Healthy Habit #16: Take Krill Oil

Healthy Habit #16: Take Krill Oil

Most of us have heard about the incredible benefits of omega-3 fats and how important they are to maintain a healthy heart and brain.  Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for our bodies to function properly.  Unfortunately, most of us don’t get enough of them from the foods we eat.  In fact, we get way too many of the other type of fat – omega-6.  We need both of them for optimal health, but our bodies crave balance and need an equal amount of both omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids.

Since most of the foods Americans typically eat are high in omega-6 fats (grains, commercially raised meats, oils used in processed foods, and many commonly used cooking oils including corn, safflower, and sunflower), our bodies are flooded with omega-6 fats while our intake of omega-3 fats is dramatically lower. (Foods high in omega-3 fats are leafy green vegetables, oily fish like salmon and sardines, walnuts, organic eggs, and naturally raised meats.)  This creates a huge imbalance between the amount of omega-6 and omega-3 fats we are ingesting.  And this is why it is so important to take a supplement to get your much-needed amount of omega-3 fats.  We just simply do not get enough from our food.

So what type of supplements are the best?  Well, fish oil has proven to be the most complete source of omega-3 fatty acids and there are many different kinds of fish oil supplements out there.  However, recently we’ve discovered another source that outshines them all – Krill oil.

Krill oil does some amazing things for your body.  Let me just start by saying that after a few weeks of taking Krill oil, I noticed I had dropped a size without making any other changes.  You see, your body needs fat to burn fat.  And you need to be getting enough omega-3 fats in order for your body to metabolize the other fats you ingest.  This is why fad diets that restrict your fat intake will actually cause you to gain weight in the long run.  You must get both omega-3 and omega-6 fats to burn the extra fat and lose weight.

Krill oil is such a concentrated form of omega-3 fat, so your body quickly and efficiently receives what it needs to metabolize fat properly.  One of the reasons that Krill oil is better than regular fish oil is that it contains an extremely powerful antioxidant called astaxanthin which is not found in most standard fish oils and phospholipids which are also not found in regular fish oil.  Plus, your body absorbs the antioxidants and phospholipids 500% better than it does regular fish oil, according to U.S. Government National Institutes Of Health.  Krill oil also contains two other powerful components – EPA and DHA, which cannot be found in plant-based oils such as flax oil.

So, not only will Krill oil help your body naturally burn off unwanted fat, but it will improve your cardiovascular health, balance your blood sugar, and minimize any joint pain.

Here are some other reasons to take Krill oil:

  • improves memory
  • strengthens your immune system
  • supports heart health
  • slows the signs of aging
  • improves your overall mood
  • gives you healthy-looking skin
  • helps to balance your blood sugar levels

Another plus for Krill oil is that it is pollution-free. (I’m talking specifically about Antartic Krill here.)  A lot of “healthy” fish has been contaminated and is acutally unhealthy due to high levels of mercury, PCBs, heavy metals, and other toxins.  However, Krill are at the bottom of the food chain and are harvested far away from polluted waters in the seas surrounding Antarctica.  (Krill are tiny, shrimp-like crustaceans that whales, seals, penguins, and other fish feed on.)

Some more good news…There is an ongoing supply of Krill and no risk of extinction.  They are a renewable source of powerful antioxidants and omega-3s.  And from my experience, there is no fishy aftertaste or strange fishy burps hours later.

Krill oil is at the top of my list of supplements as a “must”.  (Right up there with Probiotics.  See Healthy Habit #7 for more about this.)  Just be sure to look for supplements that contain pure Krill oil without any fillers.  As Krill oil becomes more well-known, there are going to be cheap “knock-offs” made, so be sure to look at the ingredients before purchasing any Krill oil supplements.

Want to learn more about Krill oil?  Check out this link: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/08/26/how-can-this-oil-help-you-beat-these-24-common-diseases.aspx

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Healthy Habit #15: Get Enough Sleep

Healthy Habit #15:  Get Enough Sleep

So, it’s been a little while since my last post. I have been working on a really important habit, but a difficult one for me – getting enough sleep. Instead of staying up late researching, reading, writing and working on other things, I have been making a serious effort to just go to bed. It has been a challenge because my body has become used to getting only 5 to 6 hours each night and waking up throughout the night (from when the babies were still waking up to have a bottle.)

Throughout my last pregnancy with the twins, I barely was able to sleep just because I was so uncomfortable. Once they were born I still barely slept – for obvious reasons. Now that they are sleeping through the night, I still am not getting enough sleep. It’s my own fault. I just go to bed too late and get up very early. It’s hard to get myself to bed at night because there is just so much I want to do when the girls are sleeping and I finally get some time to myself. But I was recently reminded of how important those sleep hours are for your body. And I decided I had to make it a priority.

