Gracious winning. Noble losing. Peace of mind. Lessons from the Pinewood Derby.

Grant’s face was twisted into a tight littleGrant's trophy ball of disappointment. 

He had just received a 2nd place trophy for his age group at the Pinewood Derby.

The premise? Carve a miniature wheeled car out of a piece of wood, line it up with the other cars, and see whose car races the fastest.

Grant’s car was a minimalist beauty. Painted bright yellow but so layered with graphite that it looked like sleek stainless steel. It zoomed fast! But not the fastest.

He was not pleased with his 2nd place finish. Seeing his frustration, I recognized one of those ‘teachable moments’ — an opportunity to help my son learn an important lesson about graciousness, character, and sportsmanship.

The truth is that “winning” is a concept that so many of us struggle with. Myself included.

We all want to win. In some instances, we need to win.

We want to win the patient, win the client, win the opportunity, win the chance to speak on stage. We want to succeed. Earn a living. Make an impact. Nobody wants to feel like they are living a “2nd place life.”

But what does “winning” mean, exactly?

After scouring the Internet for quotes and definitions, the one that rings truest to me is a statement that doesn’t include the word “winning” at all, but defines it nonetheless.

“Set peace of mind as your highest goal, and organize your life around it.” —Brian Tracy

To me, attaining that precious emotional state, “peace of mind,” is the definition of winning.

If you can enter into a competition, a conversation, a relationship, a creative project, or a business venture, and walk away knowing: “I truly gave my personal best. I regret nothing. I feel at peace.” …then you have won.

What is more precious that satisfaction, contentment, and peace of mind?

No external trophy or ribbon can give you peace of mind — or take it away.

It’s an inside job.

That is what I tried to explain to my son amidst chattering kids and miniature cars.

He got to spend fun time with his dad working on the project. He got to make many trips to the Boy Scout store and the hardware store. He got to work with cool tools. He got to hang with his Tiger pack and watch the thrilling races. He got to be happy for his friend who won. He got to try his best.

We’re still working on these lessons, and likely will be for a long time.

First, second or last. Triumph or “better luck next time.”

Peace of mind and no regrets means you have won.

~ Dr. Sue

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9 quick & simple ways to get the best night’s sleep of your life… tonight.

You may have missed National Sleep Awareness Week last month, but I bet you noticed that you lost an hour of shut-eye when the clock jumped ahead by an hour for Daylight savings time.
 
Good sleep is the best way to renew and refresh ourselves, yet it us one of the most overlooked aspects of health. Not getting enough sleep, or getting poor-quality sleep, is actually quite dangerous. One of my three board certifications is Sleep Medicine, so this can keep ME up at night, worrying about all of you!

Not getting enough shut-eye can lead to a spike in stress hormones (which causes weight gain and other issues), memory issues, a dramatically higher risk of getting into a car accident, high blood pressure, stroke, depression… the list goes on and on.

Sleep is NOT optional. We all know this, of course, yet millions of Americans are moving through life in a state of chronic sleep deprivation — getting less than 6 hours a night. Optimal sleep is 7-8 hours for most people.

The good news?

Unlike other health upgrades — like changing your diet, improving your cardiovascular fitness, and other things that can take a great deal of time, effort and planning to do — getting a better night’s sleep is a gift you can give to yourself immediately! Tonight! All it takes is a few small tweaks to your usual routine.

You can say yes to better skin, a better mood and a better body!

Here are 9 quick & simple ways to get the best night’s sleep of your life… tonight.

It starts in the morning!

1. Make your bed.
Your mom was right!  Make your bed!
There is something so soothing about peeling back smooth, cool sheets rather than a tangled mess of fabric. Seeing a beautiful, tidy, welcoming bed allows your parasympathetic nervous system to kick in and relax your entire body. The first step towards a good night’s rest!

2. Invest in the best!
You’re going to (hopefully!) be spending 1/3 of your life — 8 hours a day — in your bed. That’s a significant amount of time, so invest in a mattress, bed frame, blankets, pillows and sheets that you really love! I recommend bamboo fabric sheets — so delicious and eco-friendly, too.

3. Cool your jets.
Studies show that we sleep better in cooler temperatures, less than 68 degrees. Turn down the heat at night and save a few dollars. Try cracking a window or turning on a fan in your bedroom to chill things out. Side note and PSA: cooler temps and the presence of a gentle fan moving air in a baby’s room decreases the risk Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

4. Create a “caffeine cut-off.”
We all tolerate caffeine differently. I have a friend who can chug a double-shot of espresso at midnight and then, somehow, drift off to sleep!

But generally, it’s a good idea to put your stash of green tea or coffee away starting six hours before when you intend to go to bed. So, if bedtime is 10pm, that means your final vanilla-latte of the day should be happening no later than 4pm.

