Beauty in a Patch

Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty has been with us skin patchnow for more than ten years, and they just came up with another viral video sensation. Dove: Patches has been viewed almost 10 million times this week. Women were invited to participate in a research study with well-known psychologist and body image expert Dr. Ann Kearney-Cooke, testing a new product called the RB-X Beauty Patch, “revolutionary product developed to enhance the way women perceive their own beauty.”

Participants were asked to wear the patch directly on the skin of the upper arm 12 hours a day for 14 days and record a video diary about how they felt throughout the study. None of them noticed much of a difference at first but over the research period they noted dramatic improvement in self-confidence, social interactions and willingness to try new things.

“It’s been a life altering experience,” one participant said. “I’d love for people to have the type of change I’ve had by trying the beauty patch.”

After the study was complete, the women met with Dr. Kearney-Cooke again, and learned that the patch was actually a placebo, and that the improvement they’d noted was related to their own state of mind.

“I’m beautiful, I’m strong, and I’m independent… I can just be whoever I want to,” one woman said after discovering the patch had no active ingredient.

“Knowing that I don’t need something to make me feel that way—that it’s just who I am and it was hidden and now it’s not anymore,” said another woman, “that’s very empowering.”

“We have heard from thousands of women about how their complicated relationship with beauty affects their overall confidence and happiness,” said Jennifer Bremner, brand expert for Dove. “By illustrating through the Dove: Patches film that a positive state of mind and openness can help them feel more beautiful, we hope to inspire all women and help change the way they see themselves.”

This follows the award-winning Dove: Sketches video, in which portraits were drawn by a forensic artist based on a woman’s self-description of her looks, then compared to a sketch based on a more positive description provided by a friend.

Though the videos are popular, they meet with mixed reviews, with accusations of manipulation rather than empowerment. Regardless of whether you enjoy the messaging behind the ads, they’ve served to spark conversation and highlight our difficult relationship with our looks, and how hard it is to recognize our own beauty.

Studies show that even women at the pinnacle of success harbor fears about their beauty and body image. Many of us feel conflicted about our aging faces and bodies, and the beauty choices we make because of these feelings. I got to speak with a marvelous group of diverse women at a recent PEO meeting, and we talked about the messages of the “War on Aging” versus “Aging Gracefully.” In my mind, we all want to look and feel our best so that we have more to give. Our go-to dress, the organic food, a favorite lipstick, an early morning Zumba class or luxurious moisturizer might be our own personal beauty patch. The positive choices we make affirm that owning our beauty is part of the journey to our best selves.

Actress Salma Hayek said, “People say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I say that YOU are the beholder.”  I’ll add that you are a sight to see, and something very worthy to behold.

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Better Health at Your Fingertips!

Last week was Doctor’s Day and Monday smart phonewas World Health Day!  I don’t need much of an excuse to celebrate. And better health at your fingertips is something to get excited about.

It seems like there’s an amazing new innovation popping up just about every time I flip on my computer. So many neat ways to stay on top of your health and wellness commitments — or even save a life! These might just save you a few trips to the doctor.

In honor of Doctor’s Day and World Health Day, here are a few of my favorite finds. Most are free and available on both Apple and Android devices.
I’ve mentioned this one before, but it is so important, it bears repeating. If somebody went into cardiac arrest, would you know what to do?

The PulsePoint app lets you use your smartphone to flag down the nearest person who’s trained in CPR (a “Citizen Superhero”). The app can also point you to the location of the nearest Automated External Defibrillator (AED). Everyone should download this, now.
Set a goal. Make a contract. Put some cash on the line … and then have your credit card charged if you break your healthy commitment. It’s a powerful online tool that has helped almost a quarter-million users quit smoking, work out more, cook meals at home, get up on time … and even finish graduate school!
Forbes called it the most affordable personal development tool. Lift encourages positive habits with customized plans, acting as a virtual life coach. There’s community connection for support in your journey.
This app isn’t available in Fargo, but covers over 50 US cities, so might be helpful when you travel. This is like Expedia for health. It allows you to make medical appointments, straight from your phone. You type in the specialty and your insurance, and choose what works for you. Reviews are included too. The future of medicine has arrived!
Blue light messes with our pineal gland and negatively impacts sleep, especially in the evening hours. F.lux software makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day.

