We met at the corner of 8th Avenue and 40th Street in New York at a Dean & Deluca coffee shop. I recognized her immediately from her Facebook photo, a beautiful woman in her late 40s with long brown hair and a radiant smile. She looks like my cousins. She said I look like her sister. We had instant familiarity, even though we had only met a few weeks ago online.
Cyndi Freeman found me on the internet. Her story is similar to mine in that we both have sisters who battled breast cancer and have been told by doctors of our high risk of getting the disease in our lifetime. Cyndi lives in New York and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I just happened to be heading to New York the week after she contacted me, so I suggested we meet in person.
Cyndi and I are not just alike in our high risk of the disease, but more importantly in the path we have chosen with this knowledge. Despite being told by doctors that we should consider preventative surgeries and toxic medications, we both have decided to live our most healthy life with active surveillance. It is not an easy road when you make a decision contrary to what doctors tell you. And, unfortunately, there is not an active support group for our course of action, but rather for the recommended course. Thus, finding and supporting each other was a big deal for us.
(Note: This is not a blog about my high risk or course of action, so I won’t go into detail here about it. However, if you want to know more about my story and choices, you can read about it in my book or on my website).
Cyndi and I connected immediately and talked for the next hour with such comfort, as if we had known each other for years. Both of our lives changed from finding out about our high risk. Cyndi had been working as a comedian and actress. When she found out about her high risk, she decided to combine the two and become a burlesque dancer (her stage name is Cherry Pitz). Cyndi describes burlesque dancing as a combination between comedy and striptease; she says it is fun and artsy. She decided she wanted to celebrate her breasts. Cyndi says, “I want my boobs feeling so good about themselves that they don't want to get sick.”
When I returned home, I sent Cyndi a copy of my book since it was the tangible product of my journey and I knew she would especially relate to a few chapters that were personal to our story. Cyndi thanked me for the book and offered to make me some breast tassels in return—the tangible result of her journey!
I never even knew what a burlesque dancer was before I met Cyndi. I had to look it up on the Internet. And, I’ve certainly never thought about wearing tassels on my breasts. In the past, I would have thought “What?!” but instead, I replied , “Sure!” What other opportunity would I have to get tassels? I don’t plan to wear the tassels publicly, but why not say yes? Why not be open to and embrace all ways of life, even if it seems outside of my comfort zone or what I know.
For most of my life I have been a very private person. I don’t share a lot of what is going on in my head or heart with others. When I began writing the book, there was no mention of my story. As I got further along in the publishing process, I received feedback from early readers and agents that it was important to share my story to help people connect to me and what I was writing.
At first I felt very uncomfortable with it. I shared a little at first, became comfortable with that, and then shared more. With the publishing of the book, my story is out there. I’m out there. For someone who has been as private as I have for 40 years, it still seems surreal that I wrote a book, have a blog and website, and share myself the way I have.
What I have gotten in return from my sharing and opening is such an unexpected gift. I find myself connecting with people on a much deeper level than I ever have. I realize that as I open up to people, they open up more to me. And the connection goes so much further below the surface.
My word for this year in my 2-0-1-4 Plan is “Openness.” I chose that word because I want to continue on this journey of being open to everyone. Not judging anyone. Sharing my full, authentic, imperfect self with others and letting them share themselves with me.
Being friends with a burlesque dancer is not something that would have come my way if I had not opened myself up and shared my story. We never would have known we had common ground by the outward showing of our lives.
I’ve only just begun on this journey of connecting with people on a new level and I’m looking forward to what is to come.
Are you someone who puts your guard up or finds yourself judging others without knowing their story? If so, come walk with me on this path of opening your heart and mind and let’s see where it will take us.
Please share your questions and comments below.
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
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"Have a holly jolly Christmas." "Deck the halls with boughs of holly." "Have yourself a merry little Christmas."
The holidays are a happy time of year, right? They can be, but for many of us, they can also be bittersweet. A missed loved one can bring sadness to an otherwise joyous season.
Christmas was a big deal in the household of Dan and Carol Luczynski, my father-in-law and mother-in-law. My husband and I always had to split Christmas week between LA (my family) and Phoenix (his family), but we always made sure that our time in Phoenix included Christmas eve and Christmas day. I love the traditions we had of lighting the luminarias, sharing a meal together, piling into the van to see the neighborhood lights, opening the big pile of gifts under the tree on Christmas eve, and scratching our lottery tickets on Christmas day that were always in our stockings.
