Five Scientifically-Proven Ways To Maintain Your Sanity for the Holidays

Introduction

The holidays can be a tough time for people. Think of all of the social and environmental stressors we face:

  • there’s the stress of work, with end-of-year reviews and mandatory holiday parties;
  • there’s the stress of home life, as we deal with family members we sometimes try to keep at arm’s length, plus the financial burden of making sure loved ones have great gifts; and,
  • there’s the environmental stress of winter, with shorter spans of daylight, cold winds, and gray skies.

These stressors can have a real impact on our mental health. The Mayo Clinic and the National Alliance on Mental Illness both report that the holidays are frequently associated with depression and other stress-related mood disorders. Colloquially, this is known as the “holiday blues.”

The holiday blues can be rough, but there are a lot of great ways to beat them and have a happy and healthy holiday season. This article presents five amazing ways to beat the holiday blues. Remember, though, if you are feeling overwhelmed by depression or stress, you should consult a professional.

Five Ways to Beat the Holiday Blues

Mindfulness and Meditation

Over the past forty years, science has shown that mindfulness-based meditation is linked to overcoming the darker moments in our lives, much like the holiday blues, and has even shown great success in helping veterans overcome PTSD. Mindfulness provides three key benefits that help during the holidays:

  • Mindfulness helps us be more self-aware, so that we are better able to identify our emotional states and become less reactive. This helps reduce conflict, a common problem over the holidays.
  • Mindfulness helps us maintain a higher level of self-confidence. For those fighting the holiday blues, self-confidence is a great way to combat negative self-talk and negative emotions.
  • Mindfulness helps us be more present with others, making us more appreciative, even if we are in conflict with them.

With the growth of meditation’s popularity, there are a number of free and low cost options available to help you learn this valuable skill.
Insight Timer – this free option includes numerous meditations by noted secular and Buddhist teachers, including Tara Brach, Jack Kornfield, and Ram Dass.

  • Buddhify – Unique for its focus on shorter meditations, Buddhify is a paid app (not a subscription) that provides meditations tailored to various activities (walking, commuting, trying to sleep, and the like).
  • Calm – A subscription-based app, Calm includes daily meditations, meditation training courses, focus-oriented music, and what it refers to as “sleep stories,” designed to help those with insomnia.
  • Headspace – Also a subscription service, Headspace was founded by British author Andy Puddicombe, whose TED talk on meditation was one of the chief inspirations for the current popularity of the practice.

High-Intensity Interval Training (“HIIT”)

For those not already familiar with HIIT workouts, they involve high-intensity cardio and plyometric exercises with short intervals of rest between activities (for example, it may involve 60 seconds of box jumps, a 15-second rest break, then 60 seconds of burpees or Turkish get-ups). While adding kettlebells, a jumprope, or a rowing machine may improve a HIIT workout, one benefit for those traveling over the holidays is that HIIT workouts can be done with sweat-pouring effectiveness even without any equipment.

HIIT workouts are a great way to maintain your sanity over the holidays, particularly given that most people tend to overeat – and eat the wrong things – during this period. HIIT workouts are perfect for losing weight and keeping away winter weight-gain because they keep your heart rate up over the entire course of the workout.

HIIT is good for your mental health. Like all exercise, HIIT will cause the release of endorphins, which have been shown to reduce the impact of depression and seasonal affective disorder. HIIT also works to alleviate the negative impact of all of the sugary holiday treats by helping to regulate your blood sugar. Not only does that help prevent diabetes, but regulating blood sugar has been shown to help one’s mental state.

HIIT helps improve vascular health – the health of our heart and blood vessels – helping you avoid the unusual trend of holiday heart attacks specifically and lower your blood pressure generally. The medical community has found that the holiday season has been associated with an increase in heart attack-related fatalities. Partly due to lifestyle choices (i.e., increased alcohol consumption, air travel, and poor eating habits) and partly due to constriction of blood vessels during the colder months, the period between Christmas Eve and New Years has a higher number of heart attack-induced fatalities than other times of the year. HIIT’s positive impact on our vascular system helps avoid such a tragic end to the holiday season.

Yoga

While the physical benefits of yoga are relatively obvious in terms of improved flexibility, core strength, and fat burning, yoga, like meditation, has been shown to have a dramatic positive impact on mental health.

Harvard Medical School reported that yoga has been linked to improvements like a reduction in chronic pain (such as fibromyalgia). New studies are also showing that yoga helps alleviate the symptoms of diseases like depression, anxiety disorder, eating disorders, and schizophrenia. Just like with depression, yoga can help alleviate the Holiday Blues (check out our schedule for upcoming yoga classes!)

