How to Get More Involved In Your Community 

Sometimes one of the simplest actions to boost your mood and feel empowered is to get social. Research shows that having positive social interactions can be crucial to maintaining good mental and physical health. Understandably though it can be overwhelming to figure out where to begin when you've made the decision to become more active in your community. It’s important to take into consideration your interests, skills, and hobbies when you’re looking to engage in a new social activity or community organization. Consider the following suggestions for ways to get involved in your community and decide on one that might best suit you and your interests! 

Join A Club

This type of social engagement is great for persons with a variety of interests. With websites such as meetup.com, you can narrow down what you’re interested in participating in from cooking classes to hiking groups or book clubs. You can find plenty of groups that are nearby, and you can even start your own group dedicated to your personal interest! This is a great way not only to get active in a new community activity but to also meet new people with similar passions and hobbies.

Volunteer For A NonProfit

What many people may not realize is that nonprofits are in need of more than just monetary donations and that they are often in search of hands-on volunteers. Consider joining a cause close to your heart or one that you would like to learn more about. Do some research online and you can usually track down the contact information for a nonprofit's Volunteer Coordinator. Or if you’d rather go directly to where the help is most needed, check out immediate volunteer opportunities on VolunteerMatch.com or consider serving on a Board for a nonprofit. Volunteering can help you get more active in local causes, and can also help you gain a great sense of satisfaction from taking on responsibilities that directly impact people's lives. 

Get involved in Local Politics 

Acquire new leadership skills and meet other active citizens in your city by getting involved in your local political party. Start by attending your town hall or city council meetings and pursue a social issue that you feel connected to. You might even consider joining a campaign for a local politician who advocates for a certain change that you would like to see in your community. If you have children you can also get to know your local School board and have a more direct impact on their education by joining your local PTA

Attend a Professional Networking Event

By attending a networking event or joining a networking group related to your profession, you’ll not only be connecting with your peers, but you’ll also be able to stay on top of the latest trends in your field. By connecting with professional groups or leadership programs, you’ll have the opportunity to gain valuable insight, make new connections and possibly meet a new mentor. 

Become A Mentor 

While you’re searching for your next mentor, why not become a mentor to someone else in need of guidance. There are a variety of ways to get involved in mentorship programs that can range from mentoring an emerging professional in your field to engaging with at-risk youth. Use a search engine like mentoring.org to find an opportunity that best suits you.

By connecting yourself to your community you can increase your sense of belonging and benefit your surroundings with your time and skills. Most importantly, you’ll be increasing your social interaction which can help decrease feelings of isolation, put you in a better state of mental health and may even increase your longevity. Take the first step today to improving your health and maintaining a healthy mindset by getting socially active and involved in your community! 

 

 

Don’t Invite Me to Your Dinner Party

Don't invite me to your dinner party.

 

Seriously. Don’t do it.

 

If you do, you may feel like I am judging you. Like I am watching your every move, critiquing and grading you.

 

I am not, of course. I wouldn’t think of doing that. But that is how many people feel. Whether it's the third course of the meal when you're already full, or any talk of dessert after you just ate the delicious third course, I can sense the glance in my direction to see how I respond.

 

And don’t get me started on your third beer or third glass of wine or the amazing homemade Challah bread. You feel like I am watching and judging.

 

At first, I was a little disturbed by the perception. Can’t I just be another friend at your dinner party? Can’t you just see me as Bret, and not as Dr. Scher?

 

But now I realize it's a sign of success. Success that you are starting to get the message. Success that you are starting to realize all the unconscious decisions that go into preparing a meal and hosting a party, and you are starting to make them more conscious.

 

Recognizing the automatic lifestyle decisions and giving them serious thought is a tremendous improvement for our lifestyle and our health.

 

That doesn’t mean we cannot indulge on occasion. You can still serve dessert, even if I am at your dinner party. You can still prepare more food than anybody needs to eat, including the homemade Challah.

