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Connecting The Dots

Connect-The-Dots-Post Steve Jobs notoriously said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

As my life evolves, I find more and more truth to this concept – there is a path you are following in life and it connects to everything else.

I Diagnosed My Own Skin Cancer
In 2001, I got into a disagreement with my new husband of 3 months. I locked myself in the bedroom of our one-bedroom 800 square ft. apartment to stew. Not realizing how bored I would be in my righteous sulking, I picked up Glamour magazine and started flipping through the pages. Finding an ABCD’s of skin cancer guide sheet in the issue, I decided to do a full body scan and found a suspicious mole on my back. That mole was ultimately diagnosed as melanoma and resulted in a large, scary, life-changing surgery. My sun-worshiping, tanning booth, yo-yo dieting days had come back to haunt me. I was not invincible.

Finding Deepak
At the same point in my life, I was a basket case of stress in a fast-paced job at L’Oreal that took every ounce of my energy and produced so much anxiety I ended up in the emergency room (more than once) for anxiety attacks.

Feeling a little lost, I was given a book “Seven Secrets of Success” by Deepok Chopra. It reset my mind frame and made everything seem attainable.  I was always very motivated, but as a new follower (and stalker 😉 ) of Deepak, it became clearer that I can control my life and achieve anything. I quit my job at L’Oreal.

Tackling My Only Fear
As everything in my life flourished, I still could not tackle my fear of skin cancer. At least 35 removals and 5 doctors later, I avoided the sun at all costs, bundled up in 95 degree weather and hid in the shade. You really can’t comprehend how scary it is to be diagnosed with cancer (of any kind), unless you have gone through it. This could potentially be my demise.

My fear lasted up until 4 weeks ago.

During a routine 3 month checkup, my savior, Dr. Wang – the director of Memorial Sloan Kettering in Basking Ridge, NJ (referred to me from a previous doctor who met him at a conference –> dot), told me to Live My Life. He said I would miss out if I continued to live in fear and my mind would eventually convince my body that it was sick and create illness. It was a life revelation for me.

After this eye-opening appointment with Dr. Wang, I randomly turned on the TV one afternoon (which I NEVER do) and Deepok Chopra was on Oprah’s Soul Sunday. He was talking about his book “Ageless Body, Timeless Mind.” His main premise was we can control the health of our body through positive thinking (it’s a fascinating read). By taking care of your body (eating well, exercising, nourishing your mind), you can stop illness and the aging process. He said to “Live Your Life” to the fullest potential.

I felt as if the last 10 years made a full circle.

Dots Continue To Connect
In the last 10 years, being Deepak inspired, I have accomplished so much more than I ever imagined. I have started 3 successful businesses, checked “become a trainer” off my bucket list, started a health and nutrition blog (with an equally motivational partner), learned an exorbitant amount of information on health and nutrition and have practiced what I preach. I have learned and shared with many that you can heal your body from the inside out. My goal was to motivate others in life to be happy and live their life.

I have not had another melanoma in over 10 years.

I realized there’s a good chance channeling all of that positive energy and practicing healthy living over the years ultimately helped me heal my body from the inside out.

The Dots All Come Together
• I find my melanoma • Deepak Chopra inspires me to de-stress and live life up to my potential • I dedicate myself to inspiring others and living a healthy lifestyle • After many, many doctors, I am driven to Dr. Wang, who ultimately teaches me my own mantra • Deepok shows up on TV on a random Sunday to talk to me once again • I realize my healthy behavior and positive energy  has ultimately helped me keep my body healthy • I learn my own life lesson and hope to continue to inspire others.

So I pass on the message to you….look back at your dots and see how they have dictated your future.
And, most importantly… Life Your Life.

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  • Jenny Heffernan

    Wow Deb – I have chills head to toe! I feel like I just read my own story! I diagnosed my melanoma too and lived in panic for years. I have finally found connections and support in my life that have changed the way I look at everything. Love your blog and of course your reading list is the EXACT replica of my favorite reads! I think we may have been separated at birth. Love the blog! You are an amazing and inspiring woman – I am so happy to have crossed paths with you! XOXO Jenny Hefernan

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Are You A ’Glass Half Full’ Person?

images-3Positive thinking is no longer just a soft and fluffy term thrown around in psychology classes.  Reams of research are beginning to reveal that positive thinking is about much more than just displaying an upbeat attitude and a smile.  Studies have consistently shown that a positive attitude can have a beneficial effect on our health and success.  A recent article from the Mayo Clinic cited the following health benefits of positive thinking:

  • Increased life span
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Lower levels of distress
  • Greater resistance to the common cold
  • Better psychological and physical well-being
  • Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  • Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress

But how does one become a positive person?  Are we born seeing the glass either ‘half full’ or ‘half empty’?  And, are we destined to go through life this way?

