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Hang Loose Without Booze - 41 Simple Tools to Stress Less and Relax More Without

Contents

Copyright

Your Free Gift

The Challenge of Quitting Drinking

1. Food Stress Builders

2. Emotional Eating – Food is Fuel NOT Therapy!

3. Eat More Frequently with Smaller Portions

4. Skip Ropes, Not Breakfast

5. Eating With Intention While Paying Attention

6. Meals and Memories are Made Here – Sitting To Eat

7. Don’t Stress About Eating Perfectly

8. Listen to What Your Body is Telling you

9. Keeping Some Emergency Foods Handy

9.1 Foods To Avoid – Introduction

10. Simple or Complex Carbs – What’s the Deal?

11. Hiding the Poison with Sugar’d Words

12. Crisps, Pretzels, and the Trans Fat De-Railway

13. Beware the ‘Health Food’ Labels!

14. Stop Eating Products that Just Look Like Food but are Not!

15. Food Stress-Busters

16. No Such Thing as a Little Garlic

17. I Love You, Honey

18. Has Everyone Gone Bananas?

19. Dark Chocolate is the Answer! What was the Question?

20. Love Nuts. Be Nuts

21. Celery Stick?

22. It’s Not the Horse That Draws the Cart, but the Oats

23. Magnesium – The Missing Link to Better Health

24. Fruit – The Healthy Fast Food

25. Eat Your Veggies, Don’t Become One!

To Drink

26. No Water, No Life

27. Fluid, Fruity, and Refreshing

To Avoid

28. Alcohol: the Destructor

29. Caffeine. The Gateway Drug?

30. Soda Pressing!

31. The Solitary Oak Grows the Strongest – The Practice of Solitude

32. Finding Your Zen Zone

33. Meditating Naked

34. The Ten Tigers of Breathing

35. Blow Up Some Balloons

36. Yoga – The Science of the Here and Now

37. Happiness is an Inside Job – The Magic of a Smile

38. The Serious Benefits of Laughter Yoga

39. Motion Affects Emotion

40. A Pebble Affecting the Ocean – Moving-on-the-spot

41. No One Can Walk Your Road For You

What Next?

Copyright © 2015 by Kevin O’Hara

 

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This book is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of physicians. The reader should regularly consult a physician in matters relating to his/her health and particularly with respect to any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention.

This book is geared towards providing exact and reliable information in regards to the topic and issue covered. The book is made available with the idea that the publisher is not required to render accounting, officially permitted, or otherwise, qualified services. If advice is necessary, legal or professional, a practiced individual in the profession should be ordered. In no way is it legal to reproduce, duplicate, or transmit any part of this book in either electronic means or in printed format. Recording of the information contained within is strictly prohibited and any storage of this book is not allowed unless with written permission from the publisher. All rights reserved.

The information provided herein is stated to be truthful and consistent, in that any liability, in terms of inattention or otherwise, by any usage or abuse of any policies, processes, or directions contained within is the solitary and utter responsibility of the recipient reader. Under no circumstances will any legal responsibility or blame be held against the publisher for any reparation, damages, or monetary loss due to the information herein, either directly or indirectly.

The information herein is offered for informational purposes solely, and is universal as so. The presentation of the information is without contract or any type of guarantee assurance. The trademarks that are used are without any consent, and the publication of the trademark is without permission or backing by the trademark owner. All trademarks and brands within this book are for clarifying purposes only and are owned by the owners themselves, not affiliated with this document.

The information contained on this book, is meant to serve as a collection of facts that have been compiled to educate the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and a professional should always be consulted. The author has made all reasonable efforts to provide current and accurate information for the readers of this information and will not be held liable for any unintentional errors or omissions that may be found. If there is a disagreement between the information in this book and what a professional has told you, it is more likely that the professional is correct. They have the benefit of knowing you and your situation.

This book and the information contained within is for entertainment purposes only. The views expressed are those of the author alone, and should not be taken as expert instruction or commands. The reader is responsible for his or her own actions. Neither the author nor the publisher assumes any responsibility or liability whatsoever on the behalf of the purchaser or reader of these materials. Any perceived slight of any individual or organization is purely unintentional.

 

First edition, 2015

 

Stihlman Publishing

Av. Jorge Martinez Aspar-121

Rojales

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Your Free Gift

As a way of saying thanks for downloading this book, I’m offering Hang Loose Without Booze 2 which is exclusive to my book and blog readers.

In Hang Loose Without Booze 2, you’ll discover another 40 easy-to-implement ways of finding more relaxation in your life and learning how to chill down those stressful impulses without retarding your brain with alcohol.

>>>Tap here to grab your copy of *]Hang Loose Without Booze 2[<<*]

[* *]

The Challenge of Quitting Drinking

“I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”

Abraham Maslow

Hang Loose Without Booze is a collection of creative, legal, healthy, and playful ways to find natural highs in your life. These dynamic tools will help you to feel naturally relaxed and stress free, without harming yourself with alcohol and other drugs.

How to Use This Book?

There are far better ways of relaxing, dealing with stress, or getting to sleep at night other than contaminating your body with the toxins contained in alcohol or other drugs.

Although you might find short-term relief in drinking alcohol, it comes at the cost of physical and mental retardation. The easy-to-implement ‘highs’ you’ll find in Hang Loose Without Booze will instead help you to take control of your moods and emotions in a positive, healthy, and sustainable manner.

These are tools that you can use immediately. When you feel stressed or tense, choose one of the methods outlined and just do it, it’s as simple as that. Some of the methods will deliver immediate results, others require a little practice and patience before you feel the benefits.

These are tools that put YOU in control. Seeking stress relief or relaxation in any drug hands control of your emotions to an outside force, a force that can have deadly consequences. You don’t have to do that. Learning a few simple techniques and skills is all it takes to harness your own powerful natural capacities for stress management and relaxation.

These tools are are free or relatively inexpensive. Most of us are on a budget, with both our time and money. It’s just not possible for us to take multiple vacations, visits to the local spa, or health retreats. The aim of this book is to introduce small changes into your life on a day-to-day basis. These small changes won’t cost you anything, for the most part, but with practice they’ll bring you an abundance of serenity and calmness. They will also give you mental and physical stability and confidence in your own abilities to conquer any issue that may arise in your life.

Who is This Book For?

Although the book is primarily aimed at people who’re looking for an alternative to drugs, particularly alcohol, the contents can be used by anyone who wants really effective and healthy ways of relaxing and managing stress without killing themselves in the process.

I’ve adopted many of these suggestions into my own life. For instance, I’m a big fan of walking, forest bathing, yoga, and the 7 minute workout. I’m also a huge believer that what you put into your body is the single most important change that you can make in your life. That’s why I’ve devoted such a large chunk of this information to talking about nutrition.

You are what you eat might be a cliche, but it’s still very true. The food you eat gives you the fuel you need for your day-to-day living. Food is also the basic building block of who you are, literally. What you eat becomes the future you!

Let’s take a couple of examples. Your taste buds are replaced every 10 days. Certain parts of your lungs are only 3 weeks old. You grow a new outer-skin every 28 days. You grow a new liver every 5 months. Your entire skeleton is replaced every 10 years.

How does your body do this?

The answer is through the food you eat. The food you put into your body today is going to become the material that your future self is built on. Your present body is constructed of what you’ve eaten in the past. A junk food diet provides junk building blocks. Junk building blocks make junk skin, junk lungs, a junk liver, and a junk skeleton. Junk food feeds the brain with junk fuel which can only ever lead to junk thoughts.

A diet high in nutrients, on the other hand, provides high quality building blocks. High quality building blocks builds a high quality body. High quality brain food produces high quality thinking, leading to better decision-making, stamina, and self-control.

It’s as simple as that.

This principle also applies to how you feel, to your emotional stability, and how you deal with life. A huge part of your emotional well-being depends on eating the right foods and avoiding the crap, drinking the right drinks and avoiding the crap.

If you’re looking for one area in your life which will give you the biggest bang for your buck , careful and planned nutrition should be it. If the only part of this book you implement is to change what you put into your body, it will be the biggest single step you can take towards feeling 100% more alive. Good nutrition is your best medicine for relaxing and handling any problems that your life can throw at you, moving yourself onwards and upwards toward the person you would like to become.

Just as a new house is built one block at a time, so a new life is built one skill at a time. Leaving alcohol in your past and moving towards the new you requires that you learn new skills or relearn old ones. Some of the most valuable skills you can learn are how to relax and deal with your stress without drugs. When you can do this in a positive enervating way, you build the strength and willpower you need to make all the other necessary changes in your life.

*About Me *

My name is Kevin O’Hara and I run the website AlcoholMastery.com.

The aim of AlcoholMastery.com is to provide a place where alcohol users can see that most problems with their alcohol use are down to habit rather than alcoholism. Alcoholism is just a convenient one-fits-all term used by people to cover up the real issues about how alcohol is used in our society.

What I show you, through simple easy to apply strategies, is that you really are in control of your alcohol drinking and of your not-drinking. Quitting alcohol doesn’t have to be a terrible experience. In fact, stopping drinking this toxin is the best thing you can ever do for your life and for the lives of your family and friends.

Enjoy Hang Loose Without Booze and don’t forget to get your free copy of Hang Loose Without Booze part two at the website here:

 

1. Food Stress Builders and Busters

You Are What You Eat

The reason I’ve devoted over half of this book to nutrition is because I believe that taking care about what you put into your body is the best way of optimizing your health into the future. What you eat or drink has a direct influence on how you feel in your mind and your body. There’s a lot of truth in the statement ‘you are what you eat’! If you want to feel good, eat good food. If you want to feel like crap, eat crappy food.

Most of the processed and packaged foods you are likely to find in your local supermarket will not give you the best nutrition, some won’t give you any nutrition at all.

The mass-production techniques which are used in food processing put massive pressure on the base raw materials. Any food that goes through these industrial processes loses a large percentage of it’s natural vitamins and minerals. What nutrients that are left after the initial processing are further corrupted as the food sits around at room temperatures in warehouses, in the backs of trucks, in storerooms, and sitting on the shelves of your local supermarket for weeks, and sometimes months or years. Ultimately, when you bring this food home (can you call it food at this stage), it has to be cooked or heated which wipes out more nutrients.

In order for these products to sit around for weeks or months on end, without going rancid, the manufacturers must to adulterate them with additives, usually chemical additives. These artificial preservatives, flavorings, and colorings are there to fool you into believing that the product is ‘fresh’.

As you quit drinking alcohol, you need to do as much as you can to help your body overcome the toxins that you have swallowed over all your years of boozing. Don’t add to that intoxication by eating junk food.

Over the next few sections, we’re going to take a quick look at where you can make better food and drink choices. Then we’ll look at some of the foods and drinks to avoid and which foods are likely to help you relax and feel less stressed out.

 

2. Emotional Eating – Food is Fuel NOT Therapy!

Before we start looking at the types of foods you should be eating for a healthy and full life, I want to highlight a few things you need to be aware of.

When you stop drinking, or you’re in the process of changing any other deep seated habit, there will always be the temptation to find impulsive relief using food, otherwise known as emotional eating. When you feel stressed, it can be very easy to dive into a tub of ice cream or a bar of chocolate. The problem with scratching this type of emotional itch is it will only give you pleasure momentarily and will fail utterly in dealing with your long-term emotions or the underlying stress that has stirred up these emotions. Even though the one bar of chocolate does you very little harm in the grand scheme of things, trying to solve your problems through eating is just another flawed coping mechanism that will lead to more problems than it solves.

Let’s take a look at the how food interacts with your body and your life.

First I want to talk about what I call the three timelines of eating:

1. The immediate process of eating.

2. The short-term effects of that food on your body and mind.

3. The long-term effects of that food on your body and mind.

The first timeline is where you are in the process of eating. You handle the food, smell it, serve it, and eat it. The instant gratification temptation is relieved in this moment. You taste the food, enjoy the taste, and finally swallow and move on to the next mouth-full.

The second timeline is the duration that the food will spend inside your body. After you swallow each mouthful, you generally forget about it, it becomes part of your past. Unless you experience some problems with digestion or feeling full, you won’t ever think about think about the food again. But the food is still there, the eating was only the beginning of its journey and interaction with you and your body. The food travels through your body, slowly being digested, and your body extracts what it can in terms of nutrients. What’s left over is either stored as fat or eliminated as waste. The timeline of this process varies widely with each individual. It can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days.

The third timeline is what happens to your body in the long-term as a consequence of your food choices today including weight gain or disease. How do your food choices affect your internal organs over a period of a decade or two? Does the food contribute to plaque build-up along the walls of your arteries? How does it affect your life expectancy?

For the purposes of this book, I’m going to concentrate on the second timeline. As the food interacts with your body, moving through your digestive tract and breaking down, you get lots of feedback. You need to be conscious of this feedback, of how the food is making you feel, and how it influences and alters your present state of mind. Up until now, you’ve enjoyed the instant gratification of the first timeline, the comfort eating phase. But now that the food is inside you, becoming a part of you, how do you feel? Do you feel relaxed? Do you feel stressed? Do you feel that you’re fueled for dealing with the stress of your habit change? Do you feel your willpower increase or decrease? Or have you just added to the pressure your body is already experiencing?

