alpenglow acupuncture

Delivering high-quality, personalized acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine services to the awesome people of Wheat Ridge, Golden, Arvada and Lakewood, Colorado with flexible appointment options to fit your lifestyle and budget.

A Time For Gratitude

Can you believe the holidays are almost upon us again? It’s the time of year where I like to focus on gratitude, and that is something I am planning on sharing with my 3-year-old this season.

For the month of November, we are going to do a gratitude challenge at home (and at work), where we each come up with something we’re thankful for every day. I know it’s probably a high-level concept that may or may not be appropriate for that age, but I also think it’s never too early to start. I’ll let you know how it goes next month. ;-)

I can tell you what I’m grateful for right now - being able to provide for my little man in so many ways. Of course, there is the materialistic side - being able to buy him clothes and toys and experiences. Okay, mostly experiences because the clothes and toys are largely hand-me-downs. (Which, side-note, I’m super grateful for!) But also being able to spend time with him and getting to go on our “adventures,” which may just be a hike or getting to play on the beach of a lake, but are things that are way more precious than possessions. I’m grateful for the cuddles I get while we read books, and the opportunity to teach him about the world around us.

I was really grateful the other day when he woke up, looked out the window, shouted “SNOOOOOOWWWWWW!!!!” at the top of his lungs and danced around with joy. That was the moment I knew he was truly my kid.

I have so many things to be grateful for, and this year I have the added joy of watching my kiddo express these joys in life as well. Of course, living with a toddler isn’t all puppies and rainbows, but focusing on the positive aspects will only bring more happiness and wellbeing to me as well.

What are you grateful for? Please join our celebration of gratitude in the month of November - we’ll be filling our gratitude jar in the office, and will also have a chance to share on Facebook!

Sleep Matters!

Ahhh, sleep. My favorite non-active activity. Sleep is one of those things that can totally make or break your health and/or happiness. If you’re a good sleeper... Bravo! Keep doing what you’re doing. Unfortunately, there are tons of people that experience insomnia (or lack of sleep) in some way and the results are the same: you’re tired and cranky and just want to rest. Some people have trouble falling asleep at the beginning of the night, some wake up in the middle of the night due to one thing or another, toss and turn, or can’t get back to sleep easily. Nighttime shift work is another reason people’s sleep is disrupted (obviously.. It’s just not the same in the daytime). The list can go on and on..

To be honest, I don’t think there’s anything more tortuous than losing sleep for any of the above reasons. We’ve all been there. Sleep isn’t talked about as much, but without a doubt, is just as important as diet and exercise. In fact, according to The National Sleep Foundation, they site that people who don’t get enough sleep have an increase in appetite! There’s a hormone in the body called leptin, an appetite regulating hormone, that decreases if a person doesn’t get the recommended 6-8 hours of good sleep. Consider that a double whammy: tired and hungry; a recipe for weight gain. Because of that, your metabolism is regulated just as much by sleep as it is by diet and exercise during the day time. (Mind Blown). When we stay up late, or continuously lose sleep, it only sets us up to have potential health complications like compromised cardiovascular systems, gut disregulation, and increased risk of cancer. Research shows that here.

So what does this mean in Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)? Because we are a form of natural medicine, we believe that your circadian rhythm should match that of nature. IE. When the sun starts to go down earlier, you should wind down earlier and vice versa. In the summertime, the sun is out until 9 pm some nights, so its OK to enjoy the lengthy days and go to sleep a little later.

In TCM, sleep is a very “yin” or restorative, nourishing activity (vs. exercise which is very “yang” or active). Chinese medicine believes you get your best rest between the hours of 11:00 pm and 1:00 am. Those hours are considered to be the most “yin” or nourishing time on the Chinese clock, so doing the most yin activity, during the most yin time of day is ideal! Talk about rejuvenation. If you can solidify a deep sleep pattern during those hours, your chances of maintaining through the night go up.

Now, no matter what type of insomniac you might be, we can help! If you can’t settle the “monkey mind” or you just pop awake at 3:00 am, we can take a look at what is going on in the system and treat whatever pattern is showing up for you. Through acupuncture and Chinese herbs, we can help reset your system so you’re getting deeper rest and can function on a higher level throughout the day. Let us know how things are going next time you’re in for a tune up!

Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine For Emotional Stress

Those who have tried acupuncture to manage emotional stress find that receiving a course of treatments is incredibly helpful for discharging and relaxing the accumulated tension and nervousness that can build up in our body over time. Prolonged emotional stress, whether stemming from relationship discord, occupational stress, major life transitions, and many other contributing factors can wreak havoc on our health and sense of personal well-being. Common effects of stress that we see here at Alpenglow include fatigue, muscular tension and pain, headaches, digestive upset, sleep problems, headaches, restlessness, and feelings of irritability, overwhelm, and depression.

One of the theories put forward to explain the effectiveness of acupuncture is that it is believed that by inserting acupuncture needles into the body we are stimulating the body’s endogenous opioid system, which is a scientific-way of saying that we are stimulating the body to release its’ own highly potent, healing, feel-good neurochemicals that play a role in everything from sleep to mood to how we experience sensations of pain in our body. This is part of the reason why acupuncture is thought to be so effective in addressing the pain and distress that detrimentally impacts both our mind and body, and why after regular treatments for a period of time, patients often remark on a global and systemic improvement in their overall health, including their pain levels, mood, energy level, and overall sense of wellbeing.

For patients looking to use acupuncture to help ease the symptoms of emotional stress in their lives, very often we will recommend Chinese herbal formulas in conjunction with a course of acupuncture treatments. When prescribed by a qualified practitioner, Chinese herbal medicine can improve the effectiveness and response to treatment. Leaves, stems, roots, tubers, flowers, and seeds comprise a majority of the herbs we use in the Chinese herbal tradition. For convenience, the primarily delivery method we use here at Alpenglow includes patent herbal formulas that come in pill form, as well as tinctured herbs in liquid form.

Evergreen Herbs is a company we use here at the clinic because it is an industry leader in its use of quality control and Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) in its acquisition and testing processes for their herbal formulas, as well as the extensive pharmacological and clinical research they do on their formulas. A great formula in particular is CALM ZZZ. The formula’s anxiolytic (anti-anxiety), muscle-relaxant, and antidepressant qualities make it a really great formula for individuals looking to address the symptoms of chronic and constant stress, insomnia with difficulty falling asleep, and those with a hard-driving but possibly overly-ruminating and restless personality style.