Argus on
Created by the developers of Fitness Buddy, this app is a personal health diary without the pencil. It monitors movement, food intake, sleep and more, uncovers trends and gives detailed charts that help track progress and overall wellbeing.
This is a GPS-based fitness tracking app that lets users to explore and manage more than 600 fitness activities and track  every detail of the workout, including duration, distance, pace, speed, elevation, calories burned, and route traveled on an interactive map.
This is a popular calorie tracker with a robust food database of more than three million foods, with the added perk of a cardio and strength training tracker loaded with 350 exercises.
A barcode can actually tell you a lot more about nutritional value than the food label with this app, which can help you make healthier choices when grocery shopping. Fooducate advises on the quality of calories in a given food item, and also suggests similar yet healthier products and tracks your food intake and exercise.
We often think of “technology” as “stressful” — but this app proves that your phone can be a source of deep relaxation. It has guided meditations to help you become more focused, alert and attuned to the present moment. Their philosophy? “You can develop mindfulness anywhere and everywhere – on the train, at work, when online, at home and much more.”
This yoga coaching app gives step-by-step guidance with more than 45 yoga sessions and a library packed with more than 300 poses. Yoga sessions are displayed in HD video with soothing music.

Glow by
This app helps women track their cycles with detailed calendars and charts, and provides informative fertility tips. Their tagline is “Helping create tiny miracles.”
This app features one new charity each day to which users can donate one dollar. A small contribution adds up, one dollar and one day at a time. Users can track their donations and get friends to match via social media.
This is a beautifully simple gratitude app. Write down five things you’re grateful for each day and your life will change forever.

Have you discovered any neat apps or tools lately? What’s helping you feel healthier and happier this year?

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The Top 5 Most Stressful Life Events

Ever hear of the Holmes & Rahewedding Social Readjustment Rating Scale?

It may sound like something to do with refinancing your home… and, in a roundabout way, it is!

It’s a scale that measures the “stressfulness” of various life events, like… buying or remodeling a home, getting engaged, having a fight, getting pregnant, or taking a big college exam. Just reading the word stress seems stressful!

In this context, when we’re talking about “stress,” we’re not just talking about a feeling of “anxiety” or “pressure,” like when you’re rushing to meet a tight deadline at work.

A “stressful” event is any experience that impairs your body’s ability to regulate itself, properly. Anything that interrupts your metabolism, impairs your immune system, decreases your skin’s ability to replenish itself, or your heart’s ability to circulate oxygen.

Stress is bad news, and a major health threat. But most of us aren’t ever taught how to manage stress effectively. Sometimes we often don’t even recognize it when it’s happening!

That’s why the Holmes & Rahe Scale is so fascinating. It reminds us that even “happy” events, such as getting married or having a child, can still place a great deal of stress on our bodies and minds.

Here are 5 of the most stressful life events, according to the scale — along with my tips on how to take care of yourself through each one.

1. Losing a spouse or child.
These losses top the charts for major life stressors. Friends and family are there to lean on, but grief will be with you for a long time. But if you’re caught in a downward cycle and can’t break free, seek help through your doctor or pastor. Another resource is, a community for those who need guidance and hope — with trained grief counselors and peers who understand what you’re going through.

Try saying to yourself: “I deserve to feel alive and to cherish this life. That’s the best way to honor their memory.”

2.    Getting divorced.
The loss of a significant relationship is traumatic, and requires healing. Reach out for help. This may be the perfect opportunity to begin a new “love affair” …with yourself. Tune into your likes, dislikes, fascinations and desires. Indulge in your favorite movies, books, and music. Do it all your way.

Try saying to yourself: “Time on my own is a gift. I will savor it for as long as it lasts.”

3. Getting married.
Instead of worrying about all of the things you don’t know — if it will rain on the day of your wedding, or whether or not you’ll still be madly in love twenty years from today, focus on what you do know.

Try saying to yourself: “We’re making a brave choice, and it feels like the right one. We’re in love. And every day we’ll we make a decision to love.”

4. Gaining a new family member.
I still remember those first few months after Grant came into our lives. I have three words for you: support, support, support. Whether it means having your sister-in-law rock the baby for a while so you get a nap, getting your groceries delivered to save yourself a trip to the store, or asking a friend to help with an errand: ask, ask, ask. Most of us love to help, but we don’t always know how we can serve. The benefit is mutual.

Try saying to yourself: “The best gift I can give to my child … is a well-rested, healthy version of me.”

5. Being fired from work.
When your job comprises a huge part of your identity — not to mention, your income — losing that position can be a sickening blow. Focus on ways you can feel “helpful” and “valuable,” even when you’re not taking home a paycheck.

Try saying to yourself: “I’m a helpful, valuable human being – with or without a job title.”

What’s the most stressful thing you’ve ever experienced? How did you care for yourself during that time?

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Starting a business? Running a business? The 5 biggest health risks to watch out for.


