Sources that influence Nutrition and Health

Good morning on this Sunday, January 19, 2020

January 2020 is off and running.  Thank you for tuning in with me today.  It is always amazing how quickly each week ticks away.  My mission is to enjoy each and every moment.  Time definitely flies when you are having fun!  Staying fit mentally and physically is an integral part of my life.  Make 2020 an incredible and amazing year!  Be there for one another and always be willing to lend a helping hand.  

Maintaining great health is such an important factor in our lives.  Our bodies are finely tuned organisms.  They require a balance of our mental, physical and spiritual structures to operate properly.  Each part of the puzzle should be in balance, so we can enjoy life at maximum capacity.  If we begin fueling it with less than optimal additives, our performance levels decrease.  This is true when it comes to health.  Food and water are a vibrant source of our nutrition.  They are an important resource for sustaining our life.  There are other sources that have a significant influence on our health and mental well-being.   

How do other sources we ingest with our mind, body and senses impact our health and nutrition?  Eating junky food or drinking unhealthy liquids, has a negative effect on our physical and mental well-being.  Our body always seems to know best.  You feel bad, sluggish, your mind feels cloudy or you just do not feel “right.”  The end result, your mind and body operate at less than maximum capacity.  If you have ever overindulged in food or drink, you know it is not a good feeling. 

Similar results are possible when we ingest (medication or illicit) drugs.   These substances are not a natural source of nutrition, nor are they part of our bodies normal function.  While there are medications associated with maintaining life, most drugs typically treat a symptom and not the root cause of the problem.  Drugs typically create “side effects” which are an undesirable secondary cause of the medication.  These have the capacity to create other, and sometimes even more significant issues within us.  The negative secondary effects are not good for our health.      

What you expose your body to, ingest, see, hear, feel, smell or taste; can influence your over-all health.  The type of music you listen to can impact your mental health.  If the music is loud, has lyrics of death, destruction, violence or sadness, it can alter your mental state.  The same can be true watching movies, videos, TV or social media; when violence, horror or sad situations are depicted.  The emotions and images projected have the ability to influence on our wellness.  Listening or watching forms of entertainment can create soothing feelings of happiness too.  What our senses perceive become part of our world.  Their influence may last briefly, or they may bring on more serious or long lasting feelings.

I dealt with years of violent, traumatic and horrific situations during my career in law enforcement.  These incidents had an impact on me mentally, physically and spiritually. The vast majority were never processed by my mind.   I was not able to allow a release of my emotions.  During these incidents my feelings remained in check, in order to process and deal with each situation safely.  Holding emotions in, while being immersed in each event; never allowing my brain to adequately process the pain, creates trauma.  With each new incident the pain and trauma continued to manifest and grow within me.  There were times it made me physically sick.  My relief did not occur until years later, when I found Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy.  This therapy allowed my brain to process and release the trauma and toxic thoughts.  My brain processed the events and stored them properly, not to cause me harm again.  

When the brain does not fully process a traumatic incident, it retains each memory, continually replaying it over and over in the mind.  The trauma creates negativity and toxic thoughts.  The  pain associated with each event, is sometimes created unknowingly.  It manifests as stress, anger, anxiety, depression sadness and guilt.  The agony and frustration you feel are real.  Your health declines, as it has a serious impact on your mental health and well-being.  The struggle to maintain balanced mental and physical health can be significant.  Make a conscious effort to recognize when there is an imbalance.  Do not spend time worrying if your balance is off.   

There are many outside sources that create stimuli that have the capability to influence the health of our mind and body.  Traffic, crowds, disasters, social settings and so many other situations can bring on uneasiness.  I wish there was a simple solution to resolve each challenge we face.  The best advice I can offer is what I have found that assists me.  Each day I wake up with gratitude and thankfulness in thoughts.  I am more mindful and present with my life, loved ones and everyone I encounter during my day.  I strive for balance.  I may not always achieve it, but that is my goal.  I listen to softer music when I need it.  I am very aware of the violent world around us, but do not engage in violence or the media sources that display it.  I know there will be traffic, crowds and unruly people to deal with, it is a fact of life.  I eat healthier foods and drink less alcoholic beverages.  I focus on what is good in my life.  I breathe slower and release the anxiety.  I say hello, hold doors open, smile and make people smile back.  I am friendly, kind and maintain a positive heart.  There is pain and suffering in the world.  For now, I am making an effort to bring joy into our world.     

How much time each day do you spend looking at your cell phone?  This time should include seated in front of a computer or any visual screen or monitor.  What are the effects these create on your eyes, mind, brain and body?  Does the artificial light they emit impact us in a good or bad way?  Add our seated commute travels into this equation.  We spend so much time seated, driving, riding, at a desk, on the couch or holding our cell phone.  We typically have our shoulders tight and hunched forward, our teeth clinched and our body rigid.  The combined tension creates stress and anxiety.  It can affect our mental and physical wellness, which can lead to negativity, fatigue, sore muscles and agitation of our mind.  Do you believe this activity impacts our life?  Our mental and physical health are important for longevity and happiness.  Do not let them slip away.     

My career in law enforcement took a toll on my body, mind and spirit.  My body got beat up and broken.  My mind was filled with trauma and pain.  My spirit, sometimes shaken, never doubted what my mind and body were capable of doing.  The factors that kept me from going over the edge were, I was strong mentally and physically.  You have to believe in yourself; I did.  I always worked on building my own self-confidence.  My spirit and soul remained positive, even during negative times.  There were times in my life I was not my happiest.  I struggled with incidents of anxiety and depression, but I always kept a positive outlook.  There were moments in my life that opened doors.  I was happy I recognized most of them and changed my path.  I suggest you slow down a little in your life, so you can recognize when those opportunities and doors appear.  You have to be aware of those chances when they present themselves so you don’t run past.  I am much more mindful and present in my life.  When the universe presents an opportunity, I am ready.  Will you be?  Be open and willing to change.  It really is an amazing thing.  Change can bring the nutrition of life at its finest.

When we achieve that balance of food, water, air, sun, exercise and rest, our minds and bodies transform into amazing and beautiful beings.  We are truly unique and incredible creatures. Finding and maintaining that balance takes work and effort.  This is especially true in today’s age of technology and fast paced living.  The challenges are real, but our will and strength to succeed is even greater.  We are in control of our own body and mental attitude.  Make the conscious effort to change for the positive.   The moment I decided to change, my life changed for the better.  It really is amazing how a positive attitude can alter our lives.  A calm mind brings relief to your body.  Live and enjoy a happy and healthy life.  Happiness is up to us.   Be the change you want to see the world become.  Life is a blessing and privilege.  Don’t waste it.

Please tune in and join me again next Sunday for more!  The healthy life puzzle is always in rotation.  Let’s be healthy and strong mentally, physically and spiritually!

Thanks for your love and support!  Embrace Life!  Be sure to get outside and enjoy nature!

What is healthy Nutrition

Good morning and Happy Sunday January 12, 2020

Greetings friends!  I hope you are all doing well; keeping your mind calm and body strong.  We are nearly two weeks into 2020 and there is plenty occurring in the world.  It may be a new and exciting year, but life continues to happen.  My question is, what are you doing to process and deal with everything that comes your way?  Is it causing new stress, pain, anxiety or trauma?   The reality of the world and life events can create stress and bring on depression.  Together, we have to remain strong and healthy; physically, mentally and spiritually.  Stay positive, keep your negative thoughts in check and focus on happiness and longevity.

Enjoying health, happiness and love brings so many rewards and benefits.  Less stress, peace of mind, a healthy body and gentle spirit are all amazing.  Physical strength, self-confidence and positive thinking are highly desired too.  All these begin with a balance of several key factors.  Food, exercise, sleep, nature, self-care and love are key components to the balance.  I want to focus on nutrition in maintaining the healthy life puzzle.  So what is nutrition?  Most of us immediately think of food, right?  Yes, food is a major component of it, but there is more.  Nutrition encompasses everything we put into our bodies.  Whether we ingest food, liquid, drugs, smoke, music, visual images, sights, sounds and emotion; all have an influence on our health.  It really encompasses all of our senses, including physical, mental and spiritual.  What we fuel our bodies and minds with, sets the course for much of how we feel, what we do, think and say.   Good health and nutrition is not a fad or a diet.  It is about living a healthy lifestyle.

Maintaining good health should be an investment in yourself.  It should be something you take seriously every day.  We save money by putting it into bank accounts, investment or retirement funds.  Why aren’t we doing the same with our health.  We should be banking on our good health at every opportunity.  It should be one of our top priorities.  If you eat junk or unhealthy food day after day, don’t exercise and aren’t coping with stress, your mind and body will suffer.  The accumulation of stress and poor health will impact you mentally, physically and spiritually.  This will potentially create health issues with harmful consequences.  I realize we are all different physically and mentally.  Our bodies process changes differently, but negative influences will ultimately impact you adversely.  I want to be around as long as possible to enjoy life.  Life is far too short not to enjoy the people that we love and cherish!  I want to be here to walk my daughter down the aisle and play with grandkids someday.  Every day spent negatively impacted by increased stress, lack of a healthy life style and lack of inner happiness is causing you harm.  It’s time to turn that around and move into positive territory.  I know dealing with a stressful life day in and day out takes a toll on us.  I lived that life for far too many years.  I ultimately learned how to deflect stress, get healthy and happy again.  Now I feel energized and vibrant.  It’s amazing how happy you and your life can be with just a few simple adjustments.  Your health investment needs to start now.

