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Posts tagged ‘Healthy Mind’

How to Recover From a Sleep Deficit

How to Recover From a Sleep Deficit

Economic woes keep many of us awake,

but you can give yourself a bedtime bailout package.

Can’t sleep? If you find yourself looking up at the ceiling at 3 am thinking about your financial future, know that you are not alone. A third of Americans say that they have been losing sleep over the state of the economy and personal financial concerns, according to the results of a poll released last month by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). The economy has added to the already epidemic number of Americans experiencing sleep difficulties: 72 percent of American adults report sleeping less than 8 hours a night, up from 62 percent in 2001. And 20 percent of adults report sleeping less than 6 hours a night, up from 13 percent in 2001.

Losing sleep does more than make you tired. Insufficient sleep is related to numerous cognitive, emotional, and medical conditions, including impaired concentration and anxiety, depression, obesity, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, as well as memory and immune dysfunction. Sleep deprivation is a public-safety issue as well, causing tens of thousands of car and truck accidents every year. In the recent NSF poll, 54 percent of drivers said they had driven while drowsy at least once during the past year, and 28 percent said they had nodded off or fallen asleep while driving a vehicle. When sleep-deprived subjects are brought into the lab to perform a driving simulation, they perform more poorly than intoxicated subjects.

WHAT IT MEANS: If you are one of the millions of people who are not getting the sleep you need, there are several strategies you can use to improve your sleep:

1. Stick to a schedule.

Do your best to fall sleep at about the same time each night and wake up at about the same time each morning, weekends included. Your body does best with a regular sleep-wake rhythm.

2. Stay away from food and alcohol.

Avoid eating for at least 3 hours before going to bed. Avoid drinking alcohol late in the evening. While a drink or two might relax you at first and help you fall asleep, the effect can wear off during the night, causing a rebound alertness that can wake you up and make it hard to get back to sleep.

3. Exercise.

Engage in vigorous exercise most days of the week for at least 30 minutes. “Vigorous” means that most of the time, you’re too out of breath to speak more than a few words. If exercising in the evening makes it hard for you to get to sleep, do your workout in the morning or afternoon.

4. Create a restful bedroom.

Make sure your bedroom environment is conducive to sleep. It should be dark, quiet, cool, and uncluttered. We spend so much time in our bedrooms that we tend to overlook the simple changes that could help us get more sleep, such as hanging thicker curtains to block out light, or moving the bed away from a noisy window.

5. Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex.

The moment you get into bed, you want to have a feeling of rest and relaxation that invites sleep. But if you engage in brain-stimulating activities in the bedroom, such as watching TV, sending e-mails, or talking on the phone, you become conditioned to associate your bed with energy and alertness, and that interferes with sleep.

6. Learn how to relax your body and quiet your mind.

Simple relaxation techniques like slow abdominal breathing, progressive relaxation, or guided imagery allow your body to release tension and your mind to settle down so you can ease into sleep. If it’s worry and anxiety that keep your mind from settling down, keep a notebook by your bed and jot down your concerns (and any possible solutions) before you turn out the light. The act of recording your worries so you can tackle them later helps you feel more in control.

7. Don’t worry about falling sleep!

While this might sound like the ultimate catch-22 for someone struggling to sleep, this may be the most overlooked tactic of all. The truth is, you can lessen the struggle by changing the way you think about sleep. Instead of thinking, I’ll never get to sleep. I’ll be a wreck tomorrow, say to yourself, Eventually, I’ll get to sleep. Even if I don’t get a full night’s sleep, I’ll be able to function tomorrow. I always do. Try turning your alarm clock to the side so you won’t be constantly confronted with how late it is.

By Jeffrey Rossman, PhD, Rodale.com

Jeff Rossman, PhD, is a Rodale.com advisor, and director of life management at Canyon Ranch in Lenox, MA. His column, Mind-Body-Mood Booster, appears most weeks on Rodale.com.


Rodale.com is a new original source for daily news, information, and advice on personal and environmental health. Rodale.com focuses on “Where Health Meets Green” topics, providing daily news stories and breaking news along with easy-to-follow, high-impact tips and advice. Rodale.com features a Daily Newsletter, and provides simple, powerful tools including Recipe Finder and Home Remedy Finder to help audiences improve their health and their environment. Rodale.com also includes “Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen,” a personal blog where Editor-in-Chief and Rodale, Inc. CEO and Chairman Maria Rodale is “Cooking Up Trouble, Dishing Out Advice.”
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9 Easy Ways to Boost Brain Power

9 Easy Ways to Boost Brain Power

Forget almost everything you have been taught over the years about the aging human brain. Almost 70 years ago, a scientist declared that the aging brain diminished in memory, agility, and functionality while increasing in senility. Without much challenge, this theory was accepted for decades and taught as fact.

In reality, more recent studies have shown that the aging brain can continue to function actively and effectively if we recognize its needs for nutrition, challenge, reducing stress, exercise and more. “Use it or lose it,” say authors Alan D. Bragdon and David Gamon, Ph.D., in their book by the same title.

Many of today’s older adults have also been influenced by the long-time assumptions that the brain, mind and memory of an older person is a failing process. Therefore, they turn their daily lives to endless viewing of television, unhealthy eating, and increased complaining while also increasing personal stress. They abandon dreams and direction for the future.

1. Focus on nutrition: Proper nutrition is vital, particularly a diet strong in antioxidants. Fresh fruits and vegetables are vital to provide what other parts of the body or system may now be denying to the brain and its function. Other physical challenges are probably reducing the effectiveness of the immune system; therefore, the addition of all the more antioxidants can definitely benefit the brain and its function. Interestingly, most research endorses coffee and its caffeine ingredient as a benefit to better brain function. And caffeinated teas may be of similar benefit.

2. Games, fun and solutions: Play games that call for thinking and evaluating before action. Playing cards with others can stimulate brain function while also providing sociable times with family members and friends. Puzzles, including crosswords, picture puzzles and word puzzles are great brain stimulants.

3. Involve your kids: Ask them to work on and complete a puzzle or game with you every day, or every week. When such is accomplished, congratulate your child for being a great teammate. Again, social interaction boosts the benefit of doing fun puzzles.

4. Start a diary: Start a daily diary, and even buy a quality book or binder plus a special pen to start. Share in the diary what you have accomplished over the years. The diary could also include “things or projects I want to do,” so to define many positive events and projects for the future. When you start sharing about tomorrow, a lot of stress and depression can start to disappear.

5. Stop smoking: Of course, this will be a challenge. But there are no benefits, but only negative effects to the brain from smoking. Smoking also contributes to diseases, including COPD.

6. Invite visitors over: Loneliness is a real downer for some adults, particularly if they withdraw from social events or relationships. Invite visitors to spend time with you, whether on a one-time or weekly basis.

7. Start walking: Physical exercise and movement is vital to the functioning of the adult brain and its best functioning. Daily walking, even several times around the block, is something that almost anyone can do. If you have current challenges in walking, perhaps 30 minutes each day, then in-home exercises, as simple as standing on one leg for 12 to 20 seconds and shifting to the other leg, may be appropriate and effective. The exercise produces aerobic benefits to the brain as well as the lungs, heart and general physical condition.