Here’s why:

Sleep is one of the pillars of vibrant health. You could be eating all the right foods, drinking the best water, exercising regularly, taking all the right supplements, and experiencing very little stress or anxiety. But if your sleep habits are poor, your body can’t fully benefit from your other healthy habits. In fact, research has shown that continuous lack of sleep can have serious and long-lasting effects on your health.

Your circadian rhythm has a lot to do with this. Your body’s internal clock is programmed to sleep at night and to stay awake during the day. If this doesn’t happen properly, conflicting signals are sent to your body which confuses its normal functioning and things really get thrown out-of-whack.

Over time, lack of sleep can:

• Weaken your immune system making you more susceptible to illness
• Cause weight gain and obesity since it affects the hormones that regulate your appetite and hunger triggers
• Weaken your memory and impair your cognitive abilities – You aren’t able to think clearly or solve problems efficiently. (I notice that I also become very indecisive – so annoying.)
• Weaken your body’s ability to fight cancer and speed up tumor growth
• Cause depression and other mood disorders
• Speed up the aging process since it interferes with your body’s production of growth hormones that help you to stay young
• Increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure
• Decrease your ability to handle stress and manage your emotions

According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, people who suffer from insomnia have a three times greater risk from dying from any cause. Yikes. That’s sobering. Unfortunately, when you lose sleep, you can’t make it up another night. Plus, losing sleep has a cumulative negative effect on your health. The harm to your body just keeps building up and building up.
So, it is evident that we all need to get enough sleep – 7 to 8 hours is ideal for most people.

But what if you have trouble sleeping?  Here are some suggestions for improving the quality of your sleep:

• Sleep in complete darkness. Even a little bit of light can interfere with your body’s production of melatonin. I plan on buying a sleep mask since I can’t get complete darkness in my bedroom.

• Develop a bedtime routine. Write in a journal, read a book, listen to relaxing music, take a soothing bath, use essential oils like lavender that help to calm your body. The routine will prepare your mind and body for sleep and you will have an easier time falling asleep and staying asleep.

• Go to bed the same time each night. If you are always changing the time you go to bed, your body will not be able to get into a rhythm and develop a regular sleep pattern.

• Go to bed as early as possible. This has been a challenge for me, but the earlier you get yourself to sleep the better it is for your body. Before electricity, our ancestors went to bed after sundown. It seems our bodies were designed for this since most of the important rebuilding and cleansing is done between 11:00 PM and 1:00 AM. If you are awake during this time, the toxins that your body is trying to eliminate can get trapped in your liver. This can lead to other health issues, so try to get to bed as early as possible.

• Stop eating a couple of hours before bed. Not only will this help your weight loss goals, but it will help you to sleep better. If you go to bed with a full stomach, your body will have to spend those precious sleep hours digesting the food you just ate instead of focusing all of its energy on recharging and cleansing. Another good reason to stop eating earlier in the evening – calories that are not used up before you go to sleep get stored as fat.

When I first started trying to get to bed earlier, it was difficult. (And I’m still working on it.) But now I actually look forward to my bedtime routine. Instead of trying to fit as much as I can into one evening, I let myself relax and focus on one task like reading a book or writing in my journal. If my mind keeps wandering back to what I need to get done, I make a list of those things, put it in front of the coffee pot, and save it for the next day. And I’ve discovered that allowing my body to get the sleep I need actually helps me to accomplish more in a shorter amount of time since I have the energy and clarity of thought from a good night of sleep.
Want to learn more about the benefits of sleep?
Check out this link: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/

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Healthy Habit #14: Make Bone Broth

Healthy Habit #14:  Boil Your Bones

Once a week I make homemade soup and a salad for dinner.   We love the combination of the two and enjoy them all year round.  Not only is it a light and inexpensive meal, but the variety of soups and salads you can make is endless.  And I love making soup from scratch.  It’s simple to do and tastes incredible.  Plus, you get to choose the ingredients and know exactly what you are putting into your body.  I usually make extra soup so I can freeze half for another meal.

About a year ago I started to make my own chicken and beef stock for my soup because I couldn’t find any in my local food store that didn’t have “junk” in it.  After tasting that first batch, I was hooked.  The depth of flavor you get from a slowly-simmered beef or chicken broth is so calming and comforting.  You can feel all the good it’s doing for your body.

Bone broth is somewhat of a “miracle food” that often gets overlooked.  It is actually one of the most healing and nutrient-rich foods you can make because it is full of valuable minerals and healthy fat that your body needs.  Since bones themselves are highly mineralized, bone broth is rich in minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, sulfur, and phosphorus that are often lacking in our diets today.  Plus, it it easy for your body to digest and absorb all of these minerals when they are in the form of a broth.

