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What Do Turkey and Sleep Have In Common?

Thanksgiving is the holiday when most of us stuff ourselves with turkey, cranberry sauce and pie, and then take a nap. It’s the nap that I’m wondering about here. Is it true that eating turkey induces sleep? Or is it simply eating too much of everything that brings on the z’s?

So I did some research and learned that turkey is loaded with an essential amino acid called L-tryptophan, which the human body needs to build proteins, but can’t make on it’s own. Foods rich in tryptophan also include other poultry, red meats, cheese, yogurt, fish and eggs.

Once L-tryptophan is consumed, the body uses it to make niacin, a B vitamin that is important for digestion, healthy skin and nerves, and for producing a remarkable brain chemical called serotonin, which plays a large role in determining one’s mood. Generally speaking, if you have the proper level of serotonin, you will have feelings of wellbeing and relaxation. That’s because serotonin produces melatonin, a hormone that affects your sleep and wake cycles.

But proteins like turkey, chicken and fish, which are high in L-tryptophan, require assistance from foods high in carbohydrates to affect serotonin levels. All it takes is a carbohydrate snack — no more than 30 grams — in combination with the L-tryptophan stored in your body from food you’ve already eaten to give you the biggest boost of serotonin.

Such a carbo-snack could be a couple of Fig Newton’s, or half of a whole-wheat bagel with honey drizzled over it, or a few cups of air-popped popcorn. Take it after you’ve eaten foods high in L-trytophan and right before bed and chances are you will feel relaxed and sleep better.

So if eating turkey isn’t exactly the same as popping a sleeping pill, why the sudden grogginess as soon as the holiday meal has ended? It’s probably because you ate too much. Overeating takes a whole lot of energy for your body to digest. Add that to the fact that you are away from the stress of work and enjoying yourself among family and friends, and you have an excellent recipe for a perfect snooze.

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H2O plus CO2 = ?

Water is an essential nutrient for humans, but not all water is created equal. We have several options, some

healthier than others…So let’s take a closer look at what’s available.

The rumor on the waterfront is carbonation will hurt you, but that’s a bad rap. Carbonation is merely carbon dioxide injected via bubbles into a liquid in order to give it a fizz. Humans emit carbon dioxide from their lungs every time they exhale, so it’s not the CO2 you should worry much about.

But a carbonated soda, including the diet variety, is a different matter. Sodas are typically loaded with sugars or artificial sweeteners that stay in your body after the carbon dioxide is expelled. Everyone should know by now that too much sugar and too much artificial sweetener can wreak havoc on their bodies.

But, hey, listen up. Not all carbonized waters are created equal either. Here’s what you need to know about them, especially during the holiday season when good cheer comes in a variety of ways:

Seltzer water by itself is a healthy choice. It is a carbonated water with a refreshing taste that is safely enhanced by a squeeze of real lemon or lime. But check the labels. Some bottled seltzer water contains added, processed flavors, which might be problematic.

Club soda is carbonated water that has added sodium ingredients, including table salt, sodium bicarbonate or potassium bicarbonate. The type and amount of sodium additives differ depending on the producer. If you are watching your salt intake, it’s best to say away from club soda.

Tonic water is carbonated water with added sweeteners and, perhaps, other flavors, including quinine. There’s very little difference between drinking tonic water and a typical soda. Tonic water is not the best choice for health-minded individuals because of the added sugar and empty calories.

Mineral water comes from natural springs and contains a variety of minerals, salts, and sulfur compounds. Mineral water is bottled with added carbonation to create a bubbly beverage. Research has shown mineral water to improve both hydration and performance in athletes. It’s considered a healthy, bubbly water alternative, especially with a citrus twist.

Flavored sparkling water is a carbonated beverage and may contain added natural sugars, citric acid, sodium and caffeine. It’s important to read the label on this one to avoid additives you’re trying to avoid. It is a step up from common sodas, but only if the ingredients listed on the label work out in your favor.

Some think that drinking carbonated beverages of any kind can lead to decreased bone health, tooth decay, irritable bowel syndrome and weight gain. Is there any truth to these claims?