8. Keep laughing: There’s something to be said for the old saying “Laughter is the best medicine.” The act of laughing has been proven to have health benefits. If you are isolated a lot, movies and books can provide entertainment. Both Netflix.com and blockbuster.com enable you to order movies online and they will be delivered directly to the home – no need to run out to the video store.

9. Get out of the house: At least once each week, go somewhere. It may to a restaurant or bistro for a meal, a visit to a fair, entertainment or special event in your region or, even something as simple as lunch. This continues to open the world to you, while ensuring that you are still part of it.

By Leonard J. Hansen, AgingCare.com

Gratitude: It Starts With a List

Gratitude: It Starts With a List

Gratitude: It Starts With a List

He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has. ~Epictetus

The most common and ancient advice you hear about developing a practice of gratitude is the idea of counting your blessings.  Every positivity book I have ever laid my hands on has a section that encourages making regular, even daily lists of the blessings in your life. Taken to the next step, this daily listing lives in a gratitude journal.

I have had an approach/avoidance relationship to my own little pink gratitude journal that is decorated with a paisley yellow bird. I chose it in one of my inspired moments with gratitude, determined to fill it up with what I promised myself would be my new consciousness of the blessings that fill my life. It is a small, pocket sized book that I began writing in February.

I feel a little embarrassed that there are still so many pages to fill in such a small book.  My original plan was to carry it with me in my purse, thinking I would stop throughout my day to jot down moments of gratitude.   Lately it sits on my night stand where I recollect feelings of gratitude before I sleep. The book is filling up more regularly now but as I move into this gratitude challenge, I know there is a real and important difference between listing the things I am grateful for and actually feeling them.

Learning how to recollect and experience the felt sense of moments of gratitude takes my full attention in a way that listing my blessings doesn’t. Tapping the soft space inside, where my heart holds the memory of being loved, of loving, of feeling well in myself is akin to feeling deeply blessed, which I think is where gratitude and love are one in the same.

Still, on the many moments when I have no idea how to get to that tender hearted place where I feel in every cell the blessings of my life- making a list is a noble start. It is the mental practice,  the promise kept of leaning towards the goodness that we all have in our lives.  Aldous Huxley  accurately noted that, “most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.”

Making a commitment to a gratitude journal or even just scratching notes on the evening paper about our own good is how we begin to overcome this most common human deficiency that keeps us ever looking out there for what must be found inside.   If you have never done it before, try today to list five, or heck, even ten things that bless you. It can be as small as finding a parking place or as big as the beauty of an evening sunset. It can be a cold drink on a hot, sticky day or a moment of tenderness with someone you are trying to love. Do this one thing: write it down and acknowledge it.

(Leesa recommends a gratitude journal too!  It keeps her focused on all the good in her life…She’s written in one every day since 1994!  http://www.healthyhighway.org/GratitudeJournal.html)

By Wendy Strgar 

Wendy Strgar, founder and CEO of Good Clean Love, is a loveologist who writes and lectures on Making Love Sustainable, a green philosophy of relationships which teaches the importance of valuing the renewable resources of love, intimacy and family.  In her new book, Love that Works: A Guide to Enduring Intimacy,  she tackles the challenging issues of sustaining relationships and healthy intimacy with an authentic and disarming style and simple yet innovative adviceIt has been called “the essential guide for relationships.”  The book is available on ebook.  Wendy has been married for 27 years to her husband, a psychiatrist, and lives with their four children ages 13- 22 in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

10 Foods That Promote Brain Health

10 Foods That Promote Brain Health

Who doesn’t want to become smarter? Who wants to look better or feel healthier? Many recent studies have shown how certain nutrients can positively affect the brain, specifically in areas of the brain related to cognitive processing or feelings and emotions. Generally speaking, you want to follow a healthy diet for your brain that will lead to strong blood flow, maintenance of mental sharpness and reduce the risk of heart disease and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

We know that foods play a great role in our brain, as concluded in several studies led by a phenomenal neuroscientist at UCLA, Gomez Pinilla.

According to one study, the super fats your brain needs most are omega-3 fatty acids. Your brain converts them into DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) which enhances neuronal communication and promotes neuronal growth.

Food and nutrients represent fuel to our bodies the same way that when we use our car we need to fill the gas tank. Unfortunately, we generally take better care of our cars than our bodies. Why is that? We are hearing frequently that consuming the right nutrients can help our health, aging process, and more efficient brain-body functioning.

With that said, I want to share with you ten foods you must keep in your diet to maintain brain health:

1. Apples: Eating an apple a day protects the brain from oxidative damage that causes neurodegenerative diseases such Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. This magical nutrient that acts as protection is quercetin, which is a phytonutrient.

2. Asparagus: Asparagus is rich in folic acid, which is essential for the metabolism of the long chain fatty acids in your brain.

3. Lean Beef: Lean beef is rich in vitamin B12, iron and zinc. These vitamins and minerals have been shown to maintain a healthy neural tissue.

4. Blueberries and strawberries: Studies show that people who eat berries improve their memory and their motor skills. In addition, their antioxidant properties can protect your brain from the oxidative process.

5. Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate offers incredible concentration powers. It is a very powerful antioxidant containing natural stimulants that increase the production of feel-good endorphins. Trick: you need to find dark chocolate with less than 10 grams of sugar per serving for optimal benefits.

6. Salmon: Salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids, which studies have shown to be essential for brain function.

7. Dried oregano: Certain spices have powerful antioxidant properties. In several studies, this powerful spice has shown to have 40 times more antioxidant properties than apples, 30 times more than potatoes, 12 times more than oranges, and 4 times more than that of blueberries or strawberries.

8. Walnuts: Walnuts are rich in protein and contain omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins E and B6 which all promote healthy neural tissue.

9. Whole grains: Whole grains deliver fiber and vitamin E that help promote cardiovascular health, which helps improve the circulation to the brain.

10. Yogurt: Yogurt and other dairy foods are filled with protein and vitamin B that are essential to improve the communication between nerve cells.

Make sure that from now on you select and plan a great menu that include these brain foods. Life is about choices and selecting the right nutrients can play a key role in your health.

Written by Michael Gonzalez-Wallace, who is the author of Super Body, Super Brain. You can read more from him at www.superbodysuperbrain.com or pick up his book Super Body, Super Brain.

Leesa recommends choosing organic and local as well as wild and grass raised (beef) when possible!

6 Ways to Strengthen Your Intuition

6 Ways to Strengthen Your Intuition

 You are driving home from work and you suddenly get the urge to go a different route. You follow the urge only later to hear on the radio that there was a major accident on your usual route. You think to yourself, “what good luck!”

You wake up in the morning and remember that you dreamed that a family member was ill. You call the person and find out that she is not well. You think, “what a coincidence!”

Was it really luck or a coincidence? Or is there something more going on? Absolutely…it was your intuition at work!

The dictionary definition of intuition is an immediate insight or understanding without conscious reasoning. Intuition or hunches are the whispers from your soul, offering you guidance and direction. Intuition is a powerful source of information, creativity, and inspiration. When you follow your intuitive voice life flows more easily, things seem to fall into place, and you will experience less stress.

Inventors, business people, law enforcement officers, healers, and many others use their intuition regularly to make decisions and to achieve success. Intuition can help you make decisions at work and in your personal life – especially when you don’t have time to gather all the pertinent information. It can help you avert difficulties and tune into potential problems on a project. Your intuitive voice can help you with simple choices (like which route to take home) and big decisions (like which job to take).

