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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
Wednesday, 20 March 2013 13:56

The *Real* Secret to Weight Loss!

I was hoping the title would get your attention. Every one is looking for the secret to weight loss. I have seen many clients who say they have tried every weight loss plan out there, but the weight just keeps coming back. This blog is about the secret to long-term weight loss. It is about creating a new way of living—for life. It's about resisting the temptation of the grand promises of the latest shake, supplement, pill, plan, or product to lose weight. Those may work in the short-term, but invariably the pounds find their way back. And, they aren't healthy!

Just a few weeks ago, I had a client ask me what I thought about Sensa. She said she had heard about it on TV. I didn't know of it, but when I looked it up, I found out that it is a substance that you sprinkle on your food. It supposedly works based on the process and trigger of eating and feeling full. When we eat, smell and taste receptors send messages that tell our body it's time to stop eating. Sensa claims to enhance smell, thus speeding up the process which triggers the "I feel full" signal so that you "eat less and feel more satisfied."

Recently, I have heard about Body by Vi as one of the latest ways to lose weight. They want you to replace two meals with their shakes. Check out the list of ingredients in the Body by Vi shakes. Do you recognize any of the ingredients as real food? This may help you take the weight off, but it certainly isn't giving you the tools to keep it off which brings you back to the yo-yo dieting. And, if you really want to be healthy, don't you want to be filling your body with real food!?

My favorite quote from a client this week was when she said, "I'm not a fake human, so why am I feeding myself fake food?" This was after I had showed her the list of ingredients in the Medifast bar she was eating. Now she eats a bar whose ingredients consist only of nuts and fruits.

So, now the moment you have been waiting for... What is the secret to weight loss?

The secret to weight loss is simple. Eat real food. Exercise more. Reduce stress.

I know, you've heard it before, right? But, given all of the posts I have seen recently on Facebook and clients I have been working with, somehow Sensa, Body by Vi, and Medifast are winning. Our bodies are losing with these methods, but it's not weight that we are losing, it's health.

The key to success is to commit to it. Take the guesswork out of it by just committing to this new way of life. Deciding whether or not to eat that cupcake is no longer a difficult decision because you have already made that choice in your head not to. Now you are just playing it out throughout the day. Another key to success is to engage others—whether that be a health coach, family member, or friend. Tell others what you are doing and let them keep you accountable. Sign up with My Fitness Pal and track your food for a week or two to see exactly what you are eating and how it measures up. It's not about counting calories, it's about tracking your food to help you stay accountable and see the choices you are making in a day.

It does work! I've seen it over time with my clients. Not only do they lose weight with this plan, but they are also happier and more energetic than they were before. They start to feel so good about themselves, that the temptations no longer have power because this new feeling of health now wins out.

Eat real food

For those with only a few pounds to lose:
If you are currently eating packaged, processed, and fast foods, making the switch to real food will lead to weight loss. Eat lean meats and eggs, load up on the veggies (for weight loss and health, you just can't get enough of this food group!), snack on a few nuts, enjoy fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth, and eat healthy fats (like avocados, coconut). Avoid sugar, alcohol, soy, caffeine, and dairy. Eat limited healthy grains like brown rice and quinoa.

For those who have more than a few pounds to lose:
You will benefit from removing all grains and legumes from your diet (commit to 30 days and go from there). Grains include wheat (breads, pasta), rye, oats, corn, rice, sprouted grains, and quinoa. Legumes include beans, lentils, and peanuts. Sweet potatoes and spaghetti squash are good substitutes for your typical "starch" in the meal because of their texture and substance. It's about eliminating the inflammatory, allergenic, unhealthy foods from your diet.

I do recommend shakes—shakes that have real food, not that just consist of a packaged powder and water.

Here is my daily shake:
2/3 coconut water
1/3 coconut milk
1/2 cup blueberries
generous handful of spinach or kale
healthy shake powder with vitamins, probiotics, and detoxifying nutrients
other additions: fish oil, chia seeds, flax seeds

Of course there are many variations on healthy shakes with numerous recipes available on the internet. Be creative with the fruits and vegetables you add to your shake, like celery or avocado.

For a good summary on eating well, check out Eat This Way.