According to an article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, soda drinks reduce bone mineral density compared to other more simple carbonated beverages. It appears the phosphorus ingredient in sodas binds to bone calcium and is excreted through kidneys, causing weaker bones.

Research has debunked the myth that carbonation alone increases calcium loss in bones. The healthy choice for strong bones is to avoid phosphorous sodas and drink clean, bubbly waters instead.

Research has also related tooth decay to carbonated drinks with added sugar and citric acid. We reduce our risk of tooth decay by drinking plain, carbonated water like seltzer. The carbonation process alone is not shown to increase our risk of tooth enamel erosion. But when ingredients like sugar, acids and sodium are added to carbonated waters, it’s a different story. Such additives increase the risk of tooth decay. Note: You might want to avoid club soda for this reason because of the added sodium

Another common thought: Carbonated drinks, including bubbly waters, can cause irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS affects close to 23 percent of the population, according to the World Journal of Gastroenterology. Studies show carbonated waters are not the cause of IBS but can trigger a flare up on the condition in some people. If you’re sensitive to carbonated beverages and experience stomach upset, it’s a good idea to avoid them.

The idea of carbonated water causing weight gain has also been questioned. Plain bubbly water doesn’t contribute to weight gain. But some sparkling waters include artificial acids, flavors, sodium and sweeteners. Such additives in carbonated beverages contain hidden calories and can contribute to weight gain. Avoid unwanted ingredients by reading labels carefully.

Hydration
As I wrote earlier, plain carbonated water is made bubbly with pressurized carbon dioxide gas. As long as the water is free of additives, it’s just as hydrating as regular water. Also, mineral water with higher calcium and bicarbonate has shown to provide better hydration during strenuous exercise, according to research. But bubbly water can increase bloating, gas, and burping, so drinking it during exercise is a personal preference. Many individuals have increased their water intake because they enjoy the fizzy texture.

Regular Water Replacement?
According to the American Council on Exercise, plain bubbly water can be subbed out for regular water any time during the day. If drinking carbonated water is your preference, feel free to imbibe. But be sure to check the label for unwanted added ingredients. If you want or need it to taste better, add fresh lemon or limes slices. Fresh or frozen berries are good additives too. And don’t forget a sprig of mint.

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8 Simple Tips to Find Happiness

“We are about as happy as we make our minds up to be,” one of my best friends said the other day. It’s a quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln, who certainly knew a lot about happiness and sadness in his life, but when she said it recently, I could not help but wonder why some people are happy most of the time and others are not?

I appreciated what my girlfriend said. We had carved out some time during the busy holiday season to spend time together and catch up. After all, it is the time of year to be grateful, not only for friends but also for all the other good things that have so generously been given to us. Still, I wonder, why are some people generally happy and content while others find life overwhelming and riddled with problems?

Seems to me, people who are more content are better able to appreciate the simple moments that are built into our everyday routines, which at times, is not so easy considering all the distractions. We are bombarded morning, noon, and night with advertisers, marketers, and well-meaning friends and family because our culture has become obsessed with having more, buying more, seeing more and being more.

Simply being aware of this subtle bombardment makes a world of difference. It allows each of us to stay clear of mindless distractions and be content with what we already have every day of our lives. Fact is, happiness and joy surround us. They are ours simply for the taking.

Here are 8 simple tips on where and how to find contentment:

1. Develop a health routine you enjoy

Yes, as a health coach people hire me to help to them find the secret to good health habits that last so they can look and feel better well beyond fifty. Ideas we often come up with include setting up a meditation routine each morning. Or engaging in a simple exercise regimen. You can chose to move on your own, with a friend or in class with an instructor. Maybe you take a mindful approach to eating: Make grocery shopping an experience to dazzle your taste buds rather than a chore. Explore farmers markets year round. Try new recipes and add some excitement to your cooking routine, knowing you are preparing something healthy for you and others who join you at the table.

2. Say hello to nature

Welcome an orchid into your home. Water your plants. Step outside and feed the birds. Take a walk, stop and appreciate the scenery. Close you eyes, soak up the sun and be thankful.

3. Create an end-of-day, winding-down routine

Designing an evening routine is something you will look forward to as your day comes to an end. This will also ensure that something is within your control no matter how harried the day may have been. And if the day was spectacular, your evening routine becomes an additional bonus of goodness. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Simply enjoy your dinner, tidy up the kitchen, read a good book and goto sleep. Perfect!