When I was growing up, my Mom cooked relatively healthy, or so we thought.  Along with all the Italian favorites, my Dad enjoyed meat, potato’s and vegetables.  Processed food weaved into our diet in the 60’s.  TV dinners were the rave and a treat.  Now I am well aware of all the processed additives that go into those meals.  Yuck!  I know it was fun for us at the time, but not so healthy.  Happily, those days are in my past.  I learned to cool and refined my skills as I grew. 

Now fast forward to my career in law enforcement.  It is after midnight and my partner and I have been running our butts off from incident to incident.  We are exhausted and have not had the opportunity to eat since we began our shift nearly eight hours ago.  At this hour in Los Angeles food choices are limited, especially for cops.  We are near downtown, so we drive into Rampart Division and stop at the Original Tommy’s Hamburger.  It is a popular spot at any hour for many people.  We both opt for a double chili cheese burger, chili cheese fries and a soda.  Our dining table is the warm hood of our police car.  Standing in the middle of a parking lot eating is not my first choice.  Our food disappears in a matter of minutes!  My body tells me I will regret eating this.  I feel the effects the next day.  It was a poor choice and my body obviously knows best.  Unfortunately, poor food choices occurred often, especially when selection is slim.  As the years pass I realize, I am in control of what I put into my body.  I begin to make adjustments, make better choices and opting for healthy food.  My body rewards me with better health and mental clarity.  Food can be a crutch without us realizing it.  This is when we need to recognize what choices we make and what we put into our bodies.  Healthier is better.  Eating fresh healthy foods builds our body, fuels our mind and enriches our soul.  Food is such an important part of this balancing puzzle.  I am a firm believer eating healthy food is a top priority to a better life.  Food coupled with exercise, self-care, rest, nature, mindfulness and love lead us along a path of happiness and longevity.

When my daughter did a semester abroad for college, she lived in Florence, Italy.  She enjoyed how different shopping for food and eating was there; as compared to here in the United States.  Food for meals was shopped fresh each day.  The farm to table concept was a reality.  Typically, that isn’t the case in the U.S., where so many foods may be shipped across the country or from outside the US.  There were also far fewer processed foods in Italy.  Here in the U.S. we have entire sections of the grocery stores devoted to frozen, canned, bagged, bottled or boxed processed foods.  I’ve had the pleasure of visiting parts of Italy on three different occasions. Meals are much less rushed and more enjoyed by friends and family.  Yes, fast food chains have invaded Italy; and the world; but luckily most people still realize the importance of eating healthy.  My daughter and I can now laugh about some of the foods we consumed when she was young.  One such item, and yes there were a few, was Entenmann’s donut holes.  She loved those things; except an entire box was a bit much for a young girl over several days.  I was always there to assist and help with the donut holes seeing their demise.  Yes, it is a good thing I was younger then; ran and worked out regularly.  Fun times to remember, laugh about and definitely not do again now.  My daughter was great incentive to eat and live healthier.  My goal now is to eat as healthy as I can.  I am happy she picked up healthy living skills too.               

When it comes to eating healthy, there are so many unhealthy choices out there.  Fast food has to be one of the worst.  I did eat quite a bit in my younger days until I finally realized how poorly it made me feel.  There are so many foods today filled with chemicals, preservatives and additives that can cause negative health issues.  Pesticides are often used on fruit and vegetables.  Many foods are being genetically modified.  There are so many things associated with the production of our food we do not have the ability to control.  Foods cooked or fried in vegetable or refined oils are not healthy.  In addition, those foods are typically loaded with other unhealthy additives.  My suggestion, make healthier choices when eating at restaurants and avoid fast food joints.  I avoid products that are labeled “low fat” or “heart healthy.”  I have nearly eliminated all sugar and many processed foods from my diet.  Sugar and added sugars under various names, has to be the single handed worst additive.  I suggest you read ingredient labels before you buy.  Added sugar is in just about everything.  It is not good for you or your health. 

What we can control is educating ourselves and making healthier choices.  Today, my diet includes plenty of fresh, organic and non-GMO foods.  Vegetables, leafy greens, nuts, grains and many types of fruit are always included in my diet.  I have slowly been reducing the amount of meat I consume; especially red meat.  When I do eat meat (including fish and chicken), I eat specific cuts that are organic, healthy and fresh.  I still enjoy cheese, but have eliminated most dairy products.  I use coconut or almond milk for healthy protein shakes.  A good quality olive oil is best, as is coconut oil for cooking.

Water comprises approximately 60% of the body.  Keeping our bodies hydrated each day is of paramount importance.  Water is the key component.  My body lets me know when I am not drinking enough to maintain good hydration.  I typically feel sluggish and begin to get a headache.  Drinking water throughout the day is significant in maintaining proper bodily functions.  There are many energy and hydration drinks available.  They can provide benefits at the right time.  Many contain large amounts of sugar or other additives that can have a negative effect as well.  Be cautious as to how much you consume.  My suggestion is to always read the label for contents.  Be better informed as to what you are putting into your body.

Alcohol and spirits are another source of sugar and added chemicals.  We tend to drink alcoholic beverages for enjoyment or to influence our mental state.  I used alcohol as a crutch for many years.  In college it masked my pain from anxiety and self-confidence.  In law enforcement it masked my pain from trauma and depression.  When my daughter was born, I grew in many ways.  I eventually drank alcohol less and less.  I learned I did not need the crutch.  My body felt so much better, alive and vibrant.  I do enjoy a glass of wine, so opt for organic, biodynamic and clean-crafted wines.  I use one particular company for my wines purchases.  If you would like more information, please feel free to reach out with a comment or message.  I am happy to divulge my source.

I want to live healthier and longer.  There are so many amazing things life has to offer.  There is no time like the present to make a positive change in your life.  Don’t wait!  Don’t procrastinate!  This is the time for action!  Set some goals for better health and eating habits.  Write your goals down on paper.  When you do this it is like making a blue print in your brain.  Goals can be simple, like trimming your waist, eating more plant based foods, walking a little more, better communication or clarity.  It can increase your ability to follow through and achieve success.  I enjoy planning things out.  It makes them visible to strive for. 

Many times the unhealthy habits we indulge in are a result of the stress or depression induced from a life event.  These events could be something significant like the death of a family member, a relationship issue or a work situation.  There are many variables that can cause these feelings and emotions that push us to the edge.  This is when we reach for a way to cope.  If we do not know or understand how to cope or deal with these correctly, we may reach for unhealthy self-cures that only mask the issues and feelings for a short time.  This is the time you need physical and mental stimulation to get yourself aligned and moving forward.  This is your life.  Make it what you want it to be.  I know it is not always an easy or pleasant process.  There can be pain and sadness along the way.  I know you can get through it.  Together we can stay strong and focused.  Never doubt yourself or what you are capable of achieving.  This is all about creating change and making a better, happier and healthier life.  We can do this!

Please tune in and join me again next Sunday for more!  I will continue the discussion on balancing all aspects of the healthy life puzzle.

Thanks for your love and support!  Embrace Life!  Be sure to get outside and enjoy nature!

Empower yourself into 2020

Good morning and Happy Sunday January 5, 2020

I wish you all a blessed and prosperous New Year!  Here we are, already five days into 2020.  What will the new year bring for you?  How will you make great things happen?  The year is yours to mold and the opportunities are endless.  I know it will be an amazing year; we only need to open ourselves to the possibilities.  I never envisioned myself writing a weekly blog, yet here I am on my eighth post.  It is fun, fulfilling and insightful for me, not only to write for you, but for me to learn more about myself.  When I began my journey to opening and healing, I knew I wanted to share it with all of you.  Thank you for taking the time to read my words and follow my life.   My dream is that sharing my story may help someone along their path.  Whether you gain some insight, find new strength or pass this on to someone who can use it, then my dream becomes a reality.

My life’s journey has been a long road, filled with twists and turns.  When I graduated from college, I did not have a vision for my life, what it would be like or where it might take me.  As life goes, it has not been without pitfalls and trauma.  It has also been filled with lots of goodness and happiness.  My career in law enforcement was amazing and fulfilling in so many ways.  I know I touched many lives along my path; not only people in the community I served, but within the police ranks as well.  In the grand scheme of the world, I believe my contributions were small.  I know my words helped comfort, console, mentor, boost, energize, facilitate, build, empower and change lives.  I was extremely lucky to have some amazing people and mentors in my life, beginning with my Dad.  He shared and instilled in me great qualities and character traits.  I learned many lessons along the way and crossed paths with people that would impact my life.  Some offered words of wisdom and insight, while others helped pull me back up when I was down.  Those are the times that create vibrant hope.  Those situations gave me the strength to see beyond where I was and know I could overcome those feelings of helplessness or frustration.   

