Wellness News

Awe-Inspiring Wonders and Health

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Written by Jon Barron or staff member at The Baseline of Health Foundation

If you've ever seen the sun set in all its incredible hues over the ocean or walked through a tropical forest where people are far outnumbered by creatures, you understand the majesty that can be found in nature. Similar feelings can arise from getting a chance to behold incredible artwork or becoming swept up in a profound spiritual moment. These experiences, and the awe they produce, can feed the soul. And now, new research suggests they may very well make a positive difference in the body as well.

The study, which took place at the University of California, Berkeley, found that the positive emotions we experience when exposed to nature, art, and spirituality may result in an anti-inflammatory effect within the body and offer some measure of disease protection.(1) The subjects were more than 200 young adults who participated in one of two identical but separate trials.

The volunteers were interviewed about the extent of the positive emotions they felt that particular day. The emotions were defined as love, joy, pride, awe, amusement, compassion, and contentment. In addition, the same day that the subjects went to the lab and discussed their feelings, the scientists took small samples of tissue from their cheeks and gums. The samples were used to assess the levels of cytokines present in each person's body on that day.

Cytokines are chemicals released by cells of the immune system that, among other things, trigger inflammation. This is important as we use inflammation to help repair injuries and overcome illnesses and infections. However, when cytokine levels are chronically elevated due to an immune system that is out of balance, the chronic inflammation that results is very damaging over time. Evidence has been found that it may contribute to cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders, Alzheimer's disease, and depression.

But back to the study. When the researchers tested the participants' tissue samples, they discovered that the individuals who registered positive emotions that day had corresponding lower cytokine levels. This was the case in both of the experiment's trials. And with decreased levels of cytokines there comes reduced inflammation throughout the body.

While it is harder to measure emotions than more tangible physiological responses, we do know that our mental and emotional well-being is tied closely to our physical health in other ways. Jon Barron devoted an entire chapter of his book, Lessons from the Miracle Doctors, to the subject: The Thought that Kills. And a 2011 study at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, found that depression may lead to a higher risk of heart disease.(2) So it only makes sense that our emotions can affect us in positive ways as well. The new research appears to add to the growing body of evidence of just how much our feelings can affect our health. One example was a 2013 study at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that showed experiencing affirmative emotions was associated with improvements in heart rate and breathing patterns that benefit coronary health.(3) With daily doses of positive thinking, we might very well reduce stress levels, as well as inflammation levels, and reverse some of the damage they cause over the long term.

Obviously, it is fairly difficult to attempt to quantify certain emotions. It's also worth considering that what might impact one person significantly might only be a fleeting thought to another. For example, visiting a museum and looking at an original Picasso might inspire awe and profound feelings within some individuals, whereas others think, "That's a piece of ….."

In other words, not everything is breathtaking to everyone, and it's up to each of us to figure out what it is that produces these emotions in ourselves. Remember also that the researchers listed among the essential feelings love, pride, compassion, and contentment, so it's probably not necessary to travel thousands of miles to the Taj Mahal to evoke the right reaction; your significant other, child, or dog might elicit strong enough emotions to do the trick. Whether it's derived from a passionate sermon, a walk on a mountain, or simply holding the hand of someone you care for, let yourself appreciate these moments and make sure they're not few and far between.

Material originally published at www.jonbarron.org.
Copyright © 1999-2015. Baseline of Health® Foundation
Used by permission of the Baseline of Health® Foundation.
All rights reserved worldwide.

Sources:
1. Gregoire, Carolyn. "Experiences Of Art, Nature And Spirituality May Help Prevent Disease, Study Finds." Huffington Post. 4 February 2015. Accessed 11 February 2015. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/04/natural-anti-inflammatori_n_661...

2. Gordon, Jennifer L.; et al. "The effect of major depression on post exercise cardiovascular recovery." Psychophysiology. 1 August 2011. Accessed 12 February 2015. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1469-8986.2011.01232.x/abst...

3. Kok, Bethany E.; et al. "How Positive Emotions Build Physical Health." Psychological Science. 6 May 2013. Accessed 12 February 2015. http://pss.sagepub.com/content/24/7/1123.abstract

How to Detoxify Safely and Naturally

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Natural Detoxification

By Dr. Bill Rawls - 

Gastrointestinal function in general is intimately tied to our overall health. Our neurological system is tightly intertwined with our gastrointestinal system and much of our immune system resides within the gastrointestinal system. Not only is the gastrointestinal system responsible for digestion of food and removal of toxins, it encounters microbial invaders and potential allergens on a continual basis.

When the gastrointestinal system is out of balance or not functioning properly, every system in the body is affected. The biggest enemies of normal gastrointestinal function are processed foods (with high sugar, starch, and fat content, but low dietary fiber) and emotional stress. These seem to go together all too often.

How can “detoxing” benefit the body?

Toxins are also a significant contributor to disease, so it is very important to limit toxins that are floating in your system. Toxins increase oxidative stress and disable the immune system, allowing microbes to set up shop. Toxins poison biochemical reactions, disturbing essential functions in the body.

Imagine your body as a large basin of water. It is resting at the bottom of a slow moving stream and receives a trickle of water continually. A small valve at the bottom of the basin allows the same amount of water to escape, so the level of water in the basin is always the same.

Now imagine that the stream is contaminated and the water trickling into the basin is cloudy. This will cause the water in the basin to also be cloudy, and over time, sediment will begin to collect in the bottom of the basin.

If you enjoy foods that contain sugar, wheat, and dairy, then you’ve been letting a “cloudy” water stream in and have collected accumulated toxins and harmful bacteria in your system. I know that is a disturbing picture, but don’t worry – your body is prepared to reset and recharge. But in order for your body to accomplish this, you need to set the stage.

By supporting your body’s intrinsic strategies for detoxification and elimination, you can help your body to prevent toxins from accumulating from in your tissues.

What are the steps for complete detoxification & rebooting?

1. Clean the inflow stream. This is the first, most critical step!  During the detoxification period, everything that goes into your body should be crystal clean (fresh, whole foods – absolutely no sugar, wheat or dairy).

