An echocardiogram technician told me I have a beautiful heart and that got me going. What makes for good heart health? What role do genetics, lifestyle, and environment play?

Dr. Erica Pitsch talks about the Framingham Heart Study, John talks about congestive heart failure and Mended Hearts, and Saurabh shares how yoga and meditation help his stress level and coping with myotonic muscular dystrophy. For additional tips on heart health, check out the Harvard Heart Letter.

Earlier podcast episodes you may find of interest:

Hopefully you have already downloaded the Health Storylines app and are using it to record and monitor your self-care goals. If you’re new to our monthly Self-Care Challenge, check out this earlier post.

My recent podcast episode, Yoga & Walking: Ease Pain, Reduce Stress, focuses on Katrina, a yoga instructor’s health journey. Katrina discovered the healing benefits of yoga after experiencing prolonged back pain after an injury.

In the last few years Katrina became involved with Girl Trek, a national movement with the sole mission to get African-American women and girls walking. Walking together with friends or walking with a large group of women and making new friends.

Group of GirlTrekkers on a coastal hike

What do we know about the power of Walking?

According to the Mayo Clinic, the practice of walking has both physical and emotional health benefits such as:

  • Preventing or managing various conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes
  • Strengthening bones and muscles
  • Improving mood
  • Improving balance and coordination
  • Maintaining a healthy weight

When I began this monthly Self-Care Challenge, back in July of 2018, I bought a FitBit watch. This has been a very satisfying health investment. Unlike other electronics or gym accessory purchases, I still use the FitBit every day. How many stationery bikes or stair masters have you seen sitting on a neighbor’s front lawn at a garage sale or inside serving as a temporary wardrobe rack?

My FitBit has made me more aware of my daily movement — everything from intentional walks to doing house chores. They all add up as steps. Each hour my FitBit reminds me to get up off my butt and move. I glance at my steps throughout the day and half the time, an hour or so before bedtime, if I’ve hit 10,000 daily steps I am rewarded with a little noise and digital fireworks on the FitBit display.

My groovy FitBit watch

And Yes, that does motivate me.

You know what else motivates me? Seeing my progress in Health Storylines. It’s as easy as 1-2-3 to synch the FitBit.

Health Storylines Menu

First you want to select Sync a Device. Follow the steps to synch your FitBit or other supported devices (Nokia, iHealth, MapMyFitness, Runkeeper, Strava, Movable, Misfit, FatSecret, or VitaDock).

At any time you can visit My Storylines to see your daily progress with walking and other Self-Care activities you’ve chosen to monitor.

Only two days of hitting 10,000+ steps. I better get moving!

One yoga teacher’s health journey. Katrina LaShea was able to ease her back injury and subsequent ankle injury pain through a yoga practice. What once worked as a treatment, later became her passion. Today Katrina teaches yoga to African-American women and girls at GirlTrek retreats as well as at her Oakland yoga studio.

Beginning this February, the GirlTrek founders will be visiting 50 cities across the country bringing the message of radical self-care and healing at teach-ins and wellness festivals. The Road to Selma culminates this summer in Selma, Alabama.

Need help with sleep? David — resident DIY expert — explains how to decarb, squish, and infuse cannabis. Unfamiliar with these terms? No worries. These terms, and more, are explained for the novice. Podcast episode, and complementary YouTube video, demonstrate the processes involved with creating cannabis tinctures and infusions for making edibles.

An earlier podcast episode features six people sharing how cannabis helps with their physical and/or emotional challenges including cancer, depression, muscular dystrophy, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, bone fracture, and bipolar disorder.

Once you’re familiar with the process known as decarbing, you may want to check out this podcast episode featuring a fine dining chef who prepares meals infused with cannabis.

Happy New Year! I think it’s safe to greet someone with this salutation for the duration of January. Somewhere, sometime, someone said…”you’ve got the entire month of January to focus on the new year…”

…and make those ubiquitous new year resolutions.

How’s that process going for you? Have you made any new year resolutions? Have you resolved not to make resolutions? If you’d like to know my advice — and I hope you do — focus on small, baby steps for new year resolutions. I explain this in a blog post for Brain & Life magazine.

A great starting point is assessing your current Self-Care routines. Have they been working for you? Have you maintained your exercise goals? Have you been eating the healthy, well-balanced diet you envisioned? Are you still feeling harried like a bundle of nerves?

If you’re not currently using the Health Storylines Tool to assist your Self-Care, then this month is a great time to start. Just download the free app. I use it on both my desktop computer and smart phone. And I have my FitBit uploading daily data as well.

Once you have the app installed, check out the Tools Library.

Browse through all of the Tools; consider how best to use them to assist with your Self-Care plans.

You’ll notice there are many Tools available for specific conditions such as asthma, cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, COPD, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, and hepatitis C.

Whether or not your condition is listed, I suggest adding the Health Routine Builder Tool. Here you create your baby steps leading a path of success toward reaching your larger Self-Care goals.

Join us on the monthly Self-Care Challenge. To review past blog posts, check out this page. For additional coaching with achieving your Self-Care baby steps and goals, become a part of the Glass Half Full Facebook group.

Holidays can be tough; that’s why we’re focusing on our favorite things. Peni, Laurel, and Kristl share their voices and 22 previous podcast guests tell us how they beat the funk when dogs bite or bees sting.

