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Sleep Better: Simple Tips to Improve Your Rest

In a world of always plugged in, the question of how to rest becomes increasingly more important to answer. With issues such as illness, depression, anxiety, etc., increasing, the need to rest and digest, to relax, and simply to sleep, have become more important than ever.

Just a quick note before you begin – if you are looking for a magic, immediate, instant gratification fix for right this minute then this is probably not the post for you. Adjustments to lifestyle can take a little bit of time! So if you decide to try some of these out, try them out for a least a few nights, maybe even a few weeks, before you give them up and reach for the medicine cabinet. Have patience with yourself and give your body a little time to adjust to new routines!

And please don’t feel the need to try all of these solutions at once! Just pick your favorites and maybe try one or two at a time. That being said, without further ado…

Here are some simple tips you can start today to improve the quality of your sleep:

  1. Turn off the electronics. That’s right. Shocking. I might as well have just told you to cut off your arm, you say? Well if you do nothing else on this list, try this one first. Noises, lights, etc., can all disrupt our nervous system and keep it in an active, panicked state. The sense of quiet and security can help soothe and settle our nervous system, allowing it to switch off to sleep mode. Re-regulating our nervous system can take time though! So again, be patient with this one!
  2. Switch your device screen to night mode. If you need to use an iPad or your phone for any reason, switch it to night mode. Night mode adjusts the color spectrum and brightness of your device screen away from the sleep-preventing blue light to warmer colors. Research now suggests that exposure to the blue light spectrum found in our mobile devices and TVs can disrupt the production of melatonin – an important chemical the body produces to create sleep! So stop disrupting your sleep chemicals! I’ve even started switching my screens to the night mode color spectrum all the time now. I’ve found, for whatever reason, I have way fewer headaches this way!
  3. Use lavender essential oil. Hate lavender oil? Try chamomile essential oil instead. I usually just sprinkle a few drops on my pillow or on the carpet, or you can get a fancy essential oil diffuser and go that route. And hey, it doesn’t hurt to freshen up the smell of your room either! Especially if your husband’s socks are really stinky…But seriously, lavender oil can help with relaxation and inducing sleep.
  4. Drink hot, herbal tea. While I don’t recommend drinking a whole glass of liquid right before bed (since that might make you have to get up in the middle of the night to pee!) I DO recommend wrapping up your day with a nice herbal concoction about 1-2 hours before bedtime. Consider chamomile tea or Celestial Seasoning’s Sleepytime tea. And drink it hot! The hot tea, combined with the fragrant smells and the properties of the herbs can really help settle and soothe your body into a calmer state.
  5. Create a consistent sleep routine. If you constantly change the hours you wake up at or sleep during, this can really throw off your body’s internal clock! Our bodies like a certain rhythm for our days. Try to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning.
  6. If you don’t exercise, then start! You don’t have to do much. You don’t have to start running marathons. But if you don’t exercise, that could be WHY you can’t sleep! Our bodies are not made to sit all day, all evening, lay down all night, then spend time sitting in a car. We need to move, to release any pent up energy, or to boost our mood with endorphins, and exercise can also help calm our minds! Notice the theme here – when our minds and bodies are quiet, it’s MUCH easier to sleep!
  7. Try meditation. The act of meditating can help calm down our thoughts, improve our ability to relax, and therefore help us to sleep better! The point is not to turn off our thoughts completely, but to learn how to not obsess over our thoughts and keep our minds too busy and frazzled to sleep.
  8. If you want to read something, read ONE book. That’s right. One book. Not your phone. Not an article with links to other articles that lead to links to other articles. Not anything online that can trap us into an ever-spiraling-out-of-control rabbit hole to another world of thoughts and awake-ness. Read something printed in your hands, or turn off your wifi and data so you can ONLY read your online book and NOT surf the internet. Too often we get caught opening tab after tab and hours slip by without our notice! Hours during which we could’ve been sleeping! Keep your book light and easy, nothing too complicated or intense or thought-provoking. Literally just some light bedtime reading.

