Don’t manage anger — get rid of it

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I have mixed feelings about the popular movie Anger Management (2003) and its current TV spinoff. I do think humor is an effective anecdote to toxic anger (more on that below), but I take issue with the idea that we have to negotiate with anger through efforts to "manage" it. Why not just banish it? Anger has no place in a healthy lifestyle. None. Even annoyance, or "anger lite," can and should be eliminated. Studies show that somewhere between 75 and 90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians result from stress-related disorders. So each well-aimed, well-timed effort to eliminate anger from our thought and experience creates a healthier, more stress-free environment for everybody. We can defeat anger; we don't have to just manage it. And it may be more important to all of us than some of us think. Health care is everybody's business, and preventive health care is proving to be the least expensive and most effective kind of health care reform. Here are some ways to Continue Reading

Deepak Chopra to give insights on well-being in Tampa

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The timing of Deepak Chopra's new book, What Are You Hungry For?, is just about perfect. The American Medical Association has declared obesity to be a disease, and the Centers for Disease Control says it's more common (affecting more than a third of us) and costly ($190 billion a year in added medical costs) than ever. But Chopra's take on the epidemic is as thought provoking and unconventional as his views of health and health care are. "The story of overweight in America is the story of missed fulfillment," Chopra tells us in the book, and then explains, "People turn to overeating to substitute for what they really want." He goes on to say, "Once you turn desire in the right direction, real transformation can take place." Chopra, who will offer his vision of "The Future of Wellbeing" Sunday at the Straz Center in Tampa, gives readers practical steps for finding answers to the incisive question posed by the book's title. These answers may prove pivotal in our collective struggle Continue Reading

5 steps to better health and harmony

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Here's a truly transformational goal: Take greater control of your own health. Learning to assert more authority over how we care for ourselves could be the key to real health care reform. I've found that taking time in the early morning to pray and study gives me a healthy perspective from which to launch my day. My primary source of inspiration is always the Bible and one of my favorite verses is "Behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it." I like to think of that door as opening to a greater sense of peace and freedom, a deeper understanding of the spiritual source of health and harmony. And I love the idea that nobody can shut that door. Here are five ways to take action on that idea and step through the door to greater spiritual and physical health: 1   Be grateful. Scientific research has verified long-held wisdom: Gratitude is good for your emotional and physical health. Among the proven benefits are greater mental alertness, greater Continue Reading

Making resolutions? Expand their scope and your impact

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Resolving to be or do better is a healthy practice any time of year. But a new calendar always holds an added promise of renewal and progress. It's a great time for change. Sometimes when I've made resolutions, they've been what I call "short radius" resolutions — get more exercise, eat less, sleep more, spend less, work harder. Nothing wrong with those, but even if successful their effective radius is somewhat limited. Resolutions that reach beyond ourselves and focus on blessing others can be very powerful, longer lasting … and healthy. As spiritual healer and author Mary Baker Eddy wrote more than 100 years ago, "Spiritualize human thought, and our convictions change." One way to do that is to start with concepts that are important to us and look for ways to make them regular features of our lives. This can be potentially transformative, not just for us but for all those within the radius of our thought and activity. A few examples: •   Justice. Find ways to treat other Continue Reading

Volunteering benefits both community and personal health

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The holiday season is a natural time for reaching out to those around us who are in need. We volunteer for different reasons, but almost always experience the same benefit: We feel good. But does this benefit go beyond the "feel-good" phenomenon to proven health benefits? Absolutely, according to Stephen G. Post, director of the Center for Medical Humanities at Stony Brook University School of Medicine in New York. "If the benefits of volunteering or altruism could be put into a pill, it would be a bestseller overnight," said Post, who reviewed more than 50 studies showing that people who act sincerely for the benefit of others enjoy happiness, health and even increased longevity. "Engagement and volunteering is the new hybrid health club for the 21st century that's free to join,'' enthuses Harvard's Thomas H. Sander. "Research shows it miraculously improves both your health and the community's through the work performed and the social ties built." Giving to others can Continue Reading

