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Wednesday, 15 January 2014 09:08

Cough-Curing Yoga

I've never much been into yoga. I know it can be good for your health, but it's never been something I've been passionate about. Yes, I've dabbled in and out of it to try to understand what people love about it, but it's just never been my thing.

I can see how it would be good for flexibility, strengthening, toning, and stretching. It can also supposedly be relaxing as you follow your breath. I've never mastered inhaling and exhaling comfortably while flowing in and out of the yoga poses. I find myself having to take two inhale/exhale cycles to every one that I'm instructed to have. It's also supposed to be meditative, but if I'm going to meditate, I'd rather be sitting still and not working so hard getting in and out of poses. Many people say it's even spiritual for them. I have a friend who said it helped her get through the loss of her husband. I don't yet see how that happens.

There are so many different types of yoga: Bikram, Yin (or Deep), Hatha, Iyengar, Kundalini, and Power, to name a few. I've tried Bikram from a Groupon offer. After the first few times, I had zero desire to finish the remaining classes. There are way too many people crowded into a very small, hot (105+ degrees!) space with a lot of flinging sweat and sweat pools in too-near proximity for my taste. It's also the same routine every time, and I like variety. For me, Bikram is just not a lot of fun and I'm all about doing things that are fun!

I've also tried Yin Yoga which is my favorite. With this style yoga, you hold one position for 3-5 minutes and use a lot of equipment (bolsters, sand bags) to deepen the stretch. It feels calming and restorative. I went to this class somewhat regularly, but unfortunately it was cancelled, so now I don't do any yoga.

I do have a few yoga DVDs at home that I've bought over the years trying to get into a practice. This week my husband and I are on vacation in Hawaii and he decided to bring one of our DVDs to try to do it every morning. He has even less of a practice than I do, but he thought perhaps we'd have more success doing it without the time demands we have at home. Personally, I'd rather just get up and run in the morning, but my husband wanted us to do yoga first and then run. He thinks it helps his runs because it loosens him up. As much as I'd be fine not doing it, I hate to miss out on anything, so I've been doing the yoga with him.

While I've been on vacation (and a few days before we left), I've been a little under the weather. I've had a hoarse voice and nagging cough that flares up at night. I don't feel sick (maybe just a little more tired than usual), but my voice was practically non-existent for a few days and every night my cough has been waking me up around 2am. I have to get up for an hour (it seemed better if I was upright) and take a few lozenges before trying to go back to sleep.

Yesterday morning, my husband decides to play a different yoga routine than we've been doing. Midway through, I am doing a certain pose and I begin to cough uncontrollably. I'm not sure what the position is called that causes this attack. For those in the know, you might be able to understand if I describe it.

I started in Warrior pose (a lunge with my left leg forward and my left arm out in front and right one in back). I then twist to the right, put my left arm to the ground, and my right arm high in the air (see photo). During the session, but particularly in this position, It was hard for me to breathe because of the congestion in my chest. I'm trying to do the inhale and exhale as instructed but I can't get enough air in to last long enough.

I'm coughing so bad that I have to get out of my pose and run to get a lozenge. I'm wondering what the heck is this yoga doing to me—it's making me worse! At this point, I have the sudden need to grab a tissue because my nose is running. After about a minute of bodily mayhem, the episode is done and I head back to the yoga video.

Fast forward a few hours later and I realize that my voice is no longer hoarse. I feel like I have more energy. My throat feels clear. The true test, I know, will be nighttime.

Well, it's morning now and I did not have one cough through the night. Considering how bad my cough has been for the past few nights, this is a big deal and feels quite miraculous. I feel completely well. I am absolutely convinced that there was something about that yoga pose (and possibly the flow leading up to it) that cured me. I don't know how it happened physiologically, but it happened.

My husband is still sleeping now, but as soon as he wakes up, I'm ready to put in the DVD and see what other health benefits I can get from this thing called yoga. I will definitely be turning to yoga rather than throat lozenges the next time I have a cough!