But what makes bone broth such a powerful superfood is that it contains a unique ingredient: collagen (also known as gelatin when referring to collagen that has been extracted from food).  Here’s why collagen is so important:

The word collagen means “glue”.  It literally helps to hold the body together by supporting and nourishing just about every part of your body including skin, hair, nails, heart, brain, nerves, gut, kidneys, liver, muscles, tendons, joints, and ligaments.  Collagen is a protein molecule that has a high concentration of 3 amino acids (which are the building blocks of protein) – glysine, proline, and lysine.  These amino acids help your body to thoroughly digest fats, detoxify your liver, reduce inflammation, boost your immune system, and stabilize blood glucose levels.  Collagen helps to heal a leaky gut by repairing the lining of the gastrointestinal tract.  This means that many digestive problems like heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome, and ulcers can be relieved by drinking bone broth.

Collagen also does amazing things for your skin.  It keeps your skin supple and radiant.  It can even diminish cellulite since collagen strengthens the connective tissue under your skin.  In other words, collagen supplies your skin with what it needs to support itself (no more dimpling).  Without enough collagen, you have premature wrinkles, stretch marks, and cellulite.  Smooth and supple skin comes from having plenty of collagen and bone broth is rich in collagen.  (Forget the collagen skincare products…just drink bone broth!)

So, how do you make a rich, nutrient-dense bone broth?

Simply simmer leftover bones over low heat for 24 to 48 hours in a stock pot or crock pot.  You can use this broth for soups, sauces, gravy, stews, or drink it straight. Here are some other tips for making your own bone broth:

  • The layer of “skin” that forms on the top of the broth contains valuable nutrients and healthy fats, so be sure to stir it back in.
  • Use bones that also have skin and cartilege because they contain the most collagen.  (Chicken legs and knuckles are great.)
  • Bones that are rich in marrow include ribs, feet, vertebrae, scapula, hip bone, and skull.
  • Be sure to use organic, pasture-raised or grass-fed, and free-range meats so you are not getting hormones and antibiotics released into your broth.
  • You can use the bones from any  meat you cook or you can purchase bones that are ready to cook.
  • If you are using large bones, be sure to cut them into smaller pieces as this will allow more of the nutrients and collagen to be extracted.
  • Add some apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to your broth while it is simmering since the acid will help to pull out more of the minerals and collagen.

Want to learn more about bone broth?  Check out this link:  http://www.bonebrothforhealth.com/

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Healthy Habit #13: Take Control of Your Thoughts

Healthy Habit #13: Know the Power of Your MInd

I love learning and studying about the human brain. The research being done is fascinating. One thing scientists have recently discovered is that our brains are not hard-wired from birth like we once thought. Quite the contrary. Our brains are constantly changing and being transformed by our experiences and what we see, hear, and feel. For example, as you sit and watch a movie, your brain is changing according to the images you see and the emotions you feel. Your brain is structurally different after that movie than it was before. (Makes you think twice about what you are watching.)  Research shows that mind exercises like visualization, imagination, and reflection cause the same physical changes in the brain and body as they would if you actually carried out those thoughts.  In other words, visualizing yourself losing weight, earning your degree, overcoming a phobia, etc. has the same effect on your brain as if those things actually happened.  Can see how powerful these mind exercises can be?

But perhaps the most significant thing I have learned is the phenomenal power our thoughts have to affect our body, soul, and spirit. Our thoughts influence our physical health, our emotions, and our behavior. “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” What you think will set the course for your life.  The significance of your thoughts and the impact they have on your future cannot be emphasized enough. What you think is what you become. Think good and good will come; think bad and bad will come.

There is a common quote that states, “Private victories lead to public victories.” Private victories are the ones that happen in your mind and heart—the inner man. You see, what goes on inside of us eventually will show up on the outside.  The thoughts you allow into your mind daily affect everything about you and your life.  As Dr. Caroline Leaf said it so poignantly, “You have been experiencing the effects of your thoughts your entire life.”

Here’s why:

A thought is actually an electrical impulse.  Every time you have a thought, your body releases chemicals that are sent throughout your entire body.  Good thoughts release “feel good” chemicals while bad thoughts release harmful chemicals that cause feelings of fear and stress.   These chemicals affect every cell in your body as well as your emotions and attitude.  (Your attitude reflects the condition of your mind.)  And your emotions and attitude affect your physical health.  For example, anxious, fearful thoughts result in feelings of fear, stress, and anxiety.  These feelings have a huge impact on your health.