The more calories you burn (while eating well), the more weight you lose. Here are a few ideas. For more detail, read my blog Movement by Gypsy

  • Change your framework. A standard theme I have found with my clients is the guilt that comes with the “should” of exercising. Leave behind the “should” and find your “want.” Think of “exercise” as movement that brings you joy, not as an obligation that hangs over your head.
  • Think outside the box. Jumping rope is good cardio and reminds us of our childhood days. How about a game of hopscotch, Frisbee, or basketball with the kids? Or turning on the stereo and dancing around to your favorite tunes? The point is, be creative. If it gets you moving, it counts as exercise.
  • Think inside the box. Some people like the gym. If you are one of them, that’s great. You don’t need to be creative like the rest of us to get exercise into our lives. Keep it up! For those of us who need a little nudge to get to the gym, think about how to make it more enticing. Can you go at a certain time to watch a show you like? Download some new tunes that are reserved just for your gym workouts? Meet a friend? Try a new class?
  • Talk and walk. Instead of meeting your friends for coffee or lunch, meet them for a walk. You save money and you get some exercise. You’ll spend so much time gabbing, you’ll forget your legs are doing a lot of walking.
  • Do it with a group. It is easier to cancel out on yourself than someone else.
  • Count your steps. Wearing a pedometer can make walking fun and motivating. Set a goal of at least 7,000 steps a day..
  • Keep moving. Try to make movement part of your daily life rather than something you do at a certain time of day that counts as “exercise.” For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator, park in a far spot at the grocery store, or do your own gardening.

Reduce Stress

Many people may not realize this, but stress absolutely can play a role in weight gain for hormonal and psychological reasons. On the hormonal side, when we are stressed, we release hormones like cortisol which serve us well in periods of stress (it makes us alert and ready). Cortisol stimulates fat and carbohydrate metabolism for fast energy. This leads to an increase in appetite. An increase in appetite means we eat more and we weight more.

On the psychological side, eating is often tied to our emotions. When we feel stressed (or tired, angry, etc), we often turn to food for comfort. The more mindful we become about our eating (and the reasons we are reaching for the unhealthy food), the better chance for success we have in the long term.

You can do it!

If you want to really lose weight for good, don't buy into these expensive, do-it-quick schemes. Yes, it may take a little more work than adding water to a faux-food shake mix, but have fun with it. Get the family involved in meal planning. Ask friends to sign up for an upcoming 5K with you. Take a class on meditation. 

There is a lot of content on the Four Quadrant Living website about living a healthy life, so take some time to explore it and vow to make a change today. It may take time to change your body, but it takes a split second to change your mind. If you have been wanting to eat healthier or exercise more, change your mind about it today. The results in your body will follow.

I'd love to hear from you, so chime in below. What is your favorite healthy shake or meal? What is the form of exercise that brings you joy? What are your best ways for reducing stress? How do you involve your friends and family in your healthy living? 


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.


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.


Published in Body Blog
Monday, 31 December 2012 08:54

The 2-0-1-3 Plan

Less than half of Americans make resolutions and just eight percent of them are successful in keeping them. That's why this year it's time to try something new, the 2-0-1-3 plan! The plan is about starting off the New Year with intention, motivation, and accountability for health. Forward this on to your friends and family and let's see how many people we can get on board to join in. Be sure to write your plan in the comments section below. Here's how it works.

2  Come up with TWO actionable and doable healthy living ideas. Be specific. Make them very customized for you. Think about your weakness areas. How do you do in the areas of stress management, having fun, sleeping well, eating healthy, exercising, having nurturing relationships, and living in a nontoxic environment (this can be related to your emotional or physical environment)? Are you pretty good about working out, but don't take any time for stress management? If so, don't put exercise on your list, but rather, put something that will reduce your stress. Commit to work on the areas that receive less of your focus. You will see in the examples below that the ideas are both manageable and quantifiable. Try to be as specific as you can, and don't overcommit. You can always overdeliver.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Meditate for five minutes three days a week first thing in the morning to start the day grounded.
  • Spend less time with those people in your life who make you feel worse about yourself (you can be specific with names, if you want).
  • Do not drink alcohol during the week, only on Friday and Saturday nights.
  • Get 7,500 to 10,000 steps at least four days a week (wear a pedometer to track it).
  • Go to bed by 11pm every night so that you get at least 7 hours of sleep.
  • Make one fun plan a week that makes you happy.

Commit to doing the ZERO "do it now" item. What is the one thing that has been on your list for years to do that you know would benefit you in some way—career, health, relationships, personal—but you just have never done it? Commit to it to do it this year.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Get out of a toxic relationship that has been bringing you down.
  • Make a change in your job if you feel miserable every day. (Sometimes this may not be possible due to financial constraints, but oftentimes even if we believe this to be the case, we do have choices that we have not allowed ourselves to believe in. Now's the time to believe in them and explore them.)
  • Go on the trip you've been talking about taking for years. If your spouse doesn't want to join you, go with a friend, by yourself, or an organized group.
  • Hire a health coach and lose the weight for good.
  • Find a workout regime you like so that you look forward to exercise rather than see it as a chore. For some ideas, read Movement by Gypsy.
  • Join a support group (e.g. AA, Al-Anon, loss, cancer). If you need help, there are groups out there for you. Sharing your pain with others does help.
  • Write your memoir.
  • Volunteer.
  • Take classes.