Another formula commonly used here at the clinic is called Augmented Rambling Powder. This combination of cooling, moving, and nourishing herbs makes it a really great formula for those of us who struggle with irritability, headaches that get worse under stress, night sweats, and the kind of PMS symptoms (moodiness, irritability, anger)  that makes your loved ones want to run and hide.

Finally, another herbal formula commonly prescribed here at the clinic is good one but it’s also a mouthful -  Emperor of Heaven’s Special Pill To Tonify The Heart. This is a great formula for those of us who are easily unsettled and sensitive to stress, which can then throw us into a pattern of sleeping poorly, difficulty staying asleep during the night, a sensation of fluttery feelings and anxiety in the chest, feeling ungrounded, and feeling overall very anxious and uneasy in body and mind.

Finally, oftentimes there are certain lifestyle modifications and daily practices that can help to ease the fallout from some of the stress that we have to manage in our lives. Lifestyle counseling is a huge cornerstone of Chinese medicine practice and including it along with acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine further increases the likelihood of a good clinical outcome. Decreasing and even eliminating caffeine and alcohol for a time can be very helpful, because both increase the stress hormone cortisol and can leave us feeling both tired and wired at the same time. Exercise and deep breathing practices can help to ease stress and both nervous and muscular tension. Certain teas and aromatherapy oils can have a really positive impact on mood and energy levels. Most importantly, be gentle with yourself. There is so much in life we don’t have control over, and it doesn’t help to give ourselves a hard time over it. If you have any questions about your own unique circumstances and symptoms, or more questions about how acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can help ease emotional stress, please reach out to the clinic and we will be happy to answer your questions.


A Good Night’s Sleep

As the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting longer, it makes me think about the winter, and hibernation. I really think it’s a lovely idea - such a nice, long period of deep, restorative rest. Mmmmm…

Just think of the marmot, whose heartbeat slows down to 3-4 beats per minute for up to 8 months! While I don’t really want to miss out on 8 months, I would like to get that kind of rejuvenation, and I bet you would too!

As you may know, I have had some struggles around sleep myself, so I thought I’d write down all those little things I have learned about to help keep my sleep on track and share them with you. Maybe there’s a gem in here that will get you back to sleeping like a baby. Not a newborn, but an older baby...when they sleep thru the night. :-)

Tips for a good night’s sleep:

  • Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark and quiet. If you can't escape a noisy environment, invest in a white noise machine, humidifier or fan to mask the offending sounds.

  • Stick to the same bedtime and wake time. Yes, even on the weekends! When your body has a consistent rhythm it is easier to wind down.

  • As part of your bedtime routine, shut off your electronics and dim the lights at least one hour before bed. Do some light stretching, read an old-fashioned book with real pages to turn, or listen to some relaxing music.

  • Try a hot bath with Epsom salts and/or essential oils. The cooling of the body after a bath can help to induce sleep. Some experts suggest doing this about 2 hours before bed.

  • Exercise can help, but try not to do it in the evening, as it can have a rousing effect on your mind and body.

  • Avoid napping, if possible, especially in the afternoon, as this has been shown to disrupt nighttime sleep in some individuals. If you must nap, keep it under 30 minutes.

  • Avoid stimulants, like nicotine and caffeine, especially in the afternoon and evening. These can make it hard to fall asleep, or sometimes even cause trouble staying asleep.

  • Get daytime light exposure. Making sure to expose yourself to natural light/dark cycles can help maintain a good circadian rhythm.

  • Eating before bed can be bad for some people, as it can contribute to indigestion and discomfort, making it hard to sleep.

  • Conversely, some people need a bedtime snack to maintain blood sugar levels throughout the night. If you wake in the night, try eating half an avocado before bed. The fat can help sustain you through the night, and avocados are also high in magnesium, which can help you relax.

  • Meditation or visualization can be helpful to quiet your mind and relax your body.

As we’ve mentioned in several past articles, sleep is very important for so many aspects of our health. Why don’t we all do a little for our own wellness and get sleeping!

Let us know if you have any additional tips on great sleep, we’d love to hear from you. Feel free to comment below!


Transitions (Lessons From A Toddler)

As we are moving from summer into fall, it got me thinking again about transitions. I say “again” because transitions have been a big theme around our house all summer long. Coming from someone who used to just jump into changes willy-nilly (ask me sometime about how breaking my toe led to me to move to Japan), it’s been a great exercise to try to figure out how to help someone deal with change. Even if it is just going from lunch to naptime. Seriously. As anyone with a toddler will tell you, transitioning from one activity to another can last a whole afternoon. In trying to help my son move through changes a little better, I’ve come up with some fairly reliable strategies, and then I realized that those strategies can help us all. Let me share a few:

  1. Leave plenty of time.
    Trying to rush a toddler is a bad idea, as it often makes them dig their heels in even more. Even the “easy” ones. Trust me.
    As an adult, it’s good to give yourself time to adjust to any transition as well. I have recently started getting to work a little early so that I can meditate before I begin treating people. What a great way to transition from mom-Karen to acu-Karen! It has really helped me to become centered and able to focus more on the person right in front of me, instead of bringing my crazy toddler-chasing energy into the treatment room.

  2. Have a plan. A loose one.
    With a toddler, it is a good idea to have an outline to your day, but be able to redirect if things start going south. Because some days it just goes south.
    As an adult, having an outline to your day can keep you focused and on task. However, I think it’s important to not be too rigid, so if one piece of your plan falls apart it doesn’t have to take out your entire day. If it’s more of an outline than a strict schedule, you can recover more easily.

  3. Think/talk about upcoming change.
    With our toddler, it is important to talk about any big change coming up, as opposed to just springing it on him. For example, potty training: First round - we went with the method that many people love; we just took off his pants and put him on the potty whenever he started to go. HUGE failure. Tears, screaming, major drama (from all parties involved). Second round - we got books from the library and read about it and talked about it for about a month. That time, potty training was all done in a couple of days, with hardly any drama.
    As an adult, it can be helpful to mull over a big change for a while before implementing it. For example, if you are going to stop eating sugar it’s a good idea to come up with a game plan - clean out the pantry, come up with ideas of what to do when you are out with friends, and maybe journal about the reasons you want to give it up. Just jumping in can often lead to failure, whereas planning a bit can set you up for success. But be flexible if you fail in that plan, figure out what happened, and start over.

So, as I’m thinking about these tools for transition, I am also thinking about how I’m going to implement them in moving into the fall season.

  1. I’m leaving myself plenty of time by thinking about it NOW. By doing so, I have enough time to prepare without feeling rushed.