Hang Loose Without Booze is about making better and healthier choices that benefit your emotions and bolster your determination to succeed with the changes want to make in your life. Emotional eating might give you the instant gratification hit in the moment, but the relief you feel never lasts. The effect of your food choices on your body are long-lasting.

As I said, the purpose of this entire section is to get you to think about what you’re putting into your mouth, the good and the bad. I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t eat so-called ‘bad’ foods at all, although I would still advise caution. You can enjoy yourself with food as a natural part of a normal and healthy life. To deny yourself the pleasures which only your taste buds can deliver will do more harm than good in the long run. However, you need to avoid eating to satisfy your impulsive emotional triggers. You can’t eat your way out of stress, worry, anger, loneliness, and so on. The last thing you want to do is replace one false friend with another.

What to Do

1. Look for the things, people, places, and thoughts that are triggering your emotional eating.

2. Use this book, and its companion Hang Loose Without Booze 2, to look for other emotionally satisfying and less destructive methods of controlling your feelings.

3. When you feel a craving to emotionally eat, hit your pause button for a moment and think about what you’re doing.

4. In the long-term, you need to build a healthy lifestyle with plenty of exercise and good nutrition.

 

 

3. Eat More Frequently with Smaller Portions

One of the biggest obstacles to you feeling relaxed and happy is when you don’t have enough physical energy. Eating the traditional three square meals can overload your digestive system 3 times a day and cause you to feel bloated. This overload plays havoc with your energy levels. To avoid this, eat more frequently and in smaller portions. You will still be eating the same amount of food, but you’re stretching it over six or seven meals instead of the usual three. This is known as grazing.

Grazing makes much more sense in terms of human evolution. When our ancestors lived in the wild, there were times of plenty and other times of famine. In general, our ancestors got their food where they could find it, often needing to travel long distances to gather and scavenge. This meant eating on the go and often.

Harley Street doctor, Antony Haynes says “Grazing was the way our body was designed to eat. Large meals burden the digestive system, often causing bloating and lowered energy while the body struggles to digest them. By eating smaller meals you prevent this, and the body functions more efficiently throughout the day.”

This regular intake of food is much more likely to maintain your blood sugar levels, stabilize your energy levels, and make life easier to cope with.

What to Do

1. Because you are probably already eating in the traditional 3-meals-a-day fashion, with snacks in between, you don’t really need to change that much except the portion size of your main meals. Split these meals into six instead of 3.

2. Each meal doesn’t have to be the same size, but try not to overload your system with too much food at any one sitting.

3. You can make sure you’re eating smaller portions by using smaller plates when you dish up your food.

4. Don’t put the pots or serving dishes on the table where it’s easy to dip in for seconds. If you want more food you’ll have to get up from the table and walk to the pot for a second helping.

5. Learn to eat until satisfied instead of eating to be full.

4. Skip Ropes, Not Breakfast

We’ve all heard versions of the saying, ‘you should always get a good breakfast inside you before you start the day’ or ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’. Why is that? Here are 5 reasons:

1. People who skip breakfast are more likely to gain weight. One theory is that by skipping breakfast, people are likely to eat more at lunchtime and with snacks during the day. You’re playing catchup for the rest of the day.

2. Good quality early nutrition fires you up. When you eat a carbohydrate intense food for breakfast, such as whole wheat bread or cereal, you boost your energy levels for the day.

3. Start as you mean to go on. There’s an old saying which says, life is too short to start your day with broken pieces of yesterday. You should always eat a good breakfast as part of a morning routine. As we’ve seen, eating a healthy breakfast puts your body into a good place for the day. Your mind also feels the benefits of this early fueling, which I’ll talk about more in the next section. Putting this all together and you have a recipe for a good day. An early morning routine sets the tone for rest of the day, it puts you on the right track. I begin my morning routine with a half-liter of water, followed by 4 or 5 bananas. Then I go for a walk or take some other form of exercise, and finally I either sit for some meditation for half an hour or catch up on some reading. If I miss out on this routine for some reason, I always feel the worse for wear and never get as much done.

4. An all-round breakfast bucks your mood. I remember a piece of advice I got from one of my first employer. My job was fixing lawn mowers in a factory near where I lived in Dublin during my school summer holidays. My boss was a complete asshole, but his father was such a kindly old gent who was always willing to share his wisdom. Besides telling me not to take any notice of his grumpy son, he’d always ask if I had eaten my breakfast. He told me, “An empty sack always falls”. Good sage advice. Your brain runs on the food you eat. That first meal sets your mood for the day. Eat wisely.

5. Breakfast can boost your willpower. Some people call it willpower and others call it self-control, either way it’s an essential part of the process of change. Exercising your willpower is like using a muscle, the more you use is during the day, the more tired it becomes. But constant use also makes it stronger in the long-term. Let me explain. Willpower fuel comes in two parts – practice and energy. Practice builds strong willpower and the right fuel helps maintain willpower stamina. Building your willpower muscles takes consistent practice over time, so you can’t rely on that in the beginning. However, if you feed your body the right fuel every day you provide the immediate energy you need for strong self-control. The right fuel begins with a good breakfast.

What to Do

1. After your morning ablutions, eat your breakfast.

2. Make a good breakfast a part of a regular morning routine

3. Don’t wait any more than half an hour to eat your meal.

4. Choose something healthy, high in complex carbs and protein, and avoid foods which are high in sugar, fat, or salt.

 

5. Eating With Intention While Paying Attention

What is Mindfulness and Why Should You Be Mindful When You Eat?

Mindfulness is the act of being in the moment and concentrating fully on what you are doing. Mindfulness in eating means taking the time to appreciate the food in front of you and the whole process of dining.

Mindful eating is about being enthusiastic and paying attention to how your food looks, seeing the different colors and textures, being careful and attentive in preparing the ingredients, absorbing the rich aromas of the cooking and the finished dishes, the textures as you put the food in your mouth, and finally enjoying the taste.

There are plenty of reasons to be mindful when you eat, here are just three:

1. Eating is one of the most basic needs in our life. We need food to survive. But sitting down to a meal means much more than that. There is a simple pleasure to be found in eating that goes way beyond just satisfying your hunger. The act of eating brings out something elemental in all of us, almost primeval. Think about what food really means to us. If we were living in the wild, it would mean we were going to survive for another day. Finding the food to feed yourself and your family would be a full time job. When you put that food into your mouth, it signifies the end of the hunt, the satisfaction in knowing that you did well that day.

2. Focusing on the food and not on the TV builds your self-control muscles. Eating mindfully is a form of meditation, a break in the day, a respite from pressure, and a chance to re-energize. When you eat mindfully, you extract the energy from the nutrients in the food, you also re-energize through the mindfulness process.

3. Mindfulness helps you better enjoy your food. How many times have you sat down to a meal in front of the television, or while reading a newspaper, and by the time the meal is over, you can’t remember a single mouthful. You didn’t notice anything about the food, not even the taste. By being mindful, you slow yourself down, you stay in the moment, and you enjoy eating your food. These are some of the small pleasures that we seem to have forgotten in our mad rush through life. But it’s these small pleasures that add depth and volume to your bank of accumulated enjoyment. More enjoyment leads to more happiness. More happiness leads to feeling less stressed and more relaxed. When you have a full bank of accumulated enjoyment at your disposal, who needs to get wasted?

What to Do

Make a meal out of it. Eating mindfully is very simple, you don’t have to over-elaborate.

1. Cut the distractions. Try to eliminate as many distractions as you can. This means turning off the television, the radio, putting away your books and newspapers, leave your phone somewhere else. Focus your attention on the eating and the dining experience, staying in the moment.

2. Focus on what you are about to eat. Take the time to be grateful for the food in front of you. Use all your senses to appreciate each dimension of the food as you slowly make your way through your meal. Think of it like a mini-journey.

3. Think about a train and chew-chew. One way of slowing down your eating is to chew each mouthful as if you are tasting it for the first time. A good chew-chew target is to chomp your food about 20 times before swallowing. You’ll enjoy the food much more and give your digestive system less work to do. This is an area that I’ve really had to work at in my own life. I used to gallop my way through my food like someone was just about to snatch the plate from under my nose. I don’t know if it was because I was raised in a big working class family with little money. There’s nine of us, but I was one of the biggest, so I don’t think it’s that. More likely I ate fast so I could get second helpings before anyone else got to the pot. I was a growing lad after all!

 

 

6. Meals and Memories are Made Here – Sitting to Eat

When I think about my grandmother, I remember that she had this wonderful old-fashioned kitchen with a massive wooden dining table, all scarred up with age and the stains from the thousands of meals that she’d served on it over the years. Every time we visited her home, we’d be ushered to that table and we knew we were in for a treat. It could be a slice of cake and a cup of milky tea, some toast and jam, or if we were lucky one of her delicious home-cooked dinners.

I remember that when you went into her house through the front door, you walked into a carpeted hallway with old photos in picture frames along the wall to the left and a wooden staircase leading upstairs to the right. The carpet had a word patch right down the middle which led straight into that old kitchen. Hanging on the kitchen door, just below the glass panel, was a blue and white porcelain sign, the kind you see in old Dutch kitchens, which simply said, “Meals and Memories are Made Here”. The sign was right, I remember lots of meals and plenty of great memories in that kitchen, of those meals, and my smiling Gran with her frilly aprons. Those days seem so long ago now, but I still remember them very clearly.

We all live busy lives and it can sometimes seem difficult to take the time for enjoying our food. We’re so occupied with pursuing the things which seem ‘more important’ that we give a very low priority to one of the most important aspects of our lives, eating. We don’t prepare enough of our food, nor do we take the time in eating it, often hurrying it down as quickly as possible, before moving on to the next thing.

Sitting while you eat, even if it’s just for a snack, is an essential building block for establishing that mindful eating ritual that I spoke about in the previous section. Did you know that your digestive system functions much more efficiently when you’re relaxed and stress-free? Sitting to eat your food helps you to relax, to focus on the food, thereby aiding your digestive processes.

If you’re not used to sitting and being mindful in your eating, preferring instead to multi-task at mealtimes, it can be difficult for you in the beginning. So just sitting at a table to eat can be a very useful first step. Relaxation will come with practice. Eventually your body will get into the habit of automatically chilling-out whenever you sit to eat. Once you’ve become accustomed to being seated for all your meals, then you can start implement some of the other aspects of mindful eating.

What to Do

1. Have one place in your home which is purely reserved for eating, preferably at a table with upright chairs. If you’re stuck for space in your home, you can always buy a foldaway table and chairs.

2. Sitting to eat with other people will make for some of your fondest memories.

 

 

7. Don’t Stress About Eating Perfectly

We live in a world which is swamped with information about food, nutrition, and dieting. But what exactly makes a perfect meal? It’s hard to know. I still struggle with some of the most basic of food related questions. I bet you’re the same. Are you worried about eating a balanced diet? Are you eating too much fat, sugar, or salt? Do you think should be eating more of one particular type of food or avoiding another altogether? As you sit down to your meal, do you think about what the food is going do to you in the long-term?

Thinking too much about your diet, what you should or shouldn’t be eating and drinking, can lead to worry and stress. When you’re under stress, making the right decisions about what you eat becomes even more challenging.

So what’s the solution?

The best answer is that there’s no such thing as the perfect diet. There are many factors that will lead you to making effective choices and most of these things are dependent on who YOU are.

What to Do

1. Focus on balance. When choosing what to eat and putting together your meal, try to find a balance between the three major food groups: carbohydrates, protein, and fat… yes – I did say fat. Fat is an essential part of your diet, you just need to eat the right types of fat. Good fat lowers your cholesterol, and helps you to control your moods, fatigue, weight, and maintain a highly active mind. The good fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated and can be found in vegetables and vegetable oils, nuts, beans, and fatty fish like mackerel and salmon.

What does a balanced plate of food look like? Think about your plate with a cross drawn over it, dividing the plate into four equal sections. You should fill two of those quarters with vegetables, one quarter with a protein based food, and the other with a starch. For meat eaters, your protein can come from lean cuts of meat, turkey, chicken, or fish. The starch can come from potatoes, rice, beans, or lentils. I eat a plant-based diet, so I get my all my carbs, proteins, and fats from veg, grains, beans, and nuts.

2. Indulgence is good for you in small doses. A little indulgence is good for you, mentally and physically. It’s a healthy part of a balanced diet and it’s nothing to feel guilty about. When you do indulge, stick to a 50/50 approach. If you want to have your steak and chips, have a smaller portion – a few ounces of steak and half a portion of fries. Then balance the other half with some steamed veg or a healthy salad. Or have a healthy main course, sharing an indulgent dessert with your meal partner.

3. Enjoy the treat. Set aside a time, once a week perhaps, to enjoy a piece of cake or a bar of chocolate, if that’s your thing. If you like potato chips, there’s a time and a place as well. People get into trouble with these foods when they overindulge, when these ‘treat foods’ becomes a part of their normal diet.

4. Try not to eat for emotional comfort. If you absolutely must have a treat to satisfy a craving, have a small amount and be mindful when you eat it. Take the time to enjoy it.

 

8. Listen to What Your Body is Telling you

Being food mindful is about being in the moment, relaxing and enjoying your meals. It’s also about understanding how your body and mind are reacting to the food you’ve just eaten.