If you are one of those people who is extra-sensitive to caffeine, then you might want to extend that six-hour window to eight or even ten hours. Experiment to find out what your personal “caffeine cut-off time” ought to be. And really try to stick with it.
 

5. Screen out screen time.  
Bright lights from computers, TVs and cell phones keep our brains over-stimulated. Try to unplug from devices an hour before bedtime. You can also try amber-colored glasses, or a free software download called f.lux on your computer to automatically filter out the blue light wavelengths that are particularly bad for sleep.

6. Black it out.
Electronic lights are a serious sleep-wrecker. Even that subtle glow from your cell phone, power cords, or the TV even when it’s off can pose a problem. Be sure to tuck all of those gadgets away as much as you can. Not enough? Got neon lights peeking in through your windows from the city outside? Consider investing in black-out curtains. (A life-changer!)

Use an amber night-light for your kids and screen out your alarm clock.
 

7. Supplements can help.
Who knew Vitamin D was so important for good sleep? Get your levels checked so that you know if you are deficient and need to catch up, but most of us need at least 1000 iU. Take Vitamin D in the morning.

Omega-3 fatty acids can increase feelings of wellness and decrease stressful feelings that keep you awake.

Magnesium can be very relaxing and most of us are short on it, so an evening supplement can be very helpful.

Tryptophan is responsible for post-Thanksgiving dinner dozing and a supplement can help you get to sleep faster at night.

Melatonin is a powerful hormone and antioxidant that your body should produce on its own if you keep things dark enough. But use it occasionally for travel or for a night when you need power sleep.
 

8. Set a bedtime and a sleep ritual.
Having consistent rituals to mark the end of the day can really help you to relax and drift off to a beautiful night’s sleep. You can try a warm bath, and the cooling effect after makes you sleepy. You could try journaling for a few moments — or maybe writing down your top 3 most important priorities for tomorrow, just to get them out of your head and onto the page. You could listen to some soothing, sleep-inducing music. Or dab your wrists with some vanilla, sandalwood or lavender oil (one of Mother Nature’s best sleep enhancers!).

Last but not least?

9. Don’t force it.
If you’re lying in bed, wide awake, and just can’t fall asleep… shift into a new different activity. Avoid grabbing your laptop or another digital device — the illumination from the screen will just confuse your brain into thinking, “It’s morning! Wake up!”

Instead, do something quiet and tech-free — try deep breathing… this works wonders for my busy seven-year-old!

Or try listening to gentle music, stretching, journaling a bit more, or reading a very boring book with a special night light with no blue wavelengths.

Then, when you feel that wave of sleepiness roll over you, get right back into bed (if you’re not there already).

Sweet dreams!

~ Dr. Sue

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Amazing women in medicine you need to know — and thank.

We’ve celebrated Women’s History Month, Mind Over MedicineInternational Women’s Day and coming up, Doctor’s Day. I’d like to take a moment to shine a bright spotlight on a few amazing women in medicine.

These healthcare champions are changing the world of hormone care, mind-body medicine, and women’s wellness.

Because of them and the work that they are doing you could wind up living a longer, healthier, more satisfying life.

We owe them a debt of gratitude!

1. Dr. Sara Gottfried | Hormone and women’s health expert

In her thirties, Sara was a frazzled, frumpy, overworked doctor. After a colleague recommended Prozac to lift her mood, she thought, “Something about this doesn’t feel right.”

She decided to apply her medical training to herself and discovered that her cortisol levels were wildly high. Other physicians told her, “That’s not a big deal,” but her instincts said: “I don’t know about that…” Within one month, by making some strategic lifestyle changes, she fixed her cortisol imbalance and felt enormously better.

This experience prompted her to research and experiment further. Many years and 10,000 clients later, she is one of the world’s foremost authorities on women’s wellness and natural hormone care. Her book, The Hormone Cure, is a must-read for women of every age.

What I love most about Sara? Her empowering stance on healthcare! She writes: “I have reclaimed my life.” Through her work, she inspires other women to take charge, claim personal responsibility, and find customized solutions, rather than ignoring signals from their own bodies.

Send Sara some love: tweet a “thank you” note to her at @drgottfried.

2. Dr. Lissa Rankin | Author of Mind Over Medicine

Lissa doesn’t mince words: she believes that our American healthcare system is “broken.” But she also believes that it can be repaired: “one empowered patient and one conscious healthcare provider at a time.”

Her book, Mind Over Medicine, challenges old doctrines and reinforces — with scientific proof! — that your mindset, attitude and beliefs can dramatically impact your body’s ability to heal itself.

She has a new book called The Fear Cure. Thoreau once said “Most men (and women) lead lives of quiet desperation.” Desperation is the result of many fears that plague us: fear of loneliness, fear of failure, fear of disease, fear of judgment, and more. These chronic fears result in stress that undermines health and leads to disease and death. Dr. Rankin speaks of transforming fear and using intuition and joy to lead our lives.