  2. I’m making a plan. What supplements should we be starting as we head into germ season? How should our food choices be changing? How are we going to handle the demands of the holidays?

  3. I’m talking with my family about what they want for the next season, and if they need any help transitioning. We’re talking about how the weather is going to change and how we will be needing to wear warmer clothes. We’re coming up with possible fun indoor activities in case the weather is poor. And we’re all getting pretty excited because the fall is an awesome time of year!

How about you? How do you deal with change? Are you ready for the fall season? We’d love to hear!

Self-Care Strategies for Fall

With the summer season coming to an end and school being back in session, now is a good time to consider some thoughtful self-care strategies to start implementing for fall. As they say, prevention truly is the best medicine, and that’s a dictum those of us practicing Chinese medicine try to put into practice every day we are in the clinic seeing patients. The best self-care strategies are typically very accessible, straight-forward, and easy to implement in your daily life. Here are some useful self-care strategies to consider as we move into the fall season that can help support us in not only maintaining our well-being but also feeling our best.

Stay Warm

Mom really was right. Over the past couple of years scientists have discovered that cold weather weakens our airways’ first line of immune defenses. Now is the time to stock up on fall/winter essentials before the weather really turns. Don’t underestimate how useful a good pair of lined gloves, a warm hat, a well-insulated coat, and a thick scarf can be in keeping your body warm, comfortable, and healthy. Even if you’re going to be outside for a short period of time - getting the mail, scraping ice off your car, walking the dog around the block - make sure to stay warm. While I was in school studying Chinese medicine an instructor always encouraged us to keep our calves and ankles and feet fully covered and warm in winter because the Kidney Meridian starts at the bottom of the foot and winds up the medial part of the leg - in Chinese medicine the Kidney meridian is negatively affected by too much exposure to cold temperatures. Since then I’ve never worn flip-flops into a yoga class in the middle of winter again!

De-germify!

I don’t know if that’s even a word, but it does get the point across. Yes, as we enter into the fall season, this is the time when people start to get sick. And you, my friend, do not want to get sick if you can help it! Some of the ways to avoid getting sick are so incredibly simple that we tend to overlook them, like washing our hands. Do yourself a favor and watch a video on YouTube put out by the Centers for Disease Control or the World Health Organization on proper hand washing technique. There really is a proper technique to it that includes vigorously rubbing your hands together, as well as rubbing underneath the fingernails and up onto the wrists. In addition this is also a great time to clean all of the dirty, gross electronic devices we use on a daily basis, such as cellphones, laptops, Kindles, television remotes, and so on. With how often we use these devices in our daily life they can start to become dirty little devices covered in bacteria and other microbes. There are a lot of great resources online for how to clean your tech gear.

Cook Your Food

Eating flavorful and nutrient-dense whole foods is a great way to take care of yourself during the fall season. Squashes, beets, and sweet potatoes are all incredibly nourishing foods in Chinese medicine that help to tonify and support our Spleen/Stomach energy. Personally I am a big fan of sweet potatoes. I think they are really satisfying, satiating, and they help to keep my personal carb gremlin in check. There are so many different varieties (Purple, Jewel, Garnet, Okinawa) and creative ways to incorporate them into meals. They are a great source of fiber as well an excellent source of Vitamin A, as well as Vitamin C, manganese, and B6. Roasted sweet potato with poached eggs and organic chicken sausage is probably my favorite breakfast. I’m also a big fan of curried sweet potato soup and roasted sweet potato served with fish. If you need recipes, you can find them here.

Commune With Nature

Make a point to spend some reflective time in nature this season. Take a drive up to the mountains to see the changing leaves. Spend more time outdoors. Find a new hiking trail in the area. Wake up early to get a little time on the back porch when the world is still quiet. Spending time with Mother Nature has been shown to help reduce high blood pressure, support respiratory and cardiovascular health, relieve muscle tension, improve mood, and reduce the production of stress hormones. Don’t underestimate how healing spending time in nature can be. The effects may not be immediate - sometimes it takes a few days for our bodies and minds to relax. But with a little free time it is a simple self-care strategy to implement and one that you won’t regret.

Tips for Supporting the Spleen and Improving Focus

Nowadays, it can feel like achieving sustained and meaningful focus and concentration is so darn difficult, especially with the pace and busyness of modern life, as well as the constant dings, alerts, and intrusions of all of our technological gadgets and social media updates. It can feel exhausting, and in Chinese medicine it can really exhaust and deplete our Spleen energy. In Chinese medicine, Spleen energy is not an unlimited resource - it is nourished and replenished on a daily basis by the food we take into our bodies, and it is deeply restored through rest and relaxation. Excessive worrying, overthinking, ruminating, inconsistent dietary habits and eating routines all take a toll on Spleen energy. But fear not! Supporting our Spleen energy can help to improve our ability to achieve sustained focus throughout the day. Focus is very much like a muscle - through consistency and effort you can improve your ability to achieve sustained focus. Here are some tips to help get you started.

Do Your Most Important Tasks First Thing In The Day
Conscious, sustained focus and effort takes a lot of brainpower. It’s fueled by our metabolic processes (which falls under the umbrella of Spleen energy in Chinese medicine), and it is not an unlimited resource. Our ability to focus and concentrate at our best lasts for a limited amount of time throughout the day. With this in mind, getting your most important tasks completed first thing in the day when your energy reserves are at their highest will set you up for a better chance to be able to put sustained focus towards the task in front of you. It is much harder to focus on difficult tasks at the end of a long day when your tank is completely empty and you’re feeling totally spent.

Try Meditation
No matter who you are and no matter how shoddy your attention span is, you can improve upon it. You really can! Our brains are incredibly malleable, adaptable, and workable. Mindfulness meditation, even for very short periods of time, can help develop our focusing muscle. By strengthening our ability to keep coming back to the present moment, we improve our ability to sustain our focus on what is right in front of us, instead of getting lost and carried away by thoughts, distractions, and ruminative thoughts - all of which can work to deplete our Spleen energy.

Check in with Yourself, and Take Breaks!
Lovingly and attentively treat yourself like an adult toddler. I’m serious about this one! If you have an important task to focus on, take breaks every 30 minutes. Stretch. Move your body. Get yourself a snack or eat a really nourishing meal - restock your Spleen energy! Drink water. Check in to see what you need. Set yourself up to be comfortable and at ease in your body so that you can put your focus and attention to the task at hand.