Everyone has intuitive potential – men and women. It is a natural talent that everyone possesses. It is not something special limited to only a few gifted individuals. As a child, you freely accessed your intuition. Unfortunately, over time you likely received negative feedback from your peers, teachers, or family. You likely began to doubt your intuitive voice and shut down this channel of information. The good news is that with a little patience and practice you can strengthen and hone your intuition to create a valuable guidance system.

The first and most important thing that you can do to develop your intuition is to acknowledge and honor the intuitive messages that you are currently getting. Your intuitive voice is still there, you just need to tune into it. Start paying attention to and trusting those little hunches or gut feelings that you have. If you did nothing more than start honoring your intuitive impulses, you would find a dramatic improvement in your intuitive abilities.

Intuitive messages can come as a sudden “knowing,” gut feelings, thoughts, images, emotions, or bodily sensations. It is important to pay attention to the way your intuitive messages generally show up for you. Think back to what it felt like when you got the sudden urge to take a different route home (or some other intuitive event). What did that feel like? Was it a feeling? A thought? An image? It is important to pay attention to the details of an event like this, because it will help you understand the way you receive intuitive messages. Once you know what your intuition feels like, it makes it easier to discern between intuition and other messages like fear or wishful thinking.

In addition, you can begin some specific exercises and practices to further enhance your intuitive abilities.

6 ways to strengthen your intuition:

Clearing your mind – It is easier to hear the whispers from the soul when your mind is quiet and open. Much of the time your mind is wandering and “going a mile a minute.” You likely have lots of thoughts running through your mind at any given moment. You probably spend much of your day multi-tasking. All of this “noise” makes it difficult to hear your intuitive voice. It is important to find some ways to quiet your mind. You can’t shut off your thoughts completely, but you can learn to slow them down. Let all the distracting thoughts flow out of your mind. Let them go. Picture your thoughts floating away on a cloud. Focus on your breathing and allow your mind and body to relax more with each breath. You might even try counting down from 10 to 1 and allow yourself to relax more with each count. Once your mind is clearer, you can then access your intuition.

Meditation – There are many forms of meditation and all are excellent ways to get centered and quiet the mind. Even a few minutes of meditation daily can increase your ability to hear your intuitive voice. Meditation is like priming the pump. As you get used to being in a meditative state, you will find that it is easier to hear the whispers from your soul and to distinguish these messages from other mental chatter. If you are new to meditation you might try sitting quietly and focusing your attention on a candle flame. When your awareness drifts (and it will), simply bring your attention gently back to the flame. You can also try focusing your attention on a short phrase or word (mantra) that you repeat over and over to yourself. Remember that the key is to gently bring your mind back to your focus point. Getting frustrated will only interfere with the process.

Imagery – You can use imagery to help you access intuitive answers to your questions. Imagine yourself in a quiet place in nature, surrounded by beauty and wonder. Make this image as vivid as possible by using all of your senses. Spend a few moments simply enjoying this place in your mind’s eye. Then, imagine a treasure chest nearby. You feel excited as you approach the chest because you know that the answer to your question is inside. Take a deep breath and imagine yourself opening the treasure chest. Don’t try to control this, let your intuitive mind guide you. Trust that whatever is inside the chest is your answer. You might receive a very clear answer or you might get a symbol that doesn’t make logical sense to you. Either way, it is exactly what you need. Trust that if the answer is not clear right away, it will become clear over time. Over the next few days, be open to feelings, songs, conversations, or any synchronistic events. Be patient! If you become frustrated or try to force an answer, you will block the flow of intuition.

Dreams – While you are sleeping and your conscious mind is at rest, your soul has the opportunity to bring intuitive information to you through your dreams. When you are working on a problem and looking for your intuitive guidance, take some time before you fall asleep to ask for an answer to come to you through your dreams. Be sure to keep a journal by your bed so that you can record your dreams the moment you wake up. Your answers may come symbolically and may need some interpretation. Look for the emotions and themes of your dreams and see if this sheds light on your problem. If the answer still is not clear, be patient and remain open. You may find more clarity with time.

Affirmations – You can use affirmations to focus your mind. It is best to use affirmations with some form of relaxation (such as deep breathing) in order to get the combined effects of a relaxed body and focused or centered mind. Affirmations are a terrific way to tap into the power of your subconscious mind to help you reach your conscious desires. Affirmations should be concise sentences stated in a positive way. When creating an affirmation remember to state what it is that you want, not what you don’t want. Another important guideline is to always use the present tense when creating your affirmations. The following are a few examples of affirmations to increase your intuitive abilities. I trust my intuition. My intuitive voice is consistently accurate. I access my intuition easily.

Practice – It is important to practice using your intuition. When you first start practicing you may want to begin with small issues that do not have a significant impact on your life. For example, try to guess who is calling before you pick up your phone. Guess which elevator will show up first when you are standing in front of a bank of elevators. Practicing with these simple issues will allow you to stay relaxed and focused without too much distraction from fear or other mental chatter. As you practice, you will get better at recognizing your intuitive impulses and you will gain confidence in using this skill. The more confident you feel about identifying your intuitive voice, the more you will trust it and be able to act on it.

As you practice using your intuition and build your skill, you will find that your intuitive voice is a precious resource – an indispensable gift. You can use this inner wisdom to guide you in all of your decisions at work, at home, and at play. The more you use and trust your intuition, the stronger it will get and the more confident you will feel about it. The whispers from your soul will always guide you to the path that is for your highest good.

By Kirsten Harrell, Intent.com

Intent.com provides content and community for who you aspire to be–personally, socially and globally.

 

5 Best Snacks to Boost Your Mood

5 Best Snacks to Boost Your Mood

Change your diet, change your mood? Science says the answer is yes. Food isn’t just fuel for the body; it feeds the mind and changes our moods. Food scientists are still exploring the big picture regarding food and mood, but it’s clear that certain foods have a feel-good factor. Try these five mood-boosting snacks.

Bananas
Bananas offer serious mood-lifting power, with their combination of vitamins B6, A, and C; fiber; tryptophan; potassium; phosphorous; iron; protein; and healthy carbohydrates.

When you eat a banana, you’ll get a quick boost from the fructose as well as sustaining energy from the fiber, which helps prevent a blood sugar spike and ensuing drop in energy and mood. Carbohydrates aid in the absorption of tryptophan in the brain, and vitamin B6 helps convert the tryptophan into mood-lifting serotonin. Bananas are also a great source of potassium. While potassium isn’t directly related to mood, it’s needed to regulate fluid levels and keep muscles working properly, which is important for feeling energized, a key factor for a sunny outlook. And finally, bananas also offer iron, which is crucial to producing energy and fighting fatigue.

Get even happier: Bananas are among the best when it comes to mixing and matching mood-boosting snacks. For a sunny smoothie, blend a banana with one handful of spinach, a tablespoon of ground flaxseed, and half a cup of apple juice. Spinach is one of the richest food sources of folate (vitamin B9) you can find, and flaxseed is full of omega-3s. When combined, these nutrients help maintain stable levels of brain serotonin and may help reduce your risk of depression.

