Increase Your Happiness Level

We all want to be happy, right?  I wrote a post on happiness before, but I thought I would take another dive into it after reading an interesting article by Eric Barker titled, New Neuroscience Reveals 4 Rituals That Will Make You Happymost of it taken from research done by Alex Korb, PhD. Barker distilled it quite a bit, and I will distill it even more, plus add a few thoughts.

These are the 4 rituals Barker listed:

  1. Gratitude, or practicing gratefulness. Worry, pride, guilt, and shame activate the brain’s reward center, but these emotions are not recommended as they are not helpful in the long run.  However, it is probably why we keep doing these things. Interesting! But there is something recommended. According to Korb, the drug Prozac elevates serotonin, which is a feel good hormone and neurotransmitter. Another drug, Wellbutrin, boosts dopamine, also an important brain chemical; one that helps regulate mood along with other important brain functions. However, gratitude increases both serotonin and dopamine!!! Korb goes on to explain that even trying to think of something to be grateful for is helpful; it increases serotonin, and the more one practices gratitude, the easier it becomes.
  2. Identify Negative Feelings. Gleaning again from Korb, Barker advises that when you are experiencing anger, sadness, shame, boredom, anxiety, etc., do not try to suppress those feelings. Instead, use a few words to describe them. This helps reduce the emotion. I have long noticed that writing down fears, anger, and other negative thoughts have helped me.  Dr. Daniel Amen, a psychiatrist, started calling negative thoughts ANT’s, for Automatic Negative Thoughts.  I like that.  You will want to learn more about ANT’s. Very good stuff.
  3. Be decisive. It not only helps you solve problems, but also reduces anxiety and worry, per Dr. Korb. He advises to be intentional, plan, and make goals.  Making decisions can be stressful , so aim to make “good enough” decisions. Do not try to make perfect decisions.  Eric Barker quoted Barry Schwartz that, “Good enough is almost always good enough”.  I like that too! In addition, Korb found that making decisions increases feelings of pleasure and helps you feel in control.  As an RN I can attest to that.  One of my nursing instructors in nursing school taught me to give a patient choices whenever you can because it helps them feel in control in situations where they typically feel like they have no control.  For instance, I have witnessed that even something small like, “Mr. Smith, which arm do you want to me give your injection?” or “Would you like to have a bed bath now or in 30 minutes?” goes a long way.
  4. Physical Contact & Relationships. Hugs, massages, holding hands are some examples.  Interestingly, it was found that telephone calls and personal contact was found to increase brain chemicals that promote happiness, whereas texting did not. According to Korb, massages reduce cortisol levels, and increase serotonin and dopamine; long hugs release oxytocin; and hand holding can reduce pain and worrying.

Now I tried to think of a cute acronym for those 4 “rituals”, but the words Gratitude, ANT’s, Decide, and Touch would not cooperate with me. I ended up with GADT. Maybe it is so lame it will go viral.

Anyway…wishing you much happiness. I hope you enjoy practicing GADT.

Here I am with my granddaughter Maya, happy to be spending time together.



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Importance of Exercise

Exercise is the topic for today. You know its good for you.


So, why don’t some of us make time for it?

Let me try to inspire you with 29 reasons I came up with. Nice prime number.

Why exercise:

Enables you to climb stairs without looking sweaty and out of breath

Reduces stress – burns up cortisol

Enhances mitochondrial function, especially burst training or sprinting

Helps regulate insulin levels

May reduce humility

Decreases blood sugar levels

Improves balance

Reduces risk of looking lame as you age

Burns more calories

Can aid weight loss

Improves mood – releases endorphins, dopamine

Delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and organs

Promotes better sleep (just don’t do too close to bedtime)

May improve sex life

Can improve depression

Boosts confidence

Improves appearance

Prevents cognitive decline

Increases the chance that you will spend time outdoors in the fresh air

Reduces risk of cancer and heart disease

Reduces fall risk

Improves likelihood of looking like a babe on the beach

Builds stronger bones

Anti-aging, promotes graceful aging

Improves posture

Enables you to hike, and bike, and other fun stuff

Improves memory

Assuages feelings of guilt for not doing it

Increases your likelihood of winning the lottery (hahaha, just wanted to see if you are still reading this)

How and what:

Health guru Mark Sisson at advocates 3 types of exercise weekly. And his reasoning makes good sense to me, so I will share his plan in a very condensed version.

