Let’s Commit to 10 Servings of Fruit and Vegetables a Day

A recent February 2017 New Zealand study published in Journal PLOS One grabbed my attention this morning. The study reported that eating 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day for as little as 14 days improved psychological well-being, specifically in the areas of, motivation, vitality and flourishing, in young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 whose fruit and vegetable consumption was low prior to the study. You may want to know, ‘So what is ground breaking about this study’? We have known for years that vegetables and fruits are good for us and consuming them protects us from obesity, cancer, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, etc. While we have known that eating more fruits and vegetables is wonderful for physical health, this is one of the first few studies to establish a connection between consumption of produce and psychological well being.

The study, done and published by a team of researchers from the Department of Psychology in the University of Otago in New Zealand, recruited 171 participants between the ages of 18 and 25. The participants were divided into three groups for a time period of two weeks. The first group continued to eat the way they usually did during the study period. The second group was personally handed two extra servings of high quality fruit and vegetables in the form of oranges, carrots, kiwi fruit and apples for two weeks. The third group was given prepaid vouchers for produce at a grocery store and this group also got text messages every day reminding them to eat more fruits and vegetables. All the study participants went through psychological assessments that measured markers such as mood, motivation, vitality, depression and anxiety at the beginning and end of the study. At the end of 14 days of the study period, the researchers found that the first and third groups had no changes in the markers that measured psychological well being, but the second group that got fruits and vegetables handed to them had marked improvements in three specific markers namely motivation, vitality and flourishing in a brief period of two weeks. All three groups did not show any improvements in mood, depression and anxiety.

My Thoughts on this Thought Provoking Study

Although the participants of the study did not show any improvement in mood, depression and anxiety in the brief period of 14 days, sustained commitment to eating more fruits and vegetables, in my opinion, would have resulted in improvements in the above markers too. Improvement in vitality, motivation and flourishing has to lead to an improvement in mood, depression and anxiety.

Millennials, the age group between 18-35, are the most stressed out generation in America according to a 2015 survey done by the American Psychological Association (APA). I have a 19 year old and know first hand a thing or two about the stress levels of young adults. Every day seems to be a poster day for existential angst. What if an extra serving or two of fruit and vegetables could relieve stress and improve mental health and well being in this age group? Could the simple act of slicing fresh fruit and handing it over to a young adult relieve some of that angst?

The New Zealand fruits and vegetables study suggests that it just might. The current USDA guideline for fruit and vegetable consumption recommends 4.5 cups from 2.5 cups of vegetables and two cups of fruit per person per day. According to the New Zealand study, we may need to double that number as 10 servings of fruit and vegetables resulted in improved metal health.

Last night, I read these beautiful words in Anthony William’s latest book Life Changing Foods, “Snacking on spinach, no matter what the season, can fuel you with renewed purpose. Tanking on a bowl of tangerine wedges, the juice running down your chin and making your fingers sticky, can alter your vibration. Eating a mango in your darkest hour can (literally and figuratively) turn your life around.” He goes on to say, “Just more than ever before we need to get away from processed foods. In their place, we need to focus on eating a higher quantity of fresh, delicious, nourishing, water rich foods.” Today, after I read the about the New Zealand study, these words ring truer than ever.

While the study recruited young adults, I have a hunch that the results will hold good for all age groups. We have been eating 4-5 servings of fruits and vegetables for some time now and have seen tangible improvements in health and well-being. However, we need to be eating two times that amount to lead us to the land of enchantment. 10 seems to be the charmed number. Let’s commit to 10, shall we?


  • Journal PLOS One; Let them eat Fruit! The effect of fruit and vegetable consumption on psychological well-being in young adults: A randomized controlled trial
  • Fusion.Net; Millenials are Officially the most Stressed Out Generation in America
  • Anthony William; Medical Medium. Life Changing Foods

Satya, Chitta, and Ananda

All of my favorite health and wellness bloggers were making delightfully wholesome round sweets such as truffles and macaroons for the holidays and I decided that it was time for me to make a handcrafted contribution to the spherically sweet corner of the culinary universe. It was a given that the confectionary(s) had to be gluten-free, dairy-free and nut-free. The ingredients and sweeteners making up the treats had to be nourishing and wholesome. And what is the point in creating ‘treats’ if they are not delicious? They had to serenade the tongue. But that was not all, I was looking for something more..an ineffable quality that would make them achingly good.

I had been reading “Women who Run with the Wolves’ by Clarissa Pinkola Estes and was re-introduced to the word numinous in it. I had encountered the concept of numinous earlier in Carl Jung’s writings. Numinous, in Jung’s writings refers to extraordinary and awe-inspiring moments of awareness. Modern dictionaries define numinous as a reverential quality, a quality that encompasses divinity. Although I’m relatively new to the concept of numinous and don’t understand it completely (perhaps, because it is beyond logical understanding), I’m awed enough that it stays in my consciousness. The word itself has a palpable vibration that stirs me in a way that is not easily describable.

