The Mind-Body SHIFT

Nourishing the Body, Feeding the Mind, Nurturing the Soul


Being Reborn in Savasana on My Birthday

Yoga Pose SavasanaWinding down my last yoga session on the last night of being age 36, as I surrendered at last into a peaceful savasana, I felt as if I were giving birth to a new stage in my practice and a new chapter in my life. In the past, I have greatly resisted this asana. While the body is meant to soften, I could never fully sink down into the pose. My pelvis rested unevenly on the mat. My forearms gently trembled and my fingers sought to curl stiffly instead of lie limp. With a restless body and the cacophony of my mind, the restorative purpose of the pose seemed lost on me.

It is not surprising that I have been so resistant to savasana. It is less about doing and more about surrendering the self into a neutral state of contentment. I thrive on dynamic poses that challenge my body’s flexibility, strength and balance. I love the dance between breath and the moving body. In the process of doing, my mind sharpens with focus and bodily awareness. In the motionlessness of savasana, my mind tends to wander.

My experience in savasana, also known as corpse pose, is not dissimilar to my experiences trying to fall asleep at night. Finding the ability to rest the body and still the mind—free of pain, tension or ceaseless pondering—is one of my greatest challenges at bedtime. Yet I have found the stage-by-stage relaxation sequence to meditation exceptionally helpful: deeply and evenly breathing in and out, I draw attention to the body, part by part—starting with the feet and the left side—coaxing each part of my body to release any tension or pain before moving up to the next part. Once my body is fully at rest, I am clear to focus solely on the inhalation and exhalation of breath, entering deeper and deeper stages of relaxation.

On the eve of my 37th birthday, I found myself unconsciously doing the same while in corpse pose. Minutes flew by without my awareness of them, and I eventually found myself in that tranquil state intended to remove fatigue and gives rest to the mind. Rather than leaving my yoga practice energized yet exhausted as usual, I felt calm, relaxed and refreshed.

Out with the Old, In With the New

Inhale, Exhale–Out with the Old, In With the New

I’ve heard other yoga teachers meant say that corpse pose not only allows us to rest in peace while still living, but it brings about a symbolic death of our old ways of thinking and doing. Now, I finally understand what they meant. As with seated meditation, I realize now that savasana is not about forcing the mind and body to relax; it is about surrender and letting go through the exhalation of the breath; and by doing so, finding peace.

Practicing corpse pose is a way of being reborn–which coincidentally is also the meaning of my first name–into the present, just as you are now, rather than as a ghost of the past or a harbinger of the future. I am—we are—free to move forward with peace and a fresh start. I cannot think of a more perfect way to leave age 36 behind and to embrace the new year of life ahead.

Remind yourself to focus on your breath and find peace in your busy day with these “Inhale/Exhale” style no-slip socks from Toe Talk. Save $2 off your purchase today, Dec. 15, by using the discount code “InhaleExhale” at

*** I am an ambassador for Toe Talk and regularly receive products for review

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Top Tips for Sticking To A Gluten-Free Diet During the Holidays

NOBREAD Gluten-Free Dining in launched in September as an online consumer guide for gluten-free dining in New York City. It offers restaurant profiles, mini-reviews and customized menus to dining spots across the city for folks unable to properly digest the gluey protein substance called gluten. NOBREADNYC is quickly becoming an essential resource for diners seeking gluten-free offerings in NYC, which is exactly what CEO and founder Nicole Cogan was seeking when she first started the site.

Cogan, a former sales analyst at J.P. Morgan, originally started the site after she was diagnosed with a health condition that required she go gluten- and dairy-free. She first created the blog to help her track restaurants that could meet her dietary needs when taking clients out for meals, an important part of doing business in her industry. She began calling up restaurants and setting up meetings with chefs and managers ahead of time to go over their gluten-free options.

“I loved how much client entertaining was involved with my job, but I always felt uncomfortable explaining to the server or manager that I was gluten free, especially in large group settings,” Cogan said.