These traditions stopped over a decade ago when my mother-in-law and father-in-law died. Now we no longer make our way to Phoenix for the holidays. This past weekend I traveled to Phoenix with my husband to visit my sister-in-law and brother-in-law. These days I only get out every few years to visit. Perhaps it was the proximity to the holidays, but this visit made me nostalgic for the past.
My husband and I decided to go for a run while we were there and ran from his sister's house to his parents' old house. Just seeing that house where all of our family gatherings took place hit me at my core. I felt myself tearing up with the overwhelming feeling of loss—loss for the traditions and loss not to have Dan and Carol in our lives anymore. It's been over a decade, but in that moment, the sadness came on suddenly and caught me off-guard.
On our run, we decided to visit some old friends of my in-laws. We haven't seen them in years and keep in touch only through annual holiday cards, but I feel like they are one of the few remaining ties to Dan and Carol. They happened to be home and were (understandably) surprised by our visit. As I explained our impulse for the visit, I felt myself getting choked up and was hardly able to get the words out. It's amazing how the loss can feel so present and strong, even after so many years.
The holidays can be a difficult time for many people, whether the loss is recent or years prior. If you feel this way, be kind to yourself and acknowledge these feelings. Share your thoughts with others. Does it help to talk about your loved one and your fun holiday memories? Does it help to honor them by continuing some of the traditions? If you know someone who has recently lost a loved one, check in with them this holiday season and see how they are doing.
We often feel like we should be jolly and merry during this time of year, but it's okay if, mixed in with the merriment, there is some sadness. Just recognize it and honor it. And then try to be present (and feel the happiness) with the loved ones in your life who you are spending the holidays with.
I'd love to hear from you in the comments section below. Who are you missing this holiday time? What are your favorite holiday memories of or traditions with them?
I'm sending hugs to everyone who is feeling bittersweet this holiday season.
(above) 1999 Last Luczynski holiday together
(above right) 1991 Dan and Carol
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I've seen quite a few clients lately who are unhappy in their marriages. Based on these sessions, I've noticed recurring themes and patterns in relationships. It made me think about what it takes to have a healthy, happy marriage. Here are five ideas.
1. Recognize that relationships take work. If you start with this premise, you are less likely to be disappointed in your marriage. We have an ideal that relationships should be pure bliss at all times. If you are with someone for the long haul, it is important to understand that there will be ups and downs based on a variety of factors that can be going on for either person in the relationship. Things like job stress, parenting issues, or loss of a loved one can change the dynamics of the relationship. Don't throw in the towel just because you are going through a rough patch. This is perfectly normal. Realize the influence that an event is having on your relationship and try to work with it, rather than against it.
2. Know your triggers. This one is so important that there is an entire chapter, "Trigger Happy", devoted to it in my book, Four Quadrant Living: Making Healthy Living Your New Way of Life. What baggage are you bringing into your current relationship that comes from your past? Yesterday, I was working with a client who got so upset any time her husband talked about wanting her to work on the family budget. It has been a point of contention in their relationship for years. As we talked more about it, she realized that she was being triggered when he brought it up because of how she was raised by her father. Growing up, she had to log every amount of money she got from her dad, even money to take the bus when she was 10. Once we identified that she was being triggered, we brainstormed ways for her to change her mindset around working on the family budget.
Triggers don't just happen in our marriages, they happen with our friends, too. Just the other day, I was triggered and almost ended a special relationship. As soon as I understood what was happening and discussed it with my friend, it cleared the way to a stronger friendship.
3. Seek out others. Understand that your spouse is not likely to meet all of your needs. We are all unique and we have our own interests and desires. I see many clients who are disappointed because their spouse doesn't _______ (fill in the blank). One client was frustrated because he loves to travel but his wife doesn't. Another client was upset because her husband couldn't provide the emotional support she needed. It is important to accept this and find other ways to have your needs met so that you don't bring resentment into the relationship.
I don't love to ski. My husband does. I encourage him every ski season to get some friends together and go on a ski weekend (or two or three) without me. It makes him happy and it makes me happy (because I don't have to be in the cold and because I see how happy it makes him). If your spouse isn't as emotionally supportive as you would like, rely on your close friends to give you the support you need. If your spouse doesn't like to travel, go on a trip without them. Your relationship will be stronger if you let go of the expectation that your spouse needs to be everything for you. Do what you need to do to get your needs met in other ways with (or without) other people. If you continue to hold out hope and wait for your spouse to change, you'll likely be waiting a very long time—with mounting frustration.
