The Art of Being

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Incorporating Meditation into Daily Living

Many of us have all too often cringed at the question “are you taking time to meditate?” The constant pace of life with work and parenting and relationships so seldom leaves us with uninterrupted time to ourselves.  And the thought of sitting cross-legged on the floor in utter silence seems terrifyingly unattainable. But what if we re-framed our minds and our understanding of the idea of meditation to be something we long for and make time for every day?

The truth is that the healing benefit of just a few minutes of that utter silence, deep breathing, and release of the mind on a consistent basis each day will have profound effects on our mood, energy level, and immune system as we combat the rest of our daily life.  Studies have found that adding daily meditation can have major benefits in lowering blood pressure, decreasing levels of the stress hormone cortisol, increasing levels of calming hormones such as serotonin and melatonin, relieving symptoms of anxiety and depression, lowering chronic pain levels, curbing insomnia, as well as reducing irritable bowel symptoms. A more advanced form of medicinal meditation includes pairing with specific postures, breathing patterns, and reciting mantras, and the health benefits in these practices have been such to reduce medications, doctor’s visits, and hospitalizations in people over longer periods of time.

So how do we begin? Let’s start with choosing a consistent time of day when we can pause for five or ten minutes. Maybe early in the morning, or after the kids are off to school but before errands and work begins, or maybe as soon as the house is still at night but before we settle into the final hours of the day. Pick a location that can be consistent and alone..maybe the floor of the bedroom or a corner of the sitting room, and choose to sit or lie down in this place every day around the same time.

Thanks to technology there are some truly useful guided meditation apps such as Headspace, Calm, and Simple Habit that can get us started. But even without these we can set a gentle five or ten minute alarm on our phones and begin the practice of our mind-body connection. We start by closing our eyes, lengthening our spine, and letting ourselves breathe naturally. We want to try not to force our breathing, but rather focus our mind on our every breath as we inhale and exhale to the rhythm of our bodies. Naturally our minds will wander, but gently we want to take note of where our mind is going and then guide our focus back to our breath. Feel your body relax, take notice of the way your limbs feel heavy and your breath changes and deepens with time, and continue in this place for several minutes. At the end of your given time, slowly open your eyes and return yourself to your present place and time. Feel yourself re-enter the present moment, and gently ease yourself back into your normal posture with a simple stretch or some deep breaths before you continue with your day.

It may seem simple, obscure, or mundane, but the truth is it is worth a try. The consistency of place and time of day is important, and we know that making the time is the hardest part. But here at BCIM we truly believe, along with many others in the integrative medicine and wellness community, that practicing this art of being in the moment and meditating on our mind-body connection is an investment that can have real, positive impacts on many aspects of our well-being.  

For the Love of Food

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5 Foods to Fall in Love With This Holiday Season

With the holiday season fast approaching, many of us already have anxiety creeping in about the indulgence of tasty traditions just around the corner.  But let's remind ourselves this season that food is meant to be enjoyed! And the best foods can nourish our bodies and our spirits as they bring together people we love. Here are a few holiday favorites we can enjoy in abundance and feel good about this season.

  1. Sweet Potatoes

    This classic favorite provides an array of vitamins and minerals and can be cooked a variety of ways that even the youngest family members will enjoy. A member of the root vegetable family, this superfood actually aids in regulating our blood sugar levels whilst simultaneously curbing our desire for something sweet. Packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits as well, they can be enjoyed as a snack or addition to almost any meal. Try cubing and roasting with a touch of olive oil and salt, or steaming whole and mashing with cinnamon and a bit of butter. In addition to the traditional orange we often think of, sweet potatoes also come in purple and yellow which can add a vibrant pop of color to any holiday table.

  2. Pomegranates

    These tiny seeds are not only a beautiful addition to many favorite recipes, but are packed with tons of antioxidants as well as vitamins A and C, which can aid in boosting our immune function during the cold winter months. Try coupling with sprigs of rosemary as a last minute addition to a roasted turkey or tossed into a favorite spinach salad. They can also be paired with dark chocolate or eaten on their own to satisfy a desire for dessert, as well as popped into some sparkling water for a festive beverage anyone can enjoy!

  3. Oysters

    In some parts of the country seafood is a holiday staple, and while oysters are not everyone’s go-to seafood choice, this festive shellfish is certainly worth a try. Loaded with zinc which is vital for our immune function and hormone regulation, this high-protein food can be easily made at home with very little prep. Oysters are known to contain the fullest spectrum of nutrients per each bite than almost any other food. Raw, roasted, or broiled, they are full of flavor and may need only a touch of lemon and herb or brushed with butter and garlic to reach optimal flavor and add a flare to any holiday party.

  4. Brussels Sprouts

    As a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, this holiday staple is one of the most nutrient-packed additions to any festive meal. In addition to being rich in fiber and vitamin K, these tiny cabbage-like gems also are one of the best plant sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, which have massive anti-inflammatory effects throughout our bodies. For a nutrient-packed side dish that is also festive-looking, try slicing and tossing with olive oil and salt and roasting with pomegranate seeds and pecans.

  5. Mushrooms

    Gaining in popularity, medicinal mushrooms such as shiitake or maitake have an incredible amount of health benefit in every bite. In addition to being a great source of plant-protein and full of vitamins, mushrooms provide strong immune properties to boost both our gut function and overall immune response to fighting viruses, bacteria, and even pre-cancer cells. Roasted or sauteed, they can be a great addition to almost any meal. Try seasoning with herbs and adding to a breakfast quiche, tossing in a fresh salad, or dicing and folding into any holiday stuffing.

If you would like to learn more about the healing properties of foods or to explore more ways to add a boost to your favorite recipes, you can find us at Bucks County Center for Integrative Medicine. Here we believe food is our greatest source of medicine and meant to be enjoyed in its best forms, and we are passionate about helping others strengthen their overall health and well-being.