Creating a Balanced Life: Managing Your Anger

Note that the title of this week’s musing does not suggest that you deny or attempt to squelch your anger. It is a key emotion in all humans, and needs to be recognized as such. I once observed an interview with Thích Nhất Hạnh. When he was asked how to let anger out, he responded that the goal is not to let the anger out, but to instead keep it in. Not quite what you’ve been told before? In another interview, he explains this concept so eloquently that I’ll let you listen for yourself rather than summarize his thoughts on anger for you. Here is the link: https://youtu.be/WTF9xgqLIvI

Intrigued? Thích Nhất Hạnh also wrote a book about anger, Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames. As described by the publisher, “It was under the bodhi tree in India twenty-five centuries ago that Buddha achieved the insight that three states of mind were the source of all our unhappiness: wrong knowing, obsessive desire, and anger. All are difficult, but in one instant of anger—one of the most powerful emotions—lives can be ruined, and health and spiritual development can be destroyed.

With exquisite simplicity, Buddhist monk and Vietnam refugee Thích Nhất Hạnh gives tools and advice for transforming relationships, focusing energy, and rejuvenating those parts of ourselves that have been laid waste by anger. His extraordinary wisdom can transform your life and the lives of the people you love, and in the words of Thích Nhất Hạnh, can give each reader the power ‘to change everything.’”

The book is readily available online and in book stores and, as are all books written by Thích Nhất Hạnh, is relevant, and easy to read and understand.

Disclaimer: This blog is not designed to diagnose, treat, or prevent illnesses or trauma, and Dr. Emick is not responsible for your use of this educational material or its consequences. Furthermore, reading this blog does not create a doctor-patient relationship. The information contained within this blog is not intended to dictate what constitutes reasonable, appropriate, or best care for any given physical or behavioral health issue, nor does it take into account the unique circumstances that define the health issues of the reader. If you have questions about the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of a condition or illness, you should consult your personal health care professional. As always, consult with your personal health care professional before beginning or changing any fitness or nutrition program to make sure that it is appropriate for your needs. Dr. Emick reserves the right to modify her positions on a subject based upon new research or data as it presents.

Creating a Balanced Life: Stillness

Still having problems finding stillness? There are many ways to soothe the mind and body. Here’s a few you might want to try as you perfect your mindfulness techniques:

  • Listen to chants or chanting yourself. Most cultures, and all great world religions, utilize chants in one form or another. Wikipedia offers a good review of the various chanting styles for you to explore. Here is the link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chant
  • Listen to a metronome or analog clock
  • Listen to music you find relaxing
  • Sing or hum
  • Create your own music
  • Listen to waves, rain or other repetitive nature sounds
  • Rock your body or walking rhythmically
  • Engage in repetitive exercises or movements
  • Engage in breathing exercises
  • Progressively relax the muscles throughout your body
  • Take a bath
  • Walk in nature
  • Garden
  • Smell a pleasant scent
  • Create and repeat a personal mantra
  • Journal, sketch or draw
  • Knead clay or dough
  • Paint

Remember, your creative exercises don’t have to be shared with others or put on display. They’re meant to assist you to be calmer, not to impress others, so don’t worry about “making” something. Instead, focus on the act itself. If you watch children playing by themselves in a yard, they’re often contentedly humming or singing and creating things, such as mud pies, with their hands. That’s your goal. You were able to do it as a child. It’s time to learn to tap back into that state.

Disclaimer: This blog is not designed to diagnose, treat, or prevent illnesses or trauma, and Dr. Emick is not responsible for your use of this educational material or its consequences. Furthermore, reading this blog does not create a doctor-patient relationship. The information contained within this blog is not intended to dictate what constitutes reasonable, appropriate, or best care for any given physical or behavioral health issue, nor does it take into account the unique circumstances that define the health issues of the reader. If you have questions about the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of a condition or illness, you should consult your personal health care professional. As always, consult with your personal health care professional before beginning or changing any fitness or nutrition program to make sure that it is appropriate for your needs. Dr. Emick reserves the right to modify her positions on a subject based upon new research or data as it presents.

Creating and Maintaining a Balanced Life: Silence

This year we’ve reviewed quite a few matters and actions that contribute to an emotionally balanced life. Now let’s start putting it all together. Many of my patients report that, for them, the most difficult aspects of creating an emotional balance is learning to be still enough to even engage in self-reflection and mindful practices. In his book Silence: The Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise, Thích Nhất Hạnh details how to do just that.

