Quality of Life; How To Find It and What It Means for You

As a hospice nurse, quality of life verse quantity of life, was something that often came up in discussion with patients and families. How do you want to live your life? What is an important focus for the time you have left here? You may not think this questions is relevant to you at this time, after all you are not dying, but this question is relevant to all of us. None of us know how much time we have left here. Even more importantly, sometimes quality of life and quantity of life are not the same thing.

According to Deepak Chopra, research shows that people who age well have 7 things in common.

They are:

  1. Meditation
  2. Wide social support systems
  3. Close relationships with family and friends
  4. Daily Multivitamin and mineral
  5. Good sleep and daily activity
  6. Life long curiosity
  7. Take on new challenges

Deepak goes on to say that most of these things are about quality of life. Therefore having a good quality of life equates to having more quantity of life too. I have seen this first hand in hospice. Patients on hospice, on average, live about 30 days longer than similar patients with the same diagnoses. Shifting the focus from curative to quality of life, actually extends life.

So what makes quality of life so important? It makes life worth living. What is the point in having a long life if you are miserable? Do I think that this means you should eat everything you want, party, and abuse your body? No, absolutely not. Although those things may give you pleasure in the moment, the abuse to your body is likely not going to contribute to healthy quality of life over the long haul. These types of abuses to the body take a toll on it, which could potentially cause disease and frustration.

A better quality of life can be found by:

  1. Working through you baggage
  2. Forgiving others and more importantly yourself
  3. Learning to truly love yourself
  4. Making healthy choices for your body
  5. Finding hope
  6. Having balance
  7. Surrounding yourself with people who respect you and make you feel heard
  8. Trusting the flow of the Universe to support you
  9. Awareness of yourself as an eternal being
  10. Remaining positive whenever possible but also acknowledging your emotions

How do you feel your quality life is? What steps do you need to take to attain and maintain a healthy, happy, quality of life? Remember that happiness is an inside job! No one can “make” us feel happy. It is a choice we make in every moment and with each interaction. Live your best life now. Don’t wait for tomorrow.

Thank you for reading my blog today. I love you! May you have an amazing quality of life, as if by magic.

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Keeping Up With Healthy Initiatives When the Seasons Change

Healthy initiatives can seem energizing when you first start them. They give you hope of a better tomorrow and the good feeling in your heart of really doing something important for yourself. When Mother Nature sees fit to make changes in the seasons, it can throw a curve in your plans. Also seasonal holidays can seem like an excuse to no longer stay the course. Having a plan to combat these changes is the best way to not let them derail your progress.

If you follow my blog you probably know I have a number of healthy initiative all going at once. Taking Care of Me; Step By Step, is the blog that lays them all out if you are interested. My husband and I have been doing an excellent job getting our 10,000 steps in a day. We’re getting up and walking before work, then after work and again before bed, if we still need some more steps. This week we got snow here in MN. I wasn’t expecting it and upon waking discovered 3 inches of the pristine white stuff covering everything. I found it hard to want to get out an walk. I did eventually bundle up and head to the grocery store. I could have driven and it would have been quicker and warmer, but why not take care of 2 things at once. It was a nice sunny day. The bright sun reflected off the snow and I reflected on how to keep up with all that we are working on, despite time marching on.

I am a wonderful “justifier” and snow seems like a great reason to justify skipping a walk. Having a plan in place helps keep you on task. Just like with the intermittent fasting that we are working on. There is always a justified reason to not stay the course; family in town, a special gathering, or an appointment that throws a kink in things. Recently, when my brother visited, we met him early each morning for breakfast. I always look forward to this annual visit and our early morning breakfast and conversation. As his visit neared, I started to fret about what to do about the intermittent fasting and the fact the fact that I wait until 10am before I break my fast. In the end I had a conversation with my brother, who was gracious and understanding. I still met him for breakfast and I enjoyed a nice cup of hot tea, while we had our usual time together and great conversation. Having a plan helped me stay the course. I have so far lost 15.4 pounds by sticking to the intermittent fasting.

Finances is another healthy initiative we are working on. The holiday season is fast approaching. This is the time of year when people often try to spend money to show someone how much they love them. Buying someone a gift, that they may not need or want, will not necessarily communicate your love and appreciation of them. I encourage you to come up with a plan on how to handle this time of year. Start a savings account that you add to throughout the year. Set a budget for gifts and holiday groceries and stick to it. Find innovated ways to show your love and appreciation for those you care so dearly about. Start a conversation with your friends and family about other ways to celebrate your love and appreciation like agreeing to volunteer together as a family. Make an understanding about gifts and a cost limit. Give homemade gifts infused with good intentions and lots of love. There are so many options.