The information-packed blog was a passion that blossomed into the popular gluten-free dining site, now featuring more than 250 restaurants, searchable by name, neighborhood or type of cuisine. Customers can view brief profiles of restaurants, which include “NOBREAD Facts,” such as if that restaurant has any cross-contamination or offers gluten-free pasta or bread. In addition to a full menu, visitors can see a customized gluten-free menu. Cogan also offers her NOBREAD recommendations for items to order at each restaurant in mini-reviews. She plans to add a reservations tab and guest chef blog to the site in the future, as well as expand to feature gluten-free options at restaurants in other major cities around the U.S., including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and South Florida.

“Just because someone is gluten free, whether it is due to a sensitivity, health reasons or for dietary benefit, doesn’t mean they need to completely sacrifice their lifestyle,” says Cogan.

With few restaurants offering special gluten-free menus, NOBREAD fills the void for gluten-free customers to maintain a normal dining out lifestyle, offering customizations and suggestions for pairing favorite dishes with gluten-free sides, such as sautéed vegetables and greens instead of French Fries.

As the holiday season rolls around, Cogan offers additional suggestions for our gluten-free readers to stay stress-free and healthy during food-filled festivities:

Founder and CEO of NOBREADNYC Nicole CoganI love the holidays. It’s a time for friends and family to get together and celebrate tradition over wonderful conversation and even better food. Who doesn’t love big parties and even bigger feasts? Yet, for someone with a food allergy or dietary restriction, the holiday season can also be the most stressful time of year.

Food is difficult to indulge in when you don’t know if the dish contains gluten, and traditional favorites don’t always suit your dietary preference. Thankfully, with everyone on some sort of diet today, party hosts and restaurant chefs work extra hard to make sure all diners can partake in the festivities… and if you follow a few of my quick tips, you too can have a stress-free and fun dining experience this holiday season.

1. Contribute to the feast! When I am a guest at someone else’s party, I always bring a little something. I mean, who is going to turn down more food? Whether it is your favorite gluten-free recipe or gluten-free chocolate cake, bring at least one item you KNOW you will be able to have, and rid yourself of food anxiety. Sit back, relax, and take comfort in knowing that there is definitely something for you to eat at the party!

2. Tell the restaurant ahead of time about your dietary restriction! It never hurts to be too prepared, and you may as well get the awkwardness out of the way in advance! The amount of restaurants I go to during holiday season is insane. It seems like everyone wants to throw a holiday dinner, and for convenience sake, host it at a restaurant. On occasions where I know I will be served a pre-fixe menu, I always remind the host of the party that I am gluten-free. It gives the restaurant time to not only select the best gluten-free option, but to ensure that the chefs and kitchen staff are aware that they will be serving a gluten-free diner and take extra precaution.

3. Don’t fall for this trap: “Oh there’s just a little bit of gluten, it won’t affect me.” Well if you say that 5 nights in a row or at several dinner parties, it WILL most definitely affect you–and not for the good! I know plenty of people who say that, during the holidays, they go from “gluten free” to “gluten reduced.” I suggest you stick to your diet as best as you can. Yes, you may feel okay after one slip-up, but this isn’t a pass to slip up again. The only way to make it through the busy holiday season is to feel healthy and to be your best self. So resist the health-sabotaging temptation!

4. When in doubt, simple is smart. That turkey looks delicious, but is there stuffing inside? And that steak is to die for, but what sauce was used as a marinade? As tempted as you are to say, “Screw it, it’s the holidays,” stay true to your diet and look for options you know are gluten-free. If there is something questionable on the table, and you don’t feel comfortable asking if the dish contains gluten–or your host just doesn’t know the answer–look for the reliable standbys of roasted sweet potatoes, sauteed string beans, roasted brussels sprouts, salads, and other classic gluten-free dishes.

My FAVORITE Holiday Recipe

NOBREAD Founder's Favorite Holiday Recipe

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Roast Butternut Squash, Cranberries and Pecan Salad

Everyone who knows me knows how much I love roasted vegetables. This recipe is also awesome for people who want to cut down on their meat intake, or those who follow a vegetarian, vegan, or paleo diet.