As described by the editor, “One of the world’s most beloved teachers and Zen masters shares a profound, concise, and practical guide to understanding and developing our most powerful inner resource—silence—to help us find happiness, purpose, and peace.

We spend a lot of our lives searching for happiness, running from one thing to another, worrying about the past and being anxious about the future. All the while the world around us is overflowing with the wonder and contentment we seek. This beauty calls to us every day, yet we rarely are in the position to listen. If we don’t have silence in ourselves, if our minds and our bodies are full of noise, we can’t hear beauty’s call.

The gift of silence doesn’t require hours upon hours of solitary meditation or an existing practice of any kind. With mindfulness comes the stillness we need to come home to ourselves and discover who we are and what we truly want.

Combining powerful stories, timeless wisdom, and simple mindfulness techniques, Thích Nhất Hạnh shows us that silence is at the heart of the happiness we seek.”

If you, too, are finding this difficult, perhaps this book is the tool you need to master this.

Disclaimer: This blog is not designed to diagnose, treat, or prevent illnesses or trauma, and Dr. Emick is not responsible for your use of this educational material or its consequences. Furthermore, reading this blog does not create a doctor-patient relationship. The information contained within this blog is not intended to dictate what constitutes reasonable, appropriate, or best care for any given physical or behavioral health issue, nor does it take into account the unique circumstances that define the health issues of the reader. If you have questions about the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of a condition or illness, you should consult your personal health care professional. As always, consult with your personal health care professional before beginning or changing any fitness or nutrition program to make sure that it is appropriate for your needs. Dr. Emick reserves the right to modify her positions on a subject based upon new research or data as it presents.

Creating and Maintaining a Balanced Life

I’m often asked by patients to suggest supplemental reading or educational materials they can make use of between appointments. While I do have many recommendations, the majority of them cannot be located in the self-help aisle of your local bookstore. If you’ve ever walked down that aisle, you may be impressed by the sheer number of self-help books available, and the vast number of issues they address. There’s even a self-help book designed to teach the reader how to write self-help books! The fact that so many books exist suggests that no one book can be relied upon as the definitive source for self-help. Most of the books lining those shelves are self-limiting in that they address only one specific problem, rather than considering the bigger picture. Others are based exclusively on the author’s personal experience, which may or may not mirror your own.

While attending to a specific problem clearly is beneficial in the here and now, I feel that digging deeper and determining the core issues at play is more valuable in the long run. I’m sure you’ve heard the term “dry drunk.” If you haven’t, the concept of dry drunk syndrome was initially conceived by the creators of Alcoholics Anonymous. American Addiction Centers describes a dry drunk as follows: “Someone struggling with dry drunk syndrome may still maintain strained relationships with their loved ones. They may still suffer from unhealthy habits, both internally and externally. In short, while they may have quit drinking, the individual has yet to deal with the emotional baggage that led them to alcohol in the first place.” That’s why I’m not keen on self-help books. Rarely do they address the real problem.

That having been said, one book I do recommend is The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Miguel Ruiz. The book is relatively short (160 pages to be exact) and an easy read, yet it sets the underpinnings for more in-depth self-examination. As described by the publisher, “In The Four Agreements, bestselling author don Miguel Ruiz reveals the source of self-limiting beliefs that rob us of joy and create needless suffering. Based on ancient Toltec wisdom, The Four Agreements offer a powerful code of conduct that can rapidly transform our lives to a new experience of freedom, true happiness, and love.” Before you close your mind to it, although described as “Toltec wisdom,” the suggestions contained within this book do not conflict with the core philosophies of any of the great world religions. While I’m not convinced that a rapid transformation will occur simply because you read this book, I do feel it’s a good place to start, particularly as you consider the rules you have set for yourself, your relationships with others and the roles you play in those relationships. The Four Agreements, according to Ruiz, are:

Be impeccable with your word.

Don’t take anything personally.

Don’t make assumptions.

Always do your best.

Don Miguel Ruiz and his son, Don Jose Ruiz, released a sequel called The Fifth Agreement: A Practical Guide to Self-Mastery, which adds a fifth agreement:

Be skeptical, but learn to listen.

 

Disclaimer: This blog is not designed to diagnose, treat, or prevent illnesses or trauma, and Dr. Emick is not responsible for your use of this educational material or its consequences. Furthermore, reading this blog does not create a doctor-patient relationship. The information contained within this blog is not intended to dictate what constitutes reasonable, appropriate, or best care for any given physical or behavioral health issue, nor does it take into account the unique circumstances that define the health issues of the reader. If you have questions about the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of a condition or illness, you should consult your personal health care professional. As always, consult with your personal health care professional before beginning or changing any fitness or nutrition program to make sure that it is appropriate for your needs. Dr. Emick reserves the right to modify her positions on a subject based upon new research or data as it presents.