The Laddoos

The laddoos were inspired by the word numinous.

Satya, Chitta and Ananda were born. Sat-Chitt-Ananda is a compound Sanskrit word and a yogic concept that refers to the presence of divinity in all of us. Our essential or true nature is Satya, Chitta and Ananada. Satya means absolute or truth, chitta is consciousness and ananda is bliss.

Just like Jung’s concept of Self refers to the unchanging and god-image part of the psyche, Sat-Chitt-Ananda refers to our true nature that is already transcendent and divine. We don’t have to improve or embellish anything, instead we just have to meet that part of our Self that is already whole.

Inspired by these concepts, the laddoos are not created to remedy or cure any sickness, they are intended to put you in touch with your essential nature, that is already divine and whole.

The Nitty Gritty

Oats and sesame seeds were going to be the core ingredients for all the treats. Oats (gluten-free) are calming, soothing, anti-inflammatory and rich in Vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 boosts levels of serotonin in the body and creates a feeling of peacefulness and well-being. Sesame seeds are a powerhouse of essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, copper, manganese and zinc. The seeds also contain beneficial fibers called lignans that induce cholesterol reduction and protect the liver. In addition, Yogic scriptures praise sesame seeds for their ability to absorb and emit high amounts of Sattva (a calm, steady and peaceful state) frequency.

I powdered gluten-free oats into a fine powder in a Vitamix dry grinder and used organic tahini for all of the recipes. I don’t have exact quantities for the ingredients as this was a very intuitive (and magical) exercise for me, but I’m sharing all the ingredients and the method I used here.



  • Gluten-free rolled oats powdered fine in a high speed blender
  • Organic Tahini
  • Sunflower Seed Butter
  • Sweetened Organic Montomorency Cherries
  • Madre Labs Cococeps (combination of raw cacoa, reishi and cordyceps mushrooms)

The sunflower seed butter and Montomorency cherries used were already sweetened, so I did not use additional sweeteners in this recipe. Montomorency cherries are packed with antioxidants and their bright red color adds a lovely hue to this treat. Raw cacoa, in addition to its deliciousness, is a powerful heart opener. In Chinese medicine, medicinal mushrooms such as cordyceps and reishi are said to promote Shen (spiritual radiance). The sea-salt in the sunflower seed butter and the natural bitterness of the mushrooms suggest an alchemical return to Satya.



  • Gluten-free rolled oats powdered fine in a high speed blender
  • Organic Tahini
  • Ashitaba
  • Ashwagandha
  • Bella/Gur/Jaggery as the sweetener
  • Cardamom

Bella or Jaggery, the honest country cousin of white sugar, used in this recipe is chockfull of minerals and has a complex and a nuanced sweetness. A rich source of vitamin B6 and B 12, Ashitaba, is known to be a vegan blood builder. In traditional Chinese medicine it is prescribed both for boosting the immune system, and for nourishing the ‘heart-mind’. Cardamom is calming and acts like a catalyst for all the other herbs. Ashwagandha is known as an elixir of life in Ayurvedic medicine and encourages a calm internal state of awareness and Chitta.



  • Gluten-free rolled oats powdered fine in a high speed blender
  • Organic Tahini
  • Sun Potion’s Anandamide
  • Dates
  • Maple Syrup
  • Vanilla

Sun Potion’s Anandamide has a abundance of herbs and spices in it such as Mucuna Puriens, reishi mushrooms, astralagus, suma, turmeric, rose, cinnamon, etc that promote a surge of happiness as soon as it is ingested. Dates are a great source of iron and are a dream to combine into any dessert recipe. Maple syrup, with its woody buttery flavor and reminiscence of lush green forests, sweetly sweetens the laddoo. Vanilla, though rarely used for medicinal purposes these days, is an aromatic well-being inducing agent. Together these ingredients take you towards bliss or ananda.


Process all the ingredients in a food processor or blender until they are well-combined into a cookie dough like consistency. Roll into small laddooos.

What’s Left to Say?

These recipes, rather than being absolute, are conceptual. Throughout history, alchemists and magicians have shared the ingredients of, but never the exact amounts of the ingredients of their potions. Keeping in line with this tradition, my recipes are intended to be catalysts to make your own magic. Hope that these spark an idea to create your own laddoos. Here is to meeting your Sat-Chitta-Ananda state in 2016. May your new-year be filled with numinous moments.