My six-year-old son asked me recently whatoffice stress he should be when he grows up. Usually, I am the one doing the asking, and his answer was invariably policeman, fireman or Army guy. If I suggested that he follows his parental footsteps and become a doctor and/or farmer… I usually got a “No way!” response.

So, when he asked me, I said, “I want you to be happy when you grow up. And I hope you find something to do that makes you very happy and helps a lot of people.”

He then recalled meeting Mitch. “Remember when I had my blue tie-up shoes on and I got to run in the halls?” This was his major take-away from his physical therapy appointment with Mitch. “He was nice and cool. Maybe I can do what Mitch does.”

I talked to him about the role of a physical therapist and said, “Maybe when you are done with school, you can get a job where Mitch works.” He replied, “No, I think I’ll build my own office.” He suggested that I save the lot next door to Catalyst for him.

That’s what I get for taking him to StartUp Weekend earlier this month, where we watched 48 people pitch dreams for new business ideas.

Ah, entrepreneurship! Steering your own ship. Crafting your own destiny. Serving your people.

Great for the soul. Hard on the body.

Starting my own medical center — and later, my own blog and online wellness destination — is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I have very few regrets — and a great deal of pride and satisfaction.

Even so, there’s no question that the journey has taken a toll on my body. Long days at the clinic. Early mornings and long nights in front of a computer screen. Busy weeks, months and years — with precious snatches of time for family, friends, and …myself.

Even with a talented support team, there’s just always something “more” to be done.

And I’m not alone here. I’ve watched some of my closest friends and collaborators — entrepreneurial spirits, like me — neglect (or even punish) their bodies, in the pursuit of their dreams.

I feel like it’s time to call attention to some of the biggest health risks in our working world, because we shouldn’t have to destroy our bodies in our quest to make the world a better place.

Risk No. 1: Isolation.

Those who work from a home office or have a very small office, may have dozens of clients, hundreds of customers and thousands of fans — but many spend their days cloistered away, tapping away at a keyboard, detached from off-screen connections.

We need daily touch. We need hugs. We need connection. We need to hear the sound of human voices — face to face, not just through laptop speakers.

The solution: Build co-working time into your work schedule. Sign up for in-person workshops and training events. Have a great handshake and use it often. Be a hugger.  Make touch and connection a part of your self-care plan — as well as your business model.

Risk No. 2: Chronic Stress.

The pressure of constantly checking your “numbers” — numbers of clients, numbers of clicks, number of sales, number of shares, likes or tweets — can easily drive your stress hormones through the roof. You’ll simply never be “famous enough” or “wealthy enough” if you rely on metrics to sustain your self-worth.

The solution: Put the focus on your body of work. Your legacy. Your ministry. Your mark on the world. Stop obsessing about your stats. Set a weekly check-in to help you gauge your progress and celebrate success, but focus on creating, not comparing.

Risk No. 3: A Sedentary Lifestyle.

A sedentary lifestyle doesn’t just lead to a few extra pounds — it can also damage your mind, sleep cycle, and internal organs.  According to Women’s Health magazine, “Women who sit for more than six hours a day have a roughly 40 percent higher risk of dying from any cause, regardless of their fitness level, versus those who sit for fewer than three hours.

Many business owners log 8, 10 or even 12 hours a day at their computers — that’s a whole lot of sitting. And it’s dangerous.

The solution: Invest in a standing desk — or sit on a balance ball (which strengthens your core) instead of a standard office chair. Take regular breaks for walks, and get a Bluetooth device so you can stroll + stretch during long conference calls. When you do have meetings, take a walk.

Risk No. 4 Junk in, Junk out?

Fast food, Mountain Dew, Diet Coke, black coffee, energy drinks, pizza and packaged snacks are the unfortunate fuel of entrepreneurship. While almost everyone partakes occasionally, the young, busy and driven sometimes think that they can build a sustainable business but are not thinking about a sustainable lifestyle.

The Solution: Plan ahead. It’s just as easy to purchase veggie trays, whole fruits and nuts as junk food. Have a crock-pot competition at your start-up to see who can come up with the most delicious, healthiest concoction. Have a beautiful Soma filtered water carafe. Drink more green tea.

Risk No. 5 Sleep Deprivation.

I am personally aware of the effects of lack of sleep during med school, residency, on-call and motherhood. Sometimes it’s unavoidable. But I worry about those who set up their lives to get by on just a few hours of sleep. I see it happen often in the start up crew.

The Solution: Make sleep a priority. You need 7-8 hours. Power down the screen 2 hours before bedtime. Get the blinking gadgets out of your bedroom because it messes up your pineal gland.

It’s not rocket science, but these small adjustments really do add up, over time.