Toxic thoughts and feelings lead to physical illness and disease. Research shows that unhealthy thoughts leave behind harmful waste in our bodies that can cause sicknesses such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, autoimmune disorders, ulcers, depression and more.  Your thoughts can either make you healthy, more intelligent, and creative OR they can damage your body, weaken your intellect, and shut down your creativity.

And get this –  Our thoughts are real and take up space in our brains. They can actually be  seen and look like little trees with branches. What is even more amazing is that these little trees (thoughts) can grow and shrink depending on  what you choose to think about.  For instance, if you dwell on a thought all day long and keep rehearsing it in your head, that thought-tree will grow more branches and get bigger taking up more space in your brain.  Think a single thought long enough and it actually becomes ingrained into your brain and becomes part of who you are.  This means you have the power to change your personality, responses, and habits by taking control of your thoughts.

thoughts

So how do you take control of your thoughts?

When a thought is in your conscious mind, it is temporary until you decide at that moment to either accept the thought or to reject it.  You literally have the power to throw out that thought or to keep it and give it space in your mind.  If you choose to accept it, that thought becomes part of you and affects your body, soul, and spirit.  If you choose to reject it, the temporary thought leaves and does not have a permanent residence in your mind.  You can reject unhealthy thoughts by verbalizing the action – “I will not think about this anymore.”  And the thought literally disappears.    (*Verbalization and your words are also incredibly powerful – more to come about this in a future post.)  You have the power to choose which thoughts will stay with you and affect everything about you.

But being able to either reject or accept a thought requires that you are aware of what you are thinking.  Being “mindful” of your thoughts and aware of what is entering your mind is necessary in order to take control of your thought life.  (See Healthy Habit #8 to read more about Mindfulness.)  This takes practice and rehearsal.  It’s easy to go through your busy day unaware that you are accepting negative thoughts and may be even rehearsing them and ruminating on them.  It takes a conscious effort, an intentional awareness to catch those toxic thoughts and throw them out before they become literally lodged into your mind.

Here are some mental exercises that help you to become more aware of your thoughts:

  • Reflection – Carefully considering your thoughts, feelings, and emotions
  • Journaling – Gives you a visual picture of what’s going on in your mind  (Healthy Habit #11)
  • Meditation – Training your mind and self-regulating your thoughts
  • Mindfulness – Focusing your thoughts on the present moment and redirecting your mind back if it starts to wander.

By becoming more aware of what you are thinking and taking control of those thoughts, you can transform who you are and the direction of your life.  You have the ability to get rid of unhealthy thoughts and to replace them with life-giving thoughts.  Taking control of your thoughts and changing your “stinking thinking”  will improve every aspect of your life.

If you want to learn more about how to take control of your thoughts, check out Dr. Caroline Leaf’s book called Who Switched Off My Brain?  She takes you through an actual “detox” for your brain.  Here’s the link to her website:  http://drleaf.com/index.php

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Liebster Award!

Liebster Award

I am really excited and honored to be nominated for the Liebster Award by two fellow bloggers:  Weaving Woman (http://supermom2spiderman.wordpress.com/) and Cottage Grove House (http://cottagegrovehouse.com/). Thank you for your nominations!  I started this blog as a way to share the exciting things I learn from my research and reading.  I thought that maybe others would be interested in this information as well.  I’m thrilled by the response and that others are finding the information helpful!

From what I’ve learned about The Liebster Award, it’s a way to recognize new blogs who have less than 200 followers.  Liebster is a German word that means beloved and valued.

Here are the rules for accepting the award:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and include a link back to their blog.
  2. List 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions given to you.
  4. Create 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate.
  5. Choose 11 bloggers with 200 or less followers to nominate and include links to their blogs.
  6. Go to each bloggers page and let them know you have nominated them.

So, here it is.  :)

11 Random Facts About Me:

1. I love fashion and interior design.
2. I started playing the piano when I was 6 and have been playing ever since.
3. A hot cappaccino with a shot of Frangelica, cocoa sprinkled on top, and served in a big white mug makes me very, very happy. (It’s just not the same if it’s not in a white mug.  Have no idea why.)
4. I love being outdoors.
5. I’ve lost count of how many times my husband and I have watched the movie “Fun with Dick and Jane”. We laugh just as hard every time.
6. I love to hunt for treasures at thrift shops, yard sales, and antique shops.
7.  My hubby and I are total Downton Abbey fans.
8. I love Yankee candles and would collect every scent if I could.
9. I resigned from my teaching position to stay home with my three girls. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.
10. My first daughter was born at home in our bedroom with a midwife (the old-fashioned way with no meds). It was a much different story with the twins. I had no choice…C-section all the way.
11.  I grew up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania next to a farm. We climbed trees, played in the woods, and rode sheep around for fun.