Massage

Normally, when you think of the benefits of massage, you think of relieving muscle soreness, restoring a greater range of movement, and the like. However, recent studies are showing that massage is also good for your mental health. Scientists are finding that regular massage therapy helps reduce anxiety levels and lower blood pressure, two important benefits in an age when people are frequently experiencing an overabundance of stress. Additional research suggests that massage therapy may help reduce the symptoms of depression. For those dealing with seasonal affective disorder or the winter blues, being able to use massage to help reduce their symptoms while being pampered seems like a double win.

Light Therapy

The Pacific Northwest’s dark winters can be incredibly difficult, leading many to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. Light therapy, where lamps designed to mimic the effects of sunlight are used, has been shown to help a wide variety of people, from those that suffer from depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder to those who suffer from insomnia and even some forms of bipolar disorder.

While people who have been diagnosed with conditions like depression and bipolar disorder should not change how they treat their conditions without medical guidance, others may find that light therapy helps them reset their internal clocks when faced with the darker parts of the year. One positive feature of light therapy is that it can be added into the ordinary tasks we do everyday, whether reading mail, working on the computer, or reading.

There are a wide variety of lamps available for light therapy, but here are a few examples:

Conclusion

While the holiday season can be rough on people, it is possible to take certain steps to ensure that stress, cold weather, and limited daylight don’t dim your enjoyment of the season. Taking time out of your day to enjoy a moment of meditation, yoga, a good workout, or massage isn’t just relaxing; it helps keep you well.

 

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What to Expect with Acupuncture

what to expect when receiving acupuncture
Denise Groothuizen, Acupuncturist at Marconi Chiropractic and Wellness

Recently, we sat down with Denise Groothuizen, the new acupuncturist here at Marconi Chiropractic and Wellness, and talked about what acupuncture is, how it can help people, and how she became involved in performing acupuncture.

“Acupuncture,” Denise explained, “is a Chinese medical practice that uses needles at certain nodes within the body to create relief from pain and other symptoms, based on the theory of Qi.” Denise reassured patients that, despite involving needles, acupuncture is supposed to be generally painless. “With acupuncture,” Denise said, “a patient should not bleed or feel pain. They may feel a dull, pulling sensation that occurs as a result of their Qi being drawn to the needle.” Denise advised that, if an acupuncturist is using the proper skill, placing the right sort of needle in the right location, and using the right angle on the needle, then a patient should be able to experience a painless procedure.

what to expect with acupuncture
“With acupuncture, a patient should not bleed or feel pain.” – Denise Groothuizen

While acupuncture is part of centuries of tradition in China, it is a relatively recent addition to healthcare in the West. “Acupuncture first became popular in the US when Nixon went to China,” Denise said. As Denise explained, acupuncture gained interest due to an appendectomy, specifically, the appendectomy of a member of Nixon’s press corps. While in China, the reporter suffered severe appendicitis, requiring immediate medical treatment before the organ burst. In China, for this surgery, the typical opioid-based anesthesia is not used; acupuncture is used. When the press pool – and, subsequently, the US medical community – learned that the reporter had a painless appendectomy without anesthetic, acupuncture received a great deal of interest.

Denise, an experienced practitioner, has been performing acupuncture for over seventeen years and has a Bachelor of Health Science and a Masters of Science in Acupuncture and Eastern Medicine from Bastyr University. “I enjoy being exposed to a lot of different healing modalities,” Denise explained, “I enjoy being integrative because the body is a system, not just a collection of unrelated parts.”

what to expect with acupuncture
“In the end, acupuncture can help people feel resilient and be able to deal with their symptoms.” – Denise Groothuizen

Denise said she was so drawn to acupuncture because it is results-oriented. She cited the use of acupuncture by hospitals, such as the Johns Hopkins Medical System, and cancer centers to treat pain associated with chronic illness and the side effects of chemotherapy. Denise smiled and explained, “My favorite thing about acupuncture is giving patients relief. If someone is snoring before I finish putting in the needles, it is because the person trusts me enough to be relaxed.”

Denise made recommendations for those new to acupuncture for their first visit. “Always have a snack and hydrate well beforehand.” Denise advised patients to wear loose, comfortable clothing, and be prepared to share fully why they are seeing her. “We are treating the whole system,” Denise explained, “so no detail is irrelevant. In the end, acupuncture can help people feel resilient and be able to deal with their symptoms.”

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Things you can learn at one of our cooking classes

Vegan Cooking Students talk about their class

Vegan cooking students talk about their class

Posted by Marconi Chiropractic and Wellness on Thursday, October 12, 2017

What people are saying about our cooking classes

Testimonial from cooking class

What we learned at Marconi Chiropractic and Wellness's vegan cooking class!

