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Posts from the ‘Mind and Body’ Category

Nature: A Proven Biochemical Medicine

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:: Scenic Route 146 between Guilford and Branford, CT ::

See these photographs above? They are snapshots of my daily commute to and from work on Route 146 – voted Connecticut’s best biking route !  As is true for many other types of jobs, my work as a physician is often highly stressful, demanding, and sometimes takes a toll on my body and mind.

I find making this drive  into the office every day a peaceful and calming experience, and lately I have given great thought to the therapeutic benefit of my drive to work. So I wanted to share with you this little-known fact:

Interacting with nature has been scientifically proven to have measurable healing benefits!

In a recent interview conducted by Prevention Magazine, environmental psychologist Roger Ulrich discusses the results of a study, done in hospital settings, where patients’ view was either of a natural setting or a brick wall. The results: “Patients who saw nature needed less pain medication, suffered fewer post-op complications and were discharged faster than those who looked a brick wall” [during their stay].

What is the message for you? Get out and enjoy the outdoors! As early homo sapiens, we spent ALL of our time outside! Nature is ingrained into our psyches – and inhibiting that inherent human connection to the wilderness may be preventing you from enjoying all the health benefits that come with it!

Erik Peper, a Holistic Health Studies professor at San Francisco State University elaborates on this fact: “Nature reduces our stress on a biochemical level. It’s only when you interrupt the fight-or-flight response and make someone feel relaxed and safe that they can begin to regenerate and heal.”

So what is my weekend wisdom for you all? GO OUT AND SEE WHAT’S IN YOUR WORLD! Take a break from your news feeds, your email and your cell phone to check out local hiking trails, take a walk in your neighborhood or bring your dog to your favorite local scenic spot. Time away from our busy lives is extremely important for detaching from our stress levels and should not be taken for granted.

While it may be a short, 10-minute ride, I cherish my time on the road to work. I see all kinds of wildlife: osprey, great blue herons, egrets, fox, cows, deer…..oh my! I love to witness the cycles of life: The osprey have mated and one particular pair, whose eggs were duds the last two years, have a fuzzy little baby right now! As I drive, rocky coast and lush marshland surround me on all sides – and I take the time during these moments to absorb the sights, sounds and smells. I have found, time and time again, that surrendering to the beauty of the outdoors lowers my stress level immensely before my demanding days in the office.

I encourage you all to do the same! Have a fabulous weekend!

Dr. Nolfo

The Importance of Good Posture!

 

For the past couple of week, my 24-year-old daughter, Mariella, has been complaining of some intense pain in her shoulders and back. After discussions with me (perks of a Doc-Mom) and a visit to her sports-specialist chiropractor, it became clear that Mariella’s issues were stemming from her rather poor posture. In addition to working long hours hunched over her laptop, Mariella is a professional drummer, and was taught to balance her center of gravity on her drum kit by hovering slightly forward over the instrument. It was quite a surprise for my daughter to learn that her issues were due to poor posture – and it made me consider that perhaps others could benefit from the advice Mariella has been receiving on how to improve the alignment of her spine.

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Over time, our daily habits in our careers and our personal lives affect how we carry our bodies throughout the day. 80 percent of American’s experience back pain at some point in their lives, and nearly 90 percent of the population hunch their shoulders! We can attribute much of our daily backaches and pains to poor posture and weak muscles. Correcting these issues is vital to a healthy spine and a happy-looking body. Fortunately, there are many simple steps that one can take to improve posture and prevent future back problems. If this subject is new to you, I encourage you to examine the diagrams I have provided below and learn the importance of  STRAIGHTENING OUT!

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Why Is It Important To Have Good Posture?

– Good posture improves muscle tone and back strength.

– A straight spine eases the task of breathing and increases blood flow in the body. 

– Poor posture is the major contributor to Dowager’s Hump, a common issue in the elderly wherein the spine is visibly hunched (not just osteoporosis!).

– Having a properly aligned spine significantly decreases your risk for back injuryand back pain.

– Sitting up straight improves our appearance! Nobody likes “a slouch!”