For a sweet treat, try a frozen dark chocolate-covered banana, which you’ll find in the freezer section of many natural foods stores. Or melt your own dark chocolate at home to dip banana slices in for a satisfying, mood-lifting fondue.

Banana-Mango Soup with Cardamom

Walnuts
Walnuts contain a handful of components that contribute to a good mood, including omega-3s, vitamin B6, tryptophan, protein, and folate.

Higher blood levels of omega-3s have been linked with better mood and lower rates of depression, while lower blood levels of omega-3s have been associated with higher rates of depression and negative feelings. An animal study authored by Harvard Medical School Professor William Carlezon found that omega-3s and uridine (another substance found in walnuts, which plays an important role in helping metabolize carbohydrates) worked in the same way as standard antidepressant medications.

The standard dosage of omega-3 oils recommended by many experts is one gram (1,000 mg) per day. You’ll get about the same amount, as well as a healthy dose of fiber and protein, in just half an ounce of walnuts. About two teaspoons of walnut oil will also do the trick, but you won’t get the all the nutrition you would from the whole nut.

Get even happier: Crumble walnuts on top of a serving of organic yogurt for a crunchy and creamy treat with a double-dose of tryptophan.

Wholesome Maple and Walnut Squares

Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are a super source of folate and magnesium, two substances that play a significant role in regulating and boosting mood. Just a handful of sunflower seeds delivers half the daily recommended amount for magnesium.

Magnesium, in addition to regulating mood, plays an essential role in hundreds of bodily functions. Magnesium deficiency is often responsible for feelings of fatigue, nervousness, and anxiety (since it triggers an increase in adrenaline), and it’s been linked to various mood disorders. Sufficient, stable magnesium levels, on the other hand, help us achieve a calm and relaxed state, the prefect precursor to a good mood. It’s so effective, in fact, that scientific studies have shown magnesium supplementation to be beneficial in treating major depression, suicidal tendencies, anxiety, irritability, and insomnia.

Folate (also known as vitamin B9 and as folic acid) is a B-complex vitamin that’s intimately linked with nervous system function. Folate deficiency may result in feelings of irritability, depression, and brain fog, as well as insomnia. Being well rested and keeping a clear head are two of the primary factors in fueling a good mood, so snacking on sunflower seeds is a smart move in more ways than one.

Sunflower seeds are a good source of tryptophan and are often recommended by nutritional experts as a natural method of boosting serotonin levels. They’re also rich in fiber, which helps maintain stable hormone levels — one of the keys to keeping even-keeled.

Get even happier: Try this homemade trail mix to blast the blues: Sift sunflower seeds together with almonds, Brazil nuts, raisins, and dark chocolate chunks. Brazil nuts contain selenium, another natural mood booster.

Sunflower Seed Soup!

Dark Chocolate
A number of unscientific studies name chocolate the number-one craved food in America, so it makes sense that indulging in chocolate makes for a happy experience. And as it turns out, there are some real reasons why that’s so. For one, chocolate contains a number of substances that elevate mood, including fat, sugar, caffeine, phenylethylamine, flavonols, theobromine, and tryptophan.

Caffeine and theobromine are two naturally occurring stimulants found in chocolate. Along with sugar and fat, these substances provide a swift burst of energy and mood-lifting power. Chocolate also contains the mood-boosting compounds phenylethylamine, tyramine, tryptophan, and magnesium. While these substances are found in many other foods, even in higher concentrations, chocolate has an advantage because of its appeal on several sensory levels: it has a rich, mouth-pleasing texture; an intense taste; and an appealing aroma. For many of us, just the idea of indulging in chocolate is enough to elicit a positive emotional response.

In addition to these natural pick-me-ups, when you eat chocolate, a number of reactions occur, including the release of serotonin in the brain and mood-elevating endorphins in the body. This heady combination can result in a temporarily lifted mood and even a fleeting feeling of euphoria, which may explain why some people turn to chocolate when they’re feeling blue.

Finally, cocoa is a natural source of antioxidant flavonoids, which increase blood flow (and thus oxygenation) in the brain, and which may contribute to better brain function. Not all chocolate is created equal, though. For the best health and happiness benefits, go for good-quality dark chocolate with a cocoa level of 70 percent or higher. The more cocoa it contains, the higher the levels of healthy compounds, so the darker the chocolate, the better it is for you.

Get even happier: Chocolate-covered almonds are a decadent snack full of fiber, vitamin E, potassium, manganese, magnesium, copper, tryptophan, and vitamin B2 (riboflavin). Almonds help lower the glycemic index of the chocolate, preventing a spike in blood sugar and its resultant low energy and mood. In fact, fiber, manganese, copper, and B2 are power players when it comes to energy production — and steady energy is a must for a happy mood.

Dark Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Eggs
Eggs might not be the first food that comes to mind when you think of a snack, but a hard-boiled egg is easy to make and easy to transport. It’s also a really good-for-you and good-for-your-mood snack. Full of high-quality protein and omega-3s (from hens eating a diet rich in omega-3s), eggs are also an excellent source of vitamin B12 (riboflavin) and a good source of vitamins B2, B5, and D. And one boiled egg contains more than 20 percent of the daily recommended amount of tryptophan.

While carbs are crucial for converting tryptophan into serotonin, protein is an important part of the process, too. A balanced diet that includes high-quality lean protein, like you find in eggs, and healthy carbs also helps stabilize blood sugar and prevent emotional highs and lows. And the Vitamin B12 in eggs plays a significant role in the production of energy and helps alleviate memory problems and symptoms of depression.

Get even happier: Add your egg to whole-grain toast for a satisfying snack that will give you a boost of long-lasting energy and fuel a feeling of well-being. Complex carbohydrates are an ideal pairing for protein-rich eggs, since they temporarily produce a calming effect by delivering a dose of tryptophan and triggering the production of serotonin. Carbohydrates also aid in the absorption of tryptophan in the brain.

By Nikki Jong, Caring.com

12 Inexpensive Ways to Relieve Stress

12 Inexpensive Ways to Relieve Stress

“Stress:  1. a force that strains or deforms  2. mental or physical tension“  Websters New World Dictionary

Despite our best intentions for creating a lifestyle free of stress, we have only succeeded in creating more stress than our mind and bodies can really handle. The good news is there are practical ways to reduce stress in your life without having to spend a whole lot of money. It is important to note that there are both environmental and emotional factors that create stress in your home, workplace and outdoors in a city. You might feel the stress of a difficult job, or the emotional strain of a negative relationship, but toxic chemicals in your cleaning supplies or exposure to electro-magnetic frequency’s from your computer and T.V. may not be so easy to detect. They can, however, cause stress to your immune system and eventually will need to be removed or reduced.

For now let’s take a look at some ideas for dealing with stress on a daily basis. By taking one-step-at-a-time you can at least begin to manage the stress that comes from living in a time that demands our complete attention and much of our precious energy. The goal here is to open up space in your day to recharge and reinvigorate your body-mind for the next go-round of activity.

1. Medical research has shown that lack of sleep can stress the body more than anything else you do. Make sure to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night for best effect.

2. To make sure your body can sleep at night, reduce the amount of stimulating foods, such as sugar, caffeine and alcohol, that you ingest each day. For some people even one cup of java can cause insomnia. Stay away from your computer or smart phone before bedtime as it can interfere with your ability to sleep.

3. Take time each day to stop and do nothing. You can do this at your desk with a few stretches and then sitting, lean your head back on the chair and close your eyes for 2-3 minutes. Or, lay down on the sofa or bed and take a 5-10 minute nap. This is a very easy and effective way to refresh and revive the whole body system.


4. Step away from what you are doing and make a cup of herbal tea, then sit and sip it slowly.

5. Take a 15-30 minute walk outside in nature and focus on your breathing. Stand and take deep breaths of fresh air and long exhales to expel the stale indoor air from your lungs.

6. Take 10 minutes each day to sit in meditation. This can be done anywhere you find yourself. Sit with your back upright, hands resting on your thighs, close your eyes and let your mind quiet and empty. Bring your attention to your breath and let the thoughts pass like clouds moving across a blue sky. This can be a powerful moment for your body-mind to relax and rejuvenate.

7. Plan 1-2 days a week when you will not turn on the computer or watch television. Use the time to hike in nature, read a good book, volunteer to help a friend, clean out your kitchen cabinets and cook yourself a healthy meal.

8. Go on a spending diet and stay away from shopping malls and other crowded venues. Instead, take time to be silent and alone with yourself. This is a wonderful time to think about your life, to set goals, to plan and notice what is and what is not working. This awareness allows you to make changes before situations can get out of hand.

9. Put aside 10-15 dollars a week and indulge your senses with a monthly body massage. This can go a long way towards releasing stress, worry and anxiety in a short period of time.

10. Take a restorative yoga class at your local yoga studio. This special form of yoga utilizes nurturing physical postures to relax, rejuvenate and alleviate the effects of chronic stress in your daily life. Once you know the routine you can practice at home in your personal space.

11. Light some candles in your bathroom, put on some soft music and take a warm bath. Add some muscle relaxing bath salts and a few drops of Lavender oil to calm and relax your mind.

12. As all your worries and fears rise up to engulf you, just remember what is happening in the given moment. Anxiety comes from creating a negative future in your mind, one that has not happened and will probably not happen. It is all a product of your imagination and if you can stay focused on what is happening in the present you can reduce the stress this way of thinking can cause.

posted by Delia Quigley
 
Delia Quigley is the Director of StillPoint Schoolhouse, where she teaches a holistic lifestyle based on her 28 years of study, experience and practice. She is the creator of the Body Rejuvenation Cleanse, Cooking the Basics, and Broken Bodies Yoga. Delia’s credentials include author, holistic health counselor, natural foods chef, yoga instructor, energy therapist and public speaker. Follow Delia’s blogs: brcleanse.blogspot.com and brokenbodiesyoga.wordpress.com. To view her website go to www.deliaquigley.com

Myths About How to Act Around Someone Who’s Dying

Myths About How to Act Around Someone Who’s Dying

 Myths About How to Act Around Someone Who’s Dying

People often adhere to a code of conduct about the end of life that’s just not rooted in common sense or reality — especially when it comes to how to talk to someone who’s dying, in their final days or hours. Hospice nurse Maggie Callanan, who has attended more than 2,000 deaths, wrote her book Final Journeys: A Practical Guide for Bringing Care and Comfort at the End of Life in order to take on these myths:

Myth: Don’t cry in front of the dying.
They know you’re sad. Having the courage to bare your emotions gives the dying person permission to be candid about his or her own feelings. Your tears are evidence of your love. And they can also be a relief to the person, telegraphing that you understand what’s happening.

Myth: Keep the children away.
People often steer kids away from death so they’ll remember the person in a good light and not be frightened. But most kids do well with simple explanations of what’s happening; facts are usually less scary than their vivid imaginations. By cordoning off a child from a natural part of life, you also deprive the dying person of a beloved, comforting presence.

Myth: Don’t talk about how you expect your life will change after the dying person has passed away.
It’s not like they’ll feel left out. You can be sure the dying person is thinking about your life after his or her death — people are often deeply concerned about this. It’s reassuring to hear that loved ones will look after one another.

Myth: If you don’t deal with death well, it’s OK to stay away.
Some people excuse themselves from visiting a dying person with phrases like, “I hate hospitals” or “I want to remember X the way she was.” This is saying that your discomfort is more important than the dying person’s final needs.

End-of-Life Arrangements: A Resource List

“You have a responsibility,” Callanan says. “If someone has played a positive part in your life, that person deserves your attention as his or her life is ending. I’ve seen too many devastated people dying too sadly, waiting for someone who never came.”

By Paula Spencer, Caring.com senior editor

Caring.com was created to help you care for your aging parents, grandparents, and other loved ones. As the leading destination for eldercare resources on the Internet, our mission is to give you the information and services you need to make better decisions, save time, and feel more supported. Caring.com provides the practical information, personal support, expert advice, and easy-to-use tools you need during this challenging time.

101 Revolutionary Ways to Be Healthy

101 Revolutionary Ways to Be Healthy

In December 2010, Experience Life launched RevolutionaryAct.com, a microsite inspired by a feature article and accompanying manifesto in the January 2011 issue of Experience Life magazine. It’s based on the conviction that “being healthy is a revolutionary act” — one that requires renegade perspectives, unconventional choices and strong social support. We invite you to become part of this positive movement intent on creating a healthier world by signing up at RevolutionaryAct.com. In the meantime, we’re excited to share “101 Revolutionary Ways to Be Healthy” with you.

·         Defy convention

Do the healthy thing, even when it’s challenging, inconvenient or considered weird. Take pride in that.

·         Buck trends

Just because it’s popular doesn’t mean it’s smart or good for you. Enlist fellow trend buckers and create a trend of your own.

·         Rage against the machine

Use your healthy frustration about the unhealthy status quo to spark creativity and determination.

·         Celebrate what’s good

Look for signs of progress (beyond pounds lost) and rejoice when you find them. Give yourself a pat on the back every time you make your health a priority.

·         Repossess your health

Reclaim responsibility for your well-being; own your daily choices; minimize your reliance on the broken sick-care system.

·         Redefine your role

You are not a “healthcare consumer.” You are a human being. You may be experiencing an illness or other health challenge right now, but remember that good health is your body’s natural state.

·         Practice medicine without a license

Research your own conditions and treatment alternatives, ask questions, and seek second opinions with impunity. Leverage the expertise of trained pros, but don’t allow it to eclipse your own informed instincts about what’s best for you.

·         Minimize symptom suppression

Make whole-person vitality, well-being and resilience your goal. Partner with healthcare pros who understand and support your desire to be fully healthy with a minimum of medical intervention.

·         Safeguard your juju

Don’t let yourself get run down, depressed, negative or reactive. That’s when immunity drops, inflammation rages, and unhealthy tendencies strike.

·         See the bigger picture

Yes, this is about you, but your well-being also affects everyone and everything around you. When you get healthier, everybody benefits.

·         Be part of the solution

It’s going to take a lot of strong, clear-headed, high-vitality people to solve the world’s problems. Be one of them.

·         Go at your own pace

A healthy life is more a marathon than a sprint. So start where you are. Choose sensible, sustainable shifts over instant cures and quick fixes.

·         Be proactive

If you feel a cold, flu or nasty headache coming on, take evasive maneuvers. Rest. Refuel. Reconnect. Rebuild your immunity and vitality. There’s no heroism in ignoring your body’s needs.

·         Leverage your big “whys”

Know the specific reasons your health matters to you. Write them down where you’ll see them daily.

·         Raise your sights

Don’t get sucked in by obsessions with six-pack abs and buns of steel. Don’t play “compare the bodies.” Fulfill your best-self vision.

·         Learn the skills

Healthy, fit people have learned how to be healthy. Learn those skills, practice them, and you’ll be healthy, too.

·         Reap the rewards

Look and feel better, sure. But also think better, smell better, give better, love better, live better, be better.

·         Focus on the fundamentals

Drink water, eat good food, move, rest, relax, connect. Don’t sweat the more complex stuff until you’ve got a grip on the basics.

·         Fake it till you make it

Don’t yet see yourself as a super-healthy person? Experiment with doing a little of what you’d do if you were already supremely healthy and fit. As often as you can, act as if your commitment were unwavering.

·         Aim for 85%

You don’t have to make 100% healthy choices all the time. It’s what you do most of the time — day in, day out — that counts. The healthier you get, the easier and more automatic healthy choices will become.

·  Brush and Floss

Your teeth and gums are a huge determining factor in your whole-body well-being. They’re also an easy place to start demonstrating your commitment to whole-person health on a daily basis.

·  Eat fresh

Trade dead, packaged goods for foods that are fresh, alive and full of high-vibe goodness. Figure out where to find them, learn to juice/slice/dice them, and eat them with great pleasure.

·  Eat more plants

There’s a long list of phytonutrients and other good stuff in vegetables, fruits and legumes that you can’t get any other way. Put plants at the center of your plate for as many meals and snacks as you can.

·  Don’t fall for fakery

Processed, fake, diet and imitation ingredients burden and inflame your body, contributing to chronic disease. And there’s no clinical proof that artificial sweeteners and fat-free products support weight loss or do any part of you any good.

·  Learn to cook

Get a dozen healthy, whole-food recipes under your belt, and your life will be forever changed. Start by mastering one.

·  Have breakfast

Let there be protein, produce, healthy fats and fiber in it. A good breakfast wards off energy dips, brain fog and afternoon cravings.

·  Watch your reactions

40% of U.S. adults have an intolerance to gluten; 70% to dairy. Know if you’re one of them. Digestive, skin, joint, energy and mood problems may be your first clue.

·  Beware the USDA Food Pyramid

It is a whole lot healthier for Big Ag and Big Business than for humans. Fill two-thirds of your plate with an array of vegetables, add in some other whole foods you enjoy, and don’t let the rest of the Pyramid’s propaganda confuse you.

·  Approach ADA guidelines with a healthy dose of doubt

The American Dietetic Association is sponsored by processed-food corporations and staffed by former food-company execs. Their pro-processed-food advice is often colored by that, and their calorie-counting obsessions are profoundly counterproductive.

·  Go easy on the sugar and flour

These two ingredients (combined with unhealthy industrial vegetable oils) have a starring role in most packaged foods we eat. More than any other culprit, they fuel inflammation, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and cancer.

·  Savor what you eat

The foods you rush into your body tend to create more problems than they solve. Take your time and consciously enjoy every single bite. Notice as your hunger diminishes.

·  Care where food comes from

Know your food’s history, and you’ll want to consume more selectively. Most factory-farmed and industrially produced foods aren’t all that appetizing once you know their origins.

·  Go for quality, not quantity

An ounce of wonderful is far better than a whole mess of mediocrity. Most beige, starchy and supersized foods are not worth eating.

·  Move it out

A healthy person poops every day. Twice a day, maybe more. How’s your fiber and water intake? (Also, see #28.) A clogged up colon wreaks havoc on your whole body.

·  Read labels

Don’t worry so much about the calories, grams and RDAs. Read the ingredients. Most ingredient lists begin with some combination of enriched wheat flour, sugar and oil. Avoid foods like that. Also avoid foods with long lists of ingredients you don’t recognize.

·  Ignore labels

Most of the marketing claims are meaningless, and a lot of the data is confusing. Most of the very best foods (in the produce department) have precisely one ingredient and, often, no labels at all.

·  Say no to soda

Both regular and diet soft drinks stimulate a pro-inflammatory insulin response, trigger cravings, acidify the body, decay your teeth and leach minerals out of your bones.

·  Ask for what you want

If you want extra this, none of that, something on the side, X in place of Y, broiled instead of fried, and everything prepared just so — say so. Being picky about what you put in your body is nothing to be ashamed of. Picky eaters unite!

·  Drink a lot of water

The health of every cell and synapse depends on it. And when you’re dehydrated on a regular basis —even a little — your metabolism, energy and immunity all suffer mightily.

·  Filter your water

You’ll drink more when it tastes pure and you know it’s clean. If plain water doesn’t turn your crank, enjoy water with a slice of lemon, orange, cucumber, or a splash of juice. Or try herbal tea instead.

·  Love what you’ve got

Treat your body with respect and appreciation. Focus on what it can do, not what it can’t. Find something to celebrate, not something to criticize.

·  Redefine your goals

If you’ve been trying to lose weight and struggling, make it your goal to get superbly healthy and fit instead. And then don’t be surprised when the excess weight starts melting off.

·  Beware artificial hungers

Notice what triggers your sudden desires and uncontrollable appetites. Stress and anxiety both masquerade as hunger. Find better ways of dealing with them or warding them off.

·  Identify real hungers

You can’t eat or spend your way out of loneliness, fear, boredom or lack of meaning. Find healthy ways to honor and shift them, instead.

·  Be human

Cut yourself a little slack now and then, and forgive yourself your unhealthy trespasses. Learn what you can from them, and then move on.

·  Make being healthy easier

Self-restraint is a limited resource. Do everything in your power to make healthy choices automatic choices and to keep unhealthy temptations out of range.

·  Don’t believe the hype

Give up on gimmicks, fads and instant fixes. Most miraculous weight-loss schemes do more harm than good, and yo-yo dieting is a recipe for weight gain.

·  Look beyond unrealistic role models

Find your inspiration in people whose lives and goals have some relevance to your own. Also remember that most of the pictures you see of celebrities and fitness models have been extensively retouched.

·  Question authority

Big organizations like the FDA, USDA, AHA, AMA and ADA all struggle under real limitations and conflicts of interest. Know and understand them.

·  Face the facts

Your body is a mirror: It reflects your choices, your priorities, your habits, your attitudes and your quality of life. If you don’t like your body, be willing to change the way you are living.

·  Maintain a morning practice

Take a few minutes each sunup to set your intentions, take a few breaths, read an inspiring passage and start the day on your own terms. You may be shocked at the difference it makes.

·  Move your body

Every day, every which-way you can, in as many ways as you enjoy. Movement nourishes your body, clears toxins, and reduces the inflammation that breeds illness and irritation.

·  Reframe exercise as a privilege

You don’t have to exercise. You get to exercise. Visit a person whose mobility is severely limited, and you’ll appreciate the distinction. Do what you can, and count yourself lucky.

·  Break a sweat

The more often, the better. Sweat is a signal that your metabolism is switching into a higher gear. Sweat is weakness, complacency and toxicity leaving the body.

·  Stay strong

More muscle and sinew means more capacity to do anything. Don’t let age, aches and pains, or lack of time be your excuses for abandoning your strength.