Many of my friends, clients, and Four Quadrant Living readers are strong advocates and practicers of yoga. I'd love to hear from you. Do you have a yoga practice? What motivates you to do yoga? What is your favorite style of yoga? How regularly do you practice? What health benefits does it give you? Chime in below and help this new yoga believer see what's possible.

Please share your comments and questions below.


Update: I have heard from several people on what pose I was doing when the coughing fit happened. They say it was Utthita Parsvakonasana (extended side angle pose).

________

Dina Colman, MA, MBA is an author, healthy living coach, and founder of Four Quadrant Living. Dina has a private practice helping clients live healthier and happier lives. Her Amazon Top 100 book, Four Quadrant Living: Making Healthy Living Your New Way of Life, guides readers to make healthy living a part of their daily lives, leading to greater health, vitality, and happiness. Contact Dina at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Published in Body Blog

Here are some great easy-to-buy (forget shopping in the mall!) and healthy-to-receive (forget the food baskets!) gift ideas. These are great ideas for you or your loved ones. Give the gift of an experience—a week of fitness in the great outdoors, a relaxing massage or body scrub, a month of yoga or pilates classes, a session of health coaching, and more. The businesses highlighted below are partners of Four Quadrant Living and are offering special discounts to you.

FOR THOSE LOCAL TO THE SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA

1. Fitness. Give the gift of fitness to yourself or a loved one. Gumsaba Boot Camp was voted Best of the San Francisco East Bay by Diablo Magazine in 2012. Mention Four Quadrant Living and get $20 off the first month by typing in "2013FQL" into the promo field on the Gumsaba website. Gumsaba Boot Camp has classes for women, men, and co-ed. Classes are held in Danville, Walnut Creek, and Moraga and run Monday through Saturday.


2. Pampering. Jolie Salon & Spa in Danville, CA was voted Best Massage, Best Day Spa, and Best Salon for Men and Women by Danville Express Reader's Choice in 2012. Mention Four Quadrant Living and get 10% off of any service (or gift certificate). Jolie Salon & Spa is a full service salon. You or your loved one can use the certificate for a hair cut, massage, body scrub, facial, and more. 


3. Centering & Toning. Indigo Pilates & Yoga Studio in Pleasant Hill, CA offers a wide selection of classes, services, and community events. These offerings are centered around one common theme: healing inside and out. Mention Four Quadrant Living and get 10% off of the first purchase of any class or package. Indigo Studio offers a wide variety of yoga classes including hatha, kundalini, affirmation, and prenatal. They also offer pilates reformer and mat flow classes.

FOR THOSE LOCAL OR NOT LOCAL TO THE SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA



4. Health coaching. I offer health coaching and nutritional consultation gift certificates to give to your friends and family members (phone sessions available if not local). Special holiday offer comes with a free, signed copy of my Amazon top selling book, Four Quadrant Living: Making Healthy Living Your New Way of Life. Click here to learn more about my services. Contact me for details.


5. Healthy living. Give a signed copy of my book with a personalized message. Special holiday offer: the book can be wrapped and shipped directly to the gift recipient or can be sent directly to you. $18 includes book, signing, tax, holiday wrapping, and shipping! This has been a popular offer and it has been fun to fill your requests. Order here by December 17.

 

If you are feeling stressed this holiday season, here are a few past blogs which give some ideas for keeping the holiday season simpler and less stressful.

7 Ideas for a Less Stressful Holiday Season

Not Overeating This Holiday Season

Stop the Holiday Madness


What are your ideas for lowering your stress during the holidays? What other easy-to-get, healthy-to-receive gift ideas do you have?

_________

Dina Colman, MA, MBA is an author, healthy living coach, and founder of Four Quadrant Living. Dina has a private practice helping clients live healthier and happier lives. Her Amazon Top 100 book, Four Quadrant Living: Making Healthy Living Your New Way of Life, guides readers to make healthy living a part of their daily lives, leading to greater health, vitality, and happiness. Contact Dina at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Published in Mind Blog
Wednesday, 13 November 2013 00:00

Are You Having Enough of the "F" Word?

Paying bills, shuttling kids, working, cleaning, cooking, organizing... the list of "to-dos" goes on. Too often, it gets in the way of the "F" word. FUN!