Be Mindful of Social Media and Internet Use
There is a growing understanding that an abundance of social media and internet use can really wreak havoc on our attention spans and focus. Every time we check our email, Facebook, or Instagram accounts, our brain gets a little hit of the feel-good neurochemical dopamine, which basically says to our brain “This is awesome! Pay attention to this!” That’s how we can set ourselves up to feel this constant phantom inkling to check our social media accounts consistently throughout the day. It can be a real brain drain, depleting our Spleen energy in the process. Turning off notifications and taking sustained breaks from social media can help to quiet this down.

Routine for the Spleen

Happy August everyone! I hate to say it, but the summer is almost over! (Cue the tears). I hope everyone has had lots of fun and adventure-- or at least some time to get away! Between the vacations, wonky schedules, weddings, naughty eating habits and everything else that’s out of the norm, I would say it’s been a total success. Exactly what a summer should be. Since most of the craziness is over, I’m personally ready for things to slow down and get back to a bit of a routine.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) it all boils down to boosting the spleen’s energy after an action-packed summer. Just for the record, when I talk about the spleen, it has nothing to do with your physical organ, but just the energetics surrounding it, according to our eastern theories. When we talk about healthy spleen qi (or energy), the BEST way to give it a boost is by understanding its function in the body. The spleen is responsible for “transformation and transportation,” so taking the food we give it and separating it into the pure substance we can use for energy and getting rid of the “impure” (or the junk we can’t use). Eating a balanced healthy diet will give the spleen more pure qi to work with.

 During the summer, we’re constantly staying up late, traveling, eating inconsistently or differently, and all of those things can bog down the spleen’s ability to function properly. Needless to say, the pizza diet I had going for a while post-wedding was totally trashing my spleen qi. Oops. The same goes for emotionally difficult things. The spleen also sorts the “pure from the impure” in that department as well. So when we’re worrying about stuff, overthinking things, or percolating over work or home situations, it can create a depletion in the spleen’s energy too. You can tell if you’re a little depleted if you have fatigue, brain fog or inability to focus, digestive issues, heaviness in the arms and legs, bloating, or just feeling a little spacey or ungrounded.

The best way to give the spleen a boost is to slow down and set up a routine. That means, getting up at the same time every morning, eating at the same time every day, and going to sleep at the same time every night. Get back to a healthy diet and clean eating while you’re at it. Cutting back on the “inflammatory foods” like sugar, dairy, and processed grains will give the spleen a better chance to recover. Other bonuses: digestion improves, it quiets the mind, you can feel more grounded as we transition into fall, mental acuity sharpens, and it stops the insanity of summer!

If you have questions about the best foods to incorporate for the spleen’s function or other ways to boost your qi, ask me next time you’re in for a tune up!

5 Common Headache Causes And How To Fix Them

One of the issues we see more frequently here in the clinic is headaches. While there are many causes and treatments for this ailment, here are my top five:

Dehydration

Well, it would seem obvious that the way to treat dehydration is to drink water, but there are some things that can hinder getting that done:

Remembering to drink. This is one of those times I like to use technology for assistance. You can set a regular reminder or use the timer on your smartphone or computer (or even use a kitchen timer if you don’t have those!) every 30-60 minutes to help you remember to take a drink.

Not liking the taste. I hear this one a lot, so I say spruce it up! Add some fresh lemon or lime juice, cut fruit, or get fancy with cucumber and mint or some ginger. Or get yourself a Soda Stream to make your own bubbly water at home. (I would just stay away from their artificial flavors.)

Needing electrolytes. Sometimes, you need to add some electrolytes to help you absorb better. I don’t recommend drinking electrolyte replacement drinks all day, but 8-12oz a day could be helpful. I like plain coconut water or a Skratch Labs mix, or to make my own:

  • 8 ounces water (warm or at room temperature)

  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

  • a pinch of salt

  • 2 tablespoons or more of honey or maple syrup

  • A little lemon juice to taste

Sinus Headaches

This is a time of year when many people experience sinus headaches. Between allergies, the tail end of cold season and weather changes, sinus pain can be a doozy. Here are a few things that can help:

Sinus rinses. Either with a Neti pot or bottle, getting those sinuses rinsed out and hydrated can go a long way to reducing headaches.

Eating right. What you eat can have a strong effect on the health of your sinuses. Both dairy and sugar are big contributors to sinus problems.

Acupuncture and herbs. This is an area where our medicine really excels. We can look for and address underlying causes, such as allergies or a gut imbalance, while treating the symptom of the headache. Often, we will also use some moxa with this type of headache to help treat those underlying causes.

Tension/Stress Headaches

Our current lifestyle can wreak havoc on our bodies, often leading to headaches. Here are a couple of ideas to reduce that tension and stress:

Stretching. Gentle stretching of the upper back and shoulders can reduce the tension in those areas, reducing the referral pain that can go into the back of your head, or up and over into your forehead.

Meditation. Starting a meditation practice, even just a few minutes a day, can help bring down your stress levels and reduce headaches.

Trigger Point Acupuncture. Also known as dry needling, we can address knots and tightness in the neck and shoulders that contribute to headaches. We follow up this type of needling with a complete acupuncture treatment to address the underlying stress as well.

Hormone Related Headaches

Hormones can be a complicated matter, but there are a few things you can do right off the bat to get things back in order:

Eating right. Too much processed foods, sugar or soy can really throw your hormones out of whack. Filling up on vegetables and organic/free range animal protein can help your body get back into balance.

Exercise. Getting that body moving, especially before your typical trigger time (but throughout the whole month, ideally) can help regulate hormones and reduce headaches.

Acupuncture and herbs. Again, TCM can address the underlying issue (hormone imbalance) while also relieving the symptom (hormones).

Hangovers

I’m afraid to admit that I treated this a lot while I was in acupuncture school. I certainly had some friends who liked to have fun. Anyway, here are a few tools:

Water. Drink lots of water during your night (or day) out - a glass for each alcoholic drink you consume.

Electrolyte replacement. Use any of the options listed above - coconut water, skratch labs or make your own. Drink at bedtime and when you wake up.

Curcumin. This is a great natural anti-inflammatory  that may reduce the elevated number of cytokines released after drinking too much. Take a dose at bedtime and another upon waking.

Acupuncture. Make sure to do your partying on Friday and come see us Saturday morning!

Herbs. TCM formulas such as Curing Pills and Bao He Wan can make a dent in that hangover headache. Take them before bed and again in the morning.

Headaches can have all kinds of causes, but the good news is that most of them can be treated or avoided. As always, feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or if you need some help!