1  Choose ONE word for the year. Come up with one word that you want to represent you in 2013. Give it some thought because you want it to really encompass what you want for the year. When you have decided on your word, write it out in big letters and put it somewhere you will see it everyday. Put it on your bathroom mirror, by your computer, on your vision board, at work, in your wallet. When I turned 40, my word was "authenticity" because I decided it was time to accept me for who I was at my core and be true to that self. The great thing about having a word for a year is that it becomes a part of who you are for life.

Here are a few ideas: faith, love, forgiveness, dream, health, peace, strength, hope, play, truth, trust, imagine, and share.

3  Write THREE items a day in your gratitude journal. I've read about gratitude journals for years and have never done one. I'm pretty good about being grateful in my life, but have never actually taken the time to write them down regularly because I wasn't sure what it would give me (and it seemed like one more "to-do"). I started doing it a week ago, and I'm actually enjoying doing it and am getting a lot out of it. I have a little spiral notebook that sits right on my desk near my computer. Every day, I write down 3 things I'm grateful for. Go find a pad of paper or extra journal and put it somewhere handy. This could be near the entryway, in the kitchen, by your bed, in your office. I write my items toward the end of the day, but find the routine that works for you. You can even make it a family gratitude journal and have everyone write in their entries, or get a separate journal for each person. Your gratitude entries can be both large (e.g. grateful for love in your life) or small (e.g. grateful for the warmth of a fire).

In keeping my journal, I've noticed that my husband pops up on my gratitude list daily. I never would have consciously appreciated these little things, but having to think about what I am grateful in a day makes me mindful of all that he does for me. We've been together over 25 years, so I sometimes forget to be grateful for him. It's the little things that have made the list this past week like "having a husband who always secretly fills up my gas tank," "having a husband who exercises," "having a husband who goes out at 10pm to the market to buy feminine products because I'm not feeling up to it and just realized I'm out." See if any patterns emerge for you in your gratitude list and let us know.

Changing your perspective is a huge factor in happiness and stress management, and a gratitude journal helps with this. It's hard to hold on to anger, resentment, and unhappiness when you are writing down things you are grateful for. I like having gratitude in the forefront of my mind because it sets a positive tone for the day since I'm always on the lookout for what will make the list.

2-0-1-3  Take some time this week and think about your 2-0-1-3 plan. Be sure to comment below and let us know. It is helpful to share it with others to make it more real and to help hold you accountable. I've shared my 2-0-1-3 plan in the comments below. I look forward to hearing from you. Let's make 2013 a year filled with health, happiness, and ... (insert your word here!).

And, of course, if you need help with making any part of your 2-0-1-3 plan happen, 4QL can help you!

Update: You can see other 4QL Fans' 2-0-1-3 Plans in the Comments section below and their pictured One Word here. Be sure to post your plan below and send us your One Word photo so it can get posted to our website too.


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.


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, 10 December 2012 14:36

Creating Your New Health Destiny

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!


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 Body Blog
Wednesday, 28 November 2012 18:15

7 Ideas for a Less Stressful Holiday Season

Last year I wrote Stop the (Holiday) Madness with the focus on giving a gift to the environment by reducing waste. This year I am inspired to focus on giving a gift to ourselves by reducing stress. I'm already feeling the holiday energy in the air. Christmas decorations have been out for weeks now, shopping has already begun, and neighbors have begun to hang their holiday lights. Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone. The holiday season is officially here!

This time of year can be both joyful and stressful. There is joy in the parties, holiday lights, caroling, gift opening, Santa sightings, family time, and more. But there is also stress in the crowded malls, family dynamics, obligatory gift giving, holiday card sending, travel, and so on. This year how about vowing to actively make the joyful times outweigh the stressful ones? Here are 7 ways to help make this happen. 

1. Give less. Oftentimes we get into a routine of who we buy gifts for. Even if we are feeling like we want to cut back on our gift giving, we are afraid of hurting the other person's feelings—assuming that they want to exchange gifts. More often than not, the other person is feeling the same way. It doesn't hurt to ask. Just this week I brought up birthday gift exchange to a group of running friends. We get together every few months to celebrate birthdays. The gift giving has mushroomed as our group has gotten larger. This is in addition to a very fun night out where we buy drinks and often dinner for the birthday girl(s). I asked my friends how they were feeling about the gift giving, figuring it was a good time to reevaluate as we headed into a new year of celebrations.