 

But now you can do it consciously. Not because it is what you always do, or what you think your guests expect. You can do it knowing that it is a special occasion, a rare splurge that you intend to enjoy with your friends (and me, if I am invited).

 

Remember it's not about being perfect. It's about being better every day, every week, every month, every year. So, go ahead and enjoy your life. Indulge on occasion. Just understand that your path to health is an everyday path. Be present, and be aware of your decisions. Strive to be better.

 

And please keep inviting me to your dinner parties. I promise to behave.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Bret Scher, MD FACC

Cardiologist, author, founder of Boundless Health

www.DrBretScher.com 

 

 

 

8 Ways to Instantly Improve Your Mood

Are you struggling to snap out of a funk? Whether you’re a little grumpy or you’re in an all around bad mood, you don’t have to spend the rest of your day wallowing. Need a few ideas for turning that frown upside down? Here are 8 ways you can instantly improve your mood.

1. Tidy Up Your Spaces

When your spaces are too cluttered, it can have an effect on your mental state. Juggling hectic schedules and constant deadlines means something else has to give, like organization. It’s easier to let things pile up around you when keeping a clutter free zone isn’t your priority. So start with just one thing you would like to tidy up, such as your office cubicle, the laundry room, or the trunk of your car. Set the kitchen timer for 30 minutes and focus on cleaning whatever you can for that amount of time. If you’ve got more time, rummage through your closets and then donate any clothes your family doesn’t wear. Or go through the pantry and donate any food that is no longer part of your healthy lifestyle!

2. Take a Nap

Maybe you just woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Or maybe you didn’t get enough deep, restful sleep (which is the more likely culprit of your bad mood). Feeling tired can make it that much harder to meet deadlines, be creative, or enjoy time with your family. Kick back for a 20-minute power nap to feel more refreshed and able to take on the rest of your day. Just keep in mind that naps are not a substitute for getting good quality sleep every night.

3. Write It Out

Is your mind’s playlist loaded with worries and stuck on repeat? A quick way to fix that broken record is to get all of those thoughts out of your head. Grab a notepad and organize a master to-do list, then break it down into smaller, more manageable lists. Kick start a project by doing 15 – 20 minutes of research, which can also get the creative ideas flowing. Or try journaling to put any worries or anxieties onto paper. Sometimes seeing them in writing can take a weight off your shoulders and leave you with more energy to take on the rest of the day.

4. Play a Word Game

If you love Scrabble, give Words with Friends a try. It’s a free virtual word game you can download to your smartphone and play to test your skills. Plus, feeling that Triple Word Score victory will definitely have you grinning ear to ear! You can work also in a little brain fitness. Just like your body, your mind needs a regular workout, too. Playing strategy games is an effective way to challenge your brain and keep it smart as you age.

5. Spend Time with Others

Are you communicating more and more by text, instant message, and email? Having real conversations can be a real mood booster. Meet a friend for coffee, or if you just can’t get away from your desk, call each other on Skype and switch on your web cameras for a virtual coffee chat. Go on a hike with your family and talk about what’s happening in each other’s lives. Or walk to a co-workers desk next time you have a question that can be answered with a quick chat.

6. Pump Up The Jams

Turn up the tunes you loved as a teenager (hello, Duran Duran!) and dance like it’s 1985. Not only is it fun, but also moving freely to high-energy music can liberate you from your bad mood. That’s because like running, dancing releases feel-good endorphins that can curb stress and anxiety. Don’t want to dance alone? Join a social fitness class like Zumba or Jazzercise and follow along to the beat.

7. Doing Something Nice for Someone Else

Performing a random act of kindness can go a long way for making your day—and someone else’s. Next time you’re in line at the coffee shop, you could show a “pay it forward” act of kindness by buying the drink of the person behind you. Who doesn’t love a surprise freebie? You could also leave sticky notes on your kids’ bathroom mirror and start their day with an inspirational message. Or you could offer a simple gesture, like giving someone a smile as you pass by. Chances are, they’ll smile back! It’s win-win.

