The Art of Being Present

The Art of Being Present

There is a well-known quote that has been credited to Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, that says:

If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.

Whether or not that is the direct translation of the quote or a slight modernization of it, the meaning behind what is being said is worth exploring further.

The art of being present is hard for many. Why else would there be novels and movies revolving around the idea of a character who yearns to have made a different choice, or self-help books that emphasize the importance of being in the now rather than worrying about the future or consumed by the past?

But it’s hard. It’s hard to just flip the switch in your brain that also allows us the ability to feel nostalgic over memories or the ability to daydream about the future. Hard, yes. But impossible? No.

There is a difference between remembering the past versus being consumed by it.

There is a difference between a nervous excitement over the future versus a feeling of terror or panic.

Being present is possible and it really just means training yourself to be in the now. The whole “take-things-one-day-at-a-time” is great advice because no day is guaranteed to anyone.

Why worry about the past? You can’t go back and change anything. The past is gone and the only thing you have is the now. Now flip it. Why worry about the future? It’s not promised to you. All anyone has is the now.

The would-ofs, could-ofs, should-ofs, and the what-ifs of life should not take precedence over this exact moment here and now. Mental health can be improved by a change in mindset. For some, that means meditation. Allowing yourself to slow down, practice controlled breathing, and take some time to be present.

For others, it means practicing more gratitude. By taking the time to acknowledge all that you’re grateful for and all that is going right in your life, you can start developing the habit of focusing on the good rather than the bad. This can be as simple as writing down three things you are grateful for each morning or every night before bed.

And because there is no one cure-all way to be more in the present, you may find the solution that works for you is speaking with a friend, a family member, or a healthcare professional that can help find a method that best fits you.

Mental health is just as important as physical health (if not more!), which is why we are happy to bring attention to it and partner with NAMI throughout the month of May. If you’d like to learn more about Mental Health Month, please visit https://www.nami.org/mentalhealthmonth.

And remember to fully live for today!


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The Benefits of Exercise for Cancer Patients

The Benefits of Exercise for Cancer Patients

After finding out they have cancer, people want to know what’s happening to their body. They have questions about what their treatment options are, how likely those are to succeed, and what sort of side-effects they may encounter, to name a few. Many people are curious about exercise, and whether it can play a role in their cancer journey.  

Physical activity and exercise can be a key part of someone’s cancer-control regimen. That’s one of the many answers that can be found in the NCCN Guidelines for Patients®—available for free at NCCN.org/patients—a series of understandable and informative books from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®). That’s the same nonprofit organization responsible for the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines®) which many doctors rely on for up-to-date, evidence- and expert consensus-based recommendations for high-quality cancer care. 

According to Robert W. Carlson, MD, breast cancer oncologist and CEO of NCCN, “Studies have shown that staying physically active is one of the best ways for people who’ve been diagnosed with cancer to take special care of themselves before, during, and after treatment. However, it’s important that patients talk with their doctor or physical therapist about the type of exercise they’re considering, so they can make sure it will be safe for them. Physical activity and exercise recommendations should be tailored to individual abilities and preferences.” 

Uterine cancer survivor and advocate Colleen Johnson, PhD, knows a thing or two about individual abilities, and how to push herself beyond all limitations. When Colleen was first diagnosed with cancer at age 57, she was a self-described couch potato with an unhealthy BMI. Her first course of treatment involved major surgery, so she needed a few months of recovery before ultimately taking up running—a hobby that helped her to lose weight, get rid of diabetes, and take back control over her body. Colleen completed her first full marathon just 17 months after surgery. After that, she set her sights on ultra-marathons, and now runs at least one 100-miler every year to remain healthy while also raising awareness for uterine cancer.  

“You have to find hope, somewhere,” Colleen said. “I found it in exercise and diet. In the beginning, I thought it was probably false hope, but I didn’t have anything to lose by trying it. I was amazed when it turned out to be true—exercise and weight loss really did help fight my cancer.” 

Colleen is now featured on the cover of the NCCN Guidelines for Patients: Uterine Cancer, which can be read and downloaded for free at NCCN.org/patients. Her advocacy around this rarely discussed but increasingly common type of cancer—which is also known as endometrial cancer—inspired NCCN to include it in the growing library of patient guidelines, which also include Breast, Colon, Lung, Prostate, Stomach, and other cancer types accounting for approximately 88% of all cancer incidences in the United States. 