4. Design opportunities for experiences rather than time to buy more things

Whenever a weekend afternoon presents itself in which a movie will be showing or an art exhibit is opening that I want to see, I plan the afternoon around that experience. Not only do I watch the movie or go to the art exhibit, but also I plan the before and after as a date with myself to just enjoy the outing even more. Maybe afterwards I will bring a journal and head to a local coffee shop (if I go see a matinee), or enjoy a nice lunch by myself before heading to the theater or museum. Recently, when my husband and I were in the N.C. mountains, I went for a short walk and then headed to the local library branch to catch up on emails and read magazines. These magazines were not piled up and unread on my living room table…they were free. Set aside time for interesting experiences, time for relaxation, time to engage, time to enjoy and time to let go of…time.

5. Create and design a welcoming space

This is one I know I need to do but struggle with because my home office has overflowed to my dining room table. Slowly I’m working on organizing my office better, throwing out “stuff” no longer useful or needed and reclaiming my dining room table. My goal is to be greeted with fresh flowers upon walking through the front door, and enjoying an abundance of light filling the room and sitting down at a clean, clutter-free dining room table. Once done, I also plan to keep it that way.

Whether you can curate your entire home or simply a room of your own to always be welcoming, making the effort to do so offers priceless moments of appreciation every day.

6. Do something to let your mind escape

Read a book. Write in your journal. Meditate. Establish a routine that allows your mind to relax or even nap. It’s not only your body that can become exhausted.

7. Make progress on a project, no matter how minimal

Whether it is something as grand as completing a significant task to edge you even closer to your goal, or just adding an idea to your journal to ensure you do not forget the “aha” moment that presented itself during your day, do something that keeps the flames of your dreams burning and your hopes alive.

8. Express love and kindness

In some form or fashion, express love to someone, something or the world in general. Part of the reason I know the importance of this is because I married later in life. I did not have a spouse or children with which to express love with daily so I had to get to know my neighbors, and my friendships are an important part of my life today. I still find myself reaching out to someone whose memory dances across my mind. I simply text or call and say “Hello!”
Try to inhale and exhale love and kindness, and you will be doing yourself and others a great favor.

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How Can Something Healthy Taste Good Too?

With the holidays fast approaching, I’d like to share a couple of healthy recipes. Each is a southern favorite, and these versions are healthy too. I got them several years ago from Southern Living magazine and one in particular is now a Thanksgiving tradition with my family.

Fried Pork Chops With Cream Gravy
8 Servings | Prep: 5 Minutes | Cook: 15 Minutes

Ingredients
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon pepper
8 (4-ounce) boneless center-cut pork chops
1 cup nonfat buttermilk
Vegetable cooking spray
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup fat-free milk
¼ teaspoon salt
Garnish: coarse ground pepper

Directions
Reserve 2 tablespoons flour, and set aside. Place remaining flour in a shallow dish. Combine Cajun seasoning, garlic powder, and pepper. Rub pork chops evenly on both sides with seasoning mixture. Dip pork in buttermilk; dredge in flour. Lightly coat both sides of pork with cooking spray. Cook pork, in batches, in hot oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high

Sweet Potato Casserole
6 servings | Prep: 15 minutes | Bake: 30 minutes

Ingredients
3 medium-size sweet potatoes or 2 (14 ½ ounce) cans mashed sweet potatoes may be substituted
½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup fat-free evaporated milk
¼ cup butter or margarine, melted
¼ cup egg substitute
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
¼ teaspoon salt
Vegetable cooking spray
Garnish: 2 tablespoons diced pecans

Directions
Microwave potatoes 1 inch apart on paper towels at HIGH for 12 minutes or until done, turning and rearranging after 5 minutes; cool, peel, and mash. Stir together potatoes and next 7 ingredients; spoon into a shallow 2-quart casserole pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Garnish, if desired.

Are you ready to make some healthy lifestyle changes? We all know nothing changes unless you take action. As a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach, NBC-HWC, my goal is to help you achieve the lasting results you want while enjoying the things you love. We won’t avoid certain foods or follow strict diets. It’s not about a number on a scale but creating a way of life you love living! Click here to get in touch with me about scheduling a complimentary wellness breakthrough session!

