About MaryAnn Reynolds

Offering bodywork/changework in the Austin, Texas, area. Website: maryannreynolds.com. Blogging about wellness at The Well: bodymindheartspirit.

Free habit tracker for 2019

If you’re anything like me, you like to start off a new year by focusing on what you want to change in your life. January seems like a great month for doing that, after the excesses of the holidays. It’s time to get grounded again, look within, think about what you want for yourself in the coming year, and begin to manifest it.

You probably have some bigger goals (travel, education, remodeling) and smaller ones (eat healthier, drink more water, exercise, study, read, meditate, etc.).

For tracking my daily activities, I really like this free downloadable monthly habit tracker from Clementine Creative, which I’ve used for several years. You can print it in different sizes (A4, A5, US Letter, etc.). Then circle the month, add the days of the week (S M T W TH F S) across the top, and list the habits you want to track down the side. Print 12 copies, put them in a binder or on a clipboard, and use the fun office supplies of your choice to track the habits you want to cultivate.

This page has it all.

free printable habit tracker from Clementine Creative
Blank.
example of filled out Habit Tracker from Clementine Creative
Personalized.

Now you can get an editable version where you fill in the days of the week and the habits you want to track before printing, instead of printing first and writing them in by hand. That version is $3.50 USD.

Also, here’s something I’ve learned from experience. If you are the kind of person (as I am) who does not enjoy strict routines, who starts chafing at the bit after a while and wants to rebel against sameness or rigidity, but you still like to see results from your efforts, you get to decide what’s a win for you. If you make your bed 3 days out of 7, you get to decide if that’s a win. What was that month like? How often did you do it before tracking? Maybe next month, 4 days out of 7.

Your habit tracker should serve you and not make you its slave — unless, say, taking life-saving meds is something you track. It’s about clarity, motivation, and information. Have compassion and allow yourself to be imperfect.

I’ve also found that once a habit becomes ingrained, you can stop tracking it — only add it back to your list if you notice you’ve slacked way off, and you still want to do it.

With enough persistence and learning, anything can become habitual. The four stages of behavior change are:

  • unconscious incompetence — you are unaware that you don’t know how to do something
  • conscious incompetence — you are aware that you don’t know how to do something, and you want to do it
  • conscious competence — you consciously work at doing it, learning, failing, figuring it out
  • unconscious incompetence — you do it automatically and don’t have to think about it any more

Best wishes for 2019!

Nutrients for the aging brain

I subscribe to Science Daily, and at a minimum, I check out the headlines for the results of studies in the almost-daily emails they send me. I follow up on a few, reading the plain-language synopses of scientific studies that may be over my head in terms of using “science-use”.

This one caught my eye: Nutrients in blood linked to better brain connectivity, cognition in older adults.

Many of my friends and integrative bodywork clients are 60+. I myself take supplements and try to eat a healthy balanced diet. I was curious: Am I getting the right nutrients to nourish my brain?

The article cites a study that shows that higher levels of specific nutrients is robustly linked with higher brain connectivity and performance on cognitive tests in older adults. They looked at 32 nutrients in 116 healthy adults age 65-75. They also invited 40 participants back after two years and got the same results.

Rather than surveying participants on their diets, they looked at biomarkers in the blood. This would show what’s actually being absorbed.

They also used fMRI technology to look at how local and global brain networks performed, to see how many steps it took to complete a task on several cognitive tests.

This appears to be a very robust study.

What they found is that indeed, several nutrients are linked with higher brain performance. The nutrients are:

  • omega 3 fatty acids (found in salmon, sardines, walnuts, flaxseed, hempseed, avocados and more — amount should be higher than omega 6)
  • omega 6 fatty acids (found in flaxseed, hempseed, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and nuts)
  • carotenoids (found in red, orange, and yellow vegetables and fruit)
  • lycopene (a carotenoid found in red tomatoes, watermelon, grapefruit, and papayas)
  • riboflavin (Vitamin B2, found in eggs, organ meats, lean meats, mushrooms, spinach)
  • folate (Vitamin B9, found in dark green vegetables, dried legumes, eggs, beets, citrus)
  • Vitamin B12 (found in organ meats, clams, sardines, fortified nutritional yeast, other fortified foods)
  • Vitamin D (found in sunlight on the skin and supplements — no foods contain enough to prevent deficiency)

The researchers found that higher levels of omega 3s in particular boosted the functioning of the frontoparietal network, which supports the ability to focus attention and engage in goal-directed behavior.