  1. Cardio where you get your heart rate up to 180 beats per minute minus your age. So if you are 40 years old, it is recommended that you do not go above 140 for a sustained workout. He recommends accumulating 2.5 to 5 hours of cardio weekly.
  2. Strength training (especially good for bones) should be done 2-3 times weekly, making sure all of the major muscle groups are worked. These workouts should last 10-30 minutes.
  3. Sprints or an equivalent, 1 time weekly. This needs more unfolding to make sure you do it safely. Mark’s Daily Apple site has helpful info on this.

If you are not already exercising, just start somewhere and do more. Then build on that.

I challenge you to start this week by accruing those 2.5-5 hours of cardio. If you wear a Fitbit or Garmin I suggest counting the steps above a baseline of 4000. Thus, every 1000 steps after the first 4000 can count as 10 minutes. By the way, I strongly recommend a tracker that has the heart rate feature so that you can better assess your effort level.

Happy accruing!!!


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Paleo/Primal Dinner Ideas

Roasted chicken is one of the meals I make the most frequently. It is so easy and delicious. Salt the chicken front and back, then bake at 375 degrees for about 1.5 hours. Save the carcass for bone broth.



How nice of her to pose for me!

Below are some other ideas to whet your appetite and spark your imagination in coming up with food options that are definitely tasty and not boring.

Stir Fries – Beef, chicken, or pork cut into small pieces, cooked then added to vegetables such as carrots, celery, bok choy, spinach, onion, broccoli, zucchini, which have been sautéed. Serve over cooked cauliflower rice (Trader Joes has cauliflower rice in the frozen section) or cooked *shiritake noodles.

*Shiritake noodles are made out of yam flour and have only 1 gram of carbs. They don’t have much flavor, so they need to have a sauce or topping, but they have a nice mouth feel for those who miss pasta. They are also a great pre-biotic, feeding the good intestinal bacteria.

Bowls – One dish meals like chicken curry with vegetables served on a bed of cauli-rice or shiritake noodles; or for a refreshing summer supper a scoop of tuna or chicken salad, some avocado, blueberries or strawberries, maybe some cold leftover cooked vegetables, or handful of olives served together.

Stews or Soups – Can be cooking all day in the crock pot. Many possibilities with different meats, vegetables, herbs and seasonings

Plates-A protein, at least 1-2 vegetables or side green salad (with a couple of topping such as cherry tomatoes, green onion, avocado, black olives, etc.); some good fat, herbs & spices, and occasionally sweet potatoes, quinoa, or wild rice

Think roasted chicken – whole or pieces, crock pot roast, grilled meat, grass-fed hot dogs (Applegates), baked pork chops, meatloaf made with almond meal instead of breadcrumbs; served with steamed zucchini, sautéed asparagus, roasted beets and carrots or brussel sprouts, butternut squash, eggplant, broccoli, etc.

Entrée Salad: See the recent post under lunch ideas


Fajitas with seasoned meat, onions, green/yellow/red bell peppers, guacamole, salsa, cheese if tolerated (skip the tortillas, beans, rice, etc.)

Taco Bar with seasoned ground, shredded, or cut up beef, turkey, chicken, or pork; and lettuce, with toppings such as tomatoes, avocado, onions, black olives, cilantro. Can serve as a salad or large lettuce leaves.


“Spaghetti”- Meatballs or ground beef in marinara sauce served over spaghetti squash, or zucchini noodles, or kelp noodles, or shiritake noodles.

For Recipes:

Check out these websites for help with recipes:

It is so easy to get in a rut, yet so needless with all of the options available. I hope you branch out a bit, and even share new go-to’s.