 

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Small Things Matter

I started keeping a gratitude journal when I had a bout with breast cancer 10 years ago. It was a health wake-up call for me on a lot of levels. Journaling allowed me to see the good things that were going on in my life and a way to shift my attention to the more positive things. It was hard to do daily, and still is, because it can be a highly emotional experience. But as I keep at it, I find greater emotional peace and contentment with my life.

How many of you have ever practiced regular gratitude journaling? Are you currently keeping one? If yes, maybe you will learn a few new tips, and for those who have never tried or have tried it and not been able to stick with it, hopefully today’s blog will help you make this a new, lasting, healthy habit.

Gratitude, like most desirable traits, needs to be actively practiced for it to become something we do without thinking. Most of us look at gratitude as an admirable character trait, but practicing daily acts of gratitude can have a big impact on our health and happiness too. These effects become more evident in the practice of keeping a gratitude journal. It only takes a few minutes a day, but the lasting mood boost it gives you can take you from feeling ok to feeling great on a regular basis.

What is a gratitude journal?

Quite simply it is a tool to keep track of the good things in your life. No matter how difficult or hard life can get, there is always something to be grateful for. When you are going through a tough time, it may be hard to find something to be grateful about; however, if you do it, you can pull yourself out of a funk. Writing the good things down in a journal on a regular basis also helps prepare and strengthen you to deal with the difficult challenges in your life when they do pop up.

It’s very simple to start: Simply write or type the things you are grateful for on a regular basis. Some people say daily, but I have found three times a week is plenty. It gives you more of an appreciation, and you don’t take things for granted. You can use a journal or a notebook. If you find it easier to do things digitally, you can use one of the many gratitude apps or even a Word document to write down the good things present in your life. So once you decide how you want to keep your journal and you have it, simply start noticing and noting the things you are grateful for. Examples might be: You got a promotion; you won your tennis match, your morning cup of coffee.

Benefits of a Gratitude Journal

So what have people noticed when they keep a gratitude journal?
It lowers their stress levels by shifting focus away from what is stressing them right now. It can help you feel calmer, especially when you do your gratitude journal at night. It can give you a new perspective on what’s important to you and what you really appreciate in your life. It also helps give you clarity on what you want to have more of in your life and what you can do without. It can help you find out and then focus on what really matters to you. You learn more about yourself and as a result, become more self-aware. It can make you feel accomplished, even if it’s a small accomplishment, and therefore increase your self-esteem. It can make you be more giving and generous to others. Kindness and compassion grow when you give them away. One day when you are down in the dumps, you can read through your gratitude journal to re-adjust your attitude and remember the many good things you have in your life.

So, it appears, gratitude journaling has a lot of potential upsides and no downsides. But how does it differ from keeping a daily planner, diary or notebook?
The main difference is the focus of the action you are taking. For example: A gratitude journal finds things to be grateful for. It focuses on what you are grateful for. A planner plans and organizes you schedule. It focuses on what you need to do. A diary records the events of your day, both good and bad, as you reflect on what happened in your day. A notebook is something you use to take notes for work or class or as a personal development tool, like setting goals. It is for taking notes about present or future events to help you remember important points. Each one has a place in our lives, but they are not interchangeable. Granted, a planner may give you things to look forward to and be grateful for, but chances are there will be some events or responsibilities that you are not so grateful for. A diary focuses on both positive and negative events from your day and not necessarily on what is good and helpful in your life. And of course, a notebook includes things that do not necessarily have any value to you. So gratitude journals really are unique…their only purpose is to help you notice and appreciate the positive things in your life.

