Moving Into Yourself in the Fall (Your body is talking to you…are you paying attention?)

The older I get the faster it seems time flies. It’s hard to believe the summer is coming to a close and it’s already September. Hopefully summer has been a time for you to be outdoors more, spend more time with your family and friends, enjoy all the fresh summer produce — especially the delicious watermelons this year! — and get back in touch with your body.

FullSizeRender

For some people, though, summer gets very busy with kids, parties, travel…filling the long days with a whole lot of action and little self care.

During fall it’s time to wind down and to begin turning your attention inward a bit. If the heat and activities of the summer were too much, it’s can also be time to do some repair. I hate to mention it, but cold and flu season are just around the corner and will go a lot better if you put the right building blocks in place to prevent getting sick. That makes September and October prime time to put yourself in the best health possible…before flu season hits, and before the temptations and busyness of the holidays.

egon-schiele-autumn-trees-13127

That makes this the perfect time to share a string of five odd words that changed my life, and the way I look at prevention of disease. I stumbled on these words while helping my mentor to organize his computer files a few years ago. The document contained only these words, with arrows between them, and no explanation. It said, simply:

“Disattention=> Disconnection=> Disregulation=> Disorder=> Disease”

After reflecting on those five words, it was like finding the rosetta stone to the true origination of most diseases. It begins with “disattention” — being too busy to check in and take note of how you’re feeling and responding appropriately.

intuition 1

As an acupuncturist I see a lot of conditions that are preventable, but which have become chronic or severe. Prevention is a lot easier, and more pleasant, than living with chronic or serious conditions. At the first signs of something being “off” — whether it’s your mood, energy, appetite, digestion, or a new ache or pain — is the very best time to get treatment. But noticing these first signs involves taking time to connect with yourself and checking in to see how you are feeling. I recommend even just one minute each day to close your eyes and turn inward and scan your body, check in with your thoughts and feelings, and see how you are doing.

Listen_to_your_body_it_s_smarter_than_you_-_LoveSurf

You could do that right now.  Close your eyes and slowly move your attention through your body from head, neck, shoulders, abdomen to your legs and feet. That’s a physical check. How do you feel? Is anything bothering you? What is it? Where is it? What do the areas of discomfort need in order to feel greater ease and health? It’s important to ask what you need to feel healthier, instead of just to feel “better”….because sometimes what might make us feel “better” (in the short term) is a tub of chocolate ice cream. There is definitely a place for chocolate ice cream, but the goal here is discovering what health promoting behavior is needed. Your body is smart. It will know, or at least know what is making it feel so lousy.

You can also tune in to your heart, emotionally, get quiet, and see how you are feeling. This can be easy for some, who have strong body or emotional awareness, and will take more practice for others. Treat what you find with respect, as you would a friend. Just notice your emotional state.

This “check in” can be very brief. But learning to pay attention is the first step on the path of well being.

IMG_0984

“Disconnection”

“Disattention”, or ignoring, your body/mind/emotions can lead to a “Disconnection” from yourself — when you ignore your needs you are likely to stop addressing them in a positive way, and are more likely to take on behaviors that aren’t necessarily in your best interest — eating too much, sitting too much, not getting enough quiet time, not laughing enough, etc. Being disconnected allows the unhealthy behaviors to take root.

“Disregulation”

After ignoring your needs for awhile, your system goes into a state of “Disregulation.” Disregulation can be thought of as mildly to moderately noticeable symptoms, like a slower metabolism, feeling too hot or too cold, a change in appetite, lower energy, and a range of “weird” symptoms that a doctor might disregard (like a lump in your throat, or feeling crabby more frequently, for example). It’s really nothing serious, but you find yourself thinking that maybe you should improve your diet, or exercise more, or get more sleep. THIS IS THE PERFECT TIME to increase your self care and prioritize healthier habits. Changes in habits require support and commitment.

“Disorder”

After some time of disregulation, “Disorder” ensues. Disorder can be thought of as a problem. You have pain quite regularly now in some area of your body, or you’ve gained too much weight, or your blood sugar is pre-diabetic, or you have insomnia regularly, high blood pressure, depression, etc. These are physical, mental, and emotional disorders that are now regularly interfering with your sense of well being or impacting what you are able to do.

THIS IS AN ESSENTIAL TIME to address your health with regular self care and support. This is also the point where herbs and nutritional supplements can make a huge difference in turning things around to prevent more serious chronic diseases.