2. Get rid of unfriendly bacteria in the gut and on the skin. Strictly eliminating processed food cuts off the food supply to these pests, but it takes a while for die off to occur. Take a high-quality probiotic to re-seed the gut with friendly bacteria and suppress growth of unwanted opportunists.

3. Convert fat-soluble toxins to water-soluble toxins. Most toxic substances are fat-soluble and are retained in fatty tissues. We depend on our liver to convert these fat-soluble substances into less toxic water-soluble substances that can be removed more easily. This is a hard job. As we age, the liver becomes less efficient at detoxification and other functions such as regulating cholesterol and glucose.

Keeping the liver working optimally is important for purifying your system. Milk thistle (along with other herbs found in Prevention Plus) enhances flow through the liver and supports normal liver function.

4. Prevent reabsorption of toxins. Fiber from fresh vegetables holds onto toxins and pulls them from the body.  It can also surround toxins that are in the intestine, thus preventing their reabsorption. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber holds water-soluble toxins within the colon for removal. Insoluble fiber makes up the bulk of feces; this type of fiber helps to push everything through.

5. Eliminate toxins that are floating in your system.  After processing by the liver, by-products of the detoxification process must be removed from the body. There are three main pathways for removal: the colon, kidneys, and sweat glands.

To accomplish this, you need to get things moving. Exercise mobilizes toxins from tissues by increasing blood flow. If exercise is not practical, try a far infrared sauna. Supplements that support optimal blood flow (Prevention Plus) can enhance the process.

Drinking plenty of clean liquids will flush the kidneys. Kidney function can also be supported with cordyceps and other adaptogenic herbs. Chlorella, a fresh water algae, is a great purifying agent that can be taken as a supplement to expedite toxin removal.

Flushing toxins from your system takes time and is an ongoing process!

Living free and clear of toxins will allow your body to perform at a high level and heal itself quickly and effectively.  You’ll be amazed at what your body can do when provided the right opportunity.

Detoxing with supplements and a clean diet for ten days will be a huge step in the right direction, but these clean gut practices must be continued long term if you want to truly optimize your health.

Reprinted with permission from Vital Plan.

Bill Rawls, MD is an advocate for individuals with fibromyalgia and related conditions. Board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology, Dr. Rawls has always focused his practice on health and wellness. After experiencing fibromyalgia and Lyme disease first hand, he shifted toward helping others with those conditions. He uses his passions for writing and study of natural herbal medicine to reach out to those left behind by the current healthcare system. Through books and health restoration protocols available through Vital Plan, he paves the way toward a better life. His latest book, Suffered Long Enough, puts the pieces together for fibromyalgia and Lyme disease sufferers and offers a safe pathway back to normal health.

Hand of God: Synchronicity or Coincidence?

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By David G Arenson ND - 

What’s the difference between random coincidence and synchronicity?

Is there a difference? In this article Yoga U Contributor David G. Arenson explores synchronicity and how to invite it into your life.

Out of the blue, something catches your attention, a blinding flash seemingly answering an inner calling or question.

Have you ever met someone one day and bumped into them “randomly” the following day or soon thereafter? Or have you seen a word that answers a question you’ve been meditating on? Or have you ever found a strange connection appear before you out of nowhere?

A voice from the divine, or just coincidence?

Recently, I’ve been dating someone who showed me her vision board, and on the top, she had unknowingly placed a cut-out of one of my articles, “Choosing Love,” from a local magazine. I was speechless. She had no idea that it was written by me, as she had taken it from the front cover and didn’t even know I was an author.

Some stories I’ve heard recently:

Andy was searching for a copy of The Alchemist, a book she had lent to her cousin and it had got lost. That day her housemate was spring cleaning the house, throwing out old books in a box and dropped off a copy of The Alchemist on her desk, thinking she may like it.

Paulo was sitting at his computer writing an email when his cat Milo jumped onto his keyboard. On the screen, appeared the letters “JFK.” Paulo had been studying political history for a project at college.

These seemingly random encounters seem to be “signs” that something significant is at work. Recently, many people have been acutely aware of synchronicity occurring in their lives. Let's further explore the dance of synchronicity and what it may mean in our lives.

Synchronicity is a concept originally coined by Carl Jung to describe meaningful coincidences—the “acausal connecting principle” that links mind and matter and supersedes cause and effect. At many times in history, there has been a case of the simultaneous discovery of the same thing. This is well documented in science.

I was first introduced to the concept of synchronicity years ago when I read James Redfield’s The Celestine Prophecy. Redfield theorizes that all coincidences are important because they direct the way to an unfolding of our personal destiny.

I have been through periods heavily influenced by the concept that synchronicity was meaningful. Many of the major events of my life have been guided by synchronicity—relationships beginning and ending, work, career paths, etc. I’ve had moments where I’ve been a Celestine prophecy “devotee”—seeing meaning in every event. I would caution people that there needs to be a caveat: Not all synchronicities are meaningful!

I’ve come to see that not all coincidences and events in our lives mean something. Bumping into the postman when he’s delivering the mail doesn’t necessarily mean anything beyond him doing his job, and you doing yours, and those events coinciding for a moment. The problem with relying too much on synchronicity is that it can take away your own free will or intention out of your life, and rely too much on “acts of God”—promoting reactivity (waiting for God) instead of promoting being proactive (taking action).

Sometimes one can search too hard for spiritual meanings in daily events that may really just be co-incidents. Since we live in a conscious universe, no events are actually accidental. However not all events are equally meaningful or significant.

The lines between synchronicity, precognition and clairvoyance are blurred. For example, have you ever thought of a friend, and then received a phone call from them, or seen them later on?

Just last week, I was chatting to a friend about catching up with her in the morning, and that night bumped into her at an isolated restaurant. How did that happen? Of all the thousands of restaurants how could we both end up at the same one? Surely such an event is unlikely to occur by random chance. My friend later mentioned she had seen me walking in the park earlier. Maybe there was a message or transaction that we needed to communicate to each other, or perhaps our earlier communication had connected our energies and aligned our paths.

Synchronicity can hint at destiny, or it can come via dipping your feet into the divine matrix, or field of consciousness. Jung pointed to an underlying field of consciousness, which he called underlying connectedness. It can also be a message or sign sent from angelic beings or spirit guides, if you believe in those.