My career offered me the opportunity to work alongside some great officers and supervisors.  There were several supervisors that went above and beyond in mentoring me.  They shared  insight, training, expertise and encouragement.  They went out of their way to help me develop and grow.  Their efforts energized me to build and believe in my skills.  When I became a supervisor, I wanted to return the favor.  I had the rare privilege of working with and leading some amazing men and women of the Los Angeles Police Department.  Their dedication and service go beyond measure.  Working long hours, under all conditions and often in dangerous situations, never hindered their desire or strength to complete our mission.  Their resilience, loyalty and passion invigorated my fortitude and drive.  As a leader, I was there to support them; ensuring they were physically and mentally prepared.  I managed their duties, but facilitated their development, safety and mental well-being.  I wanted them to reach for their dreams, while looking out for them too.  I understand how the demands and stress of work can tear you down.  Law enforcement, first responders and our military have a difficult job; to say the least.  They believe in and represent the forefront of our freedom.  They risk their lives so we can live in a safe and free society.

I know and understand how the stress of these and other professions impact our daily lives.  These particular professions are integrated into our life 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  You never really turn them off and are free.  Your family becomes part of that life every time you walk out the door together.  You have talks about what to do and how to stay safe in a critical situation.  The job creates stress, can bring on depression and induce negativity.  You learn how to manage it, while you internalize the stress and trauma, so you can keep fighting every day.  I lived that life for nearly 34 years.                

I know stress and anxiety have a way of invading all of our lives for a variety of reasons.  I know because I have felt the grip of anxiety.  I have felt powerless; using alcohol as a temporary fix.  I was so happy when I felt the urgency to break that spell and realize I was in control.  It is easy for those that are not experiencing anxiety or depression to say, “Just be happy.  Feel better.  Get yourself together”, or so many other meaningless phrases.  Words only take us so far.  They can provide comfort, but not the help we actually require.  For those of us who have dealt with anxiety or depression, and for those of you fighting it now, you know there is not a simple fix.  It is a true daily struggle.  As much as we need to put in the work and effort to help ourselves, we often need the help of others to pull us up.

The New Year brings with it wonderful opportunities and possibilities.  Now is the time to empower yourself.  I know coming into the new year can create fear.  This is really anxiety and uncertainty for the future.  The problem is, there will always be an amount of fear in your life.  The positive is being able to set it aside or remove that perceived threat and the anxiety it creates.  Do not surrender yourself, allowing negativity to creep into your mind.  The more you can eliminate it from your thoughts, the better your life becomes.  This is the time you can set the standard for making positive change.  You are in control of your thoughts.  Sometimes it takes a conscience effort to maintain positivity.  I share that struggle.  Once you condition your mind it becomes easier.  Take the necessary steps to prevent or stop those thoughts that can paralyze you. 

Build habits that move you forward in a positive direction.  Let me share a few of mine that help keep me focused and healthy.  The first is meditation.  I typically meditate for approximately five minutes every morning as soon as I roll out of bed.  This quiets my mind and helps set the tone for the day.  This practice is excellent for controlling your thoughts.  It will help free your mind from anxiety and fear.  Meditation is wonderful for easing stress and bring calmness to you physically, mentally and spiritually.  It is something you can do nearly anywhere or anytime of day.  If you feel stress or anxiety creeping in, meditation and controlled breathing can bring relief.

My next habit is exercise.  It can be as simple as doing a stretching routine, walking, going to the gym, out for a run or hiking.  I have always found great benefits from getting some sort of physical exercise first thing in the morning.  I have read several health studies that detail the positive effects, physically and mentally, of morning exercise.   Get up, get out and get your blood flowing, enjoy the release of endorphins and energize yourself for the day.  This is also a great way to start a routine and build those habits.  Research shows it takes approximately two months (depending on the person) to create a new habit.  This is when that new routine transforms into automatic behavior.  If I do not follow my meditation or workout routine, I just feel like I missed a big part of my day.  I always feel better after a workout.  It sets the tone and prepares me for a fabulous day.       

Journaling or writing down your goals, dreams or desires has great benefits, too.  It is a great way to clear space in your mind.  Goal setting is, for the new year or your future, so important to designing your path.  Goals (especially written ones) provide direction and encouragement.   Write down your fears, too.  When you put them on paper, they can become clear and easier to understand.  When I put them on paper they often do not seem as big or unsolvable.  The visualization can assist in ways to resolve them as well.  Process them and know that you can achieve success without fear.  Think about what you want to accomplish in the first month, middle of the year and by end of the year.  Then build a plan for how you will reach each goal.  There is always time to re-evaluate along the way; that is okay.  Do not give up.  If you need help, ask.  There are so many resources out there willing to help, including family and friends.  Encourage and push yourself.  Tell yourself, “I can do this.”  Unless there is a huge hungry predator standing between you and your dream, you can do it.  If you can imagine it, you can achieve it.

We all experience adversity and pain.  It is an unescapable part of our journey.  Resolving issues, dealing with sadness, pain and trauma allows us to appreciate all the great things in life.  Yes, we will have to face fear and grief along the way.  We all will have pain.  The question is how much time will you spend suffering.  Face your challenges, do not fear them.  Allow yourself to move forward, even if you begin with small steps.  If you need help, ask for it.  Get out there and live!  Life is yours to experience and cherish. Start with gratitude and add a dose of thankfulness.  We are in control of our own happiness.     

Please tune in and join me again next Sunday for more!  I will continue the discussion on balancing all aspects of the healthy life puzzle.

Thanks for your love and support!  Embrace Life!  Be sure to get outside and enjoy nature!

Be Present and Kind

Happy Sunday, December 29, 2019

I am in the midst of cleaning up from our Christmas celebration.  2019 is coming to a close and the New Year is right around the corner.  It is a joyous and exciting time.  It can be a daunting time for many other reasons.  December, Christmas and holidays have a way of stirring up past or present feelings, create stress or bring grief or sadness.  Maybe you did not achieve the goals or resolutions you set for yourself when the year began.  New hardships may have occurred that created setbacks in your life.  Whatever happened in 2019, it will soon be in the past.  If you did not attain the goals you set, do not despair.  With the coming of 2020, goals, old or new, and dreams are possible.  We have a new year to move forward and pursue our passions.  If the time of year brought sadness, please allow yourself to feel it.  Release the emotions and pain associated with what occurred.  You need to do this in order to rebuild and replenish your spirit.  I know from experience it takes time to heal.  The journey is not always easy, but it is up to us to make it a blessing.  Each new sunrise brings new opportunities and possibilities for us to reach for the stars.  It only takes a little effort to make our dreams reality.

It was a busy year for me.  I know I did not complete goals I had intended to accomplish.  I have been writing and working on a book for years.  This year seemed to be the right time, but it just did not come together.  Once again it has been shelved for the time being.  I know I will refine it in the coming year.  I am excited to get it out there for you very soon.  It is a memoir of my life, career in law enforcement and what brought me to my present journey.  I share what pulled me down, the trauma of my profession and how I rebounded to release my pain.  I want to share what life as a cop is really all about.  It takes a dedicated and determined person to fulfill these duties. It obviously is not the career for everyone, but am so happy I was able to serve.  I am the same person, yet my outlook and heart are much more open and happy.  Writing a book has been an interesting endeavor in itself.  It has been an education and learning experience about me and who I am.  What a wonderful story to discover so much good within you.  All I want is to share my insight and path to being a better me.  

I had the pleasure of visiting several countries this year, seeking enlightenment and solace.  I learned that much of the knowledge I was seeking was right here at home.  It just required me to extract the information from my brain.  Some of my time abroad was used as an escape from dealing with life.  That became clear during my first week away from home.  I returned home with an open heart, no expectations and willing to let the universe guide me.  It really is amazing what doors and opportunities open to you when you relax and relinquish control.  I believed I was great at controlling life and events.  It was part of my job at work.  Every situation demanded control.  Ensuring life and death situations are resolved with peace was my duty.  Controlling work encounters does not work for relationships or living your life.  Life is not meant to be controlled.  Life is meant to live.  

As humans we place great pressure on ourselves to excel.  We want to achieve success, enjoy happiness and live prosperous lives.  This is part of our nature.  My career was my life.  I was focused and dedicated to the job.  I wanted to do good and make a difference in the community.  That was my daily intention, while I continued to improve my skills and expertise.  There were days I would have stayed at work instead of going home.  That all changed when my daughter was born.  She created an entirely new dynamic for my life and future.  Her arrival gave birth to my life as a Dad.  My direction changed, as well as my focus.  My career was still important, but my life revolved around her.  My role altered further when her Mom and I divorced.  Yes, that created stress, but I cherished every moment as a Dad.  Knowing I could not be with her every day was tough.  I was lucky to have her half the time.  I wanted to make every moment count.      