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Quick Meal #1-Super Entree Salad

Quick meals are an important food skill to learn in order to eat nutritiously, otherwise it is just too tempting to start stocking frozen meals, eat junk food, or drive to the nearest fast food joint. There are a few different basic meals that are versatile and delicious. Meet Super Entree Salad in this post.

I remember not too long ago when I did not know how to make a salad I could enjoy. Lame, I know. But I was baffled. My daughter Tara, on the other hand, always could whip up something delicious. So one day when asking her for advice how to make a great salad she wrote down a list of possible ingredients that I could choose from to include. That is my inspiration for this post, which I thought I would share in case you are also mentally challenged in the salad department. Incidentally, now salads are one of my favorite lunches. They are so delicious I never feel deprived. And they are chock full of life-giving nutrients. Below are some ideas to build a stand-alone salad for a meal, but the ideas can still be used to create a great side dish salad.

Super Entrée Salad

Choose from each category to create a delicious, unique salad. But feel free to expand on this list as it is, of course, not exhaustive. Experiment with favorite flavor combinations.

Lettuce bed:
(Choose 1 or more)
Mixed greens

(Choose 1 or more)
Deli Roasted Turkey, Chicken, Ham, or Beef
Hard-boiled egg
Tuna, Shrimp, Salmon, Sardines, Crab
Leftover Steak, Chicken, Turkey, Ham
Hamburger Patty, Turkey or Beef (hot or rewarmed)
Taco meat (seasoned ground beef warmed)

(Choose at least four other toppings from the ingredients below for more nutrients and interest. )

Carrots, shredded, diced, or coins
Green onions, or yellow or purple onions
Olives, any kind, but pitted might be safer
Cilantro, parsley
Beets, cooked or raw
Shredded cabbage
Hearts of palm
Peppers: Green, Red, Yellow
Any leftover steamed or roasted vegetable
Fresh herbs like basil, oregano, thyme, sage, chives

Other toppings:
Seeds: Sunflower, pumpkin
Nuts: slivered almonds; chopped macadamia, cashews, walnuts, pecans
Fruit in small amounts: apple, pear, peaches, grapes, berries
Raisins, cranberries
Shredded cheese or globs of goat cheese, if you tolerate dairy

(Choose one.)
Extra virgin olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice, fresh or dried herbs optional
Bottled dressing without bad oils (Primal Kitchen has some excellent ones)
Homemade dressing made with good oils like extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil

Below is a salad I made for lunch on St. Patrick’s Day before I added the chicken and the dressing:

IMG_1473 (1).JPG

The possibilities are endless. Happy creating!



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Paleo fx: Communing with My Tribe

Last weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to attend Paleo f(x), the largest Paleo/Primal conference in the country, which took place in Austin, Texas.


As some of you know, by necessity due to health issues, I cannot eat gluten, dairy, and most other grains. When I stumbled across the Paleo/Primal movement about eight years I didn’t feel like I was as much of a freak anymore, for here I found a bunch of people who eat like I do.  So you can imagine what an awesome time I had being surrounded by like minded speakers and fellow Paleo/Primal-ites, not to mention food that was mostly compliant with how I have to eat.

Yes, the Freak-who-can’t-eat-wheat did not feel freakish at all at this conference. One of the best things about it was that there were over 200 vendors at the Expo hall, many of them giving out samples of food that I could actually safely eat. In general, this Freak’s relationship with food outside of my home is 1) just avoid, or 2) take a chance if I can reasonably determine the ingredients are probably safe (but most are not), both which involve the feelings of deprivation and/or awkwardness.The most unusual food I sampled at the Expo was crickets made by a company called Aketta. They come in 5 delicious flavors. They were actually tasty. Other unusual offerings were camel milk and pili nuts. But there was also the normal fare like bone broth, coffee with MCT oil, grain-free crackers, and bison jerky. So, this food fest was a definite bonus to what drew me to attend in the first place, which was the awesome line-up of speakers.