“Disease”

When your mind/body is disordered for long enough, you may develop a serious disease. For example, a sensitive stomach and long term stress can turn into acid reflux, which can turn into Barrett’s Esophagus, which can turn into cancer over the long haul. Or years of ignoring mild back pain turns into degenerative disc disease which may result in surgery and long term physical limitations. Years of eating too much sugar and not getting enough exercise can result in diabetes and kidney disease.

All disease starts somewhere. Because our bodies are quite resiliant and the changes over time are subtle we gradually grow used to feeling bad and don’t really notice what is happening. What is happening is that disease is being born. 

“In short”

In short, not paying attention to yourself can lead to disease — whether it’s just a cold, or something more serious like stomach ulcers, infertility, diabetes, arthritis, panic attacks, cancer.

Pay close enough attention to your body/mind everyday that you build good habits and get the care you need when something seems off.  Rest when your body asks for it, eat when you’re hungry, and stretch when you’re feeling tight. Prioritize your wellbeing.

yoga-pic

There are signals our bodies give before reaching significant illness and chronic disease. Our bodies communicate with us (or at least try to). The primary key to staying well is listening to what our bodies are telling us, and CARING about what they have to say.

Once you begin regularly paying attention, the pathway to good health looks like this:

“Attention=> Connection => Regulation => Order => Ease”

Paying ATTENTION to how you feel will lead to CONNECTION (to your mind/body) so you begin to give your body what it really needs (sleep, good food, exercise, laughter, etc.). When your body has what it needs, there will be REGULATION of your systems and symptoms (making necessary changes and gettiing care) and this leads to ORDER, or everything running pretty smoothly. When your mind/ body has order, the result is EASE!

We don’t just wake up one day with Type II diabetes. Hypertension does not usually occur overnight. Ulcers don’t come from only one day of worrying and eating poorly. These, and other diseases, are the result of long term imbalances that once began as minor discomforts that went unnoticed and unaddressed.

This fall, I can help you to work on rebalancing that which is already off-kilter, and helping to prevent disorder by reducing stress, strengthening your immune system, and keeping things flowing smoothly. 

There’s no time like the present, eh?

timeflies

May you find true wellbeing. 

Crow Heart Acupuncture and Herbs has two locations in the East Bay: the Rockridge neighborhood of North Oakland, and on the Albany / Berkeley border just off of Solano Avenue.

IMG_2376 IMG_2375

Make an appointment:

Website: https://www.crowheartacupuncture.com

Email: crowheartacupuncture@gmail.com

Phone: 510-919-5689

Here is a Mindfulness Quiz from UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. It’s a good start on the path to paying attention–and look around on their website for other tips on how you can be more mindful of yourself!

http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/quizzes/take_quiz/4

crow_heart_final

“Our body is precious. It is the vehicle for awakening. Treat it with care.” — The Buddha

Summertime Self Care: Chinese Wisdom Made Local

sc0015db4e_2Chinese Medicine philosophy considers the summer the most active (yang) time of the year. You get up early, go to sleep late, and generally feel pretty good with all that sunshine. Summer is associated with joy, the heart, fire, outward expression of energy,  movement and activity. It is the manifestation of all we have cultivated in the spring time — the tomato plant that I planted in early spring is already bearing fruit, because it has had sunshine and I have watered it.

IMG_2388

Many of us play hard and work hard in the summer, precisely because there is more daylight and we have more energy. However, there is one thing acupuncturists, body workers, and massage therapists are painfully aware of…not many people are invested in self care in these months. They are busy flying off to all corners of the earth, attending parties, playing outside, and celebrating.

a26a9df71d3bc385e42007244ff597c2

All of which is great. But the mind-body is not really getting a similar vacation. In fact, we are expecting more of it. So, when colder winds begin to blow in the fall, our clinics are filled to the brim with coughing, sneezing, exhausted people! This summer hangover can be prevented!

sc00157ba4_3_2

Simply put, taking care of yourself in the summer leads to a healthier you in the fall.

A 2,000 year old Chinese medicine classic, the Huang di Nei Jing, shares words of ancient wisdom about healthy living in summertime, still applicable today:

“One may retire somewhat later at this time of year, while still arising early. One should refrain from anger and stay physically active, to keep the skin breathing and to prevent the qi from stagnating. One can indulge a bit more than in other seasons, but should not overindulge. Emotionally, it is important to be happy and easygoing and not hold grudges, so that the energy can flow freely and communicate between the external and internal. In this way, illness may be averted in the Fall… Problems in the Summer will cause injury to the heart and will manifest in the Fall.”

