Want to be happier? Try a mental detox

We all want to be happy, successful and confident, but the reality is we have no idea how to achieve this. When it comes to our physical fitness, the formula is simple – workout regularly, eat a clean diet and get lots of sleep. We even have a plethora of digital tools and wearables to help us track every step taken and calorie burned to reach our wellness goals. But when it comes to our mental health, the rule book isn’t as simple. While our physical diet, activity and sleep are all important aspects of our mental well-being, a large part of our happiness is derived from our environment.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “you are what you eat”. Just as important as diet is to physical fitness, what we feed our minds has an impact on our emotional well-being. If you surround yourself with negative people, you’re likely to find yourself in a worse mood.

Thanks to technology, the mental diet we’re eating is full of crap.  We’ve become dependent on our devices, and as much as they add value to our lives, they also deplete our energy and dissipate our focus because of the fractured and abbreviated nature of the content they expose us to. Tweets, Instagram posts, and Snapchat clips have significantly displaced novels, movies and other lengthy and substantive forms of content. As a result of this shift towards bite-size, mindless content, opportunities for self-reflection and growth have diminished.

Furthermore, we spend hours a day analyzing other peoples’ lives that we forget to fully live in and appreciate our own.  We feel sorry for ourselves that our lives aren’t as fun and glamorous as they appear in other people’s feeds (news flash: it’s all a mirage).  We live such curated lives through social media where we are (literally!) filtering out only the good, happy times and hiding the real struggles that build character and help us feel more connected to others.

Unfortunately, these changes are here to stay, so the solution isn’t to pine for the good old days. Instead, it’s up to us to make a conscious effort to eliminate these digital distractions and seek out content that aids in our personal growth. Take a mental detox by turning off the news, deleting Instagram from your phone, and avoiding anyone who creates negative energy around you. Seek out content that inspires and educates you. The healthier and more positive content you feed your mind, the more emotionally fit you will become.

The Power Trio: 3 Foods You Should Eat First Thing in the Morning

Many of us think of nutrition from a purely physical perspective. But eating well doesn’t just affect the way you look, it also plays a huge role in regulating your mood and creating healthy brain functionality. Having a balanced, nutrient-rich diet helps increase your memory, boosts your energy and can even make you happier and less stressed. I think we can all cheers a celery stick to that!

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “you are what you eat”.  Well, this doesn’t mean you’ll turn into a cow if you eat too much cheese. What this means is that you are the sum of the nutrients you eat, and each nutrient plays a different role in how our bodies function. Eating high-quality foods that contain an abundance of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants nourishes the brain and protects it from free radicals, which can cause cancer and other serious health issues.

Studies have shown that healthy diets such as the Mediterranean diet - which is high in lean proteins, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables – reduce the risk of depression by 25-30% in people that eat it versus those that eat a diet high in fats and sugar.

What we eat also plays a huge role on our energy levels.  Mindsail expert and Holistic Health Coach, Daniela Kende, says the biggest myth to increase energy is to turn to energy drinks.  These “energy sinks”, as she refers to them, are simply stimulants that spike your energy temporarily, but ultimately lead you to crash later on in the day. Instead, people should turn to fresh fruit, iron-rich foods such as spinach, and foods high in omega-3 such as fish and nuts, to increase their energy and keep their blood sugar levels steady throughout the day.

To start your day right, Kende recommends eating within the first hour of waking up in order to jumpstart your metabolism and get your brain functioning properly. She recommends people stick to the power trio: fiber, fat and protein.  This will ensure your energy levels stay elevated throughout the day, and your mind is clear and energized to take on any challenges that come your way.

Your Dreams Are Real So Pay Attention

By Dr. Carder Stout

Did you ever have a dream as a kid that sent you scurrying to your parent’s room? You were convinced that the dream was real, but your parents reassured you it was not. They may have said, “Don’t worry. It was only a dream. It wasn’t real.” As you curled up between them and fall back asleep there was a whisper of safety tucked in next to you. The two people you trusted most had delivered a message that was designed to lull you back to sleep. And it did.