Recent research says, ‘no’. Scientists have learned that the brain continues to adapt and rewire itself throughout our lives and our thoughts and behaviors directly influence this process.

So how do we actually become more optimistic?  One technique is by consciously and actively practicing gratitude.  At the end of every day, make a conscious effort to remember and write down 2 or 3 things for which you are grateful.  You can record them in a journal or on pieces of paper that you drop into a jar.  At first, you will most likely begin with the big stuff like family and a house over your head.  But as you continue, you will be forced to carefully look back over the day and remember the little things, such as the great lunch you had, or the phone call with your mom or even a thoughtful text from a friend.  Your brain can only hold a certain amount of information at a time, so by focusing on and reinforcing the positive events of the day, you crowd out the negative thoughts.

Over time, this way of thinking will actually rewire your brain. Just think of your brain as a dynamic, connected power grid, with billions of roads and pathways lighting up every time you think or feel.  The well travelled roads are your habits and your established ways of thinking and feeling.  Every time you think in a certain way or feel a specific emotion, you strengthen those roads and make it easier for your brain to travel along them.

However, when you think about something differently or choose a different emotion, you carve out a new road inside your brain.  If these new thoughts and emotions are reinforced frequently,  a new pathway gets stronger and becomes the preferred path.  The old pathway becomes used less and less and weakens.  (This is the concept of Neuroplasticity.)

One recent study published in the Journal of Research in Personality confirmed the impact of positive thoughts on one’s health.  Ninety college student were spilt into two groups, one of which wrote about intensely positive experiences three days a week, and the other group wrote about a control topic.  After just three months, the students who wrote about positive experiences had better mood levels, fewer visits to the health center, and experienced fewer illnesses.

I have been planning on using a gratitude jar with my kids for years and never seem to get around to it.  But as I write this blog, I am making a public promise to make gratitude part of my family’s life.  It only takes minutes a day and can lead to a happier more satisfied life.  Think about doing it for your family and send us a comment to tell us how it is going.

Also, if you are interested in learning about living a more optimistic life, Cara Maksimow, LCSW, CPC, conducts Optimism Workshops locally and by web.  Check out her link at http://www.maximize-wellness.com/workshops.html.

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  • Cara Maksimow, LCSW, CPC

    Love the blog post! I can say from personal experience ( my family and I have been doing ” 3 things” every night for years). I also have had great response from coaching clients who have incorporated gratitude into daily activities.

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Power From Within

A couple of weeks ago, I was listening to the news on the radio and it mentioned a study that confirmed something in our brains called insula can give athletes an extra physical edge to excel. I was intrigued!

We have all heard the stories of an athlete being able to perform the unexplainable. Or read accounts of individuals who pushed their body beyond what they thought sprinting-athletewas possible. There is a scientific reason why this happens. The reality is that our bodies are capable of more exertion than we think – it’s not physiological, it’s perception and anticipation.

Recent studies indicate the brain’s insular cortex can help an individual be more efficient physically and give that extra “edge”. The insula is said to anticipate future feelings.  Researchers at the OptiBrain Center and the Naval Health Research Center suggest that athletes can generate a heightened awareness that can accurately predict how the body will feel at the next moment. This allows an individual to activate their muscles to move faster and perform better than typically expected.

The OptiBrain center says this “mindfulness” is a result of the insula serving “as a critical hub that merges high-level cognition with a measure of the body’s state to insure proper functioning of the muscles and bones; those that perform more optimally are the ones who are able to use anticipatory cues to adjust themselves and return to equilibrium.”

The insula helps to calculate how much energy exercise “costs us”. The brain can respond by pushing the body when it needs to and pulling back when necessary. The insula seems to be the key to pushing yourself physically to limits you did not think you could reach.

So next time you are in a workout, try to incorporate a sense of mindfulness…anticipating when you will need to exert yourself to a higher level (for those in our Tabata Bootcamp – you know when it is coming ;-). You might be surprised how much you can push yourself beyond what you thought you were capable.

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