Here is a list of some easy, health promoting things to do for yourself while you are enjoying the longer, sunny summer days:

  • Be active and get some exercise. Twenty minutes a day of walking, yoga, tai chi, meditation, or similar low impact activities are wonderful to add in to your daily routine.

yoga-pic

  • Have fun, but stay balanced (don’t overindulge in drinking, exercising, sunshine, parties, travel…etc. Moderation, as always, is the key!)
  • Forgive, lighten up, let some things go.
  • Eat seasonally. There is a lot of fresh produce at this time of year to enjoy!
  • Hydrate often (lemon, mint, and cucumber infused water is a great choice to cool you down)

603608

  • Include lighter, less greasy foods in your diet
  • Foods to keep you cool and balanced:

Cilantro, mint, dill, cucumbers, watermelon, peaches, apricots, cantaloupe, spinach, watercress, seaweed, bok choy, broccoli, sprouts, chinese cabbage, snow peas, mung beans

Stock up on seasonal, local foods at your Local Farmer’s Market, or grow your own!

IMG_2393

Here is a list of Farmer’s Markets in the East Bayhttp://edibleeastbay.com/farmers-markets/

Growing a garden in Alameda county, month by month:  http://acmg.ucanr.edu/Your_Garden,_Month-by-Month/

Vegetable Gardening for Dummies: http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/vegetable-gardening-for-dummies/Content?oid=3198410

Create a Greywater system for your garden: http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=45756

IMG_2390

Local (East Bay) yoga studios, tai chi, qi gong, and meditation classes:

postersample

Namaste yoga studios: http://ilovenamaste.com/

Yoga Tree: http://www.yogatreesf.com/locations/telegraph.html

Adeline Yoga Studio: http://www.adelineyoga.com/

Square One Yoga: http://www.squareoneyoga.com/

Tai Chi Chuan Berkeley: http://taichichuanberkeley.com/

Meditation, Qi Gong, Classes, and More: http://berkeley.shambhala.org/programs/

East Bay Biking, Walking, Hiking:

1169773797_q4J2U-M

Bicycling and Walking maps in Berkeley: http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Public_Works/Transportation/Bicycling_and_Walking-Maps_and_Guides.aspx

East Bay Regional Parks: http://www.ebparks.org/parks

Best Botanical Gardens in the East Bay: http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/top-lists/best-botanical-gardens-in-the-bay-area/

DSCN0391

In between all that good local food, yoga, hiking, biking, traveling, and celebration, make time to get some acupuncture to help you chill out, cool down, refresh, and revive. Sometimes taking a break means you will have more energy to actually enjoy yourself.

IMG_2375 IMG_2376

http://crowheartacupuncture.wix.com/crowheart

crow_heart_final

The Medicine is You: How Chinese Medicine Aids in Self Healing

Medicine on the needles?

I had a first time acupuncture patient once ask me if there was medicine on the needles. The question surprised me, but when I thought about it, the question makes sense. We are taught, in a round about way, that healing must come from an outside source. Have a headache? Take a pill. Does your body hurt? Take a pill. Are you depressed? Take a pill. When you go to the doctor they give you a few choices — take a pill, have surgery, or if they can’t see anything wrong in your blood work, there is nothing wrong with you, so take a pill.

unnamed-2

So when my patient asked if there is medicine on the needles — even though I found it a little funny — it is a sensible question to ask, because we are taught that we can’t get better just on our own.

tumblr_m21pf7s5ey1r70663

Pharmaceutical “Healing”

Yes, taking a pill IS a quick way to get rid of your symptoms — at least temporarily — and sometimes we need to do this to “get through the day” comfortably, or because the illness we have is much stronger than our body’s ability to fight it.

We all know that pills have other effects, though. Many effects of Western pharmaceuticals are merely undesirable in the short term (like nausea or diarrhea) but can be downright harmful in the long term. Long term pain medication is dangerous for the liver; chronic corticosteroid use has multiple systemic effects (“Cushing’s Syndrome”); anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications can lead to insomnia, weight gain, low libido, fatigue, constipation, blurry vision…yeesh! Antibiotics– often a very necessary drug– also kill off healthy gut flora and thereby significantly reduce your natural immune system response; long term use can cause very serious side effects like kidney failure, vision problems, etc (http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/10/popular-antibiotics-may-carry-serious-side-effects/?_r=0).

