuperSuckerPunch?

The benefits of our bodies releasing the stress hormones mentioned above, cortisol and adrenaline, can be not onlySuperhero helpful but necessary and life-saving at times. But, lets not forget this: the stress that triggers the surge effectively shuts down the release of other chemicals that support important functions in our bodies. The release of vital chemicals that support functions of growth, immunity, and anti-aging is dramatically reduced during highly stressful periods. Our bodies are designed for only one Game Mode: stress / fight/ react OR relax/chill/heal. Both cannot exist at the same time because the chemicals that are released in those game modes are vital enemies. The idea of life was never to be exposed to constant stress day in, day out and even at nighttime when we are supposed to rest. Yet, this is the reality for most people living today. We, the children of the 21st century, live in a world filled with technological blessings and curses. Our brains are battered almost constantly with information – news, blogs, headlines, pings, tweets, alerts from our social media platforms, dating websites etc. We have forgotten what it was like to live without our cell phones as a means of both a permanent informtaion source and our lifeline, our umbilical cord to the world. Be honest with yourself – how many times during a regular hour does your cell phone give alerts and / or do you check it? Measure it for one hour. And be prepared to be shocked. Additionally, we feed ourselves boosters for those stress chemicals with multiple consecutive espresso shots, double cappucinos, tall blacks, nutmeg latés and the occassional energy drink that promises to give us wings and make us fly but in reality only lets us leap for a second before we crash and burn in its aftermath. In short, we are adapting to the ever gaining speed  of the world around us with releasing stress hormones into our bloodstreams constantly in order to keep up and boost those hormones with Starbucks and Red Bulls . If you can’t protect yourself from this kind of stress you will get stuck in Game mode 1. Don’t forget though: the higher you rank here, the lower is the level of your health. Its pretty much like any computer game you know with one major difference: if you run our of life energy in the real world, no amount of “coins” will be able to buy you new energy to start over. Here, its a one time shot. Here, after Game Over you are depleted of all your energy, its GAME OVER. We just have to look around us to see the consequences of what I have described. Heart disease, stroke, eating disorders, immune deficiencies, even some forms of cancer are undoubtedly correlated with stress. In the recent 10 to 15 years we have seen a steady increase in those diseases everywhere in the modern world.  So how can we fight this development? How can we counteract it?

The answer is actually simpler than you may think.

Positive Emotions – The Real Superheroes

So, it really isn’t all that complicated. The same mechanisms that work with our response to stress can also help regulate that response. That means that even when all around us the world is clearly in Game Mode 1, we can find ways for ourselves to be in Game Mode 2 and relieve stress in a healthy way. Better yet, we can do so quickly, intentionally, and it doesn’t cost us a dime. Remember the pings our negative Sunset feeling freeemotions send between the heart and the brain? Well, positive emotions do the same. When we experience positive feelings such as appreciation, gratitude, compassion, caring, love, happiness we send signals to our brains that are regular, rhythmic and orderly. No more volatile stock market stress. In turn, the brain releases different chemicals, different hormones. In essence what happens is that the levels of the stress hormones go down and normalize and the life-affirming chemistry of a powerful immune system with anti-aging properties increases. The shift between the stress response and a feeling of well-being can happen quickly – its all up to you. Like I said at some other point on this webpage, I am not a Guru or a priest. I won’t preach to you about meditation techniques or prayer or anything else, even though I am not saying that those things can’t be exactly right for you. They can of course. I am simply saying this: look at yourself. Take a good long look at your life, and your history, and remember moments when you were relaxed, remember things that used to make you happy. Figure out what makes you tick. For some it can be as simple as sitting on a bench for 5 minutes and watching ducks in a pond fighting over bread crumbs. For others it may be a half hour walk in the woods or at the beach, or uninterrupted time to listen to their favorite music or indeed read that book; to lay in the bathtub, exercise, play with your dog, garden or whatever else it is that fills you with a sense of peace and rest (without e.g. feeling guilty that you are not at the constant disposal of your children or co-workers or even friends). And please, don’t Facebook or tweet it. Do it JUST FOR YOURSELF! I, for instance, like to put on my music player and dive into my own world, effectively shutting out everything and everyone for the time being. I do that in times of rest, or while I workout. I have been lucky to find one device that allows me to do all that. You can check out my review if you’d like: Awesome MP3 Music Player for Chilling and Sports . I can almost hear those brain wheels turning now. You wonder: but how can I relax when: my boss, my deadline, my mortgage, my marriage, my this, my that…. Simple. Look, the funny thing is, and thats a promise, once you have taken that half hour or hour for yorself to actually breathe and be and thus have actively reduced your stress hormone levels, all the factors that stress you will STILL BE THERE – only you will be able to deal with them a lot better. They won’t kill you anymore; instead your superhero positive emotions get to kick some stress hormone villain ass.