Lissa is part of a new generation of physicians who are bringing self-care into healthcare. Not just prescribing unnecessary pills, but actually sparking deep conversations with patients about stress, loneliness, isolation, and broken-heartedness — mental and emotional factors that dramatically impact your physical health.

Because of leaders like Lissa, future med school students might be trained to write prescriptions for hugs, laughter and conversation. (Not a joke. Lissa’s work is proving that human connection is good medicine!)

What I love most about Lissa? She’s also deeply committed to mentoring and uplifting her peers in the medical community. I’ve been part of her mentoring program for women physicians and she constantly inspires me to serve at a higher level.

Send Lissa some love: tweet a “thank you” note to her at @lissarankin.

3. Your local healthcare provider.

Expecting another New York Times bestselling author and industry-shaking thought leader, right?

Here’s the truth: there are tons of incredible women doing groundbreaking things in the world of medicine — far too many to list in one blog post.

But there’s one woman who might be significantly overlooked — and underappreciated.

Your local healthcare provider.

40% of physicians experience extreme physical, mental and emotional burn-out due to job-related stress. 90% of physicians are so depleted and strained, they actually would not recommend healthcare as a profession. These numbers prove that doctors really, really need some love.

In honor of International Women’s Day and National Doctors Day, why not send a heartfelt email or handwritten letter to your local care provider? Especially if she’s a hardworking woman, but even if your provider is a man, go ahead and thank him too!

As a physician, I can tell you: every little bit of positivity and encouragement really counts.

When physicians are happy, patients receive better care. The reverse is true, as well. When patients care about the well-being of their physicians, physicians get a boost of happiness. It’s a partnership. We are all in this together!

Here’s to women, everywhere — on both sides of the examination table — who are working to create a happier, healthier world.

Love,

~ Dr. Sue

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Danger zone: 5 of the worst toxins that people ignore, forget, or simply don’t know about.

You might have missed National Poison Prevention Week.

It just ended. It’s not exactly the “cheeriest” week on the calendar, but it’s a very important topic.

Here’s why:

“More than 2 million poisonings are reported each year to the 57 poison control centers across the country. More than 90 percent of these poisonings occur in the home. The majority of non-fatal poisonings occur in children younger than six years old. And, poisonings are one of the leading causes of death among adults.”

Wow. Those facts come directly from the folks at the National Poison Prevention Week Council. Scary stuff. And the real tragedy is… nearly all poisonings are completely preventable. Most people just haven’t been educated about the everyday toxins and red flags to watch for.

Let’s fix that….

Here are five of the worst toxins that many people ignore, forget, or simply don’t know about:

- Household cleaning products.
Drain cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, nail polish remover, dishwasher detergents, furniture polish… just about every single bottle beneath your kitchen or bathroom sink is extremely harmful when inhaled or ingested.

Little ones tend to be curious about strange liquids in colorful bottles, so put a child-safe lock on any cupboards containing chemical-laden products.

For some products you can make the switch to eco-friendly solutions: like a homemade blend of vinegar and orange zest. You can use it to clean just about anything — and it smells amazing! Growing up, my mom did not like mops…. “They just push the dirt around.” So, on our knees we went, and we scrubbed the floor with vinegar water. And to this day, the faint scent of white vinegar means fresh and clean, and sore knees.

- Driveway sealant.
Many driveways are finished with a coal tar–based sealant. Unfortunately, these sealants contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs): toxic compounds that have been linked to cancer and other genetic mutations.

Even worse: these toxins can seep through the soil into your local drinking water supply. That’s why they’ve already been banned in a few states (with more on the way.)

Testing to see if your driveway contains a coal sealant is a bit of a fussy process, but it’s worth the effort. You’ll find instructions here.

- Nonstick cookware and bakeware.
I know. You’re thinking, “So my driveway has to be re-finished… and now I can’t even bake cupcakes in my favorite muffin tin?!” It’s annoying, but you should be aware that nonstick cookware is coated with perfluoroalkyl acid. Great for keeping eggs from sticking to the pan. But when the pan gets super hot— above 500 degrees —not great for your health. It’s been connected to higher instances of ADHD, thyroid disease and infertility in both men and women.

So don’t pre-heat the pan, or use the HI setting on your stove, as a Good Housekeeping study showed that this lead to dangerously hot temps.

Your best option is to switch to an old-school cast iron skillet or other classic products like All-Clad. This beautiful gallery of cookware and kitchen items might inspire you to go shopping!

- Batteries. (Especially tiny ones.)
Those little “button” style batteries inside watches, toys, games, flashing jewelry, singing greeting cards and remote control devices can often wind up on the floor where pets (and kids) can swallow them. Once in the GI tract, the chemicals leach out and can cause burns of the esophagus, stomach and intestines.