4. Be equals and have a voice. I see this one a lot in my client practice. Many stay-at-home moms feel that because they are not earning money, they are not an equal contributor to the household. They feel that their husbands have more power with how the money is spent. One client recently said that she feels like she has lost her voice in the relationship. I explained to her that it takes two people to lose your voice in a relationship. I asked her to think about the role that she played in allowing this to happen. Work out an agreement about the household tasks and budget so that both parties feel like equals. Both people need to have a voice for the relationship to thrive.
5. Focus on the good, not the bad. If you find yourself being frustrated by every little thing your spouse does, remember what drew you to that person in the beginning. What was it about him or her that created the spark between you? Sometimes we get in the downward spiral of noticing every thing our spouse isn't doing to meet our needs, but instead we can try to focus on what they are doing to meet our needs. For example, a client explained how he was hurt because his wife didn't ask about a recent doctor's appointment that she knew he had. I asked him to list the ways that his wife does show that she cares. He said that she makes him his favorite meals, encourages him to have his buddy poker nights, and so on. Changing our mindset by focusing on the good instead of the bad can go a long way for a healthier, happier marriage.
As a child of a divorced family (my parents divorced when I was 3), I never understood while I was growing up why people would get divorced. As an adult, I get it. Not all relationships can and should last. We grow and change with time. My husband and I met when I was 18. We have been together for 27 years. We have been able to grow together, but I can see how sometimes people grow in separate ways that is no longer fulfilling for either party. With more life experience, I now realize that my parents lived much happier and healthier lives because they got divorced.
There has to be a fundamental connection between two people for a relationship to work—and a healthy dose of communication. There has to be respect and love; a true desire for wanting that person to be happy. My relationship has worked all of these years because my husband lets me be me. He gives me the independence I need. He has always made me feel like a partner and an equal. I fully trust that he has my best interest at heart and loves me unconditionally.
I'd love to hear from you. What are your secrets to a successful relationship? Which of the above ideas resonates most with you? Share in the comments section below.
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Last weekend, I met up with my business school friend, Kate, who I haven't seen in years. When I asked her if she would be going to our next reunion, she said only if she was in a good place in her life inside and out. When I asked her to elaborate, she said that she would go only if she was feeling good about how she looked and what she was doing with her life.
I asked her if the reunion were next month, would she go—meaning is she happy with where she is RIGHT NOW? She said she wasn't sure. She felt that everyone who would be there would have these impressive careers and she wasn't sure that she measured up. Was the measurement for success simply a prestigious sounding job? Her implied answer was "yes."
I get it. I used to feel this way. I remember "preparing" for a high school reunion I went to a few years back. Did I have cool looking business cards with a story behind all of the great things I was doing? I remember that feeling and it's not a good place to be.
Now I have my own measurement of a successful life. Success is balance, health, happiness. It is spending time with friends and family—and spending the time means having the time. It is running the trails near my house. It is playing in the yard with my husband and dog. It is having time for myself. It is exploring new places in this world. It is appreciating my life. It is helping others and having a purpose. I could go on.
When I met up with Kate, she was in town for a girls weekend with a few other friends from school. I went out with them Saturday night and then spent time with Kate the next day. When I saw her that next day, she said, "All of the girls said you were glowing. Why do you think you glow?" I thought for a moment and then replied, "Because I am living authentically!"
I feel at peace with where I am in life. I don't worry anymore what others think. When I go to my next business school reunion, I'm pretty confident I'll be the only one that is now a Healthy Living Coach. I'm okay with that. In fact, I own that. It's who I am. It's what I'm passionate about. It's how I help people. It's how I make a difference in this world. It's how I have actively chosen to create my life. In my opinion, anyone that is actively choosing their life is a success!
If your reunion was next month, would you go? If not, is it because you aren't happy with your life or because you believe others would think you had not amounted to much? If it's the former, make changes today. Live as if your reunion is next month. If it's the latter, how can you change your mindset to be proud of the life that you have chosen for yourself? How can you redefine your measurement for success to coincide with the life you are happily living?
Do you want to glow at your next reunion? If so, live authentically!
Be sure to get your free 47 page Getting Started Guide: Taking Your First Step on the 4QL Journey by signing up for our newsletter at the top right of this page. It is filled with a 4 quadrant health assessment as well as health tips for each quadrant including 5 Steps to Mindfulness, 12 Tips for Fad-Free Eating, 6 Ways to Closer Connections, and 9 Ideas to Detox Your Home.
