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Happy Valentine’s Day!

“You yourself,

as much as anybody in the entire universe, 

deserve your love  and affection”

 – Buddha

 

Category : Blog &Personal Growth

Making Exercise Fun!

 

Several people have told me recently that they find this wintery after-holiday time of year rather de-motivating. It seems especially when it comes to exercise, folks have gotten out of their routines and are having a hard time getting back to it.

Sound familiar? Or maybe you’re the kind of person who always finds exercise more of a chore than a joy. Here are some ideas for making exercise fun.

Take a hike. Walking is great exercise, and being outside is best. Go to one of our local parks and explore a trail. Walk with a friend and have a nice chat. You can load apps onto your phone like Runkeeper to find routes that others have mapped out in your area for specific distances. If you’re local, you could walk around downtown St. Augustine and/or Lincolnville and check out the historic markers along the way. (Google “self-guided walking tours” for ideas!)

Dance like no one is watching. Put on some of your favorite music, or find some new tunes on YouTube, and go wild! Be as traditional or as silly as you want to be. This is a great way to uplift your spirits as you burn some calories.

Try something new. If dancing doesn’t do it for you, look up instructional videos on YouTube—yoga, Tai Chi, kickboxing, etc. You can find almost anything of interest without leaving the comfort of home.
Play video games. If you know someone with a video game console, you can play active games like bowling, golfing, fencing, tennis, boxing, dancing, etc. It’s surprisingly fun to play virtually! If you don’t have access to a video game console, you can pick a used one up inexpensively at a pawn shop, flea market or online.

Be a kid again. When was the last time you jumped rope? Or played tag or duck-duck-goose? Or hopscotch? Get a little group together and recreate some of your favorite childhood games—what a hoot!
Join a club or take a class. Maybe trying something different will ignite new interest in being active. Join a sports league. Take a self-defense class. Sign up for a 5K and join a group that’s training for it. (Lots of people walk them, or do a slow pace of run-walk-run-walk intervals.

Tackle a household chore. Have you been putting off cleaning out the garage? Or organizing a closet or pantry? Put on some peppy music and get to it! Plan ahead for what your reward will be for getting it done. This can be a great motivator!

Don’t just sit there—stretch! If you like to watch some TV in the evening, get up out of your seat and do a few stretches as you’re relaxing. Some people even do a few more challenging moves during commercials (a couple of push-ups, or crunches, or a plank). As long as you don’t overdo it, having a nice stretch and some deep breathing might even help you sleep.

Just remember, exercise doesn’t have to be drudgery, and you don’t have to commit to hours and hours of activity to benefit from it. Every little bit helps improve fitness. Sneak in a little bit of movement, change your routine, and keep it fun!

If you can’t find a group that shares your interest but you want to connect to others, look on a website called MeetUp. If you still can’t find your tribe, you can start a new group and let others find you!

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

How Your Bedroom Can Help You Sleep

 

Do you have trouble sleeping? Try these tips to get your best night’s sleep.

Keep your room dark. Darkness triggers our brains to produce melatonin, the hormone that signals our bodies to prepare for sleep. Unplug anything that emits light. Keep a flashlight next to your bed for late-night trips to the bathroom, rather than leaving a nightlight on overnight. Use dark curtains or blinds on your windows. But be sure to open them during the day—the sunlight will help stop the production of melatonin.

Keep your room cool. An hour or two before sleeping, our body temperature begins to drop—this actually helps us feel sleepy. Keeping our rooms cool can facilitate this and help us get our optimal sleep. A temperature in the 60s or low 70s is best.

Choose the right mattress. A chiropractor told me that a foam mattress is better than a spring mattress because our weight is supported all over, and not just where the springs are. But some people find a foam mattress too warm. A softer mattress conforms better to our shape, which might be best for someone who sleeps on their back and has significant curvature in their spine. If you sleep with a partner and there’s more than a 75-pound weight difference, you might be better off getting a mattress with adjustable firmness settings.

Choose the right pillow. This is a tough assignment! Generally speaking, we just want to support the natural curve in our neck. Back sleepers need to make sure the pillow is not so thick that their chins are pointed down toward the chest. Side sleepers need to make sure their heads are not tilted up toward the ceiling or down toward the mattress.