This is highly dangerous and, in some cases, can be fatal. The solution? Secure the battery area of your household devices with strong tape or a screwdriver, and of course, keep unused batteries in a safe, secure place.

- Stress and toxic relationships.
You’ve heard the expression: “stress kills.” It’s not an exaggeration.

If you’re living with chronically elevated stress levels — as millions of people do — you are placing unnecessary strain on your heart and other vital organs, spiking your risk for cancer, and potentially knocking years off your lifespan. Not to mention: degrading your overall happiness and quality of life.

Take some time to think about the biggest sources of stress in your life.

Work? Your relationships? Friendships that aren’t working? Self-imposed pressure?

Make an effort — this week — to do a “life detox” and reduce or remove at least one source of persistent stress from your life. You’ll be doing your entire body a favor!

Poisons — the chemical kind, as well as the emotional kind — are everywhere.

It’s vital for all of us to be mindful and aware of the risks, take charge, cleanse, detox, and remove some of the biggest toxicity culprits from our lives.

Nothing is more important than your health and safety — and the safety of people you love.

Take action.

Be safe.

~ Dr. Sue

A few additional resources to bookmark or plug into your cellphone:

American Association of Poison Control Centers. Free, confidential medical advice 24 hours a day. http://www.aapcc.org/ 1-800-222-1222

Your first steps if you suspect someone has ingested poison. http://www.poisonhelp.hrsa.gov/faqs/basic-first-aid-tips/index.html

A complete list of environment toxins: http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/completelist/0,29569,1976909,00.html

Battery disposal tips: www.duracell.com/en-us/battery-care-and-disposal

27 non-toxic recipes for cleaning products: http://greatist.com/health/27-chemical-free-products-diy-spring-cleaning

Noise pollution: another kind of “toxin” to remove from your life. http://eschooltoday.com/pollution/noise-pollution/effects-of-noise-pollution.html

20 tips to tame your stress: http://psychcentral.com/lib/20-tips-to-tame-your-stress/000102

Kids talk about… stress (fascinating!) http://kidshealth.org/parent/emotions/feelings/kids_stress.html

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Are you hearing yourself?

March is International Listening Awareness Month.

From those earbuds blasting music from your iPod into your ears… to construction, rumbling trucks and other forms of noise pollution outside your office window… we live in a very noisy world!

Our world just keeps growing noisier, too. It’s not just “annoying,” though. It’s becoming a health epidemic.

One report indicates that 1 in 6 teenagers are already experiencing hearing loss some (or all) of the time. Older folks aren’t faring much better.

I’ve already written about some of the steps we can take to reduce noise pollution and protect our precious ears.

But today, in honor of Listening Awareness Month, I’d like to address a different kind of hearing & listening.

The kind of listening you can do without your ears, ideally when you are alone, enjoying a moment of peace.

Listening to… yourself.

When was the last time you really listened to yourself? A step back from our daily busyness, with no distractions, and no background noise? Just you, hearing yourself think… and allowing yourself to feel.

When your body “talks” to you, or tries to send you a message, do you honor it? Or ignore it?

When you get a “gut feeling” about a particular person or situation, do you trust it? Or choose not to hear it?

Our bodies are speaking to us all the time. Often, though, we are too busy, too distracted, or simply unwilling to listen.

It’s unfortunate, but often we wait until our bodies are no longer whispering, but screaming at us with pain, or through the “wake up call” of disease, before we finally listen. As someone with a nagging hip, I know this voice well!

Today, my invitation to myself, and to you, is to listen more closely.

Rather than going through the motions of life, obliviously, or habitually, really listen to yourself.

Listen to your body. Your feelings. Your thoughts. Your desires.

When you feel anxious, notice that. When you feel excited, notice that. When you feel yourself being physically challenged at the gym, notice that. When “challenge” crosses the line and turns into “pain,” notice that, too.

Listen as if you are listening to an old friend that you love but haven’t seen for a while. Listen with great intent and attention, as if you’re trying to capture and soak in every single sentence, every nuance, every message.

Try little “listening experiments” through the day. Trying to make a decision? How do the options make your body feel? Light and expansive or dark and constricted?

When you wake up, rather than automatically reaching for your usual cup of coffee or bowl of cereal, check in with your body. Listen. Does your body crave something different, today? Allow yourself to hear the new set of instructions.

Bryant H. McGill once said:

“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”

To add to that wisdom:

One of the most sincere forms of SELF respect is actually listening to what YOU — your body, your intuitive self, your spirit — have to say.

Listen.

What do you hear and feel?

~ Dr. Sue

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Cocktails… with kale?! 6 unconventional spring drinks (… just in time for St. Patrick’s Day!)