Ideas for Your Gratitude Journal

Your gratitude journal is unique to you and your life. It is for your eyes only so you can write anything you feel without worrying what others will think. Here are a few prompts to help you start writing about all of the things you are grateful for:

  1. Write about a person in your life that you are grateful for. For example, your mentor, your mother, your best friend.
  2. What skills or abilities do you have that you are thankful for? For example, if you are a good cook, a good listener or a good tennis player.
  3. How is where you are in your life today different than a year ago, and what positive changes are you thankful for? For example, I’ve learned to slow down, smile and say a kind word to the people I encounter throughout my day.
  4. What hobbies or activities would you miss if you were unable to do them? For example, I am thankful that my legs still allow me to run after 40 years.
  5. What are you taking for granted that you can be thankful for? For example, your phone, your coffee machine, the clean, fresh sheets you slipped into last night on your bed.
  6. What materialistic items are you grateful for? For example, your home or the new Kate Spade handbag you found on sale.
  7. Who has done something this week to help you or make your life easier and how can you thank them? For example, my college intern who posted and sent out my blog this week.
  8. What foods or meals are you most thankful for? For example, the delicious dish you had last night at your favorite restaurant or the tasty, crunchy apple you had at lunch today.
  9. What elements of nature are you grateful for and why? What about living in Charleston are you grateful for? For example, the sunrise on your early morning walk or run. Or the walk you took after work the other day in downtown Charleston.
  10. What part of your morning routine are you thankful for? For example, your morning cup of coffee or waking up without an alarm.
  11. What aspects of your work environment are you thankful for? For example, flexible hours or supportive co-workers.

Plan to write in your gratitude journal at least three nights a week for 15 minutes before bed. Set an alarm reminder and schedule it in your calendar. Keep your gratitude journal by your bed or on your nightstand, so you will see it before going to bed. Writing in it at night helps to put you in a relaxed mood and therefore sleep better. I like to pick a pretty gratitude journal so every time I look at it, it reminds me to be appreciative. Write as many things as you want to, but 3-5 is a good number to aim for each day.

Remember it’s for your eyes only, so it doesn’t have to be “deep.” You can be thankful for your family, a new book or movie you recently enjoyed, or what you ate for breakfast this morning. Don’t just go through the motions, but be conscious about your “attitude of gratitude.” You don’t have to set a minimum number, just celebrate a few things you were grateful for that day. Sometimes if you are struggling to even start, come up with only one thing. Try to focus on people and experiences rather than things. Yes, it’s okay to be thankful for your phone or new pocketbook, but the joy you receive from important relationships and experiences probably impacts you more than a fondness for your things. Try to savor and think about each thing you write down instead of hurrying to write a quick list. Note surprises in your day and the emotional response they generate for you…things you didn’t plan. For example, an old friend you have been thinking about lately reaches out by text or a phone call.

Sometimes a picture conveys what you are feeling better than a sentence or two. Add a picture to your gratitude journal. Decorate it; get creative with it because this can help you stay motivated to use it. Last but not least, give your gratitude journal a chance. Do it for at least a month before you make any judgment about if it’s making you happier and if you are enjoying the process. If you have fun with it, I think you will find you look forward to writing in it. Whether your gratitude journal is something you write in or use on one of the many apps, how you do it is up to you.

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How to Eat Healthy While Having Fun

Even though it’s not really feeling like Fall in South Carolina it’s still football season. And last weekend, like many other South Carolinians, we were invited to a college football game and sat in the President’s Box. A fancy tailgating party, so tospeak.

It was an exciting game…our team won in overtime. But aside from the excitement of the game, I noticed something else…. the food. Our host told us he had recently changed caterers and asked what we thought.
To my dismay, there were only a couple of healthy options: vegetables with ranch dip and a fruit tray with cheese.Just because it’s football season doesn’t mean you must throw out healthy options and pack on the pounds. In fact, there are a lot of things you can do to keep the tailgating and other parties fun and flavorful. Here are some helpful tips from the American Heart Association:

The Meats
No tailgate is complete without a pile of meat on the grill. Just be mindful of which ones you’re firing up. Choose lean or extra-lean beef burgers, and keep the patties to the size of a deck of cards. Or try turkey burgers or salmon burgers, which are tasty and give you the essential omega-3 fatty acids your body needs. If you crave the traditional fried wings, try replacing them with grilled chicken breast strips tossed in a small amount of your favorite sauce.
But selecting the proper meat is not the only healthy choice. Be careful about how you season it. Go easy on the salt, and throw in some chopped onions or extra pepper to spice things up. Choose 100 percent whole-wheat buns or make a lettuce wrap. Or you can cut your burger in half and have just one side of the bun.

