In with the new…. “cutting” the year ahead

IMG_1835This year started on the right foot …friends, family and rethinking modern time challenges. Traveling across continents helps one understand what younger and older people are influenced by and what brings the integenerations together! On New Year’s Eve I attended a smoke-free event, on New Year’s Day I read two popular magazines — one local and one national — a renowned national newspaper, learned about an odd game of “Cards Against Humanity”, and partook in some sing-a-long activities.

imageStarting with the last most unpolitically correct game I suppose the linguistic humorists make the “cut” here ….. personally not sure I like it but it got people off their mobile smartphones!

Regarding language, reading a great article in the local New England Magazine December 2018 issue (photo above) by clinical social worker Andrew Aaron I read a great term “emotional hibernation”. The focus was about how much people  don’t communicate and “in-pain partners look for a sign to be valued waiting for the cold winter of insensitivity to pass in the warm spring of love to arrive” (p. 55). Openess is indeed an essential aspect of love and what’s needed in the new year! And what about our over-indulgence and need for “likes” in social media creating anxiety and FOMO (fear of missing out)?!

We took about 45 minutes with the older generation singing around “Kostas” the bouzouki player giving me hope in inter-generation of community involvement with the power of music. It got the kids off their tablets and slowly young adults coming in. This should be a requirement of community health literacy.imageSpeaking of community living, many of us around the globe take for granted our hair and clothes not stinking from smoke as others abuse our rights for clean air.  Such a logical and simple thing! To think that many of us in the 1980s and 1990s lived the Big Tobacco fights to witnesss their ever ending expansion into the rest of the unsuspecting world.

What resolutions and good habits do you want to start in the new year ahead!? Food for thought no matter how you cut your New Year’s cake, well wishes & happy 2019 to all.

IMG_1837

Advertisements

Silent nights and peppermint dreams…

How many of us have read the now classic American story  “‘Twas the Night before Christmas” which is actually a poem written in the 1800s whose message has been carried through to us today? We all seek the goodness of this holiday regardless of our religious backgrounds. We can feel the quiet anticipation from the  lines “…not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse” or “children were nestled all snug in their beds dreaming of sugar plums which danced in their heads”.

Emphasis on the NEED for quiet and sleep, especially our young ones who need at least 9 -11 hours nightly for healthy brain development (younger babies up to 14 hours) and for us older types at least 6-8 hours are needed for full rest and necessary “beauty sleep”. As a matter of fact our skin does better with more hours of sleep and the need for darkness for melatonin to be released to experience full rest which is one reason for people to get help with insomnia or even sleep lab tests for cases like sleep apnea !

When we travel away from the craziness of the city’s busy sidewalks even though they may be “dressed in holiday style” we may realize (mindfully or not) the necessity of stillness and quiet. Is it any coincidence that many people go to places where they don’t need to talk much or at all? From mountains to yoga retreats, or walking (driving) in chilly evenings to get those night views of fabulous extreme or minimally decorated homes.  Some of us may wish for a white Christmas but for many it is that necessary quiet space that is needed at the end of a busy day of visiting family and friends, or finishing that last minute shopping for a gift or making that fabulous dessert that will cost us our daily caloric intake!

Speaking of which, how many of you feel nostalgic about candy canes or peppermint chocolate/ icecream ? A particular favorite sold only in old time ice cream parlors is popular in certain regions of the US! I particularly loved this recipe made with Greek yogurt by Dannette May for peppermint ice cream (see here) for that extra protein. Also many of us don’t call know that peppermint oil is great for body destressing as it has great healing properties ….

Thus holiday wishes to all and to all a good, quiet, night with a nice peppermint inspired accompaniment!IMG_1666

Be Thankful and Respect Cities…lessons from Venice

I’m thankful for beautiful and clean cities. Venice (Venezia) Italy is a land of rich history and worthy of “respect”.  This is the social marketing message I got from the people working, living, or visiting there in my short visit,  as they also have a more visible campaign #RESPECT ENJOY VENICE . I was thankful to see the main square area as in a few days it completely flooded likely due to the rain and the Cruise ships allowed in which change the water volume in the old city canals — we made it through the forthcoming flood but several did not ironically the week we left.  It was certainly an “experience” and the children had fun as all in rainbow colored plastic galoshes patiently lined up to ‘walk the plank’ across San Marco square.