I recall the day after my grandmother dying seeing an old graceful lady waiting with me at a tram stop, and feeling that it was a message from my grandmother that she was with me still.

Sound familiar? Remind you of something? Perhaps it’s a synchronistic moment reading these words. Would you like to awaken and activate synchronicity?

7 Ways to Open to Synchronicity

1. Be open to receive the wisdom of each moment as it unfolds.
Synchronicity reveals an underlying pattern in the universe, a large guiding framework that organizes our lives.

2. Know what you want.
Having a clear idea of what we want to create in our lives, what we want our lives to be like, encourages synchronicity.

Redfield’s seventh insight is, “Knowing our personal mission further enhances the flow of mysterious coincidences as we are guided toward our destinies.”

Synchronicity can hint at our life path, or remind us of where we are headed, or guide us to change direction. Synchronicity brings us relationships and love. There are so many stories of mysterious coincidences that bring two lovers together. Synchronicity brings gifts to be treasured.

3. Synchronicity is an energy.
Change your energetic or vibrational frequency to reflect the feeling or reality you wish to embody. For instance, if you want to feel more love, be loving.

Changing our frequency will change the people we attract into our lives. We are all communicating with the field of energy around us. Who we are being and how we are feeling affects this field.

4. Be in service of the people in your life and all humanity.

Redfield’s eighth insight is, “We can increase the frequency of guiding coincidences by uplifting every person that comes into our lives.”It is our responsibility to others to be awake and aware of the potential of each moment to touch and help another.

5. Let go.
I have found that synchronicities occur when I am active in the world, being and feeling more than just doing—when I am more in the “zone” in terms of awareness and consciousness. Surrender to this field.

6. Relax!
Synchronicity requires being relaxed. It cannot be willed or forced.

Expanding our awareness within the infinite sea of consciousness is tapping into possibility. When you access this field of energy—call it the universal field or the divine matrix—you are tapping into a field which is loving, abundant, and in which nothing is impossible. Stress or unease breaks our natural communication with this field. It also obstructs our ability to “see” beyond the obvious, to go deeper into awareness.

7. Embrace the mystery!
Synchronicity is about being awakened to the infinite possibilities available to us within the divine matrix of perception. Have fun with it, embrace it, and let it flow to you like the pure water of a spring. Allow the mystery to unfold. As the White Queen said to Alice, “It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards.” (Lewis Carroll)

You can be the director and star of your own film. You decide how it is.

 

David Arenson is a Transformational Healer and Soul-Coach actively seeking partners to co-create his vision of an enlightened and unified planet of choice. He is working on a book on self-empowerment, and developing journey retreats to places of spiritual activation. He can be reached via his websites, findshambhala.com and mretreat.com

 

We Can Find Reasons to Be Happy and Grateful Every Day

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By Rebecca Olsen - 

“A day without laughter is a day wasted.” ~Charlie Chaplin

Many people have told me throughout my life that I sound just like my mother when I laugh. I lost her to cancer when I was sixteen, over twenty years ago. I learned from her to laugh and laugh often, even through the toughest of times. “Happiness is a choice,” she always said.

Life has thrown a few curveballs my way over the past five years and tried to test my ability to choose happiness and laughter. My husband, Eric, and I had just started talking about having children when the first wild pitch came our way.

Early in 2010, Eric was diagnosed with cancer. I remember how I refused to cry in front of him or in front of anyone really. I remember how overwhelmingly sad, scared, and angry I felt. I also remember the first time we laughed after we found out.

We were sitting on our couch watching TV, and something very funny came on and we both laughed. I can’t remember what it was. I just remember looking at him and feeling a bit surprised.

I realized that it was going to be really important for us to keep laughing, and we did, often at times when most people would think we were nuts.

We laughed at the crazy sound Eric made when he got sick (to put it politely) after chemotherapy. We laughed when I blew into his ostomy bag to make sure it was attached correctly (a very risky maneuver considering what could have come out of there.)

We laughed hysterically when a nurse very inappropriately commented that our sex life would probably be a lot better once he had the surgery to get rid of the ostomy.

Fast-forward a few years. Eric was healthy and we were ready to move forward in starting a family. We knew there could be some complications, but they turned out to be worse than we thought. Cancer treatments had made Eric sterile and it turns out that I had some issues too.

We decided to try IVF with samples Eric had frozen prior to treatment and failed multiple times. Again, we ended up laughing when most people would think we were crazy.

We laughed when my first embryo transfer turned into a show for about six interns (thank you teaching hospital).

We laughed when we got a box full of hormones and needles that would make some people faint.

We laughed ourselves to tears when an employee at CVS very inappropriately asked me if I was pregnant yet because she’d seen me buy so many tests.

We decided after two rounds of IVF and one frozen embryo transfer that we were not going to do any more fertility treatments. We had discussed adoption before, and we both agreed that we wanted to become parents this way.

We took a good bit of time to research and discuss our options and eventually agreed that open adoption was the path for us.

Fast-forward about a year to today and to the event that inspired me to write this post. We are in “the wait” to be chosen by an expectant mother to become parents through open adoption.

This is something that could take months or years. Every day we are hoping that this woman, who we already love, will find us through our agency and want to place her child, who we already love, with us.

We bought a separate phone for our toll free number to make sure we never miss a call. Today, I heard it ringing in my office and a million thoughts ran through my head instantly. Could this be her, already, we’ve only been live for a month, how should I answer, will I sound stupid…

I ran like the wind to my office and as I was picking it up to answer, my husband jumped out from under my desk and yelled, “It was me!”

I could have been irritated that he scared me half to death. I could have been angry that he got my hopes up that we were getting “the call.” Instead, I chose happiness and we laughed—a lot!

Laughter has kept us sane and grounded through very trying times. I’m so thankful that my mother taught me to choose happiness and that I married my best friend who makes this choice with me every day.

Yes, there have been sad, scary and angry moments, but we have always been able to find our way to happy and hopeful, which will make “the wait” much easier.

We are so thankful that my husband is healthy.

We are so thankful that we have the ability and opportunity to become parents through this amazing and loving way to create a family.

We are so thankful that we choose to be happy. We can’t wait to share our lives, love, and laughter with our child and to teach him or her to choose happiness.