The Sides
At many football parties and stadium parking lots, there’s no shortage of chips or fries stacked high with chili, cheese and whatever else you can think of. However, tempting they may be, you can fill up (and feel better later) by nibbling on vegetables throughout the game party. “Load up on the veggies!” said Rachel Johnson, Ph.D., R.D., a professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont and a volunteer for the American Heart Association. “Have vegetables for dipping rather than chips. Serve plenty of salsa and bean-based dips rather than other high-calorie dips.”Skewers are also a fun and flavorful way to snack. Load them up with onions and peppers, or throw some corn on the cob or zucchini on the grill.

The Drinks
Beer and full-calorie sodas are usually plentiful at football parties and games. If drinking alcohol at games, just remember to use moderation.”Try not to overindulge on alcoholic beverages,” Johnson said. “Too much beer, wine or liquor impairs judgment and can cause us to eat more.”If you do get a beer at the game, select one with the least amount of calories and carbohydrates.For those who choose to drink alcohol, the American Heart Association recommends limiting to an average of one to two alcoholic drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. (A drink is one 12-ounce beer, 4 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits or 1 ounce of 100-proof spirits.)As far as soda goes, you’ll usually find no-calorie options. Water is the best choice, though, especially at games early in the season where dehydration is a concern. If you want a little more excitement then just plain water, throw in some fresh fruit to give it a refreshing taste. I also like the naturally flavored sparkling waters that are easy to find in grocery stores.

Tailgating Do’s and Don’ts
Choose your sides in moderation. Try to make sure your plate is colorful, with a variety of fruits and vegetables.

Drink lots of water. You may be feeling hungry, but you may just be dehydrated, so remember to drink plenty of fluids, especially when it is hot.
Remind yourself to only eat if you are hungry – not just for something to do at the game. It may help to keep track of everything you eat. You don’t necessarily need to write it down but keep a mental tabulation.
And most of all relax, have fun and enjoy being outside with family and friends. By being aware and enjoying the present moment, you will feel better the next day too.

I will be speaking at the FemCity Charleston Around Town Social: Sip n’ Spa on October 19th about “5 surprising secrets to lasting weight loss, even if you have no willpower and hate dieting & exercise.”
If you are interested in attending this event…click here!

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How to Make the Most Out of This Fall

As September ends I can’t say I’m disappointed. It’s the beginning of fall and the end of the hurricane season. And even though some Septembers are calm, this was a year that Mother Nature lashed out with a fury.

Luckily for us here in Charleston, all we suffered was a lot of anxiety and only a little physical damage. But as my thoughts and prayers continue to go out for our friends in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, I began to reflect again on what I have left to do in my life for the remainder of 2017. What do I need to re- focus on? And I start thinking about what I want to accomplish next year …Are there things I need to be doing now to make it happen?

Even though we no longer seem to have four distinct seasons here anymore, we do have the remainder of our lives to look forward to with good health and happiness. Seasons allow us to enjoy a variety of clothes to wear and a bounty of healthy choices at farmer’s markets. They also heighten our appreciation of nature and allow us to savor what is given to us naturally.

We can flourish and blossom in any season if choose to do so. We understand the power of rest, paired with diligent and consistent effort to reach our goals. But what we know and understand to enhance our lives is not always what we do.

Many Americans don’t take annual vacations or even unwind with a long weekend even though they know that doing so is a healthy investment. Others choose the other extreme which is to ignore anything that looks or feels like “work” when it comes to improving their health and quality of life.

There are excellent ways to schedule your hectic and overscheduled lives that allow downtime to balance, unwind and improve your health. First set goals around what you what to achieve, make them measurable and timed. By taking the initiative and following through to your desired goal, it will provide you with a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment crucial to living a good life.

Take an objective look at your life. Are you stuck in the same routine? Have you scheduled your vacation or even a long weekend getaway? What have you accomplished and enjoyed in the past 12 months? Did you take time to celebrate the things that you achieved?

Give yourself permission to ebb and flow with the seasons, and within each, you’ll find something to savor and enjoy. If you do, you’ll always have something good to look forward to no matter what time of the year.