What would you do if you were told you had an 87% chance of getting cancer?
a. fear it
b. ignore it
c. beat the odds!
When I was told this by doctors 14 years ago, I did "a" and then "b" until I decided it was time to do "c". I chose to replace the fear and denial with empowerment. I left my sexy and lucrative high-tech job and went back to school to study health. I wondered whether how I lived my life could impact how my genes expressed themselves. In learning about the science of epigenetics, I discovered that yes, how we live our life (diet, stress, relationships, environment, etc) does impact our health. Inspired by what I learned, I founded Four Quadrant Living. My mission is to inspire and inform others that we do have control over our health.
Do you worry about getting cancer, diabetes, autoimmune disease, Alzheimer's disease, or heart disease because it "runs in the family"? Do you think you have high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol because it's "in the genes"? If so, it's time to get empowered and create your new health destiny.
Yes, family history is important and it is a factor in our health—but it is by no means the only factor. It is estimated that over 30 percent of cancers and 80 percent of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes can be prevented. This means that you have the power to create health in your life! Every day you make choices that impact your health—the foods you eat, the products you use, the exercise you get, the stress you allow, the people you surround yourself with, and the environment you live in.
Scientists used to believe that it was our genotype (DNA) that determined our health. Our DNA is certainly a part of the equation, but it is not the entire equation as once believed. Now scientists believe it is our phenotype that determines our health, which is our genotype plus our environment (where environment is diet, lifestyle, emotions, stress, and so on).
This new science of epigenetics tells us that our genes are not our destiny. The word epigenetics literally means “control above genetics.” The genes by themselves do not cause disease; it is how we live our life that affects how our genes express. And this gene expression is what ultimately results in health or disease. Genes can be turned on by injuries, diet, stresses, hormones, emotions, and infections. The bottom line is that health is in our hands; it is not simply in our genes.
Knowing our genetic code is certainly important because it allows us to change our environment accordingly. We may be susceptible to a hereditary disease, but we can do something about it. For example, if you feel you are at high risk for breast cancer because of family history, there are certain foods you can eat (e.g. the brassica family of vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower contain the phytochemical sulforaphane shown to have anti-cancer properties), supplements you can take, and lifestyle changes you can make.
Similarly, if you have the celiac gene, knowing your genetic predisposition to the disease arms you with the information to remove gluten from your diet for your best chance at health. And so on. Our genotype (DNA) is important because it is a part of the equation—having knowledge about our DNA helps us take action for health. But, it is not the full equation. Our environment is also a part of the equation.
There are no guarantees in life, but by living a Four Quadrant Life you are proactively doing your best to beat the odds. For me, it's 14 years later and I'm still beating the odds.
If you have a particular health issue you are concerned about, contact Four Quadrant Living to discuss what things can be done specifically to reduce your risk. And, if you have not yet signed up for our newsletter, be sure to subscribe to get your free 47 page Getting Started Guide: Taking Your First Step on the 4QL Journey.
If you are living in fear about a certain health issue, it's time to choose empowerment instead!
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Is there something in your life that you've been trying to do but just haven't been able to get it done? Like losing those few extra pounds but just can't? Exercising more but it's not happening? Starting your own business but not getting it off the ground? Doing that new hobby but not making the time? Maybe it's time for an accountability buddy!
Accountability partners can be near or far. They can be friends or acquaintances. They can be for work, exercise, diet, fun—anything you are trying to make happen in your life but are having trouble doing on your own. For work, I've got two accountability partners. Varsha is my Monday at 1:30pm accountability partner and Kenn is my Friday at 11:30am one. Varsha lives in London and I live in California, but distance is not a barrier for us. We talk via Skype. If there is a time when we can't make it, we email our goals for the week. We are both trying to grow our own businesses (and I'm trying to get my book published) so we are helping each other stay on track with weekly tasks to move forward. Being in business for myself is great, but motivation for progress has to come from within since I am the boss. I set my own deadlines, so if I miss them, I only have to answer to myself. Varsha is a friend from graduate school and is in the health field as well, Illuminated Health, so it's helpful to have her to bounce ideas off of since she understands my business.