The Therapeutic Potential of Massage

“Soothing touch, whether it be applied to a ruffled cat, a crying infant, or a frightened child, has a universally recognized power to ameliorate the signs of distress. How can it be that we overlook its usefulness on the jangled adult as well? What is it that leads us to assume that the stressed child merely needs “comforting,” while the stressed adult needs “medicine”?” — from Job’s Body: A Handbook for Bodywork by Deane Juhan

Right now, maybe you are that jangled adult hunched over a computer, who could derive immense and immediate benefits from a great massage. If you think that massages are just a form of frou-frou pampering, think again. Massage has been linked to such an array of substantial and scientifically researched health benefits that The American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society officially recommend massage as a part of a treatment for lower back pain. It may seem obvious that massage would reduce and soothe aches and pains, however as a therapy, its benefits are more far-reaching and profound than simple physiological improvements in the body. A large body of scientific research not only points to the tangible benefits of massage, but also uncovers the underpinnings of the therapeutic practice.

Mitochondrial Growth

In a fascinating small study done with just 11 participants at the Mc Master University, researchers discovered that massage aids muscle healing by activating compounds that calmed inflammation and promoted the growth of new mitochondria. In the study, 11 young men who pushed themselves to exhaustion on exercise bikes received 10-minute massages after exercising. Their leg muscles were biopsied prior to exercise, soon after the massage and 2.5 hours after the massage. The researchers found that just 10 minutes of massage had reduced signs of inflammation in a mechanism similar to pain medications. In addition, massaged muscles showed new mitochondrial growth. Mitochondria are often referred to as the powerhouses of our cells. They generate chemical energy in our cells and have them working in an optimal manner. More mitochondria translate to more energy. The new mitochondrial growth detected in the cells of the massaged muscles of the participants, further promoted quicker recovery from the exercise related muscle wear and tear.

Voice Restoration

Emerging evidence suggests that massage can make contributions to healing in avenues where conventional medicine doesn’t have all the answers. Dr. Claudio Milstein, a voice specialist at the Cleveland Clinic Head and Neck Institute treats functional dysphonia, a condition in which the muscles that control the vocal cord contract, tighten and lock and the patient loses his/her voice, with something as simple as a throat, neck and shoulder massage. A 2010 story in NPR reported the case of a mom, suffering from functional dysphonia, who got her voice back after Milstein did seven minutes of massage on her that carefully focused on loosening the muscles on her voice box! Earlier, CT Scans, an MRI and other conventional treatments had not resulted in any relief for the patient.

Other Studies point to a Wide Range of Benefits

Several studies have linked massage with various physical and mental benefits. There are too many to list, but here are a few significant ones. Massage therapy has been found to boost immune function in women with breast cancer, lower blood pressure in women with hypertension, reduce anxiety in patients who are about to have surgery, improve lung function in children with asthma and strengthen grip in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome. And on the tiniest of all patients, premature babies, massages have helped with the all- important task of gaining weight. The perfect double blind study in a population that is devoid of any sort of bias!

My Story

Yesterday, I had an extraordinary massage. After writing down standard and somewhat vague answers to standard and somewhat vague questions, on the intake form, in the waiting room, I entered the therapy room that felt tranquil and safe. I lay down on my (new)massage therapist’s table not knowing what to expect.

Five minutes into the session, I knew that I was in the hands of a savant. My massage therapist and I had entered into a somatic and emotional space where there was little room for words. The standard and somewhat vague words on that form did not matter. My body told her a story and she responded with a knead, a roll or a push. On one level, the massage was about tense knots and soft tissue, but on another, it was far deeper than the physical.

I learned that the muscles in my shoulders and upper back were tense, tight and contracted. I also learned that I hold sadness and grief in my shoulders. After sixty minutes of massage, where my therapist worked primarily on my shoulders, I felt such pure, deep, unbridled joy and gratitude that I could have cartwheeled my way home. The sixty minutes brought back intensity of emotions that were seemingly lost to me in the last few years.

My story is yet another instance of the therapeutic potential of massage. Whether it is Deep Tissue, Swedish, Ayurvedic, Chinese or just a quick 10 minute chair massage at your pharmacy, make time for this safe, non-pharmacological, relatively inexpensive self care practice. Your mind, body and soul will thank you for this health edit.


  • Massage School Notes; Massage Quotes
  • NPR; With a Quick Massage, a Voice Returns
  • WSJ; Don’t Call it Pampering, Massage Wants to be Medicine
  • National Institute of Health; Massage
  • International Journal of Preventive Medicine; Durability of Effect of Massage Therapy on Blood Pressure
  • Image Credit; freedigitalphotos.net

Celebrate Earth Day with Mindfulness

On April 22nd every year we pause and reflect on the state of the planet. First celebrated in 1970, the Earth Day we celebrate in our present times honors what is considered the day on which the modern environmental movement was born. On this day, every year, we resolve to recycle, ditch plastic, save water, plant trees, support farmers and consume less. Anything you choose to do (or stay away from) to celebrate the day is honorable and every effort, big or small, counts.