Set up a reading space. Ideally, our beds are used only for sleeping and being intimate. If you lie in bed awake, reading or watching videos, or tossing and turning, you’re training your brain that this is what beds are for. It’s far better to have a comfortable chair with a lamp where you could sit and read, meditate or listen to music. If you have trouble sleeping for more than 20 minutes during the night, move to the chair for a bit, and get back into bed when you feel drowsy.

Feng shui your space. Sometimes people improve their sleep just by rearranging the furniture. There are many feng shui principles you can apply to your bedroom—like using the right colors, having a solid headboard behind you, having a table on either side of the bed—to help the energy flow and improve the comfort of the room overall. There are whole books on the subject, but you can do a quick Google search to get you started.

Move electronics to another room. Everything that’s plugged in emits light that stimulates our nervous systems and interferes with melatonin production. If you don’t have a cell phone or tablet in the room with you, you won’t be tempted to check email or messages! Use an alarm clock instead of your phone. It will make a big difference in your day if you start with moments of calm instead of hitting your technology first thing.

Source: “How Your Bedroom Can Help You Sleep” by Marty Munson, “Better Homes & Gardens” Magazine, November 2018

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Quelling Winter Blues

 

If the shorter days and colder temps get you down, you’re not alone. SAD—Seasonal Affective Disorder—is a kind of depression that can occur when we don’t get enough sunlight.

Here are 10 strategies experts recommend to lift your spirits.

  1. Wake up to flowers. Put a vase of flowers where it’ll be the first thing you see in the morning—especially cheerful, bright hues like yellow, or whatever colors you associate with joy and energy.
  2. Do something fun. Laughter reduces stress and boosts the brain chemical serotonin. Watch funny videos. Or get out of the house and meet a friend who always cheers you up (you can look up jokes and tell them to each other). Go see a funny movie or live comedy show. Even forcing fake laughter can sometimes generate genuine laughter!
  3. Change your routine. Making small changes can yield surprisingly big results. If you don’t usually make your bed, just doing that one small task tells your subconscious that you are worth the effort! You know how good it feels to finally clean the garage or organize a closet. Plan a trip so you have something to look forward to.
  4. Exercise. Just 5 minutes of moderate exercise is enough to release the feel-good endorphins. Being outdoors is even better for clearing the mind and improving our mood. It’s nice here in Florida to get some sunshine while it’s not overly hot and humid! Try going for a walk with a friend if you want to add some socializing.
  5. Brighten up. Open the curtains and let sunshine into your home when you can. Wear brighter colors in accessories like scarves or fun socks. Buy a lime green pen, or a tangerine orange towel, or turquoise sticky notes. Seeing vivid colors can increase our feelings of vitality.
  6. Make a photo album. Positive memories can reduce depression! Sort through your photos and pick out happy ones. Put them in a book you can look through any time you feel down. (I’m no expert, but I would add that creating any kind of journal—writing, doodling, collecting pictures and little bits of art that make you happy—could lift one’s spirit. In fact, creating always makes me happy!)
  7. Use all your senses. This is part of mindfulness and really being aware in the moment. Notice “seasonal” sounds around you (the clacking of bare branches maybe), and things that you can only see or smell this time of year. I miss the hummingbirds, for example, but I delight in seeing other birds that only pass through here in January as they migrate. And soon the citrus will be ready to pick and enjoy—just think of peeling off that fresh rind and feeling/seeing/smelling the juice squirt out!
  8. Eat plants. Speaking of fresh produce, fruits and vegetables feed the “good” gut bacteria that helps regulate brain chemicals and mood. It’s so easy in the winter to justify eating comfort foods that are warm and heavy. But we have a better chance of avoiding the doldrums if we eat lighter and healthier.
  9. Pamper yourself. Carve out some “me time.” Read, take a bubble bath, watch a sappy movie, treat yourself to a pedicure (or a massage or reflexology session!), whip up a new recipe—do something you thoroughly enjoy. Do something that makes you happy at least once a week.
  10. Fake it til you make it. Research shows that people who walk as if they were sad actually start to feel sadder! Just walking with an upright posture and swinging our arms more can boost our mood. And, even if we don’t feel like it, forcing a smile with our eyes and our mouth can increase feelings of happiness. Before you know it, it won’t be a fake smile and our stress level will be reduced.