The holidays and New Year can be an emotional roller coaster.  Our moods vary from happy to stressed, to sad and back again.  Often we know and understand the root cause, but it continues to happen.  Then there are times we hover like a seesaw back and forth not knowing why.  The anxiety builds and our health balance is compromised.  As we race into the New Year, take some time to slow down.  Relax your mind and check in on your mental status.  Get outdoors and enjoy nature.  Go for a walk, exercise and get physical.  Nurture your spirit.  Self-care is self-love.  The stress we create, coupled with all the stressors of everyday life, can be quite exhausting and difficult.  Hard work, dedication and drive are sought after characteristics, but finding balance in our lives is just as important.  For many years I internalized much of the stress and anxiety of my career.  I worked out and exercised as much as possible to fend off that negativity.  Physical activity is only part of the puzzle to clear yourself of negative toxins.  We must make a concerted effort to rid our bodies and minds of stress.  Exercise can only resolve a portion of that problem.  When we do exercise, it should be something we enjoy.  If we do not enjoy it, then why are we doing it. 

 For me, that enjoyment comes from being outside running.  My endorphins really kick in when I am out in nature.  Whether I am running by the ocean or hiking the mountain trails, it brings me happiness and peace.  When my daughter was young I would put her in a jogger and push her while I ran.  I was running with her one day and felt much slower than normal.  She tossed one of her stuffed animals, who was along for the ride, on to the street.  I stopped to retrieve it when I noticed the palms of her hand were a dirty black color.  I began running again when I noticed her arms were spread to each side.  She was pushing down on the tops of the rear wheels with her hands.  Needless to say, I instantly knew why her hands were dirty and why I felt so slow.  She was enjoying the moment, having fun.  To this day, I still look back at that story with fond memories.  I used to love those moments together and it is an easy way to find some fun in physical activity.  It does not need to be running.  Find what works for you.  Just get out there and have fun.  We need to let ourselves be kids again and enjoy life.  Do it with a friend!

This is where the third part of the puzzle is needed to bring us back together.  Now is the time to focus on our spirit.  Self-reflection, meditation or prayer are good starting points.  These allow us the opportunity to “be still.”   When we can silence our mind, even for a short time period, the benefits are plentiful.  There are many ways to nurture your soul and sooth your spirit.  I begin my day with a short meditation every morning.  This helps clear my mind and set the tone of my day.  I concentrate on slowing my breathing.  I inhale and exhale with slow deep breathes. When you slow your breathing it relaxes your mind and stimulates the vagus nerve.  This can reduce your heart rate and blood pressure.  Slow deep breathing activates the vagus nerve enough to act as a break to the stress response.

There are other methods to calm your spirit.  Spend quality time with family or friends.  This means actually sharing and communicating in a mindful manner.  Do something fun that you all enjoy.  Be present with them and enjoy the moments together.  Make the time about them and your relationship.  Life does not revolve around you.  Take the time to be humble and kind.  Making other people happy can bring amazing joy to your soul.  Be grateful every day.  Gratitude   

You can go on vacation, by yourself or with others.  When you travel alone, it offers time to quiet your mind and reflect on your thoughts.  It allows you to make new acquaintances, see new things and gain new insight into life issues.  Travel is a good way to incorporate a hobby or passion.  It can bring amazing changes to your perspective on life.  It reminds us we are not alone on this planet.  There are many people and cultures with diversity and new ways of life.  

I love to travel with my girlfriend.  We share many of the same interests and love experiencing new places together.  We understand and respect each other, making our relationship very easy and special.  It sure helps when you are on the road living out of a suitcase; for a few days or weeks.  As competitive as we both are, we put “us” first.  There is plenty of conversation and decision making together.  Sharing different ideas and thoughts is what makes us great.  Being able to travel together brings so many wonderful new things to our relationship.  It restores our peace in humanity.  

If you are looking for something simple that nurtures your soul, that does not require physical activity or travel; be kind to others.  Kindness is a commodity that is boundless.  It has an instant impact on those it is bestowed upon.  Showing kindness to others is a display of respect.  Kindness is a direct reflection of you.  Be kind to all living things, the planet and yourself.  Share it often and with everyone. 

I begin each day being grateful for all I have and thanking God for life.  Showing gratitude for all you have, especially life, provides us a base for sharing love.  Gratitude means being thankful and appreciating each new day.  Every sunrise brings us new opportunities to enjoy life and help others.   Make the new day a gift, for yourself and everyone you contact.  Reach for your stars. 

Be present; living in each moment as it unfolds.  Our society creates fast paced lives for us.  I was always in such a rush to do or achieve things in my future that I often passed by what was happening in that moment.  I stressed about the past and worried about the future.  I had no control of either.  What I could enjoy was where I am in each particular moment.  I tried many times to control the past, present and future.  That is both stressful and impossible.  When I became mindful, I was able to clear my mind of the past.  This allowed me to focus on the present and work toward a brighter future.  I cannot control the outcome of where I am or where I am going.  I can only strive for the best possible version of me every day.  

Be here right now and enjoy life in the present.  Make the most of each moment.  Your spirit will find the peace in the comfort you provide.  Wishing you all a blessed and Happy New Year.  Let 2020 be the year you make positive changes, for yourself and our world.  

Please tune in and join me again next Sunday for more!  I will continue the discussion on balancing all aspects of the healthy life puzzle.

Thanks for your love and support!  Embrace Life!  Be sure to get outside and enjoy nature!

The physical aspect

Good morning and happy Sunday, December 22, 2019

Yikes!  Christmas is just a few days away.  I am sure you are all busy with final preparations for the Holiday and celebration.  Christmas has different meanings for many of us.  It is a religious celebration for some people.  For others it means celebrations all their own.  Whatever your culture, heritage or faith; December is a joyful time of year.  For many of us, this month can create increased discomfort, stress and anxiety.  Pressures and emotional tensions can increase during the holidays and through the new year.  They uncover emotions and resurface grief.  The heaviness and sadness can come from past events or current situations.  

Whatever brings you pain or suffering, acknowledge it.  Feel the emotions and let them out.  Do not mask or hold them in.  Release those feelings, sharing the expressions from your heart.  I share those feelings too.  I understand what many of you are experiencing.  I lost my Dad this month several years ago.  He fought a long battle with what became leukemia.  I was lucky to have him for many years of my life.  I spent the last days of his life by his side.  I miss him every day.  During this month the feelings that surface are vibrant and relived.  It does not make his passing or absence any easier.  While I celebrate his life, December will forever be a month with sadness attached to it.  I am always grateful for all I have, especially his great memory.       

It was not my intention to discuss death during this season, but when is it appropriate?  Death remains a difficult subject of discussion.  When it occurs, words are never enough to fill the void it creates.  It is inevitable for us all.  It is something we refrain from talking about.  I feared death, so never wanted to address the topic.  During my career as a police officer, death was all around me.  I was witness to it with death investigations, homicide scenes, suicides and brutal murders.  Being next to people as they breathed their final breath brought me even closer to this complexity.  Witnessing death brought clarity and insight.   When I reconciled myself to understanding it, I no longer feared it.  Like most people, I want to live and enjoy life as long as possible.  The fact remains, we never know when our time here will end.  I want to make the most from every moment I have on earth.

It does not matter what time of year it is, death and sadness occur.  However, during the holidays, sorrow can make these days a bit more difficult.  This brings me back to openly and freely expressing your emotions and feelings.  Whether it is death, sickness, relationship, career or something else; take the time to make sure you are caring for your mental, physical and spiritual health.  Experience your feelings, let them out, share them and then focus on your own well- being.  Bring yourself back to the present.  If you need help, do not be fearful to reach out and ask for the assistance you desire. 

Asking for assistance or comfort is not a sign of weakness.  Reaching out for a helping hand means we are human.  The support of others is an amazing resource.  Even if you do not know who to ask, there are “help” lines and support always available.  Text or call the hot lines and they will assist you.  If you aren’t sure, I am available to assist and listen too.  Our mental health is a vital part of our existence.  Having a good support base is a wonderful beginning.  Nurturing your own mental health is a must. 

Physical health is the next part of the puzzle.  It plays an important role in the balance of mental health.  Since I enjoy staying fit, this aspect kept my body strong.  My strength and determination kept me pushing forward even while my mental health was decreasing.  When I began Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy I was in good physical health.  This made balancing my mental health so much easier.  It took effort, but years of trauma saw relief. 

When I talk about physical, for me it means just that.  Physical exercise means getting up and moving.  If you are not into exercise, then it is time to get off your butt and move in other ways.  If you have not done any exercise in years, then I suggest you visit your doctor first and ensure you are in good health.  When you are ready, exercise is as simple as walking from twenty to thirty minutes a day.  Cardio exercise is the place to begin.  Gradually build your strength, stamina, lung capacity and heart.  There is no rush.  We want to do this right and not hurt ourselves in the process.  Please be smart and patient with what you do.  Results will be seen with consistent movement within a short time.

The best exercise is done in nature!  You can walk, run, cycle, skate, hike or do whatever excites you.  Go to the beach, mountains, desert, a park or in your backyard; all these provide a boost in health benefits.  Vitamin D from the sun (at least twenty minutes a day) is an added bonus.  There are so many options combining exercise and nature. To keep your body healthy physically, there are other ways to exercise too.  Joining a gym, bootcamp, pilates, crossfit, or other studio can offer many benefits as well.  Indoor classes such as spin, yoga, dance or training facility offer a variety of exercising options.  You may even have equipment in your home to get fit.