I remember a chapter in Richard Carlson's Don't Sweat the Small Stuff... and It's All Small Stuff" that said, “Remind yourself that when you die, your ‘in-basket’ won’t be empty.” I think of this often when I'm saying too much "no" to the fun in my life because of the full in-basket.

Last month, we did the 4QL July Plank Party (Body quadrant) and had great success with it! We had dozens of people chiming in on our facebook page about their strengthening core. It was fun to see the photos people posted of themselves planking at work and at home.

This month we are nourishing the Mind quadrant with the 4QL August One-Fun-Thing-A-Day Party. Do one fun thing for yourself every day. Some days you might indulge in a few hours of fun and other days it may just be a few minutes. Sometimes it might be by yourself and other times with your family and friends. Try to make it happen. It's good for your health.

When my mom got the email with the subject line about the Plank Party, she told me she was excited because she thought the email was going to be filled with cedar plank bbq recipes. I can only imagine what she thought when she saw the subject line of this email!

For me, I know this month will be filled with bike rides on my cruiser, playing with my dog and snuggling with my cat, trail running with friends, "free" reading, going on vacation with my husband... What fun will your month be filled with?

Does this sound like a challenge for you or do you already make enough time for fun? Comment below!

Be sure to forward this on to your friends and family who you think need more fun in their lives!

 

Be sure to get your free eBook to find out how you are doing in each of the four quadrants, plus get practical tips including 5 Steps to Mindfulness, 12 Tips for Fad-Free Eating, 6 Ways to Closer Connections, and 9 Ideas to Detox Your Home. Sign up in the box at the upper right of this page.

 ________

Dina Colman, MA, MBA is an author, healthy living coach, and founder of Four Quadrant Living. Dina has a private practice helping clients live healthier and happier lives. Her book, Four Quadrant Living: Making Healthy Living Your New Way of Life, guides readers to make healthy living a part of their daily lives, leading to greater health, vitality, and happiness. Contact Dina at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Dina Colman

Published in Mind Blog
Tuesday, 16 October 2012 08:35

Say it. See it. Do it.

My friend, Darren, hiked up 4,800 feet powered by his mind. His body followed. He said that he would do it. He saw in his mind that he could do it. And then he actually did it.

A few weeks ago, I went to Yosemite with a few friends to hike up Half Dome. There were six of us in the group. Four of us had hiked Half Dome in years past, so we didn't think twice about being able to do it. The four of us are marathon runners so we know how to push our body, manage our fuel, and gauge our ability. One of the two people who had not previously climbed the mountain is an avid cyclist who rides for hours most days of the week, so we weren't worried about him being able to reach the top either. And then there was Darren. Darren was the motivator for the trip, but he is not a marathoner and he doesn't cycle for hours at a time. When he began training for the hike, he was a little overweight. He hoped the training would help him lose some weight, making it easier to get up the mountain.

Darren lives an hour from the rest of us, so much of his training was done on his own. He did complete 15 mile training hikes, but these were mostly on flat terrain. On the few training hikes we did as a group, any time we started to climb hills, Darren didn't feel well. He was nauseous and out of breath. Some of Darren's family members expressed concern about him being able to make it to the top.

Hiking to the top of Half Dome is eight miles one-way with 4,800 feet elevation gain. Once you get to the top, you have to have enough energy to make your way back down another eight miles—no easy feat on tired legs. We started our hike at 4:30 in the morning, outfitted with headlamps to see our way in the dark for the first few hours. It's important to leave early enough to make it to the cables before the crowds show up, and to make it down before dark.

By mile one, Darren was already not doing well. By mile two, he was making himself throw up his breakfast because he felt nauseous. As the miles passed, Darren lagged further and further behind. We waited for him at various points along the way. We found ourselves doubting whether he could make it to the top (and back down again). Darren couldn't eat any food because whenever he did, he felt nauseous. This was certainly a concern for a full day's journey where fueling the body was critical. At many points along the way, we checked in with Darren to make sure he understood that even if he thought he had a few more miles in him, those miles should be used to make his way down.