Of course, running ultra-marathons isn’t for everyone. Swimming, jogging, biking, and even walking can get your heart rate pumping. Work with your doctor to customize your exercise routine to whatever fits best for your life. Some answers can only come from within, but free, reliable, and empowering information about cancer care is available—if you know where to look 


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6 Fringe Health Topics You Should Know

6 Fringe Health Topics You Should Know

Staying healthy involves much more than just being fit and eating certain supplements or foods. One area that is often ignored is your mouth. If you neglect good oral care it can ruin your health in many ways – and may actually shorten your life. 

1. Your Mouth Affects Your Overall Health 

Recently, researchers have discovered that the health of your mouth can affect the health of your entire body. This is especially true if you have the more serious form of gum disease – periodontitis. Most people have no idea that they have it or how serious it can become – and one reason is that it is nearly painless until it reaches the advanced stages. About half of the adults in America over 30 have the disease and it continues to be the major cause of tooth loss in adults. 

Periodontitis is caused by some of the natural bacteria in your mouth. It gets into your gums through poor care of your teeth and starts an immune reaction. Once it is in your gums, it also gets access to your bloodstream. Not only will it destroy your gums, ligaments that support your teeth, and your jawbone, but the reaction from your immune system will produce buildups in your bloodstream and organs. 

Those buildups can lead to many serious diseases and other health problems. They include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, heart attacks, several types of cancer, dementia, ED, Parkinson’s, and many more.  

2. Sugary Drinks Are Sure to Produce Cavities 

One of the worst things you can do for your teeth and oral health is to sip on sugary drinks for hours. Many people love to sip on specialty coffees, teas, energy drinks, or fruit juices, thinking it is healthy.  

Unfortunately, the bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease feed on sugar. They also produce the acid that causes the cavities and gum disease for the next 20 minutes after each sip. It is better to drink sugary drinks only with a meal and rinse your mouth with water afterward.  

3. Acidic Drinks Can Damage Your Teeth 

While most people think fruit juice or flavored water is healthy, it can damage the enamel on your teeth. Fruit juice, especially citrus fruit juice, is highly acidic and it also has about as much sugar in it as soda. It will damage the enamel on your teeth, leading to sensitive teeth and cavities.  

4. Vitamin D Strengthens Your Teeth 

Besides the calcium that your teeth need for strength, your teeth also need a good dose of vitamin D. This sunshine vitamin enables your bones and teeth to absorb calcium for ongoing strength. Without it, the acid in your mouth and food will continue to leach the calcium out and make them brittle.  

5. Don’t Brush After Eating 

Researchers discovered that brushing after eating can reduce the enamel on your teeth. This is because acidic foods and drinks actually soften the enamel and a toothbrush can remove tiny bits of it. Brushing right away will also push the acid into the enamel, causing even more damage in the lower layers. You can rinse your mouth out with water and then brush about 30 minutes later.  

6. Stay Hydrated 

While most people who exercise regularly know the importance of staying hydrated, here is one more reason – and it affects your dental health. A dry mouth promotes cavities and gum disease. Normally, your saliva will help to wash away the harmful bacteria and acid off your teeth. A dry mouth lets it multiply more and produce more acid than normal. You can increase your saliva by chewing sugarless gum and drinking more water.  

You can keep your teeth and smile longer by eating healthy, brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing, and making regular dentist appointments. 

This article was written in collaboration with Global Family Dental

Photography provided by John Davydov of Global Family Dental. 


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Do Well, Feel Well, Live Well

Do Well, Feel Well, Live Well

So, you want to feel better but maybe you are like me and find that keeping up and adopting new “trending” wellness regiments only seems to add more stress, rather than alleviate it. A journey towards living well is just that, a journey, with an intentional beginning and an ongoing honest reflection of oneself.

We go to great lengths to “feel good” but how many of us make a conscious effort in taking the time to process when we are not? This is far from a self-help article, but it is calling to attention something more pertinent in the community of wellness; self-awareness.

Too often I find that the general populace is bombarded with a surplus of information from (quite possibly) good intentioned wellness experts and gurus explaining why celery juice is the cure-all for many of your life’s problems.

To avoid those overwhelming crash and burn moments or the feelings of added stress when trying to find the perfect beginner-friendly yoga class, we wanted to provide some simple and effective ways to assist feeling like a better you – mind, body and spirit!

Living well supersedes the latest classes and juice cleanses. Confronting your stressors and identifying key reasons for what may be causing stress in your life could be a great start towards optimizing new wellness practices you may be more inclined to try (and hopefully implement) on a more regular basis.