8. Move Your Body

Being physically active is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety. But you don’t have to squeeze in a midday workout to reap the mood-boosting benefits of exercise. Just going for a 10-minute stroll by yourself or with a walking partner can get you on the path to feeling happier—and help you work toward your daily goal of 10,000 steps. Is your day packed with meetings? See if there are any you don’t need to be physically present for; you may be able to call into the meeting during your walk and get some stimulating fresh air and vitamin D to boot.

Next time you’re in need of an instant mood boost, give one of these simple techniques a try. You might be surprised just how well it works!

 

 

Activities for the Whole Family

Have you made the decision that YOU want to start living your best health ever? What about your family? It’s hard to get on track without the support of your loved ones and that’s why it can be necessary to make sure they’re on board for your lifestyle changes as well! It doesn’t have to be a tedious task for them or feel like a burden, it can be fun and a great way to spend more time together. So why not pack in the quality time while getting in a good workout and being active? Here are some perfect examples to get you started as you incorporate your family life into your journey to your best health ever. 


Go Hiking Together


As long as you do your research ahead of time you can find plenty of family friendly hikes where you live. Map out how long it will take you to get there, have some classic car games ready, plenty of water and snacks, and make a day out of it. Pack a healthy picnic to enjoy when you reach the top of your destination and enjoy a beautiful day outdoors while kicking up your heart rate. 


Try Out Fun Sports

You don’t need to be an athlete to play a friendly game of basketball or soccer. Try out a basketball game of HORSE or run around with a soccer ball at your nearest park. Tennis can also be a great game to get the whole family in on. Find your nearest court and grab a couple of rackets and balls. You’ll get some sun and burn off a ton of calories running back and forth on the court. If you’re not feeling so adventurous, just grab a frisbee and head to the beach. Before you know it you’ll be starting your own Ultimate Frisbee team!


Sign up For A 5k Walk Or Run 


See what’s coming up on active.com for the latest 5k Walks and Runs. These events are usually family friendly, a great way to build community and the perfect opportunity to get some steps in. Better yet, find one that is for a cause close to your heart and educate your family on why it means so much to you. You’ll feel the positive impact not just physically, but also get a mental boost for supporting a charity that you feel personally connected to. 


Start a Neighborhood Recreation League


Get your neighbors involved in your health journey by starting a friendly weeknight Kick-Ball league (or Ultimate Frisbee team!) with one side of the street against the other. You’ll create a greater sense of community within your neighborhood, meet new people and maybe even find your next babysitter. You can also do some research to see if your town already has social sports leagues set up and join an existing team with your family and friends. Weeknight games are a great way to break up your weekly routine and add some diversity to your exercise habits. 

Travel With Games

Keep a soccer ball or a frisbee in your trunk. Instead of waiting in the car in between errands or after school activities, get out of the car and throw the ball around. If you’re on your own, try jump roping wherever you are. You can burn as many as 200 calories in just one 10-minute jump-rope session. Or make sure to just get out of the car and walk around, as long as you’re moving you’re one step closer to achieving a healthier life!

Go For A Bike Ride

A great way to burn calories and explore your neighborhood, biking is a perfect outdoor activity. Whether you’re on a beach cruiser or a tandem bike, you’ll be enjoying the ride so much you won’t even mind the burn when you’re going up those hills. Make sure to strap on a helmet, ride with water and plan out a fun pit stop. Check out TrailLink to find safe, family-friendly trails in your city. 

Get Technology Involved 

Add an element of competition between family members and see who can get the most steps in the day. You can use the Health app on your phone or invest in a FitBit to track your steps. Set a goal of 10,000 or 20,000 steps a day and create incentives for whoever hits the goal first. For example, the winner doesn’t have to do dishes that night or gets to choose what movie you’ll see that weekend! 