  • 8 oz Butternut squash
  • 8 oz Brussels sprouts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup sliced pecans
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 40 minutes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut butternut squash int small cubes. Toss brussels sprouts and diced butternut squash with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Cook for 20 minutes, stir around and raise oven to 425 degrees F. Cook for another 15 minutes. Add cranberries and pecans to the mix, and stir again. Cook for 5 more minutes, or until brussels sprouts feel tender, and your recipe is complete!

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Why We Need Vitamin D in Winter

Vitamin D Deficiency and Decreased Sunlight in WinterAs winter rapidly approaches, those of us up north are seeing fewer days of sunlight and feeling the health consequences. As the sun is the body’s leading source of vitamin D, many folks living above the Sunshine Belt of the United States find themselves deficient in this nutrient and require supplementation for optimal health. Vitamin D deficiency not only affects bone health and immune function, it has also been associated with myriad health conditions, including cancer, cardiovascular disease and cognitive decline, as well as depression, diabetes and autoimmune disease.

While many health experts feel the sweeping impact of vitamin D deficiency may be overstated, it is clear that the body needs the right amount to thrive. The fat-soluble nutrient and pro-hormone helps regulate the absorption of calcium and phosphate to build and maintain strong, healthy bones. It enhances muscle strength, has anti-inflammatory properties and boosts immune function.

Vitamin D plays a critical role in activating the body’s immune defenses to react to and fight off serious infection. Sufficient intake of the vitamin triggers the immune system’s T cells into action, effectively detecting and killing invading bacteria and viruses, scientists at the University of Copenhagen discovered in 2010. This is why many medical professionals recommend that people ensure their vitamin D levels are within healthy range during winter to help combat the flu and colds naturally.

Health Conditions Associated With Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D may also affect when we die. A 2014 study by University of California, San Diego School of Medicine researchers found that people with lower levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D had a significantly increased risk of premature death than those with a higher concentration of vitamin D in their blood. Of more than a half million subjects studied across 14 countries, with an average age of 55, approximately half the participants were at risk for early death, with blood levels of 30 ng/ml or lower. An estimated 66 percent of all Americans are already that deficient in vitamin D, according to researchers.

Another study from 2014 found that higher levels of vitamin D were associated with better cancer survival rates and longer remissions. Recent studies have observed a correlation between higher levels of vitamin D and breast cancer and bowel cancer survival rates. Low levels of the vitamin may be linked to more aggressive and advanced cases of prostate cancer.

Over the last decade, vitamin D deficiency has also led to a surprising spike in rickets—a bone-weakening disorder—particularly among children the UK. Researchers suspect this resurgence is due to poor diet, an increase in obesity and a general decrease in exposure to sunlight, the best natural source of vitamin D.

Obesity is thought to play a big role in current vitamin D deficiency. Despite the overconsumption of calories, the excess intake of nutrient-deficient processed and junk foods leads to malnutrition. Studies have also led researchers to suspect that obesity suppresses levels of vitamin D. Some scientists suspect that the fat-soluble vitamin may get diverted to fatty tissues, which means less vitamin D reaches the bloodstream. Others believe that size of skin surface area does not expand proportionately to increased weight and volume, leading to less direct sun exposure and, thus, decreased levels of vitamin D.

Sunlight As Main Source of Vitamin D

salmonExposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) rays is what allows the body to create the precursors of vitamin D on the skin. These are transported to the liver, where it is converted to 25-hydroxyvitamin D, and to the kidney, where it converts into the physiologically active 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, which is spread throughout the body in the bloodstream. The amount of 25-hydroxyvitamin D is measured to determine healthy levels of D in the bloodstream. Sunlight is critical to getting sufficient vitamin D, as natural dietary sources for the nutrient are quite limited—fish-liver oils (like cod liver oil), fatty wild fish (like salmon, halibut, tuna and sardines), liver, egg yolks and mushrooms.