Sources: https://www.activebeat.com/diet-nutrition/10-lifestyle-methods-to-cope-with-seasonal-affective-disorder/

“Winter Mood Lifters to Try Today,” by Karyn Repinski, “Parade” Magazine, December 2, 2018

Category : Blog &Massage Therapy &Personal Growth &Reflexology

New Year, New Habits

 

Many people have given up on making New Year’s resolutions because they’ve grown tired of not being able to make them stick. I’ve even seen people defend that there’s no need for “a new year, a new you” attitude, because there’s nothing wrong with the “old” you!

And that’s true! But if you do believe that you have some areas needing improvement, an event or a milestone like a new year can be a good time to implement new habits. Mentally, it just seems like a good time to make a fresh start, and that can work in our favor. According to an article in “The New York Times,” here are 7 science-based strategies to help create new habits in the new year.

1. Think big picture. We’ve been told for years that goals need to be specific and manageable and measurable. So rather than saying, “I want to lose weight,” it’s better, in theory, to say “I want to lose ten pounds by the end of June.” 

But scientists suggest taking a different approach may work better. Think about next December 31—what changes will you be most grateful for making? (I like this—thinking about how something will feel if…) Then create an intention for the year. So, for example, if your goal is to reduce your stress, you can have some flexibility in that. If you try meditating for 10 minutes every day, and you hate it, you can try something else—like yoga or a gentle daily walk—rather than giving up on your goal completely.

2. Understand your bad habits. Science says the best way to change behavior is not to simply “break” a bad habit, but to transform it into a better one. To do this successfully, we need to understand what causes a behavior and what we get out of it.

Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit,” says there are 5 cues that trigger a habit: a time, a location, people, an emotion or a ritual. That’s fairly easy to figure out. The more perplexing piece is the reward that we get from our behavior. Take, for example, a person working in an office always having an afternoon snack. Is it real hunger? Boredom? Or a desire to socialize in the break room? Duhigg writes, “Any habit can be diagnosed and shifted. You need to give yourself time to really figure out the cues and rewards that are driving that behavior — and oftentimes the only way … is through a process of experimentation.”

3. Start small. Really small. In his book “Atomic Habits,” James Clear describes a 2-minute rule. If you want to read a book a month, for example, start by reading a page a day. Taking “the art of showing up” to a new level, he believes that even taking the tiniest first baby steps helps put a new habit on autopilot. He tells the story of a guy who wanted to work out every day. He would drive to the gym, work out for just a few minutes and then drive home. While that might sound frivolous, he was committed to doing it for 6 weeks. And little by little, he increased his time and became the guy who exercises daily!

4. Look for instant gratification. Experts say that new habits are easier to form if we give ourselves small “rewards” along the way. But the best rewards are intrinsic, not things we buy. (I love this, again, thinking about how something makes us feel!) 

Naming what you’re feeling helps build positive associations with the new activity—strong, accomplished, victorious, etc. If you’re not feeling an intrinsic reward, you may be doing the wrong activity. So if, for example, your goal is to volunteer more or exercise more, you must find something you enjoy doing. Clear says in “Atomic Habits”: “Choose the form of the habit that brings you joy in the moment. Because if it has some immediate satisfaction, you’ll be much more likely to repeat it in the future.”

5. Control your environment. My sister always says, “My willpower is at the store.” Meaning: if she doesn’t want to be tempted to eat foods she shouldn’t, she simply doesn’t buy them. Not having them in the house makes it easier to avoid indulging!

Science bears this out. The people who appear to have the best will power actually may be best at simply eliminating temptation. Want to shop less? Unsubscribe to promotional emails from retailers. Want to watch less TV? Unplug the thing. Surround yourself with people who have the habits you want to embrace—then it becomes “normal behavior” and helps your new habits stick.

6. Plan for failure. No one is perfect. Despite our best efforts, at some point, we’re going to slip up. The key is to have a recovery plan. Experts recommend a couple of strategies. One is to write down any obstacles you foresee and decide in advance how you’ll cope (if you’re trying to drink less, for example, how will you deal with stressful times?). Another is to tell others what your goals are and how they can support you. Let your tribe help when you’re feeling exhausted or overwhelmed.