Just as my mother encouraged me, I will now encourage all who are reading this to find at least one moment during the day to really focus on what you are thankful for.

Taking these moments to be grateful—especially on the days when being happy may seem impossible—can be just what you need to get through them.

Through all of life’s up and downs, at the end of the day, it is simply amazing that we are here, and we need to appreciate and enjoy it!

This post was republished with permission from tinybuddha.com. You can find the original post here.

Rebecca Olsen is a happy wife, daughter, sister, aunt and hopefully someday soon, mother.  She lives in North Carolina where she and her husband are partners in a construction business with a great friend.  They are enjoying life together while they wait for “the call.”  

Eight Ways to Cut Stress Out of Your Life

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By Dr. Bill Rawls 

1) Ease Up On the Gas Pedal
Your approach to life needs to be calm and collected. The key is to be present—aware of the moment you’re in. Worrying about what’s already happened or what may happen are stress triggers. Practice taking deep, cleansing breaths and try to avoid situations that cause extreme stress. Our bodies offer a natural internal compass for the direction that will best suit us.

2) Stop Running from the Stress Tiger
Modern technology has enhanced our lives in many ways, but it has also made our lives very left-brain dominant with the “stress tiger” always on our heels. In this short video, Dr. Bill Rawls explains how running from the “tiger” can impact your focus and productivity, and what you can do about it.

3) Engage Your Right Brain
In his book Open Focus, Les Fehmi states that anxiety and lack of focus are a direct result of left-brain dominance. His solution lies in defocused left-brained activity to synchronize function of the right and left brain. To practice this, set reminders for yourself to take a 10 minute break every three hours throughout your day to exercise your right brain with a creative activity.  You can engage your right brain by completing a word or number puzzle, drawing a picture, daydreaming, or listening to music.

4) Unplug from Gossip
Focusing on bad news, overloading on media gossip or “reality TV” and overindulging in online social networking are all ways to avoid living your life. They are also ways to create stress about things that you cannot affect or change. Exposing yourself to a constant stream of negativity has a negative outcome on your system. Instead, focus on positive messages, and things that enhance your motivation and energy in a healthy w

5) Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
So many of the situations that we perceive as threats are not really threats at all. Ask yourself simple questions to diffuse the potential stress: “Am I in control of my reactions?” “Do I really want to take on any more negativity?” Questions like these engage our rational mind, calming our brains and allowing us to see the big picture more clearly. Stop making mountains out of molehills. Learn to recognize what is truly a threat, and what is merely a bump in the road, and keep rolling forward.

6) Take a Break Outdoors
Are you listening only to loud, grating music or stressful radio news shows? Consider how you feel after listening to your usual music; does your body feel like it’s “vibrating” at a faster pace? Are you feeling aggressive or unhappy? Take a break from your usual listening habits and try something more calming and happy. Better yet, head outdoors and let the sounds of nature soothe your soul. Research has shown that being outdoors and hearing the natural sounds of wind, birds, etc. has a stress-reducing effect.

7) Supplement with Natural Herbs
Adaptogens are natural substances that provide an overall balancing effect on all systems of the body, without drug-like side effects. This includes restoration of normal immune function and balancing adrenal function. Adaptogens allow the body to focus on healing, even in the face of stress. Adaptogenic herbs are especially beneficial for busy individuals looking to better manage stress and optimize focus.

  • Ashwagandha is one of the best adaptogenic herbs for balancing hormones and reducing the detrimental effects of stress. Native to India, ashwagandha is revered for its ability to balance, energize, rejuvenate, and revitalize. Look for Sensoril® ashwagandha, a standardized form of ashwagandha backed by clinical studies.
  • Magnolia Tree Bark Extract has been traditionally used in Chinese medicine to counter the negative effects of stress. This extract has been proven to decrease cortisol levels (the stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands), resulting in a dramatic improvement of symptoms such as stress-related eating, fatigue, and poor sleep. Look for Relora®, a patented form of magnolia tree bark.
  • L-Theanine is a unique amino acid found in green tea and certain mushrooms that crosses into the brain to induce calmness and improve mental focus. It counters the negative effects of stress-induced adrenaline secretion to improve natural sleep without inducing sedation during the day.

8) Be Honest About Your Stress Tolerance
You have a stress threshold that precipitates symptoms. Try to maintain stress below that threshold. This requires a bit of self-monitoring, and a lot of honesty about where your stress level is. Are you ready to feel less stressed and more calm, focused and productive?

Reprinted with permission from VitalPlan.com

Bill Rawls, MD is an advocate for individuals with fibromyalgia and related conditions. Board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology, Dr. Rawls has always focused his practice on health and wellness. After experiencing fibromyalgia and Lyme disease first hand, he shifted toward helping others with those conditions. He uses his passions for writing and study of natural herbal medicine to reach out to those left behind by the current healthcare system. Through books and health restoration protocols available through Vital Plan, he paves the way toward a better life. His latest book, Suffered Long Enough, puts the pieces together for fibromyalgia and Lyme disease sufferers and offers a safe pathway back to normal health.

 

 

How to Stay Positive (Even When You’re Struggling With Depression)

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yoga for depression

By Ashley Trexler - 

 


“Turn your face toward the sun and the shadows will fall behind you.”
 ~ Māori Proverb

Depressing, isn’t it?

Struggling to get out of bed every day—but you can’t.

All you need to do is turn off your alarm, get up, and go on with the day. Instead, you hide under your covers, avoiding life. You’ve lost jobs, friends, and a whole more—but still, you can’t make yourself do it.

All you want to be is normal. To live without the huge emotions and downward spirals.

I once felt this way, too. Diagnosed with severe depression and borderline personality disorder when I was young, getting out of bed was brutal.

Part of what makes depression so, well, depressing, is the crushing weight of pessimism holding your head under water. Pessimism makes it easy to believe that nothing will work out, and everything is pointless.

What a terrible way to live life.

On the flip side, an optimistic life is about believing in the best, through the worst.

Were you raised to be an optimist or pessimist?

I was raised an optimist. Believe in people, hard work pays off, things will get better…the usual. As a slightly nerdy and completely gawky teen, life sucked. Classmate cruelty was an unavoidable part of life. Those years were painful. It was mind-boggling how mean, how pessimistic, people could be.