This post is a gentle reminder to connect with nature and your surroundings today in a way that not only helps the environment but also benefits your health, because both the earth and you always have room for more tender love and care.

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” — John Muir

Ideally, one should not wait for Earth Day to roll around to take a walk with nature. But if the weariness of winter has stayed with you for some reason, today is a fine day to shed it. Go out and walk in a natural environment for 30 minutes. Several research studies have demonstrated the immense benefits of walking, ranging all the way from reduced blood pressure to a boost in creativity, but a 2012 study from Toronto published in the Journal of Affective Sciences reported that walking in nature significantly improved memory and cognition in clinically depressed patients as compared to walking in busy urban environment. Whether it is a walk in a park, a meandering in a deep dark forest or a leisurely stroll on the path along a river that flows close to where you live, the idea is to seek a place that is wilder than what you are used to. A spot where nature gently tugs at you, a place where you can smell the earthy smells of beginnings and endings and ultimately a setting where you are reminded that, “the earth is all we have in common.” (Thanks Wendell Berry)

“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.” –Thich Nhat Hahn

Mindfulness is a wonderful thing. Although the word itself may sound like it implies to a concept that is primarily of the mind, it primarily implies to awareness; of the mind, of feelings, of physiological sensations and of the surrounding environment on a ‘at the moment’ basis. Medical and social research has established that practicing mindfulness for even a few minutes a day can ward off stress and depression, make us smarter by increasing gray matter in the brain, increase attention spans, boost the immune system and even help fight obesity.

If you have pledged to become mindful of your environmental choices today, why not extend them to other areas as well? Pay attention to your breathing, your physical sensations, your feelings, your thoughts, the foods you eat and your surroundings. Start a mindfulness practice today where you pause whatever you are doing to claim the beauty in the now. Derek Rydall in his book Emergence: Seven Steps to Radical Life Change recommends a daily mindfulness practice that only takes a minute. It “simply is to stop whatever you are doing, check in, breathe, reconnect and give thanks to life. And then you can go back to whatever you are engaged in.”

Happy reconnecting with the earth and with yourself!

Happy Earth Day.


Baycrest; A ‘walk in the park’ gives mental boost to people with depression

Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life; What is Mindfulness?

Derek Rydall; Emergence: Seven Steps for Radical Life Change

Image Credit: Sridhar Chandrashekar

Five Reasons you Should Eat Ghee

The Sanskrit word for Ghee is Grhita, which means flowing luminosity, radiance and clarity. Take one look at a cup of freshly made warm ghee, and you will know that the ancients were right on their money. Ghee is the filtered golden liquid oil that is leftover when you gently heat butter until all the moisture and milk solids are removed from it. The resulting golden liquid is pure delight. It is delicious, nourishing and wholesome beyond compare. Here are five reasons why you should add ghee to your diet, pronto.

An Excellent Source of Vitamin A and Vitamin D and Vitamin K2

A spoonful of ghee contains a good amount of fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, D, E and K2, especially if the ghee is made from milk produced by grass fed cows. Vitamin K2 is as important as vitamin D when it comes to bone and skeletal health and heart health and grass fed ghee is an excellent source of vitamin K2. Also, ghee also contains a fatty acid called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is a wonderful weight loss promoter in addition to slowing down certain forms of cancer and heart disease.

A Butyric Acid Dynamo

Meet Clostridium butyricum, a friendly gut microbe that lives deep down in your small and large intestines. If the name of these teeny tiny creatures sounds important, that is because they are – they are important for the production of a short chain fatty acid called butyric acid, which is in turn responsible for healthy digestion by promoting optimal gut mucosa, by blocking the growth of toxic bacteria in the gut and by maintaining electrolyte balance in the intestinal tract.

So what does ghee have to do with this microbe? Ghee is a natural and concentrated source of butyric acid and it helps in maintaining an optimal environment for these microbes to thrive and produce more butyric acid in turn! Essentially, ghee is both a butyric acid containing as well as a butyric acid producing food. Butyric acid is the prime energy source for your colon cells and super significant for digestive health, but its benefits are even more wide reaching in the body. It reduces inflammation, promotes thermogenesis, improves metabolism and increases insulin sensitivity.

Has a High Smoke Point

A high smoke point is a good thing when it comes to cooking, and ghee has a higher smoke point than many cooking oils. World’s Healthiest Foods estimates ghee’s smoke point between 400˚-500˚F (204˚-260˚C), as compared to butter’s 325˚-375˚F (163˚-191˚C). Smoke point is the point at which fats and oils begin to visibly smoke when heated to high temperatures. At their smoke point fats begin to disintegrate and form free radicals that are considered carcinogenic. So ghee, due to its stability is a dream to sauté, fry and cook with!