The nation’s increasingly sedentary lifestyle and fears of skin cancer mean most people spend the vast majority of their lives indoors, blocking the best source for vitamin D—the sun. Unfortunately for those of us living north of 37 degrees latitude—picture a line going from Fresno, Calif. to Springfield, MO to Virginia Beach, Va.—even if we wanted to sunbathe, the sun is very low in the sky from November through March, leaving us UVB-deficient in the fall and winter. With limited sunlight during these months, Frank Lipman, MD, suggests taking enough vitamin D supplements to keep blood levels between 50 and 80ng/ml for a strong and healthy immune system.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that approximately 46 percent of all Americans are vitamin D deficient. Some suggest the rate is closer to 75 percent. Even the Institute of Medicine, which has very conservative recommended intake for vitamin D, estimates that 50 percent of women are not even getting the IOM’s recently lowered recommended amount.

Recommended Dose of Vitamin D

The IOM currently gives a recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin D of 200 to 600 IUs for people up to age 70 to maintain sufficient bone health and normal calcium metabolism in healthy people. The amount of vitamin D varies with age, weigh, percent of body fat, latitude, season, time spent outdoors, skin color and degree of health. People with more pigment in their skin also absorb less sunlight, reducing their ability to produce vitamin D.

Many physicians who treat conditions associated with vitamin D recommend much higher doses, greater than 1,000 IUs. Dr, Lipman, an expert in integrative medicine, offers these vitamin D dosage guidelines:

Why We Need Vitamin D in WinterIf your blood level is above 45ng/ml and for maintenance
I recommend 2,000-4,000 IU daily..If you are older, larger, living in the northern latitudes during the winter, are not getting sun and have dark skin, I recommend the higher maintenance dose.

If your blood level is 35-45 ng/ml,
I recommend you correct it with 5,000 of vitamin D3 a day for 3 months under a doctor’s supervision and then recheck your blood levels.

If your blood level is less than 35 ng/ml,
I recommend you correct it with 10,000 of vitamin D3 a day under a doctor’s supervision and then recheck your blood levels after 3 months. It takes a good 6 months usually to optimize your vitamin D levels if you’re deficient. Once this occurs, you can lower the dose to the maintenance dose of 2,000 – 4,000 IU a day.

While many people who are deficient in vitamin D remain asymptomatic, common symptoms include:

  • Joint Pain
  • Muscle weakness and pain
  • Muscle cramps
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Restless Sleep
  • Headaches
  • Weight gain
  • High blood pressure
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Bladder problems

Vitamin D Test Kit

Vitamin D Council Test KitTo make it easier for individuals to test vitamin D levels and stay on top of their health, The Vitamin D Council released vitamin D test kits for the home just last week. With just a few drops of blood on the spot card provided, tests are sent to the council’s partnering lab Heartland Assays. The lab provides testing for many large academic studies and uses the highly accurate LC-MS/MS technique to determine vitamin D levels. Test results are available within a week or two and can be accessed privately online

An individual test kit is $50, and a 4-pack is $180. Both are available nationwide and can be ordered from their website


How to Seek Balance in the Busy-ness of Daily Life

Finding Work-Life BalanceIn this world of doing, achieving and getting, it’s very easy for us to put far greater focus on our time spent at work than our lives outside of the office. Our quest for progress and perfection often leads us to squelch pleasure for the sake of productivity. While ambition and industriousness is admirable, often leading to great achievements and success, there is also merit in taking time to rest and recover, to pursue pleasurable avocations and to nurture relationships. The path to a fully content life is paved with the balance of work and pleasure.

Failing to maintain balance leads to burnout. Our attention and focus wavers and blurs. The flow of inspiration, creativity and motivation dwindles. Moods swing, and spirits plummet. Physical and mental fatigue overwhelms us, setting nerves on edge. Our very sense of purpose—what drives us to do what we do—falters.

A recovering workaholic, I have a clear barometer for alerting me when my life is out of balance. Living with autoimmune disease and neuromuscular condition, my body sends out warning signals, such increased pain, spasms, fatigue and infection. When my back and neck grow stiff and sore and the nerves in my arms and hands send sensations of numbness, tingling or weakness, I know that it’s time take a break from the computer. Most often, I seek balance on the yoga mat.