This isn’t to say that certain wellness activities and regiments are not beneficial. However, they are only beneficial to us when we can identify what our mind or body needs. Feeling well truly begins with acknowledging when we may not be, and honoring those feelings by identifying what could be the potential cause is a key first step.

Quick tips on living well:

  • Keep a stress journal: Writing down what is stressing you can be a productive way of releasing the crowdedness of the mind. Try writing or keep a notebook for deeper reflection to help identify what challenges you are dealing with, whether it’s physical, emotional, etc.
  • Go outside: Sometimes changing your environment can be the quickest way to change your perception on a given situation. Taking an average-pace walk gets your endorphins up and mind more connected to the body. A little nature and some fresh air can be the perfect reset button you need.
  • Breathe: Sounds simple, but taking a moment to close your eyes, sit in a quiet place, and take in some deep soothing breaths can help boost oxygen levels and settle minor anxieties throughout the day. At each inhale breathe in from your nose counting one to ten and exhale from your mouth counting down ten to one, repeat 3-5 times or until your only focus is that of your breath.
  • Gratitude: Speaking or writing out what you are grateful for is a simple practice that takes no special It does, however, shift your focus on what isn’t going right to what has (or is) working in your favor!
  • Eat clean: Before you grab that pack of cookies or down another coffee, brighten up your plate with colorful whole grains, fresh veggies, and fruit. Consider adding: walnuts, raw almonds, snap peas, bell peppers, carrots, apples, berries or citrus fruits which are natural energizers. The more fresh, raw, and colorful your meal is, the better. These make great snack alternatives and are packed with nutrients that your body and mind will thank you for!

Hopefully, with these tips, you too can take care of yourself by listening more intently, acknowledging when things may feel a little off, and taking small steps towards activities that address the anxieties or indifferent feelings that naturally crowd our daily lives.

It’s okay to pause, declutter, and simplify taking care of the most important relationship you’ll spend growing with – that abundant and proactive individual being none other than yourself!


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Celebrating International Women’s Day: What Women Need to Know About Their Health

Celebrating International Women’s Day: What Women Need to Know About Their Health

“Take control of your health. How you or your body responds to something may be very different from your friend, neighbor or the gal standing in front of you at the coffee shop, so try not to worry or compare yourself to others. You have only one life to live, make it your own and make it your best!”

Kimberly P., MD

Family Medicine Physician , Kaiser Permanente Santa Monica Office

What do women commonly overlook when it comes to paying attention to their health?

KP: Women often care for others’ health care needs before tending to their own. We are great at taking family members to the doctor and we call a friend when they’re sick. However, if it’s us getting sick, we call a friend or research “Dr. Google” and get scared when we read something on the Internet.

Going to the doctor is sometimes last on our list. Some of us are too embarrassed or too busy, and others of us are too afraid to hear what the doctor has to say. But regular checkups are so important as are regular physicals to prevent disease. What’s most important is to listen to your body and seek medical care when you think it may be trying to tell you something. But also, lean on your doctor to guide you through your health concerns.

Are there certain diseases that women are more susceptible to that women should be screened for on a regular basis? How often should those checkups be?

KP: I generally encourage all patients to come in every year for at least a checkup. Discussing your diet, exercise, lifestyle, checking to make sure your vaccinations are up-to-date, and having a blood pressure check can prompt conversation for continued health maintenance and surveillance. Tests such as diabetes screening, cholesterol, liver, kidneys, thyroid, and others may be discussed with your primary care physician as well as the interval they are recommended, curtailed individually for you. Blood tests are not necessarily required annually unless there is a medical reason, concern or symptom your doctor wants to check.

There are some screenings that are designed specifically for women.  For example, while both men and women can acquire the HPV virus through sexual intercourse, the HPV virus can also make women susceptible to cervical cancer. For this reason, women are encouraged to undergo regular cervical cancer screenings called pap smears. It is now recommended to start after the age of 21 and to have a pap smear every 3 years between the ages of 21-29 and every 5 years between the ages of 30 to 65, unless instructed otherwise by your doctor or with a history of abnormal prior test results.

Breast cancer screening is also important and I recommend annual breast exams with most of my patients who are in their mid-20s and older. The USPTF advises starting mammograms at age 50 and every 2 years after that.  Some women may choose to start this screening at age 40 or possibly even younger (if needed) because of personal or family history but this should be discussed with your doctor.

Lastly, we recommend all female patients of child-bearing age to have STD screenings when sexually active, especially when unprotected. Exposure to chlamydia and/or gonorrhea can lead to scarring and fertility concerns for women if left untreated.