Make sure your family and friends know about your commitment to your healthier lifestyle so they understand how important it is to you that you have their support. Rallying your community is a pivotal step towards achieving your best health ever and there are endless fun and active ways the whole family can join in on your journey. 

A Healthier Grilled Cheese For The Whole Family

I know what you are thinking. Grilled cheese, healthy? What? I admit it may not be the healthiest choice, but sometimes you want to mix it up and your crave some comfort food. It helps to have a healthier go-to version of the old facorite. Plus, my kids love this. They love it so much that my 7-year old insisted that he film us making it for all of you. Enjoy!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCg6pXO7gfB2GapwRjMKEIbQ/videos

Local Farmers- The New Frontier of Health

I’m convinced that to be the best physician possible, to be the ultimate health advocate for my clients, I need to be a coach, a personal trainer, a nutritionist, and a farmer.

 

That’s right. Our health may rely on farmers as much as on doctors. Farmers control how our vegetables are grown and how our animal protein sources are raised. It turns out, that’s a pretty big deal.

 

200 Decisions per day!

 

Every day we make over 200 food and drink related decisions. Decisions to put substances into our bodies that either augment our health, or substances that poison our health.  Considering that over 60% of the average American’s calories come from moderately or heavily processed food, the poison seems to be winning.

 

Instead, we need to focus on a real-foods, plant-based nutrition with a high proportion of healthy fats and, for many, appropriate proportions of high-quality animal protein. With these nutritional choices, we would see the incidence of diabetes, heart disease, strokes, dementia and other chronic diseases plummet.

 

Better Than Good

 

But what if we are already pretty health conscious with how we eat? What if we want to make sure the food we put in our bodies augments our health as much as possible?

 

For that, we need to look beyond the macro-nutrients. We need to look to the farms.

 

We have all heard the buzz words that we should eat local, organic produce. We should eat grass fed beef. Our eggs and chickens should be pasture raised. But does it really make a difference?

 

Yes, Yes and Yes!

 

Studies have shown that grass-fed meat has higher levels of vitamin A, vitamin E, Omega 3 fatty acids, and more beneficial saturated fats (such as CLA and stearic acid) compared to grain fed meat. In addition, wild fish have fewer dioxin contaminants compared to farmed fish, and greater benefit to harm ratios that farmed fish. Pasture-raised chicken produce meat and eggs with higher levels of vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin A compared to cage-raised poultry.

 

When it comes to animal proteins, quality matters. A lot.  Not to mention the ethical considerations of how these animals are raised.

 

The industrialization of the food industry has done nothing to improve the quality of our food, and in fact, has done the opposite. To be fair, it has allowed some populations to enjoy animal protein at an affordable price, but it has gone too far. I’m not sure of the exact definition of “too far,” but all you need do is see the conditions at a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) to know we have gone too far.

 

CAFO’s have overcrowded, inhumane conditions that lead to excessive methane production, concentrated waste that destroys the soil and contaminates the water runoff, and the end result is meat that has reduced nutritional value.

 

But it does not have to be this way. Cattle and the environment can have a symbiotic relationship. In fact, they did for generations before humans developed and industrialized the land and forced cattle into confined spaces. 

 

Ranchers have started to recreate the “good ‘ol days” of cattle by setting up migratory grazing, and cycling their cattle, chickens, and crops. The result is more nutrient dense meat, milk, chicken and eggs. It also leaves healthier soil, and results in a sequestration of carbon in the soil (as opposed to unopposed release of carbon in methane).

 

So, what can you do to help this process? First, eat grass-fed, locally sourced meat. Eat pasture raised chicken and eggs. Buy from your local butcher or even mail order meat from sustainable ranches. You will dramatically improve the nutrients you derive from your food and you will benefit the environment.

 

Won’t this be more expensive? That leads me to the second point.

 

Eat less meat.  Remember, the healthiest meals are vegetable-based. That means the main portion of the meal consists of veggies. In contrast, today most meals have vegetables as a small side dish if they are eaten at all. Some sources state that only 41% of all dinners contain a vegetable at all.  