Face it: you are the creator of your health. And its not just in what you eat and whether or not you smoke etc. Your emotions are the key to personal resilience in life. The quality of our emotions determines the instructions our hearts send to our brains. My advice? Don’t let negative emotions affect your health anymore. Kick ass. You know you can!MoonGirl SuperHero

Finally, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below or send me a personal message at deb@vitalisvitae.com

Thanks!

How To Stop Smoking

Indeed, one of the questions that keeps mankind (and the tabac industry 😉 ) busy! I am posting this today because the issue of “how to stop smoking” has had a very personal effect on me; and I also realize that to stop smoking is one of the blocks the construction of your new, healthy YOU is build upon. So I think of you as a construction site. Ooookay….. thatCoach Tower doesn’t sound very …. scientific. Or kind. Or even “human” 🙂 No worries, folks. I have the very same thought about myself and when you sit down for a minute and think about it, it is quite an interesting concept and a fitting analogy. The human body and the human mind aren’t born “finished” or ready, a newborn baby isn’t the end product, quite the contrary. At and with birth, we are given the basic mold, the most basic ingredients, the most basic items & tools to start the life-long work on constructing the human being called “YOU”. I will talk more about this concept some other time, for now, lets fast forward to today’s hot topic: how to stop smoking.

Its personal to be because a.) I used to be a smoker myself, b.) I was raised in a household surrounded by adult smokers, c.) I link the smell of cigarettes and cigarette smoke to traumatic childhood experiences and finally d.) up until 4 weeks ago, the love of my life, my spouse and partner, the mother of my children was an active, heavy, “no bullshit never gonna stop honest to God I really need to smoke” smoker. I guess you can see how I had and have quite an interest vested in the issue! Stop Smoking Campaign Not only did my partner’s smoking present a daily personal conflict between us and caused me more than one negative flashback; not only did it regularly put a damper on our love life when kisses tasted more like licking the dust from the walls of a coal mine than a field of blooming spearmint; more than that and mostly it has been an issue at our home because its a major health risk.

I love my partner. I care about her well-being. I don’t want her to die of lung cancer or any of the other gruesome illnesses that can befall you when you smoke. I don’t want this example for our kids; I don’t want them to think of smoking as an “ok” thing to do; I don’t want to see them rolling their eyes and shaking their heads when for the unteempth time in a day the question “where is other mom?” is answered with “outside” (a euphemism for “smoking a cigarette”). Lets face it folks. The irony of me being a surgeon who has removed quite a few lung tumors in her time and cut of just as many smokers’ limbs being in a committed relationship with a Marlboro Maniac is …. quite striking 😉

Marlboro Cigarettes

So – how do you stop smoking and why should you?