Need some accountability to help create lasting healthy habits? Let’s talk…

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5 Tips for Breaking Bad Habits

This past week I was invited to speak to the Mount Pleasant Rotary Club on any topic relating to health and wellness that I’d like. Having been an active Rotarian in the past, I knew it would be a tough assignment because my audience of intelligent, middle-aged men already knew the basics of staying healthy. What could I tell them that’s new?

I opened with a brief description of my own bout with breast cancer, how I won that battle and what I was doing to maintain both my physical and mental well-being. Obviously, I explained, my health wasn’t as great as I assumed it was 11 years ago. I got cancer even though I wasn’t overweight, did not smoke and exercised regularly. So, I had to get extremely honest with myself. What was I doing or not doing in my life that caused me to get cancer? I had to move past my fear, learn all that I could about the disease and make the necessary changes if I wanted to have quality in my later years.

What I learned was that preventive maintenance is by far the most important step to take to shield oneself against chronic ailments; in fact’s it’s 80% of it. Not genes, luck, or bad luck in this case, but how I chose to live my life day in and day out. This was something I could control and wanted to control through making healthy choices and doing away with some of my bad habits. My focus last week with the Rotarians was on how to do the latter.

Here are 5 tips I shared for breaking bad habits regarding health:

Tip #1: Notice When Your Habits Are Automatic: Most habits occur thoughtlessly. Our minds are pre-occupied with other things. Lighting up a cigarette, gobbling down a bag of chips, consuming too much alcohol and staying put on a comfortable couch rather than going out for a walk are all mindless habits.

Tip #2: Practice Mindful Awareness: A few of us can quit bad habits cold turkey. For everybody else, it requires a conscious awareness and an abundance of determination. Mindful awareness is the ability to take notice of when and what we are doing habitually without becoming upset when we realize it. The goal is awareness, not action. Be conscious that you are smoking a cigarette or eating a whole bag of chips or lying around for no good reason. Engaging in your bad habit with full awareness lessens the frequency and duration of unhealthy patterns. Know what you are doing but don’t beat yourself up. It’s counterproductive.

Tip #3: Identify Daily Triggers: Habits are often tied to things we do on a regular basis. Do you automatically grab a cigarette after a meal or when you get into your car? Do you eat more than you are aware while in conversation or standing up? Do you become a couch potato every evening after dinner and click on the television? Note your triggers and think about them.

Tip #4: Mind Your Emotions: In addition to habits being tied to everyday events, they are often tied to emotional situations. We eat when we’re sad, stressed, depressed, lonely or bored. We order another drink when we’re happy and having fun. You get the message.

Tip #5: Ride the Urge Wave: Being aware brings to light a worrisome urge to engage in a bad habit. Be aware of this. Understand the urge before it starts, and be prepared to ride the wave of discomfort when it comes. The mind seeks pleasure and avoids pain. It’s a survival mechanism. Problem is, the mind focuses on short-term pleasure but not the pain that comes in the long run. However, most urges last only from one to five minutes. So, learn to ride it out. And the more times you ride it out the less often and intense the urge will be when it repeats itself.

Need some accountability to help create lasting healthy habits? Let’s talk

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Guest Post: Healthy Living Can Be a Walk in the Park!

With so much going on in our lives, many of us plan out every minute of our day: Wake up, work, go to the gym, come home, make dinner, work from home, try to spend some quality time with our families, go to sleep, repeat. Day after day we know what is important to live a healthy life and we are constantly working to juggle that with our daily responsibilities. But when our mental health starts to falter, it can be hard to check off everything on your To Do list.

How we can get more done while feeling less stressed, more fulfilled in our daily lives, and maintaining our overall health? The answer might be simpler than we think.

Try getting out more often. With most people living in urban environments, working in offices all day, and spending free time working out at the gym, it is not uncommon for our only time in nature to consist of the walk to the car. This may seem like a minor price to pay for living a full, busy life but the New York Times cites studies showing city dwellers have a higher risk for anxiety, depression and other mental illness than those who spend regular time outdoors.

By not spending enough time outdoors, we lose more than just our recommended daily intake of Vitamin D. Human beings have an inherent connection to nature and previous generations did not spend nearly as much time indoors. With modern technology, we can do nearly everything from the comforts of our own home but doing so could be detrimental to our health.