As soon as you decide to focus on a healthy initiative, something will come up to throw you off course. Try to think about what these things may be. Make a plan for them. Remember that healthy initiates are not things we do just for today or tomorrow. These are things we incorporate into our life an become our new standard of living. To ensure success at improving our life, we need to think about how to remain faithful to ourselves. We need to make ourselves a priority by having a plan to keep our momentum moving forward.

Thank you for reading my blog today. I love you! May all your plans come easily, so that you stay the course, and reach the goals you set for yourself, as if by magic.

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Busy for the Sake of Busyness

Do you ever feel like you are doing something just to be busy? Is it hard to find time to be still? This is definitely something I struggle with. On a nice day I will plan to go spend time outside in the hammock or on the Adirondack chair. I will get myself ready with a cup of tea and maybe bring a book or journal and plan to spend some peaceful time just relaxing. After about 10 minutes (if I make it that long) I will no longer be able to ignore all of the things that need to be done, that are jumping around in my head. I will get up and get busy getting something done. Am I doing things just for the sake of doing something? Why do I feel there is no value in resting and being quiet?

This is one of the things I appreciate about my trips to the BWCA with my Adventure Sister Emy. There were times when it was raining and there was nothing that needed to be done. We would sit under our tarp, listening to the rain, drinking tea and chat. After a couple of hours of this, there would be nothing more to talk or even journal about. All that was left was to sit peacefully and just be. Even in this beautiful, remote area this was very hard for me. I would feel anxious but then typically have a  bout of anxiety, followed by some kind of emotional breakthrough. Almost as if my subconscious was trying to protect me from the pain. As if it was trying to keep it pushed down deep inside and hidden away. I would get anxious and feel the need to do something, anything, rather than just sit peacefully and rest. There were times this feeling of anxiousness was so strong I felt I wanted to leave the Boundary Waters all together. Once I got past the anxiety though, a rush of bare emotions would flood up in me. These were not fun emotions but, by allowing them to come up, I was able to process them and eventually move past them.

This begs the question; is the constant busyness of our time really just a manifestation of emotional disconnect. When I have free time at home I am seldom able to just be quiet and let time pass. I always feel the need to be multitasking. When I am on the plane or the bus to the rental car center, I seldom just sit peacefully. Typically I am scanning emails or playing silly games on my phone. I heard Deepak recently refer to it as the “illusion we are doing something”. Why do we feel guilty when we do nothing? How often does this really happen? Even when we relax, it is typically in front of the TV. Take a look at your life and see if (like me) you find that you are always doing something.

So all of this begs the other question; how do we change it? It is safe to sit peacefully and do nothing sometimes? Is it even honorable? How do we get there? Currently I am trying meditation. I feel it helps me see that it is healthy for me to spend sometime quietly, just feeling the rise and fall of my chest while I breathe. I hope that from meditation I can move to a place where I can sit in quiet contemplation. It was so powerful when it happened organically, as it did, in the BWCA. Even having the chance for a once a year retreat to allow for some quiet, seems like an excellent idea. I certainly do not have all the answers here. In many ways this question is as individualized as we all are. There is power and awe in those quiet moments. They are worth looking for and fighting to protect.

Thank you for reading my blog today! I love you! May you find many peaceful moments throughout your life, as if by magic.

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Taking Care of Me; Step By Step

I keep plodding along trying to get to a better version of me. What can I do to improve myself a little more each day? I recently wrote a blog inspired by a friend called; How Do You Eat an Elephant or (in this case) a Dinosaur? It was all about doing things step by step to improve yourself.

Well, I put that into practice and started working towards the best me I can be, step by step.