Questions from Weaving Woman and Cottage Grove House: (I did half and half.)

  1. What is your perfect Saturday?  Sleep in (which never happens now – Ever.), have brunch with my husband and three girls, then off to search for treasures at local antique shops or thrift stores, then read my book and take a nap, then dinner and dessert at the beach with my family.
  2. What are your hobbies?  I play the piano and love to read, cook, and spend time with my girls.  A few years ago I tried painting and really loved it.  Planning on starting that again when I have more time.
  3. What is your favorite cooking spice?  I have two: cinnamon and smoked paprika.
  4. If you were a superhero for a day, what would your superpowers be?  I would have Samantha’s powers from Bewitched.  Just wiggle my nose and the house is clean, dinner is cooked, babies are bathed and fed, laundry is done…You get the picture.
  5. Where would you go…Hawaii or Italy?  Italy – since I already live in a tropical climate and because my dad was born in Italy.  I do plan to go there one day.
  6. What did you want to be when you grew up?  I always wanted to be a teacher.  My  younger siblings and I would play “school”.  I was the teacher and they were my students.
  7. Are you a dog or cat person?  I have always had cats.  Nothing against dogs.  Cats just work for me. And my home feels more peaceful and cozy when I have one lying around purring.
  8. What is your definition of happiness?  “…these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”   Unconditional love makes you happy.
  9. What is your favorite drink?  My favorite is a hot cappaccino, but I also love peach iced tea.
  10. What color is the sky in your world?  Electric blue, with big, billowy white clouds.
  11. Do you enjoy fiction or non-fiction?  Absolutely non-fiction.  I love to learn new things and I usually get bored with fiction; I guess because I know it’s not real…?

Questions for other bloggers:

  1. What is the last book you’ve read or are reading?
  2. If you could have lunch with any historical figure, who would it be?
  3. What is your favorite type of food?
  4. What is one place you would like to visit?
  5. What is your favorite holiday?
  6. Which would you rather visit…the beach or the mountains?
  7. What is one habit you would like to change?
  8. If you could go back in time to any point in history, what would it be?
  9. What is your favorite dessert?
  10. If you could buy anything you want right now, what would it be?
  11. What are three words to describe yourself?

Bloggers I nominate: (Don’t have eleven yet, but here’s what I do have.)

Back to First Position,  http://backtofirstposition.wordpress.com/

The Voyage to Healthy, http://thevoyagetohealthy.wordpress.com/

Becoming the Best Me, http://becomingthebestme.com/

Our Studio Kitchen, http://ourstudiokitchen.wordpress.com/

Feisty Chickpea, http://fiestychickpea.wordpress.com/?ref=spelling

Thanks for reading!

~Jen

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Healthy Habit #12: Go Barefoot in the Grass

Earthing

The other night my husband and I took Bella and the twins to the park down the road.  The babies had a ball crawling around on the blanket in the grass and Bella played on the swings almost the entire time.  No one else was there that evening and it was so peaceful just laying there on the blanket with my girls.  And while we were just resting there on the ground, our bodies were receiving enormous benefits.

I’ve recently learned that having direct contact with the Earth has an incredible effect on your body. It’s called “grounding” or “Earthing”.  Earthing is defined as your bare feet coming into direct contact with the ground (dirt, sand, or grass).  The Earth’s surface has a negative electrical charge and is constantly emitting electrons.   Our bodies happen to be good conductors of electricity and function at their best when they are full of electrons.

Unfortunately, we don’t get enough of them because of our lack of direct contact with the ground.   Our ancestors didn’t have this problem.  However, modern-day materials like rubber and plastic block the electrons from getting to our bodies leaving us with an overabundance of positively charged electrons.  This imbalance has a significant impact on our health and well-being and can result in an inflamed body.  (Inflammation is the cause of most sickness, disease, and premature aging.)

Here’s the good news though:  By simply walking barefoot on the beach or in the grass, your body is flooded with a charge of electrons that help to rebalance and stabilize your internal clock.  In other words, your body is brought back into electrical balance which benefits every cell and tissue in your body.

Research shows that Earthing has many health benefits:

  • reduces stress levels
  • decreases inflammation
  • eases muscle tension
  • strengthens your cardiovascular system
  • boosts your immune system
  • prevents pre-mature aging
  • improves your metabolism
  • protects you from unhealthy electromagnetic fields (from your computer, phone, and electrical devices)
  • helps you to sleep better
  • regulates your blood pressure
  • improves your blood viscosity (which reduces the risk of blood clots)

The Earth’s electrons act as a powerful antioxidant that kills off those free radicals that do so much damage.  Earthing is the most simple, inexpensive, and effective way to deliver a surge of antioxidant power to every cell in your body.  And as more research is being done, more benefits of Earthing are being discovered.