When you used to drink, the alcohol put a lot of pressure on your digestive system. The constant input of toxins causes your defensive system to stay on full alert. Your body has to devote a large proportion of its energies into eliminating this threat. Now that you have removed alcohol from your body, your system will return to its natural state of activity. This means your digestive system can cope much better with many of the foods you eat. Finally your digestive system can concentrate on what it was designed to do: processing the food you put in, distributing the nutrients to where they are needed, and giving you the energy you need for life.

What to Do

1. Over time, and with the right diet, you’ll become much more attuned to how your digestive system should feel. This is a skill that’s going to take you a while to master. First you’ve got to understand what counts as normal for you. What was normal while you are drinking is no longer normal. To build this skill, you need to tune into the language of your body and pay attention to what it’s trying to tell you. One of the best ways of doing this is to keep a food diary.

2. Start your food diary by taking notes about what you eat. Include each food, the time of day, how long each meal takes, and how slow or fast you’re eating. Ask yourself some questions. How you feel while you are eating? What about after the food has been in your belly for a few minutes, and again after an hour or two? Do you feel good? Do you feel satisfied? Are you feeling bloated or in pain? Do you feel tired? Do you feel energetic?

3. Over time, you will start to notice patterns between what you eat and how you feel and think. These patterns will be your guide as to which foods are causing a stressed reaction in your digestive system and which are not. It’s only once you uncover these patterns that you’ll be able to understand where any problems lie. Only then can you take some action. You can avoid the food altogether. You can also try to reduce the frequency of eating that particular food, maybe only eating it once or twice a week, instead of every day. You can also consume it in smaller amounts to see if that makes a difference.

4. If you are quitting alcohol, some of the foods you eat during the first few weeks of your quit might not agree with you once you stop drinking. This is because there will be a lot internal repair and rejuvenation work happening in your body. Don’t forget that in these early days you still have the body of a drinker. Your organs don’t know that the flood of alcohol is not going to come back. If one type of food causes you problems, avoid it for a while. Allow your body the time to go through the initial post-alcohol recovery phase. After a month or so, you can re-introduce the food into your diet in smaller portions and use your food diary to test the results.

9. Keeping Some Emergency Foods Handy

We all have those days when we just don’t feel like cooking. Maybe you’ve had a hard day with the kids or at work, you’ve just received a hefty bill in the post, or you’ve had some bad news that you’d rather forget. The end result is the same – you can’t be bothered with all that preparing and cooking. You don’t want to even look at the kitchen, never mind use it. These are danger times for maintaining your nutrition. Shopping at these times can be like negotiating your way through an emotional minefield where it can be all too easy to fill your basket with all those tempting comfort foods that crowd for your attention across the shelves. They hold the promise of instant gratification, take minutes to heat or can be eaten straight from the packet.

To get through these stressed-out moments, while still maintaining good nutrition, it’s a good idea to have some healthy emergency meals on hand.

What to Do

1. When you are preparing a meal under normal, non-stressed conditions, cook a little extra and set aside a portion or two for freezing. Then, when you’re feeling a bit lazy or tired, you have some convenient meals waiting. All you have to do is warm in the microwave and eat. No hassle!

2. Have your breakfast for dinner. Breakfast is not the only time you can eat scrambled eggs on toast. Breakfast meals tend to be some of the easiest to prepare. Who needs complication first thing in the morning, right! Sometimes if I’m feeling tired, I’ll make a large bowl of porridge, honey, and bananas. It’s dead simple to throw together, it fills me up, and I’m still getting a bucket load of nutrition. This is my default healthy comfort food.

3. Make a slow cooker meal. Slow cooking is one of the easiest methods of cooking, particularly if you just use the ingredients that you have on hand. You can prepare your meal the night before, turn on your slow cooker the next morning before you start your day, and you’ll have a perfectly cooked healthy meal waiting for you in the evening. All that’s left for you to do is to serve and enjoy.

4. Sometimes, it’s the idea of prepping all the ingredients for the meal that puts you off. If you’re tired, take a seat while you prep. Bring a tall stool to your counter while you chop your ingredients. Alternatively, take the ingredients to your dining table and prep them there.

5. Skip the cooking and take out. Another great way of beating your lack of enthusiasm for the kitchen is to pick up your phone and order a take-away. Take-out food should be the exception, rather than the rule. But there’s no real reason not to indulge yourself every so often. To get the best of nutrition from your take-out meal, order only what looks like it’s real food. Avoid burgers, chicken nuggets, and all that other processed junk. If you can’t name the meat, presume the worse and don’t buy, choose something else. Remember that fast food generally contains high percentages of sugar, salt, and the wrong types of fat. You are paying for the food so don’t be afraid to ask for it to be cooked to your liking.

6. Mix the good with the not so good. You can cut the salt, sugar, or fat content of any product by dilution. For instance, reduce the overall salt in a tin of soup by throwing a cup or two of frozen veggies into the same pot. This will dilute the salt percentage in each serving. For an instant salad that’s not too heavy on the fat, take a tub of coleslaw and mix it with a large bowl of fresh salad ingredients.

 

Foods to Avoid – Introduction

Nutritionist and whole foods advocate, Ann Wigmore, once said “The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.” Real health care comes in the form of exercise and nutrition, not in a packet of pills. Pills only care for the already sick.

When you quit drinking, you’re making a real transformation. It’s not just about stopping the alcohol flow, you have to change many elements your life, and your nutrition should be right up there at the top of that list. If you only remove the alcohol, but carry on eating a bad diet, don’t expect to get much different results.

In a later section, we’re going to take a more in-depth look at the kinds of food which will reduce your stress and help you maintain better levels of relaxation, but this is only one part of the equation. The other part is avoiding the foods which offer you no physical benefit and will only increase your stress levels.

As we’ve seen previously, most indulgent foods are fine when eaten in very moderate amounts, but even then you should try to substitute a healthier version whenever you can. These healthier versions are available, you just have to look a bit harder.

There are also some easy ingredient substitutions that will help you to create much healthier versions of almost any type of dish.

In the next few sections, I’m going to go over some of the more common foods you should avoid and why.

 

10. Simple or Complex Carbs – What’s the Deal?

Just as all calories are not made equal, not every carb is good for you. On the flip side, carbohydrates have gained such a bad reputation in the diet world. Crazy diets, such as the Atkins diet, fool people into believing that the reason they are putting on weight is because they are eating all those carbohydrates – such bullshit! What matters in terms of carbohydrates is the quality and type of carb that you eat, and of course which carbs you avoid.

Your ability to walk, run, swim, work, rest, play, or just breathe hinges on the ability of your body to extract the energy it needs from the food you eat. The primary fuel of choice for your body is glucose. Carbohydrates are the most readily broken down source of glucose. So you do your body a big disservice by not giving it what it wants.

Not eating carbohydrates is also bad for your stress levels. If you want to stay strong, get to and remain at your peak mental and physical performance, you need to eat your carbs.

In a later section, we’ll take a look at some good carbs that you should be regularly eating, fruits and vegetable, nuts, beans, lentils, and so on. For now, we’re going to stick to the carbs you should avoid?

Sugar is one form of simple carbohydrate that you should avoid, as you will see in the next section, but there are many others. Simple carbs put your body through a roller coaster effect of highs and lows. Your feelings are affected, as are your energy levels, along with your moods. When your body digests simple carbs, they are broken down and absorbed into the system very quickly. That initial rush you feel when you eat a food containing these simple carbs is always followed by a later dip. It’s this plunge down the carbohydrate roller coaster that causes you to feel lethargic and depressed.

The simple carbs found in highly processed foods don’t come with enough natural fiber. It’s this natural fiber that allows the sugars to be released more steadily. Many processed simple carbs, such as white bread, white pasta, and cakes, are lacking in the essential nutrients that help maintain your health and stability. These empty calories contribute to weight gain and obesity, run your system down instead of picking it up, and can lead to mental suffering.

What to Do

1. For those who are quitting alcohol, you need to give your body the fuel it needs to do the job of returning your body to full toxic-free health. Don’t get too caught up in the instant gratification eating that simple processed carbs offer. This type of eating may satisfy your taste buds, but once these foods are in your body they don’t provide any value. In fact, this type of rubbish food will often retard the post-alcohol clean-up processes.

2. Replace processed foods with whole foods as often as you can. We’ll look at this more in a later section.

 

11. Hiding the Poison with Sugar’d Words

The number one food to avoid, if you want to boost your chances of having a stress-free life, is processed-sugar. Here are a few reasons:

1. Sugar can overload an already overloaded liver.

A diet containing lots of processed sugars can lead to fatty liver syndrome. On its own, this condition does not represent an immediate health concern. Over time though, the fat can build up, which can lead to liver swelling, and eventual liver cirrhosis. When you quit drinking alcohol, your liver has spent a few years already being overloaded. Now it’s a good idea to help your liver, giving it a chance to recover. The last thing you want to do is put more pressure onto this already tortured and crucial organ.

2. Desserts equals Stressed

In his book, The Bitter Truth About Sugar, Dr Robert Lustig says “It’s no coincidence that desserts spelled backwards is stressed. Cortisol (a hormone we release in response to stress) specifically increases our desire for comfort foods. Over several years, prolonged cortisol release leads to excessive intake of high-fat and high-sugar foods.”

3. Sugar is Not the Only Problem

Sweet foods not only contain massive quantities of sugar, these products are also packed with other dubious ingredients. Apart from the fat content of most pastries and cakes, which we’ll take a look at in the next section, most processed sweet foods are filled with preservatives, colorings, and other nasty additives that are not good for your health or your stress levels.

What to do

First, avoid processed sugar in all its many forms.

Here’s a few foods to eat which will satisfy your cravings, are packed with nutrients that your body needs, and can help your body to recover a healthy balance.

1. Nuts. Nuts contain large amounts of essential nutrients which will actively help lower your stress and heal your immune system.

2. Berries. When berries are in season they can provide you with all the sweetness you need along with a blast from all that vitamin C and other micronutrients. When not in season, you can use frozen or tinned berries. Buy the tinned berries which are canned in their own natural juice, not in sugary syrup.

3. Dried Fruits. Dried fruits are also a good substitute during the off-season. They still contain the same amount of natural sugar as their fresh counterparts. Be careful of the calories though. Pound for pound, the fresh version contains fewer calories. Dried fruits have been dehydrated, reducing their weight and increasing their overall calorie count.

 

 

 

12. Crisps, Pretzels, and the Trans Fat De-Railway

Trans fats give processed foods taste and texture, while extending their shelf life. Unfortunately, the price for this indulgence is often paid with your health. Trans fat laden foods are disappearing from our supermarket shelves, but this not the only type of fat you should avoid if you want to relax and reduce your levels of stress. All high fat foods, especially foods which are high in saturated fats, can be detrimental. High fat foods thicken your blood and make you feel lethargic.

What to Do

Here’s some foods to avoid:

1. Anything deep fat fried or battered.

2. Anything labeled as containing trans fats.

3. Most store bought ice creams.

4. Crisp/Pretzels/Crackers

5. Frozen dinners.

6. French fries

7. Pancakes and waffles

8. Fried Chicken

9. Non-dairy creamers

10. Microwave popcorn

11. Ground beef

12. Cookies

13. Meat sticks

14. Canned Chili

15. Packaged puddings

If you would like to know more about the food you are eating, particularly the processed foods, read the book Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss. It offers an alarming insight into how the food industry attempts to addict us to consuming and over-eating their products.

The author says, “Inevitably, the manufacturers of processed food argue that they have allowed us to become the people we want to be, fast and busy, no longer slaves to the stove. But in their hands, the salt, sugar, and fat they have used to propel this social transformation are not nutrients as much as weapons—weapons they deploy, certainly, to defeat their competitors but also to keep us coming back for more.”

And about the manufacturers themselves, he has this to say, “As a culture, we’ve become upset by the tobacco companies advertising to children, but we sit idly by while the food companies do the very same thing. And we could make a claim that the toll taken on the public health by a poor diet rivals that taken by tobacco.”

 

 

13. Beware the ‘Health Food’ Labels!

Here’s some good advice from American author Micheal Pollan about where to find the best sources of nutrition and health in the foods you eat. He says, “If it came from a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, don’t.” Most of our food industry pays no attention to the health of its customers. And unfortunately, we are treated by a health care industry that pays no attention to the food that we eat. We spend way too much time in counting calories when we should really be concentrating our maths skills on counting chemicals.

There’s an old saying that goes, “Beware of the half truth. You may have gotten hold of the wrong half.”

Foods that are labeled as ‘healthy’ often contain unhealthy ingredients, making them not as healthy as you would like to believe, or that the food industry would have us believe.

The food industry is very enterprising, I’ll give it that. Processed food manufacturers understand that we all want to live healthy lives. Part of that deep seated need of ours is to eat healthy foods, but we are driven by taste as much as by nutrition.

These companies also know that we lead very busy lives, so we can be manipulated into opting for convenience over spending hours in the kitchen, slaving over a hot stove.