Around mile six, we were getting tired ourselves. Although we knew we could make it to the top, it was still a physical challenge for us as well. If Darren wasn't going to make it to the top, it made sense for us to move a little faster so that we could make it up and down the mountain before dark. Darren said that he wasn't ready to give up and turn around just yet but for us to go ahead. Our plan was to get to the top and meet him on his way down. So up we went.

As the five of us hiked what is called "subdome," we knew there was no way that Darren could do this part. First of all, we doubted he would even make it to subdome, and second of all, if he did make it to the base of subdome, he wouldn't be able to hike up it. It was rocky and extremely steep. Once you get through subdome, you still have to climb up to the top of the mountain via cables. Many people who make it all the way to the top of subdome, stay at the bottom of the cables—unable to complete this final segment to get to the top. Imagine 400 feet of vertical rock with cables to hold on to with each hand (you are not tethered in). If you fall off the cables, you'll likely fall to your death. It's certainly understandable why some people choose to wait at the bottom of the cables for others in their party to make that final ascent. 

We left voicemails and texts telling Darren that it was harder than we remembered. We advised that he turn around wherever he was. We would catch up to him on the journey down. Cell coverage was spotty so we were never able to get in touch with him live to see if he got our messages. After about 40 minutes enjoying the top of the mountain, we decided it was time to make the journey back down. Just as we started down the cables, we were positively amazed at what we saw. Darren was climbing up the cables. I have chills just recreating this in my mind. Physically, there is no logical way that Darren should have been able to make it to the top that day. He did it mentally and his body followed. He had such drive to make it to the top that there was no other option for the day.

When Darren got to the top, it was an emotional moment. I know this moment. I felt it when I ran my first marathon. At the time I started training for my first marathon, I wasn't a runner. For me, running 26.2 miles was an unachievable goal. I couldn't run one mile, how could I possibly run 26? But I did. I trained for five months and I ran a marathon. When I crossed the finish line, I realized that I could do anything I set my mind to. I'm guessing that in that moment, Darren felt the same way. Give yourself the gift of this kind of moment—when you have pushed yourself mentally and physically beyond your imagination. It's an amazing feeling that stays with you and inspires you for life.

On the top of the mountain, Darren shared with us that someone at his office had recently tried to climb Half Dome and had been unable to. This co-worker told Darren he had to do it as the representative of the company! The co-worker told many people about Darren's endeavor, so in the weeks leading up to the hike, Darren had people asking him about it and cheering him on. The day before the hike, Darren bought an "I climbed Half Dome" shirt. One of the other people in our group said he'd never buy the shirt before the hike. I think it's absolutely essential to buy the shirt beforehand! State your intention. Put your goal out there. Visualize getting it done. And then complete your goal. Say it. See it. Do it.

When I was training for my first marathon seven years ago, I read The Non-Runner's Marathon Trainer and it said to tell one new person every day that "I am a marathoner." I love this idea. Every day I did tell someone new that I was training for a marathon. To this day, every time I go to the dentist, he asks about my marathon running because he happened to be one of the people I told along the way.

Darren inspired me that day. Even as he stumbled his way down to the bottom, tired and undernourished, he kept his positive attitude. I wanted Darren to make it to the top that day, but honestly, I really didn't think it was physically possible for him that day. He had no food in him, he was hurting from the first mile, and he had no successful hilly training hikes. But what I underestimated was Darren's mental strength. His mental fortitude made up for what I thought was physically impossible for him that day. Thank you, Darren, for the reminder of the power of the mind.

It doesn't matter what your goal is. Say it. See it. And by see it, I mean really visualize yourself accomplishing the goal. And then, just do it. Be athletic. Push yourself to places you never thought you could go.

Post in the comment section at the bottom of this blog and let us be the person you tell today about your goal. It doesn't have to be running a marathon or hiking up Half Dome. Whatever is physically and mentally challenging for you is a great feat. It's all about what is the personal challenge for each of us based on where we are at in our lives. I look forward to hearing your goal!