Here are some of my ideas to get into the habit of Earthing:

  • go to the beach and play in the wet sand  (sand + water = lots of electrons)
  • walk barefoot outside as much as possible
  • have a picnic on the ground
  • lie in the grass and look at the clouds with Bella
  • go camping and sleep in a tent (Will have to wait until the twins are a little older for this.)

You want your bare skin to touch the ground.  And it’s even better if the ground is wet because water is a good conductor of electricity helping those electrons to flow into your body.  The more hours you are able to spend grounded to the Earth, the more your body will benefit.

Want to learn more about Earthing?  Check out this link: http://www.earthing.com/

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Healthy Habit #11: Keep a Journal

Healthy Habit #11:  Keep a Journal

Before I had my three little angels, I had a lot more time on my hands.  Things were a lot different for sure!  I love being a full-time mommy and wouldn’t change a thing (except maybe hire a cleaning lady). But let’s face it, I just don’t have the free time that I used to have.

One habit that I kind of “lost” along the way to mommyville was writing each night in my journal.   Before turning off the lights, I would spend a few minutes writing about whatever was on my mind while sipping Sleepytime tea.  It was very relaxing and kind of like a detox for my brain.  Whatever was in my head from the day’s events would spill out onto my journal so I could go to sleep with a clear and peaceful mind.  I never realized how much this simple ritual helped to relax me and relieve any stress that might have been brewing inside.  And it’s a habit I plan to start again now that things have calmed down a wee bit since the twins were born.

Looking back at my journals from years ago is almost like going back in time.  They reveal so much about who I was at that moment in my life and show how much I’ve grown into who I am today.  Reading my own thoughts and feelings taught me a lot about myself.  I was able to come to conclusions and realizations that I would not have otherwise seen.  And that helped me to grow past personal limitations and frailties and to develop my strengths. Those journals are priceless snapshots of my life and my journey that I am glad I have now.

Journaling is a simple but powerful habit.  Writing about your experiences, thoughts, and emotions helps you to see outside of yourself.  It gives you a concrete picture of your heart and soul.  You get a glimpse of what’s happening on the inside; and what happens on the inside most definately affects what happens on the outside. (Your physical health)  Journaling allows you to be open, honest, and vulnerable so that past hurts and pains that have been deeply buried can be dug up, dislodged, and dumped out into your journal.  This relieves stress and tension and even promotes healing from painful experiences.

Studies show that journaling has proven health benefits:

  • improves cognitive functioning
  • reduces stress and anxiety
  • relieves symptoms of asthma, arthritis, and other health conditions
  • strengthens your immune system
  • helps you to solve problems more efficiently
  • helps you to learn about your inner self
  • unlocks mental blocks and unleashes creativity (Writing accesses both the left and right hemispheres in your brain so you are able to use all of your brainpower!)

Just be sure you don’t get caught up with the writing process when journaling.  Don’t worry about the way it sounds, how it looks, your spelling, or how it flows.  These things are not important.  Just free-write and let it all out on paper.  Focus on your thoughts, feelings, and responses when writing.

Here are some of my ideas to help me kick-off this new habit:

  • buy an inspiring journal along with my favorite pens and some sticky notes to match (Any reason to visit a Hallmark store and I’m there.)  :)
  • make a cup of Sleepytime tea to sip as I write
  • dim the lights and turn on some soft music (I might have to ditch this one if I start falling alseep before I get to the journal.)
  • tape pictures in my journal from special events or holidays
  • include some of Bella’s drawings and the little notes she scribbles
  • include a “Lessons Learned” section in the back of my journal

If you want to learn more about journaling, check out this link: http://www.mytherapyjournal.com/whyjournal/

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Healthy Habit #10: Stay Connected

Last week was quite an interesting week.  The twins are both teething and they took turns each night keeping my husband and me awake.  Not much sleep for the mommy and daddy of twins.  (This is a bad habit I’m reeeeaaaally wanting to change.)  Needless to say we were both exhausted by Friday.

Last week also happened to be my 37th birthday and we had plans to go out Friday night.  We don’t get many opportunities for a night out, so we were both looking forward to it all week.  Despite the fact that we were both extremely tired, we had a great time.  It was a much needed break from the world of babies and bottles.  And even more importantly, we had time to just enjoy each other and to stay connected.

And I’m realizing how important it is to stay connected in my relationships.  Close relationships benefit your emotional well-being as well as your physical health.  Not only do they help you to stay young and happy, but staying connected with others also strengthens your immune system and helps to minimize stress in your life.  Studies show that people with close relationships live longer and enjoy life more than individuals who are isolated from others.