Kenn, on the other hand, is someone I just recently met and is not in my same field. He creates websites, Coaching Sites That Work. I met Kenn through a LinkedIn group. After a few exchanges, Kenn said he liked my vibe and wanted to know if I was interested in talking regularly to help each other stay accountable. There are benefits to having an accountability buddy where there isn't the familiarity of friendship. With Kenn, I feel a little more push to meet my deadlines. Kenn is not in my same line of work, bringing a different perspective to the conversation. I am enjoying having my two work accountability buddies that each bring something unique to our collaboration.
Kenn has been good about helping me see the value in the quick win. For example, last Friday I set my goal as, "I'm going to send my book proposal to five publishers next week." Kenn nudged me to break it down even more by identifying that day one of the publishers I would be sending it to. He then asked if I could commit to sending out one proposal on Monday. This way I would get the quick win of having taken a first step at the beginning of the week to get the momentum going rather than starting the week with the big lofty goal of five for the week. I had already identified one by the time I was off the call with him and today I know I have to send one out. These little wins help us get past the stuck spots.
For exercise, I have a few ways I stay accountable. On Thursdays, I meet with a group of women to run. We call it "RePeets" because we meet at Peet's coffee shop so that after we are done running repeats, we can enjoy a drink together. This run happens regularly every Thursday at 9am, rain or shine. There are enough people on the list so that on any given day, anywhere from two to ten women will be there. We're accountable to each other. You can set up a Facebook group to keep in touch or an email distribution list. I've created a group on Facebook for weekly Saturday trail runs I coordinate. This list has grown organically to 98 members just through word of mouth. If I stop posting runs, I'll get asked by others on the list about where the weekend run is. I have no doubt that if I didn't set up this group, I would have run half as much on the trails as I did this summer. The accountability encouraged me to make it happen. It was something I wanted to do, but I needed that push.
For diet, I've had clients who find it helpful to email me their food journal daily. Having the accountability of knowing that someone will be seeing what they ate helps them to make better choices. I have another client who uses My Fitness Pal, an online diet and fitness community, to track her food and exercise. She has friends who also use this online tool and she can see what her friends have posted and vice versa.
I mention all of these examples to emphasize the point that there are many ways to set up accountability for all areas of your life. It's about stating it publicly and putting yourself on the hook. In my recent blog post, See It. Say It. Do It., I mentioned that 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." It's about accountability and putting your goal out there. Every day I did tell someone new that I was training for a marathon and it made it more and more of a reality. It became a goal I was truly committed to.
Here are a few steps you can take to help get you started:
1. Identify the area(s) in your life that you want to move forward but have been unable to do so on your own.
2. Find an accountability partner. This can be a friend, an acquaintance, a group, or an online connection.
3. Set up regular check-in dates via phone, Skype, or email. This is a very important step to making this work.
4. Set weekly, manageable goals to help each other stay on track. (Remember to set up those quick wins too to get the momentum going).
I want to hear from you. What area(s) in your life do you need an accountability buddy and how are you going to make it happen?
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Death is an inevitable conclusion to life. We all die. Losing a loved one is heartbreaking. You can make this time easier on your family and friends by giving them one final gift—your wishes for when you die.
I know it's not an easy subject to discuss. You may even feel uncomfortable reading this blog. I thought twice about writing the blog because I know that many people do not feel comfortable discussing death. I feel strongly that it is a topic that needs to be more openly discussed. By having these discussions, we can make it a little easier for our loved ones during a difficult time.
In 2000, my father-in-law died suddenly from drowning. In 2003, my mother-in-law died in a week from pancreatic cancer. The deaths were sudden. With the death of my mother-in-law, my husband along with his brother and sister had to make funeral and memorial decisions. What kind of casket did she want? What did she want her epitaph on the headstone to be? Did she have a preference for how she wanted her memorial service? My mother-in-law already had her plot picked out, but there were still decisions to be made.
I decided that I wanted to ask my family ahead of time about their preferences if they died before me so that I didn't have to worry about making decisions during an emotional time. I am attaching a questionnaire that I created and had my family fill out. Even if you have a will (which is great!), these topics are not typically covered in it. The questionnaire is broken up into three parts: Documents, Burial or Cremation, and Memorial.
In the Document section, it covers questions about whether you have a will and Health Directive. It asks about life insurance policies and bank accounts. Have you made arrangements for your pet? In the Burial section, it asks if you want to be an organ donor and whether you want to be cremated or buried. If buried, do you want an open or closed casket? Do you have a certain outfit you want to be buried in? If cremated, where do you want your ashes scattered? The Memorial section asks about the type of celebration you want to have. Do you have certain songs you want played, is there a charity you want donations to go to, are there certain people you want notified? If there are areas where you don't have a strong preference, you can just put "no preference."