Cushing-syndrome

A really good question to ask yourself if you are taking medications to alleviate a symptom, is why did the symptoms appear in the first place, and what are you doing to address it? Simply masking a symptom by taking a pill does not mean the problem is gone. You are just turning off your body’s signal that something is off balance, and letting that something spin out of control. Ever wonder why some older people are commonly taking ten or twelve medications at once? Often these other medications are prescribed to alleviate effects of the medications. Meanwhile, the original cause of disease goes completely untreated.

a-pill-for-every-ill-T-E0nesy

All of this “healing” is done to us, given to us by an outside source, without much mention of lifestyle and dietary changes that might help to promote the body’s ability to heal itself. In fact, if someone gets better without the use of drugs or surgery, doctor’s often chalk the healing up to “the placebo effect” and dismiss it.

Natural healing abilities

But what about our own natural healing abilities? For they certainly do exist. Just imagine what we would look like if we didn’t have the ability to heal from cuts, broken bones, and bruises. Kind of a horrifying idea. Or what would happen if we couldn’t bounce back from colds, flus, food poisoning, headaches, menstrual cramps, and the like. We’d be a mess. This self-healing, however, is dependent upon the strength and reserves of our minds and bodies. Children and younger people, with deeper reserves, often heal quickly, while older people and those chronically depleted by unhealthy lifestyle behaviors, may need some support.

all scratched up

Chinese medicine lends a healing hand in a very different way than Western biomedicine; where Western medicine masks the symptoms, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), works to strengthen the body’s natural abilities to bring itself back into balance. Ultimately, it is your body that heals itself. It knows how. Really!

FullSizeRender

When acupuncture and herbs are necessary

If there is not medicine “on the needles,” then what are those needles doing? And if our bodies can heal themselves, then why are we sick in the first place, and why bother with any kind of medicine? Because sometimes we swing so far out of balance that the body has trouble maintaining homeostasis. It needs a little help to get back enough strength to begin the healing process, or to take it to the next level.

Yin-Yang

To assist the body back into a state of self healing, acupuncture needles are placed strategically along the energy pathways of the body, targeting places where excess energy is stuck, and places where energy is lacking, in an attempt to balance the yin and the yang of the body. The process of a good acupuncture treatment works to rebalance de-regulated energy flow. The treatment will allow you access to additional energy in your body that has been trapped, or is not flowing smoothly, and to increase energy in places that have been blocked, or starved out, by the imbalance. Most of us have some imbalance or disharmony that if sorted out would free up some resources to aid in our greater well being.

meridian3

An example of an angry liver

For example, a patient came to see me who had been struggling with fatigue, some depression, and irritable bowel syndrome for a few years. Otherwise, this person was a relatively healthy, well functioning woman in her early forties. Upon diagnosis (made via pulse taking, viewing the tongue, and scanning her energetically using medical qi gong techniques) I could see and feel that this person had, from a Chinese medicine perspective, a great deal of heat and trapped energy in her liver.

The liver is the organ responsible for the smooth flow of energy in the body. Stress, frustrations, unexpressed emotions, can get stuck in us, like an energy build up that becomes imprisoned and sets us off balance. We can feel this build up of pathological liver energy when we get angry and want to “blow our stacks” or scream or have the urge to punch something.

photo (4)

In our daily lives, we can address this stuck-ness in healthy or unhealthy ways to provide some relief, or we can do nothing and let the annoyances build, and end up being a snappy, irritable, exhausted human being living in misery and making ourselves sick.

For example, a healthy way to deal with an angry build up of energy is to exercise; an unhealthy way to deal with it is alcohol (alcohol is said to “scatter the qi”). Very spicy food is also another way to move stuck energy. However, too much of any of these things (including exercise) can lead to problems.

sc00157ba4_3_2

I mentioned to my patient that despite feeling exhausted, she actually had a great deal of energy available to her, it was just stuck. I asked if there was some unresolved problem in her life causing anger and frustration. Indeed, there had been a significant traumatic event that had occurred just before her symptoms appeared. This issue was unresolved, creating a good deal of emotional suffering. According to TCM theory, emotions are made to be felt, but not held on to. Holding an emotion can cause the body to go out of balance and the longer the emotion is held, the more significant the symptoms. Negative emotions held over a long period of time can lead to significant disease.