Here’s why:                                                                                                                                              If you have close friends or family, those relationships are meeting a basic human need – the need to belong.  We all need to belong to something bigger than ourselves in order to be truly healthy and happy.  By maintaining strong relationships, you feel connected to others and have a stronger sense of meaning.  As a result, you are happier and are able to gain a greater satisfaction from your life.  Your self-worth and sense of meaning are strengthened as the quality of your relationships are strengthened.

And if your emotional well-being is healthy and strong, this will strengthen your physical health.  (“…that you may prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers.” 3 John 1:2)  Strong connections strengthen you from the inside out.  They help your soul to stay healthy which then helps your body to stay healthy.  And strong relationships are one way to healthy soul.

Sure, all relationships have rough seasons.  But learning to work through those tough times and staying committed for the long haul is what strengthens the quality and depth of that relationship.

After all, you have to weather the storm to see the rainbow.

This is true of my marriage and many of my friendships.  The relationships that have seen the good and the bad are the ones I gain the most from.  And staying connected through the those tough times is what helps to deepen them further.

[Sidenote: If you are in a relationship where you are being abused or hurt, it is NOT healthy to stay in such a relationship.  Felt like that needed to be said.]

Here are some reasons to stay connected to others:

  • helps you to stay young and slows the aging process
  • strengthens your immune system
  • reduces stress in your life
  • gives you a sense of meaning and significance
  • improves your emotional health
  • strengthens your resiliency to “bounce back” from disappointment and loss
  • provides you with a support system – You’re not in it alone.

Staying connected with others and maintaining strong relationships can take some work.  But the committment and effort on your part is well worth the many benefits.  Here are some ways I try to stay connected to the people in my life:

  • date nights with my hubby
  • girls’ night out – which usually involves cappaccinos and chocolate
  • hosting a fun party for friends – wine & cheese party, dessert party, swap party, beer tasting party (my husband’s favorite)
  • playdates at the park with other mommies
  • catching up with my family on the phone or on Skype (They live in Pennsylvania and I live in South Florida.)
  • having others over for dinner and to hold a baby or two :)

Want to learn more about staying connected?   Check out this link:

http://www.cornellcares.org/pdf/handouts/rct_connected.pdf

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Healthy Habit #9: Drink Lemon Water

Healthy Habit #9:  Drink Lemon Water

Most of us know about the many health benefits of drinking water, the elixir of life.  It hydrates your body from within, flushes out toxins, and transports nutrients and oxygen to your cells.  It is essential to get enough water and stay hydrated in order to be healthy. But if you want to kick your water up a notch, add some fresh lemon to it.

Lemons are an amazing little fruit.  Not only do they add a nice pop of color to a kitchen table, but they offer tremendous health and alkalizing benefits.  Lemons are full of vitamin C, citric acid, potassium, are a natural diuretic, and help to cleanse your liver of toxins.  But the thing I love most about lemons is the alkalizing effect they have on your body.

Let me explain.

Your body’s pH (potential of hydrogen) has a significant impact on your health.  Being either too alkaline or too acidic is not good.  Your body is constantly striving for a balance and works best at a pH of 7.35 to 7.45 (pH is measured on a scale of 0 to 14 with 0 being the most acidic and 14 being the most alkaline).  When your body is too acidic, which is the case for most Americans, all of your body’s systems are weakened and more vulnerable to disease and sickness.  The other extreme is no better.  If your body becomes too alkaline, the result is light-headedness, confusion, nausea, seizures, muscle spasms, and can even leave you in a catatonic stupor.  Can you see how it’s best to avoid both extremes and strive for a balanced pH?

Here’s where lemons come in.  Despite their high acidity content, they have an alkalizing effect on the body.  Since most Americans fall in the overly acidic range due to a diet high in processed foods, sugar, animal products, and refined carbs, we desperately need some alkalizing going on.  When you drink fresh lemon water, the residue that the lemon leaves behind as it is metabolized is highly alkaline.  This helps to neutralize the extra acid in your body and raise your pH level to be more alkaline.  (Want to know your body’s pH? You can test it yourself using test strips bought at a health food store or you can have a blood test done.)

I add the juice of half of a lemon to a glass of lukewarm water and drink this before I start my day.  It instantly wakes me up, helps to clear my head, and gives me a boost of energy.  I am amazed by the difference in how I feel when I drink lemon water.  I have my husband drinking it now and even squeeze some lemon in Bella’s water.