  • I have been a Pescatarian since April 2012 – This was the first major health improvement I made. (What is healthy for me may not be healthy for you.)
  • 5 plus years of avoiding processed sugar – It does not make me feel good when I eat processed sugar because of my gastric bypass. Even more than that though, I have realized it causes me joint pain as well.
  • 4 months of intermittent fasting – I have been doing intermittent fasting since the beginning of July. There have been some weeks when I have not been focused on this or even stayed the course, but I am back solidly in the seat of intermittent fasting now and learning so much more about my eating and emotions and how they are connected. I have lost 14 pounds in that time.
  • 2.5 months of decreasing complaining Wellness is about mind, body, and soul improvements. Working towards 21 days complaint free is a way to improve my mind and soul. I did make it to day #2 once and I believe that if today keeps going well, I will make day #2 for a second time.
  • 27 days without Alcohol – Originally I only wanted to go 28 days without alcohol. I can almost taste the success of accomplishing that. Do you know what it has taught me? I do not need it and look at all the money I am saving by not having my nightly glass or two of wine.
  • 2 weeks of increased activity – 10,000 steps a day is my goal. I have made it 8 of the last 14 days. My September step average was about 5,500 steps but the last 2 weeks the average has been over 9,000.
  • 11 days without diet soda – Oddly, this has been much harder for me to give up than wine. I am making it though. Sparkling water gives me the same bubbly sensation and tea helps make up for the caffeine.
  • 7 days since refocusing on awareness of finances – Financial health is also an important part of wellness. How can we have peace of mind if our finances are giving us stress. I read Dave Ramseys book, The Total Money Makeover. I found myself inspired to refocus on getting to a place of financial freedom. I do not want money worries to rule my life.
  • 4 days of daily meditation – I was making great headway on resuming a daily meditation practice. I did four consecutive days and then a missed the next 3 days. Today I started again!

These are 9 great initiatives I took towards being the best me, I can be. If I had added them all to my routine at one time it would have been to overwhelming. Step by step additions of each of the various initiatives seems reasonable and it gives me time to get one under control before the next one is added.

What are you doing to take care of you? How are you improving your wellness? What would you like to do to be the best version of you?

Thank you for reading my blog today. I love you. May your wellness initiative(s) be successful, as if by magic.

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Letting Go and Trusting

Do you feel stressed when things don’t go according to plan? I think this feeling is common for many of us. In the movie “The Dark Night”, The Joker says, “Nobody panics when things go ‘according to plan’. Even if the plan is horrifying!”  I often find myself wanting to force things to work out the way I think they should. Recently, many wise friends have been posting things about letting go, trusting, and allowing things to unravel in the way they are meant to. This Divine intervention, fate, manifestation, or whatever you want to call it; is something we need to learn to allow. I have, for a long time, loved the Serenity prayer.

God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change,

courage to change the things we can,

and wisdom to know the difference.

This prayer has been used in Alcoholic Anonymous since 1942. Prior to that, it was common to find it in obituaries. It is a beautiful sentiment and wise advise for us all.

One of my favorite manifestation teachers is Mike Dooley. Mike says, “don’t micromanage the Universe”. He teaches that it is our job to decided what we want, but not how we will get it. We have to trust the Universe to find the best way to bring our dreams to life. There have been so many times in my life when I felt like I ‘knew’ how things had to workout. Then everything swirled around and still worked out (usually better than I could have imagined), but not in the way I had originally envisioned.

By letting go of ‘trying to’ control everything and dropping ourselves fully into that loving, supportive energy that holds us, guides us, and urges us forward; we step into the flow of our life. As Lao Tzu says, “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be”.  Another popular way to say this is; “Let go and let God”. No matter what your spirituality is, trusting that you are safe and everything will work out exactly the way it is supposed to, is a freeing way to live. To truly allow the heartbeat of life to carry you, is the best way to experience the magic that is here for us. It is also a great way to let go of stress and anxiety. When we are not trying to force things to turn out in a certain way, we are free to live our life.

I encourage you to start to notice what you are trying to control. Release it and know that you are safe to do so. The only thing you can really control is yourself and how you react to everything else. Face the future knowing you are moving in the direction of your dreams and your life is meant to be glorious. I dare you!

Thank you for reading my blog today. I love you. May you find it easy to trust in the flow of life, as if by magic.

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I Am Determined to Make 21 Days Complaint Free

I recently started off on a new adventure. I decided that I would take up Will Bowen on his challenge to go 21 days complaint free! I initially thought it would be easy. I thought I was a person who didn’t complain much at all. Sure, I knew I had my occasional rant about this or that, but surely I could just stop doing that and move easily through this adventure. Well friends, I am here to tell you it is really about the journey and not the destination. This adventure has taught me so much about myself and it has also taught me about the person I want to be.