Darren at the top of Half Dome, September 2012

_________

Dina Colman, MA, MBA is an author, healthy living coach, and founder of Four Quadrant Living. Dina has a private practice helping clients live healthier and happier lives. Her book, Four Quadrant Living: Making Healthy Living Your New Way of Life, guides readers to make healthy living a part of their daily lives, leading to greater health, vitality, and happiness. Contact Dina at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Published in Mind Blog
Monday, 01 October 2012 11:25

Free Space, Free Mind

Is your garage so full that you can't park your car in it? Are there piles of papers in your office that prevent you from finding what you need? Do you have magazines from five years ago? Do you keep every gift, even if you don’t like it? Is your closet filled with clothes that haven't been worn in years? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, then perhaps it's time for some spring cleaning, even if it’s not springtime. Creating space in your physical environment can improve your mental health. A cluttered environment makes for a cluttered mind.

Because our indoor surroundings are as important as our outdoor one for our health, it is important to create an indoor environment that promotes health. When you have free space, you make way for a free mind. Think about where you feel most relaxed. Often, it is in an environment that is clean, tidy, and open. Why not create this type of environment where you spend so much of your time—at home.

Those who know me would say that I keep a pretty clean house. I have very little clutter. For the amount of new stuff that comes into my house, an equal amount or more makes its way out of my house. For me, the act of getting rid of clutter is very therapeutic. I still laugh at my aunt's comment when she first visited my house, asking, "Where's all of your stuff?"

Here are a few ideas for creating some free space in various parts of your home.

  • Bedroom. Probably the most cluttered place in your bedroom is your closet. Do you wear all of the clothes in your closet? One idea for managing your closet is to place all of your hangers the same way on a certain date. From that date forward, every time you take an item out, return it with the hanger facing the other way. At the end of the year, toss the items that are still facing the original way since it means you haven't worn the item for the entire year.
  • Kitchen. Be honest. Do you really need the novelty, once-a-year gadgets that are crowding out your kitchen drawers and cupboards? How often do you use the ice cream maker, pizza stone, bread maker, pasta maker, and heart-shaped cookie cutter? Even for the items you do use, how many cookie sheets, spatulas, and serving dishes do you really need? Keep the ones you use the most, donate the rest. And, while you are decluttering your kitchen, you might want to check out the expiration dates on the food items in your refrigerator and pantry. Those items often have a tendency to hang on a few years longer than they should.

  • Bathroom. How many different kinds of hair products have you bought from your hair stylist only to find them piling up on your vanity? How about makeup? Go through the stash and get rid of the beauty products that you know you aren’t going to use, even if they are practically new. You can always find a good second home for them. Many of the items may have reached their expiration, so it might be time to toss them. Beauty products often don’t have expiration dates on them, but here are some general guidelines on how long these items last:
    • Mascara - 3 to 6 months
    • Eye liner - 3 months (liquid) or 2 years (pencil)
    • Lipstick - 2 years
    • Eye shadow - 6 months (cream) to 2 years (powder)
    • Foundation and concealer - 6 to 12 months
    • Powder - 6 months to 2 years
    • Cleanser and moisturizer - 1 year
    • Sunscreen - 1 year

Keep in mind that natural beauty and skincare products spoil faster because they use less harmful preservatives. The best way to know if the product is expired is to watch for changes in smell, color, and consistency.

  • Office. Are your desk and drawers overflowing with papers? If so, take some time to sort through the pile and put some organization to them. Recycle what you don’t need, file what you can, and keep out those that require action. On an ongoing basis, try to keep up with where the papers belong before letting them stack up on the desk. To limit paper management altogether, think twice about printing documents that can be stored online. Just be sure to have an organized “filing” system online for easy retrieval. Also, consider signing up for paperless statements for your bills.

  • Garage. If you can’t fit your car in the garage, it’s time for some cleaning. What is in all of those boxes stored in the garage? Do they go years without being opened and do you even remember what is in them? Go through the boxes and mark today’s date (or the date you store a box, moving forward). If you don't open the box for a couple of years, consider donating the contents.