Headaches According to Chinese Medicine

Headaches are incredibly common and affect millions of people every year. To be exact, 45 million nationwide (according to ihateheadaches.org). That’s a staggering number! I also read on migraine.com that out of that many people, 18% of sufferers are women and 6% are men which is quite interesting. There could be tons of reasons why you have headaches, and it’s just a matter of getting to the bottom of what’s going on.

Like many ailments, our approach is similar: we do a full intake to try and understand where the headache is coming from. We ask questions like: Where is the pain? How long does it last? When does it happen? What helps or hurts? Etc, etc. There are two things going on when someone suffers from headaches: the root and the branch. The root refers to the reason WHY the headache is occuring. The branch refers to the actual pain you experience. From there, we treat based on what the imbalance is that we see happening in your system.

Below are some common Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) diagnosis for each of Karen’s top 5 headache causes, along with treatments that usually help! That being said, not everyone fits into a cookie cutter diagnosis.  This is why we encourage you to get a full intake to see what might be most effective when treating your headaches specifically. We want to get to the bottom of what YOUR “root” diagnosis is and treat it appropriately! Here’s a few examples of the diagnoses we see with each main type:

  • Dehydration could be a “Qi Deficiency” or meaning there’s just not enough energy circulating through the body (because you haven’t had enough water) and its affecting the head! Surprise, surprise. In cases like this, we usually add in moxibustion (that smokey herb we burn) because it nourishes the system more.

  • Sinus headaches are usually aggravated by allergies, colds, the flu, things of that nature. Most of the time with sinus headaches, people usually experience pressure and fullness. We call this “damp” in TCM. Just as it sounds, there’s an accumulation of dampness, or phlegm, boogers, etc that won’t come out. In this sort of condition, we use needles in the face to help disperse that inflammation and fullness.

  • Tension Headaches are mostly related to what we call “Qi Stagnation” or when the energy flow in the body is getting stuck! Usually this occurs mostly in the neck and shoulders and can pull on the base of the skull, thus causing pain at the back of the head or temples. We use a lot of “trigger point therapy” for this type of headache. Meaning: when Karen and I get a muscle to twitch and release the hold its got on your body! Cupping is a great way to help with tension headaches as well.

  • Hormonal headaches. This one is so tricky to pin down just one diagnosis or even two. This is one of those headache categories that could easily have 10 or more different reasons they’re happening according to TCM. At the most basic level, we have to determine if your headaches are coming from a stagnant place or depleted place, so we know how to best to treat them! Rest assured, needles and/or moxa are involved. Or both!

  • Hangovers!! Hmm… can’t say that I treat this THAT often anymore. Usually people aren’t super pumped to come to acupuncture when they’re hungover, but if they did, it would help!! Treatment for hangovers definitely falls under the “stagnation” or “damp” category, so just your average needling will do! Added bonus: you get an acupuncture nap to help sleep it off.

  • Is there a headache for wedding planning??? Just kidding. But for the record that falls under “Qi stagnation!”

If you suffer from headaches, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor or Naturopath if they are moderate to severe in nature - just to rule out anything serious. In the meantime, schedule an appointment if headaches are a problem for you or a family member or friend! We can help with the pain and eventually harmonize the pattern to make them go away completely.

The Face-off : Liver and Spleen

If you’ve been diagnosed with IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, you might be (probably are) frustrated that western medicine doesn’t have much for you in terms of treatment. In this case, hooray for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)! In TCM, we take your specific symptoms and try to find what the pattern is, or WHY it’s happening. There are many ways the body can present digestive symptoms and a million ways to treat it in Chinese medicine. I’ll be going over why your digestion might be feeling a little wonky in this season specifically: spring time!

Quite often in the spring, digestion can be off for anyone, not just people with IBS. Normally in Chinese medicine, the spring is the time of waking up! We all start to move and stretch after winter. There’s more heat in the universe to warm us up, get things moving, and we all feel the dynamics of the body going through those energetic changes - from the inside out. The liver organ, specifically, is in charge of the flow of qi (or energy) and sometimes as we’re going through a transitional season, it can be hard for the body to have a smooth flow on its own. Insert: needles!! (Hehe, acupuncture joke).

One of the most common patterns we see is called “liver overacting on spleen” when the liver energy encroaches on the spleen and stomach, the most important organs for digestion, according to TCM.  Different kinds of constraint and inconsistencies in the way qi is moving can cause the typical IBS symptoms like constipation, intermittent diarrhea, gas and bloating, etc. When you throw extra stress in the mix as well, people can experience more severity of those symptoms, stomach pains, and digestive upset immediately following a stressful event. Yikes! Acupuncture can be extremely beneficial to help MOVE the qi and get it to flow correctly. We also use moxibustion, or mugwort, to help nourish the spleen and stomach. When you burn mugwort on certain acupuncture points, it boosts the ability of the spleen and stomach to function correctly. Therefore, those organs aren’t as vulnerable under the liver’s attack! We often use both together, or separately based on what your needs are specifically.

Other ways you can soothe the liver qi are taking out the things that are causing you stress! Also, exercise more, get outside, breathe fresh air and get your extra vitamin D from natural sunlight. To naturally boost the spleen and stomach, make sure you’re eating well (as always), warm, cooked nourishing foods and rest well! For IBS, you want to bump up your probiotic use and potentially incorporate prebiotics as well. Ask us about what might be right for you next time you’re in the office! Happy spring!

5 Natural Ways to Alleviate IBS Symptoms

April is National IBS Awareness Month and I love talking about poop, so let’s get started! Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is often called a “trash can” diagnosis, or a diagnosis of exclusion. Basically, when you have been through a battery of tests and no one can see anything wrong with the structures of your digestive tract, IBS is a label that often gets used. Essentially, “Um...We don’t know exactly what’s going on, but your bowels sure do seem irritable. Let’s call it ‘Irritable Bowel Syndrome.’ There. Doesn’t it feel nice to label things?” Sheesh. There are so many things that contribute to the function (or dysfunction) of your digestion that it can be hard to pinpoint the culprit, but here are 5 things you can do at home to help things go more smoothly:

De-Stress

Stress is one of the most common triggers for digestive disorders. It is estimated that 90% of serotonin (a major neurotransmitter) is made in the gut. If this gets disrupted it can have a big impact on your digestion.

Try meditation, yoga, chatting with friends, journaling or acupuncture to relieve your stress.

Address Gut Dysbiosis

An imbalance in the microbes found in your intestines can have an ill effect on digestion as well. To help balance things out, avoid foods that can contribute to the overpopulation of the bad bugs - sugar, grains, alcohol and fried foods (basically the foods we tend to crave), and add in the good bugs by eating fermented foods or taking a good probiotic.