When anger is stored in the liver, a variety of dysfunction can happen, and the liver can “attack” other organs. One common organ for it to attack is the stomach and digestive system as a whole. This is why it is hard to eat when you are angry, and why you may actually can get an upset stomach when you are angry. In my patient’s case, the anger contributed to the development of irritable bowel syndrome. Because her digestion was weakened, the food she was eating was not being optimally absorbed by her body, consequently creating fatigue because she wasn’t being adequately nourished. Therefore, she had both digestive upset as well as exhaustion, all resulting from trapped energy / emotion.

image003

The treatment for this patient offered several avenues to healing. First, the diagnostic process brought into her awareness the destructive nature of holding on to her anger. She had every right to be angry about what had happened, but she needed to take some steps toward resolving it, so she could move on. The awareness alone was huge. Sometimes that’s all it takes for someone to begin to heal. Sometimes the patient decides psychotherapy is an appropriate next step if they feel truly stuck and unable to move through emotional issues on their own.

Second, I addressed the energetic disharmony between her liver and digestive system using acupuncture. Each acupuncture treatment produced significant relief of symptoms, and helped with flare ups. The acupuncture channels or meridians run the length of our body, moving through the organs, so I selected points to smooth and soothe the liver, releasing that stuck energy and heat accumulated there, making the energy available to other parts of her body, and also giving her digestive system a break from the attack so it could heal. I also selected points to strengthen her digestion so she could begin to absorb more of the nutrients in her food, and subsequently have more energy.

Third, because this patient had suffered from the emotional impact of the past event for several years, her body needed additional help to get back into balance, and to have continued support as she dealt with her anger. This is where herbs come in handy. The effects of acupuncture alone can be miraculous and often resolve an acute problem in one to six treatments. Something that is chronic and long term may have depleted the body to such an extent that outside nourishment is needed in order to speed up the healing process.

xiao yao san raw herbs tea

Chinese herbal medicine does not work like a pill that masks symptoms; herbal medicine works to address both the root of the problem as well as the symptoms — in her case, rebuilding the strength of her weakened digestive system and soothing the liver so that things flowed smoothly, leading to her body’s ability to truly heal.

This whole process is chalked up by the western medical system very often as a “placebo” effect. By which they mean, the patient is imagining both the symptoms and the cure. Apparently the body’s ability to heal itself is disregarded and ideas of energy, emotions, balance, meridians, and herbs, are all thought to be a bunch of hocus pocus.

In actuality, our bodies are amazing! Like a starfish that can regrow its own legs (or are they arms?), we do have the ability to rejuvenate and regenerate ourselves. The medicine is not on the needles. The medicine is in you! But sometimes we just need a little help to call it forth.

Royal_starfish_(Astropecten_articulatus)_on_the_beach

I can help.

crow_heart_final

http://crowheartacupuncture.wix.com/crowheart

crowheartacupuncture@gmail.com

Re-energizing New Year’s Resolutions: inspirational videos, blogs, and websites to keep you on track!

“And now we welcome the New Year. Full of things that have never been.”
— Rainer Marie Rilke

If you made any New Year resolutions, this is the week that things can begin to break down. It’s normal to waiver on new habits. Start fresh and recommit. YOU ARE WORTH IT!

If you are someone who doesn’t make New Year resolutions, now’s a great time to set a new health habit into motion anyway. Spring is just around the corner (which will give your body more energy to make change) plus the Chinese New Year on February 19 gives you another chance to make a New Year Resolution.

Not ready to jump into a new habit? Here is an easy way to start thinking about improvements you might want to make in your life…some of my favorite videos, blogs, and links that provide inspiration for better living.

Don’t watch them all at once – this is a blog post to keep returning to whenever you need some inspiration or a lift in spirits, or a new healthy recipe for dinner.

Getting onto a healthier and happier path can be as simple as starting with these links. Happy web surfing!

WALKING and EXERCISING:

Doctor Mike Evans on “Sitting Disease”:

Doctor Mike Evans on Taking a Walk:

STRESS– (We all have it. It’s how you deal with it that counts.)