Many of these same concerns apply even if you are happily employed at one of the great companies in our region, and especially if you are an intrapreneur… someone who applies their entrepreneurial drive from within to help their organizations rise to success.

Be the CEO of your health, at work and at home. The world will be better for it.


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Walking Towards Wellness

Seeing the snow start to disappear during walkingour few days of warmer weather gets me thinking about family walks around the block. We try to do this a few times a week during the summer. I have fond memories of my father-in-law, Howard, who made daily walks a ritual. My son and I have taken a few short winter walks, but they are usually pretty slow for me as I wait for him to conquer every mound of snow over 3 feet high, like he’s king of the mountain.

But I’m gearing up to make it more of a habit for the family, and for me solo. Experts sing praises for walking. It’s free, easy to do, low-impact, and suitable for almost everyone. It also has the lowest drop-out rate for any form of exercise.

Hippocrates said, “Walking is man’s best medicine.” Here’s the healthy round-up for taking a brisk walk for 20-30 minutes a day, most days of the week:

1.    Cardiovascular benefits: Walking lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol and increases HDL (good) cholesterol. It strengthens the heart muscle and decreases blood pressure, lowering risk for heart attack and stroke by as much as 27 percent.

2.    Blood sugar control: Regular walking can reduce rates of non-insulin dependent diabetes by as much as 60 percent. It makes your cells more sensitive to insulin so that blood sugar is used more effectively.

3.    Lower cancer rates: Cancer is obviously a multi-factorial problem, but regular activity, such as walking lowers risk of certain cancers by 20 percent.

4.    Toning and weight control: Walking helps burn calories and improves muscle mass. It tones legs muscles, arms, the abdominal wall and glutes. Good posture while walking is important. Stand up straight, with your shoulders back and hips tucked under. Walking speeds up your metabolism, so that you burn more calories, even at rest. It also seems to reduce food and tobacco cravings.

5.    Bone health: Even though it’s low impact, walking strengthens bones because it’s a weight-bearing activity. And if you walk outside, you’ll have the extra benefit of increased Vitamin D production, which has many health benefits, including stronger bones.

6.    Immune Function: Walking increase the number of cells that fight infection.

7.    Brain health: Walking improves blood flow to the brain, improves cognitive function, minimizing atrophy and lowering rates of dementia.

8.    Mood boost: A quick walk is can boost your energy after lunch, since it boost circulation and increases oxygen supply.

9.    Better sleep: Walking improves sleep consolidation, helping you sleep longer and better at night. This in turn helps daytime energy levels.

10.    Mental health: Walking is a great way to pro-actively, rather than re-actively, deal with stress. It can be like a moving meditation, helping you process concerns and feelings. Walking wakes up the “feel good” endorphins in your brain and also primes norepinephrine to get involved in the job. And those amazing neurochemicals working at their best are exactly what you need to fight stress, anxiety and depression. Studies have shown regular, moderate-intensity exercise (such as brisk walking) to be as effective as antidepressants in cases of mild to moderate depression.

Start slow, especially of you haven’t exercised in a long time. It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor if you have questions or an existing condition that might be aggravated when exercising. The American Heart Association has some great tips on a special website called

Begin with 10 minutes a day. Be easy on yourself. Work your way up to 30 minutes a day.

Do your thing anywhere: In a park or on trails, at a gym or track, at the mall, inside your house or around your backyard. Consider doing a walking meeting with a colleague. Have a walking buddy from your family or circle of friends. But don’t be afraid to go solo sometimes, and enjoy your own thoughts.

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Good For You Food Goes Local

I spent a recent Saturday with other membersorganic fruit of the Prairie Roots Food Co-op, whose mission is to build a healthy community by providing access to natural, organic and local food. We watched the livestream of TEDxManhattan’s Fourth Annual Changing the Way We Eat. The talks featured chefs, farmers, educators and scientists discussing sustainable food, farming, and how to improve our nutrition.

The more I practice medicine, the more evidence I see of the impact of our food choices. The standard American diet is more about convenience than nourishment. But food can, and should, be so much more. I love this quote by Richard McCarthy, Slow Food USA Executive Director, “Food is the sweet spot between tradition and innovation, richer and poor, young and old, pleasure and responsibility.”

It’s inspiring to think about all the ways that we can work to improve the quality of our food, and it should be a major focus of real healthcare reform.

This list, while far from exhaustive, is my attempt to celebrate and share the wonderful groups and initiatives that are already hard at work in our region. Many of these groups are connecting as well, and make a collective effort to support healthy, abundant food choices for all people in our community. Check out these resources:

1.    Prairie Roots Food Co-op is a membership group with plans to open a retail market that will be a one-stop shop for all your natural, organic and local food in the Red River Valley. This dream is close to a reality and you can help by becoming a member. Email them at, and check out their great Facebook page.