Two Words: Sensory Delight!

Whether it is its rich golden hue, or its nutty flavor, or its tempting aroma, ghee is a lovely fat, eating it is sheer pleasure and it invokes strong emotions! Food writers and chefs have a tendency to wax lyrical about it. Here is what some of them have to say about ghee.

Ratna Rajaiah, an Indian health food columnist writes, “Shut your eyes and imagine the unmistakable irresistible fragrance of food cooked in ghee wafting out of your kitchen!”

Susan Jane White, an Irish nutrition writer, declares, “Seriously. I want to smell like hot ghee for the rest of my life!”

Chef Carrie Nahabedian of Michelin-starred restaurant in Chicago called Naha says, “With a rich, nutty flavor, it’s delicious on everything from lobster to Brussels sprouts.”

Rujuta Diwekar, nutritionist to Bollywood stars asserts, “Above all, nothing can compare with the taste of fresh hot ghee on dal, chawal or garam rotis—or even sautéed mushrooms.”

Deborah Madison, chef of Greens restaurant in San Francisco says, casino online “The flavor of this organic ghee (referring to Ancient Organics ghee) is so deep and rich with caramel overtones, that it transforms the simplest things, from a baked potato to a bowl of polenta.”

Ghee is a High Vibration Food

Our present day nutritional sciences are heavily based on the physical dimensions of food. However, there is much to food beyond the realm of calories, vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. Whether we are aware of it or not, what we eat has an effect on our subtle, subliminal bodies.

The Bhagvad Gita first classified foods that promote the purity and vitality of not just the body, but also the soul as satvik. According to Ayurveda, foods that bring forth the qualities of equanimity, peace, purity and joy are considered satvik. These foods are known to increase ojas or an inner radiance. Eating these foods result in the body and mind vibrating at a high vibration, which in turns results in bliss

Ghee is considered supreme among all satvik foods. The Bhagvad Gita simply states that ghee is God. While I’m not aware of the exact frequency in Hertz measure for ghee, I’m pretty sure that it is pretty high. I don’t have to make a case for ghee, it makes a case for itself. Its high vibration is palpable.

To Sum it Up 

Thousands of years ago, in the Vedic times, ghee was considered a symbol of purity and was used both as a food and in spiritual rituals such as lighting lamps and for fueling sacrificial fires. Not much has changed since then; ghee is still a divine aid that has great power to heal. We continually interact with the foods we eat, and in turn those foods exert a huge influence who we are and who we become. An ancient food, as old as the human race itself, ghee reminds us of the divine grace that permeates everyday life. So, make sure that you “interact” with it frequently, as it is not just a nourishing food, but also, sacred sustenance.


  • Elephant Journal; Why our Bodies Love Butter and Ghee
  • Ratna Rajaiah; How the Banana Goes to Heaven
  • Deanna Minnich; Chakra Foods for Optimum Health
  • Andreas Moritz; Timeless Secrets for health and Rejuvenation
  • Susan Jane White; Gheelicious Stuff
  • Outlook India; In Praise of Ghee
  • Facebook; Ancient Organics
  • World’s Healthiest Foods; What are the advantages and disadvantages of butter and ghee when it comes to cooking?

We are Such Stuff that Dreams are Made On; Lucid Dreaming and Metacognition

A January 2015 study published in the prestigious Journal Neuroscience established a firm connection between metacognition and lucid dreaming. Metacognition is the brain’s ability to think about thinking. Lucid dreaming is a state of dreaming where the dreamer is aware that she/he is dreaming. Not only is the dreamer aware that he or she is dreaming, but the dreamer can actually steer the dream in a direction that he or she wishes to go by manipulating conditions in the imaginary confines of that dream. Sounds like a science fiction movie, doesn’t it?

A buzzword in recent times, metacognition is emphasized for success in the world, all the way from classrooms to boardrooms. A 2012 blog post in the Harvard Business Review proposed that metacognition was a skill that every global leader needed. Educational psychologists stress that higher order thinking and metacognitive abilities lead to successful learning. A metacognitive learner is more conscious, perceptive, reflective and aware of her/his progress along the learning path.

The fascinating study done by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry reported that lucid dreamers had both a bigger anterior prefrontal cortex, and also higher levels of activity in that area of the brain. The anterior prefrontal cortex of the brain is responsible for complex cognitive processes, such as self-reflection, which is basically the ability to think or meditate upon about one’s thinking, behavior and actions, also known as metacognition. Commenting on the results of the study, lead researcher Elisa Filevich said, “Our results indicate that self-reflection in everyday life is more pronounced in persons who can easily control their dreams.”