No wonder most people disregard their dreams. We’ve been conditioned to believe that they’re insignificant and unimportant — we discard them like the unread sections of the morning paper. We live in a culture that is focused on what is real. We want to know more about the things we can see and touch — like how to make a heart in the foam of a decaf latte or who makes the softest t-shirts. There is so much external stimulation drawing us out, we have forgotten how to look inside.

When we sleep we hover in a realm that traverses the unconscious and the conscious. The images in our dreams are meant to help us rebalance ourselves when the psyche becomes damaged and fractured. They are a lantern in the darkest of night to shepherd us back to health and well-being.

Dream Analysis

Humans are spiritual beings. We are comprised of both essence and matter. We have a shape from flesh and bone that encapsulates our purest self — the soul, which is our most authentic being. It is the part of us that feels deep love and resounds in great joy. It is our elemental self lodged in faith and understanding.

As soon as we experienced pain, loss, or fear we began to develop the counterpart to the soul — our shadow. Our shadow consists of the qualities we repress, deny, or dislike in ourselves. It is the dark side of our personality. The shadow grows as we experience suffering and hardship in our human form. Each one of us is a hybrid blend of shadow and soul. We are a balance of what is seen and unseen.

All of the figures in our dreams represent aspects of ourselves. There is not one but many of us present at any given moment. You are a mother, a father a businesswoman, a friend, a chef, an artist, a hero, a diva, a little boy and a romantic all in the same breath. The multiple people living inside you are called personas. So, if you dream about an encounter with a painter or writer, you are dreaming about the creative energy inside your psyche. If you dream about having lunch with a group of children, you are viewing the childlike qualities that remain with you.

Try to remember all of the people, places and symbols in your dream. It may help to keep a dream journal so you can write them down first thing when you wake up. The symbols that we dream about have significance. If you dream about traveling in a red car to a house with a blue door, mind the details. What do the colors red and blue mean to you? A door may symbolize making a transition in your life. We call this process unpacking the dream images. Often dream images will unlock memories from our childhood, perhaps even our earliest memories we forgot even existed.

And what about nightmares? Well, don’t worry. The monsters in your dreams are not real. They are dark symbolic figures that represent the aspects of yourself that you do not like. So, these monsters that are chasing you are actually not trying to harm you but get your attention. They are asking to be seen and attended to because they have been neglected and their fangs have come out. The more that we try to ignore them, the more agitated they will get and the more apt they are to show up in your dreams.

Dreams are important and happen to us for a reason: Listen to them with excitement and curiosity. They will help you to understand yourself in a deeper and more honest way.

Dream Glossary — Common Dreams

These are common dreams that many people have during different phases in their lives.

Losing teeth: This is a dream you may have when moving through a transition in life, i.e. moving, changing jobs, breaking up, etc. It simply means that you are growing out of one phase and into the next — like a child losing his/her teeth. Embrace the change!

Falling: This is a dream you may have when you are feeling overwhelmed. Symbolically, the earth beneath your feet has vanished and you don’t feel like you have solid footing or a firm foundation in life. Maybe you have taken on too much and need to slow down. Take care of yourself.

People You Know: When you dream about people you know it is only natural to interpret this at face value. This is not the case. Remember that the people in your dreams represent aspects of yourself. If you dream about a close friend, then think about their strongest character traits. If you think of them as being humble then you are dreaming about the humble side of yourself.

Flying: This can be a wonderful or scary dream. If you’re up in the sky looking down and feeling blissful like a bird, this simply means you’re gaining a new perspective on something. If you’re afraid, then this could mean you’re holding onto old ideas and do not want to change your understanding.

Losing Someone: This is another unsettling dream. We tend to be afraid that we will never find them again. If you dream that you are losing your child it refers to ignoring those childlike qualities in yourself. So, play more and stop being such a grown-up. If you lose your spouse there may be a need for you to address the masculine or feminine energy that pulses through you. Remember, you are the perfect blend of both.