8F69F4CA-F7CF-4C24-9342-5DBBBC16B5E1

As we also took a different direction to less water filled stores and restaurants it occured to me how civilized everyone was. I also observed very little trash and no huge problem with vandalistic graffiti like tagging which plagues most cities today.

We cannot deal with more vandalism, especially ‘dirty tagging’ as this contributes to our uneasiness, there is proof that once one negative event happens another one is right behind hence the Broken Window Syndrome (see theory). So why are so many people doing this in other cities and countries where they are visiting? Is it due to lack of empathy or intended damage (due to jealousy of the respected city or town history)?  Perhaps all graffiti artists need to ban together to develop a new ‘ethos’ of informing and discussing with younger generations to come.

Would people like the Colosseum full of multi-colored tags?  The White House and surroundings monuments? How about St. Petersburg? The Greek isles, or on the off-white color of the Acropolis (it was bad enough that pieces of it were taken away by Lord Elgen himself to ‘whiten’ the stone thus ruining the natural color of the rock and marble)?!

Do people have any idea of how many months and years of hard labor (albeit most was indeed ‘slave’ labor) it took to create these masterpieces?  Do people know the true reasons why  “Venice” was created in the first place? Basically to avoid being sacked and completely vandalized/destroyed as their mainland was during the barbarian invasions. Can and should continents like Europe do something about the issue and ban together?  Maybe create a good social marketing campaign or practically a type of coding of spray cans (similar to gun monitoring “aimed” to better control) so that we can trace back vandals….. People are poor enough, have hardships enough, they cannot bear to pay taxes to ‘fix’ their personal property let alone public property, especially to clean up streets and monuments. This is part of our community health literacy to be responsible citizens and visitors.

Let’s ask for RESPECT of all cities and great historical monuments around the globe. Let’s be THANKFUL for their existence, and for those who maintain them including taxpayers, city planners, cleaners and artisans everywhere!

Seeing the beauty and reading up on history was the basic inspiration of this poem:

Venezia (Venice)

Vivaldi played his seasons four
Now Gondoliers paddle to shore
San Marco, Giorgio, and Theodore
So many in Venezia.

For all her glory and her pain
Of wondrous knights for faith doth slain
The mists remain on stones of goth
She sinks inside, the days of sloth
The city of Venezia.

(Barbara K.)

 

Seeing red signs? color, nature, and signs

One of my students was interested in seeing what adjectives we associate with colors and how our mood is potentially are affected by color in the short or long-term. Her project truly reflects both nature (certain colors calm while others excite us neurologically) and nurture (what we see, hear in our culture reflects our perceptions).

CA628FA6-D47F-41D3-92DB-448E1B4D036F

Red Moon — photo by Bill Coast (c) 2018

There is an entire ‘color psychology’ out there and many articles written like this one : Color Psychology: Does It Affect How You Feel? (VeryWellMind, September 2018). A while ago I had posted about the “Dark Moon….” and last summer there was a “Red Moon” citing starting late July through more recent weeks in August.

As leaves and seasons change to Fall-Winter our vegetables and fruits become deeper oranges and reds like vitamin C- rich pomegranates, cranberries, or Beta-carotene pumpkin pickings from the fields.  We eventually have these part of our Thanksgiving tables (if you are American) or your pumpkin soup like this great pumpkin-ginger recipe by my favorite ‘food revolutionist‘ and British chef, Jamie Oliver. Jamie’s TedEx talk about obesity in America and dietary changes around the world is still current today in our attempt to curb over-eating and eating food that is neither good for us or our communities. We love comfort foods to pep up our moods but let’s consider what we put inside our body today.