Yoga Balance PosesIt is here when the movement of my body and the flow of my breath can synchronize. My body stretches and flexes. My breath evens out, releasing tension from muscles and improving my respiration and circulation. My mind becomes calm, clear and focused. Freeing my mind of the mental stress and fatigue, the hyperactivity and restlessness of busy-ness, I once again find my center and am grounded.

My purpose and my vision shimmer with clarity once again. I remember that I am more than what I do and achieve. I recognize the beauty, value and strength of be-ing—not just my limiting, solitary me-ness, but as a part of the expansive, encompassing we-ness.

One may also find this centering through meditation, other forms of exercise, various artistic expression, journaling, being out in nature or immersing in the support of loving family and life-affirming friends. The type of path is not as important as the intention and the practice. The act of seeking balance of the mind, body and spirit grounds us. It allows us to be bring more focus to the present moment, rather than mindlessly going through the motions as we churn through our to-do-list for the day.

SeekBalanceI love that I now have a constant reminder to seek balance throughout the day—I simply look at my feet. Toe Talk is a new line of non-slip stylish socks that are woven with inspiration, with each pair bearing mantras of mindfulness. Visit  and use the discount code “SeekBalance” to save $2 off your purchase of Seek Balance socks during its Mindful Monday Sale today.

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How New Moms Can Find Their Way Back to Nutrition and Being Fit

Fit MomsNew mothers face a number of challenges to maintaining healthy balance in their lives, with increased stress, reduced sleep and less time to get everything done. As baby takes the majority of focus and attention, self-care often falls by the wayside, and many mothers neglect to pay attention to their own diet and fitness. Modeling and fitness expert—and fellow mom—Dale Noelle, of TRUE Model Management, offers tips to counter this self-sacrificing tendency, helping mothers achieve and maintain mental and physical health with nutrition, exercise and stress-reducers.

“You need to keep yourself as strong and healthy as you can to be the best mom you can be,” she said.

The fitness expert recommends that women make exercise a regular part of their day. Right after getting out of the bed in the morning, moms can start by stretching and doing lunges. “Just by stretching and warming up for exercise, you can get more energy,” she said.

New moms often want to be with their baby all the time, Noelle said, and there are many ways to fit fitness into the schedule while still bonding with the baby. With the appropriate stroller, moms can take brisk walks or jog around the neighborhood with their babies. They can use the stairs instead of the elevator. Mothers can even do arm lifts with their bags of groceries. She said, “Everything has a cumulative effect,”

She urges mothers to recognize that taking off weight gained during pregnancy requires time and patience. She said the majority of women take anywhere from three months to a year to take off excess weight, depending on how many pounds were put on while pregnant. According to Noelle, underweight women are advised put on anywhere between 28 and 40 pounds during pregnancy, while overweight women may only need to gain 15 to 25 pounds.

While most women are able to lose weight within a year, she said that it could take much longer for some new mothers. She urges women not to compare themselves to other women—especially celebrities who often have professional help for childrearing, cooking and strict exercise routines. “Everyone is different,” she said, encouraging women to set their own personal goals.

“You might lose weight in some areas, but keep weight around the mid-section, which is what happened to me,” Noelle said. “The core is the big problem for most women who want to lose baby weight.” After healing from giving birth, women can begin to gear workouts to target the core. She adds that any type cardio workout, including swimming, is excellent for helping new mothers get back to being fit.

Noelle said breastfeeding, exercise, and diet all affect how quickly women will lose weight. She encourages new mothers to eat balanced meals and graze on healthy snacks throughout the day. To combat the hectic schedule of motherhood, she recommends foods that can be prepared ahead of time, like quinoa and vegetables. “Keep them in a glass Pyrex, with really tight lids, and they’ll keep a lot longer,” she said. “Have chickpeas around to make hummus, which is an easy thing to add to veggies, use in a sandwich or mix with quinoa.”


Dale Noelle recommends new mothers prepare different kinds of smoothies and homemade trail mix for quick and convenient consumption.