Beginning on May 19, there were 6 sessions on Friday, 5 on Saturday, and 4 on Sunday, all with multiple speakers and workshops from which to choose.  Biggies in the Paleo/Primal world were there like Dr. David Perlmutter, Mark Sisson, Dr. Josh Axe, Robb Wolf, Chris Kresser, Dave Asprey, Ben Greenfield, and Sarah Ballantyne.  I made sure I didn’t miss any of those.

Attending those sessions with the above mentioned speakers were definitely awesome, but certain things were highlights. Dr. David Perlmutter was one of them. I am very familiar with his work and was wondering/hoping that I would learn something new; was I ever happily writing down notes as fast as I could; the content was so jam-packed good and new! Here is me with him afterwards looking dorky with my Austin-humidity-is-bad-for-hair look.


Another highlight was meeting Mark Sisson, author of the greatest blog ever, Mark’s Daily Apple. He is also the creator of the Primal Health Coach course, of which I recently graduated from and am now certified in as a health coach.  He and his staff held a lunch on Saturday for all of his graduates that were at Paleo f(x). It was nice of Mark to coordinate his shirt with mine.



Mark Sisson had a booth at the Expo for his Primal Kitchen, showcasing new products such as mayonnaise and salad dressings made with healthy oils, and introducing Primal Kitchen, a new restaurant serving only Primal foods. I am looking forward to the one in Culver City opening in a few months.


Speaking of food, Austin food is great! Here is one meal I enjoyed at Eberly.  Menu description: Axis venison, iberico bacon, grilled quail, huckleberry preserve, pickled cabbage, and a side of brussel sprouts and cauliflower with smoked chilis, anchovy, butternut, oil, maple, and balsamic.  How Paleo/Primal is that! And also, exquisitely and amazingly delicious!


All that being said, in closing, I would be remiss if I didn’t give you a heads up on something. Mitochondria. Mitochondria is a word I heard mentioned at Paleo f(x) a lot, and one which you will all be undoubtedly hearing a lot of as “they” are discovering more and more about this little cellular organelle and its importance to our health. A whole other post is waiting to be written about this in the near future.

That’s a wrap!


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Eggplant Tincture for Skin Cancer

Say what?

Homemade eggplant tincture is something you may want to try if you have been diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, or a precancerous condition called actinic keratosis. No kidding. I told my dermatologist about this and he asked me for the recipe.  Three months earlier he had wanted to biopsy a spot on my nose that he thought might be squamous cell carcinoma, my poor nose that had previously been carved up due to Moh’s surgery for a basal cell carcinoma in a different area. And he was also concerned about suspect spots on my bottom lip and wanted to biopsy them. I bargained with my dermatologist to give me 3 months to try an alternative treatment. He agreed, and like I mentioned above, he was pleasantly surprised when I came back and he saw that there was no longer anything to biopsy.


Eggplant tincture is simple and inexpensive to make. It only targets receptors on cancer cells so healthy tissue remains unaffected. Remarkable stuff !!!

Eggplant Tincture Recipe
1 organic purple eggplant chopped,  then placed in a jar
organic apple cider vinegar, enough to cover chopped eggplant
Refrigerate, shake the jar at least one time daily.
Strain off liquid after 5-6 days. Keep the liquid. Store the liquid in a jar in the refrigerator.

How to Use to Treat Cancerous or Precancerous Lesions with Eggplant Tincture
Some people dip a piece of cotton ball into the tincture and adhere it to the lesion with a bandaid.  This can be unsightly so I prefer my method. I have found good results by applying the liquid directly to the lesion at least one time daily, but preferably more frequently so what I often do is set out a measuring 1/4 teaspoon full and keep reapplying throughout the day or evening, whenever it dries and I think of it.