The month of November starts with health issues including Alzheimer’s Awareness, Diabetes Awareness, Tobacco Awareness and COPD month, and we end up thinking about all our extra calories after eating our turkey dinner. Perhaps our need for extra food is part of our packing up for our natural winter ‘hibernation’ as some may also suffer from seasonal affective disorders? There is a SAD test you can take today to determine if you indeed suffer from this disorder, consider environmental changes like diet and ‘light treatment’… again on the issue of colors — yellow, blue, red… ergonomics research on firetrucks has proved that lime yellow is a safer color than red, yet we seem to be stuck on the former as our preferred color of firetrucks around the world. Old habits die hard, including our own health literacy habits. Red is an ‘excitable’ color it makes sense that fire alarms are still red, and the red ‘do not smoke sign’ is just as common. I personally think Starbucks has the best line on its “thank you for not smoking” sign reminding people about maintaining the coffee’s smell and taste —  simply brilliant!

9B7A18CE-C95C-42E1-8ACA-75A5F3205D92

Image

Peaches oh 🍑 peaches!

61ED0575-A0CD-4AD8-ACC2-0ED00F7C2AB8I’ve never met a peach I didn’t like. Can you tell the difference among white or yellow flesh type peaches, nectarines and other local varieties? I used to live in the southern U.S. “Peach State” Georgia which first got me thinking and making wonderful peach tart-pies. I also got to appreciate the rich character and identity of each place I’ve lived in. We often overlook symbols and sayings but these add value to our historical knowledge as well as likely contributing to our health literacy. Phrases like “how peachy” can be positive while saying “oh, peaches!” could be a softer more comical way to express one’s frustration. So yes, we sometimes use “fruit language” when we speak.

Not only are peaches an attractive looking fruit, they taste great, are low calorie and have necessary fiber and carbohydrates and vitamins, including potassium and Vitamins A through E to help us function better during our day — particularly good for our skin fighting against the stress of everyday pollution. Furthermore, peaches are supposedly good for those with high blood pressure but as with everything please eat in moderation…yes, if fresh peaches are not an option, eating canned peaches with strained Greek-style yogurt is a low calorie meal especially at the start of your day. If you can afford the extra calories try “peaches and cream”, another southern U.S. tradition which is especially delicious. I particularly like one variety which comes from the region of Naoussa in Northern Greece where it looks like a squished flat peach but it’s sweeter than other varieties.

Here’s a secret for a great peach tart — bake the crust for about 15 minutes before then add your peach mixture and if your peaches are tart just add some more brown sugar! Yummy…

 

 

Positive “MAY” Energy

IMG_E4256.JPGHappy May day!  Today is a day of gathering flowers, making wreaths, and thinking of bringing in the positive energy into our homes.  In this part of the world in honor of the Roman-name goddess “Maia” (which also in Greek is the name of the midwife who delivers babies) people make May wreaths and in essence this is why people dance around the May Pole in most parts of Europe (and in the U.S.) In my family we often throw flower petals on the floor to bring in the positive sun-spring energy! We all need it.

May_Bedroom

Add rose petals to your rooms to bring in the energy of the day!

May 1st is indeed a historically a pagan holiday of celebrating the official transition into the bounties of flowers and Spring.  Internationally celebrated it is also International Worker’s Day — one thought could be for supervisors or ‘bosses’ to take the place of the worker to see what their daily work involves, now there is an idea!

Flowers make any room brighter, and our mood lighter.  If you ever get a chance to go to any flower shows even better!

IMG_3972.jpgOne amazing one visited recently was the Euroflora show in Genoa, Italy on an older pavilion ground overseeing the sea (every five years if you want to visit and brush up on some Italian, see Euroflora_Genoa_2018).  You will learn more about the plants and blossoms of the world and maybe how you can make your own home and neighborhood/community even better. Granted some of us suffer from sringtime allergies but these can be in-check and helped over the long term.

We all may be stuck in the ‘shoulds’ of life some of which may be necessary for our daily survival. For example, we should eat at least 5-a-day fruits and vegetables, drink 6-8 glasses of water daily, exercise at least 10 minutes daily, sleep 7-8 hours as part of your self-care routine. After all this is what health literacy is all about.

This May, let’s focus in the “may” of life and the power of affirmations. Indeed the mind, as long as you water and nurture your positive thoughts daily they will grow (affirm repeatedly as the site indicates). However many words (even tags that we see around our cities, most of which we should just undo altogether….) repeated over and over — our subconscious mind ‘filters’ millions of messages and we keep many — can affect us both positively or negatively.