 An earlier study from the University of Lincoln in the United Kingdom concluded that lucid dreamers were more insightful and better at problem solving. The researchers said, “This suggests that the insight experienced during the dream state may relate to the same underlying cognition needed for insight in the waking state.”  

Artists, Metacognition and Lucid Dreams

Artists have intuitively known that the shape of their dreams has a profound effect on the shape of their art and life. Reflect on these quotes that were said or written at least decades before the above-mentioned studies were conducted.

“Our truest life is when we are in dreams, awake.” – Henry David Thoreau

“You’re never given a dream without also being given the power to make it true,” – Richard Bach

“I dream my painting and I paint my dream.” – Vincent van Gogh

“To concern ourselves with dreams is a way of reflecting on ourselves-a way of self-reflection.”- Carl Jung

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” – William Shakespeare

To Sum it Up

Our sleeping and wakeful states are inextricably linked. It may seem like a no brainer but it has to be said, awareness during wakefulness translates to awareness while dreaming. Conscious focus is a hallmark of both of these states. If lucid dreaming leads to metacognition, metacognition in turn leads to lucid dreaming. Our nighttime meanderings inform and illuminate our daytime paths. Lucid dreams may be key to bringing ‘you’ back to yourself.

So can you teach yourself to lucid dream? The Internet is full of tips and techniques, but the first tip is already available in the above-mentioned study, start reflecting on your thoughts when you are awake. It helps “to sit on a rock … and ask, ‘Who am I, where have I been, and where am I going?”(thanks Carl Sandberg)

Paying attention to your dreams and keeping a dream journal also help.

Sweet (lucid) Dreams!


  • Journal Neuroscience; Metacognitive Mechanisms underlying Lucid Dreaming.
  • Medical Daily; Lucid Dreaming Associated With More Pronounced Self-Reflection In Everyday Life
  • Medical Daily; Lucid Dreamers Benefit From Insightfulness, Have Better Problem Solving Skills
  • Harvard Business Review; A Skill that Every Global Leader Needs
  • Goodreads; Dreaming Quotes

A Hug can Prevent the Flu!

We are in the thick of the flu season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that the flu activity in the United States peaks between the months of December and February. According to health experts, this year’s flu vaccine was based on the A-H3N2 virus strain that originated in Texas. However a more resistant strain of flu that surfaced in Switzerland, a little later, began to spread across the world, rendering this year’s flu vaccine (in the United States) only 23 percent effective. The CDC, however says, “While some of the viruses spreading this season are different from those in the vaccine, vaccination can still provide protection and might reduce severe outcomes such as hospitalization and death.”

Whether you choose to take the flu shot or not, there is a more pleasant way to keep the flu at bay. It turns out that a simple hug, even just one hug a day, might keep the flu away. An aww-inducing December 2014 study done by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University discovered that hugs could help the participants in the study stay well, even when they were directly exposed to cold and flu viruses. The study was based on the premise that people experiencing ongoing conflicts were more susceptible to catching the cold and other viruses. The researchers chose to study hugs as a modality because they had a hunch that hugs packed a powerful anti-disease punch in two ways.

  1. Hugs indicated social support
  2. Hugs involved touch.

The study recruited 400 people and assessed their levels of social support based on their answers to a questionnaire. For two weeks the participants were asked two questions.

  1. Have you been hugged today?
  2. Are you experiencing conflict or tension with people in your life?

The researchers then arranged for a week-long hotel stay for the participants and gave them nasal drops that were dripping with either the flu or cold virus. They were monitored daily for symptoms during the hotel stay.

The results of the study showed that even though everyone in the study was exposed to one of the two viruses, only 78 percent of the participants got infected, and only 31 percent actually got sick and presented physical symptoms of the illness! And even among the one third of the participants who got sick, the ones who got hugged had less severe symptoms than the people that did not.

Commenting about the study results in a Time magazine write-up about the study, lead researcher Seldon Cohen said, “There’s a lot of evidence out there suggesting that touch might be really effective at protecting people from stressors,- it’s a communication to people that you care about them, and that you have a close intimate relationship with them.”

Previous studies have demonstrated that hugs have the ability to reduce anxiety and other psychological conditions. The Carnegie Mellon study is one of the first ones to show that hugs work on physiological conditions too. It has been said that hugs are universal medicine and that the effects of one last long after you let go. So go ahead, add hugs to your flu protection arsenal, along with washing your hands frequently, eating nourishing meals and exercising. I have a hunch that embracing hugs (pun intended) will do much more than protect you from the flu, whether it is the A-H3N2 strain or the deadly Switzerland strain or some other deadlier future strain. Hugs will not only not discriminate between flu strains, they will also help heal every malaise, past or present, real or perceived, physiological or psychological.