The Big Guns: BEC5 Cream (aka Curaderm)
While the eggplant tincture can be effective, BEC5 cream, aka Curaderm, is stronger, but the mechanism is the same: derivatives from eggplant. It also contains acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) added to help penetrate the tissue. (Question: why would we want to ingest aspirin???) Anyway, I tried the Curaderm on a weird spot on my forearm, and it created quite a large and scary crater, which gradually stopped enlarging and started healing. I watched it carefully for signs of infection, and took heart from this very interesting video that shows one man chronologing the process. (I highly recommend watching this.) At the same time that I started treating my arm, I also tried Curaderm on my bottom lip which had been diagnosed with actinic chelitis (lip precancer) and totally burned the h*ll out of it, so I discontinued treating this delicate area and went to my naturopathic doctor who informed me that the lips only have about 3 layers of skin while the rest of non-mucosal body skin has about 15.  Live and learn!

While I would use Curaderm if necessary again, I think the Eggplant Tincture is the place to start. I highly recommend it. It is so mild and so easy to do. If you try it, you will have to let me know how well it worked for you.

Please note however: this is not a recommended treatment for melanoma, which is often deadly.

Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. I recommend that you try Eggplant Tincture only after a diagnosis by a dermatologist, and with his blessing. And of course, if you experience any alarming signs or symptoms, obtain medical treatment.

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The Importance of Sleep

Going to bed and going to sleep every night seems like a very indulgent thing to do, in my mind at least. We change our clothes (or take them off), perhaps shower or bathe, lay down in bed, close our eyes, and check out of life. Every night, for like 7-8 hours for most people. And we get away with it. No one thinks we are lazy, unless we over do it.

Sometimes when I go to bed I feel like an iPhone or iPad that needs recharging, thinking like “here I am in my dock station”.

Not me, but someone else recharging:


Sleep is very important.

Scientists are not sure exactly why we need sleep, but it has been well proven that we do. There are at least 4 different theories about why.

However, we do know that major restorative functions take place while we sleep such as tissue repair, the cementing of new memories, the removal of toxic wastes in the brain, the processing and filtering of information, the giving your organs and muscles a break, the releasing and regulation of important hormones such as human growth hormone; insulin; hunger regulating hormones, ghrelin and leptin; and testosterone; as well as much, much more.

Health guru Mark Sisson in his book (which I highly recommend), Primal Blueprintsays, “Chronic sleep deficit may lead to weight gain…negatively affect your mood, concentration, and memory retention” as well as make you “less productive and more irritable, impatient, and moody”. It can “also lead to hypertension, elevated stress hormone levels, irregular heartbeat, compromised immune function, and drastically increased risk for obesity and heart disease”. Umm, who wants any of that?

Causes of Sleep disruption (just to name a few):
Caffeine of course.
Exercising too close to bedtime.
Environment is too hot or too cold.
Exposure to too much light after dark and the use of screens, you know, iPhones, iPads, TV’s.
Too much alcohol, or alcohol consumption too close to bedtime.
Also, melatonin production, the sleep hormone, stops if light hits the back of the inside of your eye. When I found this out I started walking to the bathroom with my eyes closed in the middle of the night. It helps me fall back asleep more quickly.

Sleep Tricks:
Experts say the most restorative sleep occurs between the hours of 10pm and midnight, so try to get to bed early.
Deep breathing slowly, like breathing in to the count of 4, then out to the count of 4, helps shift you into the parasympathetic nervous system state, the rest and digest state.  Doing this and counting breaths will help you fall asleep. I have found this very effective. One reason why I think this works is because you can’t think of anything else really as you are counting.
Thinking of 5 things you are grateful for as you are falling asleep. Very cathartic.
Reading fiction.
A comfortable environment: good bed; cool temperature; tidy, uncluttered room; dark.
Consistent early bedtimes.
Shoot for about 8 hours. Some people need a little more or less to feel optimal.
Avoid eating a few hours before bedtime.
Chamomile, Tension Tamer, or Bedtime teas are helpful.

Bottom line:
Get adequate amounts of sleep.  This is a key tenet of healthy living.

In closing:
I like this quote by John Steinbeck that I found in a Prevention magazine article by Sarah Klein, “it is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.” How true!

Sleep is such a gift for what Steinbeck said, and many other reasons. I for one am very thankful for sleep. You will find me in my dock station tonight between 10 and 10:30pm.

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