5 ‘superfoods’ for a strong, healthy soul
Since our PM turned the spotlight on fighting diabetes during the 2017 NDP Rally, mainstream media has bombarded us with what exercises to do, what superfoods to eat (and avoid!), what devices to buy to keep track of said exercises and calories… when, really, they could have just asked for our previous posts!
Yet, so often overlooked are the thoughts that nourish our minds. As much as we’ve covered some superfoods for the body in past entries, we will focus on the flaxseeds and avocados that nourish our inner being. Here are 5 of our favourite “superfoods for the soul”:
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1. Gratitude: the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. In 2007, Robert Emmons began researching gratitude on a psychological level. He found that expressing gratitude improves mental, physical and relational well-being, and positively impacts the overall experience of happiness. And these effects tend to be long-lasting.
Simple tips to nourish yourself with gratitude:
- Wake up each morning thinking about 5 things you are grateful for today
- Say ‘Thank You’ to the people who serve you (especially the unsung heroes around us!)
- Making appreciation notes to people who have helped you in one way or another
- Write down 10 things you appreciate about yourself
Our thoughts have great power to shape our brains and positive thinking has the power to transform our lives. When we cultivate our “gratitude mindset”, we can shift from complaining to contentment. So… what are you grateful for today?
2. Forgive: stop feeling angry or resentful towards (someone) for an offence, flaw, or mistake. It is easy to forgive someone who unintentionally bumped into you or took your order by mistake. But how do we forgive someone who hurts us on purpose? Especially if there’s no admittance of guilt or expression of remorse. When this happens, it can be difficult to forgive. In these instances, try accepting what that person has done and the harm (if any) done to you. Acceptance is an important 1st step to forgiveness and can help you find the peace that you need.
Simple tips in acceptance/forgiving:
- How would an impartial observer see this?
- Have I done the same thing to another or to myself?
- Is this similar to a pattern in my family?
- Has something like this happened to me before? Am I reliving a situation I’ve gone through before, but with different players?
- What can I learn from this?
- Can anything positive come from this? Am I stronger or more resourceful as a result of this having happened?
- What do I get by holding on to this resentment? Who benefits and how?
- Am I keeping the situation alive by refusing to let go?
3. Laugh: Make the spontaneous sounds and movements of the face and body that are the instinctive expressions of lively amusement and sometimes also of derision. Laughter is indeed the best medicine- so how exactly does it benefit us?
- Relieves stress: Researchers investigating the interaction between the brain, behaviour, and the immune system found in 2006 that simply anticipating a mirthful laughter experience boosted health-protecting hormones. Two years later, the same researchers found that the anticipation of a positive humorous laughter experience also reduces potentially detrimental stress hormones. The anticipation of laughter effectively reduce stress hormones by as much as 70 percent.
- Immunity booster: Researchers have found that a good chortle increases the number of antibody-producing T cells, making us less likely to contract coughs and colds. It also lowers the levels of at least four hormones that are associated with stress. Go have a good giggle!
- Relieves pain: A 2011 study conducted by researchers from Oxford University showed that the more subjects laughed, the less pain they felt. The study also suggests that it’s laughter itself, not just positive emotions, that aids in pain relief.
- Internal workout: When was the last time you had a good belly laugh? We change physiologically when we laugh – diaphragm is stretched, abdominal muscles are contracted, breathing is hastened sending more oxygen to our tissues.
4. Give: Freely transfer the possession of (something) to (someone). When a couple (Mark and Ismini) from Orangeburg, New York, tied the knot in 2010, they decided to dedicate “50 Acts of Giving Back” to Ismini’s late father. Across the U.S. they have brought comfort to the sick and dying, given books to schoolchildren, helped invalids and the elderly do their grocery shopping, and even assisted in camps for the disabled. There are enormous benefits in the spirit of giving and here are just 5 of them:
- Giving makes us feel happy: In a 2006 study, Jorge Moll and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health found that when people give to charities, it activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust, creating a “warm glow” effect. Scientists also believe that altruistic behavior releases endorphins in the brain, producing the positive feeling known as the “helper’s high.”
- Giving is good for our health: Researchers suggest that one reason giving may improve physical health and longevity is that it helps decrease stress, which is associated with a variety of health problems. In a 2006 study by Rachel Piferi of Johns Hopkins University and Kathleen Lawler of the University of Tennessee, people who provided social support to others had lower blood pressure than participants who didn’t, suggesting a direct physiological benefit to those who give of themselves.
- Giving promotes cooperation and social connection: When we give to others, we don’t only make them feel closer to us; we also feel closer to them. “Being kind and generous leads you to perceive others more positively and more charitably,” writes Lyubomirsky in her book The How of Happiness, and this “fosters a heightened sense of interdependence and cooperation in your social community.”
- Giving evokes gratitude: Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end of a gift, that gift can elicit feelings of gratitude—it can be a way of expressing gratitude or instilling gratitude in the recipient. And research has found that gratitude is integral to happiness, health, and social bonds.
- Giving is contagious: A study by James Fowler of the University of California, San Diego, and Nicholas Christakis of Harvard, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, shows that when one person behaves generously, it inspires observers to behave generously later, toward different people. In fact, the researchers found that altruism could spread by three degrees—from person to person to person to person. “As a result,” they write, “each person in a network can influence dozens or even hundreds of people, some of whom he or she does not know and has not met.”
5. Love (yourself): An intense feeling of deep affection. Love is something we choose, the same way we choose to be sad, happy or angry. And love stems from understanding and appreciating the good (best) parts of any given thing. Loving yourself therefore requires you to be able to engage in an honest reflection on a daily basis: to to celebrate the good parts, improve on the not-so-good, and avoid the bad! In so doing, you will develop a deeper respect for yourself! Try out these 5 steps:
- Stop comparing yourself to others: You are you, and you are the only one who can be you. Your gifts, personality and values are uniquely yours!
- Celebrate your successes: Yes, congratulate yourself on even the seemingly small ones. Any improvement or progress at all is surely worthy of a celebration.
- Do something nice for yourself: Because you deserve it! Do something that you enjoy and not feel guilty for once. Go for a nice massage, a jacuzzi bath or just a leisurely stroll.
- Learn something new: Go out and pick up a new interest – a skill, sport or anything you fancy. Learning is growing, and it gives new meaning to your life.
- Spend time with positive people: Surround yourself with people who make you feel uplifted and encouraged. #positivevibesonly!
In good hands,
Jim Dincalci “How to Forgive When You Can’t: The Breakthrough Guide to Free Your Heart & Mind”