A third piece of their psychological armory is that we always look for information that reinforces what we already believe, or that supports what we want to believe. This is known as the confirmation bias. If you like eating pizza and you spot a magazine article that tells you about the health benefits of eating a four cheese super slice, you aren’t likely to pursue the evidence further.

Given that we want to eat healthy, we want convenience, and we’ll readily accept our nutritional information at face value, the food industry has invented a whole list of magic words that they print on their packaging to portray health and convenience. Words like ‘fat free’, ‘whole grain’, gluten-free’, ‘natural’, ‘farm-fed’, ‘sugar-free’, ‘fresh’, ‘healthy’, ‘organic’, or ‘naturally sweetened’, to name but a few.

Here’s an example. Would you buy a product that said it contained ‘Evaporated Cane Juice’. In my mind, that sounds healthy. Florida Crystals is one of the companies that manufacture this product. On it’s website*, Florida Crystals describes the process of making their product as one which preserves “the original sun-sweetened flavor, and product-enhancing attributes. Our product line consists of organic and natural offerings that contain no artificial additives or preservatives.” That would have me sold. I’d even pay more for the benefits of getting a sun-sweetened flavor!

Judy Sanchez, a spokesperson for the United States Sugar Corporation, another Florida based sugar business, puts things into perspective by saying, “All sugar is evaporated cane juice, they [Florida Crystals] just use that for a natural-sounding name for a product.” The only real difference between evaporated cane juice and ordinary white sugar is the evaporated cane juice has traces of molasses. But, it’s ultimately the same thing, processed sugar. It has no healths benefits at all. It’s no better or worse.

What to Do

How do you get past all the slime and double-talk?

1. Make sure you carefully read all the nutritional labels. Take your glasses to the store and see what’s in the product you’re thinking of eating. I’m not kidding about your glasses. You might have to buy a pair of spectacles just to read some of these nutritional labels, the writing is so small.

2. The ingredients are listed according to their quantity. The first ingredient on the list is the largest ingredient by volume and so on.

3. The only way to guarantee you’re getting healthy foods is to avoid foods that come with labels and buy whole foods from a well-known and trusted source. The food we can grow on this planet, naturally provides us with everything we need to survive. The word manufacture, when mentioned in the same sentence as food, should make you wary, if not scary, about what it is you are putting into your body.

What has this to do with relaxing? Most of these sneaky ingredients are the enemy of relaxation and are sneaky best friends with stress.

*https://www.floridacrystals.com/content/192/evaporated-cane-juice-products.aspx

http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2012/10/18/163098211/evaporated-cane-juice-sugar-in-disguise

14. Stop Eating Products that Just Look Like Food but are Not!

I’m going to keep this one short. You don’t really need me to tell you the dangers of eating fast foods or the damage that the fast food industry has done to our society. A study, conducted by the University of Navarra, Spain in 2009, looked at how people were affected after they switched from the traditional Spanish diet, or the Mediterranean diet, to a fast food type diet.

The study was set up to ascertain if there were obvious physical signs of ill health, such as diabetes and heart disease, as a result of the switch. They also measured the overall change in mental health.

What they found from studying these 10,000 patients was that those who remained on the traditional Mediterranean diet were half as likely to develop symptoms of depression as those who ate a diet full of unhealthy processed and junk food.* Two further studies, one in the UK and one in Australia*** confirmed these results.

What to Do

I’ll keep this simple and short.

1. Avoid processed or fast food.

2. Eat whole foods from trusted sources.

  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19805699

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19880930

***http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20048020

 

 

15. Food Stress-Busters

Eating plays a large part in helping you to feel your best. It’s the primary way of fueling your body and mind, but too often we treat food as just another form of entertainment. First we consider how good the food tastes, then we think about the nutritional value. In reality, it should be the other way around. We should look for foods that are good for you first, then look for healthy ways of making that food more interesting or more entertaining.

Eating for entertainment, or comfort, generally leads to some questionable food choices. Our bodies instinctively crave fat, sugar, and salt, and there’s nothing wrong with that. We need fat, sugar, and salt for a variety of reasons. We have evolved to thrive and survive in the natural world where these things are in short supply. But they have become more than readily available in large quantities through your local supermarket and fast food chains. We all know the results. At one time, only kings and the very wealthy were fat or obese. Now, so many people are obese, it’s being called an epidemic.

In terms of looking and feeling your best, getting the most out of your life, and avoiding some of the most common forms of mental and physical illness, good nutrition should be on the top of your list. Hippocrates, one of the most important figures in the history of medicine, said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”.

In his book, Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, T. Colin Campbell writes along similar lines. He says, “The foods you consume can heal you faster and more profoundly than the most expensive prescription drugs, and more dramatically than the most extreme surgical interventions, with only positive side effects”.

What to Do

1. As we’ve seen earlier, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with indulging yourself so long as you exercise caution and restraint. If you don’t, you’ll likely face much greater challenges in your future, challenges you might not be able to overcome. If you are going to indulge, exchange the unhealthy for the healthy wherever you can and choose a smaller portion size.

I love eating sweets and biscuits. If I open a packet of biscuits while I’m watching some evening TV, I can go through the entire packet without even thinking about it. To avoid this, I separate the full packet into single serving sized portions. Then I put them into plastic boxes or jiffy bags. When I feel like a snack, it’s easy to just grab a single portion.

2. Reduce the amount of snacking you do by eating more regularly and slower. Break your meals up into 5 or 6 sittings instead of the traditional three and be mindful with every mouthful.

3. Choose whole foods wherever you can.

The foods we’ll look at over the coming pages are nutritious and healthy. What’s more, they’ll help you to relax and feel less stressed. Again, some restraint is still required, even with some of the healthier alternatives, such as the nuts and dark chocolate. Just because these foods are good for you, don’t go overboard.

16. No Such Thing as a Little Garlic

Garlic is a great all-rounder for your body. If you have just quit drinking alcohol, garlic can be classed as one of the superfoods that can help repair some of the damage that you’ve done to your liver and other internal organs.

Garlic will also help your body to detox. Garlic has been used for thousands of years as a potent medicine. The antiviral and antibacterial qualities help you to maintain a healthy immune system and regulate your blood sugar levels.

To get the best out of garlic, or any other superfood, you should eat it in its whole or nearest to whole state.

In his book, The Healing Benefits of Garlic, Dr John Heinerman writes about a survey of 8500 people who had reached their 100th birthday. The two things that stood out most in their diets was the consumption of garlic and onions.

What to Do

1. If you can, eat the garlic raw.

2. Try to buy the freshest garlic, which is also the mildest.

3. Rinse the crushed garlic under a running tap. This will remove some of the sulfur compounds that cause the harsh aroma.

4. Add garlic to hummus, guacamole, or mix it with some cottage cheese, then spread the mixture onto a piece of whole-wheat toast.

5. When you slice garlic, you not only release that pungent garlic smell, you also release the health-giving properties such as allicin. To get the most out of these healthy properties, let the garlic sit for at least five minutes after you’ve chopped it, preferably ten, which allows the allicin to form. This is especially important if you are going to cook the garlic. To maintain the maximum nutrients in the garlic, don’t cook for more than 15 minutes.

6. If you’re worried about garlic breath, you can chew on a piece of parsley or a coffee bean, suck on a lemon wedge or drink some green tea. You can also mask the smell with some sugar-free chewing gum.

 

 

17. I Love You, Honey

Honey is another food that’s been used for its healing properties throughout the world over thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians used it as a form of currency and the American Indians used it as a basis for much of their herbal medicines.

In his book, The Happiness Diet: A Nutritional Prescription for a Sharp Brain, Balanced Mood, and Lean, Energized Body, Dr. Drew Ramsey says “Honey helps reduce inflammation, which is very important to maintaining a healthy brain. Some depression actually stems from chronic, low-grade inflammation.”

What to Do

1. Use honey in place of sugar in your cooking. This natural sweetener can be used in all kinds of home-made cakes and desserts. It can also be added to sauces and dressings, giving them a rich golden color and taste.

2. Honey infused herbs. Honey added to herbal tea makes a delicious pick-me-up. To get the most out of your honey and herb infusions, let the herbs steep in the honey for a couple of weeks before using. You can also use the mix as a quick energizer. Simply add a teaspoon of honey to your favorite herbal tea.

If you do decide to try the two-week infusion, some of the best herbs to use are lemon balm, valerian, passionflower, catnip, or skullcap.

You can use a single herb or a combination.

Vary the quantities of herbs depending on how strong you want the infusion. More herbs equals a stronger tasting infusion.

Use enough honey to cover the herbs. Simply mix the ingredients in a sterilized jar and let the concoction steep for a couple of weeks. When done, you can use the infusion in teas, spread on toast, or in a salad dressing; just use your imagination. There’s more on stress-buster drinks in the next section.

3. Take a bath of milk and honey

As you run your bath, pour one or two cups of milk (cows, almond, soy, or any other milk) and a half cup of honey under the flowing tap. Swish your hand around in the water until all the ingredients are dissolved. Then lay down in the water, relax, close your eyes, and let your thoughts drift.

I don’t use honey anymore since I started eating a plant based diet. When I used to eat it, my favorite was a simple spread of honey over a piece of toast. Eating a piece of toast, covered in honey, before you go to bed can help you to sleep. Along with the calming properties of honey, the carbs in the toast give you a quick spike of energy followed by a crash of tiredness. Perfect for a midnight snack. Now I substitute maple syrup for honey which seems to have the same effect.

 

18. Has Everyone Gone Bananas?

Bananas are one of Mother Nature’s most complete foods.

Bananas are a great source of magnesium and potassium which are known to be muscle relaxants. Bananas also help the brain to produce the relaxing neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin, by converting a protein in the bananas called tryptophan. The only way your body gets tryptophan is through your diet. Other important health benefits you’ll get from eating bananas include lower blood pressure and cancer risk, better digestion and memory.

What to Do

1. Just peel and eat a banana or three.

2. Add a banana to some juice and blend.

3. Make banana ice-cream.

Bananas are one of my favorite foods. I eat at least 5 every day, sometimes as many as ten. They are my default fast food on the go. Generally, I just eat them straight out of the peel or in a smoothie. Because I only eat plant based foods, I don’t eat dairy products. This used to mean that I missed out on ice-cream, which I love. That was until someone showed me how to make a delicious home-made banana ice-cream, which is unbelievably simple to make, much easier than making regular home-made ice-cream, that’s for sure.

All you need is one ingredient, bananas, and you don’t need to invest in an ice cream maker either. Take a few very ripe bananas. You know they are super ripe when they have black spots all over their skin. Peel the bananas and cut or break them into small pieces, about an inch long. Pop the banana pieces into a freezer bag and put them in the freezer overnight. Once fully frozen, place the sliced bananas into a food processor and turn on. You’ll probably need to stop and redistribute the contents every few seconds until the processor blades can bite into the frozen chunks.

And that’s it!

You’ll end up with delicious tasting and very healthy ice cream.

 

 

19. Dark Chocolate is the Answer! What was the Question?

Dark chocolate is another great source of tryptophan, that essential amino acid that’s responsible for serotonin production in your brain.

In her book, Why Women Need Chocolate, Deborah Waterhouse says that chocolate is “Mother Nature’s solution via food cravings to try to elevate those chemicals, help us feel better and to function more efficiently”. She goes on to say that you only need a small amount of chocolate to help bring your ‘feel good’ chemicals back into balance.

The reason dark chocolate is considered a better option than milk chocolate is because it contains more cacao beans than sugar. This helps provide the maximum health impact while avoiding the sugar crash.

What to Do

1. Use portion control. Remember that chocolate is high in calories. You won’t stay relaxed in the long term if you’re gaining weight from eating too much chocolate. It’s all about balance.

2. Be mindful and take your time. Before you eat your piece of dark chocolate, take the time to have a good long sniff, savoring that special chocolaty aroma. Even the aroma of dark chocolate is enough to trigger a relaxation response in your brain. Once you pop a square in your mouth, don’t chomp it down too quickly. Take your time to appreciate the taste and texture. Let the chocolate melt in your mouth. Swirl it around your tongue, enjoying the aromas, flavors, and smoothness.

3. Use dark chocolate as a replacement for the other sweets in your diet. Because there’s much less sugar in dark chocolate, by replacing the other sweets in your diet with dark chocolate you will be reducing the overall calories in your diet.

4. When you’re shopping for your dark chocolate, look for a bar with at least 70% cocoa.

 

 

20. Love Nuts. Be Nuts

Nuts and seeds are another excellent source of tryptophan. They’re also rich in some of the vitamins and minerals that help your brain relax including magnesium, zinc, and selenium. Selenium boosts your immune system, magnesium is also known as the energy mineral, and zinc is a necessary component in every protein your body makes.

There are many different ways to integrate nuts and seeds into your diet. They can also be stashed in your pocket or handbag for a quick snack when you’re feeling peckish.

Writing for the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Frank Hu, Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, says, “We found that people who ate nuts every day lived longer, healthier lives than people who didn’t eat nuts”. He adds, “Nuts are high in protein and fiber, which delays absorption and decreases hunger”.

Which is the perfect nut? There’s no such thing. Some nuts contain more of one nutrient than another and some have more fat than others. Your perfect nut depends on what you like to eat. Eat your favorite or choose a bag of mixed nuts.