 

What takes their place? Animal proteins and simple carbs/grains.  By refocusing on making our meals veggie-based, we can reduce the unneeded simple grains and sugars, reduce the quantity of animal proteins and INCREASE their quality. Think about it. You can eat less of a more nutrient dense animal protein source, you can get the same satisfaction, better nutrition, and you can manage to keep the cost fairly constant. That’s a win-win by any definition.

 

Eat your Veggies!

 

But what about the veggies? The news isn’t all rosy there either.

 

The National Academy of Sciences issued an alert that our veggies ‘aint what they used to be.

 

It appears that the nutritional value of vegetables has declined compared to the 1970s. For instance, the vitamin C content of sweet peppers declined by 30%, the vitamin A in apples dropped by 40%, and the calcium in broccoli has been cut in half. 

 

The most likely explanation for the nutrient decline is modern farming’s evolution to maximize yields and profits. To this end, the health and diversity of the soil has largely been ignored, resulting in undernourished soil feeding a larger number of crops. 

 

It doesn’t take a mathematician to see that there are fewer nutrients to go around.

 

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) is 5 servings of veggies per day with an optimal intake of 9 servings per day. But those are based on the “old” nutrient values for veggies. Assuming a 30% decline in nutrient value across the board, the optimal number of vegetable servings would go up to 12 per day.

 

Considering 87% of American adults don’t consume the current RDA for vegetables, it would be safe to assume an even lower number are getting adequate nutrition from vegetables. Something must change.

 

Re-Define a Meal

The first step is reframing how we see our meals. We need to make veggies the center of our meals. We need to start seeing veggies as fun, sexy, and enticing. That means exploring new veggies (How about tubers, chard, Romanesco, kohlrabi, or just multi-colored carrots?), and experimenting with new ways to prepare them.

 

By making veggies exciting, we can begin to make them the center of the meal. No longer is the chicken the main dish. Now it is a veggie medley with chicken and avocado on top. No longer is it miso salmon on a bed of white rice. Now it is a spinach salad with grilled salmon and an array of fresh veggies. Now that is a step towards health!

 

Know your Farmer

 

The second step, however, is where we all need to be a farmer, or at least know a farmer.

 

We don’t have to rely on produce that has been stripped of its nutrients by modern farming techniques. We don’t have to rely on mega-food corporations that are far more concerned with their stockholders than public health. Mega-food corporations have lost the public’s trust, and for good reason.  We shouldn’t have to eat carcinogens mixed with our spinach or our berries.

 

Granted, local farmers still need to make a profit, but they are not beholden to stock holders and large corporate greed. They can maintain their beliefs about the proper way to treat soil, the healthiest way to grow vegetables, and the most efficient way to support their community.

 

And don’t forget about the new generation of entrepreneurs. Folks like Kimbal Musk and Tobias Peggs with Square Roots. Not only are they growing fresh organic vegetables in Brooklyn in the middle of the winter, but they are teaching others how to do the same. Their use of hydroponics and vertical farming promises to revolutionize urban farming.

 

And the result? More fresh, healthy vegetables on our plates year-round.

 

So, the next time you want to be proactive about your health, you can go see your physician. Or you can go see your local farmer or rancher. They have as much, if not more to offer you for promoting your health and preventing chronic diseases.

 

Bret Scher, MD FACC

Cardiologist, author, founder of Boundless Health

www.DrBretScher.com

 

Action item:

 

Find the closest farmers market to you and go there! Find out when it is and plan your schedule accordingly. That is your time to go grocery shopping. Notice how the fresh fruit and vegetables looks and smell differently than in the grocery store. Talk to the local farmer. Ask if they use pesticides or other chemicals. Learn more about their farm and farming practices. Feel the sense of community and take pride that you are helping support local farmers and your health.

858-799-0980Dr Bret Scher