My mother, a textbook optimist, trotted out the usual lines:

“It’s not you; it’s them.”

“They’re just jealous.”

“It’ll get better. Just wait.”

It didn’t get better. It got progressively worse as I entered early adulthood. I hid behind alcohol and drugs to numb the pain of feeling.

Involving myself with bad people (you know, the kind you hope your kids never meet) made me feel strong.

For the depressed optimist, pessimism offers a heady feeling of power.

Or, maybe that was the drugs and alcohol talking. Eventually, life overwhelmed me, and it was time to end it.

What was the final straw? The simplest, funny-yet-sad answer is the movie Groundhog Day, and the thought of waking up, over and over again, to a never-ending cycle of anger, hurt, and pain.

So I tried to kill myself. Once, twice, three times. The third time was not a charm. (I’m still here, obviously.)

Fast-forward a year, and while I was officially “in recovery,” I was far from feelings of peace and contentment. I was, however, something else:

Pregnant.

A wise therapist once told me my depression stemmed from my life choices and environment, not chemical imbalances. Fix the choices, fix the environment, and you’ll fix the depression.

Not ready to hear that it was my job to fix my depression, I sought out a new therapist.

Still, I was told my pregnancy would go one of two ways: Either I would be completely “cured,” or my depression would quickly get worse.

If the latter occurred, it was unlikely I’d be able to care for my child.

I Had a Choice to Make

Right then, right there, I had a choice to make: Let life lead me, or lead my life.

Reread that last line.

That’s the reason we need to work our tails off to be, and to raise, optimists: Because a pessimist would never have seen a choice.

If my parents had been pessimists and expected the worst, I wouldn’t be here today. If my parents had been pessimists, they would have given up on me; in turn, I would have given up on myself. But as optimists, they had faith that I would learn, grow, and recover.

As optimists, they didn’t have any other choice.  Neither did I. And that, I realized, was an attitude I wanted to pass on to my child.

I wanted her to be a fighter, to always look for the best in others, to fall down and get back up again—and again, and again.

I decided to be an optimist not just for myself, but for my child.

It’s a struggle to stay positive, and pessimism desperately wants to be BFFs. My negative alter-ego is always sitting on my shoulder, whispering in my ear, “Isn’t life unfair?”

The thing is, life can seem unfair. But life got so much easier, and happier, when I learned how to overcome negative thoughts.

Let’s talk about seven useful ways to live life positively:

1. Ditch the following phrases:

“It figures,” “Isn’t that just my luck,” “It would only happen to me,” and, “I just can’t catch a break.” Words that make you a victim also make you a pessimist. Stop using them.

2. Flip the switch on negativity.

The violent television shows and the funny-but-mean viral videos. Negativity is an insidious disease, and it spreads through seemingly harmless mediums. Turn it off.

3. Refuse to be misery’s companion.

Gently, but firmly, tell your partner/mother/best friend/colleague that you can’t participate in their pity party. Empathy and compassion are important, but learn how to deal with difficult people

Living bitter-free is a skill. Learn to acknowledge and explore feelings of negativity, but don’t dwell on them. Turn them around, taste them, and set them free.

4. Turn disappointment on its head.

When you’ve had a disappointment or failure, go ahead and finish something (anything). Complete a task that’s been on your to-do list.

When I experience a work disappointment, the first thing I do is complete another project. It forces your head and heart to change gears, and it will point you in a more positive, mindful direction.

5. Thank your lucky stars.

When you start to get stressed and depressed, stop and say “thank you.” To anything. Thank your house, for providing warmth and four walls. Thank your car, for continuing to start (most mornings, anyway). Thank your job, even if you hate it, because it keeps you clothed and fed.

Don’t give up on achieving more, but get in the habit of acknowledging life’s little achievements. You’re luckier than you think.

6. Make someone smile.

Buy a coffee for the person next in line, hold the door with a smile, compliment a fellow shopper on their outfit, or buy a balloon and ask the cashier to deliver it anonymously to the next kid who gets in line.

Pay it forward. (Careful, it’s addicting!)

Living an Optimistic Life Takes Effort

Slip-ups are common. Complaining is just so much easier than working to be happy.

Your history plays a huge role in how you view life. Think about your parents. Did life beat them down? Did they warn you to look out for yourself because no one else will?

Your parents were trying, in their own way, to teach you about optimism and pessimism.

But, you can’t just accept life; you have to intentionally live it.

Fight for the Good Life, Every Day

When you juggle work, home, and life, just maintaining the status quo becomes a feat of endurance. It’s often an accomplishment to get through the day. There’s no time left to work on you. But that’s just an excuse.

You have to make time to for good. Find it in every person, in every situation.

You have to fight for the light at the end of the tunnel.

If I weren’t a fighter, I wouldn’t be here today.

At the end of the day, it’s about believing in the power of good, not bad. It’s about turning off the negativity, whether it flows from your mind, your partner, or your TV.

It’s about saying no to pessimism and yes to optimism.

To be an optimist, you can’t let life get in your way.

This post was republished with permission from tinybuddha.com. You can find the original post here.

 

Ashley Trexler loves honest talk about parenting and life choices. She blogs about the good, the bad, and the funny at LiesAboutParenting.com. She is known for debunking popular parenting advice that just doesn’t work, and is a passionate believer that clean homes create clean minds. She’ll consider herself a parenting success if she can, somehow, manage to raise kind and compassionate kids.

Just One Thing: Be Kind to Yourself by Being Kind to Others

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By Rick Hanson - 

We think of kindness as something we do for others. But Rick Hanson says kindness is a two-way street.

I usually describe a practice as something to do: get on your own side, see the being behind the eyes, take in the good, etc. This practice is different: it’s something to recognize. From this recognition, appropriate action will follow. Let me explain...

Some years ago, I was invited to give a keynote at a conference with the largest audience I’d ever faced. It was a big step up for me. Legendary psychologists were giving the other talks, and I feared I wouldn’t measure up. I was nervous. Real nervous.

I sat in the back waiting my turn, worrying about how people would see me. I thought about how to look impressive and get approval. My mind fixed on me, me, me. I was miserable.