7. Celebrate often. Celebration tells our brain that something is beneficial and should be done more often, which definitely helps reinforce new habits. It doesn’t have to be grand—it could be anything from telling a friend you finally did something you’ve been putting off, or taking a sweaty selfie after a great workout. 

These celebrations can actually trick our brains into remembering something as more positive than we may otherwise have thought it was—and that makes us more likely to do it again! 

We could even send ourselves a thank-you note for our new behavior. Gratitude, authentic pride, hope, social connection, and compassion are the most effective emotions for promoting long-lasting changes in our behavior. All of these work better than shame, guilt or fear.

The most important emotion may be compassion. We need to be kind to ourselves as we endeavor to create new behaviors. “Habits are not a finish line to be crossed,” said Clear. “They’re a lifestyle to be lived.”

source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/31/smarter-living/better-habits-tips-new-year-resolutions-science.html

Category : Blog &Personal Growth

Giving Healthy Gifts

 

This is the time of year when many people are buying presents. While I don’t like how much emphasis our culture has put on shopping, it is nice to celebrate the holidays with a gift as a gesture of love.

So with that in mind, I appreciated a supplement in a recent “Parade” magazine—an “article” by Nicole Pajer to drive traffic to the site greatcall.com/gifts where you could get stuff for 50% off—highlighting healthy choices for gifts this year.

My own #1 recommendation would be to purchase a gift certificate for reflexology or massage therapy. Supporting relaxation and boosting wellbeing—presents don’t get any healthier than that!

My personal #2 recommendation would be to go to local galleries and shows that feature local artists. You might find a one-of-a-kind treasure that would be perfect for your unique loved one. Every time they see this piece, it will bring a smile. And you’ll be supporting an individual who loves to create rather than supporting the commercial engine of mass-produced merchandise.

Here are some of the recommendations from the article:

  1. A meal kit subscription. People are busy, and services like HelloFresh, Green Chef, and Blue Apron deliver ingredients needed to prepare healthy meals. The upside is that it’s convenient and there’s no waste because you receive exactly what you need for each meal. The downside is that there’s a lot of packaging that may or may not be reusable, and the shipping itself contributes to environmental stress.
  2. Popsicle maker. Using molds to create your own sweet treats allows you to use much healthier ingredients like whole fruit, Greek yogurt, nuts, honey, etc. There are “quick pop makers” that freeze the pops more quickly than putting them in your regular freezer. A fun endeavor like this can be a great family activity!
  3. Sponsor someone on a charity walk. This is a healthy gift that also gives people an activity to do together. A whole family or tribe of friends and neighbors can do a charity walk as a team.
  4. Pay for someone’s plot in a community garden.
  5. Host a dance party. Maybe your gift can be an invitation to a themed dance party—a fantastic way to have fun and get some exercise!
  6. Help someone connect to family. You could get a gift certificate to a DNA analysis service. It’s fun to learn about our own heritage, and some of the services will help participants find relatives they may not have known about.
  7. Give family-friendly games. Encourage game nights! Life gets busy and sometimes we need help making time/reasons to get together in person. Games can help multi-generational groups find common ground.

My hope is that we can find ways to keep joy in the holiday season, making wholesome choices that encourage togetherness, simplicity, and happiness. May your holidays be peaceful and healthy and fun! 

Category : Blog &Health &Massage Therapy &Reflexology

If the Shoe Fits

 

Recently I developed a painful callous or something on the inside of my “pinky” toe on my right foot.

Through some keen detective work (lol) I discovered that the achy spot is right where that toe rubs against a bony protrusion of the fourth toe next to it.

I’m scheduled for a long-overdue for a pedicure with a podologist, and I’m curious to learn his expert opinion about the sore place and its cause. But here’s what I think he’s going to say:

As we age, our feet get wider. My shoes that used to “fit just right” no longer do! They are too tight, and they’re pushing my toes into each other every time I put weight forward on my feet. 

I tested my theory by wearing my running shoes to work one day. When you buy running shoes, the knowledgeable salespeople convince you to get larger shoes than you normally wear. This is because when we exercise, our feet swell. (People who are on their feet all day, especially in the Florida humidity, also experience swelling.) Sure enough, when I wore my larger running shoes to work, my “baby” toe didn’t bother me.