Improving Your Response to Stress — an AWESOME video!:

Kelly McGonigal on how to make stress your friend:

Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroanatomist, discusses what she discovered about peace as she was having a stroke. One of the best TED Talks ever!:

The benefits of smiling – an informative, funny, and helpful TED Talk by health researcher and entrepreneur Ron Gutman:

EATING!:

World’s Healthiest foods — look up all the great benefits of the most nutritious foods you can eat:

http://whfoods.org/

The Amazing Benefits of Bone Broth Soup:

http://nourishedkitchen.com/bone-broths-adrenals-bones-teeth/

Easy Bone Broth Soup recipe:

http://nourishedkitchen.com/perpetual-soup-the-easiest-bone-broth-youll-make/

A blog by one of my former teachers, Nishanga Bliss, with recipes. Includes a lot of great information about fermentation, and dietary recommendations from a Chinese Medicine point of view:

http://gastronicity.blogspot.com/

The world’s most irreverent blog about healthy eating (warning, this guy swears A LOT but has some great recipes!):

http://www.thugkitchen.com/archive

Huffington Post list of ten best healthy eating blogs:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/09/healthy-food-blogs_n_5460940.html

Chinese Medicine Dietary Tips:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mika-ono/5-healthy-eating-tips-fro_b_632977.html

Chinese Medicine Recipes:

http://ancientwisdommodernkitchen.blogspot.com/

EMOTIONAL WELL BEING:

The benefits of being vulnerable, a humorous and helpful talk by Brene Brown:

The Habits of Happiness, advice from a French Buddhist monk:

Happiness and Its Surprises — a summary of research about what it takes to be happy:

UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center – wonderful research on happiness, health, gratitude, compassion, empathy, altruism, forgiveness and mindfulness:

http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/

On Happiness and Gratitude, talks and videos by Catholic Benedictine monk David Steindl-Rast:

MORE INSPIRATION:

A second list of inspirational TED talks to have during times when you need a boost:

http://greatist.com/health/TED-talks-inspiration

List of top Diet, Exercise and Healthy Living Blogs to keep you on the right track:

http://greatist.com/health/must-read-health-fitness-blogs

For more support with your health goals, make an appointment at Crow Heart Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs:

crow_heart_finalhttp://crowheartacupuncture.wix.com/crowheart

Call to schedule 510-919-5689, or email for more information crowheartacupuncture@gmail.com

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”
— Lao Tzu

“Our body is precious. It is the vehicle for awakening. Treat it with care.”
— The Buddha

Ready to form a new habit? For an easy plan, take a look at my most recent blog post:

https://crowheartacupuncture.wordpress.com/2015/01/11/66-days-goals-into-habits/

66 days : Goals Into Habits

FullSizeRender

I used to hate running (and most other physical activity); I couldn’t tolerate the burn in my muscles, shortness of breath, and drudgery. In my early twenties I had a boyfriend who pointed out that my physical activity level was basically zero. I didn’t really care that I was so inactive. Being young, it didn’t seem to impact my waistline, so why bother? However, my moods were a bit unreliable–I was pretty grumpy. And who likes to be grumpy? I witnessed the joy on people’s faces following physical activity and, whether I liked it or not, the need to start moving more began to creep into my consciousness.

It’s shocking to think a couch potato like I was can now say that I’ve been a runner for two decades. I’ve had highs and lows, and lazy times and obsessive times, but it’s a habit I formed and I have stuck with it. Running strengthens my body, clears my mind, and balances my emotions. It takes me outside, and affords the opportunity to spend time with friends. It has shown me how much I am capable of. And, except for the cost of the shoes, it’s free! I am so grateful for its benefits.

How did I go from someone who was allergic to physical activity to being a lifelong runner? I can blame it on a group of seven-year-olds.

At the time, I was a second grade school teacher. One of the daily tasks we did was to each come up with a goal for the day — student’s choice — and then assess how they did at the end of each day. The kids selected their individual goals, and were free to judge their own success. The only rules were that the goals had to be specific and realistic, and they also had to include an action plan. For example, a goal might be “I will learn how to draw a dog, by working on it for 20 minutes today during free time.” This kind of goal is easy to assess at the end of the day. Was it possible? Yes. Did it happen? Yes or no.

In order to support the kids by being a good role model, I created daily measurable goals and shared them with the class. One of my first goals–actually the first conscious goal I can remember setting as an adult– was to learn to play the harmonica. My plan was broken into itty bitty steps. First, I would get a “Teach Yourself to Play the Harmonica” book and then had a plan to practice for twenty minutes a day until I could play the songs in the book. I shared this goal with my students and they frequently inquired about my progress. Of course when you have a group of seven-year olds holding you accountable, you’ve got to follow through!