Try some of these tips out and let me know what you think! What did you find helpful? Is there anything else you’d like to add to this list? Leave me a comment below and let me know!

Debunking the Myth of Physical Fitness

NOTE: The following is an excerpt from my NEW e-book, “The Beginner’s Guide to Yoga Basics.” Now available on Amazon. 

We think of physical fitness and getting fit as a very linear process: All we have to do is go to a gym (which we hate) and wear clothes that we feel uncomfortable in and sweat until we’re miserable while someone yells at us about how worthless we are and how we want to look good in our swimsuits this summer and all we can think about for that hour is how badly we want a cheeseburger…

Yes, it’s great to sweat sometimes. Yes, it’s good to move and be active. But in my experience, engaging in exercise you hate, just for the sake of exercise, is not very motivating. I hate bashing my head against a wall repeatedly, therefore I don’t do that. Ever.

The ultimate challenge when it comes to finding and encouraging your physical fitness is to find the type and style of exercise that you enjoy doing. If you like something, you’re much more likely to repeat it again. And to want to go back. It’s a way to encourage yourself to exercise. Rather than punish yourself for taking the first step towards health.

I have not had a gym membership in nearly seven years. Why? Because I HATE the gym! Nothing against running on a rat wheel watching tv soap operas you wish you could change the channel for and listening to beefcake people who want to “pump you up.” It’s just not for me.

I don’t like feeling as though people are staring at me in judgment as I struggle to lift my five pound weights. I don’t like being surrounded by mirrors that point out and reflect my every flaw that I already intimately know about and would prefer not to stare at. I don’t like the feeling of being at a meat market as everyone sizes up the competition and the potential dating field. So no, gyms are just not my idea of a good time. So what do I do instead? What’s the secret to my girlish figure?

I do what I want. And I encourage you to do the same.

Some days that means just a 10 minute walk around the neighborhood with my puppy. Some days that means I kayak on the lake, or go for a short run on the nature trail. Some days I try my hand at rock climbing or ride my bicycle to happy hour or hike or swim or play volleyball with friends. And of course, there’s the yoga too.

And guess what? Once I stopped beating myself up about not going to the gym, I’m now healthier than I’ve ever been in my life. Because I exercise regularly –  just not always in the spandexed and iPod-ed way of the fashionable mirror-staring gym elite.

It’s me, taking charge of my own health, in a way that makes me happy. Not in the way that makes John or Jill or Jack or Sally or whoever else happy. Not the way some great fitness instructor told me I should workout to get whatever my desired results may be. No. I’ve found a way to exercise that makes my mind, body and heart happy, and that has made all the difference in the world. I encourage you to do the same. Ask yourself, what activity makes me feel better? Then do that.

Sure, keep an open mind. Definitely try new things, mix it up and put yourself out there. But remember, ultimately it’s your life, your workout and your results – so take responsibility for your own enjoyment and health!

To read more about how Yoga transformed my workout routine and overall health, and to start your journey towards a healthier mind, body and spirit, be sure to check out “The Beginner’s Guide to Yoga Basics”. For just $5.99, this e-book will walk you gently through a series of basic yoga poses with humor, stories from my own practice, practical tips and over 2.5 hours worth of online video guides and content! 

 

Cardiac Health and Minerals

According to the US center for disease control, sudden cardiac deaths are increasing for young people, particularly for young women.

Let’s take a moment to talk about this, and some nutrition related to it.

Did you know that scientists are starting to link a lot of these heart failures to increased stress and magnesium deficiencies across the whole population? Deficiencies caused by low to no mineral content in drinking water, soil and therefore our food? This complete depletion of magnesium in our food and water supply has now been confirmed to me by both a doctor and a soil scientist, as well as through my own personal research on the subject.

Did you know that magnesium deficiencies can cause symptoms of anorexia, nausea and potentially other minor mental health issues?