Stop Overeating

Eating too much can overload your digestive system and trigger symptoms such as gas, bloating, diarrhea and constipation.

Try eating mindfully, paying attention to hunger and satiety signals. Enjoy each bite so that you aren’t tempted to keep shoveling it in!

Reduce Caffeine

Caffeine is a stimulant that can activate bowel movements, causing loose stool and diarrhea. In the long term, it can also cause dehydration which can contribute to constipation. After a while, you can get stuck in a nasty cycle where you get dependant on caffeine just to go!

Try herbal teas or good plain water instead to keep hydrated and get that digestive tract moving properly.

Get Moving

Movement is very important in keeping all our organs functioning well, and can have the added benefit of reducing stress.

Go for a walk or a hike with friends, do a little yoga at home, or try something completely new to keep yourself interested in exercise. A little physical movement can do wonders for your, ahem, movements.

And, of course, here’s a bonus tip - we can always help you get that digestion back on track. There’s a good reason I have one patient that calls me “the poop whisperer” - acupuncture can really get things moving along!

As always, please feel free to reach out if you have any questions about how to improve your digestion.

Treating Allergies with NAET

We’re coming up on that time of year again. I feel like I’m always saying this, but the seasons really do affect our health! With spring approaching, it’s time to talk about allergies.

You may have seen NAET listed among our treatment options, and you may have asked yourself, “What the heck is that?” Well, NAET stands for “Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Techniques.” Now, isn’t that a mouthful?

Dr. Devi Nambudripad developed this approach in the 1980’s when she herself was dealing with some severe allergies, and it has become a successful treatment modality used around the world.

The treatment is designed to desensitize a patient to a substance using kinesiology, acupressure and acupuncture so that they will not experience hypersensitive symptoms when coming into contact with that substance in the future. These symptoms may vary from the ones you usually associate with allergies, such as sneezing, nasal congestion and itching, to those you may not, such as headaches and digestive issues.

The treatments start with a set series of food/nutritional items, and then can move on to environmental substances. It begins at the basic nutritional level because when we take in something we are even mildly sensitive to, it can make our other allergies much more severe. I always give myself as an example for this – when I first went through the treatment series, my seasonal allergies went away after treating for wheat/grains. This makes a lot of sense to me, since wheat/grains are plants that are related to things in my environment. My experience with this really opened my eyes!

For best results, we treat one substance at a time. For less severe reactions, it may only take one session to clear the sensitivity to each item, but for more severe problems, it may take several sessions to clear just one substance. Mild to moderate allergies often take 15-20 treatments, as we work our way through the different substances you are sensitive to.

When people ask me about the treatment, I honestly reply “it’s weird” or “it’s kinda woo-woo,” since the kinesiology we use is a little foreign to a lot of us, but it can really be effective! I love having this option to help people with allergies.

Please feel free to contact us for more information on this innovative allergy treatment.

Spring – Season of the Liver

As we move into Spring, we enter the season of the Liver. The color associated with the season of the Liver is green, and the sound related to the Liver is shouting. This makes me think of little green seedlings, popping out if the ground, excited that winter is over. It is like they are shouting, “Hey, look at me, I’m here now!” as they seem to declare that it is the time for them to vigorously grow.  

The Liver has some very important roles in Chinese Medicine, which include storing the blood, ensuring the smooth flow of qi (qi in this case can be defined as an energy that manifests on both our physical and emotional level), and controlling the sinews. The Liver also manifests in the nails, opens into the eye, controls the tears, and is affected by anger. Additionally, the Liver also houses our Ethereal Soul. The Ethereal Soul plays a very important role in our mental and spiritual life on a psychic level. It supplies our minds with inspiration and creativity. It is involved with our life dreams and our sense of direction in life.  

This spring, you can nourish your liver by staying calm and taking things slow. Do not let anger or frustration get the best of you in trying situations. Try doing some mental or physical exercises to keep your body and spirit relaxed and calm. Meditation or some gentle stretching and yoga can be a good place to start. Pick something that is relaxing for you. Let go of as many stressful situations as you can this spring. If this is not possible, try to reduce the stress involved in the stressful situations that you are exposed to.

If you need help doing this, let us know! We can give you some ideas to get you started.  Acupuncture, massage, and reflex therapy can all help with stress. Not only can they help calm your physical body, but putting the time aside to come in and visit us for a session can be like a mini vacation for your mind as well. When you let your mind relax and allow it to settle in to the sensations and energy it feels during a treatment, it helps you to become more self-aware and aids in supplying the energy needed for the body to function calmly and effectively. Let’s make this Spring one that is filled with life, new beginnings, and creativity, with room to grow ourselves without the stress!

 

Spring Break

Raise your hand if you get spring fever! Me, me - I do! Traditionally spring has always been the perfect time for change and to do something different from the routine you had during the dreary winter (even though our winter has been pretty mild). The energy around spring is moving and dynamic; becoming alive again and stretching out after a long hibernation. In Chinese medicine, the spring correlates with the liver meridian, which ensures a healthy and smooth flow of qi in the body. The liver also detoxifies the blood, a similar characteristic to what it does Western medicine as well. Of course there are plenty of ways to detox the body in the spring, but I’ll be talking about a few ways to detox the mind! When you sit down and think about it: what makes you feel alive and new?

For me, there are two major ways for me to feel my best when transitioning seasons. First, travel - getting away from anything in my norm has always been at the top of my list of ways to rejuvenate myself. February is one of the toughest, coldest month to get through during winter and I so look forward to March. Some years it’s because it’s so dang cold, some years it’s just because it’s ONLY the 2nd month of the year and sometimes it’s because as soon as someone says “March,” the mindset changes and I get excited about more sunshine.

So, my advice (that I’m taking myself) if you need to get out from under the rock of winter and do something spontaneous, is to take your adult Spring Break!! That’s right - I’m giving you permission to take some time, no matter if you’re in school or not, to give yourself a break. Whether it be just a weekend away or random trip to Mexico that popped up, take it! I’m counting down the days until I get to take a break myself and enjoy sunny Sedona for a weekend in April. There’s nothing better than letting yourself check out for a few days, sip on a cocktail, read trashy romance novels, and stare into the sunset.