Out of 10 women, all voted to no longer do a gift exchange. We were all feeling the same way, but no one wanted to say anything. For me, spending time with my friends really is the gift. I'm all about simplifying our lives where we can. Don't get me wrong—gift giving is great, but less so when it feels like an obligation and causes stress. I have a friend who has to buy holiday gifts for 44 people this year. That's insane! She texted and said "I just want to be done with my shopping to enjoy the holiday spirit in the air." Look at your list. Can you pare it down at all? Would your friends or family be up for drawing names and just buying for one person—saving everyone time and money? For the shopping you do have to do, you can make it less stressful by shopping online or buying gift cards, movie tickets, or spa certificates. You can also donate to their favorite charity or give them a voucher for an activity with you.

Another idea is to create traditions that your family and friends look forward to over the holidays, reducing the importance of material items and increasing the importance of family time. Some of my favorite traditions are building ginger bread houses, cooking together, building puzzles, playing games, and driving through the neighborhood listening to holiday music, and seeing the holiday lights.

2. Send fewer cards. I used to send holiday cards but I don't anymore. I have to admit, I don't miss the extra "to-do" around the holidays. If you are going to send cards, think about just sending to those friends and family who are out-of-town that you do not see as often. I will often send a card to a handful of relatives I don't see often to let them know how I am doing. Another idea is to send electronic cards or post a holiday video to your friends on YouTube.

3. Ask for help. I have two friends that put up their trees and decorate the house all on their own and it's a lot of work. How about making a mini-party out of it and inviting a few friends over to help? Play some holiday music, serve up some eggnog, and have fun with it. Last year I helped a friend take down her Christmas tree and it was a great way to spend quality time together. Don't be afraid to ask for help. If you are hosting the holidays, ask others to bring side dishes to make it less stressful for you. Let your "guests" (your friends and family who want to help you) assist with clean up. Before you move on to the next idea, list one way you can ask for help this year.

4. Eat well, exercise, and sleep. It's tempting to go a little crazy from Thanksgiving through New Years with eating poorly, exercising less, and sleeping fewer hours. It's okay to indulge, certainly. I'm a big proponent of pleasure as a part of health. But you don't want to give yourself permission to go hog wild for the month because you won't feel good during or after. Enjoy the goodies, just watch your portion size. Try to keep getting out for some exercise. Make exercise dates if you have to. I'm a great motivator to my friends in the warmer months to join me for exercise but as it turns colder, I often need a nudge. Making exercise plans with friends gets me out the door. And don't sacrifice sleep! Lack of sleep can make you cranky and make the holidays all the more stressful. (If you do overindulge and feel like you need to detoxify from the holidays, our next detox session begins January 7. You do not have to be local to participate as the sessions are done over the phone. Sign up today!).

5. Be grateful. Whatever stress you are feeling, turn it into a gratitude. For example:

  • I'm stressed I have to buy so many gifts. → I'm grateful I have the money to do so and the people in my life to buy for.
  • I'm stressed I have to travel during the holidays. → I'm grateful I have friends and family to celebrate with.
  • I'm stressed (depressed) because I miss my departed loved ones during this time. → I'm grateful for my memories and that they were a part of my life. (Perhaps there is a way you can honor them by talking about the favorite holiday gift they gave you, your favorite holiday memory with them, or their favorite holiday tradition).

Is there a stress → gratitude that you came up with? If so, share it in the comment section below.

6. Take a time out. If you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed, take a time out—even if it is just for a few minutes. If you are shopping frantically at the mall and are wearing yourself down, stop and just sit somewhere. Watch the other shoppers, appreciate the festiveness of the mall, and just quiet your mind. After your break, go back at it! Whether you are at the mall or not, take a time out and just be still for a few minutes (and try idea #5 during your time out). Also, remember to breathe. Breathing really can help you move from a stress response in your body to calm. Even just five deep breaths can help.

7. Let go of perfection. Your house doesn't need to be perfectly clean, the meal doesn't need to be gourmet, the gifts don't need to be professionally wrapped. With love behind the hosting, cooking, and gift giving—perfection doesn't matter.

Are you already feeling stressed for the holiday season? If so, what things are the most stressful for you? We want to hear from you. Share your comments in the section below. For those of you who have made changes from years past to reduce stress around this time, share your ideas with us below. What has helped you to have a less stressful holiday season?

I wish you all a happy, calm, joyful, fun, relaxing holiday season! If you need help during this time to manage your stress, I am available for consultations.


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
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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)