Top clutter offenders that might exist in various parts of the house include the following:

  • Magazines. If you have over six month’s worth of unread magazines, it’s time to consider canceling the subscription and re-subscribing once you have caught up. If you save read magazines, think about the last time you referred to them. I used to save my Runner’s World magazines. I had three years worth of magazines, but I never went back to reference them. I’ve since recycled these magazines. Now, I tear out interesting articles that I want to keep instead of the whole magazine. There is so much information available online these days, that even if I throw out an article I decide I want to re-read, I can always just look it up at a later date.

  • Newspapers. I don’t know about you, but when I got the daily newspaper, I couldn’t keep up with it. It felt like a to-do to read it every day. It typically went straight to the recycle bin without being read. I don’t get one anymore. I know many people who can’t live without their daily paper. If this is you, by all means, keep getting it (and feel free to skip to the next bullet point). But, if you are like my sister-in-law who had several feet of unread newspapers stacked up, consider making a change. Perhaps you can get your news online or request the printed version on weekends only?

  • Gifts. Sometimes you get a gift and you just know that you aren’t going to use it or you really don’t like it. Bypass the clutter stage and immediately put it in the re-gift pile or give it away. Don’t let the gift take up residence in your home.

Some of your discarded items from the cleaning above will head to the trash and some will make it to the recycle bin, but many will still have life left in them and can be a treasure for someone else. Be sure to find a good home for them. It doesn’t have to take up a lot of your time. If you think you can sell the item, try selling it on Craigslist or eBay. If it’s not something you can sell, think about giving it to a non-profit organization. We have regular pickups at our house by various organizations, so I just have a designated spot in my garage for unwanted items and I put them out on scheduled days. If you don’t have this in your neighborhood, oftentimes you can call these organizations and they will do a special pickup.

Another option is to give the items away through Freecycle.org. Freecycle is a grassroots, nonprofit organization that connects people to give stuff for free in an effort to keep reusable items out of the landfills. They have over nine million members around the world. Membership is free. I have given many items away on Freecycle. Just the other day, I had a printer that worked haphazardly. I posted it and within two hours I was meeting a mom and her son at a nearby store to give it to them. Of course, it works both ways. I have also gotten a few things as well. When I was looking for some People magazines for some leisure reading on a trip to Hawaii and some word magnets for a homemade gift I was making for my dad, I posted my request on Freecycle and got what I wanted—for free! How often does that happen?

Sometimes I feel like I’m busting from the seams in a certain part of the house and think that I just need one more drawer (closet or room, depending on the severity of the overflow). Whenever this happens, if I take the time to declutter, I find that there are a lot of items I no longer need. It just takes bringing a fresh perspective to the area and really thinking about whether or not I need the items. Invariably, I find myself with extra room and no need for more space after all.d.

Although the task of decluttering may seem overwhelming, just do a little at a time. As you go, ask yourself the following three questions to help shed some light on what should stay and what should go.

  1. Have I used it in the past year? If the answer is no, seriously consider donating it.
  2. What am I keeping this for? I have a friend who hates to part with anything anyone gave her. Can you keep a few of the sentimental items and donate the rest? She also has clothes from decades ago like a red leather dress that she admits she will never wear again. Why are items like this still in our closet?
  3. Do I need it? How much stuff do we really need? Sometimes moving out of accumulation autopilot and bringing a fresh perspective helps us in the decluttering process.

What can you declutter in your physical environment to help declutter your mind?

__________

Dina Colman, MA, MBA, is a healthy living coach and writer. She has her Master’s degree in Holistic Health Education from John F. Kennedy University and her MBA from Kellogg at Northwestern University. She founded Four Quadrant Living—a simpler, natural, more fun way to a healthier, happier, and energetic life. Four Quadrant Living provides information and motivation for healthy living through nourishment of the four quadrants of our lives—Mind, Body, Relationships, and Environment. Dina has a private practice, working with clients to help them create health in their lives by eating well, finding the fun in exercise, reducing stress, managing relationships, and creating a healthy environment. Dina is also writing a book about healthy living that will be published later this year. Contact Dina at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Published in Environment Blog
Tuesday, 07 February 2012 10:47

Belle of the Ball

Sometimes I feel like the Environment quadrant is the ugly stepchild of the four quadrants. When I'm talking about the four quadrants, people seem the least interested in the Environment in the context of health. It's not as much in our awareness when we think of healthy living. Each week, I blog about one of the four quadrants so that each one is covered in a month. This week, it's time to feature the Environment. Rather than focus on something specific related to the environment like I usually do, this blog is about giving a general shout-out to it and bringing it into the spotlight. Today, the Environment is the belle of the ball.