Secondly, I like to shift gears for spring by purging all of my STUFF. We’re about to move into our new house and we’re literally getting rid of everything! I’m convinced that the more things we keep in our house, the more mental clutter there is. My fiance and I have been reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing and I agree with so much of what Marie Kondo says. We’re only keeping the things we absolutely love because it brings us joy, not for any other reason. So going through clothes, trinkets, home decor, shoes….whatever we don’t love, must go!! What a great feeling to donate lots of stuff and sell things to someone who might think your old couch is THEIR new favorite thing!

So, this spring, take some time to give your brain a stretch as well as your body! Go on spring break, get rid of some clutter, go out and move! I love to hear about all of the travels you do, so be sure to update me on your adventures next time you’re in for a tune up!

Self Love in 2018

If you guys are reeling from the last two years of chaos (because the year of the monkey and fire rooster were crazy!), then you’re definitely looking forward to the calmer qualities from the year of the earth dog-- just like I am!

What a better time to integrate some of the qualities of the dog as we take care of ourselves in 2018. When I think about dogs, loyalty is the most prominent attributes they exhibit (besides cuteness obviously). Once they’re yours, they follow you around, protect you, want to be with you all the time! What if we thought about ourselves in the same way? Usually loyalty relates to how you treat others; however, what if we flipped the script and vowed to protect ourselves more, spend time with ourselves, and love ourselves just like your dog loves you.

That is a VERY foreign thought for most of us. Usually everyday life is more complicated than that. We get distracted with how much we are involved at work or how much time we spend with other people. Rarely do we make time to be alone to reflect and recharge the batteries a little bit.

Recently, I was super inspired by a good girlfriend who told me that she takes “solo trips” about once a quarter. Basically, she packs a bag of books and magazines, face masks, turns off the social media and goes off on her own to be with herself and catch up on rest and relaxation for a weekend. How amazing does that sound?? I made it a goal of 2018 to give myself at least a night or two a month of just that-- me, myself, and I-- alone to do what I need to rejuvenate.

Other forms of self care can look different to different people. That could be more frequent massage or acupuncture, a night in with a glass of wine, soaking in the tub, a solo hike (with your dog- double loyalty points!), or shutting off the news to protect ourselves from the negativity or comparing ourselves to others. Whatever self care looks like to you… integrate it!

Happy Chinese New Year!!

On February 16th, we will welcome the year of the earth dog. All indications point toward this being a more settled, calm year, as long as we all take good care of ourselves and each other.

Just like a dog that has been chained up outside for a long time, the loyalty and kindness that is inherent to canines can be absent in a time where we neglect ourselves and our relationships.

The earth element in Chinese Medicine is all about what we take in - food, drink, ideas and information. We will do especially well this year if we are careful in choosing what we consume; good, nutrient-dense foods, clean water and positive messages as opposed to eating junk, getting drunk and obsessing over “those idiots” in the news.

Focusing on relationships and lifting each other up are also a good way to take advantage of the energy of the earth dog year. Dogs are pack animals and we would do well to emulate that this year. Reconnect with old friends, make some new friends and spend time with your family.

Being kind to the environment and taking care of the earth is also a great way to honor the year of the earth dog. Spending time in nature, gardening and generally connecting with the earth are all great activities.

All in all, after the craziness of last year - the year of the fire rooster - this year will definitely seem more settled and manageable.

Self-Love and Self-Care

Why I Did Not Understand Self-Love

Growing up, I did not really understand the concept of “self-love.” In fact, not only did I not understand it, but I thought of it as something along the lines of narcissism or conceit.  Coincidentally, the first definition of self-love on merriam-webster.com is:  love of self: a.) conceit.  However, conceit is not what we are talking about here.  We are talking about self-love as a regard for one’s own well being and happiness, (chiefly considered a desirable rather than narcissistic characteristic)-as the dictionary on google defines it.  Growing up, I felt like I was always taught to care for others, not myself, so I am still working on the concept of self-love in my own life.  

How I Came to Understand that Self-Love is a Good Thing

Right now, I practice self-love by caring for myself better than I used to.  I think of this sort of self-love as self-care.  For example, if my body is sore, I may stretch it, take a warm bubble bath, or both.  I also receive regular massages to help my body to stay loose, relaxed, and pain-free.  This is a bit of a stark contrast to my earlier life as a college student.  With a large amount of classes and extracurriculars combined with little sleep, I ended up at the student health center frequently, with various complaints.  If I would have continued with that type of lifestyle and resulting stress with no self-care, I may still be plagued with the same problems today as I was then.  

Luckily, I realized that not only could taking care of myself and showing myself some self-love help with my ailments, but it also helped me to be able to better help others.  When I feel good, I have more energy to help others, and am much more pleasant to be around.  So, not only can I help myself by practicing self-love, I can help others as well, which I see as a win-win situation.  When I care for myself, I feel balanced and more rested.  Therefore, I feel like I have more resources within myself to make conscious, healthy decisions for both me and those that I love.  Thus, caring for myself helps me to better spread love and care to others.  

How Do I Even Begin to Practice Self-Love?

Now that I gave a few examples of how I practice self-love and self-care, you may be thinking, how can I practice self-love?  Well, here is another definition of self-love from psychology today that may help: “Self-love is a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological and spiritual growth.”  It further explains: “Self-love is dynamic; it grows by actions that mature us.  When we act on ways that expand self-love in us, we begin to accept much better our weaknesses as well as our strengths, have less need to explain away our shortcomings, have compassion for ourselves as human beings struggling to find personal meaning, are more centered in our life purpose and values, and expect living fulfillment through our own efforts.”

Deborah Khoshaba, Psy.D, outlines a seven-step prescription for self-love, and it includes becoming mindful, acting on what you need rather than what you want, practicing good self-care, setting boundaries, protecting yourself, forgiving yourself, and living intentionally.  Rather than commenting extensively on them all here, you can read what she has to say about each here.

How Can I Look at These 7 Steps for Self-Love Holistically?

When I read the details on the seven-step prescription, each step brought my mind back to the concept of balance.  Really, each of her steps illustrates an example of balance within its category.  The concepts of balance that they bring up include both the physical and mental realm.  This idea of balance brings me back to Chinese Medicine, which was developed at a time when people lived in harmony with the world around them.  The seasons and activities that went along with them flowed, and there was more of an aim to balance life.  This balance of life went along with the thought of health also being a balance.  Acupuncture, massage, reflex therapy and ortho-bionomy can all aid in helping the body to balance itself.  Alpenglow’s Integrative Massage is the newest edition to our family, and is 25% off through the month of February, so now is a great time to give it a try!  If you do not see a time that works for you, please call or email and we will do our best to accommodate you.

All I Really Have to Do is Listen to my Heart?