Being Chased: This can be a frightening dream, often demonstrating that some unresolved part of your personality needs attention. Perhaps you are being dishonest with someone or are ignoring something that has been difficult to admit. This is a shadow dream and whatever chases you is simply an unwanted aspect of yourself. Do not ignore this or it will get bigger. If you feel you cannot move and are stuck this means that you feel helpless and are not sure how to address the issue.

Dying/Being Killed/Death: These can be disturbing and confusing dreams. Do not worry — this is not a premonition that your death is near. These dreams refer to a part of yourself having a symbolic death. What in your life that is slowly slipping away? Is it your anger or your lust? Is it your dream of becoming an actress? When something in us dies we go through a natural grieving process so don’t be surprised if you feel sad. You are saying goodbye to something you have known. This can actually be a good thing as you may be losing something that was not serving you anymore. If it is someone who is killing you then you are probably in conflict about letting go. Your narcissistic need for adoration could be killing your hope for real intimacy.

Naked: This can be an unsettling dream. It refers to the fact that you feel unprotected and vulnerable, as though the shield you have put up is not working and people can now see the real you. This may create anxiety, because in our most natural form we are exposed for all to see. You may feel unprepared and shy to show the real you. Don’t worry, you’re beautiful.

Water: Water represents the unconscious. Submerging in any body of water means exploring your psyche. Enjoy!

5 Signs You Are in a Toxic Love Relationship

By Dr. Jill Weber

It can be hard to see the signs of a toxic relationship when you are in the middle of it.

The dominant emotions in a toxic love pattern are insecurity and anxiety. You can’t take for granted that you are safe in the partnership. You don’t feel at peace that your needs will get met. When apart, you agonize over whether or not your partner is still into you. You live with angst and fear about how things will turn out in the future with your partner. You wonder if/when you will see your partner again. You live for the highs, but mostly you experience the lows. You too easily give up your responsibilities and commitments to spend a moment of time with your partner. When your time with your partner comes to an end, you feel empty and anxious all over again.

People who fall into dysfunctional love dynamics tend to go in and out of denial. At times they may make excuses for their behavior or that of their partners’. At other times they become so emotionally wrought with upset over the union, they can barely function or cope with daily life demands.

Toxic love is typically associated with strong highs, where both partners feel jubilant and passionate, and the lowest of the lows, often resulting in depression and generally feeling “stressed out” for long periods of time. Just like a drug, the reward centers of the brain light up when the highs are high and the brain’s happy chemicals plummet when the lows occur. The highs and positive feelings may be short-lived, but people often stay in these dysfunctional unions for a surprisingly long time, sustained by the anticipation of the next endorphin rush.

Typically with toxic love there is a repetitive kind of romantic trauma that takes place in your partnership. The nature of the trauma is different for everyone but the general theme is you disagree or argue about something — their lies, their mistreatment of you, your lies, your mistreatment of them are common conflicts — then you make up and have one brief moment of bliss. Then, the cycle repeats all over again.

The destructive pattern in the relationship can be because your partner has an addiction, including drugs or alcohol, has another romantic relationship, spouse, or complete other family and fits you in on the side. Or perhaps you or your partner have commitment/intimacy issues so that no matter what you do, you’re never able to become really close.

Whatever it is you are competing with makes your partner seem like a rare conquest. You spend your emotional resources and energy trying to get more — working to capture that special conquest that is your toxic love partner. It feels good when you get them for a moment, but the high is short lived and followed by an ever sinking low.

When a person partners with an unhealthy match, an addictive kind of relationship dynamic takes hold. The thoughts are all about getting your needs met or how they go unmet. What you or your partner are not thinking about is the other person’s ultimate well-being or happiness. You are each consumed with getting whatever you need from the other.

