Sunday, January 26, 2014

Tip #67: Spend time with your "friends"

Last weekend, my husband and I went to New York City to see Kris Carr on an event called Crazy, Sexy, Miracles that she had with her friend, the motivational speaker Gabrielle Bernstein. I think that, by now, every one who knows me, also knows that I am a total groupie when it comes to Kris Carr. I love her, admire her, follow her on Twitter and Instagram and go to her events whenever I can.

This was actually the third time I had gone to see her, although I don't have a picture of the first time I did, in 2011. At that time, a very kind soul had given me a ticket to see her in my town, as this person (whom I hardly knew) had found out that I had just being diagnosed with a recurrence of my cancer. At the time of the event, I was actually in between scans and consultations and we still did not know exactly what stage my cancer was, but things were not looking rosy. So I went to see her alone, on a cold January night, and after hearing her story (she has a rare form of cancer and 20 tumors in her lung and liver) I remember thinking, "Wait, this lady just said that she has done a huge number of things to keep herself healthy, including putting coffee up her butt, and she still is not cured???" And although I had a book from her (the same nice person gave me the ticket and book), I did not stay for the book signing portion of the event, as I just felt like running home and shutting my mind altogether. But, eventually, I did read her book, and together with the Anticancer book from Servan Schreiber, it helped me understand that being cured maybe is not so much the goal, but instead, we need to try to be as healthy as possible in our every day and hope we can stay that way for a long, long time. And the truth is, this does apply to everyone, not just cancer patients. So she became my hero and my inspiration.

Last weekend's event was wonderful, and although she did not really say anything new, it is very nice to hear her talk about the evolution of her journey. She also signed her Crazy, Sexy, Kitchen book for me (highly recommend it, if you want to eat healthy and delicious recipes) and we had a chance to talk for 30 seconds. I told her that by now, she is indeed my friend, although she just doesn't know it (of course, she does not remember me). She was kind and gracious and she said that she was glad to know. I was happy I had another opportunity to thank her for having guided me so well in this adventure.

And the rest of the weekend was also perfect, as we had a chance to meet a dear group of friends in New York City and spend a lazy Sunday in a charming restaurant having brunch with them. Perfect recipe for me before the whirlwind of the academic semester swallows me and I forget to take time to connect with my soul. These friends are as important in my life as my new, fictional friends. I'm very happy, and thankful, I have both of them to rely on.

Well, I know I have already talked about the importance of friends in other tips, but I think it is nice to remember it often. Don't you agree?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Tip #66: Sleep

Think about this fact: If you live to be 90, 32 years will be spent asleep. That's one of the facts mentioned in this TED Talk from Russell Foster, a circadian neuroscientist who studies the sleep cycles of the brain. He also talks about how this third of our lives has been considered in history, and how our view of it changed, from something that is soft and delicious to a superfluous waste of time (he mentions many interesting quotes about these two poles). And it seems like the invention of the light bulb might have been the beginning of this shift, this idea that we had conquered darkness and therefore we may not need sleep. But, of course, this is not the case. More and more research is showing that, in order to feel well, to be healthy, even to have less mental problems, we need adequate sleep. Three years ago, one of the things my nutritionist advised me to do, together, of course, with eating healthier, was to make sure I would sleep enough hours, and in order to do that, I was told to use a dark eye pad, make sure there was absolutely no light in the room, move all electronic devices away from your head, and other tidbits like that. I was surprised at the recommendations, but there is powerful research that shows that there is a clear correlation between lack of sleep and breast cancer

Just in the past months, I have been made even more aware of how the importance of sleep is finally being recognized. Here are some links:
  • Sounds True Dr. Ruben Naiman : Falling in love with sleep. This is an hour long podcast, but well worth it if you have the time, because Dr. Naiman clearly explains how we need to start looking at sleep as something beneficial. We have been brainwashed into thinking that "sleep is for wimps" (according to the the TED Talk, Margaret Thatcher said that), but it is in our detriment to keep that attitude. He gives good, specific advice about how to achieve a good relationship with sleep. 
  • In this article (How to Improve (and Increase) your Sleep), the author of the book, Eat, Move, Sleep, explains how we need to prioritize sleep. I heard him (Tom Rath) being interviewed by Dan Pink in his Office Hours show, and it is another interesting podcast to hear.
  • From a coupe of weeks ago, this New York Times's article, explains the recent discovery that we need sleep in order to clean the junk out. So, that's why we need it.
  • And here's the TED Talk from Dr. Rusell: Why do we sleep