Exercise is an amazing method to help reduce stress and anxiety.  It was always my go to choice when I needed to release the pressures from a long day.  The addition and best part, it has awesome health benefits.  It can provide physical, mental and spiritual relief.  Walking, running and hiking are great and cheap choices to getting exercise.  All you need is some good footwear and off you go.  Give yourself a twenty to thirty-minute treat.  Your body and mind will thank you when you do it regularly.  Self-care and getting outside into nature brings peace of mind.  Yoga is wonderful way to build your muscular strength, while focusing on relaxing your thoughts.  You can even find outdoor yoga! 

As much as I enjoy going to the gym and lifting weights, there is nothing better than being outdoors.  Soak up some sunshine, breath the air, drink plenty of water and enjoy the beauty of nature.  Even better; take your spouse, partner, friend and share the experience.  If nothing else, put the kids (or grandkids) in a wagon and go walking.  The benefits to your mental and physical health will be tremendous.  The best part is there are so many options, so much to do and enjoy.  Once you begin, you won’t want to stop.  Change your frame of mind and make it a habit.  Be physically fit and well as mentally tough.  It does not take physical strength for either, just a little determination.  Be happy my friends.  That starts within and spreads to others.

I am grateful and thankful with each new day!   

Please tune in and join me again next Sunday for more!  I will continue this discussion on the mental, physical and spiritual parts of my healthy life puzzle.

Thanks for your love and support!  Embrace Life!  Be sure to get outside and enjoy nature!!

EMDR and more

Good morning and Happy Sunday, December 15, 2019

I hope you had the opportunity to enjoy the brilliant full moon this past week!  It was the last one of the year and decade.  Moon beams are truly magical and filled with energy!  The wonders of nature and the universe never cease to amaze me.  Be sure to take time to enjoy as many as you can; from glorious sunrises, to breath taking sunsets.  Each is beautiful and amazing in its own way.  Set some goals for 2020.  Together we can make the New Year awesome and amazing!

Last Sunday I wrote about trauma and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy.  I want to take that theme further over the next couple of weeks.  I hope you will follow me on my journey.   Comments, questions and thoughts are always welcome.

I spoke about the relief this therapy brought me.  It was like a miracle for me.  It rid my mind of the near nightly violent dreams and nightmares.  It allowed my heart and soul to open.  The cleared space is free to empower new thoughts and pursuits.  My mind is uncluttered and vibrant.  EMDR therapy is an amazing process, but it is just part of what aided the boost in my mental health.  The lifestyle I have been building for years enabled it to work quickly and easily.  This was all part of an extensive life altering experience.  It has created a healthier and happier lifestyle for me.

So what occurred in my life that got me here today?  Let me tell you about the mental, physical and spiritual parts to this puzzle.  Each plays a significant and integral role.  They each assist one another in maintaining a healthy life balance.

Mental healthis a vitally important component in maintaining a balanced and healthy life.  If an imbalance occurs, we feel the negative effects.  Corrective action is required before the ill effects can have an impact on our mind and body.   We know continued stress can affect our body and health.  It can also cause anxiety which leads to other health issues.  The more stress we endure, the greater the chance of anxiety.  As a result, we must take good care of our mental health; as we do for our physical health.  If you have not been focusing on both, then the time to begin is now.  Do not focus on controlling the balance.  Just become more aware of when imbalance occurs.  Then you can take action to flush out the negative and boost the positive.    

I never put much thought into dealing with mental health struggles of my own.  I was under the misconception that “mental health issues” were only the woes of others.  My recollection of childhood and growing up seemed fairly normal.  Nothing crazy or unusual occurred, or so I thought.  During counseling, several incidents were revealed that caused fear and anxiety.  These marks on my mind would have an impact later in life.  Imagine all you have learned and observed during your life.  Many times, how we react to situations now is based on what we learned from our past.  Often, the reactions are from what we saw or learned as kids.   

As adults, stress and anxiety seem to be natural components of our everyday lives.  We learn how to navigate the bumps in our own way.  Some of us are better at resolving these issues than others.  How we were raised, our personalities and lives are all different.  As much as we are on different paths, we are all heading in the same direction.  We all gather information and observe how those closest to us handle discomfort and negativity.  We learn from them and mold ourselves as best we can.  If you do not take the time to evaluate your own mental well-being, how will you ever know it requires attention. 

At a young age I learned it was best to bottle everything up inside me.  That process carried through for a great majority of my life.  I always focused on building my physical body, while neglecting to evaluate my mental health.  I took it for granted that how I felt was normal.  When life is tough you deal with it.    

I have been living my life, doing what I deem best for me.  At various times in our lives we all experience pain, sadness, stress or anxiety.  These seem to be a fact of life with our fast paced existence.  We have heartbreaking moments; due to family, social, work or relationship issues.  Depending on your age, it can be school, career or just life creating further stress.  Sadness and pain can be attached to all of these for a variety of reasons. 

If this is really part of what we have to endure in life, how can we make it better?  Having an adult daughter and falling in love with a special woman soon made me realize I was out of balance.  I needed help to get myself back on track.  It was beyond my control and abilities.

A strong support system is a great starting block.  The backbone of my mental health support system includes my daughter, family, friends and a very special love.  They provide a unique quality of support, inspiration, encouragement and love. Allowing support is just as important as the people providing it.  If you open yourself up to the process it is quite amazing.  If you close yourself off, like I had been for many years, nothing ever changes or improves.

I never learned how to openly communicate in a relationship, so consequently they failed.  I had no problem communicating at work or with friends.  I believe this is a learned behavior; one I was never taught.  When you hit the bottom, you realize there are relationships in life much more valuable than things.  I never wanted to jeopardize the relationship I shared with my daughter.  She is an amazing part of me.  My daughter wants to see me happy; as much as I want to see her happy.  When I met and fell in love with my partner, I knew I could not let her slip away due to my issues.  She inspired me to be a better person and reach for my stars.  I followed her to yoga class one day and a new world opened for me.

The introduction of yoga and meditation began a couple years before counseling and EMDR therapy.  They brought new mental clarity and peace.  The practice of yoga assists in building muscular strength, increases joint flexibility, while calming your mind. Yoga allowed me to release my ego during practice.  Freeing yourself of ego is quite invigorating.  Do not worry about what others are doing or what they see in you.  Yoga is not about impressing others.  Yoga is a journey into yourself.  It allows you to go inward and look at your inner being.  Your path is yours alone.  It frees your mind to concentrate on you.  It assists to create clarity and a calm mind.  Yoga should not be considered an exercise, like lifting weights or cross fit.  It is a pathway to meditation. 

Meditation allowed me to relax my mind and go deeper than I ever had before.  I will admit, meditation took a bit of practice.  My mind was full, spinning and not so easy to slow down.  I began sitting in my dark closet early each morning.  This provided a quiet safe place.  I would get comfortable, close my eyes and would only last a few minutes.  I increased my time when I began to focus on my breathing.  I would breathe slowly counting to four, holding for a second and then counting four to a slow exhale.  This brought the focus to my breath, which allowed my mind to relax.  Within a month my meditation was exceeding twenty minutes.  My mind was clear and free.  I enjoy meditating first thing in the morning.  Five minutes clears my mind and sets the tone for my day.  I highly recommend it, as I do yoga.  If you need assistance, please reach out.    

Yoga and meditation required practice.  I may never master the poses or postures, but that is not the purpose of yoga.  The primary purpose of yoga is to achieve a higher consciousness, where there is no conflict or worry.  Meditation is similar, clearing your mind of thoughts or stress.  During my yoga teacher training, my yoga master told me achieving a gap between thoughts is where you discover bliss.  This is where you find peace and clarity in your mind.   

Grounding is another way to relax your mind and feel the earths energy.  Getting outside and enjoying nature has benefits all their own. Whether you sink your feet in the sand at the beach, walk in a forest, visit the desert or just walk barefoot in the grass, has magical effects.  The energy of the earth and grounding yourself in nature brings mental peace and relief.  I can sit at the beach for 20 minutes and melt away stress and the anxiety of life.  Sharing that time with someone special has increased benefits as well.   

Allowing yourself to lean on others is not a sign of weakness.  As humans, we need the nurturing support of those around us.  We are all in this together.  Let us make an effort to support and build each other up.  Asking for help is difficult for some people.  Make it easier for them; offer your assistance and love as often as you can.  It is not something you can force.  Patience is a virtue.  Be sure it becomes one of yours to follow.

When you know you have the right support and love, life becomes easier to manage.  You may be feeling the stress of life, but someone next to you may feel a depression that is far more evasive and daunting.  Do not ever under estimate the power of a smile, hug or friendly greeting.  Be the power you want others to be for you.

Please tune in and join me again next Sunday for more!  I will continue this discussion on the mental, physical and spiritual parts of my healthy life puzzle.

Thanks for your love and support!  Embrace Life!  Be sure to get outside and enjoy nature!!