When it comes to improving mental health, what are some tips that women (and men) can do to improve their mental well-being?

Good mental health is essential for all people, men and women alike. Our mental health affects more than just our mood. It also affects our energy, sleep, concentration, productivity, relationships, work, weight, eating habits, and so many more things in our daily lives.  Depression and anxiety are experienced by most women at least once in their lives and 1 in 5 will have experienced it within the past 12 months. My recommendations are to stay active and try to exercise regularly. Starting with something easy and not overly daunting such as 30 minutes, 3-5 times per week is a great starting place. If you can’t make it to a gym, get out of the house for some fresh air, take a walk and stretch! This will help open up your chest and your heart. Find what works best for you whether its yoga, or for me, boxing. There are so many options to explore, see if anything can strike your fancy and help protect your mental wellbeing. Exercise helps promote endorphins- the brain’s natural pain killer- enhancing mood and sleep – and it can show you great results that can, with time, improve the way you feel.

Meditation is also a wonderful practice for mental wellbeing. It can help gain perspective, reflection, and mindfulness. Lastly, don’t be afraid to talk to someone! Whether it’s a friend, religious figure or getting professional counseling, there are people who care and resources to help, especially in time of crisis.

Everyone’s body is different, but when it comes to the general health for women, are there certain foods they should be eating? Increase in their diet?

KP: First and foremost, try to avoid fad diets. Life is about moderation. It’s OK to treat yourself every once in a while, but find a meal plan that works right for you; something you can sustain and is easy to follow for you. Be mindful of portion size and ingredients that are on the labels. Read the whole label!  When possible try to stick to foods that are low in inflammation. Chose nutrition dense foods such as green veggies. Reduce your intake of sugars and processed foods, and opt for whole grains, lean proteins, and leafy greens. Here are some other tips:

  • Eat Fiber
    • Beans, peas, lentils, and peanuts are great examples. These foods are a great source of fiber and protein and high-fiber diets have been linked with good intestinal health and bowel regularity, decreased cardiovascular disease, are high in isoflavone (soybeans are the highest), and can help reduce PMS and menopausal symptoms.
  • Eat Yogurt
    • Low-fat yogurt can be beneficial to the intestines as a probiotic to help reduce inflammation in the digestive tract.
  • Protect your heart
    • 2-3 servings per week of fatty fish (Omega 3 fatty acids: DHA and EPA) such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel can help as an anti-inflammatory for many disease processes including heart disease and stroke.
  • Get Vitamin D
    • This includes low-fat milk, fish (as listed above) and certain juices. You want to be taking in at least 800 iu daily. For those of us who do not have the time spend basking in the sunlight and naturally building or vitamin D levels (sunscreen also reduces natural vitamin D absorption), a diet rich in vitamin D can help with fatigue, calcium absorption and reduce the risk of various disease processes in our body.
  • The Power of Berries
    • Eat fruits such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and cranberries. They have a high level of vitamin C and folic acid, but also offer a powerful source of antioxidant (protecting the heart and skin, for example) and an anticancer nutrient called Anthocyanin which helps in cell repair.
  • Eat Red Fruits
    • Tomatoes, watermelon, red grapefruit, and navel oranges provide lycopene, which is a powerful antioxidant.

What vitamins are essential for women? Is it better to consume these in daily supplements or in day-to-day foods?

KP: It is best to get your vitamins and micronutrients in your diet rather than chasing after supplements.  Your body is an amazing tool and can more effectively extract the nutrients it needs from the foods you consume than by getting it thru a supplement. However, there are a few diagnoses that may require vitamins:

For example, if you have a diagnosis of osteoporosis, then Calcium and Vitamin D are helpful in bone health. Also, vitamins are essential for women when they are planning to conceive or are pregnant. Taking a daily prenatal vitamin to ensure adequate folic acid and B vitamins are essential.

If my patients really want to take any supplements I encourage Vitamin D, Omega 3 and fiber.  These are the most common things lacking in normal American diets, and even a multivitamin does not provide this for you. A daily multivitamin is generally not necessary.

If you are still not convinced please consult your doctor but always be careful when taking over the counter supplements. Sometimes, taking too much can lead to complications such as liver, kidney or heart disorders that you would have never otherwise known or expected.

Responses provided by Kimberly Petrick, MD, Family Medicine Physician at the Kaiser Permanente Santa Monica Office. Some slight grammatical adjustments were made. 


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