Today, in the confines of this blog post, I will keep the answers short. If you want more extensive information, advice and stories please feel free to scroll through Vitalis Vitae. You will be sure to come across something thats useful to you! So. Why stop? That should be a no-brainer, actually. Because its BAD FOR YOU ;-). Okay, well, so are many other things like the 5th cup of black strong coffee of the morning standing beside me right now 😉 Well. Smoking is not just bad for you; it can kill you. But before it does, it can make you suffer incredibly. Being sick as an effect of smoking isn’t pretty and its certainly no joke. You can bust up your lungs, your vessels – which can cause damage to other organs like your heart and brain, but which can also do a lot of harm to the blood flow in your legs, arms, feet, hands, fingers and toes. Arteries will get clogged. Blood flow will be cut off. Limbs will turn black, necrotic and die and will need to be amputated. GangreneIts as simple and as gruesome as that. Your libido and potency will drop to subzero because, yeah – reduced blood flow to the pleasure points as well. You may develop ulcers and / or malignant tumors in your mouth, your throat, your stomach. Smoking reduces your lung and heart function and thus your ability to get and stay fit. All smokers who read this will know what I am talking about. Once you stand at the top of ONE flight of stairs completely out of breath or you wheeze like an asthmatic mammoth after playing sports for 5 minutes with your kids you gotta figure that maybe, just maybe, cutting down on your smoking or even quitting might be a pretty good idea after all. But well, smoking doesn’t just make you sick and less able. It also makes you stink 😉 and it costs you a shitload of money. Think of it that way: how many $$ per day / week/ month / year do you spend on cigarettes? Thats quite en expensive, agonizing, painful way to harm and / or kill yourself. Isn’t it? So you are addcited. How do you stop? There are a million different approaches out there from hypnosis to quitting cold turkey. One of them will work for you. In our menu you will find the category “Body & Mind”. Browse here to find lists and analysis of the different methods of how to stop smoking. The simple answer is: look at all the reasons why you should stop. Understand that you have to stop. Believe that you want to stop. And believe that you can do it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. But with help, support and a Guideline that works for you, you can stop. I have seen it happen in my own home 🙂 so trust! We’ll get there!

Congratulations

Congratulations! You have entered a quest. A search through the depth of the world wide net for information, advice, help, and support on becoming a healthier human, on feeling better about your mind and body, on changing your lifestyle from within. You are tired of hanging on the sofa to watch TV after work, you are fed up with the soft sagging skin on your bones, you are tired of being exhausted permanently, you have the need to take back control over your mind and body. You have battled and fought, survived abuse or addiction. You have chosen a different lifestyle than what is considered the “norm” and you get a lot of heat for it. You are confused or just want to change. You are here.  You exist. Why?

The eternal question. To have a job, make money, pay the bills, the mortgage, the collge funds. But is that all you are meant to be? Be a spouse, a parent, a co-worker, a boss, a friend? And are you any good at any of that?

You must understand that you cannot fully and happily be any of those things without becoming a healthy and happy YOU first. So you have to ask yourself this one question: who are you and who do you want to become?DNA helix

Somewhere along the way of growing up we have all been taught and told what we are suppose to be, supposed to want, supposed to need. We are fed the food our parents put on the table, we join the masses of the fast food generation in drive-thru lines at your favorite Micky D or Sonic or Wendy’s or any other of the well known chains. Our minds are controlled by the abundance of electronic devices from smartphones to tablets, from notebooks to personal computers. We choose VR experience over the real thing because it is easier, accessible, cheaper and seemingly less dangerous; and we use our smart devices to track our moves and count our steps instead of using our brains to do so. We are being reprogrammed from self thinking and self doing to having machines and electronics think and do for us, to have public media and social platforms make our lifestyle decisions. We have so much to deal with, so much to handle, so much to battle that everyday life can become overwhleming quickly. So, more often than not, we choose to hide. Hide from our pasts, from our realities, from ourselves.

Well, no more. You are here, which means you are ready to take back your life, to learn how to become you. You are here because you want to make active changes. This platform will help you with finding out how. It will give you advice and support and ideas but it will not make your decisions nor do the work for you.

Eat healthy. Exercise. Stop smoking. Fight addictions. Understand the psychology of your relationships. Learn to forgive the past. Learn to live, let live and embrace yourself and your own needs. I am not a guru, nor am I a priest. I was and am just like you – a parent, a spouse, trying to juggle the stress of every day life and busting my ass to keep the boat afloat. If you want help and advice on the many ways how to lead a better life in a healthier body with a healthy mind, you have come to the right place. Empower yourself. Let’s get started!