Top 5 Ways to Challenge Holiday Depression

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For many, the holiday season is a joyous time, but for some folks it can be a hard season to get through. If you Google "holiday depression" or better still "beating holiday depression" you'll find lots of top 10 lists. Most of the ideas on my list below appear on one or more of the lists you'll find online. But they've also appeared in my life. They're tried and proven. They're real. They work. 1. Be grateful. Research at Harvard, and at major universities in Florida, Texas and California is beginning to prove the mental, emotional and even physical benefits of taking some time each day to be grateful. Keep a gratitude journal. Write a thank you note. Thanks someone mentally. It's a great way to protect your natural joy. 2. Serve. Choose one of the many service opportunities all communities offer. Volunteer at your church. Ring a Salvation Army bell. Volunteer at a Veterans Hospital. Be a story reader at your local library or elementary school. Serving others is a sure fire Continue Reading

You could learn a lot from a skateboarding dog

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"I didn't feel nervous at all." That's what 9-year-old Lina Bowers of Belleair says about being backstage at the Late Show, seconds away from shaking David Letterman's hand and skating across the stage with Twig the skateboarding dog. Lina is our neighbor. She's been training with our dogs, Twig and Chili, for almost two years now. And I think there's a valuable story here that may transcend the simple plot line of girl and dog go to Broadway, as cool as that is. Learning to control stress and fear is an important journey for anybody at any age, 9 or 99. Stress has become widely acknowledged as a leading cause of disease. Just Google "stress and disease." You'll see what I mean. Reduced stress levels inevitably lead to better health, which in turn can lead to greater success. It's a journey, but like Twig and Lina's journey, the destination justifies the effort. Dog trainers, including my wife Sandy, will tell you that "your emotions travel down the leash." Stay calm. Stay Continue Reading

Five ways to forgive yourself or others

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Forgiving isn't easy, but it is good for you. According to the Mayo Clinic, the health benefits of letting go instead of clinging to grudges include: • Healthier relationships • Greater spiritual and psychological well-being • Fewer symptoms of depression • Lower risk of alcohol and substance abuse Similarly, Harvard Women's Health Watch identifies five positive health benefits of forgiving that have been scientifically studied: • Reduced stress • Better heart health • Stronger relationships • Reduced pain • Greater happiness Considering all of these benefits, why would we punish ourselves by failing to forgive? George Herbert, the 17th century English poet and Anglican priest, expressed it well: "He who cannot forgive breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass." Most of us who have struggled to forgive would agree that it is not only hard, but can seem impossible. Yet its importance has been known for centuries. The Bible talks about Continue Reading

Random Acts of Kindness and Health

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Sure, "random acts of kindness" make us feel better. But does this feeling go beyond mental wellness to actual physical health? According to a recent AARP blog, "Random Acts of Kindness: The Health Benefits "...being unselfish not only makes us feel better about ourselves; it also makes our bodies healthier, including by strengthening our immune system."  The blog goes on to quote research done at the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of North Carolina which found "...that people whose happiness was based on doing things for others, rather than on merely accumulating things, had lower inflammatory markers (inflammation has been linked to a higher risk of developing diabetes, cancer and heart disease) and improved levels of antibodies, needed for fighting off disease." Recently my wife and I were eating breakfast in a diner with two of our granddaughters. When I went to pay the bill the cashier said, "It's already been taken care of." Seeing me turn a Continue Reading

A New Era of Healthcare

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Two books caught my eye this week: Disease-Proof by David Katz and The New Health Age: The Future of Healthcare in America by David Houle and Jonathan Fleece. A quick perusal of both books reveals the following themes: 1) Our health care system is unlikely to be fixed by maintaining the status quo. 2) It's more likely to be fixed by you and me and changes we make in how we think about our health and  how we live our lives. 3) Totally altered thinking can bring major breakthroughs and dramatic change in healthcare practices. Disease-Proof points out that we live in a time when $.75 of every health care dollar is spent on managing preventable chronic disease. At the same time we face an epidemic of prescription pill use. Rather than waiting for the government or private industry to fix this, Katz suggests that we take greater responsibility for our own healthcare. Why? Because we can. Less than 1/3 of us exercise regularly. 2/3 of us are overweight. Well over 60 million of Continue Reading