What to Do

1. Choose unsalted instead of salted.

2. Try mixed nuts instead of sticking to one type.

3. Sprinkle some crushed nuts on your breakfast cereal or your morning yogurt.

4. Use crushed nuts in your salads or stir fries.

5. Spread peanut butter over some toast as a midnight snack to help you relax and sleep. Buy the healthiest brand you can find. Look for brands with low salt, oil, and sugar.

6. Use portion control. 100 calories of nuts is roughly equal to a small handful.

 

 

21. Celery Stick?

Celery is another amazing superfood which has a long history of medicinal use. Hippocrates would prescribe this plant to patients who were suffering from nervous tension. In 30 AD, the Roman encyclopaedist Aulius Cornelius Celsus, used celery seeds to relieve pain.

Today, nutritionists advise their patients to regularly eat celery for lowering blood pressure. Other reasons for eating celery include its cleansing and detoxing properties, treating kidney stones, and it can reduce inflammation in your body. It’s also another natural sleep enhancer.

What to Do

1. If you like making homemade juice, add a stick of celery to the juicer for that extra bit of super goodness.

2. Add chopped celery to your stews. If, like me, you don’t really enjoy the taste of celery, this is a great way getting it into your diet.

3. Add some celery leaves to your daily salad.

 

22. It’s Not the Horse That Draws the Cart, but the Oats

Oatmeal is made from ground oats and is another natural whole food that’s been used for a long time in treating stress and aiding relaxation. As well as lowering your stress levels, a bowl of porridge a day is known to reduce bad cholesterol, lower your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and can enhance your immune system. It can also be a great comfort food that won’t make you fat, depending on what else you add to it, of course. Oats are rich in complex carbohydrates and fiber which helps to stabilize your blood sugar levels throughout the day, which is why it makes a great breakfast meal.

What to Do

1. Only use the old-fashioned type oats. Instant oats are processed and usually come packaged with lots of salt, sugar and other unhealthy ingredients. Make sure you read the labels.

2. Add a small handful of nuts or berries to your morning porridge for extra healthy brownie points.

3. If you like baking, use oatmeal as the base for your cookies instead of regular flour.

One of my favorite ways of using oatmeal is in combination with whizzed-up bananas. I blend two or three bananas with a third of a cup of water. Then I pour the mixture over a portion of raw oatmeal. Then I leave the mixture in the fridge overnight for a very healthy and delicious breakfast the next morning, full of healthy nutrition and brain food.

 

23. Magnesium – The Missing Link to Better Health

I know magnesium is not a food, strictly speaking, but it’s one of the most critical minerals for fighting off stress and helping you to relax. Magnesium is a mineral that plays a large part in maintaining a healthy heart and immune system. Magnesium can help to regulate your blood sugar levels, maintain strong teeth and healthy bones, and is an essential element in the natural detoxification process. Magnesium also helps produce the energy you need for your mental well-being, for strong self-belief and self-control.

What to Do

Here are some foods to eat which are high in magnesium:

1. Sunflower seeds. These are also high other nutrients for a healthy heart. Best eaten raw

2. Pumpkin seeds. Eating a handful of pumpkin seeds can account for 40% of your daily magnesium needs. They are also packed with protein, zinc, and manganese. Again, eat raw for the best results.

3. Any type of beans. To reduce the gas-production, soak them overnight.

4. Oats.

5. Dark Chocolate.

6. Almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, pecans, walnuts, or just about any nut.

7. Avocado. If you simply add one slice of avocado to your salad or lunchtime sandwich, you will get 20 percent of all your magnesium needs.

8. Figs. One of my favorites. Try to buy them fresh. If you can’t get them fresh, dried are a great substitute.

 

24. Fruit – The Healthy Fast Food

Fruit is just fantastic for your health and makes the perfect fast food. If you’re feeling lethargic, eat a piece of fruit. If you need a quick pick-me-up in the middle of the day, eat some fruit. If you need an energy boost half-way through your workout routine, crack open a banana or crunch into the body of an apple. You don’t need to add any seasonings to make fruit taste great, it’s just perfect on its own. Fruit is low on the glycemic index. This is because it has a variety of sugars which are digested into your body at different rates. The fiber in fruit slows this process down even further. Fruit also contains a lot of water, making it a drink as well as a food.

One famous German study* put 120 subjects under stress by asking them to complete a math problem while public speaking. Half the test subjects were given a dose of vitamin C, the other half were given nothing. The participants who had asked to take the supplement experienced significantly less stress, as measured by their levels of cortisol (a stress hormone), and blood pressure.

Even though it is popular to take vitamins in supplement form, especially vitamin C, I would highly recommend trying to add this stress buster into your diet through whole fruits and vegetables. There are complex interactions occurring inside the fruit between nutrients, vitamins, and other micro-nutrients. Our scientific understanding of these interactions is at a basic level. There is no firm evidence to suggest that isolating any one of these micro-nutrients has any benefits.

In his ground breaking research and subsequent book, The China Study, T. Colin Campbell says, “Everything in food works together to create health or disease. The more we think that a single chemical characterizes a whole food, the more we stray into idiocy”.

Other Benefits of Eating Fruit

1. Fruit is convenient. You just buy, wash or peel, and eat.

2. Fruit provides plenty of the essential fiber you need for a healthy digestive system.

3. Fruit is generally low in calories.

4. Eating fruit is linked to much lower incidence of the more common diseases in our society, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

5. Fruits which are rich in potassium, such as bananas or oranges, can reduce your blood pressure.

What to Do

Here are some ways of getting more fruit into your diet.

1. Drink more smoothies or shakes. We’ll talk about this in a later section.

2. Bring a piece of fruit with you when you’re on the go, it makes an ideal fast food. Add some nuts and a bit of celery for the full package.

3. Create a healthy home by keeping sweets out and replacing them with fresh healthy fruits.

 

*https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200304/vitamin-c-stress-buster

 

 

25. Eat Your Veggies, Don’t Become One!

Root veggies are relatively inexpensive, available throughout the year, and are the most under-appreciated form of great nutrition. Every root vegetable you can think of is packed with fiber and complex carbohydrates. They are also packed with magnesium, vitamin C, and potassium.

Root veggies, like their tree-growing fruity cousins, provide a great energy source which not only lowers your blood sugar levels but can also help your body produce those all-important feel good hormones. Root veggies are also an excellent alternative to those who can’t eat whole grains.

Many people are nervous of eating too many carbohydrates, thinking if they eat too many potatoes, they will pile on the pounds and won’t be able to fit into their jeans any more. This is absolute nonsense. Eating complex carbohydrates is not the problem. The issue is with what we add to these whole foods to make them taste good. We get fat when we add butter and cream to potatoes, when we top them with cheese, or when we deep fat fry them in oil.

A study conducted way back in the 1920’s took a man and a woman and fed them on nothing but potatoes for almost 6 months. The only addition to the diet was a bit of lard and butter to prevent the volunteers from losing weight. The woman was sedentary but the man was an athlete. The investigators said, “The digestion was excellent throughout the experiment and both subjects felt very well. They did not tire of the uniform potato diet and there was no craving for change”.

Vegetables in general are your friends. They are packed with everything you need to be physically and mentally fueled-up for life. When you eat rubbish carbohydrates, the type you will find in most processed foods, you’re not only putting garbage into your body, you won’t have the necessary physical energy to get up and burn those extra calories off. Nor will you have the mental strength it takes to push yourself to do it.

What to Do

There are many ways to cook and serve root veggies.

1. You can simply boil them in a stew, steam them, or roast them in the oven – which is my favorite. I like to get a mixture of root veggies like potatoes, carrots, and beets, mix them up with onions and garlic, a small drizzle of olive oil, a quick turn of sea salt and cracked pepper. I ramp the oven up to full blast and bake until they’re done. This usually takes about thirty minutes, depending on how thick you cut the veggies.

2. You can juice any type of vegetables, depending on the quality of your juicer.

 

To Drink

Here are some liquid ways of helping you relieve stress and find relaxation.

26. No Water, No Life

Our bodies and brains are made of 75% water. Even your bones are about 22% water. Your blood has a higher concentration, at 83% with your liver clocking in at a huge 96%. It’s no wonder the liver is capable of regenerating itself.

Water is needed for so many essential processes in your body. It protects your organs. It regulates your body temperature. It carries oxygen and nutrients to your cells. Water also helps to absorb those nutrients and aid your metabolism. It plays a crucial role in detoxifying your system. And it moisturizes and protects your joints.

You don’t need to be completely dehydrated for things to start going wrong. If your body is a mere half liter under-hydrated you’ll feel more stressed, have more headaches, and just feel less energetic in general. The main reason is because dehydration destabilizes your core thermostat.

As dehydration sets in, your blood volume reduces, the blood flow to your skin decreases, which reduces the efficiency of your skin in regulating body temperature, and your body’s core temperature rises, reducing it’s ability to dissipate heat.

What to Do

1. Start your day off hydrated. First thing in the morning, make it a ritual to drink at least half a liter of water before you do anything else. Leave a glass and bottle of water beside the sink in your bathroom or next to your coffee maker – any place you can’t ignore it. If you don’t like cold water, warm it a touch by adding some hot water from the kettle. You can also add a slice of lemon to boost your vitamin C and add a zing to the water.

2. Drink a glass of water before you sit for your meal. It’s easy for your body to mistake thirst for hunger. By drinking a glass of water before you sit for your meal, you will only be eating for hunger, not to cure your thirst.

3. Eat more fresh fruit and veggies. Fresh fruit and vegetables are not only packed with nutrients, vitamins, and all that other micro-nutrient goodness, they are also loaded with water. Keep fully hydrated by ordering a salad and some fruit for your lunch. If you find fruit and veg hard to swallow, why not try some fresh juices which we’ll talk about in the next section.

27. Fluid, Fruity, and Refreshing

Fresh juice will keep you hydrated, but there’s way more to it than that. I love eating fruit and veg, but I sometimes find it hard to fit it all in. All that chewing and grinding just seems to take forever and makes my jaw ache. So I bought a juicer and a couple of books with a lot of juicing recipes. I’ve got the best of both worlds, I can get all the goodness from the raw fruit and veg into my system without all the hassle of actually grinding it up.

Fresh fruit and vegetables are your prime source of natural macro and micro nutrients, such as the magnesium, vitamin B, Zinc, Potassium, and vitamin C. Once you cook these ingredients, they begin losing some of the nutrition. The higher the heat and the longer you cook for, the more nutrients are lost.

Eating raw fruit is easy. Raw veg can be tough. By juicing the fruit and veg, you get the benefit of all those valuable nutrients but without the hassle and time of cooking and chewing. You lose about 20% of the nutritional value into the pulp, but all is not lost. You can still use the pulp in your soups, stews, curries, and burgers. Or you can throw it onto your compost heap which can help you grow more veg and keep the cycle flowing.

What to Do

1. Buy a juicer that suits what you want to juice. If you only want to make fruit juices, you’ll only need a cheap juicer. If you to experiment with tougher veggies, like carrots, potatoes, or turnip, you’re going to need to invest in a more durable machine.

2. When making juices, stick to the 80/20 rule. 80% vegetables and 20% fruit.

3. Buy a juicing recipe book to get you started. Alternatively, there are thousands of juicing recipes on the internet.

4. Wash all the produce before use.

5. To save time, prepare your ingredients the night before. Wash everything and place in a container in your fridge, ready to go in the morning.

 

 

Drinks to Avoid

Here are some liquids which can cause stress and impede relaxation.

[*28. Alcohol: the Destructor *]

Alcohol has no beneficial effects for your body, mood, emotions, or life. Alcohol is a toxic chemical which you force onto your body for the sake of the illusion of comfort. There is no relief from stress with alcohol, only a temporary reprieve. As far as your problems are concerned, and the stress and anxiety that accompanies these problems, they will all still be there the next morning. Not only that, they’ll seem worse because you now have a hangover to contend with. The more you drink to escape yourself, the more you will come around the next morning with your problems being ever so much worse than the night before. And every time you drink alcohol believing that you are relieving your stress, you reinforce this short-term gratification remedy in your mind, which leads to a self-inflicted downward spiral. It’s easier to turn to the bottle the next time you feel stressed, and the next time, and the time after that. The real problems behind your stress are not being dealt with, and you get stuck in a vicious circle.

What to Do

1. Don’t drink alcohol or take any other drugs. There’s nothing to be gained and everything to lose.

2. This book is all about choosing alternatives to alcohol for relaxation, stress relief, or coping with life. If you need help quitting drinking, see my other books How to Stop Drinking Alcohol and Alcohol Freedom.

3. Visit AlcoholMastery.com for lots of free videos, posts, and thousands of helpful comments from people who are in the same position as you.

4. Watch this free video on my thoughts about what alcohol does once you put it into your body. >> Click here to watch <<

29. Caffeine. The Gateway Drug?

Is coffee good or bad for you? Just as in alcohol research, information about the health benefits of coffee is sketchy at best. In almost all cases, the results of any research are couched around terms like ‘may help prevent…’, ‘could be responsible for…’, ‘might’, ‘could possibly…’ and so on. Where is the truth?

