Friday, September 27, 2013

Conscious Thinking

Conscious Thinking

It takes a bit of energy and focus, but conscious thinking can have a profound effect on your life and those around you. Deliberately being conscious of your mental and physical states throughout your day helps us break out from auto pilot. 

I have two specific things that I do for my mind and body to help positively program myself.
1.    1) randomly dance or do exercises anytime/anywhere if I feel the need to mentally or physically get in touch. Simple ballet exercises in my kitchen using a counter as a barre or dropping down to the floor and doing push ups or burpees. 2) For the mind I often take breaks by practicing ‘pause moments’ or deliberately doing and/or thinking things that help program me to be grateful.

Interestingly, while reading various news feeds on line today I came across an article on Huffington Post that listed several things one can do to increase their potential to be happy. You can read the whole article ’12 Things Happy People Do Differently’ at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jacob-sokol-/things-happy-people-do_b_3869793.html  Of course, a lot of these are common sense and many of us already practice them frequently, but it is always good to be reminded.

My Commentary on the List of 12 Things to be a Happier Person:
1.      Express gratitude. – making a conscious effort to acknowledge everything you have good in your life by either telling those people or making a list is a step in the positive direction.
2.      Cultivate optimism. – The power of positive thinking is what comes to mind when I read this phrase, but a step further by taking action steps to actually cultivate the positive.
3.      Avoid over-thinking and social comparison. – I’m guilty of this on so many levels. I’m an over-thinker for sure. What’s the hardest for me to kick is comparing my 50+ year old athletic self to my younger athletic self. I NEED to give myself a break, be kinder to myself, and allow myself to be the healthiest ME at this point in my life. Be your best self and don’t strive for perfection. We are human and attaining perfection is unrealistic and unhealthy.
4.      Practice acts of kindness. – doing things for others without any thought of what’s in it for you has a beneficial effect. Doing things for others really does make us feel better about ourselves because we feel fulfilled and useful helping others. Do some volunteer work, help a friend, neighbor or family member and see for yourself.
5.      Nurture social relationships. – ALL relationships need nurturing, including marriages. Don’t take any relationship for granted. It’s important to put time and attention into your various relationships so they continue to grow and flourish.
6.      Develop strategies for coping. – We are not in control of many things in life. Life is full of change and unpredictability. Although there are many things we are not in control of in our daily lives, we ARE IN CONTROL of how WE REACT to those difficult events. My mom used to say that experiences in life are all ‘character building.’ The important thing is to develop healthy coping mechanisms. So count to ten, think before you speak/react, and practice healthy stress reducing exercises to blow off steam. Physical exercise does wonders to make one feel mentally and physically better.
7.      Learn to forgive. – is a tough one. As a survivor of child abuse, it’s tough for me to easily forgive someone who does me wrong, and my natural inclination isn’t to give second chances. However, I’ve learned that to heal and be a healthy person, I need to find ways to work through the wrong done to me and come to peace with it on my own, and let go. I find it to be amazingly uplifting mentally which also reduces my physical stress because I’m not ‘carrying baggage.’
8.      Increase flow experiences. – This one can be hard to explain. I and others I know who are ADD have a tendency to actually hyper focus on a task to the detriment of other things. So temperance is key. The definition of “flow” is - a state in which it feels like time is standing still. One is so focused on what they are doing that they become “one with the task.” You're not hungry, sleepy, or emotional - you're just completely engaged in the activity that you're doing. NOTE:  many adults have super busy lives and having freedom to experience these engrossing escapism moments can be challenging.
9.      Savor life's joys. – I call this “Practicing Pause Moments.” Have you heard the expression, “stop and smell the roses?”  We have to slow down and savor the moments while they are happening. This is a prime example of practicing conscious thinking.
10.  Commit to your goals. – Making a conscious effort to fully commit to accomplishing a goal that you set, telling yourself there is no turning back or changing your mind. Fully committing to a goal provides a sense of purpose which in itself makes us happier. It’s a form of exercising control in your life.
11.  Practice spirituality. – Yes I know not everyone is spiritual. Some equate spirituality with religion, but one can be spiritual and not religious. Practice whichever one that fits you best. The concept is to realize that we are a very small dot in life and in the world. A good example for me is connecting to nature (air, water, trees, animals, plants etc.) Finding a connection may help you figure out what you are called to do in this life.
12.  Take care of your body. – Have you ever heard the expression “The body is a temple?” There is a strong mind body connection that has been proven in science and medicine. Being the healthiest, most fit person you are capable of becoming will put you in a good position to have mental staying power which will keep your mind and emotions elevated towards feeling good, positive, and happy. Exercise has been found to provide an increase in ‘happiness levels’ equal to that of taking an anti-depressant.**


Recipe: Sautéd Cabbage

Sautéd Cabbage

I've scoured the internet looking for cooked cabbage recipes to get hubby to eat more veggies.

Below is a variation of a recipe I found.

Put the following in a large, shallow sauté pan** to warm up -

  • 2 tblsp butter
  • 3 tblsp olive oil
  • Dash of pepper
  • Small diced onion
  • 1 tblsp of minced garlic
  • Dash of onion powder
  • Dash of garlic powder


**My absolute FAVORITE pan for cooking many of my meals is my Circulon  sauté pan**



  • Add three cups of organic broth to the warmed up butter/oil mix.(I use vegetarian, you can use chicken if preferred).
  • Add one large head of finely cut up cabbage.
  • Sauté covered, tossing with two cooking forks about every 5 minutes for 15-20 minutes.
  • Then sauté an additional 5 – 10 minutes uncovered.
The dish is done when all the cabbage is nearly translucent.

Yummiest Black Beans EVER!!

Black Beans



  • Soak 16 oz of black beans for 8-10 hours
  • Add soaked black beans in pan with 3 cups of cool water and bring to a boil.
  • After bringing to a boil, reduce to simmer for 30 minutes (stirring frequently).
  • Add 1 medium red onion, cut fine and simmer for 30 additional minutes (stirring frequently).
  • Add 3 garlic cloves, ½ tsp of oregano and ½ tsp of cumin, simmer uncovered for 30m more.
  • Add 21 tblsp of raw sugar and 2 tblsp of white wine vinegar to final dish, then serve.

Vegetarian Crock Pot Recipe: Tomato Onion Pepper

Vegetarian Crock Pot Recipe: Tomato Onion Pepper


INGREDIENTS
  • 3 extra large tomatoes (without peels, cut small)
  • 2 tablespoons organic butter
  • 1 medium red onion (thinly sliced)
  • 1 cup celery (thinly sliced)
  • 2 tablespoons organic raw sugar
  • Dash of salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup ground oats (optional)
----------------------------

Serving ideas
  • Eat as side or main dish.
  • Eat alone or add to black beans (see Recipe page)
-Add all ingredients to crock pot (EXCEPT GROUND OATS...they come later and are optional).
-Set temperature on low and stir well for several minutes until well mixed and butter is melted.
-Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
-Serve 

OR 

OPTIONALLY, add 1/2 cup of ground oats and cook on low for an additional 30-40 minutes.
Tip:  Grind steel cut oats or groats to make your own oat flour and store for use as a healthy thickener.**

**Corn starch is NOT healthy. Unfortunately, a large portion of corn in the US is genetically modified. Cornstarch is made from cornflour which is full of calories, but contains no fiber, protein or any other nutrient. It's empty calories like many additives  such as refined sugar.

I also mix it up by combining the dish above with my YUMMY black beans (see Recipe page on my blog).