Sometimes people choose to wear shoes that hurt (like high heels for instance) because they’re stylish. And sometimes people wear shoes that feel comfortable (like flip-flops for example) even though they’re not particularly good for our feet. While it’s not my place to tell people what shoes to wear, I do think it’s important for us to know what we’re getting ourselves into when we make our selections.

Karen Ball, board certified reflexologist and long-time reflexology instructor recently contributed an article to “Massage” Magazine: “Tips for Buying Shoes that Fit.” She shares the idea that the two inventions that contribute most to modern-day chronic pain are the chair—and shoes!

She offers these tips for wearing the best shoes for YOU:

  1. Since our feet swell as the day warms up, always buy shoes in the afternoon. If you’re going to a store where they don’t measure, have someone trace the outline of your feet on a sheet of paper as you stand on it. (You can’t do it yourself because you have to stand tall and support all your weight on the full length and breadth of your feet.)
  2. If your feet are different sizes, as most people’s are, buy shoes to fit the larger one.
  3. Be willing to get the right size! It’s really OK if you need a larger shoe—our feet get bigger over time. You’re not going to wear the same size in middle age that you wore in your 20s.
  4. Once you’ve purchased your shoes, don’t wear the same pair all day every day. Different shoes will challenge different muscles, so changing them up will help ensure that every part of both feet (and ankles and on up the chain) stays strong.
  5. Sometimes we can’t SEE how our shoes are breaking down internally. It’s important to replace shoes before the outer soles appear worn.
  6. Shoes with inflexible soles will not allow our feet to move naturally in all the ways they need to: flexing, extending, rocking side to side a little, expanding and contracting. Ball writes, “You should be able to take a shoe in your hands and bend it nearly in half.”

It’s almost time to break out the winter shoes—do yours still fit? It’s super important to keep our feet healthy and happy, supported and not squished!

Source: https://www.massagemag.com/tips-for-buying-shoes-94045/

Category : Blog &Health &Reflexology

Your Brain on Autopilot

 

Have you ever had a brilliant idea while you were taking a shower? Or thought up a solution to a perplexing problem while you were driving? 

This is not a coincidence!

Researchers are learning more about our brain’s “default mode,” which basically is our brain at rest.

The thing is, our brain is never really at rest! When our minds are not concentrating on something outside of ourselves—when we can be more introspective—our default network has a chance to make valuable connections that we can’t make when we’re actively engaged.

In her TED talk, “How Boredom Helps You Do Your Best Thinking,” Manoush Zomorodi says, “By doing nothing, you are actually being your most productive and creative self.”

She cites studies of young people who “multitask” by checking their phones even while they visit with friends or do their homework. Making these constant demands of their minds and NOT giving their brains any “rest” actually makes them less imaginative about their futures and in solving societal problems.

The more time we spend switching quickly from thinking about one specific thing to focusing on another specific thing, from doing one active task to doing another active task, the more we drain our brains. 

We ALL need time to reflect, to daydream, to pause and think about nothing in particular. This is one reason why meditation is so good for us. Or quiet walks, or repetitive activities. 

The next time you’re “bored,” don’t reach for your phone or tablet to distract yourself! Look out a window, or just sit with your thoughts. Zomorodi says, “Boredom truly can lead to brilliance.”

Who knows what great ideas you’ll come up with?!

Here’s a link to Zomorodi’s TED talk:

www.ted.com/talks/manoush_zomorodi_how_boredom_can_lead_to_your_most_brilliant_ideas

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

A (Reflexology) Path to Good Health

 

Many people (me included!) believe walking barefoot is good for us. It builds strength in our feet and ankles and knees and hips and thus helps with balance. 

And many people (me included!) believe foot reflexology is good for us. By putting pressure on reflex points in our feet, we can access all the organs, glands and parts of the body, improve circulation and nerve communication, and help everything function better.

Very smart people have figured out a way to combine both walking barefoot and putting pressure on reflex points in our feet—reflexology paths! 

Imagine a path made entirely of smooth river rocks. Or some combination of stones and smooth glass pebbles, and maybe some other textures to stimulate the bottoms of our feet as we walk along.