2.    NDSU Cass County Extension Service has featured spring gardening workshops and a full-day event for high tunnel gardens that can extend the growing season to 8 months. They have urban youth garden programs and master garden programs for both juniors and adults. They also have a wealth of information about healthy eating. See what’s happening at

3.    CassClay Alive is housed at Dakota Medical Foundation and run by the always moving Rory Beil. It is the umbrella organization that supports StreetsAlive which reminds people of the joy of movement by bike, feet, handsprings or pogo stick. They also support ChildCareAlive, SchoolsAlive and GardensAlive.  They will be distributing free growing kits to college students at MSUM, NDSU, and Concordia as part of a Tri-College Container Garden Challenge, as well as promoting the One Million Square Feet of Gardens initiative along with the city of Fargo. Their Facebook page has lots of great content and resources.

4.    If you are inspired to garden, consider Plant a Row for the Hungry: Since 1995, over 20 million pounds of produce providing over 80 million meals have been donated by American gardeners. Our local Great Plains Food Bank accepts produce donations of your garden abundance.

5.    Farmer’s markets are now common in the community. The original is near Dike East in downtown Fargo, and now you find smaller markets in almost every corner of the community.

6.    CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. You pay a certain amount at the beginning of the season and usually receive a box of produce once a week during the growing season. You share in the small risk that this might not be a great tomato year. Producers strive to give great value to their subscribers. Groups with local drop-off include:,,,,, YellowBird/Larsen Farm, Feather Pond Farm, and Kragnes Family Farm. The city of Fargo website has the complete list with contact numbers.

7.    Grocery Stores: Tochi’s Natural Food store in north Fargo has been around since I was a child (a long time ago.) They consistently try to make fresh foods and interesting natural products available. Sydney’s Health Market in south Moorhead is another great resource for natural and organic foods. As consumer demand grows, our bigger grocery stores are listening too, and more shelf space is being devoted to these items at Cashwise, Hornbacher’s and SunMart.

8. is the fun name for the Cass Clay Food System Initiative (CCFSI) whose mission is to increase access to safe, nutritious, and affordable food for our residents by strengthening all aspects of the local food system.  The local food system includes producers, processors, distributors, sales, and consumers. They work on big issues like food infrastructure, urban agriculture, economic development, outreach and education, and food access.

9.    When we dine out, it’s hard not to indulge, but our chefs are becoming more mindful of our interest in local foods and healthy options. HoDo’s restaurant has always proudly featured their local food sources. Doolittle’s recently presented me with a beautifully printed gluten-free menu. And Chef Eric Watson of Mezzaluna organized the Red River Valley chapter of the American Culinary Federation to convene local chefs for deeper conversations about food and cooking.

10.    Jamie Oliver, The Naked Chef, got us started with his prime time show Food Revolution. His premise is that we all need a handful of simple dishes that we can prepare at home. Home cooking can be fast and flavorful. DMF’s Kitchen Revolution and healthy cooking classes at Family Wellness Center have sellout crowds and they continue to create new classes. Cooking can be creative and artful. I’m sad I missed out on “Sweet Potatoes for your Sweetie” in February!

11.    Of course, we can never forget about The Internet. maintains a public nationwide directory of small farms, farmers markets, and other local food sources in the US. Other sites include, and Author of Food Rules and The Omnivore’s Dilemna Michael Pollan’s website is rich in links to help you. was one of the original voices in the local food movement.

Enjoy, and eat to nourish your body, mind and spirit!
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Feedback as an Opportunity

A good friend offered sincere, valuable feedbackfeedback. She meant to help and advise; I heard criticism and disappointment. I tried to process it, and respond thoughtfully, but still messed up. I fear that I damaged the relationship.

The experts say that when given feedback that we find challenging, most of us respond in less than constructive ways. I was guilty of several of these, all in one email. We might:

Pretend. We say little, disguise any hurt or humiliation, push the feelings way down and eventually act like it never happened. Thank you so much for sharing that.

Defend. We justify our actions, give explanations, point out reasons. There was so much happening then. I didn’t end up with the time I needed.

Deny. Denial automatically makes the other person wrong. I don’t see a problem; I’m great at this.

Interrogate. We ask for proof that there is any truth to the feedback. Well, if you want me to understand what you’re trying to get at, I’ll need some specific examples.

Self-destruct. We turn all our negative reactions inward against ourselves. I failed. I screwed up.