Here are a few for the day…. May you…

  • walk in sunlight to warm your soul
  • hear the birds and bees sing their happy songs
  • feel butterfly wing “kisses” on your sun-touched skin
  • choose the beautiful ‘flowers’ of your thoughts and heart to remind yourself of better things in difficult days that may come!

 

 

Lent, The “ides of March” and Spring

Lent, The “ides of March”, and forthcoming Spring

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This year the tradition of Lent has started for many traditional Christians around the globe and every 4 years the Eastern and Western Calendars “meet” so this year Lent has started together (https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/roman-calendar.html) Carnival marks the last time of “letting loose” with food, drink, dress/costumes and for many a continuing of winter-Spring traditions extending back to the ancient times; whether you are  celebrating “Clean Monday” (Καθαρή Δευτέρα) with kite-flying and a vegetable and fish “diet” or preparing for a 40-day “fast” we focus on getting rid of our negative “habits” temporarily (leaning away from “temptation”)  and perhaps reflecting on being better people as well as preparing for Spring! And since we’re thinking of those left-overs last month was also Dental Care Awareness for kids  month, maybe it’s the chocolate binge and from Valentine’s Day or thinking of those marshmallow sugarcoated “peeps” for Easter …who doesn’t love Easter candy?! Whatever one does reminding ourselves to visit the dentist at least 1-2 times a year is vitally important and brushing teeth, flossing, sugarless gum after meals also helps! Ironically even the more health-literate Greece, due to the economic crisis not only has the dental profession been affected negatively among other health ‘tragedies’  described in an article in the reputable medical journal The Lancet appropriately called “Omens of a Health Tragedy” by Kentikelenis et al. (2011 article).  Indeed, children in Greece now have some of the worst teeth in all of Europe — The latest sign of Greece’s decay: Children’s teeth (identified Reuters article) since not going to the dentist often,   more than just ‘a pain’ in one’s month as teeth indeed affect and even reflect a person’s overall health.

In Spring, Pagan and Neo-Christian traditions come to light…

  • Persephone comes up from Hades after she was lured to the underworld by a pomegranate and her mother Artemis (Demeter) decides she will allow the bloom of Spring and summer hearth before Persephone goes down again into Fall and Winter scarcities.
  • We await for the Groundhog to see his shadow
  • The bracelet of Spring “Martis” (Ο Μάρτης) — Greece and the  general Balkans one will see the unisex wearing tradition of a red and white bracelet supposedly to prevent a sunburn, and we are called to  hang the bracelet on a fruit tree to “grow” the end of the month…remember some superstitious  stuff is ok but don’t obsess…
  • The famous reference about “The Ides of March” which refers to the full moon which corresponds to the 13th of March, May, July, October.  However most of us identify this with March 15th (starting in 44 B.C.) when the Roman ruler Julius Caesar was killed specifically due to his dictatorship rule many of us recall his supposed famous last line at his assassination ‘et tu, Brute’ (Latin for “and you, Brutus” or “even you, Brutus”… said at the time to his ‘friend’).

This special season think of the various messages that can help you integrate actions for better health:

  1. If you feel like a breath of fresh air away from the troubles of everyday life, plus a bit of exercise running in the wind, ‘go fly a kite’ (not just for controlling your anger any more!)
  2. Eat less, remember your 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day for better health. Fast wisely. There are many good supplements, and a great line for all ages is Nutrilite brand.
  3. If you are not eating certain foods during this time or eating later in the day you need to consult a doctor and fast wisely. Children, the aged, those with serious chronic diseases should not fast, minimally reducing protein and as always less carbohydrates.
    92D3D701-7010-413A-9A9E-79B374C5AE25

    Pan, mythical god figure of the wild in Arcadia

    Pan might lure you to his mountain path, just don’t fall prey to things that are bad for your health!

  4. Love that candy, but remember to brush your teeth and seek dental care!
  5. Allergies may be around the corner in the new bloom, be aware of side effects and take precaution (not just the ‘ides of March’).
  6. The kids may be waiting anxiously for the Easter bunny, keeping up with Peter Cottontail, but personally love this quote by a famous late comedian-actor, Robin Williams (1951-2014):

Unknown-1