In a study done by Stanford University, Gregory Bratman and colleagues found that volunteers who walked through a green area of the campus showed a more focused and positive attitude afterward than volunteers who walked for the same amount of time near heavy traffic. The volunteers who had strolled through the calming natural parks also showed improvements in their mental health and were not dwelling on the negatives in their lives as much as they had been before the walk.

Getting into nature has major mental and physical health benefits for us, but don’t think of it as something else you have to add to your ever-growing To Do list. Many routine activities can simply be moved outdoors. Make the commute to work on your bike if possible, or take nightly walks around the neighborhood as a part of your post-dinner routine. On the weekends make time for a hike or picnic outdoors. Even just sitting on the porch for a while has its benefits.

It can be easy to become obsessed with reaching our goals and crossing tasks off lists, but a successful, healthy life is about balance. We should work towards the life we want and love, but not at the cost of our mental health. Start with half an hour every day spent in nature and try to write down how you feel before and after. Noting the lift in mood that the outdoors can have on you will help to continue the habit when it seems like the last thing you want to do. And eventually, your time in nature may be what you look forward to most every day.

Guest Blogger: Camila

Communication Major at the College of Charleston

Marketing Intern at Wellness Beyond Fifty

 

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Guest Post: 5 Tips to Organize Your Day

We’ve all been there…You look up from the screen staring back at you and realize you’ve been watching videos on Facebook for 45 minutes. Why does this happen? How do you stop doing it?

The internet is one of our best tools in today’s world. We can use it to connect with others, research information, and administer business; however, it has its down sides as well. Social media is a serious culprit when it comes to stress, time management issues, and relationship problems. People spend so much time online that it affects their real-life duties and connections with others. To make it even worse, we can access any social networking site from the palm of our hand, no matter where we are. According to a marketing study by Mediakix, people spend more than 5 years of their lives on social media. That’s a lot of extra time you could spend doing that overdue laundry or working to expand your business, isn’t it? So, you may be thinking, how can I limit my time on the internet each day? Well here are a few tips to help keep your daily scrolling as productive as possible.

1.Instead of looking at social media to read news articles, subscribe to a reliable news source. You can have news alerts sent directly to your phone through Apple’s “News” app, or you can subscribe to Fox or CNN for email notifications. This will cut down the amount of fake news you are reading, and it will help keep you away from the distractions of cyberspace.

2. Set a specific time and place where you can check social media. Limit yourself! For example, you can allow yourself fifteen minutes on Facebook while dinner is in the oven. When the oven timer goes off, so should your iPad or computer.

3. Spend time cleaning out your email account. Put all spam emails into your junk folder and block tempting stores and social media sites from sending you more emails. This will help transform your inbox into an efficient space!
4. Make a to-do list before you can get online. Get your house organized, your tasks done, and take care of yourself before you log on to see what everyone else is up to. Prioritizing your tasks will help you stop wasting time online.

5. If you really enjoy reading a specific blog or watching a certain channel on YouTube, allow yourself to look at one thing you enjoy a day. Getting online to read a new blog post about skincare tips or to watch a video about cooking is a lot more efficient than indefinitely scrolling down your timeline.

Unfortunately, social media can be an unknowingly bad habit. People often do not realize how much time they are spending online. Luckily, any habit can be broken in just 21 days. So, if you find yourself on the internet too much, make today day one! Reflect on how long you spend on the internet per day and imagine what you could be doing with that extra time. Time efficiency is important in our overall wellness. Not managing your time properly can lead to a lot of unwanted stress. This stress has a huge impact on your mind and can even make you waste more time worrying about all you must do. It’s an endless, vicious cycle, so get ahead of it! Plan social media into your daily planner just like an appointment. Make time for you to catch up on what is going on in everyone else’s lives, but do not let go of your own life to keep up with others. Once you make this change, you will have plenty of extra time to get moving! Go for a walk, take a yoga class, or spend time with your family. Once you can realize the key to managing your time, so many other rewards will follow.

Guest Blogger: McKenna
Business Administration Major at the College of Charleston
Marketing Intern at Wellness Beyond Fifty

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