Posted by Marconi Chiropractic and Wellness on Thursday, October 12, 2017

What is the Clean Fifteen?

non-organic fruits and vegetables with low cancer risks

In 2010, President Barack Obama’s Presidential Cancer Panel issued a report on how people can reduce their environmental cancer risks.  This report detailed a number of useful findings regarding how we create environmental risks for cancer based on our modern lifestyles.  In particular, it showed that the pesticides we use on our crops are major risk factors for cancer.  Based on this research, a non-profit known as the Environmental Working Group came up with a list of twelve fruits and vegetables most likely to contain traces of carcinogenic pesticides (the “Dirty Dozen”) and fifteen fruits and vegetables (the “Clean Fifteen”) least likely to contain traces of carcinogenic pesticides.  While buying only organic fruits and vegetables would solve the problem of having to worry about cancer-causing pesticides in our food, that can be expensive.  So, for those in Tacoma concerned about the health risks of non-organic food, the Clean Fifteen is a list of those fruits and vegetables we can buy without having to make sure the produce is organic, helping us save money and still eat safely.  This article will take a look at the Clean Fifteen, including what fruits and vegetables are on that list, and give you some options as to where to find quality organic produce while shopping locally.  Be sure to take a look at the related Dirty Dozen article, which contains the list of those fruits and vegetables most likely to include trace cancer-causing pesticides.

The Clean Fifteen List

The Clean Fifteen includes the following fruits and vegetables:

  1. Sweet corn;
  2. pineapples;
  3. avocados;
  4. cabbage;
  5. frozen sweet peas;
  6. onions;
  7. papayas;
  8. asparagus;
  9. mangoes;
  10. eggplant;
  11. honeydew melon;
  12. kiwi;
  13. cantaloupe;
  14. cauliflower; and,
  15. grapefruit.

While this list of clean fifteen items is excellent for avoiding pesticides, it should be noted that this list does not take into account genetically-modified foods (GMOs).  Corn, in particular, has been subjected to substantial genetic modification, and if you want to avoid GMOs, you should still consider purchasing organic produce.

Where to find quality organic produce in Tacoma

The Pacific Northwest is an outstanding region for those looking to shop organically.  Here in Tacoma, there are a number of excellent options for those seeking organic produce, even with the loss of the Tacoma Food Co-op.  Here is a list of the best options for organic produce in the area:

The Tacoma Farmers Market (Seasonal)

A seasonal option, generally available from May to October (at its Broadway location), the Tacoma Farmers Markets are located throughout the city and offer organic produce at accessible prices (and offers special benefits for those shopping organic with EBT cards).

Wild Hare Organic Farm (Farmstand is seasonal; CSA is year-round)

Wild Hare Organic Farm offers organic produce from its 20-acre family farm on River Road at the produce stand it operates every year from June to October.  It also offers a year-round Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, where you can purchase regular bundles of fresh vegetables straight from the farm.

Early Bird Farm (seasonal CSA)

Early Bird Farm is a newer farm located in Tacoma, providing organic produce and eggs from its Puyallup River Valley location.  Along with being at local farmers markets throughout the Seattle-Tacoma corridor, the farm offers a seasonal CSA for people who wish to support local agribusiness and get fresh, organic produce.

Terra Organics (year-round food delivery)

Terra Organics is the food delivery service started by Tahoma Farms founders Dan and Kim Hulse in Enumclaw, Washington.  Terra Organics offers not only organic produce, but also coffee, tea, and bakery items.  Terra Organics delivers to residents in King, Pierce, and Thurston Counties.

Marlene’s Market and Deli

Marlene’s Market – located in Federal Way and Tacoma – a Pacific Northwest staple, offering not only organic groceries and health and beauty items but also a full-service organic deli.

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WHAT IS REIKI?

WHAT IS REIKI?

what is reiki healing

For those new to Eastern healing, Reiki may be an unfamiliar concept. However, this form of treatment has its roots in concepts that go back millennia. This article will go over the history of Reiki and how it can help you improve your overall wellness.

The History and Science of Reiki

Reiki was “officially” developed in Japan by Japanese Buddhist monk Mikao Usui in 1922, based on his reading of earlier Buddhist texts. In truth, though, the core concepts of Reiki stem from Buddhist belief in Ki (or “Qi,” in Mandarin) that go back to the 4th Century BCE. Ki is best understood as our life force, and is critical to the practice of Japanese and Chinese traditional medicine, Yoga, Tai Chi Ch’uan (chi being an alternative spelling of Qi), and martial arts. This same concept of life energy was, in fact, part of Western thought well into the Middle Ages.