This is just a brief overview of some of the questions included. I am not an expert on these matters. I am just someone who has experienced loss and wants to make it a little easier for myself and my loved ones when death happens. I wanted to write this blog in case it could help you and your families too. Please feel free to edit the document to suit your needs. There are also resources online and software programs to help you with this process. Mortuaries typically have a booklet you can fill out as well with this type of information.
When I gave the questionnaire to my mother and sister, they both readily filled it out. My sister wants Led Zeppelin's Thank You song played during her memorial. She wants roses, orchids, and stargazer lilies. It comforts me to know that she will have the music and flowers she wants, not the ones that I want or the ones I think she wants. I know who my mom wants to conduct the funeral service and I know that she wants it to say "she lived with pizzazz" on her headstone. My dad was a little more reticent to fill out the form. He never actually did, so I asked him the questions and then documented his answers and sent it out to my family. It's about having the conversation in whatever way works for you and your family.
Some people feel that the survivors should make the decisions based on what they want because they are the ones alive and suffering the loss. For example, my husband wants to have a green burial, but the closest option is an hour away from where we live. Although this is his preference, he feels even stronger that he would want me to be happy. If I preferred to have his ashes scattered someplace I visit frequently or saved for us to be scattered together, he wants that for me.
It can get complicated to leave it up to the survivors without discussing it ahead of time in the event that they have differing opinions. Why risk creating more heartache during an already sensitive time when emotions are high and we need to support each other, not work against each other? Help your loved ones stay united by taking the guesswork out of it. By having the conversation, you can understand what aspects are most important to one another and have a joint plan that honors everyone's wishes.
Filling out the questionnaire or having a discussion about this topic is truly a special gift you can give to your loved ones. If you want to take it a step further, you can make arrangements ahead of time. My sister has prepaid for her cremation with Neptune Society. My mom has pre-paid for her plot, headstone, burial, and more with the mortuary of the memorial park she wants to be buried at. It is estimated that costs double every decade for burial services, so if you prepay, you can save money by locking in at the current rate. I am truly grateful that my mom has made all of these arrangements. It's not about the money, it's about making it easier for my sister and me when the time comes if she dies before we do. I can find comfort in knowing that where and how she is buried is just as she would have wanted it.
Some people feel comfortable talking about it and others don't. I called my mom this morning to ask her about her arrangements as I was writing this blog. She didn't miss a beat diving right into what arrangements had been made, where the documents were, what newspaper she wanted her obituary in, etc. My dad, on the other hand, doesn't seem to feel as comfortable with the topic and does not have any arrangements made. He said that making these arrangements is something he wants to do, but he finds it to be an unpleasant topic. He doesn't want to think about dying. My mom's boyfriend feels the same way. He hasn't done a will because he says, "I can't think about not being here."
I don't want to think about not being here either, but I love my family and I want to make it as easy as possible for them when I die. And, selfishly, I want them to make it as easy as possible for me when they die. Maybe it's because I love them so much and I know how devastated I will be when they die. I'm trying to help myself.
Death is a part of life whether we like it or not. Even if discussing it is something you don't entirely feel comfortable with, do it for your loved ones. It doesn't have to be something that you dwell on. You can do it now and then revisit it every five to ten years. By addressing the topic, it doesn't mean that you are saying you will be dying any time soon, it just means you recognize that you will die eventually. Personally, I think having my family tell me their final wishes is the greatest gift they could ever give me.
What are your final wishes and have you shared them with your loved ones?
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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.
- Environment Topics - reduce, reuse, recycle, stop catalogs, clean green, properly dispose of toxic waste, use less energy and water, walk or bike instead, say no to plastic, save lives (adopt & spay), travel lightly, simply be (in nature)
- Plastic At Home, Really? - say no to plastic, use cloth instead of paper napkins, be creative with gift wrap, print on both sides
- Shoeless Sanctuary - leave shoes at the door, clean green, avoid non-stick cookware, remodel green, set bugs free, get an air cleaner, garden organically
- Don't Judge A Weed - garden organically
- Free Space, Free Mind - remove clutter (a decluttered environment makes for a decluttered mind)
- Frying the Birds - be kind to wildlife
- My Love Affair with a Mountain, Peace by Nature - find solace (and health) in nature
What changes can you make in the Environment quadrant to promote your overall health?