Caffeine increases your levels of dopamine and adrenaline, which give you a temporary pop in energy levels, helping you to feel momentarily good. Unfortunately, as in the case of sugar, this boost is always accompanied by a corresponding dip in energy and feelings.

One study about caffeine use, conducted at Duke University Medical Center, found that the effects of drinking coffee in the morning remained active until bedtime and beyond. The researchers also found that caffeine caused stress to increase in people who drank it every day. Professor James D. Lane, Ph.D., says , “The effects of coffee drinking are long-lasting and exaggerate the stress response both in terms of the body’s physiological response in blood pressure elevations and stress hormone levels, but it also magnifies a person’s perception of stress.” Caffeine has a compounding effect both physiologically and psychologically. “The caffeine we drink enhances the effects of the stresses we experience, so if we have a stressful job, drinking coffee makes our body respond more to the ordinary stresses we experience,” he said. “The combination of stress and caffeine has a multiplying, or synergistically negative effect.”

What to Do

1. Avoid coffee, especially in the first few days of your quit.

2. In the long run, try to find an alternative to caffeinated drinks, one that won’t set your body up for such emotional highs and lows.

3. Try a few days without and see how you feel. If you are stressed out, take a break from caffeine for a while. If you start to feel better without the coffee, stick with it.

4. Think about the long-term effect of drinking coffee. Like alcohol, it’s not the one cup of coffee that you drink today which does the damage, it’s more the accumulative effects of coffee drinking day after day over many years.

 

30. Soda Pressing!

Truth is, regardless of which type of soda you choose to drink, it’s not good for you. The regular version contains far too much sugar and the non-sugar version has way too many chemicals. These drinks have lots of empty calories, no nutritional value, and their long term use will contribute significantly to your bad health, bad moods, and bad life.

Soda increases your risk of heart disease. Even if you only drink one can of soda a day, you increase your risk of having a heart attack over the next 22 years, according to research undertaken by the Harvard School of Public Health.

Another study, published in the European Journal of Nutrition, June 2012 led by Dr Hans-Peter Kubis at the University of Bangor in North Wales found that drinking sugary sodas can not only cause weight gain, it can change your whole metabolism, which can trigger other health problems.

Dr. Kubis explains, “This study proves that our concerns over sugary drinks have been correct. Not only can regular sugar intake acutely change our body metabolism; in fact it seems that our muscles are able to sense the sugars and make our metabolism more inefficient, not only in the present but in the future as well. This will lead to a reduced ability to burn fat and to fat gain. Moreover, it will make it more difficult for our body to cope with rises in blood sugar. What is clear here is that our body adjusts to regular soft drink consumption and prepares itself for the future diet by changing muscle metabolism via altered gene activity – encouraging unhealthy adaptations similar to those seen in people with obesity problems and type 2 diabetes.”

He concludes, “Together with our findings about how drinking soft drinks dulls the perception of sweetness, our new results give a stark warning against regularly drinking sugar sweetened drinks”

And the non-sugary versions, well they’re are no better.

Choosing a diet soda over a regular soda will save you around 140 empty calories, or 39 grams of sugar (just over 9 teaspoons). The price for this sugar saving is a lot of unnecessary chemicals which are just as bad, being linked with a host of diseases.

One study found that older adults who drank diet sodas, because they were concerned about their overall weight, were 44% more likely to have a heart attack. The Sugar Detox author, Brooke Alpert says, “Artificial sweeteners trigger insulin, which sends your body into fat storage mode and leads to weight gain”. Diet sodas also cause an increased risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome – high blood pressure, high glucose levels, elevated cholesterol, and an expanding waistline. None of these are very conducive to relaxation.

What to Do

1. If you’re thirsty, drink water. This is the most natural drink. Water will keep you hydrated and help your body to relax. Pure water doesn’t come with a cocktail of harmful chemicals.

2. If you can’t get used to the taste of pure water, add some natural flavorings. Add slices of your favorite fruits, oranges, lemons, watermelon, or apples. Or why not try a slice or cucumber or a sprig of mint.

3. If you want something sweet to drink, try making a fresh juice. One of my favorite recipes is a simple apple and lemon sherbet. All you need for this delicious zingy drink recipe is the juice of two apples and one lemon.

4. Drink green tea. Green tea can help reduce hypertension, it’s calorie free, and contains natural antioxidants. You can buy green teas in many different flavors to suit your mood.

5. Try soy milk, especially if you’re lactose intolerant. Soy milk is also offered in a wide variety of flavors. Serve ice cold from the fridge.

31. The Solitary Oak Grows the Strongest – The Practice of Solitude

Choosing to be on your own, I don’t mean being lonely, but engineering your own deliberate solitude, taking yourself off to a temporary personal retreat, either in reality or in your mind, will help you in so many ways in your life. Solitude lets you recharge your batteries, to grow in strength, and reboot your thinking. It allows you to think more deeply and work through your problems with better precision. A little solitude every so often also improves your focus and efficiency. And finally, taking the time out of your life to focus on yourself helps you to raise the quality of the time you spend with others, enhancing your relationships.

We live in a crowded world where every empty moment tends to be experienced as a void that needs to be filled, at times with absolute nonsense. Being alone in this world, is commonly perceived as something or someone that is missing. Yet, when you consciously and deliberately seek out time on your own, you won’t experience loneliness, you are simply an individual unaccompanied.

Loneliness, on the other hand, is completely different to solitude. It is involuntary. The lonely person does not want to be alone, they crave company. Mother Teresa said, “Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.”

Solitude is about independence, having the time to think, to truly think, without the sonic booms of modern life. Solitude is about getting to know yourself that bit better.

Finding some “me” time lets you to explore yourself without unnecessary interruption. It gives you the opportunity to be completely self-aware. Solitude is the necessary opposite of intimacy. Paul Tillich, in The Eternal Now, said “Our language has wisely sensed the two sides of being alone. It has created the word “loneliness” to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word “solitude” to express the glory of being alone.”

What to Do

Henry Thoreau said, “As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness.” You don’t have to take yourself off into the wilderness for months on end, as Thoreau did, you can take small planned chunks of solitude sprinkled through your week.

There’s a time for being with people and a time for being with yourself. I love both. For me, there are few things as rewarding as getting lost in a good book or sitting at a street cafe watching the world go by. I become immersed in the narrative spinning out in my head as I read someone else’s thoughts or in the brief encounters with people flitting in and out of my life as I sip my coffee. I often find myself in the same meditative state as I walk alone, a place I difficult to come across during standard meditation.

1. First, find a simple space. Your space could be anywhere. You might have a spare bedroom or an office, somewhere you can close the door and get away from it all. If you don’t have a room, find a cupboard, anywhere.

2. Turn off the stream. Make sure you have no distractions. Turn off all mobile phones, internet, television, radio, and any other sources of distraction that you control.

3. Use Headphones. If you can’t find the space for splendid isolation without the distraction of noises from your normal life, use a pair of headphones. A trick I’ve found works for me is to use a set of cheap over-the-ear headphones. Through these, I play some soft meditational-type music. At the same time, I use soft foam earplugs in each ear. This does the double job of blocking out the sound of the outside while helping me to focus on my thoughts, a book, or the music.

4. Go Outdoors. Go for a walk. Sit under a tree in a park. Meditate. You’ll always be able to find some place where you can practice your solitude if you venture out of doors.

5. Don’t discount finding solitude among others. Taking your dog for a walk might not be sticking to the core idea of being alone, but a dog can make a great solitude partner. Most dogs are content to just be with you, they experiencing their world as you go about experiencing yours. Or you can find anonymous solitude in a crowd of strangers, at the shopping mall for instance.

6. What should you think about? It’s your time to think, so think what you want. It really doesn’t matter the subject. The most important element is connecting with yourself, in whatever shape or form that takes. Like any form of meditation, the idea is briefly connecting with yourself and disconnecting from everything else.

32. Finding Your Zen Zone

Your personal Zen Zone is somewhere you can take yourself to when things are getting on top. Relaxation is part mind, part body, and part environment. Your Zen Zone is a place that can be used for meditation, solitude time, chilling, personal therapy, or whatever else you need it for. The emphasis is on you, on your own, and relaxation. Your Zen Zone can be a part of your home, your garden, or sitting under a tall, strong tree on a hill overlooking a lush green meadow.

When I was a child, I often visited my Granddad on his allotment in London. This allotment was a patch of ground which he leased from the local council. It was part of an area that had been set aside the purpose, with probably 40 or 50 such allotments on the one piece of land. Anyway, it was my Granddad’s place, the place he grew veg, fruit, and herbs. I can’t remember how big it was, in my child’s eye it looked huge. Looking back, I’d say it must have been about a hundred meters square. It was set out in a long rectangle down the side of a gently sloping hill.

At the top of his plot of land, my Granddad had built a wooden shed with a large window facing out over his little kingdom. Inside, pushed up against the window, was a wooden table and a single old worn armchair. White painted timber shelves lined two of the walls. On these were stacked lots of plant pots, a collection of tools, and various bits and bobs. Whenever he took me up there, he’d always have some hidden goodies stashed away in his rucksack for when ‘our’ work was finished. When it came to the work, I was more of a hindrance than a help, I’m afraid, but I just loved being with him. He’d bought me a little spade which I used to dig holes, usually in places where they weren’t needed, thinking if I dug far enough I could reach China.

Once we were finished with the work, and it was time for lunch, he’d turn a wooden crate upside down and put a cushion on top of it for me to sit on. Then he’d pour a cup of lemonade for me and some tea from a tartan flask for himself. Now came the good stuff. He’d dig around in the bottom of his rucksack for this old round French biscuit tin with a romantic painting of a woman in a green dress who was sitting under the shade of an apple tree, reading a book. This is where my Nan always packed our lunches for the day. You never knew what was going to be hidden inside. I’m not sure he did. As he pulled back the lid, it could be slices from one of my Nan’s homemade fruit cakes, ham and cheese sandwiches, pieces of pork pie, or fairy cakes in little paper wrappers. Whatever it was, the food was always accompanied by these deep red paper napkins which served as plates. That’s one of my best childhood memories, my Granddad giving me a piece of cake wrapped in a red paper napkin with a big grin on his face, then we’d sit there as happy as larks, looking out over the kingdom.

Thinking back on it now, I wonder how many hours he spent up there in his own in silent contemplation. He had a garden at the back of his house, but that was full of flowers for my Nan. The allotment was his Zen Zone, his place to escape the pressures of life, to gaze over the fruits of his labor and ponder the mysteries of the universe. I think we could all do with such an allotment.

What to Do

1. Choose an area that’s isolated from other areas in your home. Alternatively, find somewhere outside your home where you know you won’t be disturbed. Find your own allotment.

2. Let everyone know this is your space and time for relaxation.

3. Eliminate any clutter.

4. Fill your area with your relaxation tools. That could be scented candles, incense sticks, a yoga mat, a music player, or just a comfy armchair for your own silent contemplations. It could be plant pots and trowels.

5. Get comfortable, whatever that looks like to you. Sit loosely with a straight back. Lie flat on your back with uncrossed legs and arms. Lie on your side, curled up in the fetal position. Sit in an old worn-out armchair overlooking your garden. Whatever works for you!

6. Relax and enjoy.

33. Meditating Naked

Naked meditation might strike you as being a bit over-the-top or at least a bit strange. But don’t knock it. We’re naked coming into this world and it’s still the most natural state to be in, regardless our chaste society. Fair enough, nakedness in public is one thing, but getting into the nip in the privacy of your own company is another entirely.

One of the main reasons for practicing regular meditation is to find something inside yourself, an inner peace, and a physical relaxation that can relieve your stress and enable you to handle the cravings of your life. Naked meditation is a symbolic escape from the trappings of our modern society, eliminating everything but the simplistic version of who you are. It can sometimes be easy to get caught up in what we own and the clothes we wear, hiding ourselves behind such superficial trappings. Naked meditation is more than just getting into the nude while you meditate, it’s about taking meditation down to its most basic level. It’s just you, your body, and your mind.

Because most of us don’t feel comfortable being in the nude, naked meditation will seem a bit strange and you may be uncomfortable at first. Even the thought of sitting in the nude with your eyes closed can be slightly unnerving. You may even have feelings that almost border on guilt or shame, of vulnerability, getting caught, or that you’re just being silly. But you’ll soon overcome all these artificial barriers. When you practice for a time, those feeling will just fade away.

What you’ll get from naked meditation is a great sense of connection with the world around you. It’s one of the best ways of truly discovering who you really are, without all the superfluous extras. Naked meditation is not meant to be erotic. Being naked while calmly breathing in and out, allowing your mind and spirit wonder, is meant to bring you to an understanding of your ‘oneness with the universe’, or at least your surroundings, who you really are in the world. It’s about pulling back another freedom for yourself, restoring your flexibility to indulge in you as an individual being. It sounds all ‘new worldly’ but it’s not, it’s really a simple method of taking yourself back to the basics in life.

What to Do

1. One of the most important things is to be relaxed and comfortable in the knowledge that you are not going to be disturbed. That means having a quiet spot in your home where you can find solitude. Lock the door or make sure you have the house to yourself. If it’s too cold, turn on the heating. If it’s too hot, turn on a fan or the air conditioning.