Of the four quadrants, the environment is the one that people think least relates to their own health. There is a lot of focus on the Body quadrant as it relates to health—nutrition, exercise, sleep. There is a fair amount of focus on the Mind quadrant and its connection to health in the form of stress management. Although we may not think about Relationships in terms of our connection to health, we get it. When we spend time with toxic people, we don't feel good. In contrast, the Environment is seen as somehow separate from us. It is viewed as external rather than internal. But the truth is, we are intimately connected to our environment. If we keep the environment healthy, we keep ourselves healthy.

According to the World Health Organization, 25% of health problems are caused by environmental factors. Toxins in the environment have been linked to numerous diseases and health conditions, including asthma, allergies, premature birth, learning disabilities, early puberty, diabetes, reduced fertility, and even many cancers.

Environmental factors that affect our health can be found everywhere—both indoors and outdoors, as well as at work and at home. We ingest the toxins in many ways—through our skin, nose, mouth, and ears. This includes polluted air and water, excessive noise, radiation, hazardous wastes, chemical-filled cleaning products, pesticides, and food and food container contaminants. Some we have control over and some we don’t, but the idea is to lower our toxic load where we can— to do our best to make our environment healthy so that we can be healthy.

According to the Federation of State Public Interest Research Groups, scientists have found more than 100 potentially dangerous industrial chemicals and pollutants in the body of the average American. Read that sentence again. That's scary. Many of the chemicals used in products are introduced into our society and are only later realized to be harmful to our health. Unintentionally, we are the guinea pigs for these chemicals, and the price is high. For example, DDT and PCBs, once used abundantly, were banned in the 1970s when it was recognized how harmful they were. What chemical that is commonly used today will we find out in the future is actually toxic to our health?

I think about the Environment quadrant in connection with health in a variety of contexts. For example, I think about it in terms of cleaning up my personal environment which includes using green cleaning products in my home, using air purifiers to clean the air, removing shoes to keep toxins out, and gardening organically to keep chemicals out of my yard. I also think about it in terms of cleaning up the larger environment which includes reducing my use of plastic bottles, carrying my own reusable shopping bags, stopping catalogs, being kind to wildlife, and using less energy. In addition to greening my personal and expanded environments, I also think about the Environment in terms of the solace and peace it provides me. Creating my home as a safe and clean sanctuary is not only good for my physical health, but also my mental health. Being out in nature is also good for my health. Studies show that even just five minutes of exercising outdoors can be beneficial to us—increasing our self-esteem, improving mood, and decreasing anxiety. There are many ways that our health is intertwined with our environment.

if you are ready to dance with the belle of the ball instead of ignoring the ugly stepchild, here are some ideas from past blogs and the Four Quadrant Living website to help you create an environment that can promote your health. You can just read through the list as a reminder or click on the links if you want more detail.

What changes can you make in the Environment quadrant to promote your overall health?
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Dina Colman, MA, MBA is an author, healthy living coach, and founder of Four Quadrant Living. Dina has a private practice helping clients live healthier and happier lives. Her book, Four Quadrant Living: Making Healthy Living Your New Way of Life, guides readers to make healthy living a part of their daily lives, leading to greater health, vitality, and happiness. Contact Dina at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Published Articles

Green Exercise: Good for the Sole and Soul
Natural Awakenings, March 2011

Sustainable Danville Area: Find Your People
Danville Today News, February 2012 (Page 6)

Are Genetically Modified Foods Making Your Child Sick?
Active Kids, June 2012 (Page 23)