That if you increase your calcium intake, without also increasing your magnesium intake, it could lead to negative effects for your body?

The key, as with so much else in life, is to find balance. We need a balance between potassium, magnesium, calcium and sodium and each mineral fulfills a different role in how our hearts function/operate.

Another interesting sidenote is that many types of medications can cause these mineral deficiencies as well. Medications that often also get dumped into our water supply and pollute our drinking water with most people having no idea.

For more info, read this article: http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/electrolytes-cardiac-arrhythmias-8158.html

Or check out this interesting research paper I found on the topic: http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/dwq/nutrientschap8.pdf

Reduce the Waste

Veering a little off course today – but let’s be honest, that’s my specialty! Just need to talk about something that really weighs on my heart and that I feel is SUPER important for everyone to take action on NOW!

I could share a little about my obsession with sea turtles, how so many of them die from swallowing plastic dumped in the ocean because they mistake it for the oh-so-yummy turtle-snack known as jellyfish.

I could talk about how pretty soon, there will be more plastic than water in the ocean. How there are entire currents filled with islands of trash.

I could talk about how awful and overwhelming and destructive all this is to our water supply, our fish supply, our food supply and our health as humans.

But today I’m going to offer little tips of what we can do – NOW – to help in little ways to make this world a cleaner and better place. For both ourselves and our children/future children.

The average American couple throws out about 258 pounds of trash per month. 258 POUNDS OF TRASH PER MONTH!!! Are you caught up yet? That’s almost 3,100 pounds of trash per year between TWO PEOPLE.

Obviously, there are a LOT more than two people on this planet.

Using these simple tips and techniques that I’m about to share with you, we’ve managed to reduce our waste by about 236 pounds per month from the national average. That’s right – we only waste about 26 pounds per month between the two of us, plus our cat and dog.

Imagine if everyone could reduce their trash by that much? Imagine what a better and cleaner world we could live in! The best news is, we all CAN reduce our trash by that much! Even more probably! Here’s how you can start implementing small solutions that lead to big results, starting today:

  1. Redefine what you think of as waste. We so often, and so carelessly, toss stuff without thinking about it. We hardly even think of it as waste. We often forget that whatever we toss has to go somewhere – it doesn’t just disappear. It ends up in the soil, in the land, in the water, in the ocean, polluting a mountain side, the other side of a farmer’s fence, etc. Every item we throw away gets stored somewhere else. Imagine if every item you ever threw away had to sit in your backyard. Pretty quickly, you’d have no backyard left! View the world as your backyard and do what you can to take responsibility for your own waste!
  2. Recycle. This one seems pretty obvious, but if you didn’t know this one already, start here. Start today, right now. If you don’t have a recycle pick up in your neighborhood, try to initiate a program with your friends, family, city council. If that sounds like too much work, save your aluminum cans and plastic bottles and take them to your nearest recycling center once a month. Most recycling centers PAY YOU a small fee to take in recycling. You could squirrel that money away for a vacation fund, or a kid’s college fund or something that has time to accrue and build. Start a pact with your neighbors. If you don’t think you can do it, watch this video about a 3 year old boy who made $20,000 by RECYLCING!! https://youtu.be/TGx5CJcF044
  3. Donate, don’t throw away. There’s so much truth to the saying that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. DO NOT THROW AWAY OLD STUFF! Old clothes, housing goods, appliances, toys, dog leashes, etc. There are SO MANY organizations that could use what you just carelessly chucked into a landfill. Not to mention, if you donate to many of these organizations, you can actually GET A TAX BREAK for donating! Try Salvation Army, Goodwill, Purple Heart, various Veterans’ organizations, women’s and children’s shelters, Habitat for Humanity, even sell stuff on Craigslist or Ebay. But please PLEASE, whatever you do, DON’T just toss it in the trash. When we do that, we could be taking a free shirt right out of a poor little girl’s hands.
  4. Don’t buy individually wrapped items, buy whole foods. Or buy foods in recyclable containers. Usually any plastic numbered 1-3 is okay to recycle. Not only is this better for your health, it’s also better for the world. Skip the plastic bag that holds your celery or other produce and just put your produce in the crisper drawer when you get home. Don’t buy pre-packaged, pre-cut celery, buy it regular and cut it yourself! Think about it – say you buy zucchini, fruit, celery, and another vegetable each time you go to the grocery store. If you skip putting plastic bags on all those items like you normally do, you’re literally saving 4 or more plastic bags per shopping trip! It might not sound like a lot on it’s own, but it adds up quick! Think about it – 4 bags per trip, 2 trips per week, you’re looking at saving 24 bags per month!
  5. Compost. For starters, it’s just fun. If you’re not able to compost for whatever reason, see if there’s a person or a program near you who DOES need compostable items. There are so many things you can put in a compost bin! Banana peels, cracked eggshells, used tea bags or coffee grounds, any veggie food waste (don’t put in any meat or dairy though!) and you have wonderful, rich soil after just a few months! Compost tip: Keep a sealable container in your freezer that you use to fill with scraps on a daily basis. Once that container is full, dump it in the compost bin outside. This saves you from making multiple trips to the larger bin!
  6. The easier and more convenient you make reducing waste, the more you’ll do it! Trust me here. Don’t try to go big or go home. Don’t promise yourself you’ll trek out to the compost bin at the edge of your property every morning in house slippers with dew on the grass. We’re lazy creatures of habit after all, so work WITH that rather than AGAINST it! Put a small recycle bin in the house that you can empty to the main bin once a week. Put a small compost bin in the house you can empty to the main outdoor bin once a week. Etc.
  7. Reduce the size of your trash can. This is a big one (hooray puns!). How many times have you stuffed the trash down in the bag so you didn’t have to drag it outside yet? It’s so much easier to add more trash when you have a giant indoor trash can that you only have to empty every so often. I recommend you buy a smaller (about 13 gallon max) trash can. This makes you be more mindful about how much trash you’re producing. I’m pretty sure it’s a biologically inherent thing that we like to make as few trash trips outside as possible, so it also encourages you to cut back on your trips by putting less in the bin to begin with!
  8. Don’t put liners in your bathroom trash cans, or use biodegradable liners instead. You can empty your bathroom trash cans as much as you like. You can take them outside and hose them off or spray them down with toilet cleaner. By not putting liners in your bathroom trash can, you can again cut back on the number of plastic bags you waste.
  9. Eat less to-go food. Notice how many of this tips make you eat and live healthier yourself? Again, think about it. So much to-go food comes wrapped in foil, put in a bag, inside a bigger bag, inside a styrofoam container, with a to-go cup that seems to grow bigger every year, as well as plastic cutlery. All of that goes straight to the landfill. Try to pack your lunch more often. Which leads to my next point…
  10. Use tupperware instead of ziploc bags. If you don’t want to buy a bunch of tupperware and you eat meat, buy lunch meat, clean the container and peel off the label and voila! tupperware! Reusable, washable, and stackable in the fridge.
  11. Use a reusable lunch box instead of a paper or plastic bag.
  12. Take your own bags to the grocery store. Not only do the handles help you fit more in each bag and carry more inside your house in one trip, they save hundreds, if not thousands of plastic bags per year!
  13. Save your poop-scooping for trash day. If you have a dog, cat (or both like I do!) instead of using an extra plastic bag to scoop the poop in the middle of the week, save your poop pick up for just before trash day. Dump any poop directly into the by now full kitchen trash bag and take it straight to your large trash can outside. This can save a few bags a week. Another tip – purchase biodegradable poop bags for picking up after your pup when you take them on a walk!
  14. Give up the styrofoam, now! Styrofoam is some of the worst material on the planet, and so harmful. Besides, it takes years and years and years for a single styrofoam cup to break down.