Happy St. Paddy’s Day! Here in Fargo, the celebration began early with a pub crawl and Parade!!! My son, Grant, and I enjoyed the beautiful sunshine and some green and gold beads, with a little dose of candy! We did not partake in the pub-crawl :) but lots of people did.

It’s no secret that overindulging in alcohol can take a toll on your health. The consequences of frequent over-drinking are very serious: cardiomyopathy (stretching and drooping of the heart muscles), stroke, high blood pressure, cirrhosis of the liver, a higher risk of nearly every form of cancer… yikes.

Even just the occasional night of debauchery can have significant consequences — like knocking your immune system off-kilter and making it much harder for your body to ward off illness. Not to mention: wrecking your skin.

Scary stuff, of course. The happy news is that — when enjoyed in moderation — alcohol can be a fun way to enhance a meal, fuel conversation, and can even lead to some surprising health benefits. Again: the key word here is: “moderation.” (This chart shows what “one drink” actually looks like. These calculators are handy, too!)

OK. Now that I’ve challenged you to be careful when you imbibe (hooray! My work here is done)… let’s get to the yummy part of this post: 6 tasty, festive drink recipes that are actually… kind of healthy!

These are perfect for St. Patrick’s Day, a springtime brunch, or any special occasion.

I love red wine, but find that I get tired and headache-y with even one glass. But I can have a very occasional cocktail, just one, and still feel great.

I can’t wait to try these (… just not all at once!) ;)

Kale, Pineapple & Basil Smash
Fresh kale juice muddled with rye whiskey? Sounds weird. Looks amazing. Bright green and packed with nutrients! If someone tries to “pinch” you on St. Paddy’s Day for not wearing green, just hold up this drink! (And then whip up another one. Your friend will want one, too!)

- Celery Cilantro Cocktail
With cilantro, you either absolutely love the flavor — or hate it. If you love it, this drink could be a refreshing addition to your next dinner party or book club night! Neat bonus: celery has anti-inflammatory benefits and can actually protect against inflammation in your digestive tract. So, it acts as a nice counter-balance to the booze… which can be inflammatory, especially when consumed to excess.

- Carrot Mimosa
Just two ingredients: fresh squeezed carrot juice and sparkling wine or champagne! This would be a delicious one for a springtime brunch… or maybe Easter! Carrots have so many health benefits — some of which we still don’t fully understand. For example: carrot juice extract was shown to kill leukemia cells in one recent study. The research is still evolving, but it’s obvious that when grandma told you to munch your carrot sticks, she was onto something!

- The Green Goddess Cocktail
Chamomile-infused vodka, lime juice, cucumber juice, jalapeno, and wild arugula syrup…? Whoa! This one requires quite a few preparation steps, but it sounds incredibly delicious. Arugula is packed with vitamin K, which can improve calcium absorption in your body and prevent osteoporosis. (If you happen to be visiting Los Angeles, ask for a Green Goddess at AOC, where this hip veggie drink was invented.)

Rosemary Cucumber Lemonade
Yummm. This one can be made with — or without — a shot of booze. Rosemary is a good source of iron, calcium, and vitamin B6 — and new research suggests that it may play a role in keeping your brain sharp as you age! Find the lemonade recipe (plus 59 other healthy-ish cocktail recipes) here.

Superfruit Sangria
If you can’t stomach the idea of blending veggies and garden herbs into your next cocktail, a delicious sangria punch might be more your style. Just take red wine and add anti-oxidant rich, cancer-fighting fruits like blueberries and açaí berries, plus a squeeze of lemon or orange. Let sit for a few hours in the fridge. Then… pour over ice and enjoy!

Can’t be bothered to make it yourself? This company makes pre-blended sangria with organic superfruit juices. Delish!

Whether you choose to imbibe one of the creative cocktails I just listed — or a good ol’ fashioned Irish beer — moderation is the name of the game.

Enjoy the St. Patrick’s Day holiday safely, joyfully, and in good company.

~ Dr. Sue

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How to deliver compliments that people will never forget.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment.”
~ Leo Buscaglia

I’ll admit it: I have a lot on my plate, and on my mind.

Between running my medical practice, helping my team, caring for my patients, raising my son, being a wife-daughter-sister-auntie-friend-mentor to all of the people in my beautiful online & offline community, I have a bit going on.

We all do.

I’ve yet to meet anyone, at least in recent memory, who was over the age of 10, who could honestly say, “I’ve got plenty of free time! It’s terrific!”

With the pace of our everyday lives, we often get caught up in all the “big things” we have to do.

It can be easy to forget the power of small steps and little actions.

A hug. A smile. A moment of eye contact. Or… an honest compliment.