A reflexology path can be as plain or elaborate as the designer chooses. Florida International University in Miami just installed a 75-foot path featuring sections representing the Chinese elements of water, wood, fire, earth, and metal (with different levels of texture intensity). It showcases the mascot’s paw and an infinity sign, stones from all over the world that were very intentionally placed by school faculty and staff, instructions in multiple languages, and even ways for those unable to walk to enjoy the path.

It’s not hard to create a reflexology path for ourselves. We could literally just make a simple path of smooth stones, or we could set stones in mortar, create a border and even shape it into a labyrinth. There’s a book titled “The Dao of Foot Reflexology Paths: A Global Self-Care Tradition.” (See the link below if you want more information.)

If you’re intrigued but not ready to commit to constructing your own path, we have a wonderful alternative here in St. Augustine: the beach! Try walking barefoot in the sand. Walk on soft, dry sand and firm, wet sand. Place some smooth shells round-side-up to create several stepping “stones.” 

How do these different sensations feel on your feet? How do your feet feel when you finish? How do YOU feel after walking on a sensory path?

If you could do this every day for a couple of weeks, you would likely notice a difference in how your feet feel—and how you feel overall—after you walk the “reflexology path.” Some enjoy the contemplative aspect of walking mindfully as well.

Whether you enjoy strolling barefoot on the beach or not, I’m happy to give your feet a thorough reflexology treatment whenever you’re ready. And I won’t leave any sand between your toes!

Resources:

https://news.fiu.edu/2018/08/fiu-debuts-east-coasts-first-reflexology-path-at-a-public-institution/125720

https://www.amazon.com/Dao-Foot-Reflexology-Paths-Self-Care/dp/0615626289

Category : Blog &Health &Reflexology

Have a Healthy Autumn!

 

Sometimes in Florida, it’s hard to believe that autumn is here (it’s close to 90 degrees outside as I type this in mid-October!).

But the days are getting shorter, peach season is over (bummer!), and once in a while we can feel a hint of, the cooler, drier weather that WILL eventually be coming our way.

If you want to make the most of this season, here are some tips for having the healthiest fall ever:

  1. Eat the pumpkin. Sure, pumpkins are fun to carve into jack-o-lanterns. But they’re also good for us! The pulp is high in vitamins A and C, and the seeds may help lower cholesterol. Have fun with a new recipe—something other than pie!
  2. Enjoy other seasonal produce. Try all the squashes, and Brussels sprouts, and beets. Roasted veggies are delicious. And apples are at their peak in the fall!
  3. Boost your immune system. School starts, people spend more time together indoors and bam—it’s cold and flu season. Wash your hands a lot. Drink a lot of water. Get sufficient rest. Boost your immune system with healthy foods (like seasonal produce!). And book a massage or reflexology session!!
  4. Get outside. The more comfortable temperatures make this the perfect time to unplug and enjoy the outdoors. Walking, hiking, jogging, cycling, sports leagues—even yard work—provide opportunities to burn some calories.
  5. Go easy on the Halloween candy. It’s easy to slip into a sugar addiction.
  6. Eat well on game day. If you like watching sports, snack on veggies and dip instead of chips. If you really want something like pizza, go for a thin crust and avoid fatty toppings—and cut it into smaller pieces to nibble rather than gorge. Go for smaller helpings of chili or other favorites. Drink water in between other beverages.
  7. Have a smart Thanksgiving. Start the day with a healthy breakfast of protein and fiber so you’re not ravenous. Then have a plan for the big meal—what do you REALLY want to enjoy, and what could you do without? Include the seasonal produce—cranberries and persimmons have a LOT of nutrients. Again, go for smaller helpings and go for a walk. You’ll be glad you did!
  8. Set goals. We don’t have to wait for January! What new habits could you start practicing now? Eating healthier? Exercising more? Meditating regularly? Keeping a gratitude journal? Spending more time with friends? Volunteering—and not just for Thanksgiving? Think of what we could accomplish by the end of the year!

Maybe it’s because we grew up feeling like fall was the beginning of a new (school) year, but for whatever reason, autumn really does feel like a good time to regroup. What other things will you do to have the best season ever?

Source: https://health.usnews.com/wellness/slideshows/tips-for-a-healthy-fall?onepage

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth