Alleviating Depression and Anxiety With Plant-Based Foods

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foods that reduce anxiety, foods that reduce depression, natural foods for depression and anxiety

My favorite thing about eating plant-based food is that it has a direct impact on how I feel and my quality of life.

If you’re experiencing depression and/or anxiety and/or higher levels of stress , eating plant-based food alone is not going to make your symptoms go away. But it can ease your symptoms.

The food you eat affects your thoughts and emotions and can support the experience you want to have.

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An Interview with Expressive Arts Expert Wendy Miller (Part Two): Creativity, Aging and Illness

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How can we learn to expresses ourselves creatively through disease, aging, and illness.

Today’s post is the second part two of an interview with Wendy Miller, a sculptor, expressive arts therapist and educator. (You can read the first interview focused on personal creativity and the ways that creativity supports us)

Together with her late husband Gene Cohen (considered one of the founding fathers of geriatric psychiatry) she wrote Sky Above Clouds: Finding Our Way through Creativity, Aging, and Illness.   The book explores how the aging mind can build resilience and continue growth, even during times of grave illness, thus setting aside the traditional paradigm of aging as a time of decline.

My conversation with Ms. Miller focuses on how we can use creativity to connect with our parents as they age and face illness.

Most people think of aging as a time of decline. What do you learn through your research and clinical practice that goes against that idea?

Many people see the second half of life (50+) as a period of aging.  To most, aging means physical and mental decline.  Many treat aging (that of their parents as well as their own aging experience) like a disease.

“Decline” is a simplistic two dimensional view that does not capture the reality; aging is a dynamic experience.

Gene’s clinical work focused on “healthy aging”. In his book,  The Mature Mind: The Positive Power of the Aging Brain , he expanded on Erik Erikson’s model of adult development io illustrustrate the four developmental phases that shape the second half of the human life.

I will outline these stages (from Gene’s notes) to point to the focus on the second half of life.

I. Midlife Reevaluation Phase (from one’s mid to late 30s – ±65): Reevaluation/Exploration/Transition

In this phase sometimes starting in one’s mid to late 30s, or occurring in one’s 40s and 50s, powerful inner stirrings motivate us toward reevaluating our lives, often leading to new exploration of inner feelings and outer activities, resulting for many in a transition of how we deal with thoughts and emotions and the choices we make.

II. Liberation Phase (from ages ±55 – ±75 years of age): Liberation/Experimentation/Innovation

As one approaches their 60s to early 70s, creative endeavors charge with the added energy of a new degree of personal freedom that comes both psychologically from within us and externally through retirement. This period is a kind of personal liberation combined with life experience that lifts inhibitions and gives the courage to ignore social conventions that restrict our creative expression.

Creative expression in this phase often includes translating a feeling of “If not now, when?” into action.

III. Summing Up Phase(from the late 60s± – ±90 years of age): Recapitulation/Resolution/Contribution

In this phase, approaching one’s 70s and older, we feel more desire to find larger meaning in the story of our lives through a process of looking back, summing-up, and giving back. We also begin to experience ourselves even more as “keepers of the culture,” and wish to contribute to others more of whatever wisdom and wealth we may have accrued.

IV. Encore Phase (from one’s late 70s± – to the end of the life cycle): Reflection/Continuation/Celebration

The encore phase generally starts during one’s late 70s, becoming more pronounced during one’s 80s until death. Plans and actions form from the desire to restate and reaffirm major themes in our lives, but also to explore novel variations on those themes.

There may be the desire to make a final statement, or to seize a further opportunity to take care of unfinished business or unresolved conflicts or to surprise people with something new.

One continues to motivate life’s energy and the audience of others, reflecting upon and affirming life through continuing to live it in a vital way, and celebrating one’s place in a family, community, and in the spiritual realm.

The Encore Phase reflects what the word “encore” connotes.  It connotes “again” and “still”.  It is a phase that perpetuates the human qualities of humor and passion, intensified by one’s awareness of being near the end of the life cycle.

What effect does attitude and perspective have on a process like terminal illness?

What we ourselves do and how we “feel” alters how we experience illness. Once we accept this possibility, we calibrate to better cope with the course of illness or new illness episodes.

When a person is terminally ill, they learn about how “to be” sick.  Prior illness experience influences future illness experiences. One of the emotional tasks of illness is to discover better ways to cope with illness.  This includes diet, exercise, and attitude.

As our parents age, how can we (their children) use creativity to support them during illness and or their aging process?

Speak. One of the most creative actions you can take with your parents is to begin a conversation with them.  As their children, I believe we have an intimate opportunity to talk about many things with our parents, including illness, aging, death and dying.

One of my primary motivations for writing Sky Above Clouds: Finding Our Way through Creativity, Aging, and Illness was a way to end my own silence.  When my parents and husband died it became clear to me that there is a painful silence that surrounds illness, aging, death, dying and grieving.  This silence makes all of us feel alone and isolated.


Also, as your parents age and perhaps face illness, it is soothing for everyone to indulge memory.

Indulge memory by:

  • Asking your parents to tell you stories
  • Looking through photo albums together
  • Requesting more information about your parents life experiences
  • If it interests you, record stories and take photos to share with your own children.

A personal story: It’s the small knowings that made all the difference to me when my mother was dying. I did two things to honor her and myself while she was on the oncology floor of the hospital for treatment for multiple melanoma.

First, I brought beautiful cloth place mats and napkins to put on her hospital food trays.  She was a woman of elegant grace and this small gesture made it possible for her to feel more dignity while she ate.

Second,I sketched her as she rested – gesture drawings in my sketchbook.

These were small moments of elegant creativity that helps us both cope with her illness.  The memories of these moments have helped me cope with my grief since her death.

What are some ideas about aging that are no longer serving us?

Many ideas we hold about aging arise from fear, assumption, and blame.  It is difficult to accept the changes that come with aging. Particularly when our loved ones move into a new or different state of physical or mental well being.

A common coping mechanism is to intellectualize the whole aging experience; Why is this happening? Who or what is responsible? What can I do to ensure this does not happen to me?  This line of thinking assumes that we have ultimate control over what takes place in our body, mind and spirits.

The truth is yes, there are some concrete actions we can take to improve how we age and there are healthier ways to live.  And still, illness and aging are part of overall health.

What are some ideas about aging, illness and creativity that we can incorporate into our thinking?

As we age and face illness, we can focus on creative growth because of, not in spite of, aging and illness.


  • Strengthens our morale allowing us to view our experiences with fresh perspectives.
  • Contributes to our physical health
  • Triggers our immune system
  • Enriches relationships by creating new bonds of hope, ideas, and conversations.

For women who want more resources on this topic, what books would you recommend?

I recommend The Creative Age: Awakening Human Potential in the Second Half of Life by Gene Cohen and The Art of Aging: A Doctor’s Prescription for Well-Being by Sherwin Nuland.

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An Interview with Expressive Arts Expert Wendy Miller (Part One): Creativity as Self-Support

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jewish women advice on creativity and self-support

Today’s post is an interview with Wendy Miller.   Wendy is a sculptor, expressive arts therapist, and educator.  Together with her late husband Gene Cohen (considered one of the founding fathers of geriatric psychiatry) she wrote Sky Above Clouds: Finding Our Way through Creativity, Aging, and Illness.

The book explores how the aging mind can build resilience and continue growth, even during times of grave illness, thus setting aside the traditional paradigm of aging as a time of decline.

With Miller’s insights and expressive psychological writing, Sky Above Clouds tells the inside story of how attitude, community, creativity, and love shape a life, with or without health, even to our dying.

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Recommit to Your Health in 3 Steps

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How to get your health back on track

When you fall out of your healthy routines–whether that’s due to holidays, vacations, an intense work period, family needs, or common neglect–what do you do to recommit to your health?

If you’re anything like most women I know, there’s a small ribbon of shame about what you did or didn’t do to support your health during an unhealthy season.

Maybe you indulged more than you wanted to or didn’t take the time to move your body.

And if you feel bad about that, you might be expressing it through being unkind to your body (the most common way for women to attempt to gain back “control” over themselves).

One woman might be over-exercising, exhausting herself and pushing herself beyond what her body is comfortable with. Another woman might be eating chocolate all the time. Another might just do nothing because it feels impossible to start taking care of herself again.

Today’s post is about how to support yourself in getting back on track with your health. It’s a source of gentle support for you as you emerge from holidays, vacation, heavy work, intense family needs, and it could also support you after you’ve gone through a crisis or dark period in your life.

Recommit to Your Health

What’s Your Pattern?

Start with being honest about how you’re reacting. What’s your pattern after a period of indulgence or falling out of your health routine? Exercising to the point of obsession or exhaustion, or not exercising at all? Eating foods that are high in refined sugars and unhealthy fats, or severely restricting your diet? Is it relying on alcohol or medication to feel better? Bring awareness to your actions by naming your pattern.

Feel Your Feelings

Too often, we ignore, push down, or reject our feelings. We’re ashamed to have certain feelings, and separate from ourselves or judge ourselves when they show up. But fully feeling your feelings is a crucial step in righting the health ship. Whatever feelings you’re experiencing, acknowledge them and let them move through you. That way, they don’t keep you stuck or take up precious space in your psyche.

Practice Self-Support      

Instead of self-abuse with food and exercise, what would it be like to feel bad and still take care of yourself? It’s so important that I’ll repeat it here again: Can you give yourself permission to feel your feelings while caring for yourself at the same time? Your goal here is to re-direct your energy from self-abuse to self-support. Self-support is going to look differently for every woman. What’s your version of self-support? I suspect you already know a few actions that always feel nourishing to you.

In case you could use a reminder, here are some ways you can take care of yourself: through food and drink, movement, spiritual practice, meditation, nature, and supportive relationships.

It’s completely natural to have seasons where your commitment to your health is weaker than others. What matters is the choice to recommit to your health after those seasons, gently and kindly moving into a more nourishing health practice.

Your turn: Comment below to tell me about your pattern and how you’re planning on showing yourself kindness as you recommit to your health.

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Buddhist-Inspired Prompts for Reflection

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Buddhist inspired prompts for reflection //

Sometimes when I arrive at Yom Kippur, my mind feels blanker than it should and it’s hard to pull material from the past year on which to reflect and review.

I’ve noticed this experience even more so since becoming a mother because time is scarce and so much of my energy is outwardly focused on others.

As I began preparing for Yom Kippur this year, I wanted to develop a new ritual and concrete tool that would capture my experiences throughout the year so that I had a record. This would help me document my experiences day to day and for annual review during the Days of Awe.

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Dear Jewish Food Hero: How can I change other people’s eating habits?

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Advice from Jewish Food Hero on eating //


Dear Jewish Food Hero: I’m passionate about eating healthy, having recently transitioned from being a meat eater to a vegetarian. But the people around me, including my family and friends, are mostly meat eaters. How can I get others to see the importance of eating a more healthy vegetarian diet? — Thank you, Passionate and Feeling Alone, USA


Dear Passionate and Feeling Alone in the USA,
What you write about: making the choice to eat vegetarian followed by a surge of passion for healthy living and vegetarian eating is a very common experience.  Many of us go through this “health crusader” moment in our health journey.  At that moment, all we want is to share “the truth” with the people we love and care about.  We want so much to give the people we love the gift of knowledge so that they too can make healthy choices and reap the personal benefits.

As we all know, we cannot control other people: we can only control ourselves, our space, and our reactions.   We must show compassion when dealing with others and their not-always-ideal-eating habits.

What I have noticed: active promotion of a healthy diet (or anything really ) is just not that effective.   It often leads to endless food debates and/or larger fights about “control”. Eating is very personal and most people do not want to hear that they should not eat meat and/or cheese ever again!

The most effective way to help others might be to say very little. Instead of promoting a healthy diet, live it.   Just focus on a healthy eating for you.  Most likely, after time your friends and family will take notice of the real changes in you and will be attracted to your healthy eating and living choices.

To Your Health,

Jewish Food Hero

P.S.I asked a similar question to Jeff Novick in this interview that I invite you to read. ( Jeff is a dietitian and nutritionist whose insightful and humorous approach to nutrition and health has helped thousands worldwide (myself included) make the transition to healthy living).

Have a question for Jewish Food Hero? You can submit yours right here. Your question will be kept anonymous.

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7 Ways to Connect to Natural Foods for Sukkot

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7 ways to connect to natural foods for Sukkot //

After the solemnity of Yom Kippur, we move right into celebrating the joyousness of nature for Sukkot.

What is Sukkot?

Sukkot is a seasonal harvest festival with links to agriculture and nature. It is also known as the Feast of Booths and Feast of the Tabernacles.

The act of constructing a Sukkah and serving and enjoying our meals in the Sukkah connects us to nature. The blessing of four plants is another experience of nature: a date palm, myrtle branch, willow branch, and citron fruit.

Connecting to Natural Foods for Sukkot

This holiday is an opportunity to connect to the natural world, which more and more of us are craving these days. What better way to do that than through food?

The wonderful simplicity of this holiday can get lost in the shuffle of life during this time of year. By connecting to the natural world around you and the food it contains in some way, however small, you can celebrate Sukkot. Below are my favorite suggestions.

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