2. Dismiss any negative thoughts about what you are doing or why you are doing it. Nakedness is a very natural state to be in, we’ve just forgotten how. Nudity is a return to innocence.

3. Disrobe and seat yourself ready for meditation.

4. Use the thoughts or feelings of discomfort, vulnerability, or shame to your advantage. Use them to control your meditation. You are about to get to know yourself a little bit better.

5. Breathe deeply. Concentrate on taking long, deep breathes, hold for a second or two at the top of each breath. Now concentrate on the long, slow exhale, holding again for a couple of seconds at the bottom. You are finding relaxation and becoming centered.

6. Feel your body. The coolness or warmth of the air on your skin.

7. Once you are completely relaxed with this feeling of being naked, it’s time to turn your reflections inward to your deeper thoughts and feelings.

34. The Ten Tigers of Breathing

There’s an old Chinese proverb that says “If you know the art of breathing you have the strength, wisdom, and courage of ten tigers.”

One of the best ways of combating stress and bringing about relaxation is through controlling your breathing. You breathe as part of being alive, that’s true. But the type of breathing I’m talking about is deliberate breathing to achieve a specific goal condition. When we breathe, we do so for different purposes. You can use your breathing to psyche yourself up before going into an undesirable meeting or facing a tough challenge. You can use breathing to get your brain ready for creative thought, to ward off the nasty colds and flus that are going around in your neighborhood, or as an effective treatment for asthma.

In his book, The Relaxation Response, Herbert Benson writes about teaching long, slow breathing to his patients in a Boston hospital. It involves simple deep breathing, in and out, for a period of twenty minutes every day. Dr. Benson’s technique consistently reduced the high blood pressure in his patients and the medication that they needed to take.

To find the relaxation response that Dr. Benson writes about will take practice and patience. It won’t happen overnight. For some practitioners, it might take a couple of weeks, for others a couple of months. The relaxation response will happen for you if you stick with it. When you habitualize this breathing practice every day, you’ll notice yourself feeling more relaxed, not only during your breathing practice, but throughout the rest of your day. This is powerful stuff. It’s free. It’s simple. You don’t need any equipment other than what you were born with. Anyone can do it. You can do it.

Breathing for relaxation can be done anywhere. You don’t have to be sat in a meditation pose or dressed in a certain type of clothing. You can practice relaxation breathing while you’re sat on a train on your way home from work, stuck in a traffic jam as everyone else is hammering on their car horns, or while you’re waiting in a line at the grocery store checkout. Of course, it’s better if you’re comfortable while you practice your breathing exercises. The more relaxed you are when you start to practice, the quicker you’ll get to the place you want to be. Sometimes just calming down is enough.

Depending on your desired outcome, there are many relaxation exercises that you can try. The one I am going describe is very straightforward and can be done anywhere.

What to Do

1. As with all relaxation exercises, first you need to be comfortable. You can sit in a chair, on the floor with a cushion under your butt, or just get as comfortable as you can on the train ride home. Sit tall with your back straight and your belly tucked in or lay flat on your back with your arms and legs stretched out.

2. Close your eyes and start taking slow breathes through your nose.

3. Inhale each breath for the count of three. Hold each breath at the top for a two count. Let it go, breathe out for the count of four or five. At the bottom of each breathe, hold for a count of two.

4. Repeat this sequence for at least 5 minutes.

5. You can adjust the length of each breath, increasing or decreasing the seconds of inhale and exhale until you’re comfortable. You can do the same for the amount of time you hold your breath at the bottom and the top. Always breathe longer on the exhale than the inhale.

 

35. Blow Up Some Balloons

Another form of finding relaxation through breathing is by blowing up balloons. Sound silly? Well it is, sort of.

It works in the first place because it forces you to take long deep breaths. Blowing enough air into the balloon to get it to expand, you first have to take a huge gulp of air into your lungs, expanding your chest to its full capacity. Then you’ve got to muscle that air out from your lungs and into the balloon.

Second, the act of this deep inhalation and exhalation forces you to take more deliberate, slow breathes in between the big gulps as you try to catch your breath again.

Both these types of breathing engage the parasympathetic system. This is the opposite system that’s engaged during the flight or fight response, which is known as the sympathetic nervous system.

The parasympathetic nervous system creates a calmness in your mind and body once the perceived danger of being eaten has gladly passed. The physical and emotional responses that you feel being triggered are known as the rest and digest responses. Your blood pressure decreases, your pulse slows right down, your digestion restarts, your blood sugar levels decrease, and you go into energy saving mode. Everything returns to peace and tranquility!

Blowing up a balloon also invokes a lot of very positive imagery. We associate balloons with children’s parties, with fun and laughter, and just the act of blowing up balloon can transport you back to the carefree days of your youth.

What to Do

Choose one of the two techniques below:

1. Strongly exhale into a balloon until you’re out of breath. Hold for five seconds. Then inhale slowly through your nose. Repeat a few times. Use this exercise when you are feeling flustered. It will calm and soothe, bringing your breathing under control.

2. After you’ve done the first exercise a few times and you feel relaxed, you can use the balloon for a different purpose. Blow up the balloon for the final time and tie off the end. Take a marker and write a few words on the balloon. Write a few words about something that is causing you to feel stress. You can write a problem, a person’s name, a place, whatever. It could be a feeling about yourself. For instance, “no willpower”, “I don’t feel good about myself”, “I don’t think I can do this”. Here’s the best part. Once you’ve chosen and written your stress-causing word or phrase on the balloon, you’re going to pop it and the word or phrase will burst with it. You pop the balloon using a pencil, scissors, penknife, your fingers, or just stamp on the balloon until it bursts. Before you pop the balloon, think about what you’ve written on its surface for a few seconds, hold the image of the person or thing in your head. Understand that once you break the balloon, you will be bursting the idea, sending it away with a bang.

I have some more stress popping solutions involving balloons in Hang Loose Without Booze 2.

36. Yoga – The Science of the Here and Now

Many people, both men and women, are turning to yoga in their search for answers to the stress problems that they find in this agitated modern-world of ours.

Yoga has been around for over 5,000 years, so there’s nothing new about it. There are many types of yoga to suit all ages and abilities. Some modern yoga classes are designed primarily for exercise, increasing your heart rate and getting your sweat glands pumping. Other yoga styles offer insights into calmness, inner strength, and relaxation.

Yoga for relaxation is about releasing physical and mental tension, and learning how to maintain that peacefulness once you have found it. When your body and mind are tense and wound-up, much of your energy is wasted, meaning it’s no longer available for the more important things in your life.

Yoga trains your muscles to relax, first consciously, then, after a lot of practice, subconsciously. As you progress through your yoga training, you will find your overall energy levels improving and lasting longer throughout the day.

The benefits of regular yoga workouts don’t stop there. As well as strengthening your body, yoga exercises can help you to develop your mental stamina. Although the average human brain weighs only 3 pounds, about 2% of your overall bodyweight, it uses 20% of the body’s energy. So it’s important you train your body and your mind to conserve this energy through relaxation.

I’ve always thought that yoga was for women. Then, once I quit drinking, I was searching around for a spiritual release as well as a physical one. I found some local classes in Kundalini Yoga. Although the classes were held in Spanish, and my skills in the language weren’t that great at the time, I enrolled for two sessions a week. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done. The classes were held in a purpose-built one-room school, set into some local pine woodland. In the winter we practiced indoors and then took everything outside under the sun during the spring and summer. Meditating with the morning sun on your back and birdsong in your ears just adds to the whole spiritual buzz.

I don’t go to the classes any more, although I’m thinking of returning, but I continue to practice meditation and Kundalini at least three times a week at home in my Zen Zone. It has become a part of my routine, a welcome addiction in my life.

I also broke another of one my life preconceptions, yoga is not just for women. Once a yoga class gets under way, everyone is the same, we’re all as sweaty and ugly as hell. Nobody laughed at my inability to stretch or bend or hold a pose for longer than a couple of seconds before toppling like a toddler learning how to walk. So for any men out there, get over yourself. This is an all-round exercise method that does wonders for the body, the mind, and the spirit.

What to Do

Before I tell you one of my favorite yoga relaxation poses, here are some tips on getting the most out of your yoga sessions.

1. Find a quiet place where you are unlikely to be disturbed.

2. Keep yourself warm. Maintain a nice temperature in the room, use a blanket for static yoga poses, and lay on a mat to keep yourself off the floor.

3. Use a pillow under your head and another under your knees for support when you go into reclining postures.

4. Don’t practice yoga on a full stomach. If you need some energy before starting, have a small piece of fruit or a glass of fruit juice.

Now here’s my favorite pose.

Shavasana: Deep Relaxation

Shavasana, or Corpse Pose, aids the body’s natural rejuvenating and healing processes. It involves just laying down, which is why I like it so much.

1. Lay on your back with your legs 12 – 18 inches apart. Place a small pillow under your head, supporting the natural arch of your neck. Your arms should be naturally relaxed by your sides. Your hands should be in a comfortable position, preferably palms facing upwards and your fingers relaxed.

2. Close your eyes.

3. Create a relaxing picture in your mind. Your internal images are about building your intention to relax. Most people find it easy to imagine a peaceful scene in their minds. Try thinking about lying on a beach, hearing the sound of the water lapping against the shore and the gentle breeze blowing over your body.

4. Begin breathing slowly and deeply. Breathe out slightly longer that you breathe in, hold at both the top and bottom of each breath for a second or two.

5. Now I want you to tension your muscles, one by one. Start with your feet. Tense the muscles in your foot, hold for a couple of seconds and relax. Do this once more. Now move to your calf muscles. Put tension on your calf muscles, hold for a couple of seconds, and release. Continue with the same tensioning and releasing sequence as you move up your body, tensing and relaxing the muscles in your thighs, bottom, stomach, chest, and back. Then tense and release the muscles in your hands, forearms, biceps and triceps, shoulder, neck, and finally the muscles in your face. Always follow the same sequence. Tense the muscles, hold for two seconds and release, repeat once more.

6. Just allow your breathing to relax without exerting too much control. Be aware of your thoughts, but don’t pay them too much attention. When they come, just hold them for a second and then let them go. Gently bring your thoughts back to your breathing and your relaxed body. Be conscious of your body loosening and unwinding. If you feel tautness, let it go. Pay attention to every part of your body. Often you will notice tension around the eyes or jaw. Just release that tension and allow it to drift away.

7. As you come to the end of your Shavasana session, keep the intention in your mind that you will remain relaxed. Say to yourself that you are going to carry this relaxed state with you throughout the rest of your day.

8. Before opening your eyes, gently stretch your arms above your head. At the same time, gently stretch your legs out.

9. Open your eyes slowly. Sit up slowly. Relax!

37. Happiness is an Inside Job – The Magic of a Smile

A smile is the light in your window that tells others that there is a caring, sharing person inside.

Denis Waitley

[* *]

Smile, it’s free therapy.

Douglas Horton

[* *]

Smile

Smile though your heart is aching

Smile even though it’s breaking

When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by

If you smile through your fear and sorrow

Smile and maybe tomorrow

You’ll see the sun come shining through for you

[_ _]

Light up your face with gladness

Hide every trace of sadness

Although a tear may be ever so near

That’s the time you must keep on trying

Smile, what’s the use of crying?

You’ll find that life is still worthwhile, if you just smile

[_ _]

That’s the time you must keep on trying

Smile, what’s the use of crying?

You’ll find that life is still worthwhile, if you just smile

Charlie Chaplin

 

Telling a person to smile when they’re in the middle of some trouble or anxiety might not be the best advice to offer, especially if they’re in a bad mood. But if you can fire that advice in your own direction, during your own times of stress, if you can bring a smile to your own face and keep it there despite the clouds in the sky, the chances are you’ll make yourself feel better for doing it. Just the simple act of smiling when you’re stressed out can make you feel better, even if you don’t really mean it. It’s another example of you being in control when you might not think you are. It’s your choice to smile or not. It’s your choice to change your mood or not!

Smiling is such a natural thing for us humans to do. It’s one of the first things a new-born baby learns from their mum and dad. It’s an inbuilt talent. We’re excellent judges when it comes to telling if someone is genuine when they smile. There is something buried deep within each that lets us know immediately if someone is faking a smile. It just doesn’t look right. This is a vital form of self-defense. The lips might be drawn back in the correct way, all the teeth are showing in what looks like a proper smile, but there’s something about the eyes and the rest of the face that gives away the insincerity and possibly the danger. We know it as a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Fortunately, we can override that ability when it comes to fooling ourselves with our own smiles.

Even the simple trick of holding a pencil between your teeth can fool your brain into releasing a little feel-good juice. In 1988, participants of a study* were asked to put a pencil between their teeth and forcing a smile while they rated cartoons for humor. Those who forced themselves to smile rated the cartoon as funnier than those who didn’t use the pencil trick. Try it and see for yourself.

What to Do

1. When you are feeling stressed or you need to relax, force yourself to smile. If you need to pop a pencil or a chopstick between your teeth to force yourself into a parody of a smile, this is a good start. Your brain will respond. Better still, try to include your eyes in your smile, bringing in the muscles of your whole face.

2. Sarah Pressman, who has researched the link between smiling and building happiness says “The next time you are stuck in traffic or are experiencing some other type of stress you might try to hold your face in a smile for a moment. Not only will it help you ‘grin and bear it’ psychologically, but it might actually help your heart health as well.”