·  Maximize your mitochondria

Every time you exercise, you upgrade your body’s energy-and-vitality factories and build your metabolism.

·  Find your fitness edge

Flirt with it in ways that feel good and exhilarating. Bursts of high-intensity exercise trigger positive, dramatic changes and help catalyze the body’s healing response.

·  Get past body envy

Release supermodel and celebrity obsessions. Translate your desire for a fitter, more beautiful body into positive, self-respecting daily action that nourishes you and makes you stronger.

·  Embrace meditation

There are few life skills that will pay of as handsomely or give you as much peace and healthy perspective. Even a few minutes of meditation a day can trigger positive transformations in your biochemistry, neurology — even your DNA.

·  Study your systems

Learn how your body works, and respect its genius. The unfortunate fact that most of us aren’t formally educated in how to properly care for our bodies doesn’t mean you can’t learn.

·  Get to the bottom of your symptoms

Body trouble? Find the source. Root out the cause. Don’t settle for a drug that forces your symptoms to go underground only to pop up somewhere else with a vengeance.

·  Self-medicate with caution

Get honest about how you’re using alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, pain killers and other drugs to simulate well-being or cover discomfort.

·  Abandon victim thinking

“Poor me” doesn’t get you anywhere you want to go. Instead, dust yourself off, see the choices that got you here, then reclaim your prerogative to choose your own better way forward.

·  Sleep well

Rest = recovery, repair and resilience. Exhaustion = illness and messed-up metabolism. Prioritize ample sleep time as the health essential it is.

·  Breathe deep

In for four, out for five. Oxygen’s good; breathing keeps you alive.

·  Get off your butt.

Sitting for more than an hour or so at a stretch is deadly. Get up, stretch, walk around. Do some deep knee bends or go climb a couple flights of stairs.

·  Slow down

Perennial rushing is toxic to the body and mind. Find moments of silence and contemplation where you can just be. Create margins of sanity. Practice the defensive art of scheduling breaks and vacations.

·  Connect with community

Find ways of being active and involved in some kind of group activity. Joining a group, if you haven’t already, can reduce your risk of dying this year by half.

·  Heal your relationships

Mend fences, build bridges, forgive trespasses, grieve losses and let toxic grudges go. Then move on. Get help with this if you need to.

·  Get outside

You need sunshine, fresh air and time in nature. Daily. Grab five minutes in the morning, five on the way home from work.

·  Respect your environment

Keep in mind that human health depends upon the health of a lot of interconnected ecosystems and the planet as a whole. Make choices that respect that reality.

·  Embrace play

Fun, novelty, humor and joy are key sources of energy, strength and inspiration. If you’re suffering from a case of fun-deficit disorder, remedy that situation ASAP.

·  Consume media wisely

Seek out entertainment and information that makes your life better. Choose not to watch, read or listen to stuff that demoralizes or immobilizes you, incites craziness, or insults your intelligence.

·  Be your own biggest fan

Refuse to bad-talk your body, nitpick your appearance or kvetch about your weight. Find something to dig/love/ appreciate about yourself — just the way you are.

·  Turn off the TV

Opiate of the masses. Fritterer of time. Fryer of focus. The average American watches several hours of TV a day. How much of your life are you willing to hand over to a box?

·  Eliminate tolerations

If something’s driving you crazy, deal with it. Noticing and resolving daily annoyances, messes and downers helps free up energy and increases your pleasure in living.

·  Follow the money

Look at your checkbook register and credit-card statements for clues about where your spending is inconsistent with your healthy goals and values.

·  Redirect your resources

Take some of the money you’re spending on unhealthy distraction, consolations and indulgences, and re-route it toward your healthy-living priorities instead.

·  Ditch debt

The stress of being stretched too thin financially is at the root of a great many health ills. Develop the skills you need to master your money and live within your means.

·  Invest in your health

Money spent proactively on your health delivers far better returns than money spent reactively on treating illness and disease. When healthy choices seem “too expensive,” consider the long-term costs of health-sapping alternatives.

·  Wise up

Keep seeking new wisdom and mastering new skills that help you take better care of your body and live a more satisfying life. Continual learning and discovery support both health and happiness.

·  Build on your successes

Look at what has worked well for you in the past, and do more of that. Identify and leverage your strengths. Be willing to learn from your “failures,” too — but refuse to wallow in them.

·  Surprise yourself

Don’t be boring. Every once in a while, do something unexpected or out of character and see what happens.

·  Find your tribe

Surround yourself with other healthy, positive, active people who share your passions. It’s a lot easier to thrive around people who are thriving.

·  Laugh it up

Seek out mirth, glee and merriment at every opportunity. Laughter triggers a cascade of healing, energizing chemicals.

·  Get a buddy

Do your healthy thing with a pal or partner. Camaraderie and accountability go a long way toward creating success.

·  Give your best gifts

Developing and sharing them endows you with enthusiasm and energy. Neglecting or squandering them slowly kills you.

·  Pace yourself

When working hard, take brief rest breaks every 90 to 120 minutes so your cells can recharge. Be kind to yourself, and be honest about how much you can take on at any given time.

·  Vote your values

Take your healthy convictions to the polls. Share them with your elected representatives. Vote with your dollars, too, to support healthy products, companies and communities.

·  Visualize the possibilities

What if we lived in a world where the majority of people were healthy and happy most of the time? Imagine that future — then start creating it in your own life, one step at a time.

·  Follow your bliss

The more positivity and enthusiasm you can build into your life, the healthier, happier and more satisfied you’ll be. Happiness breeds healthiness.

·  Be responsible for yourself

Own your decisions and actions, no matter what the circumstances. Refuse to abuse or be abused on any level. See challenges and setbacks as learning opportunities.

·  Take the high road

If you feel yourself getting dragged down or losing traction in your healthy commitments, ask: What’s my highest choice right now? What can I do to make this situation better?

·  Make time

The hour you give yourself for self-care pays you back three. Think you’re too busy? The busier you are, the more effective and energetic you need to be, and the less time you have to get sick.

·  Make space

Declutter your house, your office, your car, your desk, your mind. Create room for your chosen future; create space that reflects the way you want to feel.

·  Focus on action, not outcomes

Live the life of a healthy person, and the results will take care of themselves. Every healthy step is a victory. Every day is an opportunity to feel, live and be better than the day before.

·  Make it a party

Discover new healthy passions. Revel in new healthy pleasures. Have so much fun getting and being healthy that everyone around you wants to do it, too!

·  Let go of excuses

Yes, you’re busy. You probably have a lot of priorities competing for your time, energy and resources. But wouldn’t all those priorities be better served by a healthier, more dynamic you?

·  Show up

No one is going to do this for you. You can’t fake it, and you can’t phone it in. Your body is where you’re going to spend the rest of your life. So make it a great place to live.

·  Pass it on

Pssst! Being healthy is a revolutionary act. The more of us who stand up for our health and happiness, the more power we have to change the world — one person, one life, one revolutionary act at a time.

Experience Life magazine is an award-winning health and fitness publication that aims to empower people to live their best, most authentic lives, and challenges the conventions of hype, gimmicks and superficiality in favor of a discerning, whole-person perspective. Visit www.experiencelifemag.com to learn more and to sign up for the Experience Life newsletter, or to subscribe to the print or digital version.