Then I began reading an interview with the Dalai Lama. He spoke about the happiness in wishing others well. A wave of relief and calming swept through me as I recognized that the kindest thing I could do for myself was to stop obsessing about “me” and instead try to be helpful to others.

So I gave my talk, and stayed focused on what could be useful to people rather than how I was coming across. I felt much more relaxed and at peace—and received a standing ovation. I laughed to myself at the ironies: to get approval, stop seeking it; to take care of yourself, take care of others.

This principle holds in everyday life, not just in conferences. If you get a sense of other people and find compassion for them, you’ll feel better yourself. In a relationship, one of the best ways to get your own needs met is to take maximum reasonable responsibility (these words are carefully chosen) for meeting the needs of the other person. Besides being benevolent—which feels good in its own right—it’s your best odds strategy for getting treated better by others. This approach is the opposite of being a doormat; it puts you in a stronger position.

Flip it the other way, and it is also true: kindness to yourself is kindness to others. As your own well-being increases, you’re more able and likely to be patient, supportive, forgiving, and loving. To take care of them, you’ve got to take care of yourself; otherwise you start running on empty. As you grow happiness and other inner strengths inside yourself, you’ve got more to offer to others.

Kindness to you is kindness to me; kindness to me is kindness to you. It’s a genuine—and beautiful—two-way street.

How?

The kindness to others and to yourself that I’m talking about here is authentic and proportionate, not overblown or inappropriate.

In ordinary situations, take a moment here and there to recognize that if you open to appropriate compassion, decency, tolerance, respect, support, friendliness, or even love for others… it’s good for you as well.

See the consequences of little things. For example, earlier today, in an airport, I saw a bag on the ground and didn’t know if it had been left by someone. Thinking about this practice, it was natural for there to be some friendliness in my face when I asked the man in front of me if it was his bag. He was startled at first and it seemed like he felt criticized, then he looked more closely at me, relaxed a bit, and said that the bag was his friend’s. His response to my friendliness made me feel at ease instead of awkward or tense.

Imagine what the other person’s concerns or wants might be, and do what you can—usually easily and naturally—to take them into account. Then see how this turns out for you. Probably better than it would have been.

Also see how taking care of yourself has good ripple effects for others. Deliberately do a small thing that feeds you—a little rest, some exercise, some time for yourself—and then notice how this affects your relationships. Notice how healthy boundaries in relationships helps prevent you from getting used up or angry and eventually needing to withdraw.

In effect, you are running little experiments and letting the results really sink in. That’s the important part: letting it really land inside you that we are deeply connected with each other. Helping others helps you; helping yourself helps others. Similarly, harming others harms you; harming yourself harms others.

It’s as if we are connected in a vast web. For better or worse, what you do to others ripples back to you; what you do to yourself ripples out to others.

Recognizing this in your belly and bones will change your life for the better. And change the lives of others for the better as well.

Reprinted with permission from Greater Good - Science of a Meaningful Life.

 

Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a neuropsychologist and author of Buddha’s Brain and Just One Thing. Founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom, and Affiliate of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, he’s been an invited speaker at Oxford, Stanford, and Harvard, and taught in meditation centers worldwide. He has several audio programs and his free Just One Thing newsletter has over 37,000 subscribers. For more information, visit: http://www.rickhanson.net/.

Why Slow is the Way to Go: 6 Reasons to Take Your Time

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By Kathy Kruger - 

“Stop beating yourself up. You are a work in progress; which means you get there a little at a time, not all at once.” ~Unknown

I’ve been practicing yoga, on and off, for fifteen years.

It’s helped me through and out the other side of infertility, kept me company on the long and winding road of adoption, and helped walk me out of the shadows of depression.

It’s a big part of my life, part of who I am—a faithful friend, the kind that welcomes you back with open arms even after you’ve been inattentive.

In fact, I’d say yoga always gives me what I call an “Alaskan welcome”—the kind my dearly departed dog used to give me whenever I walked into the house, as though I’d been all the way to Alaska instead of around the corner to the shops.

Yoga is always willing to give, but it’s a slow-burning love, and while it has rewarded me richly, I’ve had to wait for its gifts.

I have just completed yoga teacher training, at forty-six, proving the truth that you are never too old to teach (or learn).

While I’m pleased with my pace of learning, ironically, despite my age and experience, there is still so much yoga has to teach me.

And that’s okay, because I am realizing more and more that some of the best things, in yoga and in life, come to us slowly.

Here’s why I think slow is the way to go and why staying power is the most powerful kind.

1. Slow teaches us patience.

And patience is its own gift, especially during times when things are out of our control and we have no choice but to wait it out. When we bring patience to gently moving toward a goal, we have it in reserve for when roadblocks get in the way (as they inevitably will).

2. Slow hones acceptance and gratitude.

When we rush headlong into what we want to achieve, we can get easily frustrated with any hurdle or slight delay. (And frustration is unlikely to get us to our goal more quickly.)

We also miss the opportunity to accept and be grateful for the small steps we take, those incremental achievements, and for where we are right now—for the good and the bad of everyday life.

3. Slow allows for small mistakes.

Rush at something and we run the risk of messing up big-time. Take it slow and we get the chance to experiment with small mistakes, helping us to grow so we can hopefully avoid bigger mistakes in the future. We have to earn our lessons, and we don’t learn until we allow things to sink in.

4. Slow makes room for other stuff.

When we want something fast we can become obsessed with that thing, as though the goal has taken on a life of its own.

While it’s great to prioritize what we really want, it doesn’t make sense to create imbalance in our lives with one overwhelming obsession. Who knows what (and who) you might miss out on if you do.

5. Slow builds resilience.

The lyrics “It’s better to die on your feet than live on your knees” might ring true, but I’m betting you’d still like to be around for a long life.

Slow is about building legacy, and along the way, resilience. That can only be won through endurance.

Fast is great for igniting passion and showing courage, but who do you think is braver and more passionate—the person who sprints out of the starting block or the one who keeps going over the long distance?

6. Slow is seasonal.

Taking things slowly recognizes that sometime we need to sit and deliberate (by a fire or by the beach). We need to wait in faith for the universe rather than selfishly expecting our own desires to take precedence.