I started on this adventure in early September. I have yet to go one day without complaining. The principles behind this, is to bring complaining to the front of our mind, so that we can make a conscious choice before we let the words flow out of our mouth. Thoughts do not count, only things we verbalize. My blog from September; Can You Go 21 Days in a Row Without Complaining?, will tell you more about it. I was shocked that I complained so much and could not get past day 1, so I bought his book and wrote a second blog. I found out that I was normal in my initial performance.

Today, as I write this, it is 7:30 am and I have already had to move my bracelet from one wrist to the other, (this is done when you complain to help increase your awareness). I realized today I need to change my focus a little. Instead of looking at the whole objective and feeling overwhelmed, I need to take it more bit by bit. I have already complained once today so perhaps my goal is to have no more than 3 complaints today. I sometimes do not notice my complaints until a while after the fact. I great bite sized goal, would be to be fully aware of my complaints as they happen. Last night, as I socialized with friends, I removed my bracelet fully intending to dive into one of my favorite complaints. In the end, I changed my mind and put the bracket back on without uttering that particular grievance.

I have noticed that, from September to now, I am better about staying on the positive side of a conversation. I am aware of when I need to move my bracelet more often. I am starting to learn when to keep my mouth shut. I am far from perfect but getting closer to being a better, more positive version of myself. If you are interested in improving yourself, I encourage you to jump on the band wagon. Remembering that what we put out in the world is what comes back to us and this is a great way to increase the abundance in our lives. Let’s replace our complaints with gratitude. Let’s be the best and most positive people we can be. Please join me on this adventure and let’s change the world by starting with ourselves.

Thank you for reading my blog today. I love you. May your life be full of gratitude, as if by magic.

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Get a Massage! It’s Good for You – No Need to Feel Guilty

So, I need a massage! I really do. I can feel it in every cell in my being. Maybe you are thinking, “Stacy, a massage is a nice way to pamper yourself but saying you need it is a bit much, don’t you know.” But need is what I mean to say. Massages are part of my healthcare. I focus on holistic modalities whenever possible and massages are an important part of that tool chest. They have many health benefits, of course there are the usual benefits that everyone thinks of:

  1. It feels great!
  2. It is so Relaxing.
  3. Massage can relieve pain and tension. 
  4. It is a great way to practice good self-care and remind yourself that you are worthy.

But, did you know, there have been lots of studies that show there are many more health benefits then you might realize?

  1. As a hospice nurse, I have seen the benefits first hand, that massage has at end of life. It helps relieve the symptoms that patients face as a result of their illnesses, medications, and the process of dying.
  2. Massage has been found to be beneficial for certain diagnoses. The Mayo Clinic says that research shows massage as proven to help with conditions such as fibromyalgia and digestive problems. WebMD also reports that studies have shown its benefits against back pain, headaches, and even depression. 
  3. It increases circulation. This just makes sense that the process of massaging the body would help move the blood through the vessels and keep it flowing smoothly.  
  4. Massage boosts your immune system according to a study in the Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine. This is the precise reason why getting a massage during cold and flu season is even more important.
  5. Massages are great at decreasing tension both emotional and physical. So often emotional tension shows up physically in the body. For me it settles into my upper back, shoulders, and neck. The massage therapists who work with me, typically spend the majority of their time focusing on these locations. In a 90 minute full body massage, the rest of my body may only get a quick 15 minutes.
  6. Massages have been shown to promote calm and decrease clinical anxiety. According to the American Massage Therapy Association; decreased anxiety is one of the benefits of massage. Every massage therapist works a little differently. Some have a space with dim lighting and relaxing music but I have also had massages in the practitioners living room. For me, when you can get a massage outside, that is the best! I have had them on beaches and in forests. No matter what the location, massage has a way of letting my mind relax and the worries of tomorrow drop away. 
  7. They also, lowers Blood Pressure. According to Body and Mind Massage in Chelmsford, MA, it not only lowers blood pressure but also decreases cortisol,  the stress hormone. Reduction in cortisol can prevent weight gain. I do not know how often you would need to get massage to loose weight but it could be added to your health plan, along with other modalities, to help you on your journey.

Massages are not for everyone, but if you have never experienced one or if it has been a long time since you did, I highly encourage you to go get a massage. Go ahead, you deserve it and it is good for you!

Thank you for reading my blog today. I love you. May your world be full of healthy habits that help you feel great, as if by magic.

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