Since this is the shortest podcast episode ever…check out these previous episodes all about optimism:

Are you ready to explore another area of Self-Care?

Doctor hand holding dry medical cannabis on table close up

According to Wikipedia, medication, “(also referred to as medicine, pharmaceutical drug, or simply drug) is a drug used to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent disease.” With that general understanding, one’s medicine may be over-the-counter,  prescription, or a substance legal in some states but federally illegal.

Whatever type of medication it may be, it’s important to monitor how much of the medication we take and how frequently we take it.

It’s also important to be aware of any side effects from the medication or the medication’s interaction with another medication or food or beverage.

Self-care seems a lot like project management; we’re managing our most-valuable project — ourselves.

Using the Health Storylines app to monitor all of this management makes the project a little easier.

If you haven’t downloaded the app for your smart phone or desktop computer, here are the steps:

  1. Register for the Health Storylines Tool. If you have questions about the registration process, send me a message via the Facebook group. You can use the Tool on a desktop computer, smart phone, or tablet. The data you enter will synch on all devices.
  2. Use the Symptom Tracker feature to list all of the symptoms associated with your chronic health condition.
  3. Use the Medication Tracker feature to identify all of the medications you take. You can also set up medication reminders. The tool has an extensive database of pharmaceuticals as well as the ability to identify marijuana (it’s not listed as cannabis).

If you’ve missed the previous Self-Care Challenges, check this page. Join us in the Facebook group to further explore self-care.

How do you give back? In previous podcast episodes we heard from Amy – a music philanthropist – who sings to raise money for causes she believes in, Chris – a software engineer – who has been involved with a nonprofit organization that helped him as a youth, and Hazel – a retired government employee – who teaches others about service dogs.

Today’s episode features Susan, diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987, who helped the Women’s Cancer Resource Center thrive; first as a volunteer and then as its first executive director.

‘Tis the season to be thankful, grateful, and appreciative. But how does one get to a place of gratitude if you’re feeling miserable — physically, emotionally, or both? Toni Bernhard, author of How to Be Sick (Second Edition): A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers, talks about gratitude as it relates to the Four Sublimes States of Buddhism. 

A brief introduction to Robert A. Emmons‘, Ph.D. research on gratitude is presented on the physical, psychological, and social benefits to a gratitude practice. Emmons has written a number of books but here is a quick read for those anxious to jump into a gratitude practice, The Little Book of Gratitude: Create a life of happiness and wellbeing by giving thanks.

Join Leslie with her 30-day gratitude challenge of daily journaling in the Glass Half Full Facebook group.

Listen to Toni Bernhard in her earlier podcast episode and her articles on Psychology Today’s website.

Welcome to the sixth month of Self-Care Challenges. If you’ve been reading since the beginning, that’s great! I encourage you to share your progress with a comment below. If you’re just joining us, take a look at the previous month’s challenges.

Relaxation is an integral aspect of Self-Care…duh! But, what actually is relaxation? What happens physiologically? Can we be sure what we’re doing is truly relaxing both physically and emotionally? What I find relaxing may be incredibly annoying to you. In fact, years ago at a support group meeting there was a guest speaker leading us through a guided visualization. I was feeling blissful but one of the support group participants was having a panic attack. She couldn’t handle closing her eyes in a group setting.

Leslie at the acupuncture clinic

Leslie with acupuncture needles

According to my friend, Wikipedia, relaxation is, “the emotional state of a living being, of low tension, in which there is an absence of arousal that could come from sources such as anger, anxiety, or fear.”

Digging a little deeper, the Oxford dictionary describes relaxation as, “a form of mild ecstasy coming from the frontal lobe of the brain in which the backward cortex sends signals to the frontal cortex via a mild sedative. Relaxation can be achieved through meditation, autogenics, and progressive muscle relaxation.”

Okay, I’ve never heard about autogenics. But whatever route you take to get to that relaxed state, you are eliminating stress. And stress, as you’re aware, exacerbates all chronic health conditions. An undue amount of stress even creates ill health. Check out the National Institute of Mental Health for more information about stress and its relation to both mental and physical health.

There are many relaxation methods. At night I wind down by taking a hot bath. It’s part of my sleep hygiene. But during the day it’s just as important to include time for relaxation and it doesn’t have to be a nap. Though I know a few adults that make a daily practice of this. In many yoga classes the final pose is savasana (corpse pose). The purpose of this pose is to relax. Not everyone can. If I have a good savasana at the end of a yoga class, I often sleep better at night.

I’ve had very intense feelings of relaxation from an acupuncture treatment, sound bath, massage, or just sitting by an open body of water.

If you don’t have the time or inclination for the above, there are tools to help you relax in the comfort of your own home. Possible tools include essential oils, listening to a guided visualization body scan, inhaling or ingesting certain strains of medical cannabis, or using a brass bowl.

If you’re using the Health Storylines app, the best way to keep track of your relaxation time is to use the Health Routine Builder. First you’ll need to figure out what helps you relax. As I mentioned above, everyone has their unique experience with relaxation. You may not be inclined to do yoga or listen to glass bowls. I hope you’ll suggest some modes that won’t include a television or computer screen.

Join our Facebook group to learn about other modes for relaxation and share your progress.