Monday, March 14, 2016

Social media and mindfulness

We've landed in a peculiar place when it comes to our engagement with each other through social media.  The same technology that bring us together instantaneously can also keep us from direct social interactions, if only by sucking up our free time.

I experienced a Facebook "time suck" this weekend.  On Sunday, after having a blissful weekend spending time with friends and loved ones, cooking, enjoying the outdoors, and feeling elated, I felt a strange tugging sensation in my pocket.  My phone suddenly became very heavy, I could feel my brain yearning for a fix.  A quick check-in on Facebook or Instagram would help, I thought.  And then nearly 2-hours later I realized that I was feeling simultaneously angry, happy, informed, and perplexed as a result of a "quick check-in."  Why did I allow myself to spend so much time flipping through a feed when there are so many more things I truly wanted to do?

Most of all, I wished I had the time back.  We set our clocks forward for Spring the same day so the time flashing through feeds on my phone felt particularly wasted.  Don't get me wrong, I don't think social media is a bad thing.  It can be a powerful planning tool, useful for marketing, connecting ideas, discovering news about the world and friends, and more.  Yet as I reflect on my recent engagement with Facebook in particular, I started to wonder whether feasting on my social feed was a nurturing habit or one that left me feeling more empty and distant from the people and things I really want to engage with.

Somewhat ironically I started to think about an article I discovered a long time ago in my social feed, an article from Fast Company magazine.  It was about how thinking like a scientist can be one of the most powerful tools for self-improvement.  So I came up with a hypothesis:  What if I take regular sabbaticals from social media?  Could I still use social media in a healthy way but disconnect from the negative?  I am usually pretty good about putting away when phone when it clearly would be a distraction from being in the moment.  Many of us have been here before, exemplified by this video.  Having been on the receiving end of trying to be with people who are not fully there, I make it a point to turn off devices regularly.  So maybe I could try a new tactic to prevent the feeling that I need to check-in after short breaks.  How could I replace the need for getting a "fix" from my feed.

Setting rules to dictate behaviors would not be an effective strategy for me.  But I do want to design some experiments to figure out how I can reclaim my identity and purpose with the way I interact with social media.  If my purpose is to catch up on news, I can try avoiding the "news feed."  Over time the news feed has morphed from a fun cornucopia of thoughts from friends into a corporate sponsored advertisement for selling images and political ideas.  Probably not the healthiest thing to indulge in.  What if I were to curate my feed to only reliable sources of topics?  

Better yet, what if I stop relying on Facebook to be informed of my friends' lives.  I could purposefully unfollow people that are close to me.  That would mean if I want to check in...guess what, I'd have to actually interact with THEM rather than my feed.  Thank you Ayami Yamamichi for the mindfulness tip.

Another way to take back control, suggested by my Ayami, is to limit personal sharing on social media if the purpose is to feed the ego.  At first I thought that would be pretty much every personal post, almost by definition, it's going to come from wanting to share who I am.  But I think it's a powerful tactic to limit oversharing.  If I'm going to share something, the purpose should be something greater than to stoke my ego.  If the post is of service to others, is truly about sharing without regard to the ego, perhaps those are the posts worth sharing.

What are some ways that you stay empowered and keep a healthy relationship with social media?

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

How to be Mindful at Work

Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter of the Potential Project explain how to overcome the challenges to mindfulness at work, including some of the misconceptions about mindfulness.

For more videos and articles on Mindfulness, visit

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Hip-hop Icon Brings Vegan Food to The Breakfast Club

Music icon, yogi, and author Russell Simmons spoke in-depth about his vegan lifestyle during a recent interview on radio show The Breakfast Club.  He discusses his reasons for going vegan and why he feels compelled to share his knowledge.  During the interview he orders in all sorts of delicious vegan sandwiches and confort foods to demonstrate how easy and delicious plant based food can be.
One of the things I love about Simmons is how he shares his knowledge with those who may not be aware of their realities.  He doesn't talk down to people.  He shares his journey and knowledge without judgement.  He meets disagreement with discussion about finding common ground and progressing from there.  I just got The Happy Vegan and am excited to read it.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Breaking News Consumer's Handbook: Health News Edition

Chocolate causes weight-loss? Sleeping too much can kill you?! Before reposting "health news" see if it passes the test: Breaking News Consumer's Handbook: Health News Edition.