  • CDC; What you should Know for the 2014-2015 Influenza Season
  • Mercury News; Deadly flu season spurs some Bay Area hospitals to restrict visitors
  • Time; Here’s How Hugs can Prevent the Flu
  • Association for Psychological Association; Hugs Help Protect Against Colds by Boosting Social Support
  • Quotegraden; Hugs
  • Image Credit; Freedigitalphots.net

Walking, Wordsworth and Creativity

Can walking turn you into a poet or an artist? Can it bring forth the innate creativity that lives in you? It just may, says a Stanford April 2014 study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and CognitionThe study was performed by recruiting 176 participants comprising of college students and other adults and was divided into four experiments. Led by researchers, Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz, the participants completed standard tests of creative thinking such as coming up with alternate uses for common objects and thinking of complex analogies for sentence prompts.

The four experiments took place in four different conditions. As a part of the first condition, participants walked indoors on a treadmill facing a blank wall. In the second, they sat indoors facing a blank wall. The third condition involved walking along a selected path in the Stanford campus. The fourth one included being pushed on a wheelchair (for a sense of visual movement) along the same selected path in the campus.

The study findings reported that participants were a whopping 60 percent more creative in ‘divergent thinking’ (in a test to come up with alternate uses for common objects), when they were walking as opposed to when they were sitting. In the experiment where participants had to come up with novel analogies, 100 percent of the walking participants were able to come up with at least one novel analogy as opposed to 50 percent of the sitting participants! Both indoor and outdoor walking worked equally well in this study and the effects of the walking lasted for a while after the activity stopped.

Commenting on the research conclusions, lead researcher Dr. Oppezzo, in an interview with the New York Times explained that walking may have a role in redirecting energy that would otherwise be spent on raining on one’s own creativity parade. Essentially, walking helps you get out of your own way and “may allow the brain to break through” some of its own, hyper-rational filters”, she said.

 Walking, the channel for William Wordsworth’s Transcendental Poetry

William Wordsworth is said to have walked around 175 thousand miles during his lifetime. Whether it was the epic twenty thousand miles he walked along with his class-fellow Robert Jones (instead of studying for his Cambridge University exams) to the Alps, or the daily 12 mile walk from Dove Cottage to the ‘post’, or the pacing back and forth in the premises of his own garden muttering the words “bum, bum, bum, stop” in his latter casino online years, walking was a way of being for the poet.

In a paper titled Poetwalker, author Polly Atkins writes that for Wordsworth, “the act of walking is indivisible from the act of making poetry. One begets the other.” His poems were a “rhythmical creation of beauty” (thanks Edgar Allan Poe) that he felt during his walks.

From The Prelude

“The earth was all before me. With a heart

Joyous, nor scared at its own liberty,

I look about; and should the chosen guide

Be nothing better than a wandering cloud,

I cannot miss my way.” 

From The Solitary Reaper

“I listened, motionless and still;

And, as I mounted up the hill,

The music in my heart I bore,

Long after it was heard no more.” – The Solitary Reaper

Wordsworth’s walking was integral to his poetry. Walking was poetry and poetry was walking for him.

What is Left to Say

To walk is to experience the sacred. To walk is to walk towards joy. To walk is to walk away from the cares of the world. To walk is to connect with the earth. To walk is to become a part of the landscape. To walk is to shed your identity. To walk is to feel oneness. To walk is to heal. To walk is to be. 

Sometime late last year I started going on long 6 mile walks on a nearby nature trail with my husband on Sunday mornings. When I look back on 2014, those long walks have been some of my most cherished times of the year, they were sometimes intense, sometimes serene, but always wonderful. I noticed that I wrote more during that time. Who would have thought that the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other would bring such joy, peace and creativity?

This is my first post in the New Year. I don’t make resolutions but this year I have a prayer, I pray for chances to walk more. Hikes, short strolls, long walks, slow walks, fast walks, challenging steep uphill walks, tumbling down the hill walks, and even pacing up and down my garden (or my living room) muttering, “bum, bum, bum, stop” will all be considered blessings.

Happy walking and creating. Have a wonderful 2015!

Further Resources:

Courageous Creativity; Walking as Creativity


The New York Times; Want to be more Creative? Take a walk.

Stanford University; Stanford Study finds Walking improves Creativity

Brown University; The Legs of William Wordsworth

Academia; How Did Walking Serve as an Integrative Activity for Wordsworth?