In belated honor of World Compliment Day—celebrated last week while I was too busy to notice—here are my thoughts on how to deliver a sensational piece of praise:

-    Say how you feel, not just what you see.

It can be exciting when someone you love makes an “enhancement” to their physical appearance — like getting Botox, dropping weight, changing hair color, and so on. In some instances, it’s perfectly fine to offer a few words of praise and congratulations.

But just as an experiment, challenge yourself to give a compliment about how this person makes you feel, inside, not just what you see on the outside.

Instead of: “Wow, it sure looks like you’ve lost some weight! Good work!”

Try: “You are glowing like a sunbeam and your energy is lifting me up! I’ve missed you and I feel so happy we could meet up today.”

-    Describe how they fulfilled an emotional need for you.

Marshall Rosenberg, author of the classic book Nonviolent Communication, says that compliments that touch upon an “emotional need” are the most moving and memorable.

Try to describe how the person you’re speaking to “fulfilled an emotional need” for you.

Instead of: “I love your blog! You always have such great things to say.”

Try: “I discovered your blog last night when I was feeling tired and unfocused. After reading a few posts, I felt my fire returning! You helped me to feel charged up and excited about my work… right at a moment when I was just about ready to give up. Thank you for giving that gift to me.”

-    Think beyond “words.”

Words are powerful. For many people, a spoken (or written) compliment can feel like the ultimate day-booster.

But perhaps there’s a creative way that you can express your appreciation… in a non-verbal form? You could deliver a “compliment” in the form of a hug, a smile, a gift, an opportunity, an invitation, or even a client referral. (For entrepreneurs, like myself, referrals can feel like the highest compliments of all!)

Ask yourself: “If I was [name of person you love], what kind of ‘compliment’ would really feel significant and meaningful to me?”

No matter what kind of compliment you offer, today, know that your words and actions will create an immediate positive shift in someone else’s day.

Who knows? One well-timed compliment from you could motivate someone to take a brave step, power through and complete a tricky project, say “no” to an unnecessary obligation, or do something else that they didn’t feel strong enough to do before!

Today, and every day, let your compliments flow!

The world is a better place for all of us when we express what is in our hearts.
No holding back.

~ Dr. Sue

P.S. What is one of the most memorable compliments that you’ve ever received?

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Your heart is a very good doctor: 3 HeartMath practices for stress relief, strength and resilience.

Not too long ago, many western doctors held great skepticism about the connection between “emotions” and “physical health.”

“There’s nothing wrong with you — it’s all in your head,” was a common “diagnosis.”

Or: “You’ve just got a broken heart. You’re fine. You’ll get over it.”

Thanks to a deluge of new research, though, physicians can no longer deny the connection between emotional and physical health. The two are intrinsically linked.

So, if negative emotions like fear, anxiety and grief can contribute to obesity, hormone imbalances, cognitive decline, and other physical issues… then the question becomes: Is the reverse true as well?

Can positive emotions like care, appreciation and generosity actually make our bodies physically stronger and more resistant to disease?

Many experts — including the founder of HeartMath, a non-profit research group that studies emotional physiology and heart-brain interactions — say: “absolutely.”

“With every beat, the heart not only pumps blood, but also transmits complex patterns of neurological, hormonal, pressure and electromagnetic information to the brain and throughout the body,” says Doc Childre, founder of HeartMath.

And if you want to change your lifestyle, stop an unhealthy habit, or make a quantum leap with one of your personal goals, stop trying to “think” your way into it, Doc says. That won’t always work. Instead: operate from the heart.

“Since emotional processes can work faster than the mind, it takes a power stronger than the mind to bend perception, override emotional circuitry, and provide us with intuitive feeling instead. It takes the power of the heart.”

Your body wants to be healthy — that is its natural, baseline state — and your heart wants to help you to get there.

Here are 3 ways to start re-connecting with your heart to reduce stress, feel better, and allow your body to rest, digest, move, and function at full capacity.

(I’ve adapted these practices from the “Free Tools” section of the HeartMath website. You’ll find lots of other free exercises right over here.)

- Name your feelings.

Whatever you’re feeling right now? Say it out loud. (“Stressed!” “Overwhelmed!” “Nervous!” “Tired!” “Excited!”)

Do this all throughout the day as a little “emotional check-in.” (Great to do with kids — you can practice together!)

HeartMath researchers have found that refusing to acknowledge what you’re feeling is the emotional equivalent of clogging up a drain. It cranks up the stress hormones that can cause you to gain weight or sleep poorly, and makes you feel tired and crummy. Simply speaking your feelings out loud can help you unclog the drain.

- Ease it out.

If you’re feeling a negative emotion — and it’s interfering with your day — practice a technique the folks at HeartMath call “easing it out.”

Breathe deeply for a few minutes and feel your heart rate start to slow down as your body returns to its natural state. Calm. Present. No more “fight or flight” mode.