Mindful Eating

Even if you’re not overweight, your eating habits can affect you. In fact, we’re learning more and more about the effects of nutrition and microbes in the gut on physical and emotional well-being. Before you leave this post, I promise, this will not be a shaming lecture. Really. It won’t.

Most of us had to take a health class or two in school, and we can all draw the food pyramid (I still insist that chocolate cake follows the food pyramid if you add some zucchini!). Then there’s the myriad of fad diets to which we are exposed, all explaining their version of  nutrition and healthy eating. It can be confusing, and very misleading.

If you chose to view the lecture series offered by the Culinary Institute of America that were discussed in previous posts, you now know how to cook and to choose healthier options. So, if we all know the core components of nutrition and healthy eating, and have numerous allegedly healthy and successful diet options available to us, why are the diabetes and obesity rates in the United States high and ever-increasing? Why do so many of us gravitate toward junk and fast food? Because it’s not about the nutrition. We eat for a variety of reasons- to be polite, to be social, out of boredom, to mask pain or otherwise avoid dealing with relevant issues… Unless we address these matters, we’re likely to struggle with our food choices and the effect they have on our well-being throughout our lives.

Taken directly from her own website, “Lynn Rossy, PhD, is a health psychologist, author, researcher, and Kripalu yoga teacher specializing in mindfulness-based interventions for eating, stress, and workplace wellness. She developed a mindful eating program called Eat for Life. She is the President of The Center for Mindful Eating and Executive Director of Tasting Mindfulness.”

Dr. Rossy wrote a book entitled, The Mindfulness-Based Eating Solution: Proven Strategies to End Overeating, Satisfy Your Hunger, and Savor Your Life. I like this book because, unlike other mindfulness-based books addressing eating habits, readers do not complain that the book seems to be written by a nutritionist, with a smattering of mindfulness techniques interspersed. Instead, it focuses upon the mind-body connection and addresses the various contributing factors to poor eating habits. In fact, the book was listed as one of the Top 10 Mindful Books in 2016 by Mindful.org. Give it a glance or two. It may be the only “diet” book on your shelf that you actually find useful!

Disclaimer: This blog is not designed to diagnose, treat, or prevent illnesses or trauma, and Dr. Emick is not responsible for your use of this educational material or its consequences. Furthermore, reading this blog does not create a doctor-patient relationship. The information contained within this blog is not intended to dictate what constitutes reasonable, appropriate, or best care for any given physical or behavioral health issue, nor does it take into account the unique circumstances that define the health issues of the reader. If you have questions about the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of a condition or illness, you should consult your personal health care professional. As always, consult with your personal health care professional before beginning or changing any fitness or nutrition program to make sure that it is appropriate for your needs. Dr. Emick reserves the right to modify her positions on a subject based upon new research or data as it presents.

Dessert!

So, we’ve been covering healthy food options for the past several weeks, but what about the balance of which I I so often speak? Life is meant to be lived to the fullest, which means sometimes treating yourself. Note, I said sometimes, not all the time. How about we split the difference between healthy and not so healthy and make the pastries we all like to eat?! The Culinary Institute of America also offers a video lecture series called The Everyday Gourmet: Baking Pastries and Desserts. In this six, thirty minute video series, Chef Stephen L. Durfee reviews:

 

Basic doughs

Methods for cakes

Pies and biscuits

Cream puffs

Custards

Mousse and dessert sauces

 

If this doesn’t encourage you to get cooking from scratch, I don’t know what will. Again, this lecture series can be purchased through Amazon or The Great Courses, or rented from various libraries.

Disclaimer: This blog is not designed to diagnose, treat, or prevent illnesses or trauma, and Dr. Emick is not responsible for your use of this educational material or its consequences. Furthermore, reading this blog does not create a doctor-patient relationship. The information contained within this blog is not intended to dictate what constitutes reasonable, appropriate, or best care for any given physical or behavioral health issue, nor does it take into account the unique circumstances that define the health issues of the reader. If you have questions about the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of a condition or illness, you should consult your personal health care professional. As always, consult with your personal health care professional before beginning or changing any fitness or nutrition program to make sure that it is appropriate for your needs. Dr. Emick reserves the right to modify her positions on a subject based upon new research or data as it presents.