Poemhunter; William Wordsworth


The Healing Power of a Bath and an Autism Study

In her 1963 book, The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath wrote, “There must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them.” Her words ring true even today; a hot (or warm) bath is a cure for pretty much anything that ails you. While showers are easy, practical, quick and eco-friendly, baths win hands down when you want to take a journey within and reclaim your serenity and peace. That leads me to this fascinating study linking autism and hot baths.

A December 2013 study presented at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP) Annual Meeting reported that a soaking in a hot bath reduced repetitive behaviors and improved social communication in children with autism.

For the study, Dr. Eric Hollander, a professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, and his team recruited 15 children on the autism spectrum. The children spent 30 minutes on alternate days soaking in tubs with water heated to 102 degree Fahrenheit versus in a tub heated to 98-degrees. The children showed improvement on the days that they soaked in the hotter water of 102 degrees.

The study was based on the theory that autism is a pro-inflammatory condition. People on the autism spectrum may have overactive immune systems and high levels of inflammation in their bodies. Explaining the findings of the study, the researchers say, that the high temperatures of the bathtub mimicked fever in the body. Raising the body temperature through the means of a hot bath tricked the body into thinking that it had fever and triggered the release of anti-inflammatory signals that alleviated the behavioral symptoms.

I found this study insightful and think that the potential of triggering anti-inflammatory signals in the body, through something as simple and inexpensive as a hot bath, is immense! Inflammation plays havoc in our bodies in numerous ways, ranging all the way garden-variety aches and pains to arthritis to cancer. What if a daily bath prevented or alleviated the symptoms of some of these conditions, in addition to calming anxiety, promoting sleep and reducing stress? Sounds wonderful, no?

Furthermore, the urge to take baths is a primal one. We have been hooked on water ever since we were a collection of teeny-tiny cells. Before we were land creatures, we were aquatic ones. As fetuses, we bobbled around in the warm, dark amniotic fluid of our mother’s wombs for nine months. In the warm, watery environment of the bathtub, we return to our embryonic states.

Draw yourself a bath, light a candle or two, throw in some epsom salts and add some essential oils if you wish. Skip the artificially scented fake bubbly stuff, they just dry out your skin. Adjust the temperature of the water (I cannot handle very hot water) and soak. Twenty (or thirty) minutes later, when you emerge from the bathtub, you will feel like a newborn without a name, innocent and radiant, seeing the world with fresh eyes, for the very first time.


  • American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP)
  • Goodreads; Sylvia Plath
  • Image Credit: Freedigitalphotos.net


Words of Gratitude

I was going to write about the scientific research behind gratitude, but decided that the blog post was for another day. Gratitude, after all, is not an analytical exercise. It is a feeling and an exalted one at that. So, today, on the day of Thanksgiving, I offer you a collection of my favorite words of wisdom, quotes and proverbs on the subject. I hope that these words of thankfulness will nudge and move you into a state of grace, and help you feel your way into living a life of unhindered gratitude.  You’ll feel joyful and grateful just by reading these words, I promise. I always do.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Albert Camus’s letter of gratitude to his teacher Louis Germaine soon after receiving the Nobel Prize.

“Dear Monsieur Germain,

I let the commotion around me these days subside a bit before speaking to you from the bottom of my heart. I have just been given far too great an honor, one I neither sought nor solicited. But when I heard the news, my first thought, after my mother, was of you. Without you, without the affectionate hand you extended to the small poor child that I was, without your teaching and example, none of all this would have happened. I don’t make too much of this sort of honor. But at least it gives me the opportunity to tell you what you have been and still are for me, and to assure you that your efforts, your work, and the generous heart you put into it still live in one of your little schoolboys who, despite the years, has never stopped being your grateful pupil. I embrace you with all my heart.

Albert Camus”

Anne Lamott in Help, Thanks, Wow:  The Three Essential Prayers

“What can we say beyond Wow, in the presence of glorious art, in music so magnificent that it can’t have originated solely on this side of things? Wonder takes our breath away, and makes room for new breath.”

Thornton Wilder

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”

Albert Einstein

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night. Act III, scene iii

“I can no other answer make but thanks,
And thanks, and ever thanks.

Chinese Proverb

“When you drink from a stream, remember the spring.”

Maya Angelou

“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.”

A.A. Milne in Winnie-the-Pooh

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”

Meister Eckhart

“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“For each new morning with its light.

For rest and shelter of the night.

For health and food, for love and friends.

For everything thy goodness sends.”

And finally, from an unknown author,

“If you can read this, thank a teacher.”


  • Brain Pickings; Albert Camus’s Beautiful Letter of Gratitude to his Childhood Teacher After Winning the Nobel Prize
  • Goodreads; Quotes on Gratitude
  • All Things William; Gratitude
  • Duly Posted; Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem about gratitude
  • Art and Image Credit; Aditi Iyer