Trauma and EMDR Therapy

Good morning, Sunday, December 8, 2019

Trauma for military, law enforcement and first responders is inescapable.  For many others it occurs as victims of crimes, abuse, violence or torment.  These incidents forever scar our minds, impact our emotions and damage our souls.  The resulting sadness and depression have a devastating effect; sometimes even suicide.

Mental health is an increasing concern, not only with adults, but with our children.  The decline can be attributed to various causes and factors.   We all experience stress, anxiety and health struggles during the course of our lives.  When these are not addressed or resolved they can lead to depression or ill health.  The resulting sadness can have lasting and negative consequences.   How you resolve these issues impacts your life.  The process and resolution has repercussions for those near to you.  What can you do to better your own mental health, assist others and inform the people around you? 

When someone is struggling with any variety of life or mental health issues, you only want them to feel better.  Our fast paced lives only serve to create more stress, unhappiness and more chaos in our life.  A 2014 study by the American Psychological Association report 77% of people polled felt symptoms associated with tension and anxiety regularly.  Stress around the world is higher.  It can cause physical and mental fatigue.  It can also affect our immune system, leading to stress induced illness.   When you couple stress with poor eating habits and lack of exercise, none of it adds up to anything good.  

I know this all too well.  I have dealt with the struggles of others and some of my own.  A war waged within my head for years.  Trauma, sadness, suffering and anxiety ruled me.  I functioned on the outside, but hurt on the inside.  My struggles are real and my successes are even better.   Now is the time to make mental health our priority.  

As a boy growing up, I learned crying or showing emotion was not manly.  Boys are tough and always in control.  Expressing emotions or tears mean weakness.  This began at an early age and carried throughout my life.  It took some time before I realized that statement was and is far from the truth.  Boys and men need to express and share their emotions and feelings.  Suppressing them and holding them inside only serve to create negativity within us.  It creates a toxic tug of war.

I entered the Los Angeles Police Department Academy (LAPD) in 1980.  Training and instruction covered a variety of disciplines.  I learned about the law, policy and procedure, police operations, field tactics, defensive tactics, firearms, cultural awareness and so much more.  There was no discussion regarding my mental health.  The Behavioral Science Section (department psychologist) was discussed briefly and available if needed.  That was the extent of my mental health training.

I encountered people during my career that could have benefited from counseling, including myself.  Somehow counseling had a negative stigma attached to it.   The prevalent atmosphere made individuals feel less tough or courageous if they sought it out.  My years of suppressed emotions and continual trauma created negativity within my mind and body.  Emotions need to be expressed and felt.  Trauma must be processed and released so we can heal.  We are all at fault for creating such a sad situation concerning mental health.  We need to create a healthy and open atmosphere for our children, teens and adults to thrive. 

I want to share my journey with anyone who might benefit.  I grew up in Los Angeles.  My career with the LAPD spanned nearly 34 years.  Los Angeles is a busy metropolis.  As a police officer, you are intimately involved in each incident.  I shared struggles, dealt with anxiety, depression and trauma.  Personal and work trauma, divorce, alcohol, stress and many other factors compounded my life.

Police work is fraught with brutality, violence, abuse, victims brutalized during crimes, car accidents, suicides, carnage, death and more.  Children, women, men and animals fall prey to the wickedness of humanity.  The consequences of these encounters make an impact.  They leave vivid mental images and damage you physically.  The trauma witnessed and emotions suppressed become locked inside the mind.  You wish your mind could forget the sights and experiences it has witnessed.  The stress and negativity create toxic harm in your body.

I retired from the LAPD in 2014.  Retirement brought freedom from the confines of work.   I never realized the extent of trauma I had experienced.  After a year of navigating retirement, I met an amazing woman.  She quickly recognized the difficulty I had expressing myself – communication, passion or emotion.  It was nearly impossible to open my heart and soul to her.  My years of violent dreams and nightmares become immediately evident to her.  She suggested integrating yoga and meditation into my life.  I built a physical practice which has enhanced all aspects of my life.  It brings new clarity to my mind and strengthens my body.   

Yoga and meditation spark a passion and inner peace.  I completed my yoga teacher training a couple of years later.  Inspiring others in the benefits of yoga and meditation are my new gift.  My heart and soul began to open.  My newfound passion could not resolve the trauma and negativity that continued to swirl around my mind.  Years of grisly images, death and ghosts are stored deeply away, but not processed by my brain.  My fears of being good enough or being able to express myself rattled my confidence.  The lack of opening myself and communication in a relationship filled me with anxiety.  I wanted to share all my fears with her.  I wanted to release my demons.  I kept telling myself, “You are a man.  A cop. You are strong.  You can talk and open yourself up.  You can bare your heart and soul, especially to someone you love.  You can do this.”  It was scary to admit, but I realized I could not do this on my own.  I needed professional help.

In January 2018 I sought help, found a therapist and began counseling.  We discussed relationships, work, trauma, family and childhood issues.  She tells me about Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy (EMDR).  She explained how it is used to treat trauma victims and PTSD patients.  It is her belief it will be a tremendous benefit for me.  Being a cop, I’m skeptical, so I did my own research and discussed it further at our next session. 

The years of negative issues and trauma suffered by life and career are stuck in my brain, cycling over and over.  They were never allowed to process completely after each experience.  Now they are creating more toxic thoughts within my mind.  These memories need to be processed and released.  She explained that, “Merely talking about these thoughts won’t resolve anything or release them,” and that, “There is no way I could ever resolve this on my own.  Think about it as if you are going to work.  Putting on your body armor, uniform and locking yourself up safe and secure.  Each day and the trauma suffered gets locked up within you.  If you do not process these experiences and let them go, they remain inside only causing more trauma and stress.”                

My first EMDR session lasts two hours.  It is difficult, vivid and filled with tears.  We focus on a work traumatic event that occurred early in my career.  It is a grisly murder of a young woman.  My partner and I discover her body in the middle of a lonely road late one night.  The therapist guides me through the event.  I re-live the horrific experience all over again.  I am seeing it, feeling it, hearing it, all as if I am there.  I recall conversations with my partner verbatim.  The tears flow, but I begin to feel better and lighter inside.  When the session ends I am worn out mentally and physically.  It is as if a huge weight had been lifted from me.  My mind feels less cluttered, free and happy. 

I arrive at home exhausted, but feel at peace.  That night there are no dreams or nightmares.  One EMDR session has brought a halt to the nightmares and violent dreams.  I continue for several more EMDR sessions; focusing on work trauma, childhood issues, relationships, and love.  EMDR therapy is a true gift and my salvation.  I never considered the importance of my mental health.  Now it is just as much a focus as my physical well-being. 

If you have experienced trauma, violence or a serious negative event in your life; EMDR therapy is an incredible instrument of relief.  It definitely saved me.  Talking and open communication are always important, but some issues need more than just talk.  EMDR therapy helped me overcome my lack of communication, especially in relationships.  Too much of me was suppressed inside for too many years!  Now I am open and willing to share, express and experience emotions, feelings and passions.  

I am typically self-confident, self-motivated and positive; but we all can use a little encouragement.  It is amazing what a few words of inspiration can do for your mind and soul.  Now I have added writing poetry and motivational quotes to my repertoire.  I wish I could have opened my heart and soul sooner.  Sometimes prying off the lid is not as easy as we wish.  It remained tough and often frustrating for me.  Now I am and feel so much better.  Verbally expressing my love for another is wonderful and special, but it is not nearly enough.  Demonstrating my love, coupled with communication goes hand in hand.  I am happy and grateful for new beginnings.  

Even now those silent fears attempt to slip into my mind.  Now I know better and do not listen to those negative falsehoods.  Staying positive, present and engaged is what we all need to make it all work.  Amazing relationships should all be so simple to achieve.  Keep those positive thoughts flowing my friends.  Together we will all get there and find peace, happiness and love.  Do not allow negativity or stress from outside issues influence who you are or your relationship with your partner.  Do not allow your mind to make up stupid or untrue stories.  Our mind has a silly way of doing that stuff!  Do not allow or believe it!  Daily communication is key and super important all the time.  Always be honest and direct with your partner.  Be loving and kind, but share all of your thoughts, good and bad.  Communication is something I still need to work on.  First you must love and be happy with yourself.  This is where all the magic begins.  When you achieve that, then it will allow you to share your love with others.  This allows them to share their love with you. 

Now I am living in the present.  It is easy to look back on my life and career; how choices and events alter our path.  The EMDR therapy has kept me nightmare free.  The past is gone and my future is with every new breath I take.  I am grateful to be here as each new day unfolds.  The possibilities and opportunities are mine to seize.  My heart and soul are open and loving life.  Our time here is limited and far too short.  It is imperative to live in the present, while enjoying each moment that passes.  I do not know what the future holds for me or with love.  I am not going to let myself worry about it.  I am a romantic and forever hopeful.  I do not know why my transformation occurred how it did or why it took so long.  I am forever grateful for the encouragement and love that helped change my world.  It opened me to happiness and the possibilities.  I finally took control of my life and am free.  I live my life in the present and move forward into each new day.  Happiness, joy and contentment are just the beginning.  I am happy with me.  My path is positive and that is the first step to my future. 