Just the other week many of us saw a glaring example of bad science taking the media by storm. As the year closes, we can reflect on the year in science vs. the narrative constructed by the media. Thankfully, WNYC produced this awesome "Breaking News" survival guide; how to tell the real science from the junk science and cut through the media sensationalism.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

No, Eating Bacon is Not Better for the Environment than Eating Lettuce

Recent news headlines highlight yet another example of media sensationalism rather than properly vetting a poorly designed study. No, that one study from Carnegie Mellon does not show that eating plants is worse for the environment that the standard American diet (SAD).
Yes, every other major _properly designed_ study done by credible organizations like the UN, FAO, DGAC, EWG, etc. is still valid shows that the more plant-based we eat, the less environmental impact.
The CM study is just a rehashing of the calorie per calorie approach of comparing lettuce vs. bacon which makes absolutely no sense. Unfortunately, the majority of news reporting of the CM study does not bother to highlight this glaring study flaw and most people who read the news won't go beyond the headlines.
The author of the study concludes:
“My bottom line is that there are no simple answers to complex problems,” Fischbeck said. “Diet and the environmental impact of agriculture … is not a simple problem.”
That statement is so utterly misleading.  Of course, science is complicated.  That's why we use science to help us figure out how to solve complicated problems.  But this kind of statement is akin to saying 'why even try to solve a problem, it's all so big and complicated.'
But if you actually read the study, and come to your own conclusion you would see that:
the researchers didn't find that vegetarianism is bad for the environment. They found that not every plant product is more environmentally friendly than every meat product on a calorie per calorie basis
Furthermore, the study quite oddly does not actually look at healthy vegetarian diets.  They define the healthy diet as consuming a lot of dairy and fish!  Of course, we know how the inclusion of dairy and fish is extremely energy intensive and unsustainable.
I'm left a bit puzzled what the CM researchers were after when they did their analysis in such a biased way. Or maybe they were just looking for rationalization to continue to cling to unsustainable bad habits?
Fortunately some columnists were quick to point out the obvious flaws:
If you hear an omnivore try to convince you that eating meat is better for the environment, check out the links above for the logical rebuttals.  Better yet, have them watch Cowspiracy. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Healthy Diets Broken Down into Five Simple Principles by Jeff Novick

Jeff Novick, MS, RD offers a simple, practical, evidence based approach to eating healthy; devoid of labels, dogma, and pontification. It requires no measuring, no counting, no reductionism, but it does require some planning and discipline to put it into practice. 

Embrace these 5 basic principles and you are well on your way to optimal eating. We desperately need more health practitioners to offer such practical guidance on diet like this.

Now, if there were ten of us in the room, we could each implement these pillars slightly differently and still each have a healthy diet and great health results. That’s because when we look at the research evidence, there’s no one specific diet that is “best.” Instead, there are common denominators across healthy diets that combine to make up a healthy dietary pattern, and these are reflected in my five guidelines/principles of healthy eating.
I love Jeff's approach and his writing because he's so down to earth and he knows the science cold.  He was one of the first of the WFPB doc's to demonstrate just how easy it can be to eat super healthy, utilizing frozen vegetables, easy to find spices and canned goods.  It doesn't get any simpler or cheaper than this.  I highly recommend this approach to anyone who thinks eating healthy has to be complicated or expensive.  

Read more here and check out Jeff Novick's site.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Do We Want to Know How Our Food is Made?

Earlier this week, I listened to a special report on food production and food safety.

Farm to Fork: Uncovering Hazards in Our Food Systems

I found this special report fascinating. It's all about the process of how food ends up on our plates (which a big portion is dedicated to meat production). What's more fascinating is that I'd bet that most meat eaters will have no interest in listening to this. "I don't want to know [what happened to this animal before it got to my plate]" For the food I now eat, I'm continuously fascinated by and eager to learn more about how plant based food is produced, harvested and distributed. Doesn't that reveal something about it if we want to willingly remain in the dark about the food we put in our bodies and feed our families with?

Hopefully this popular mindset is changing. More people are getting interested in particular parts of the story about how food is made. There are growing concerns about local, organic, and GMOs. Most importantly, this special report also focuses on the workers who make this whole process possible. There are so many abuses in our food system and parallels between the exploitation of animals and people caught in the middle. The way our food is made today neglects fundamental human and animal rights.

We can make the companies that produce our food change. We make a difference every day by voting with our dollars. As much as we tend to villainize big corporations, I believe they will necessarily be part of the solution...if we make them change.

"At the center of these complex systems [all the various ways food gets to us] is people. There is stark contrast between the condition of the foods we see in grocery stores and the conditions the workers ensure to put it there. But change is possible."