We need to look to nature to realize that the seasons cycle at their own pace, and we should always be willing to take things slower (and faster) as required.

Slow doesn’t have to be timid, or lazy, or less-than-smart. Slow isn’t a marker for fear and procrastination, nor apathy and indecision.

There’s a yoga asana (posture) that many people find difficult at first. The Sanskrit name is Supta Vijrasana, also known as Reclining Hero pose.

Unlike the standing Warrior postures, which are strong and forceful, the Hero pose calls for quiet strength as you kneel down and then surrender backward.

When I first got seriously back into yoga two years ago, after a sporadic year of practice prior, my knees would groan and my ankle joints scream when I tried to just kneel down and sit my bottom back between my heels.

I certainly couldn’t recline backward onto my back, while keeping my knees bent and touching each other and my feet close by my hips. But now, having taken it slowly, I can feel a little like a yoga hero.

I can realize the benefits of slow that have snuck up on me in their own sweet time. And I am most grateful.

Slow isn’t dull and boring, but contemplative and considered. Slow is the yin in a very yang world.

Slow is the strength of surrender, and surrender can be the most powerful kind of victory.

This post was republished with permission from tinybuddha.com. You can find the original post here.

 

Kathy Kruger is an adoptive mother of two beautiful kids from China. She blogs about going with the flow, finding yin yang balance, embracing change, and being grateful at www.yinyangmother.com. A former journalist, Kathy shares insights from her long journey to motherhood.

 

The Connection Between Food Sensitivities and Fibromyalgia Symptoms

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By Dr. Bill Rawls - 

Most everyone has an allergy to something, and mine is to shrimp. If I get raw shrimp on my skin I immediately develop a rash, swelling, itching, and hives.

I discovered this when I was a child. I was on a fishing trip and we were using raw shrimp for bait. The gnats were bad and I kept rubbing my face even though I’d used my hands to bait the hooks. Before long my face was so swollen I couldn’t see. I’ve been very careful about touching raw shrimp ever since.

Conveniently, I can eat shrimp all day as long as they are well cooked. As far as I know, raw shrimp is my only true allergy.

While you may not have a severe food allergy, you at least know what I mean when I say that I have one. That’s not necessarily true when it comes to food sensitivities.

Food sensitivities occur specifically as a result of damage to the intestinal tract. There is a strong link to processed food consumption. The theory goes that processed food products delay emptying of the stomach and suppress acid secretion and production of enzymes. This inhibits digestion of proteins. Processed food contributes to overgrowth of abnormal bacteria in the gut which damages intestinal linings.

Wheat fiber may additionally damage the lining, and sensitivities involving wheat are extremely common. Damage allows undigested proteins from commonly eaten foods to cross over the intestinal membrane barrier.

Antibodies, IgG type, are activated and stick to the foreign protein-forming immune complexes which circulate throughout the body causing symptoms. Blood testing for specific antibodies can define food sensitivities.

Food allergies involve a different physiological mechanism altogether. They occur as immediate reactions to allergen exposure through activation of IgE antibodies and histamine. That’s why antihistamine drugs work for this type of allergic reaction. Allergies manifest as either skin reactions or classic hay fever with runny nose and watery eyes.

Any type of exposure to the allergen causes a reaction and even slight exposure can sometimes cause an extreme reaction. Allergies of this sort are lifelong. Testing for allergies involves a tedious process of applying potential allergens to the skin and observing for reactions.

In the early stages of my struggle with fibromyalgia and chronic Lyme disease, I did a blood panel testing for food sensitivities. Interestingly, I was strongly reactive to about half the foods I commonly ate.

Eating these foods does not typically cause a skin reaction and I probably would not have known them to be a source of misery without the testing. Avoiding these foods, however, was associated with a significant decrease in muscle pain and fatigue.

The very nonspecific symptoms associated with food sensitivities most commonly include fatigue, malaise, and muscle pain. Symptoms are typically delayed hours or even days after exposure to the offending foods.

Many foods can be involved and degree of reaction is dependent on the amount of exposure. In other words, if you eat a very limited amount of the offending food, you will have only a very limited reaction.

Someone with high exposure to multiple offending foods, however, may not only have nonspecific reactions, but can also experience aggravation of hay fever type symptoms and sometimes skin reactions (as with many things, the margins between allergies and sensitivities are sometimes blurred).

This person is typically quite miserable, as I was before I gave up processed foods and started paying attention to what I ate.

The above explanation fits quite nicely for most patients I see who test positive for food sensitivities. Each person, on seeing the report, makes the immediate connection that the offending foods are the ones they consume most commonly.

Wheat, dairy, and tree nuts are usually at the top of the list, but any foods can be involved.

If that person is willing to avoid or at least limit the offending foods, symptoms typically improve over several days. If that person is willing to avoid processed foods completely, the gut will heal and symptoms associated with food sensitivities will lessen dramatically.

While all of this may suggest that consuming processed food with resulting food sensitivities is “the” cause of fibromyalgia, I think it’s really just part-and-parcel of the whole thing.

Most every fibromyalgia patient has food sensitivities to some degree, and most have a history of processed food consumption, especially wheat and dairy products. Interestingly, however, I have come in contact with a few fibromyalgia patients who have terrible food sensitivities, but do not have a strong history of processed food consumption.

This implies that there are other factors. I feel strongly that all cases of fibromyalgia are associated with hidden infections of low grade opportunistic microbes. I don’t know, however, which is the cart and which is the horse.

In other words, I don’t know whether food sensitivities cause immune dysfunction that allows for opportunistic microbes to take hold, or whether the microbes affect the immune system in such a way as to promote food sensitivities. Either way, addressing food sensitivities is part of addressing fibromyalgia.

In my case, I had been having symptoms for a many years before I defined myself as having fibromyalgia and chronic Lyme disease. Avoiding the foods I was sensitive to helped, but completely avoiding all processed food helped more. Avoiding all wheat products possibly helped the most of anything.

Ten years out, I still have to be very careful about what goes in my mouth. After years of using soy milk and other soy products instead of dairy, I have developed a sensitivity to soy. I switched to coconut, but after a couple of years also became sensitive to that. Now I’m using limited amounts of hemp milk.