All of these reactions distract us from painful feelings of not being good enough, as well as the notion that we need to change in some way. But adapting to feedback—which inevitably asks us to change, and sometimes significantly—is vital if we are to succeed in our jobs, in our relationships, and in our health.  Here’s what the experts suggest I try to do next time:

1.  Listen better. Realize that the perception of the person giving feedback is the reality that needs to be addressed. Without confirming or denying the perception of that person, simply listen with full attention and take in what he or she has to say. In-person always works better than email.

2.  Be in tune to your emotions and be responsible for them. It is not the other person’s fault you are responding as you are. You get to choose how you think and how you respond. When we own our own reaction, it opens the way for genuine communication with the other person.

3.  Realize that feedback is truly a gift. That person has taken the time to offer you insights. Respect the courage it takes to deliver words that may not be received in a positive way. Make sure they know it’s safe to criticize without endangering the relationship.

4.  Be curious instead of fearful. Turn “I worry” into “I wonder.” Resist the temptation to explain or defend yourself. It may be appropriate to bring the subject up later, if explanations are appropriate. Start with three simple words: “Tell me more!” What has the person giving you feedback observed? What does that person expect or want you to do differently? Don’t assume you know what the other person means…ask gentle questions to clarify your understanding.

5.  Ask for more. Turn to other trusted friends or colleagues. Ask for further feedback regarding the issue at hand, especially if significant change is suggested. It’s easier to make a positive change with guidance and support. Don’t betray the confidence of the original source.

6.  Be humble. We all have room to improve, and feedback lights the way.

Viewed in this way, feedback gives us the opportunity to grow into our best selves. I hope to do a better job next time.

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Change the Way You Talk to Yourself

little girl thinkingDo you notice how you talk to yourself? We have 60,000 thoughts per day, and most of them are a running commentary on our perceived performance, or lack thereof! We all do it. It’s part of how we’re wired. Whether your thoughts are predominantly positive or negative, a good portion of them are learned behaviors which seem to run on autopilot.

This autopilot is set when we are young. As impressionable children with growing brains, we soaked up the world’s messages like a sponge. And for most of us, corrective language and the word NO were prominent themes. We lacked the filter and maturity to decide what was best to think or feel, and so these messages became part of our brain.

As parents, we want to protect and guide our kids, and with programs like Nurtured Heart, we have more guidance about positive messaging. But regardless, some negative self-talk is ingrained.

But should we blame our upbringing for sending us the messages we received, and feel unending guilt about our kids?

We could, but in the end, it doesn‘t do us any good. We have to come to grips with the fact that it’s part of the human condition. However, the good news is that with effort, we can take and manage our thoughts.

So how does one challenge negative self-talk?

Awareness. If you catch yourself saying bad things about yourself, you may notice yourself feeling more stress but not consciously making the connection. When we have negative thoughts, they spike the level of stress we feel and over time, these spikes can serve to weaken the immune system which can lead to a number of different health issues. This is often why people can feel in a funk a lot of the time without realizing what’s going on behind the scenes. It’s those pesky self-critical jabs that are gnawing away at us.

One of the greatest quotes on this is perfectly summed up by Dr. Dwayne Dyer: “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

Here’s another gem by Brian Tracy: “The person we believe ourselves to be will always act in a manner consistent with our self-image.”

Author Louise Hay says the very first thing we should do when learning to love ourselves is to banish self-criticism. This takes awareness and an open mind. Understand that you can make a conscious decision in every moment on whether or not to think positively or negatively and criticize yourself.

Intention. Changing your thoughts starts with intention. I have friend who would say “Cancel, cancel,” if she caught herself thinking or saying something in a negative manner. She would then re-frame the thought in a more positive light. “Even though *this* happened, I am still *this.*”

Others intentionally take the time to practice affirmations, positive phrases that Stuart Smalley made famous on Saturday Night Live. They don’t have to be cheesy like his. Make your own list of phrases like these:  “I make great choices to eat food that nourishes my body and spirit.” And, “I enjoy moving my body every day by walking or dancing because it gives me energy and makes my muscles feel great.”

Author Noah St. John has a slightly different take on affirmations called “afformations.” The brain loves to answer questions, so he would ask “Why do I make such great choices to eat food that nourishes my body?” The brain answers the question and anchors positive behavior more substantially. Run a search for affirmations and afformations and see what phrases and questions make sense for you.

Coping. Research has shown that many health benefits can be gained by re-framing situation with more positive self-talk. One of the most important things besides better self-esteem is the ability to better cope with life stressors. You could put two people in exactly the same stressful situation and each one would react differently. If your reaction is to immediately go to negative thoughts, it will actually prolong your “bad” experience and could possibly set you up for ongoing issues with anxiety and depression. Whereas if you reach for a more positive thought – even if it feels uncomfortable at first – the outcome will be better for YOU, even if the situation doesn’t resolve the way you want it to. Remember, it’s not what happens to you, but how you choose to react that influences how you feel.