1007-tremolo-harmonica

After a couple of weeks, the students asked for me to play for them. I was just learning, so I was quite terrible at it still, and it took a great deal of courage to get up and play “Oh Susanna” for them as I missed many notes and made my way miserably through the song. At the end of my performance (if you can call it that) they burst into applause and gave me a standing ovation. What an amazing feeling it was to see their faces beaming up at me, huge smiles and cheering wildly. It was probably the first time in history that “Oh Susanna” played badly on harmonica got such an enthusiastic response.

It wasn’t that the kids actually thought my harmonica playing was any good – I think they really just understood the effort and courage, and were thrilled to see an adult take such a big risk. You see, kids have to do something everyday that we forget about as adults. They are constantly asked to learn new things and to display their uneven progress in front of other people. We ask them to do it all the time (they are new at everything!) and forget how much effort and courage this takes. Doing something new is hard, and requires stepping out of our comfort zones. And therefore, because we can get away with it, we tend to stick with what we know–for better or for worse– and try new things less and less as adults. But what cost will our old habits inflict upon us?

Back to the running. As I began to see how effective (and easy and rewarding) setting daily goals was, I began to use this technique even in my “off” time. Setting simple goals had become a very effective tool for making wanted changes in my life. At the start of one summer, I decided my goal would be to be able to run two miles by the end of the summer. As I said, I hated running. It was hard. Two miles was a long distance for me at the time. So, treating myself gently, in the way I’d encouraged the kids, my plan was to begin by running 75 feet — basically from my driveway to the neighbor’s driveway. The next day I would increase by 75 more feet, etc., until I reached my goal of two miles at the end of the summer. The only thing this really required on my part was a short commitment.

I remember the first day I began running. Reaching my goal was so easy it was almost laughable. All I had to do was put on my shoes and run to the neighbor’s driveway. I did it, and was able to check off my success for the day. Even with such a small goal, there was a big sense of accomplishment. Increasing the distance each day by such a small amount made the whole thing easy, manageable, and gradually increased my physical endurance. The positive feedback of accomplishing my goal day by day was enough motivation to keep myself going. Plus, I shared my progress with a few encouraging friends.

By the end of the summer, I had easily reached my goal. I couldn’t believe it! It worked. I — the lazy bones who was allergic to exercise– could run two miles with ease! And by the end of the next summer? I had run a marathon! A byproduct of this feat was that my moods became much more cheerful, and for the first time in my life I actually had good lung capacity and began to develop noticeable strength, endurance, and muscles!

runner-silouhette-of-a-female-runner

In the intervening years I have read some research about goal setting and discovered that my running goal met many of the “research proven” requirements for setting a good goal – it was…

measurable
specific
broken down into very small increments
rewarding
positively framed (instead of saying what I wasn’t going to do (“I will stop being so lazy”) I said and envisioned what I was going to do (run everyday))

Perhaps most important, my overall goal required approximately two months to achieve it. After much research, behavioral scientists have determined that new habits form after practicing them for approximately 66 days.

Twenty years later I am still a runner. It is just a part of my life. There are highs and lows– I’ve gone through dry spells– but I always return to it. And it all started with just 75 feet.

It’s the beginning of the New Year. 2015 lies ahead ripe with possibilities. Dream a little. Decide what you’d like to cultivate. Break that goal down into small, easy steps. Commit to it. Have patience and fortitude. If you can “stick to it” for 66 days (and if I could do it, you certainly can!) you will build yourself a new healthy habit — or at the very least become a mediocre harmonica player!

Need help? Need a fan club? I am happy to help you develop and assess your health goals. Acupuncture and herbs can do a great deal to pave the way to make it easier to achieve your goals through support of mind-body-emotional balance and vitality, as well as help to curb cravings, boost metabolism, assist digestion, and relieve aches and pains. Regular appointments serve as signs of your commitment to yourself and to your health.

Making positive change doesn’t have to be hard!

For a free ten minute phone consultation to discuss your health goals, or to make an appointment to get started, give me a call – 510-919-5689 – or send an email inquiry to crowheartacupuncture@gmail.com.

Wishing you the best of health and happiness in the New Year!

crow_heart_final

http://crowheartacupuncture.wix.com/crowheart

510.919.5689
crowheartacupuncture@gmail.com