Have you have experienced trauma, violence or a serious negative event in your life?  If you know or encounter someone who needs help, open yourself to them.  Reach out and lift them up.  Tell them your story.  Share my story.  Let them know they are not alone.  Together we can help them conquer their fears and bring happiness back into their life.  Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing therapy is an incredible tool to bring relief, resolution and peace. 

Our time on earth is limited.  Live in the present and enjoy each moment.  Be wise and smart about mental health; our own and of others.  I am grateful for the encouragement and love from others that have helped change my world.  I have control of my life and the possibilities are endless.  My path is positive and that is the first step to my future.  Together we can be the difference, assisting and helping everyone we contact.  Spread the word and make mental health our priority.

Please tune in and join me again next Sunday for more! 

Thanks for your love and support!  Embrace life.  Be sure to get outside and enjoy nature!!

Sunday December 1st Navigating the Holidays

I hope you enjoyed a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving Holiday.  Did you venture out for the “Black Friday” shopping chaos?  My Friday was low key and peaceful.  It is difficult to imagine Christmas is a bit more than three weeks away!  Yikes!  Time flies!  My advice, stay in the present and enjoy each moment as it unfolds.  Embrace life as it happens.

The Holidays are meant to be a joyous time.  They bring much happiness, but they can also increase our stress levels, bring anxiety and create more struggles.  They can bring grief for various reasons.  My Dad passed away in December several years ago.  I know that feeling of sadness.  He was a fantastic Dad.  Everyone liked him.  He always had great advice.  I miss him.  So how do we navigate the Holidays and maintain our mental health?

No matter how happy we are or how healthy we feel, the Holidays add a bit more stress for everyone.  Things like more traffic, dealing with the shopping crowds, what to buy, where to spend the holidays or money issues can create anxiety.  For some of us, the tension and pressures are increased for more troubling reasons.  You are not alone.  We can make it through this together with the love and support of friends, family and me.  Money issues (such as spending too much) take some self-restraint and budgeting.  If you require assistance, please reach out to a professional, a responsible friend or family member or me.  If you are consistently spending beyond your means, expert advice would be a wise choice. 

If you are dealing with issues; such as traffic, crowds, what gift to buy, money or where to spend the holidays; I want to offer some mental relief.  Stress and anxiety can be released if you relax your mind with some simple exercises.  Meditation and breathing exercises will assist you in relaxing your body and calming your mind.  I meditate in the morning.  Five minutes will  set the tone for my day.

Meditation and breathing exercises can be done anywhere, including serene settings like the beach, a park, the desert or in the mountains.  I suggest doing these in the comfort of your home or at a studio or fitness center.  If you are desperately seeking to calm your mind, then by all means take a few minutes to do it.   If you are on the road and not close to home, find a safe and secure place to park.  First and foremost, always be safe.  Keep your car doors locked. 

The more grounded you are, with your butt on the earth, the better.  Being out in nature is nice, but not always possible.  If you are home, find a comfortable place to sit.  Consider sitting on the floor, use a pillow or sit on the couch.  You can do this outside in your back yard too.   Sit up nice and tall with a straight back.  No slouching.  Use a wall or something rigid if necessary.  Again, this is yours to experiment with and determine what space is best for you.  Once you are comfortable, without distractions, close your eyes.  Relax your body and allow your shoulders to drop (relaxing them down your back).  We tend to hold tension and stress in our shoulders and neck.  This is a great place to begin your release.    Focus on your inhalations and exhalations as you continue to relax and clear thoughts from your mind.   Breathe slowly and count to four with your inhales.  Hold here for one count, then exhale with a four count.  As you begin to relax, extend your exhale count to six.  Remember, focus on slow deep breathing.  Allow your thoughts to clear from your mind.  Relax.  Begin with several minutes.  Increase the time when you can and build your meditation practice.  Lots more on this in the coming weeks.  

Breathing slowly relaxes the mind and stimulates the Vagus nerve.  This reduces your heart rate and blood pressure.  Slow Deep Breathing activates the Vagus nerve enough to act as a break to the stress response. The nerve runs from neck to abdomen, both on the right and left side. It is referred to as the mind – body connection.  It is part of the parasympathetic nervous system: rest and digest system.  It conserves energy, slows heart rate, increases digestion.  The Sympathetic nervous system: fight or flight / do something / preps body to react to stress (threat or injury), increase heart rate and contracts the muscles.  Both are part of the Autonomic nervous system.  Take advantage of the natural body functions that bring us peace of mind.  It only takes a few minutes to relax.

The holidays are a time to be Grateful!  We are blessed with so much.  Even among the difficulties of life, we have much to be grateful for.  I thank God and the universe every morning when I wake up.  I remind myself how grateful I am for so many amazing things in my life.  The first is life itself, family, friends and so much more.  Gratitude is an amazing emotion of appreciation.  Experience it daily!  Relax and enjoy the Holidays as much as possible; one day at a time.

Please tune in and join me again next Sunday for more!  EMDR therapy works.

Thanks for your love and support!  Embrace life.  Be sure to get outside and enjoy nature!!

Happy Sunday November 24th

Let’s start a conversation about mental health.

Why is our mental health important?  I am sure we would all share a variety of answers to this question.  There are many important reasons for good mental health.  The answers between men and women may vary too.  First and foremost, our overall physical health is the most important factor when considering mental health.  Both are interconnected and play a significant role in maintaining the balance between the two.  If either is out of balance, we run the risk of suffering the consequences.  Holding our emotions in, not expressing ourselves or not engaging in good conversation with our loved ones can have a negative impact on our mental health.

Men and women struggle with a variety of issues, mentally and physically.  An amazing characteristic about women is they will talk about anything and everything.  One of the upsetting traits about men is they will not discuss important life issues.  Men shy away from discussions about mental health, emotions, feelings or open and raw conversations about struggles.  Men do not care to admit they battle any type of mental health issue.  It might mean they are weak or flawed in some way.  I know, because I bought into that thought process.  Men need to open up about these topics because the silence is deadly.   

Men struggle with their mental health and expression of emotions more than women.  Some people are better equipped at expressing themselves than others.  There are different reasons why we hold back.  The difficulties we share can be fear based.  Fear is a powerful emotion.  It can be real when danger is present or an imagined perception rising out of anxiety.  The imagined or perceived fear can strangle you and keep you from enjoying life.  The other emotional struggle men often share is a learned behavior.  Let me explain. 

Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s set the tone for my adulthood.  Kids were “seen and not heard.”  Boys learned at an early age to be tough, not to cry and not to show emotion.  To be a man meant you were always in control, tough and not weak.  From my experience, this has been a learned behavior for many decades.  This was all reinforced at my earliest memory.  I recall walking to kindergarten, when a group of older boys yelled threats and obscenities at me.  I was scared and told my teacher.  She told me to sit in the corner and stop crying.  I told my mom when I got home.  She told me to sit in my room until my dad got home.  I learned it was better to hold in my emotions and be tough.  Men not showing emotions was evident being around family, friends and at school.  It was personified in movies and television too.     

I can attest to being out of balance on many occasions during my life.  Being healthy physically was a priority, but mental health never really was a thought.  We all share emotional and mental health differently.   Stress, anxiety and depression affect us for a variety of reasons.  As a result of not taking care of myself, I paid the price for that imbalance.  Let me share some of my life examples.  I am sure you can relate to a time you experienced something similar. 

Our teenage years are a period of growing, discovery and lots of anxiety.  I know they were for me.  The technology of today puts the world at our fingertips.  This information can be helpful or detrimental in a matter of seconds.  Consider how social media impacts our lives.  For us, as well as our children, it can create anxiety.  All of this can be extremely daunting.  It affects our kids, their mental health, growth and development.  Peer pressure and socialization can be especially cruel and painful for our youth today.  The agony and helplessness pushes them to depression, alcohol, drugs and sometimes suicide.  As parents, we must be vigilant in our devotion and raising of our children.  Life is not always an easy process.  Parental support, guidance and lots of love is required to boost them on their path.  It is our gift and responsibility to empower them as individuals.  They are our future.

For me, college was a mixed bag of wanting to be away from home, living on my own, learning for my future and having lots of fun.  Self-doubt, anxiety and lack of self-confidence often ruled me.  Alcohol became my coping mechanism or crutch to adapt, fit in and feel safe.  Whenever anxiety struck, alcohol was my fix.  As I grew into adulthood, the anxiety and lack of self-confidence faded.  The need for a crutch diminished too.

As I reflect on my life and career, it is easy to recognize the times my balance between physical and mental health was out of alignment.  During the early years of my career alcohol again became a crutch to deal with anxiety, fit in and socialize.  It was just so unnecessary and destructive.  It kept me from regaining my balance and my mental health.  In many ways I was physically fit, but not mentally healthy.  I functioned at work, did my job, made life and death decisions, but my personal life and relationships suffered. 