Noelle also recommends:

  • Avocados are flavorful, nutrient dense and full of fiber and healthy fats, which help to satisfy hunger and may stabilize mood.
  • Eggs are filling, energy fueling, easily portable and a great source of essential nutrients, including choline, which plays an essential role in metabolism
  • Oatmeal is packed with fiber, helping you stay fuller longer, and it stabilizes blood sugar to help prevent big spikes (and slumps) in energy
  • Green tea increases fat burning and boosts the metabolic rate.
  • Grapefruit “has a property to dissolve fat.”
  • Nuts, especially almonds, are “easy to carry around, don’t go bad and have protein and magnesium.”
  • Apples stabilize blood sugar levels, and their fiber content helps satiate hunger.
  • Lean meats, fish, chicken and turkey

She also stresses the importance of staying hydrated. To add more flavorful variety to water, she suggests infusing it with lemon, cucumber, rosemary or berries. Women can carry a refillable glass bottle of fruit- or herb-infused water around all day. Moms should also carry at least one healthy snack, such as nuts or apples, in a bag wherever they go. Noelle also recommends new mothers prepare different kinds of smoothies and homemade trail mix for quick and convenient consumption.

She encourages women also get their vitamin levels checked. “A lot of women lack vitamins B and D because they are stressed out,” she said.

She warns against following dramatic diets to lose weight, such as those that restrict calorie intake to dangerously low levels or that recommend eating only one type of food, like grapefruit, for five days. She disagrees with the notion that one size fits all when it comes to diet.

“I believe different blood types need different things. I believe what might be good for one person might not be good for another,” she said. Still, she suggests both women and men can benefit from staying away from processed and fried foods, as well as reducing starch in their diet with less bread and pastas.

Noelle also stresses the importance of sleep in not only getting fit, but to achieve optimal health in general. Lack of sleep affects the metabolism, making it more difficult for new moms to lose baby weight. Running low on energy also affects mood, making one more impatient and crankier. “Your whole body does not work as well when you don’t sleep enough,” she said. “It taxes your system, and your body doesn’t replenish energy or recover from activity as efficiently.”

Moms Get Fit with Dale Noelle

Noelle knows firsthand the price of running on empty. “People call me the ‘machine.’  I can function rather well on a ridiculously small amount of sleep
but even if I feel OK, my immune system does suffer and my body does not repair itself properly.” She claims that her constantly on-the-go lifestyle
may have been a factor in the development of an unusual form of cancer, tongue cancer, from which she has since fully recovered.

To reduce stress, she recommends meditation in addition to exercise.‘When your breathing is shallow, you’re not getting enough oxygen flow, and your muscles are tight,” she said. “If you don’t have time for meditation, mindful breathing is something you can do while doing other things.”

While some moms believe they need to do it all by themselves, Noelle encourages women to ask for help. “Get a babysitter and take time for yourself. Spend time with your husband,” she said. “Say, ‘I need time for me.’ Make sure you incorporate self-care into your daily routine.”

You can learn more about Dale Noelle at TRUE Model Management.

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How to Show Gratitude for the Health of it on Giving Tuesday

Dystonia Medical Research Foundation on Giving TuesdayAfter the rush of bargain buys from Black Friday through Cyber Monday, today the focus of the holiday season shifts to celebrating the charitable spirit with Giving Tuesday. This is the third annual global day of giving and generosity, where all are invited to give back to communities or charitable organizations in whichever ways they can—whether by donating their time and services, goods or dollars. Folks can also hit social media to commemorate the day with an #UNselfie for #GivingTuesday to shine the spotlight on the organizations on the receiving end of their generosity.

Here is a list of personally selected health organizations to which you can give support on Giving Tuesday:

Lupus Foundation of America

Support the LFA’s research, education and advocacy programs with a donation. Each gift brings the organization one step closer to solving the cruel mystery lupus and give hope to the millions of people impacted by this brutal and devastating disease.

Dystonia Medical Research Foundation
DMFR on Facebook

Your collective generosity ensures the DMRF can continue working every day toward better therapies and a cure, while providing support and information to every individual and family impacted by all forms of dystonia.