How To Live Like You’re On Vacation – Everyday

How To Live Like You’re On Vacation – Everyday

How To Live Like You’re On Vacation – Everyday

Ah, this month is a doozy isn’t it? Don’t get me wrong – I love my job, but there’s something about these first weeks in January that kills. It’s like yesterday was all a-flutter with holiday lights and celebratory cheer and today is just… well shit, we’re just smack dab in the heart of winter. Getting “back to the grind” post holi-daze can feel particularly daunting when you’ve had some time away – which, I am grateful to say, I did. On an island. In Belize. Yep, I’m That Girl. The one who returns to the office in January abnormally (annoyingly) tan and chipper? Hi there. I think there’s still sand in my shoes.

But I’ve come to realize – as my boyfriend “helpfully” takes down the Christmas tree and I weep into my latté – that we don’t have to relinquish those delicious feelings of vacation just yet. In fact (drumroll), I’m quite dedicated to the idea of manifesting the get-away vibes as a integral part of my daily lifestyle (cymbal crash! Ooh! Aah!)! Not convinced? Read on.

Island Livin’

I spent a delicious week in December on a tiny island off of Belize City. My cousin was there studying abroad, my uncle had some frequent flier miles, and the gods were smiling upon me: presto change-o, Lauren’s on a tropical island for seven days. (Deep, deep bows of gratitude.) Each morning we woke up and slapped on bathing suits and SPF before breakfast. Each afternoon we played dominoes at the bar or caught naps in the hammock. Each evening we ate fresh sea fare and coconut rice by the light of the moon. Heaaaaaaven. The week was magical and relaxing in ways I hadn’t anticipated, but perhaps most surprising about the experience was the distinct voice shouting loud in my soul upon leaving: MUST. LIVE. HERE.

Ok, nothing special, right? Who doesn’t leave an island vacation tempted to skip that return flight and start a tugboat fishing business? But this voice was louder than any I’d heard in a long time, and it wasn’t telling me to move to Belize. (Ok, maybe a little.) It was saying – deep, resonant: Must live here, in this space – breathing more, doing less.

See, I believe that an integral part of being all me all the time is recognizing both what brings me joy and what brings out the joy in me. I like vacation, but I also like myself on vacation. I’m friendlier, I’m more peaceful, I’m more present. I dig the small stuff. I laugh louder and longer. I pay more attention to what I eat and whom I’m with and how I feel. And while sitting ocean-side with an umbrella in my ahem, juice, may make these feelings seem more accessible, they are absolutely possible to manifest at home as well. And frankly – “possible”? Necessary.

So, in the spirit of the New Year (and in clinging desperately to my quickly-fading tan), let’s get our get-away on.

9 Tips On how To Live Like You’re On An Everyday Vacation

  1. Unplug. I know, I know, you’ve heard this one before. But DO IT. I didn’t wear a watch for seven straight days and it was heavenly. I know that we have kids to pick up from school and meetings to make, but take at least one afternoon a week to throw your cell in a drawer and close that computer. Tell your spouse or a friend to wrangle you at a certain time, if you must – but really, lose track of time. (It’s kind of overrated anyway.)
  2. Rock that Stop-Doing list. Lissa Rankin recently wrote a great post about changing your to-do lists into not-do lists – as in, what would you like to free yourself from this week/month/year? Those choices were made for me on the island – what with limited Wi-Fi and housekeeping service – but there was something to be said about having very little I felt that I “needed” to accomplish each day. So, do some recon into your daily to-dos and see what you can delegate, diminish, or drop altogether. Create space.
  3. Reduce the stuff. You know one reason why hotels can feel so heavenly? Clutter-free, babes. This is another one you’ve heard before, but going to sleep with the laundry, laptop, and paper piles creeping over your nightstand makes for restless slumber. At the very least, give your boudoir the hotel once-over and ditch everything that doesn’t say relaxation. Moreover, think about all the stuff you use and “need” in a week’s time – if it wouldn’t make your suitcase, get rid of it. Pack (live) light.
  4. Talk to strangers. Whether it was asking for dining recommendations, a cheerful where-are-you-from over breakfast, or bonding with fellow snorkelers in our deathtrap tugboat, I met the loveliest of people by striking up dialogues with complete strangers. I know we’re all on-the-go in our daily lives and tend to walk the streets like we’re on missions from god (though yes, obtaining take-out Chinese can often feel like a divine calling), but try talking to someone new every day. You don’t have to be ocean-side to say hello there and ask for a good lunch spot.
  5. Eat locally. So maybe you won’t get to watch a sun-kissed fellow called Captain Jerry Jerome catch your dinner and throw it on the grill (true story), but chances are there are some regional delicacies in your ‘hood that you have not yet tried. Hit up your local farmer’s market, restaurant, and street fair to embrace the natural food of your area. Allow the idea of being present to carry into your recipes, cooking seasonally and trying new things. Be a locavore.
  6. Eat longer-ly. At home, I eat dinner in 15 minutes while also checking email, catching a sitcom, or going through my to-do list. On vacation, my favorite “restaurant” was a shack on the beach called Fran’s Fast Food – my quickest meal there took 2.5 hours. This is all to say, SLOW DOWN. Savoring each bite keeps you conscious of what (and how much) you’re eating and provides powerful opportunities for connecting with friends and family. Even if you’re dining solo, select one meal a week and take your sweet time with it. (Last night, a tofu stir-fry and I spent 60 sweet minutes together. Worth it.)
  7. Celebrate the small stuff. Toast to an easy commute, a beautiful sunset, waking up on time, and not getting a parking ticket. Celebrate a great hair day, an inspiring conversation with a friend, finishing a book (or a chapter, or a page!), and a surviving houseplant. Every moment of vacation seems to yell, Yes! Hello! Congratulations! – now it’s time to take a bit of that celebratory spirit into the “real world.”
  8. Connect with nature. Not all vacations will take us to remote locales – one of my favorite vacation spots, after all, is New York Cit-ay – but I will say that my most relaxing get-aways have been deeply connected to nature. Do what you can to bring a lil’ of nature’s positive perspective into your world – as my mom used to say about Hawaii, it’s hard to sweat the small stuff when you’re sitting between a volcano and the ocean. Even in winter, make time for the great outdoors.
  9. Take the scenic route. It’s easy to get stuck in ruts of taking the same streets home and the same shortcuts to the grocery store. In our efforts to streamline our tasks, we often forget how fun it is to get lost. (See Jennifer Shelton’s great post on getting lost here!) Vacation isn’t always about the destination – it’s about jumbled water taxi directions, wrong trains, and accidental hikes. Treat your city as if you’re seeing it for the first time and you know, take a left instead of a right. Explore.

Access the joy within

There are all sorts of other ways to bring the vacation-spirit into your daily living – listening to a white-noise machine with ocean sounds, putting a picture of your dream destination next to your computer, treating yourself like a tourist at home with a “staycation” – but none of those practices feel sustainable to me. I’m not trying to trick myself into an everyday vacation – I’m trying to live there, authentically. Breathe more, do less. Access the joy within to be my most celebrated, relaxed, curious self – with or without a tan.

By Lauren Nagel

Lauren Nagel is the editor in chief of OwningPink.com and a contributing writer for San Francisco music magazine The Owl Mag. Email her at lauren@owningpink.com

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