Empowered action. As we think, we act. Your thoughts will set you up to act as a healthy person, in relationship to others and yourself, or not. If you constantly think negatively of yourself, you might be enmeshed in victim thinking, which can set you up for problems relating to people, whether family, friends, spouse or co-workers. If someone criticizes you, you might inwardly shame yourself and feel less than others. If someone is mad at you, you take all the blame all yourself and probably tell yourself you deserve everything nasty thing they said to you. But if you can re-frame that assessment of yourself to say something like, “Okay, I screwed up, but that doesn’t make me an inherently bad person. Everyone makes mistakes. I’m still okay.”

Feeling better is literally just a thought away. Challenging your inner monologue about yourself is difficult, but worth the effort.

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Queen of Hearts: Being Good to Your Heart

I have a February birthday, so nearly every heartschildhood party had a pink and red hearts theme. Somehow I never grew tired of them! Give yourself a Valentine, and check out these ways to be good to your heart, and all the hearts around you!

1.    Clean eating:  The food you eat is the most important part of a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, our standard American diet is more focused on convenience than health. Clean eating is not a fad diet, but a system for making good choices. The basics include eating whole, fresh foods, and avoiding processed foods that come in a box or have unpronounceable ingredients. Other tenets include eating from the rainbow of vegetables and fruits, especially leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage. Avoid refined sugars and flours. Eat lean, unprocessed meat and fish. Make water your primary beverage.

2.    Dark chocolate: If you are making better food choices, but still need an occasional sweet treat, a small piece of dark chocolate (less than one ounce) may be the answer since it seems to have heart-health benefits. Cocoa beans contain flavanol, an antioxidant that also influences the cardiovascular system by lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow to the brain and heart, and making platelets less sticky. Cranberries, apples, peanuts, onions, tea and red wine also contain flavanols. Milk chocolate is much higher in sugar and fat content, so it doesn’t make the heart-healthy grade.

3.    Brush and floss your teeth: Three of my younger brothers are dentists, so there is a lot of brushing and flossing going on when we all gather at the lake. These simple everyday tasks have benefits that go beyond sparkly teeth, healthy gums and fresh breath. It turns out that dental problems, in particular, gum disease, causes inflammation and a bacterial load that can be detrimental to cardiovascular health, fertility and our joints. A cardiology study from Scotland in 2010 showed that gum disease doubled a person’s chance of developing cardiovascular disease. Get regular cleanings and actually use the floss that you get each time you go. And since you always need a toothbrush, check out BOGO brushes, destined to be the Tom’s Shoes of toothbrushes. Designed and developed by North Dakota natives, these stylish brushes are built on the premise of Buy One, Give One to someone in need.

4.    HeartMath: This system offers bio-feedback technology and training that assesses and measures heart rate variability in response to various emotions. Research has found that negative emotions like anger and frustration are very toxic to our cardiovascular system. HeartMath helps people to manage stress and transform toxic emotions by harnessing the power of heart/brain communication.

5.    CPR class: FM Ambulance offers frequent classes for the public, taught according to the guidelines of the American Heart Association. Their staff deal with life and death every day, and bring real life situations to the classroom. We have CPR training for our entire staff every year, and even I am glad for it. Given my specialty, I don’t deal with these emergency situations very often. But I have given CPR in a bank parking lot in February and on a rural playground after a Thanksgiving Day flag football game. It wasn’t easy…. But thankfully in both situations we had lots of help and both individuals survived.  Studies show that only 25% of people who suffer a sudden cardiac event receive CPR. It can happen anywhere, and you can help save a life by knowing some simple guidelines. If you can’t take an in-person class, watch a YouTube video to get some basic information.

6.    AEDs: Know where they are. In the CPR situations I described above, the bank parking lot was right across the street from what was then Dakota Hospital and the patient was in the ER within 10 minutes of the event, and had gotten near-immediate CPR. This was before the introduction of AEDs. In the other case, the location was more than 40 miles from Fargo. Immediate resuscitation and use of an AED (automated external defibrillator) was critical for the survival of this 25-year-old man. He was taken by air ambulance to Sanford, but the time span was between 50-60 minutes until he arrived in the ER. The AED was located in the church adjacent to the field. Statistics indicate that publicly available AEDs are used less than 3% of the time when needed and available, mostly because in the stress of the moment people forget to look for one, or don’t know where to look. Download a free smartphone app called PulsePoint that locates nearby AEDs. It was introduced to our region last fall and will soon be nationwide.