Here are five signs you are in a toxic love situation:

  1. Chronically second guessing yourself and doubting when you are upset with your partner, “am I overreacting…maybe I am being too sensitive…”
  2. Making excuses to friends and family members about your partner’s poor behavior “he had a tough week at work….he thought he had told me that he wasn’t coming, but I misunderstood…”
  3. Taking yourself away from your own feelings “just let it go…it’s really not a big deal…don’t be overly dramatic…”
  4. Anger that never seems to quite get quenched or resolved when you communicate with your partner.
  5. Continually trying to ‘fix’ things in the relationship. Working overtime to please or make things right. Feeling overly guilty and working to make amends about things that really may not be your responsibility.

Don’t Miss the Bliss Boat: 3 Ways to Achieve More Happiness

By Jenna McCarthy

Merriam-Webster defines happiness as a state of well-being. Dictionary.com calls it a condition of pleasurable satisfaction. Do you want to know what I call it? Pretty much a luxury. After all, if you’re homeless or hungry or in prison or suffering any sort of discomfort, you’re not worried about something as intangible as happiness, right? Think about the last time you had a massive hangover. Even if every last thing in your life was going swimmingly, you probably didn’t lie on your couch counting your blessings with each throb of your head. You couldn’t. You were too busy popping Advil and downing Cokes and fantasizing about French fries while you perfected your woe-is-me moan, right?

Exactly.

You can’t imagine the lengths scientists go to in an effort to understand the mysterious beast we call happiness. In one fascinating study, researchers discovered that blowing cold air up participants’ noses put them in better moods than when they blew hot air up their noses. (Are you picturing this experiment? Honestly!) The takeaway here isn’t necessarily that you should go snort some dry ice or even open your freezer and breathe deeply when you’re in a crappy mood, although it sounds like there’s a chance that might help.

Random studies aside, while it can be hard to pinpoint exactly what happiness is, scientists are pretty clear when they’re defining what it’s not: Happiness isn’t skipping through life feeling giddy all day every day. It’s not having all the toys and things money can buy or a seven-figure bank account, although I’ll admit those things would be extremely fun and probably wouldn’t make most of us miserable. Happiness isn’t a destination — you know, like heaven or frequent flier elite status — that when you reach it, you’re automatically granted the privilege of staying there forever.

At the end of the day, happiness is a result of who you are, what you do and how you behave. You can’t wish yourself happier, but you CAN change or adopt certain behaviors that will undeniably improve your state of mind as well as your state of being.

Despite what you may passionately believe right now, there’s not a pair of shoes, a piece of furniture, a bit of electronics or any other sort of gadget or gizmo in the universe that will make you truly happy. This isn’t just my theory; it’s a scientifically proven fact.

The concept itself is called hedonic adaptation, and essentially what it means is that no matter what fabulous or amazing thing we acquire, it’s only a matter of time — generally around three months, give or take — until we go back to the EXACT same level of happiness we were at before we acquired it.

How to Get More Happiness

So if things won’t make us happy, what will? The answer is experiences. Think sharing a meal out with friends, taking a trip with your family or hiking a beautiful trail with your favorite canine companion. Unlike a new pair of boots or an iPhone 9-thousand, in addition to being inherently enjoyable in the moment, these things also satisfy deeper, more meaningful needs for connection and vitality — needs that have far-reaching benefits on our health and well-being.

Below are 3 practices that have been scientifically proven to increase happiness:

  1. Mindfulness. Harvard researchers confirmed scientifically what Buddhists have known since the fifth century BC: no matter what people are doing — whether it’s something inherently enjoyable like having sex or playing with their kids or something significantly less fun like commuting or working — they’re happiest when they’re focused on what they’re doing instead of thinking about something else.
  2. Gratitude. It’s research-proven fact that one of the most common habits of highly happy people is the keeping of a gratitude practice. In fact, research has found that regularly expressing thanks can help improve everything from insomnia to immune system function.
  3. Resilience. When disaster or tragedy strikes, the resilient are able to go zen because they understand that nothing is permanent. Nothing at all. Psychologists have a saying: if you can change your attitude, you can change your life. So when things aren’t going your way, you have a choice. You can dwell and stew and ask the universe WHAT DID I DO TO DESERVE THIS? Or you can say to yourself “well this feels pretty miserable and hopeless today, but let’s see what tomorrow brings.”