All this talk about self-love leads us to the subject of the Heart.  February is American Heart month.  In Chinese medicine, the Heart is the organ of joy, and thus joy nourishes the heart.  So, if you love dancing, running, rock climbing, singing, meditating, collecting rocks, or drawing, go ahead and do it!  Doing what you love is a great way to help your self-love grow.  The Chinese Heart is a beautiful organ to help us to learn about self-love, because it houses our Shen, or Spirit. The Shen includes consciousness, emotions, and mental health.  Our Chinese Heart can help us to get in touch with how we are feeling if we just become present by listening to what our body and mind are telling us.  When we access our Chinese Heart by becoming more aware of our physical and mental selves-basically becoming aware of what makes us the unique individual human being that we are-it will open us up to self-love by allowing us to detect where we need more conscious effort for balance in our lives.

So, now that I am armed with a seven-step prescription for self-love, as well as my own heart as a guide, I can’t go wrong.  If I forget one (or all) of the seven steps, I can look in at myself, into the unique aspects of my own Chinese Heart, and see what aspect of self-love I need to work on.  Our Chinese Heart serves as a reminder that perhaps the needed tools for self-love have really been within us all along.  Rather than looking at the outside world for answers to what should make us happy, perhaps we should look within.

Gratitude in the New Year

One of my goals for 2018 is to focus on gratitude. Even though in the midst of stressful times it can be easy to forget, there are SO many things in my life to be grateful for and I really want to focus on that. My family is loving and supportive (and darn cute, if you ask me!). I live in a beautiful state with lots of fun activities available, like hiking, climbing and skiing. I have an amazing job where I get to see wonderful people all day long. I mean, come on, I get paid to stick needles in people! How great is that?!

As I thought about focusing more on gratitude, I decided to look into the research on it to see what kind of benefits there are besides just improving happiness. One of the resources I came across was this great article from Harvard Medical School. Here’s some of what it said:

Research on gratitude

Two psychologists, Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, have done much of the research on gratitude. In one study, they asked all participants to write a few sentences each week, focusing on particular topics.

One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them, and the third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.

Another leading researcher in this field, Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, tested the impact of various positive psychology interventions on 411 people, each compared with a control assignment of writing about early memories. When their week's assignment was to write and personally deliver a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked for his or her kindness, participants immediately exhibited a huge increase in happiness scores. This impact was greater than that from any other intervention, with benefits lasting for a month.

Of course, studies such as this one cannot prove cause and effect. But most of the studies published on this topic support an association between gratitude and an individual's well-being.

Other studies have looked at how gratitude can improve relationships. For example, a study of couples found that individuals who took time to express gratitude for their partner not only felt more positive toward the other person but also felt more comfortable expressing concerns about their relationship.

There are some notable exceptions to the generally positive results in research on gratitude. One study found that middle-aged divorced women who kept gratitude journals were no more satisfied with their lives than those who did not. Another study found that children and adolescents who wrote and delivered a thank-you letter to someone who made a difference in their lives may have made the other person happier — but did not improve their own well-being. This finding suggests that gratitude is an attainment associated with emotional maturity.

Ways to cultivate gratitude

Gratitude is a way for people to appreciate what they have instead of always reaching for something new in the hopes it will make them happier, or thinking they can't feel satisfied until every physical and material need is met. Gratitude helps people refocus on what they have instead of what they lack. And, although it may feel contrived at first, this mental state grows stronger with use and practice.

Here are some ways to cultivate gratitude on a regular basis:

Write a thank-you note.

You can make yourself happier and nurture your relationship with another person by writing a thank-you letter expressing your enjoyment and appreciation of that person's impact on your life. Send it, or better yet, deliver and read it in person if possible. Make a habit of sending at least one gratitude letter a month. Once in a while, write one to yourself.

Thank someone mentally.

No time to write? It may help just to think about someone who has done something nice for you, and mentally thank the individual.

Keep a gratitude journal. Make it a habit to write down or share with a loved one thoughts about the gifts you've received each day.

Count your blessings.

Pick a time every week to sit down and write about your blessings — reflecting on what went right or what you are grateful for. Sometimes it helps to pick a number — such as three to five things — that you will identify each week. As you write, be specific and think about the sensations you felt when something good happened to you.

Pray.

People who are religious can use prayer to cultivate gratitude.

Meditate.

Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. Although people often focus on a word or phrase (such as "peace"), it is also possible to focus on what you're grateful for (the warmth of the sun, a pleasant sound, etc.).***

I’m looking forward to enjoying these extra health benefits of gratitude in the new year! What are you grateful for?

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Goal Setting in 2018

Happy 2018 to our Alpenglow family! As exciting as this fresh, new time can be, it can also be quite daunting. The year is a blank slate and the question arises: what are we going to do with it? This is usually the time that people set lofty goals and new year’s resolutions; some that are unattainable or unrealistic. Guilty as charged. So, I’m taking a new approach to goal-setting this year and I hope you might find the same inspiration!

I found this great article that outlines exactly what I’ve been trying to wrap my head around: the pitfalls of goal setting. Goals should bring you new inspiration and happiness instead of dread and disappointment. Often, when we set goals that are a little too far out of our reach, we lose steam early and it’s a slippery slope to letting them go completely. For me, in the past, I’ve set high goals for myself (usually around fitness and weight loss) and by March or April, they’ve gone right out the window. This year, I’m doing something different-- setting goals that are smaller and more achievable in order to keep my sanity. For example, I want to create a healthy workout regimen without completely killing myself- so setting a goal of 3 hard workouts a week rather than working out 6 days a week and trying to lose 15 pounds. I don’t want to set myself up for failure - those numbers are not necessarily attainable for me.

The feeling of accomplishment and reward when achieving something small helps motivate towards the other bigger goals you set. They start to build momentum and give you the confidence to keep going! The article also talks about the difference in your quality of life when you’re still able to live in the moment and be present while still working towards your intentions. So, if weight loss and fitness is part of your 2018 goals list, focus on them only WHILE you’re doing it. Schedule the time to go to the gym, show up, work hard, and then the rest of the time you can live your life and not be thinking about it! The same goes for other goals, no matter what they are, such as getting better about flossing teeth, reading books, and meditating. As long as you are organized and set aside some dedicated time to work toward them, it shouldn’t be too overwhelming.

Remember to grant yourself grace and understanding that goals are meant to be a challenge, but not impossible! I’m very curious what all of your 2018 goals are, so when you’re in for your next treatment, be sure to tell me or Karen and we can work to tweak your health care plan around what you want to achieve! Good luck and happy new year!

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