While Ki has been an accepted concept in India, China, Japan, and elsewhere, empirical science has been skeptical of the concept due to the fact that it cannot be measured. At the same time, though, while laboratory scientists denigrate Reiki, medical practitioners, particularly at oncology centers, have begun incorporating the practice into their integrative pain management programs, such as at the prestigious Johns Hopkins medical system and the Simmons Cancer Institute in Illinois (the institute is a part of the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine). These medical institutions, which go beyond laboratory science to provide actual care to patients report that Reiki helps put patients into the right state for the healing process. Noted journalist Bill Moyers reported on the healing benefits of Reiki as early as 1993, in his groundbreaking documentary, Healing and the Mind, where he discussed Chinese medical treatments based on Ki and how empirical medicine was learning from these treatments.

What Moyers reported – and what our practice of Reiki shows – is that wellness goes beyond just treating a discrete illness. Reiki is about responding to imbalances in energy in the body, and providing restorative treatments through the laying on of hands. The Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota has reported that the benefits of Reiki are improved heart rates and blood pressure, and is suggested to improve issues with anxiety, pain, and depression.

What Will You Experience In Your Reiki Session

No matter why you come to Marconi Chiropractic and Wellness, you receive high quality care, tailored to your individual needs. With Reiki, when you arrive, we will discuss what brought you to the clinic, and what we can do to help. After this assessment, the process of Reiki involves healing touch, focused on those areas where you may feel imbalance or discomfort. Typically, a Reiki practitioner will treat you while you lie down on a massage table.

Unlike massage, reiki is performed fully clothed, and is not about applying deep pressure to body tissues. Some practitioners will even choose to perform reiki without direct physical contact, which people who have gone through traumatic experiences sometimes prefer. Typically, the process begins at the crown of the head, and then proceeds down to other critical nodes in the body.

Those who have gone through Reiki frequently describe feeling a warm and soothing sensation during the process. Focusing on those areas where we are out of balance has been shown to have a positive effect on how we deal with pain and anxiety and enhance our spiritual well-being.

The Dirty Dozen

The Dirty Dozen

Dirty Dozen fruits and vegetables
When do you need to buy organic?

 What is the dirty dozen?

Eating healthy is often assumed to be synonymous with eating organic fruits and vegetables. However, since organic fruits and vegetables can be expensive, some people find it best to focus their purchases of organic fruits and vegetables to the “dirty dozen.” This article will explain what the dirty dozen is, and why it is so important to follow this list for those trying to maintain their optimum daily nutrition.

For those trying to eat healthily, the dirty dozen is not just a movie from the 1960s. The dirty dozen is a list of foods so contaminated by pesticides that organic, pesticide-free options are dramatically better options than non-organic options. The current dirty dozen includes the following fruits and vegetables:

  • strawberries
  • spinach
  • nectarines
  • apples
  • peaches
  • pears
  • cherries
  • grapes
  • celery
  • tomatoes
  • sweet bell peppers
  • potatoes
  • hot peppers (i.e., jalapeños)

The Environmental Working Group (“EWG”) is a non-profit environmental organization that focuses on the effects of chemicals in food on consumers. EWG creates its list of the twelve foods that should be organic purchases based on information from the US Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Data Program. Based on the USDA’s list of foods with high levels of chemical contaminants, the EWG has determined that the 12 fruits and vegetables listed here are safer when grown organically than when grown with modern pesticides.

Some have been critical of the EWG dirty dozen list, arguing that the list lacks scientific methodology and that the foods on the list are not necessarily unsafe because the foods did not contain more than the threshold of pesticides estimated to cause harm. However, this raises the following questions:

  • Are the current safe consumption levels accurate?
  • Even if it is safe to consume a chemical at a particular rate, what happens when it is combined with the other chemicals in our system?
  • Are these levels safe for all people, or are there people with other risk factors that should have lower quantities of this chemical?

The point of these questions is that the concerns regarding pesticide-related chemical contaminants could still be valid, even when the criticisms are accepted.

Conclusion

There are certain foods that are safer to consume when grown organically than when grown with modern pesticides and fertilizers. This list of foods – the EDC’s “Dirty Dozen” – can be criticized based on how the numbers are used, but even the criticisms fail to address the overall concerns concerning the safety of having these pesticide-derived chemicals in our food. To learn more about the Dirty Dozen and other food-related issues, check out the cooking classes listed in our event calendar.

 

Hello world!

Hello world!

Welcome to the Marconi Chiropractic and Wellness blog!  This blog is currently under construction, but expect to see great new things here that can help you:

  • manage chronic aches and pains;
  • improve your nutrition;
  • increase your fitness levels; and,
  • improve your overall well-being!