Then visualize the negative feeling departing your body, through your heart, out your chest, up, up, and away.

You’re not “forcing” it out. Just easing it out. Like gently inviting a friend to say “goodbye” at the end of a dinner party. No hatred. No anger. No violence. Just… “Thanks for visiting. Bye. Time to go!”

- Recall & coherence.

Place your hands over your heart. Breathe deeply. Press gently, almost as if you’re trying to softly “wake up” your heart from a nap. Close your eyes.

Recall a joyful moment, person, or place. Your favorite birthday party. Your first kiss. Snuggling with your child or a favorite pet.

Step back into that moment as if it’s happening again, now. Stay there for a few minutes, breathing naturally, without effort.

You may notice your heart rate slow down or accelerate slightly. Whatever happens? Let it happen.

Take a few more breaths. Open your eyes. Notice if you feel different, now, than when you began.

By “recalling” a beautiful memory — and aligning your heart rate and breath pattern with that memory — you have just used your heart to “re-set” your entire body. Right now, your body is flooded with positive neurotransmitters, stress hormones are decreasing, and all of your organs are functioning at a higher capacity.

All that… just because of a few new “cues” from your heart!

Pretty incredible, right?

Of course, not every health issue can be “cured” simply by breathing deeply, visualizing positive experiences, or focusing your attention on the heart.

But there’s no doubt about it: it’s a powerful place to start.

Your heart wants you to be well — and it’s a very good doctor.

Pay a visit to the heart-doc today.

It’s open 24/7, there’s no waiting room, and… bonus! No co-pay.

Do you need some heart-healing, today? Give one of those three practices a try.
Let your heart do its work.

~ Dr. Sue

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Sweat, tears and chemical peels: What REALLY goes into creating a “red carpet look.”

On Sunday, February 22, thousands of people will tune into their televisions for one of the most exciting evenings of the year: The Academy Awards!

It’s Hollywood’s biggest night; the most prestigious award show of its kind.

And of course, all the stars will be sauntering down the red carpet looking their absolute best.

As a physician, I can tell you: those magnificent red carpet looks that cause viewers to hang their jaws on the floor with amazement… don’t just “happen.” There’s a tremendous amount of work that goes into creating that kind of ultra-glam, camera-ready appearance.

Here are just a FEW of the steps that your favorite stars are taking to achieve that level of glamour:

HAIR. Deep conditioning for weeks leading up to the event.

Stylist Adir Abergel, whose clients include Rooney Mara and Eva Green, gives her clients a series of deep-conditioning hair masks to apply — and sleep in — during the weeks leading up to that big red carpet moment. This ensures ultra-glossy locks that gleam under the bright lights!

SKIN. One full month of preparation.

Celebrity skincare pro Joanna Vargas puts her clients on a month-long pre-carpet regimen, using mild electric currents to drain puffiness, tone muscle and tighten things up. She also gives her clients an intensive resurfacing peel to remove dead, dehydrated skin.

BODY. Six weeks of intense training, minimum.

Celeb trainer Valerie Waters puts each client on a customized, high-intensity program for at least six weeks leading up to the event, focusing strongly on whichever body-zone is going to be exposed in her client’s gorgeous gown.

To soothe those sore muscles and keep stress hormones (which can cause weight gain) levels down, some trainers insist upon their clients getting a DAILY massage, especially the week of the big event. At least this part sounds good to me!

NUTRITION. A super lean & clean meal plan.

While some celebrities are infamous for their wild drop-weight-fast detoxes and diets, most of the top celebrity trainers advocate a more “common sense” approach. (After all: their clients are training like athletes. They need high-quality fuel!)

Nutritionist Heather Bauer, who works with stars like Tyra Banks, encourages her clients to cut out processed foods, white sugar, white bread, and artificial sweeteners that lead to gas and bloating (like diet soda and sugar-free gum).

Bauer also recommends drinking two liters of water every day, minimum. (No flavoring or sweeteners. Straight up H20!)

Rachel Beller, author of Eat to Lose, Eat to Win, recommends sipping fennel tea for the five days leading up to the event (it’s reported to have de-bloating properties).

On the actual day of the event? Nutritionist to the stars Haylie Pomroy tells her clients to keep high-protein snacks, like turkey jerky, hidden away in their diamond-encrusted clutch bags to prevent a “hunger crash” during the long awards ceremony.

BUT… That’s just the beginning.

As if six weeks (or more!) of grueling preparation, highly-disciplined eating and Olympic-level training isn’t enough… there’s still more work to be done.

Most A-list celebs will also undergo (in no particular order): laser hair removal, teeth whitening, spray tanning, hair extensions, lash extensions (J-Lo and Beyonce love their faux-lashes), Botox, fillers, B12 vitamin shots, a last-minute juice cleanse, and (probably) plenty of other tweaks and techniques that they’re not always willing to admit… in public.