 

Are these reasons enough for you to get yourself “in-line”? If so, begin by taking a look at the article from The Huffington Post  which outlines 10 different, highly common scenarios in our daily lives that cause and exacerbate poor posture. You’ll be surprised to find that things like sitting on our wallets or washing dishes can seriously mess with our spines!!! Developing an awareness of one’s posture and the habits which worsen it is the first and most important step to improving our alignment.

Simple adjustments to our daily physical activities can make a huge difference in our posture. However, it is also important to strengthen the muscles responsible for holding us upright. To begin toning up these muscles, check out this simple FitnessBlender exercise video my daughter Mariella passed along to me for use in today’s blog. After just 2 weeks of performing the exercises outlined in the video and maintaining an awareness of her posture, Mariella’s back pain has significantly subsided. Not only is this video appropriate for all ages and equipment-free, it also provides great insight into the importance of good posture and requires no prior experience! (Don’t do any exercise that hurts, and always ask your personal physician if you have questions about any new exercise regimen.)

So check this information out and report back to me with your progress! Have a fabulous weekend!

Dr. Emily Nolfo

 

 

 

 

St Patrick’s Day Wisdom: Combating Fears, Negativity and Other Distractions

 

Hi everyone!

First of all, I’d like to wish my patients, clients, friends, family and followers a very Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! In celebration of this Irish tradition, here’s a gluten-free, paleo-friendly version of Irish Soda Bread. I use currants or golden raisins, since my family doesn’t like cooked dark raisins.

Today I’d like to talk about stories. Your stories. The negative scripts we write about ourselves every day. You know the kind!

“I’m a klutz and not athletic.”

“I’m disorganized.”

“I’m always late.

This week alone, patients said to me:

  • “Once I put a carb in my mouth, I splurge on them for the next two weeks.” 
  • “I will never have enough time to exercise.”

At times I myself have been guilty of the same kind of self-deprecating dialogues.  For years I told myself I was just too anxious to speak in front of groups of people. I couldn’t even ask a question at a conference without a pulse of 130! And when my friends wanted to start a band, I felt there was no way I was ever going to be able to sing in front of anyone! However, I prioritized my desires and goals over these self-imposed shortcomings by pushing myself to take on opportunities that would allow me to break through my own stereotypes. As an executive member of several local and national medical societies, I have learned quickly that I can in fact, stand up in front of large groups of colleagues and overcome my public speaking anxieties when my time comes to make a presentation. Additionally, my cover band Take Two And Call Me In The Morning plays a gig almost every weekend here in Connecticut where I am featured as lead singer. I have discovered that the feelings of joy and achievement I get out of these experiences help me to slowly overcome those old fears – but only when and if I give myself the chance to engage in those moments of positivity!

So how do we make these leaps and bounds in our everyday lives?

 OK, well, here’s the thing: there are surely things about yourself you can’t change. I’d like to wake up tomorrow 5’7”. Not gonna happen!

 But, so many things we say about ourselves we want to change; we should change; and we really, truly CAN change!!!!

You don’t have to eat all carbs for two weeks after one cookie if you are trying to reverse metabolic syndrome. As I have written before, you can enjoy at treat and move on. But you have to tell yourself: “I’m not a person who sabotages his/her health because I ate one thing.”  Maybe you won’t believe yourself at first, but say it anyway!! Say it enough times and you start to rewrite your story, eventually you will start to live differently.

So: You CAN find 10 minutes in your day to exercise. Walk up and down your stairs or around your house, the grocery store or the parking lot. Put on music and dance for 10 minutes. Or try strengthening your core by engaging your abdominal muscles while you complete everyday tasks such as picking up a heavy object out of your car or stepping over the baby gates at home.

Think you’re not smart? Say: “I’m pretty smart!” and then make yourself smarter by exercising! Yup, that’s right — a study by Harvard shows that physical activity not only strengthens our bones and muscles but also our minds!

Try to recognize the stories you tell yourself that you would like to change.

Rewrite your story the way you’d like it to read.

Have a safe and happy holiday weekend!

Dr. Emily Nolfo

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