Being from Spain, I still love to take naps. Of course, I cannot take them as often as I like, but I'm glad at least that this is finally not seen as a lazy's person hobby (and if it is, too bad).

Lots of love as always.

photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Tip #65: Practice empathy

Last December, I ran into this cute video, which is an animation of a fragment of one of BreneƩ Brown's talks, The Power of Vulnerability. It is very short (under 3 minutes), so I encourage you to watch it. It explains the difference between sympathy and empathy, and how empathy is really much more important and difficult.

It is funny and poignant, and when I saw it, it made me realize how lucky I am to be surrounded by so many people who have shown immense empathy for me when I have needed it. They have gone down the hole and have held my hand and stayed there with me. But the clip also made me think that this is, indeed, a difficult skill and I would like myself to get better at it. It is challenging to bite your tongue and not say an "at least ..." sentence, when that's exactly what you are thinking. Or even avoiding to try to come up with a solution, when, of course, there is none, but arriving to your friend's home empty handed makes you even sadder. I also think sympathy is very valuable, maybe more than what the clip would indicate, but I agree that it is just a first step. In her book Daring Greatly, BreneĆ© Brown also says that empathy requires some vulnerability, and that's probably another reason for my difficulty. 

Well, I hope you enjoy the clip. As always, this blog is just my "folder" of ideas to improve my life, and your comments (online and off) make it so much richer. When you see me, let me know if my exercises in practicing empathy are working. :) 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Recipe: Bread with tomato (Pan con tomate)

This is a new category of posts that I'm starting this year, as some of my friends have asked me about the recipes I use. Some will be recommendations about recipes from other websites, some will be my own, and some, like today's, will be my interpretation of a classic or well known recipe.

I would like to start this category with a very simple breakfast idea which we just ate. If you are a Spaniard, I think you can stop reading now (if you hadn't already when you saw the title), as this is a very common dish in Spain, and I'm sure you already know how to make it (or, if you are in Spain, you can just go to the corner cafeteria and ask for one, the preferred method of eating this dish while one is there). It is also very similar to an Italian bruscheta. As with everything, I'm sure mine will be slightly different from the traditional one, as I like to add herbs to everything because of their high antioxidant content in just a little pinch, plus the added flavor they provide. Well, here's the recipe I use:

  • 1 tomato
  • 1 or 2 T of olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Salt to taste
  • Oregano to taste (I put at least a tablespoon)
  • 2 pieces of toasted bread (my favorite lately is Ezequiel Sesame Sprouted Grain Burger Buns, but it is absolutely delicious on  any baguette style bread)
  1. Cut the tomato in half, from the middle (not from top to bottom).
  2. Using a cheese grater (like the one in the picture) grate the tomato until you only have the skin left. I usually do this on a large plate, which I will use later to serve it.
  3. Add the olive oil, salt and oregano and mix well.
  4. Cut the garlic clove in half (you can leave the skin on, it will peel off by itself) and rub the clove on the toasted bread, as if you were applying a cream to it.
  5. Now you can spoon the tomato mixture onto your garlicky bread.
  6. Enjoy!
This, of course, can have many variations: my husband skips the garlic, my oldest son prefers to add basil instead of oregano. You can get very creative with something so simple. And I like it for myself because it is very nutritious, as these videos from Dr. Greger remind us:

Dr. Greger also reminds us that each single meal should contain foods that are high in antioxidants, so this breakfast can fit the bill so we start the day on a good foot on that respect.

I hope you like this new section and let me know if you try this pan con tomate!