Bottom line:

The starlets you love make “red carpet glamour” look completely effortless, but the reality is that it takes a bewildering amount of effort to pull off this kind of look.

As Julia Roberts once confessed: “It takes 17 people. It takes a village. It really does.”

My personal stance?

As viewers at home, we can enjoy the glamour, beauty and pageantry of award season, while still understanding that this “look” is a very calculated and intricate “performance.”

This person didn’t just roll out of bed, swipe on some lip gloss and hop into a limo, ready to roll. This moment was six weeks, if not six months or years, in the making!

Our challenge, especially as women, is to try to cultivate “appreciation” without falling into the trap of “comparison.”

If you find yourself thinking negative thoughts while watching the big gala unfold (“Oh, I’m so fat,” “She’s gorgeous, but I’m hideous”) do your best to stop those thoughts in their tracks.

Remind yourself:

“Looking this particular way is this actress’ job. She put in a staggering amount of work to make it happen. I can appreciate this moment of over-the-top glamour without letting it bring me down.”

Tell yourself, too:

“I get to decide what ‘beauty’ means for me. Whether it’s a low-effort, natural look or a high-effort, super-glam look, it’s my skin, my body, my life, my choice, my freedom. Beauty is mine to define. I can pursue whatever kind of ‘look’ feels fabulous… to me!”

~ Dr. Sue

P.S. Which celeb is your all-time favorite to watch on the red carpet? (Mine? Reese Witherspoon for her girl-next-door charm, and Cate Blanchett for her ethereal presence.)

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Feeling unloved… or undervalued? It’s time to discover your Love Language!

Your best friend sends a bouquet of flowers for your birthday.

“Nice,” you think to yourself, “But I would have appreciated a phone call so much more.”

Your partner leaves a handwritten note on your pillow that says, I love you.

“So sweet,” you think to yourself, “If only he’d vacuum or fill my car with gas once in a while! Now that would really feel like love to me.”

When an expression of love leaves you feeling kind of “flat,” it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re an “ungrateful” or “unappreciative” person.

Often, it means that the people around you are not speaking your primary “Love Language.”

People might be trying to show you how much they appreciate you daily! But they’re not expressing their appreciation in a way that your brain is wired to understand it.
(Kind of like speaking Chinese to someone who only speaks Russian. It’s not going to work!)

That’s the big takeaway that I got from Dr. Gary Chapman’s simple, classic guidebook:
The 5 Love Languages.

Here’s the basic premise:

Human beings like to express and receive love in different ways.

We’re not all wired the exact same way.

The problem? We often forget that we all have different preferences and needs. We tend to assume that other people want… exactly what we want! This leads to a lot of misunderstanding, wasted effort, and unnecessary friction between partners, colleagues and friends. This leads to stress… not healthy!

According to Dr. Chapman’s research, there are five primary Love Languages — five ways that people like to receive love, appreciation, and affection.

      Words of Affirmation
      Acts of Service
      Receiving Gifts
      Quality Time
      Physical Touch

(You can take a free quiz here to identify your primary Love Language.)

Most people have one language that is noticeably stronger than the others. Some people (like me!) have two that are “tied” for first place.

Once you know your language? You can invite other people to speak it.

Once you know someone else’s language? You can speak it to them!

In this way, everyone feels more loved and appreciated.

The concept is so simple to grasp, yet so powerful — and not just for romantically-entwined couples.

Now that I understood the Love Language principle, I will start paying closer attention to my colleagues at work — trying to pinpoint each person’s Love Language so that I can say “Thank you!” and “I appreciate your hard work” in a way that will really resonate for each individual.

Some of my employees are “Words of Affirmation” lovers. For these folks? A handwritten note filled with gratitude can change the entire course of their day!

But other team members are “Quality Time” people. For them? Words are pretty meaningless. But a heartfelt conversation or a 1-on-1 lunch date? Now that means something.

So, the next time you’re feeling a bit unloved, undervalued, or underappreciated, take action! Speak up. Instead of silently wishing that other people would behave differently — or read your mind! — express what you want and need.

Say, “This is so wonderful, and you know what? My absolute favorite way to [receive praise for good work / get rewarded / feel your love] is ___________. In the future, that’s what would make me so happy.”

Be on the look-out to identify other people’s Love Languages, too. Make an effort to “speak” the ideal language to your friends, family and co-workers as often as you can.

Imagine a world where everyone feels deeply understood and appreciated, every day. We would be happier and healthier. Clinics and hospitals would be quieter.

Here’s your Love Challenge:

Choose one person who might need some extra love today. Do your best to figure out their primary Love Language. Then speak it. See what happens.

There’s always room for more love, every day, all year!

~ Dr. Sue

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