Here are some other ways lemon helps your body:

  • helps to flush out toxins
  • aids in weight loss since your metabolism is affected by your body’s pH
  • cleanses and detoxifies your liver
  • promotes digestion and relieves constipation
  • strengthens your immune system

Here are some other ideas for using lemons:

  • Make lemonade with fresh lemon juice, filtered water, stevia, and lemon zest.
  • Use fresh lemon to roast your chicken, squeeze on your steamed veggies, or add to your salad dressings.
  • Make lemon tea for a nice boost or to soothe a sore throat.  Boil water and stir in juice of half of lemon and the zest and 1 teaspoon of raw honey.  This simple concoction does wonders for a scratchy throat!
  • Use lemon juice as an astringent in homemade facial cleansers and scrubs.  Once a week I mix fresh lemon juice with some baking soda to form a paste.  Then I use this as a facial scrub before bed.  The natural acid in the lemon really cleanses your skin and helps to prevent blemishes.  And it leaves your skin feeling fresh and smooth.
  • Use lemon juice as a natural disinfectant to clean your kitchen counters, sink, and chopping block.  I also throw the used lemon halves down the garbage disposal to keep smells away.

Just be sure you don’t overdo it.  Drinking too much lemon water can actually dehydrate you (since lemon is a natural diuretic) and cause other problems like heartburn and tooth erosion because of its high acid content.

Want to learn more about the benefits of lemons?  Check out this link:  http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=27

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Healthy Habit #8: Practice Mindfulness

Healthy Habit #8:  Practice Mindfulness

After being a teacher for 10 years and now a mommy to infant twins and a four-year old, I have developed into the queen of multi-tasking. I was very proud of my multi-tasking abilities and have had plenty of opportunity to practice them. That is, until recently.  Now I realize how unhealthy it is.

Multi-tasking is really a myth.  We think we are doing many tasks simultaneously, but actually your brain is just switching from task to task extremely quickly.  This raises stress levels in the body and doesn’t allow you to truly focus and concentrate on one activity.  We think we are getting more accomplished by multi-tasking, but studies have shown that it actually lowers your productivity and could even affect your cognitive ability.  By multi-tasking you are teaching your brain to be easily distracted and weakening its ability to maintain attention.  And with the technology available,  it’s easy to be distracted.  It has been a common thing for me to be texting my husband while reading a recipe on the kindle, holding a baby and doing the laundry.  Well, not anymore.  My goal is to change that bad habit for a healthier one – Mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the opposite of multi-tasking.  It’s paying attention on purpose to a single activity or experience.  It’s being aware and focused on the present moment instead of getting distracted and letting your mind wander away from the present.  And if you do get distracted or your mind begins to wander, you bring it back to the present moment.  You live in the “now” and do not dwell in the past or spend too much time pondering the future.  Have you ever just ruminated on a negative thought or experience?  Going over and over it a million times in your head only leaves you feeling depressed and hopeless.  Being mindful means being aware of these negative thoughts and redirecting your mind back to the present.  Mindfulness also means handling experiences in a non-judgmental way without being reactionary.  Whether it’s a good or bad moment, you are aware of your responses and are able to respond in peace and balance of mind.  It does not mean turning off your emotions, but rather being more aware of yourself, your thoughts, and your responses.

Becoming more mindful has many benefits:

  • helps to relieve stress and to manage stress more effectively
  • improves overall cognitive abilities
  • improves memory and learning
  • improves your ability to concentrate and maintain that concentration
  • helps you to have better control over your emotions and responses
  • improves ability to handle pain
  • reduces risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
  • lowers your blood pressure and heart rate
  • reduces risk of depression and mood disorders

So what does being mindful look like?  Here are some ways I have been trying to practice mindfulness:

While eating:  If I sit and think about the food I’m eating, I enjoy it more and actually end up eating less.  I try to focus on how the food looks, smells, the different flavors I taste, and the texture.  I take my time and chew it well and really savor every bite.  This practice is called “mindful eating”.

While exercising:  As I’m exercising I think about the movements I’m doing, focus on the muscles being used, feel my heart beating, and listen to my breathing.  Doing this will not only improve the quality of your workout, but it really sharpens your mind and awareness.  I feel more alive and alert afterwards.

While spending time with my girls:  No tv, no phone, no kindle, no computer – just alone with them and all of my attention and focus is on them.  I listen to their little giggles, watch how their chubby little legs crawl around the room, talk with Bella as we color pictures, and just sit and cuddle with them.  Sure there are plenty of things that need to  be done or cleaned up, but this is precious time that I cherish and I want to fully and completely enjoy every moment.

Mindfulness takes some practice.  You’ll be surprised how easy it is to just let your mind and thoughts wander away from the present moment.  But the benefits of mindfulness are great.  And the more you practice being mindful, the more benefits you reap.

If you want to learn more about mindfulness, check out this link:  http://mindfulnet.org/

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