7.    Laugh: Laughter encourages deep breathing and a relaxation response that has major benefits for our cardiovascular system. It also reflects a more positive outlook on life. Studies showed that people with heart disease were 40% less likely to laugh in a variety of situations compared to people of the same age without heart disease. They responded less humorously to everyday life situations, and generally laughed less, even in positive situations. They also displayed more anger and hostility, emotions that are toxic in that they increase inflammation.

8.    Give: Today is Giving Hearts Day at Dakota Medical Foundation through their website You can support your favorite non-profit and learn about 170 more! Did you know that giving is good for your heart? Studies suggest that it decreases stress and lowers blood pressure.

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Leading Ladies

This past week, I’ve thought a lot about businesswomanwomen in leadership roles. I attended a breakfast meeting sponsored by the FM Area Foundation’s Women’s Fund that asked us to think about barriers and opportunities for women at work, government roles and board service. We talked about awareness, childcare, gender roles, expectations, unconscious bias, corporate boards, programs, and laws.

Then ND Women’s StartUp Weekend kept 60 of us busy as we dreamed and schemed for new business ventures. Women are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs globally. We talked about creativity, pitches, business plans, empowerment, funding and scale.

The serendipity of these two events happening in the same week struck me. Women comprise 4% of corporate CEOs, 14% of executive officers and 20% of America’s government officials. Entrepreneurship may be the key to changing that. As more women start businesses that become companies, the stakes and the risks are higher, but the potential rewards from a personal and societal perspective are even greater.

Research has shown the value of a diverse viewpoint. Gender equality is part of the story, but the bottom line proves the point. Last August, a Credit Suisse study that looked at 2,360 companies globally found that companies with at least one woman on their boards did better than those without women, in terms of higher average growth, stock price performance and other metrics.

Yet before the dreams of elections, financial abundance, decisions with power, C-level titles and boardrooms, we need to begin with our kids, both girls and boys, with our partners, with our bosses, and most importantly, with ourselves. Here are my ideas for fostering leadership:

1.    Encourage possibility-thinking from a young age. All girls and boys need to be encouraged to dream big, pursue great ideas, and to give back. Dakota Medical Foundation and the YMCA have locally sponsored The Seven Mindsets as a curriculum that fosters this style of engagement.

2.    Develop a healthy relationship with money. Leaders need not be rich but they usually are conscious of their in-and-outs, managing their financial lives in a way that minimizes stress.

3.    Realize that leadership takes many forms. You are the CEO of YOU. Be determined to do your best and give your best, at home and at work. You lead your children and your partner and your friends. You take the initiative to make things better. Sometimes, they lead you, and you support and follow them in their leadership.

4.    Your boss needs leadership (and love) too. You will have many opportunities to lead up, providing honest feedback and support. When done from a place of authentic concern for the person, project, and company you can have great impact. A good boss will consider you a resource and will remember your contribution.

5.    Ask for what you want. If you want a leadership role at work, raise your hand and ask to be considered. If you have a hard time singing your own praises, seek testimonials from colleagues who have seen you in action at work and in the community. Use this language as a springboard to seeing and sharing the value that you bring.

6.    Seek advice. I have a friend who has her own personal board of directors, a group of 3 friends with diverse skills and backgrounds. She was very vulnerable in asking for candid counsel regarding projects she should consider. She asked what made sense for her future from a financial perspective and what was in most alignment with her values.

7.    Lean in, as Sheryl Sandberg says in her controversial book. Want to join a non-profit board? Ask where your skills might be useful. Volunteer for a committee. If you have kids, bring them along to participate if feasible. I’ve probably overdone this with my son and sometimes his behavior is not perfect, but I hope that he absorbs the joy I feel in being part of the action.

8.    Regarding corporate boards, speak up. Notice the products you use from local, regional and national companies. Do they have any women on their boards? My business bank has 10% female board. Check out the group 2020 Women on Boards and their goal to increase the percentage of women on corporate boards in the U.S. to 20% or greater by the year 2020.

9.    Speak up when you see things that aren’t fair. I know of a company that takes its men on an international trip—the women aren’t included. A western bank gave its male leaders company cars but not its female leadership.

10.    Be the change. You don’t need to wait for a degree, a program or a law. Do one thing, mentor one student, invite one new family to dinner, form one group, organize one event. Create and collaborate. There is nothing more beautiful than watching people light up with new connections and possibilities.

11.    Create your own table. Build your own company and invite great mentors, women and men, to sit in your boardroom.

12.    Declare yourself a leader. You already are.

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