3. Play a happy song or read some funny lyrics or jokes while you pull a big smile.

 

*http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=Strack%2C%20Martin%20%26%20Stepper%20back%20in%201988%20%28Inhibiting%20and%20facilitating%20conditions%20of%20the%20human%20smile

38. The Serious Benefits of Laughter Yoga

A day without laughter is a day wasted.

Charlie Chaplin

Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.

Bill Cosby

Laughter is an instant vacation.

Milton Berle

There is little success where there is little laughter.

Andrew Carnegie

Laughter is the best medicine. Not unlike smiling, laughing out loud is one of the best antidotes to stress and it can help you to relax your whole body and mind. Genuine laughter boosts your immune system, releases your body’s natural feel-good hormone, endorphins, and improves the flow of blood in and around your heart. Laughing also helps to protect you from the dangers of heart attack and cardiovascular disease. It is almost impossible to feel down or depressed at the same time as you are laughing your ass off.

Laughter yoga is based on the belief that forced laughter gives you the same physical and mental benefits as spontaneous laughter. Also known as Hasyayoga, laughter yoga was developed by Dr. Madan Kataria as an exercise routine for a small group of people in a local public park in Mumbai. Now there are more than 8000 Laughter Clubs throughout the world. Dr. Kataria’s basic philosophy is that you must laugh every day, even if you don’t feel like laughing.

What to Do

The Laughter Club slogan is, ‘Fake it until you make it’. Because your body doesn’t intellectualize its emotions, it cannot tell the difference between a fake emotion and a real one. Just as you can bring yourself down by acting down, so you can bring yourself up by acting up. The first thing you have to do to get into the mood of laughing is to fake it.

1. Make the sounds of laughter. Ho Ho Ho. Ha Ha Ha. He He He.

2. Play around with the sounds.

3. Play around with your expressions.

4. Pull funny faces and put on funny voices.

When you first try this, you are probably going to feel a little weird. Don’t worry. It is a little weird. But it works and it makes you feel good. Once you have practiced fake laughing for some time, you will find it much easier to transform from fake laughing to proper hilarity.

Here’s a YouTube video of Dr. Kataria laughing alone at 5am, trying not to make a sound and wake up his entire family. https://www.YouTube.com/watch?v=QvAkyoA7l4U

 

 

39. Motion Affects Emotion

The word emotion derives from the latin “emovere”, which means “move out”. If you examine the word emotion, you’ll see that it contains the word motion, which suggests a link between the emotions and physical movement.

In 1884, William James said that first something happens in the world which causes a physical reaction, then we emotionally respond to that action – motion causing emotion.

For example, you are walking alone down a dark street late at night. Suddenly, you become aware that someone’s behind you, you hear their footsteps, the sound of their heavy breathing. Your own breathing deepens as you listen intently, trying to isolate the threat. Your heart speeds up and you might begin to tremble.

What are your reactions? First you notice how your body’s behaving, then you interpret that behavior as your body preparing itself for the fight or flight response. Only then do you feel the emotion of fear.

James was arguing that without the physical feeling of the emotion, the fear in this case, there would be no emotion. You don’t feel it, so it’s not there. He said, “We find we have nothing left behind, no ‘mind-stuff’ out of which the emotion can be constituted, and that a cold and neutral state of intellectual perception is all that remains. … What kind of an emotion of fear would be left, if the feelings neither of quickened heart-beats nor of shallow breathing, neither of trembling lips nor of weakened limbs, neither of goose-flesh nor of visceral stirrings, were present, it is quite impossible to think. Can one fancy the state of rage and picture no ebullition of it in the chest, no flushing of the face, no dilatation of the nostrils, no clenching of the teeth, no impulse to vigorous action, but in their stead limp muscles, calm breathing, and a placid face?”

Many other theories have been put forward in the intervening years, but I do like the basis for James’ theory although it has its flaws and areas where it just doesn’t fit. For instance, we often feel an emotion when the cause is not immediately evident – hairs standing on the back of your neck because of a feeling.

The bottom line is that your emotions are there for a reason. Their job is to motivate you into doing something, into taking an action.

In recent years, much research has been focused around discovering a cure for depression. A lot of this research has been concentrated around changing a person’s emotions by persuading them to do something. The theory is, you can change the behavior by altering the actions that are attached to it.

There’s ample evidence that inaction is one of the leading causes of depression. It’s easy to see how this might be so. You experience some disappointments in your life, you pull back a little, isolating yourself, you reduce your positive experiences because you’re isolated, this causes you to withdraw some more, and a vicious circle ensues.

So, your emotions are a call to action. They are your body’s way of telling you that you need to do something, to respond.

Your emotions are a part of who you are, but more importantly, they are mostly in your control. If you don’t believe me, watch a sad movie, look at some photos of a loved one who has passed on, or listen to your favorite comedian. It’s not that you’re doing these things that causes you to feel sad or happy, it’s because you are choosing to do these things and you are continuing to do them beyond the initial emotional response.

For example, you cry about a soppy old movie, some made-up story about a couple in love who are torn apart by the terrors of a war. Despite your ‘negative’ emotional reaction, you continue to watch. All the while you know it’s nor for real, that these characters don’t exist, and that their love is a figment of someone else’s imagination. But your mind is causing an emotional response as if it were real. This is your choice. You are choosing to ignore the sham of what’s playing out in front of you and instead focus on the emotions you are feeling as if they were all real. In all good fiction, the words belong to the writer, but the emotional resonance belongs to you, the reader.

Let’s take another example. Ask yourself how happy you are, ask: “What have I got in my life to be happy about right now?” Your response could focus on the things in your life that are making you happy. Or you can presume that you have nothing in your life that’s making you happy, focusing in on the things you wish were part of your life but are not yet in your life.

Where do you place your focus most of the time? On the positive or on the negative? Remember the good times in your life and you’ll likely feel happy. Remember a horrible time and guess how you’ll feel?

Getting back to motion affecting emotion, often the best way of responding to anxiety or stress is just to do something, to do anything.

One of my favorite emotional reconditioners is walking.

If I’m feeling tetchy, nervous, or anxious, I know I need to walk. If I haven’t been out walking for a while I feel the tension building. Once I’ve put on my shoes and I’m out in the fresh air, placing one foot in front of the other, my mind relaxes and my body gradually unwinds, releasing all that built-up tension. It doesn’t take long before I’m getting into a meditation zone. I talk more about walking in Hang Loose Without Booze 2 which you can get for free at AlcoholMastery.com.

For now, let’s take a look at what you can do to focus the power of motion into altering your emotions.

What to Do

1. Just do. What you do is up to you, just be sure that you do. Do something that involves movement. Do an activity that gets you up from the couch.

2. Change your environment. Take an action that moves you outside the physical place you’re in right now. It’s best if you can get outdoors because you get the added bonus of fresh air into your lungs and sunlight on your back.

3. Move away from negativity. I find the older I get the less time I have to suffer fools or negatively oriented people. Don’t put up with negative people in your life. Sometimes the negativity might come from a family member, from the closest people in your life. Move away from them. You don’t have to make it a permanent move, just enough time to re-balance your thoughts and your mind.

4. Get with other people, especially the positive kind. Smiling is infectious, but so is frowning. Choose the former and you’ll feel better about yourself. It’s said that you can tell a lot about a person by the five closest people to them. For the most part, these closest people are your choice… choose wisely!

5. Think positive thoughts. It doesn’t take any more energy to think a positive thought as it does to think a negative thought. You are much more likely to feel less stressed and more relaxed if you allow yourself to think good thoughts, to see the positive side of any situation. Life is too short for beating yourself up.

6. If you can’t focus on positive thoughts, have a positive mantra on standby that you can repeat over and over in your mind. For example, try: “I feel happy”, “I love myself”, “I’m in a great mood today”, “I feel fantastic about my life right now”. You fake it until you make it!

Let’s look at some examples of motion changing emotions.

 

 

40. A Pebble Affecting the Ocean – Moving-on-the-spot

“The least movement is of importance to all nature. The entire ocean is affected by a pebble”

Blaise Pascal

Moving-on-the-spot is any form of exercise that you can do when you don’t have time to put in a full workout session, you’re restricted by space, or you just want a quick 5 minute pick-me-up in the middle of the day. Performing any moving-on-the-spot exercise is a good way of changing your emotions through motion.

You can move-on-the-spot almost anywhere that you can stand. There are also forms of these exercises you can do while sitting, kneeling, or laying down. So, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to exercise-on-the-spot during your day. You might be riding an elevator, peeling some potatoes, watching the TV, even standing waiting for a bus or train. Of course, some exercises might need a bit of privacy, but even waiting in a queue at the grocery store gives you the chance to secretly burn off some excess energy. For instance, stand with your feet together, arms by your side, and lift yourself onto your toes and back down to your heels.

What to Do

Some Public Exercises

Here’s some other mini-workouts you can do in public:

Stomach Vacuum

For the stomach vacuum, place your hands on your hips and exhale all the air out of your lungs. Suck in your stomach as much as possible while expanding your chest. Try visualizing your belly-button squeezing towards your spine. Hold this stance for a few seconds. Repeat as many times as you can or want. Do this workout in the office, while working on your computer, while standing in a queue, stuck in traffic, almost anywhere.

Walk

Instead of taking the bus or train to work, walk or cycle. This is the most natural form of exercise you can do in public.

Take the Stairs

If you have a choice of taking the elevator or the stairs, take the stairs every time. If you work on the eightieth floor of a high-rise office building, take the stairs for the first ten flights, then hop onto the elevator for the rest of the journey up.

The Silent Seat Squeeze

How much energy could you be burning by just clenching and unclenching your butt cheeks? To do this exercise, squeeze those puppies together and hold for five to ten seconds, release and repeat. You’ll get an uplift in your mood and your bottom.

Some Private Exercises (Or Public if you dare!)

1. Jumping Jacks

2. Marching-on-the-spot

3. Jogging-on-the-spot

4. Squats

5. Leg raises

6. Hoola hoop (with or without the hoop)

7. Deep breathing

8. Tree pose or other yoga balance stance

9. Stationary lunges

10. Shoulder circles

41. No One Can Walk Your Road for You

One of the best ways I know to relax, chill out, reduce the stress, get my brain activated, and generally fire me up, is to take a simple walk. Walking is a cornerstone habit in my life which I hope to continue until the day I die. Here’s some reasons I think walking is one of the best possible all round motions to alter your emotions.

  • It offers a change of environment.
  • It gives you a decent workout.
  • You can vary the pace and terrain to suit your needs.
  • You can do it anywhere.
  • You don’t need any fancy equipment, you just get up and go.
  • You can substitute walking for your sit-down meditation.

I have tried running, several times in the past, and it’s just not for me. At one stage, I could run over 10 kilometers on a treadmill, but I never really enjoyed it. I have never found the buzz that a lot of other people talk about. Plus, every time I ran it caused me too much pain or led to injuries, especially when I ran outdoors. Runners tell me the pain disappears after a while, but I haven’t stuck it out long enough to find out. Life’s too short to be doing things you don’t want or like to do.

Also, I like listening to audiobooks or podcasts while I’m out walking. Or sometimes I just like to hear the slow plod of my feet. It helps me to think, to meditate. This means I can put in an exercise shift and be mentally productive at the same time. This kind of mental productivity is impossible for me while I’m running, I’m always too busy trying to catch my breath.

What to Do

Set yourself a target of a certain number of steps per day. Most people walk about 4,000 steps per day on average. Buy yourself a pedometer and set a target of 7,500 to 10,000 steps. You’ll be surprised at how easily you can hit this target.

Here’s some tips for getting more walking into your life:

1. Walk to the shops.

2. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

3. Walk the kids to school, regardless of the weather or the complaints of the young ones. (You’re instilling a really positive habit into your kids as well).

4. Get a dog.

And if you find walking boring?

1. Listen to music, audiobooks, podcasts.

2. Find someone to walk with.

3. Join a walking group.

Walking is something you can do for the rest of your life. It won’t overly tax your energy. It will help maintain healthy joints and muscles, give you a mental break from your daily routine, help you stay active for longer.

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[* *]


Hang Loose Without Booze - 41 Simple Tools to Stress Less and Relax More Without

Hang Loose Without Booze is a collection of creative, legal, healthy, and playful ways to find natural highs in your life. These dynamic tools will help you to feel naturally relaxed and stress free, without harming yourself with alcohol and other drugs. There are far better ways of relaxing, dealing with stress, or getting to sleep at night other than contaminating your body with the toxins contained in alcohol or other drugs. Although you might find short-term relief in drinking alcohol, it comes at the cost of physical and mental retardation. The easy-to-implement ‘highs’ you’ll find in Hang Loose Without Booze will instead help you to take control of your moods and emotions in a positive, healthy, and sustainable manner. These are tools that are free, can be used immediately, and put you in complete control.

  • Author: Kevin O'Hara
  • Published: 2015-10-02 17:40:19
  • Words: 23755
Hang Loose Without Booze - 41 Simple Tools to Stress Less and Relax More Without Hang Loose Without Booze - 41 Simple Tools to Stress Less and Relax More Without