My nearly 34 year career in law enforcement subjected me to horrific events; brutalization of victims, death and trauma.  Incidents are imprinted in my memory, never to be forgotten.  I did my job effectively, without emotion or thought.  I was a man; strong, tough and dominant.  If emotion entered the situation, it only created fear.  The job demanded me to be in control at all cost.  I managed each situation, the people involved, myself and the outcome.  My life, or the life of others, may depend on it.  I was fearless at dominating work situations.  This persona carried over into my personal life and relationships.  I wanted to sway every situation to my desired outcome.  My display of emotion was minimal, while I attempted to push for the outcome I wanted.  Communication in relationships was something I never really learned.  I was great talking at work, but having a meaningful, open, intimate conversation with loved ones was amazingly difficult.

Alcohol continued to be a coping mechanism to deal with the pain and trauma.  I maintained good physical strengthen, while feeling crushed mentally.  When my daughter was born, I began to see life in a different way.  Her birth began an emotional change and opening in me.  It became clear that I needed to alter my path in order to be a good dad.  I wanted to be around for her far longer than expected.   A different mindset developed, taking me on a new path.  I devoted my off time to her.  I studied for promotional exams and wanted to better myself.  Over the next years I ultimately promoted several ranks.   Alcohol was no longer needed as a crutch or support.  I finally began to align my physical and mental strength and health.  The trauma at work continued, but I buried it deeper and deeper within me.  I had no idea how it would continue to negatively impact my life and mental health.

Trauma still ravaged my life.  Suicides and deaths of friends and co-workers caused unmeasurable pain.  The death and destruction experienced at work seemed never ending.  I bottled all these emotions up daily.  The toxic effects continued to destroy my mental well-being.  I suffered nightmares and violence filled dreams nightly.  Not having the ability to talk, share emotions or open my heart, lead to two divorces.  Luckily I maintained my relationship with my amazing daughter.

I retired from law enforcement in 2014.  About a year later I met an incredible woman who introduced me to yoga and meditation.  Her love, intuition and support motivated me to be better.  It took time and some serious struggles for me to admit I needed help.  As a man I kept telling myself, “You’re a guy, a cop, tough, strong and in control.  You can open yourself up.  You can share your heart and emotions.  You can do this.”   When I finally hit rock bottom I realized I could not do it without help.  I reached out and found new life.  Counseling and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy would be my blessing and miracle.                        

As a result of yoga, meditation, EMDR therapy and lots of love and support I am a much different person today.  I am happy, free, open and full emotion and life.  The trauma has been processed and released.  My mind is clear and my heart open.  I see men and women struggling and only want them to feel better.   I know it is possible.  I am here as your support.  I know how it feels.  I know how the release and empowerment for a new life feels.   

A recent imbalance occurred just a couple of months ago.  I returned home after some extensive traveling, both outside and across the country.  I could feel something coming on in the days before I returned home.  When I got home it hit me hard.  Lots of coughing all day and night, tightness in the upper chest and no sleep from all the constant coughing.   The doctor told me it was an upper respiratory virus.  Not much in the way of treatment, other than over the counter meds and lots of rest.  I coughed constantly for two weeks.  The lack of sleep, lack of activity and the feeling of being boxed up began to drive me nuts.  I lost my voice from coughing, could not really talk away; so the isolation created more negativity in my mind.  As my physical health degraded, so did my mental health.  Family and friends were my saviors.  They kept me sane.  By the end of the third week I was able to get outside, enjoy nature, and some normal life fun.  I had no problem expressing my thoughts, emotions and heart during this ordeal.  I am happy to be healthy and balanced once again.         

Guys, why are you holding back?  You can be a man, tough and strong, while showing emotions openly.  It is not weak to be kind, gentle, vulnerable, loving or cry.  It means we are human.  We have feelings to express.  Share your thoughts, fears, passion and dreams with your family, friends and lovers.  It is truly an expression of love to open your heart to someone.  When you can freely share your passion of life it is an energizing and vibrant experience.  Take every opportunity to improve your mental health.  Do not waste time.  Be a better you with those special to you!

Ladies, release your fears and anxiety.  Open yourself to the joys and happiness of the world.  The world is not about looking or acting any particular way.  It is not about perfection.  It is about truth, honesty, love and connection.  Be who you are and embrace your beauty.  Self-care is self-love.  We all have so much to offer, but fear often invades our minds and controls us.  You have to be strong.  Life is so short, we must embrace every moment and every opportunity to be happy.

In upcoming weeks, I will dig deeper into the connection between mental and physical health.  I will share more on my journey and EMDR therapy.  I will highlight how diet, exercise, rest, sun, air and water all play key roles in maintaining our healthy balance.

It’s not about what other people think of me.  It’s about what I think of myself.  It’s about what I’ve done to be a better man, a better person, a better me.  I have wasted so much time on fear and self-doubt.  Time is a precious gift, not to be wasted.  Make the most of it, enjoy it, share it, be grateful for it and live it.

Join me again next Sunday for more!  We will be between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so I want to talk about navigating the holidays.  Please tune in!

Thanks for your love and support!  Be sure to get outside and enjoy nature!!

Happy Sunday from the beach!  Thank you for joining me as I launch my new blog; sundaymorningwithjohn.com !   I am looking forward to sharing my insight on life, health, food, fitness, mental health and more every week.

I will be discussing my life and journey over the upcoming weeks and months.  I want to share what has and has not worked for me in all areas of life.  I offer a unique and unbiased perspective.  This is not about political affiliations, religion or business.  It really is all about life, my life and what I have experienced along the way.  I have had my share of ups and downs, sadness and happiness and all that comes with it.  Circumstances can change from moment to moment.  Life is made up of great times and some not so great.  How we deal with those “not so great” times reveals our true character and strength.  We can fold under the pressure, or we can stand tall and resolve each issue as it arises.  Allowing each life event to be a lesson in learning can strengthen us, bringing us more inner peace and happiness. 

Showing our emotions and allowing ourselves to feel happy or sad is an important part of our nature.  It is a universal factor for all humans.  This is life!  It is meant to be experienced and lived.  Do not hold back!  I suppressed my emotions far too long.  Childhood and situations growing up contributed to some of those fears.   My career as an adult had an even more significant impact on me suppressing my emotions.  When we suppress our emotions it only serves to make life more difficult and challenging.  Holding emotions in and closing yourself off only creates more negativity within us.  It affects how we live, love and allow ourselves to open to others.  Emotions can invoke great happiness or sadness.  When we release and allow our emotions to be experienced, only then are we truly living.  Coupled with experiencing emotions and having passion; is balancing ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually.

My weekly blogs will provide insight, structure, plans and lots of encouragement to move you forward in a positive direction.  We all experience sadness, stress, anxiety, fear and sometimes depression.  There are so many life events that can bring us down.  Some issues can be complex, while the vast majority can be simple daily issues that cause negativity in our life.  Believe me, you are not alone.  During my nearly 34 year career in law enforcement, I have had my bouts with all of these.  I have experienced and lived through so much negativity, trauma and sadness; nearly daily.  I will share insight and first hand views into my career as we progress down the road.  My life is so much more different now than it was during those days.  Help and assistance is readily available, beginning here with me. 

Retirement brought an entirely new transition for me.  The search for peace and harmony was illusive.  Eventually a friend brought me to yoga.  My yoga practice blossomed into meditation, breathing exercises and the search for more information and knowledge.  I went on to become certified as a Reiki practitioner.  I ultimately sought out Yoga Teacher Training and gained my certification.  I have taught yoga, in a local studio and at a senior living apartment setting.  Both brought great joy and satisfaction.  While all of my training and yoga practice brought new found peace, my mind and body were still troubled from my past. 

Life, happiness and sadness continue to happen.  The sadness within me brought new motivation to resolve my trauma and negative issues of my past.  In the beginning of 2018 I began counseling.  The sessions brought new enlightenment.  The therapist suggested EMDR therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy).  It is often used for trauma and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) victims.   I will discuss this in much greater detail in the coming weeks.  EMDR therapy turned out to be my saving grace.

We have witnessed an increase in suicides, for law enforcement, first responders and our military personnel.  The trauma and sadness these individuals see on any given day takes a significant toll on their health, both mentally and physically.  The stress and emotional impact is real.  The sadness continues as I read about an increasing suicide rate among teens and young adults.   Mental health needs to be our priority.

Next week I will begin my discussion with mental health.  This topic will spawn many other subjects that all play a role in our health; mentally, physically and spiritually.  Exercise, nutrition, nature, rest and a variety of daily activities all play a significant role in our mental health.  I will share more about my life and career.  I want you to see it and hopefully understand it better than you think you do.  It will be a first hand look inside through my eyes.  The pain, suffering and trauma we experience can be successfully resolved and processed by our brain.  We do not need to keep it locked up inside our mind, doing more damage to our health.  I will share what ultimately brought me to counseling and EMDR therapy.  There is help and assistance available.  The first step is reaching out.  I am here to extend my hand and help you.            

We all share this planet.  Our time here is brief and life really is a blessing.  We can all make a positive difference in the world.   We, as humans, need to start spreading harmony, solidarity and peace.  We just have to try.

Enjoy a fabulous day!  I look forward to sharing more with you next Sunday!