I have come to appreciate the difference between a fibromyalgia flare-up (usually brought on by stress) and symptoms associated with a food sensitivity. They are different in subtle ways. I can eat foods that I am sensitive to, as long as exposure is intermittent and in small amounts.

It all keeps me on my toes. I am constantly looking for new foods and new food experiences. Fortunately, the diversity of foods available and the almost unlimited number of ways of enjoying food is one of the great pleasures of our time! You have plenty of options.

Reprinted with permission from VitalPlan.com

 

 

Bill Rawls, MD is an advocate for individuals with fibromyalgia and related conditions. Board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology, Dr. Rawls has always focused his practice on health and wellness. After experiencing fibromyalgia and Lyme disease first hand, he shifted toward helping others with those conditions. He uses his passions for writing and study of natural herbal medicine to reach out to those left behind by the current healthcare system. Through books and health restoration protocols available through Vital Plan, he paves the way toward a better life. His latest book, Suffered Long Enough, puts the pieces together for fibromyalgia and Lyme disease sufferers and offers a safe pathway back to normal health.

How to Turn Worry into Wisdom by Admitting What You Don’t Know

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By James McCrae - 

“Most things I worry about never happen anyway.” ~Tom Petty

There was once a wise farmer who had tended his farm for many years. One day his horse unexpectedly ran away into the mountains. Upon hearing the news, the farmer’s neighbors came to visit.

“How terrible,” they told him.

“We’ll see,” the wise farmer replied.

The next morning, to the farmer’s surprise, the horse returned, bringing with it three wild horses.

“How wonderful. You are very lucky,” the neighbors exclaimed.

“We’ll see,” replied the farmer.

The following day, the farmer’s son tried to ride one of the wild horses. The horse was untamed and the boy was thrown and fell hard, breaking his leg.

“How sad,” the neighbors said, offering sympathy for the farmer’s misfortune.

“We’ll see,” answered the farmer.

The next day, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.

“We’ll see,” the farmer said.

This Zen koan demonstrates the wisdom of not jumping to conclusions. Have you ever worried about something, only to later discover that your worry was unfounded and untrue? The ego is afraid of the unknown, so it jumps to conclusions in order to feel a sense of certainty.

In our ego’s need for certainty, we make assumptions. And when we make assumptions, we make mistakes.

We can never know how the future will unfold. Yet fear convinces us to believe in present circumstances and future outcomes that are totally untrue. This is the origin of worry. Worry is the ego’s way of satisfying itself with an answer—any answer, no matter how irrational it is.

I worry about many things, big and small. I worry about getting stuck in my career, being rejected in my relationships, not having enough money, and whether or not I will miss the next subway into Manhattan.

But worry is dangerous. When we worry, we make mistakes. For example, I might make an assumption about you, such as thinking you are angry with me. Then I act on this assumption.

The false premise of my actions causes me to become defensive. My actions then cause you to make an assumption about me. Since you are unable to see that I am trying to protect myself, you assume I am angry with you.

Soon we are engaged in mutual anger based on a false assumption caused by worry.

The truth is, I will never know fully what is in your head, and you will never know fully what is in mine. Therefore, acting under the ignorance of assumption creates a ripple effect of mistakes.

Imagination + Fear = Worry

It is common in our society to believe that more thinking is always better. This is not always so. Intelligence is an incredible tool, but over-thinking can be just as harmful as under-thinking. Over-thinking is a sickness that creates paranoia and worry.

When we over-think, we make up scenarios in our mind and convince ourselves that these scenarios are true.

Without enough data to make a proper assessment of a situation, our ego hijacks our imagination and jumps to fear-based assumptions. Imagination is usually a powerful creative force, but when imagination is applied with fear, it becomes worry.

The Universe works in mysterious ways. Embracing the mystery of life gives us a calm within the storm of uncertainty.

Instead of over-thinking and jumping to false conclusions, learn to relax your thoughts and say, “I don’t know.”

Trusting uncertainty gives us peace and confidence; and when we wait in stillness without the need for an answer, the truth will reveal itself. The end of fearing the unknown is the end of worry.

Worry is wishing for what you don’t want.

Thoughts are magnets that attract our reality. Peaceful thoughts create a peaceful reality. Fearful thoughts create a fearful reality.

A thought repeated on a regular basis becomes a habit. When a thought becomes a habit, it forms a belief. When a thought forms a belief, it attracts external events that align with your internal state.

Energy flows where attention goes. When you focus on what you want, it is more likely to come to pass. When you focus on what you do not want, it is more likely to come to pass. When you worry, you send a signal into the Universe that attracts your worry. Your focus over time forms your future.

Will a single thought of worry cause your worry to come true? Probably not. Will sustaining your worry with attention and focus over a long period of time attract the worry into your life? The more you focus, the more likely it becomes.

Because focus forms your future, it is important to only concentrate on thoughts you want to actualize.

Your reality grows from the seeds you plant. The seeds of your beliefs grow into your thoughts. The seeds of your thoughts grow into your actions. The seeds of your actions grow into your karma.

You are responsible for the seeds you plant, not the results. When you place your attention on the present moment, without attachment to the past or worry about the future, and plant seeds according to your highest intentions, the results will fall into place.

Worry is an irrational attachment to, or fear of, a specific result. While it sounds counterintuitive, the only way you can achieve a desired result is by not focusing on the result; you must focus on your effort—here and now.

You cannot change what is already growing. Instead, start planting different seeds.

We’ll see.

I still worry. But now, whenever my ego gives me something to worry about, I take a deep breath and meditate in silence for a moment.

I sit in stillness and reassure myself. “I don’t have enough data to understand how this event will impact my future,” I say. “Perhaps there is a plan in place that I cannot see. I don’t know what will happen next and that is perfectly okay. I will not jump to conclusions. Let’s wait and see what happens.”

This post was republished with permission from tinybuddha.com. You can find the original post here.

James McCrae is an author, strategist and creator of Sh#t Your Ego Says, a website with simple strategies to overthrow your Ego and become the hero of your story. An award-winning strategist and creative director, James helps businesses and individuals turn imagination into results and make work that matters. Learn more at shityouregosays.com.

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