Donate to Michael J Fox FoundationMichael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research

Thanks to a generous gift from longtime MJFF supporter Terry Weinberger in memory of her husband Brent, your online donation will be matched dollar for dollar. Please help us make the most of today. We have less than 24 hours to meet our goal so that we can continue working urgently toward our shared goal of ending PD within our lifetime.

National Women’s Health Network

For almost 40 years, the National Women’s Health Network has worked to improve the lives of all women by developing a critical analysis of health issues to affect public policy and to support consumer decision-making. NWHN is committed to advancing women’s health and works on drug safety, affordable health care and reproductive rights for all women.  It monitors the actions of federal regulatory and funding agencies, industry and the health professions, identifies abuses and makes change by exposing the abuse and catalyzing grassroots action. It aspires to a health care system that is guided by social justice and reflects the needs of diverse women.

On #GivingTuesday, we ask for your support by requesting a tax-deductible donation to the National Women’s Health Network.  You can also help us by mentioning the Network on Facebook or Twitter—make sure you use the hashtag #GivingTuesday.  This is a great opportunity to let the world know why you are giving to the Network. What does the future of women’s health mean to you?

National Alliance on Mental Illness
National Alliance on Mental Illness on Giving Tuesday

We like to call it the NAMI effect.
Every time you offer your hand to pick someone up._

Every time you share your strength and ability to persevere.

Every time you offer support and understanding to a family who is caring for a loved one.

You help change lives.

Mental illness affects everyone. With your help, we can reach more people in need of help and hope. Give hope today.

Your donation today provides support, education and resources that help improve the lives of individuals and families living with mental illness.

Giving Tuesday is not just about giving money; it’s also about giving thanks. Health organizations, like the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation, are encouraging people to share their stories on social media of how someone has helped them through their illness. They also invite people to share their gratitude of the numerous volunteers, scientists and researchers who help to provide support and education, as well as work toward finding better treatment options and possible cures.

MJF Foundation on Giving Tuesday

For a comprehensive list of participating partners in this global day of giving, visit

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Unlocking the Benefits of Gratitude

Melody Beattie Gratitude QuoteWhat better time to talk about the benefits of a regular gratitude practice than on a holiday that celebrates giving thanks? Cultivating an attitude of gratitude can help us feel happier, more optimistic and appreciative. We are less overcome by stress, which is then seen as more of a challenge than a threat. Our self-worth rises when we feel the hands that support us. Recognizing our own blessings, we are inspired to be more compassionate and generous to others.

By feeding our generosity, gratitude can, in turn, have great physical benefits as well. According to Dr. Pamela Peeke, a physician and lifestyle expert, helping others activates the brain’s pleasure center, causing dopamine production to rise. The resulting endorphin rush can decrease the sensation of pain, bolster the immune system, lower blood pressure, increase energy levels, reduce stress and lead to longer and more refreshing sleep. A study of nuns who had gratitude journals when they were young also found that they lived almost seven years longer than those who didn’t have a regular gratitude practice.

Some even suggest a steady dose of gratitude is as effective for stabilizing mood as medication and therapy. Said positive psychology professor Martin E.P. Seligman, who established The Positive Neuroscience Project: “Research has shown that positive emotions and interventions can bolster health, achievement, and resilience, and can buffer against depression and anxiety.” In an Authenttic Happiness study of several hundred people who practiced gratitude and counted their blessings regularly for six months more than 90 percent of participants felt happier after the course, and the majority of those who felt depressed prior to starting the practice felt less depressed after doing so.

Defining Gratitude

Defining GratitudeA leading expert on gratitude and psychology professor at UC-Davis, Robert. A. Emmons, Ph.D., defines gratitude as an affirmation of goodness in our lives and the discovery and recognition of where that goodness comes from, outside our selves. Gratitude is not a denial of the real problems, burdens and hassles in our lives. Instead, it’s the conscious decision and action to seek out and acknowledge the benevolent goodness and abundance we do have.

Emmons say gratitude helps to block the toxic, happiness thieves of resentment, envy and regret. He argues that one cannot feel both gratitude and envy at the same time. When you are grateful for what you have, you cannot resent someone for what you do not have.

Looking at the big picture view of our lives encourages us see where there is light. When we become more present to the positive—a challenge certainly, when the majority of the news fed to us is about corruption, murder, disease and natural disasters—the brain experiences a “happiness advantage,” where energy levels, creativity and intelligence also rise, says positive psychology educator Shawn Anchor. Gratitude encourages the brain to scan the world first for what’s positive, which allows us to view life and take on its various challenges in an entirely different way.

Gratitude Takes Daily Practice

In Attitudes of Gratitude, M.J. Ryan says “A pessimist is someone who has exercised the muscles of negativity and lack till they are strongly habitual, while an optimist is a person who has development thankfulness and a can-do attitude until these are second nature. We all have a choice of which muscles we want to strengthen. With practice, we can become joy-filled participants in the game of life, thankful to do our part and relishing in the sheer pleasure of play.”

So how do we strengthen the muscles of joy and optimism? We can start by recording things for which we are grateful on a daily basis. There are many reasons why keeping is a gratitude journal is so powerful and beneficial. Anchor says that when one writes about a positive experience he or she has had in the past 24 hours, it allows the brain to relive that experience, extending its affirmative effects.

In an article about gratitude, Emmons wrote:

In our studies, we often have people keep gratitude journals for just three weeks. And yet the results have been overwhelming. We’ve studied more than one thousand people, from ages eight to 80, and found that people who practice gratitude consistently report a host of benefits:

Benefits of Gratitude

Getting Specific With Gratitude

It turns out the more specific you are with your gratitude, the better. “If you want the most ROI for your gratitude practice, the dividends are in the details,” said marketing and lifestyle expert Marie Forleo in a recent vlog entry. “Research shows that if we want the most bang for our gratitude buck, we have got to get specific. That means way more depth and less breadth.”

Forleo shared the results of a 10-week University of Southern California study on journaling, which documented three different types of gratitude journaling. One group had the task of writing down five general things they grateful for each day. Another group took a more selfish perspective, writing how they were better off than other people. The last group picked one specific thing a day for which they were grateful and wrote five sentences about that thing. This group was “more elated, excited and alert than the other groups, and less tired, sad and lethargic.”

Thus, to say, “I’m grateful for my job,” isn’t going to cut it. It doesn’t get to the heart of why your work is so meaningful and appreciated by you. In my case, as a health coach:

1. I am grateful that I have a career I am passionate about and that I love.

2. I am grateful to do the type of work where I can constantly learn and grow, and in which I am regularly challenged.

3. I am grateful I have the financial, emotional and technical support that allows me to grow my business from the ground up.

4. I am grateful I can use those difficult and challenging experiences I’ve been through and learned from to help counsel and educate others.

5. I am grateful to share stories that inspire others and that lifts people up instead of tearing them down.

Thank You, More Please

One of the indie films that touched me deeply in recent years is Happythankyoumoreplease. In one powerful scene, the main female character, who is surviving cancer, is talking with a potential suitor about an enlightening experience she had in a cab the year before. “Bliss is your birthright,” The cab driver said to her. “You have great potential in this lifetime. The key to your life is gratitude. You do not give enough thanks.”

When she asked him how and when to do so, he answered, “Simply: say, Thank you…All the time. Right now.” The cab driver told the woman that after expressing her gratitude, she should also say, “More please.” He told her that with gratitude, the universe is eternally abundant.

It is easy to focus on the things that are going wrong in our lives and in the world. It takes a certain humility and grace to refocus on how we are blessed each day. When life is a daily struggle and it feels as if everything is falling apart around you, it takes thinking outside the box to recognize where you are being supported and who is affirming you.

Yet, I have found in my practice that the more I seek for the good and positive things in my daily life, the more good and positive things come to me. Like begets like. Gratitude begets abundance. Particularly on this Thanksgiving, let us hold close to our hearts the many examples of human kindness and compassion, selflessness and solidarity—especially in the face of hardship and tragedy. Even as we face our struggle and setbacks, may these people inspire us to seek out happiness and to express gratitude for our own daily blessings!


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