Monday, July 27, 2009

Calorie Counting Websites

Whether for weight loss, a health issue, or just because you want more control over the food that you put into your body, many people use calorie counting websites to keep track of what they eat, exercise, and nutrition and fitness goals. The two big free sites seem to be FitDay and SparkPeople. I have used both extensively in the past.

I decided to take a few days and do a comparison of these two sites. I will be running through their "start-up" programs and recording the food that I eat at both sites. I am also going to look at a few other sites for comparison, especially those that are diabetic friendly since my girlfriend is a diabetic.

I will let you know my thoughts and impressions in the next few days!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Random Thoughts on Life Purpose

Steve Pavlina is a popular personal development blogger, and on occasion, I read his blog. I don't agree with everything he says, but he is interesting and every once in awhile has an idea that makes me think or gets me moving. One of his best ideas, in my opinion, is a simple method of discovering your life purpose. I will not give the details because in order to get the full benefit of this method I think you need to read his original post and really understand how it works for different people.

A few weeks back, I took the time to really put this method to work. I thought and thought and wrote and wrote. It did not take twenty minutes. It did not take 40 minutes. It took three days with about an hour devoted to the process each day before I was happy with the results. I shared them with Diana when she got home from work, and I think I was disappointed that she didn't share the joy and peace that I had found.

I set aside the results thinking that maybe they weren't as important as I thought that they were.

Fast forward to about a week ago when I wanted to look at this life purpose statement again. I opened the document where I had stored it, and it was GONE! Somehow the document no longer included my life purpose. I think I must have saved it wrong. Now, I do know that I copied and pasted this life purpose into Diana's IM window, and I could go look it up in my archives, but there isn't a really easy way to search Y!M archives so it would take a lot of time and effort.

Instead, I am letting go. If I needed that life purpose, it would be there.

I do still think that this process is valuable, and I would still like a life purpose statement whether fluid and static to keep me on an even keel when times get tough and to help me remember both who I am and where I am going, but I think this is not the right time to create it. I am still healing, and my mind swirls everywhere against my will. I need to do other things before that is going to happen and stick.

I am not blind to my life purpose though, and I would like to share bits and pieces that I know here. First and foremost, I need to live in the moment with trust. Next, I need to know and love myself. Piled on top of those two foundations, I need relationships with others, to gift freedom, and to preach important truths. Swirling around everything are walls of knowledge seeking and wisdom.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Other Guy

One trick that has proven useful in treating other human beings with love and respect even when it isn't easy has been remembering that "the other guy" is a person just like me. I first though of this when I was eighteen years old and a Brownie Girl Scout leader for a group of first grade girls. There was one girl in the troop who just rubbed me the wrong way. I suppose now I would say that her personality and my personality just didn't mesh well. I found her irritating. The truth is so did the other girls. She was somewhat of an outcast in the troop. No one was outright mean to her, but to any observer, it would have been obvious that she was not well liked.

This bothered me, and I thought on it a lot. The thing that really struck me was that she was really no different than me. I knew that she had thoughts and feelings that were probably similar to mine. She could be hurt. She could be confused. She could be happy and sad, and could both give and receive love. I decided that at the next meeting I would think about her personhood while interacting with her.

As I led the meeting with this new perception, I found myself feeling an intense love for this slightly irritating girl who didn't quite fit in. It was a wonderful sensation. I could see so much more of who she was and found myself reaching a new place of understanding for both her whole self and her behavior.

She never went on to become popular in that troop that year, but I know that she had a fun, meaningful year due primarily to my attention and empathy. All it took was a small change of my mindset to make a difference in one girl's life.

Now, whenever I find it necessary to interact with someone who I don't like or am very different from or feel prejudiced against, I remind myself that they are a person just like me. That is the foundation of loving each individual for who they are. Give it a try! You might find yourself not only helping others, but feeling better about yourself too!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Benefit of the Doubt, Part 2

Yesterday, I took my family swimming. At our usual swimming spot, there is a shallow area that is enclosed in a ring of stone that we call the lagoon. My daughters (age 11, 12, and 15) prefer to get into the water in the lagoon, and Diana and I as well as my son usually get in in another area where the water is deeper.

Yesterday, shortly after we had arrived, the girls came running over from the lagoon. They didn't want to stay there because there were some other kids there (teens really) who had been making fun of them because they are thin. The other kids were teasing them because their ribs show. *I* get teased at the beach because I am fat. Now my kids are getting teased because they are thin. It seems there is always judging!

Now I could have gone and hollered at those kids or been angry. Instead I reminded my kids that they are beautiful and that if they were fat they would have been teased too. (They said they knew. My kids have no doubts that they are beautiful!) Then we talked about how those kids may have been insecure and may have been raised with parents who make fun of them. We also talked about what a negative environment public school can be and how most likely those kids are exposed to that environment regularly.

In other words, instead of condemning the other kids, we gave them the benefit of the doubt. It works for us. We had no hard feelings and went on to have a great swim.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Giving Others the Benefit of the Doubt

In our society, judgment rings as easily as ice cream melts on a hot day. Individuals and groups feel free to label everything and everyone with words of critique. Have you noticed that little Susie is getting chubby? Did you see how much dessert she took? Wealthy people are snobs who don't care about the little guy. Poor people are lazy and don't try hard enough. It is such an accepted part of our culture that one rarely hears an objection, and when someone does object, they immediately become the subject of derisive criticism. Who is this person who dares to spoil our fun? Obviously they must have problems. We start judging and labeling our kids when they are young. Johnny doesn't sleep through the night! He is definitely a rebel who can't hold still. Have you seen how Lisa gobbles her bottle? She needs to learn self control, or she'll grow up to be fat.