Notice how many bags you could save a month if you implemented this entire list. Let’s conservatively say that each month you could save 24 produce bags, 10 ziplocs, 6 trash liners, 4 kitty scoop poop bags, 30 plastic grocery bags. Even just making those few changes, you could save about 74 plastic bags per month!! And that’s not even including how much plastic you could save if you stop buying individually-wrapped items as well!

Take a moment to look back over this list and pick two solutions you can implement starting today. Just pick two for starters! Once you master those two, revisit this list and pick two more. We don’t have to do everything, we are human after all, and between work and school and kids and life we can only do so much and still have time to sleep and eat. But we can do SOMETHING! And that is awesome in and of itself.

My hope is not to overwhelm but to empower people who feel overwhelmed to make small changes that can lead to big results. If everyone cared just a little bit more, if everyone could save just one plastic bag per day, that could lead to HUGE IMPACT!

I’m sure this list isn’t exhaustive, so please leave comments if you can think of anything else to add!

The Great Cat-scapades

Adventures with a cat is never boring.

For reference, I’ve never been a cat person. Before you start raising your claws and engaging in a battle of cats v. dogs, read the whole way through this post. I have both a cat and a dog. Get over it.

In fairness, I was never raised with cats nor by a cat-person. My mom liked them okay when they didn’t torture her allergies. But my dad believed the worst part about kittens was they turned into cats and that cats really just belonged in other peoples’ homes.

Cats also never really worked that hard to make me like them either. They always acted sort of like that anti-social person in middle school who preferred sitting by themselves and wearing black and making other people feel hated by them. I know, because I used to try to sit with those people. I was just trying to be nice, trying to get to know someone new, another perspective or point of view, I suppose. Besides, it’s not like I had many friends then anyways. But I guess I might as well have had a death wish because my smile and preppy clothes were not welcome. Usually they’d do their best to make me cry as they scared me away too.

That’s how I always felt about cats. If they weren’t biting my bare toes til they bled they were usually waiting til I pet them to bite. Mostly I noticed, their purrs were only a precursor to a hissing bite.

I tried for years to make my peace with cats, and finally I gave up.

I guess that’s when cats decided to like me, because suddenly, unintentionally, I was playing hard to get. They wore me down slowly, like sand over rocks. Now they can just walk all over me like I’m a beach or something.

Now I find myself marrying a man who came with a cat.

To be fair, the cat is hardly really a cat. He’s a giant, 20lb maine coon mix that’s bigger than a lot of dogs I see. He licks my hand, loves to snuggle and lets me hold him upside down and rub his belly. He likes sitting on the porch with me and eating regularly and with gusto.

Well played, cat. Well played.

The other day, the cat introduced me to a funny joke – wanna hear?

What do you get when you add together a 20lb cat escape artist and a doctor-mandated order for me not to lift more than 10lbs?

The answer is a heart-stopping moment, a limping cat and me crawling around on the ground outside like an idiot as I try to convince (because heaven forbid anyone dare TELL a cat to do anything) the cat why it should go back into the house and not just continue down the front driveway without front claws or a collar.

Oh wait, that wasn’t a joke, sorry. That was an actual thing that happened because my cat decided to be a cat. Good thing my hands were full of groceries at the moment of his escape. And my dog was hopping all around just in case there was nothing else to trip over.

Not to worry, though. I just tripped over the cat instead. Or wait, did I say trip? Tripping would have been kinder, but instead I step-tripped, right onto his little front paw. Feeling guilty yet? I know I sure am. His yelps and limp may have slowed him down long enough for me to send the groceries flying and try to pounce, but I could’ve done just fine without all the drama.

Eventually, in the most awkward, uncomfortable, and worrisome ways possible, I managed to wrangle the cat back inside. His limp quickly disapparated after a quick pet and a treat, and you’ll all be glad to know no lasting cat-harm has been done.

And I’m quite sure, in about 1.5 years, the cat will forgive me, right? After all, the one thing cats are known for is their quick adaptation to change and forgiveness, yes?