My take is to eat nutrient-dense foods every day for every meal. I eat wild salmon (it can be canned) or sardines several times a week, keep nuts on hand for snacking, eat the healthiest eggs I can get at least once a week, buy large bags of baby spinach and broccoli at Costco, enjoy fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice and watermelon in season, make a delicious chicken-liver paté, and eat dried beans almost daily. I cook with olive, avocado, ghee, and coconut oil.

Also, take note of what foods are not listed. What are some shifts you could make to improve your brain health?

I also supplement with Vitamin D and a methylated B complex. If you have had genetic testing that shows you have an MTHFR mutation (which I do), when you buy Vitamin B supplements, be sure the label says folate instead of folic acid and methylcobalamin (B12) instead of cyanocobalamin. If you don’t know if you have an MTHFR mutation, get these methylated versions of these nutrients because it’s estimated that 60 percent of Americans do have a mutation.

If you’re interested in using my online dispensary and saving 30% on good quality supplements, you can sign up for a Wellevate account here.

Making and using umami powder


The Splendid Table podcast had a guest caller who shared her recipe for umami powder, in October 2017. She’d grown up in Japan, and after returning to the U.S. as an adult, experimented and came up with this flavor-enhancing powder that you can add to American favorites as well as East Asian ones.

Here’s the episode (the umami power segment starts at 41:30 and ends at 46:30), and here’s the recipe. I thought I’d share my experience making it, as well as ways to use it.

Ingredients:

  • 1-oz. package of bonito flakes (makes 6 tablespoons)
  • 1 oz. bulk dried shiitake mushrooms (or if not available in bulk, a small package — use the rest in soups)
  • small package of kombu (with what you don’t use for umami powder, add half a sheet when cooking dried legumes — it takes the gas out, and you can fish it out before serving )

Tools:

  • coffee/spice grinder
  • medium-size bowl
  • kitchen scale
  • scissors
  • small whisk

Instructions:

  1. Fill the coffee/spice grinder with bonito flakes and pulverize into a fine powder. Empty the grinder into the bowl. Repeat until all the bonito flakes are ground up.
  2. Do the same with the shiitakes. You may need to manually break large ones up to fit into the grinder. Repeat as needed. Add the shiitake powder to the bonito flake powder.
  3. Place sheets of kombu on the scale and add/subtract to get one ounce. Use scissors to cut 1/4″ strips of kombu lengthwise, and then cut across the strips to make 1/4″ squares. 
  4. Put these into the grinder and grind to a fine powder. Add to the bonito and shiitake powder.
  5. Whisk the three powders gently to mix well. 
  6. Makes 1 cup of light, fluffy powder. I stored it in a jar, and you could also put some in a spice container for sprinkling on food.

The originator of this recipe, Erica from Seattle, recommends adding the powder to burgers, meatloaf, and “a savory oatmeal that was phenomenal”.

She also mentions adding it to seafood soups to make them taste like they’ve simmered for hours.

Other ideas:

  • Sprinkle it on food as a seasoning.
  • Use it to add flavor to sauces and broths.
  • Add it to savory porridges like congee.
  • Sprinkle it on a piece of fish before cooking. 
  • Sprinkle on chicken before baking.
  • Add to ricotta with herbs to make spread for toast or crackers.

Have you made umami powder? How have you used it?

Jazzy InstantPot Wild Rice Pilaf

I got myself an InstantPot (deeply discounted during Amazon Prime days in August), and I’ve been experimenting with it. I’ve added wild rice and legumes back into my diet after eating Paleo (grain- and legume-free) for years, because my body functions better with the extra fiber. My doctor says they act as prebiotics, feeding healthy gut microbes. I feel good!

I’m loving wild rice! It’s got a nutty taste, a pleasing chewy texture, and is a native American food full of fiber.

I’m also loving InstantPot cooking. Even people who “can’t cook” can just follow the many recipes now available and come out with good food in not much time.