The easiest people to judge are those that we don't know personally, particularly those who we consider to be different from us. The wealthy judge the poor. The fat judge the thin. Nearly everyone judges those who we perceive as driving poorly.

Isn't it interesting that no one likes being judged. When judged negatively to one's face, the most common response is defensiveness. Perhaps the better response would be: Is this any of your business?

I propose that we all turn over new leaves and start giving one another the benefit of the doubt. Start with the people in your family. If your husband is home late from work, assume he is caught in traffic. If your child knocks over a vase, assume that it was an accident. Then extend it to others. Your best friend hasn't called in a month? She is probably extra busy at work. Your boss gives the promotion to someone else? That person just may have the right qualities for that job. You are cut off in traffic? No one is perfect! The other drivers are most likely doing the best job that they can of staying safe.

Give others the benefit of the doubt and become responsible for your own life and your own happiness. Leave them to theirs.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Mindfulness & Physical Pain, Part 2

Today, I was once again out and about, and I got to thinking once again how mindfulness helps with physical pain. I have verified over and over again that it does help, but my mind wanted to know why. After much reflection and practice, I have extended my theory.

I still think the foundation is that mindfulness helps you relax which then reduces the pain, but I think it goes further than that. When we use distraction to deal with pain, it is still there, and we are ignoring it. It is like a little child pulling on your arm, calling, "Mommy! Mommy!" while you carry on a conversation with someone else. What happens in that scenario? Usually the calling gets louder and more insistent, but even if it doesn't, it tends to feel like it does the longer that we ignore the child.

I think that when we ignore a pain, it keeps bothering us and creates an ever increasing foundation of stress. A circle is formed as we work harder to distract ourselves away from it, and it screams louder as tension and stress keep us from doing the very actions necessary to reduce the pain. We get more and more out of touch with our bodies, and become more and more the aggravated by stress and neverending pain.

Insert mindfulness into the equation. We recognize that we don't feel quite right. We start paying attention to our bodies and realize that something hurts. We pay close attention to the part that hurts helping everything there to relax and letting go of the pain as best as we can. Because we are aware of the pain, we can modify our activities to not worsen it or to provide relief. We can listen when it calls to us and give it appropriate attention at that moment so that we can also be mindful of our environments and those we are interacting with when the time is right.

This could also be a metaphor for the benefits of appropriately paying attention to our children, but that is perhaps another post.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Sharing

Today I have been perusing the blog 37days. It is a wonderful place full of positivity, honest reflections, and well thought out philosophy based on living life to the fullest.

One entry in particular hit me though. This entry is about letting go of false perfectionism and embracing ourselves for the wonderful people that we are. I highly recommend that you all read it!

Conformity

I have been thinking a lot about conformity lately, how conformist humans really are! We drive similar cars in the same color families, we live in similar houses also in similar color families, we wear similar clothing...anyone falling outside the norm is labeled as odd or weird or even not all quite there.

My kids, JoAnn and Lia have a thing for Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie. They even have a role play where they act them out. Today they were watching an episode of Paris's reality tv show, My New BFF. We don't have a lot of TV reception out here in the middle of nowhere so they were watching an older episode on the computer. I overheard that people were being voted out based on their fashion choices!

How shallow is that! How could anyone judge a person by their clothes, choose a friend by their wardrobe? It just seems so wrong! The qualities I want in a friend have nothing to do with fashion. Now I do realize that there are some unwritten (and in a few cases written) rules governing our clothing choices. Maybe we don't want to deal with a friend who is stretching the rules whether written or unwritten. I think even this would be way down on the list of qualities I want in a friend.

Honesty? Yes!
Love? Yes!
Caring? Yes!
Fun? Yes!
Reliable? Yes!
Loyal? Yes!
Fashion sense? I think not!!!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Mindfulness and Dealing with Physical Pain

Last Saturday, Diana and I were out and about for most of the day. That is the kind of day when my body tends to ache the most. On long days with lots of car riding, visiting, sitting around, and time on my feet both standing still and walking, I deal with general muscle pain and fatigue from FMS, rib cage pain from costochondritis, weird pains in my stomach area from a hiatal hernia, and of course foot pain. That makes me sound pretty sick and miserable, but it really isn't like that at all! I actually consider myself pretty healthy. I don't tend to acknowledge pain and except for the ribcage pain which is really annoying most of the others I can continually plow through.

The hardest time for me is when I am sitting somewhere with nothing to distract me. That happened to me once on Saturday, and I was thinking I would have to excuse myself and go for a walk and stretch a bit to be OK, but then I decided to become mindful instead. I payed attention first to my body and then worked outside being in the moment with everything that was going on around me. A surprising thing happened. The pain went away. (The particular pain at the moment was the hiatal hernia. It has bothered me since high school when I am sitting still for a long time especially if I am wearing certain clothing and my stomach is empty.)

I have been trying this technique on a regular basis now. When I am dealing with physical pain, I become extra mindful of my body. This is the exact opposite of what I have done in the past. In the past, I have always tried to distract myself. I have found that by becoming mindful, I can always reduce my pain levels. This is a wonderful discovery.

I have since thought a lot about why this works. In my mind, if I am paying close attention to something that hurts, it should hurt worse. The simple truth is that when I am mindful I relax. Always. Relaxation is a result of mindfulness. Stress, anxiety, and tension are results of a lack of mindfulness. When you relax your body, usually you hurt less. Give it a try. If you suffer from a chronic pain disorder or if you are healing from an injury, give mindfulness a try, and you just might be happy with the results!