I’m a jazzy cook — I like to improvise from a master recipe, which this is. A pilaf is perfect for that: it’s a traditional Middle Eastern/Indian rice dish cooked in a broth, to which you add whatever you’ve got on hand that “goes with”.

fullsizeoutput_480I use the InstantPot’s Sauté function to soften a chopped onion (and/or shallots) and a couple of stalks of celery in olive oil or butter or ghee. You can add chopped garlic if you like, right before adding a cup of wild rice — garlic scorches easily. Mix well, sauté for another minute, and add 3 cups of mushroom, vegetable, or chicken broth.

I switch to Pressure Cook (high) and set the timer for 15 minutes, with the vent closed. When the timer goes off, I let it sit for 10 minutes and open the vent.

Then I stir the additions in while it’s hot! I like to add 1 cup of cubed cooked chicken, 1/2 cup pecan pieces, 1/2 cup dried cranberries, 1-2 cups roughly chopped baby spinach, 1 cup thinly sliced baby Portobella mushrooms, and 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley.

Mix well. The mushrooms and spinach should wilt from the hot wild rice. If not, put the lid back on the InstantPot and set it to Keep Warm.

Here’s the creative part:

  • Instead of chicken, add turkey or duck.
  • Instead of pecans, try walnuts or almond slivers or pistachios.
  • Instead of cranberries, add raisins — or sprinkle fresh pomegranate seeds just before serving for their gorgeous color, texture, and flavor.
  • Substitute chopped kale or chard (minus thick stems) or another mild green for the spinach.
  • Add any herbs you like. Sage, thyme, and rosemary would definitely work, in my opinion.
  • Adding green onions at the end adds flavor and color and texture.
  • To balance the sweet savoriness of the pilaf with cranberries, add a bit of a good tasty vinegar, lemon juice, or dry wine (not cooking wine, usually too salty). Add by the teaspoon and taste often to avoid adding too much.

Mix well. The mushrooms and spinach should wilt from the hot wild rice. If not, put the lid back on the InstantPot and set it to Keep Warm.

If there’s extra liquid, you can pour it off, add a tablespoon of chia seeds to thicken, or leave it soupy. To make it creamy, add cream cheese or sour cream to taste and stir well to melt and blend.

Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

I invite you to see what you have on hand, sense if it would fit well with the other ingredients, and experiment! Share in the comments what worked for you!

Updated products I recommend

I’ve updated this page with some new recommendations! New for 2018: the book How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan, a new online dispensary for supplements, stainless steel drinking straws, a hand/face/body lotion, and more.

Happy shopping!

 

Subjective measures of relaxation: what would you add?

How do you know you’re relaxed? I have a hunch that most people think they relax sometimes, but compared to people who’ve explored relaxation, they are not. Relaxing with a beer, with friends, in nature, on vacation, etc. is what comes to mind for a lot of people when they think of relaxation.

Yes, it’s different from working or feeling stressed, and yet the depth of relaxation can be so much more. It’s not about what you do, it’s what you experience in your body, and in your mind.  Continue reading

Polyvagal theory, applied

I’m summarizing polyvagal theory, originated by Dr. Stephen Porges, from a 10:48-minute video interview of him. I’m doing this for my own understanding, and I want to share because it’s a new way of thinking about traumatic responses. It has major implications for my work, and I’ve added my own comments in brackets. I am sure I will continue to refine my understanding.

Dr. Porges says that polyvagal theory is the understanding of how our body reacts to various challenges. The autonomic nervous system [involuntary, like heart beat] has evolved in vertebrates, changing and adding new circuits that function in a hierarchy. The newer circuits can inhibit older circuits. The older circuits were circuits of defense. Continue reading

Don’t forget to unplug!

I’m adding this to my Favorite Quotes page this minute!

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” ~ Anne Lamott

Improving vagal tone

When do you feel safe? When are you on guard?

If you feel safe except when there is an actual threat to your safety, then you have high vagal tone.

If you feel guarded most or all of the time, even when there is no actual threat to your safety, you have low vagal tone. Low vagal tone can be raised. Continue reading

Meet Amanda Lee, humanitarian and therapist

My friend Amanda is an amazing woman that I want everyone to know about. She’s a trauma survivor who went on to spend many years of her life working in the world’s crisis zones on humanitarian projects.

Honestly, I started to call her a super-therapist, but I decided not to because it might convey the impression that she’s inaccessible, beyond the human. She’s definitely living in this world, has worked through many of her own struggles, and she’s accessible. (And still super in my heart.)

Screen Shot 2018-10-01 at 11.00.36 AM

Continue reading