The start of a New Year evokes contemplating on the previous months and marks a clean slate for everything you want to see happen in your life. Who wouldn’t want to live life to the fullest? This 2015, cultivate healthy habits that will help you lead healthier and better lives. Here are eight mindful habits to help make 2015 your year.
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1. Buy Less; Help The Earth. Everybody has a duty to lessen their carbon footprint, the amount of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds emitted due to the production of goods and services. According to Carbonfund.org, manufacturing products produce 4 to 8 pounds of CO2 for every pound of manufactured product. In a world that’s growing more and more materialistic, live simply by reusing and recycling whenever possible. Not only will it help combat global warming, it will make you realize that the best things in life don’t come with a price tag.
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2. Be Savings-Savvy. Money isn’t everything, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to live a comfortable life borne out of secure savings. Allocate your windfall earnings—a bonus, gift or extra cash—wisely, advises Reader’s Digest. Divide it into three parts: past, present and future. Use the first part to pay a debt, the second to spend on present necessities or even indulgences, and the third to prepare for the future.
Photo courtesy Bro. Jeffrey Pioquinto, SJ via Flickr Creative Commons
3. Change the Way You Look at Fitness. Most people only exercise when they feel like losing weight. While there’s nothing wrong with that, you should transform your perception of fitness. Instead of merely aiming to lose weight, strive for a healthy and fit lifestyle. Doing so doesn’t have to mean devoting hours to Spartan-style training. You just need to incorporate fitness in your daily regimen and tap the resources that you may already have right in your own home or community. Use the stairs whenever you can. Make use of yoga videos on YouTube and kick-start a healthier you right in the comfort of your own home. Need a fun and social way to getting fit? Just ask if your homeowners’ association or condo administration offer Zumba sessions.
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4. Spend Quality Time With Family and Friends. According to the 2006 study by Daniel Kahneman and Alan B. Krueger, both from Princeton University, interacting frequently with people is good for your mental state. It connects us with other humans and reinforces bonds. Moreover, being more social will bring forth good vibes and a strong support system that will surely come in handy whenever times get tough.
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5. Eat Right. Ending the previous year with a string of feasts may sidetrack even the most steadfast healthy eater, but no need to fret. Get back right on track by detoxifying and committing to supply your body the nutrients it needs. A healthful diet delivers benefits like helping in controlling weight, improving mood, combating diseases, boosting energy and improving longevity. Get all these health benefits and more by making small tweaks to your lifestyle. Bring packed lunches to work; munch on more fruits and vegetables; steer clear of junk food; rev up your body by fueling it with only the good stuff; and more.
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6. Let Go of Time Wasters. Time and again, proper time management is one of the most coveted goals. After all, people who efficiently spend their time reap results such as less stress; fewer mistakes; more free time and energy; and overall improved productivity. Evaluate what keeps you busy and whether these activities are really necessary. Sort out the trivial stuff and focus on the tasks that bring you closer to your goals.
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7. Push Yourself to Learn New Things and More About the World. Learning certainly doesn’t end in school. The National Health Service in the United Kingdom points out that learning throughout life leads to greater satisfaction and optimism, as well as an improved ability to get the most from life. For instance, a 2004 study found that people who pursued further learning had higher self-esteem and a greater ability to cope with stress. There are many activities out there to suit you. Take up a new sport; learn a foreign language; immerse yourself in travel; the list goes on. All you need is to open your eyes to the possibilities.
Photo courtesy Steve Janosik via Flickr Creative Commons
8. Take Up Volunteer Work. Living better is not all about you. In fact, helping others is a surefire way to find and increase your happiness. There are many benefits of volunteering: Not only will you make a difference in other people’s lives but you will gain new skills and meet new friends. Your heart will also thank you for it. According to a 2010 study by Karina W. Davidson, the director of the Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health at Columbia University Medical Center, people with a joyful, positive and enthusiastic disposition—what psychologists call “positive affect”—are less likely than their gloomier peers to have a heart attack. Indeed, James Doolittle’s words ring true: “There's nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer.”
It doesn’t take much to take up these eight habits, but if you cultivate them and make them part of your daily living, you will reap the benefits and experience the life you have always wanted. So go ahead, make every day of 2015 count!
Aby League is a medical practitioner and an Elite Daily writer. She also writes about business and other topics of great interest. She also writes a blog, About Possibilities. Follow her @abyleague and circle her on Google+.
Think you don’t have time for fitness? Use any of these equipment-free solutions to fit in time to care for your body.
Photo by iStock
Walk It Out. The benefits of simple walking are numerous, and walking has the lowest dropout rate of any physical activity. Walking for 30 minutes a day can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, maintain a healthy weight, improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels, reduce the risk of osteoporosis, reduce the risk of breast and colon cancer, and enhance mental well-being, according to the American Heart Association.
Free Trainers. Fitness Blender offers free workout videos ranging from low-impact to more difficult high-intensity interval training. This type of training is among the most effective ways to increase overall fitness. What’s more, the session length ranges from five to 75 minutes, meaning you can fit in a workout no matter how much time you have. Most routines require no equipment; others require only hand weights.
Just Dance. Dancing is free and requires no equipment (other than your iPod). Dancing not only tones muscles, burns calories and helps strengthen bones—it’s also been shown to reduce stress, make us happier and even sharpen our minds. In a study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, teaching the cha-cha to older adults twice a week for six months improved memory and cognitive function on a number of tests.
Most of us know that our surroundings can have a big impact on our mood, so we try to do things like brighten up rooms with artwork and plants or keep the shades open if we’re going to be working inside all day.
But what about when Mother Nature herself seems to be conspiring against you?
Many people get a little bit moody and sad when summer slips into fall and winter, but what you might not know is that extreme feelings in this vein that occur at the same time every year can be a sign of a serious condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.
Though some people don’t believe the condition is real, medical experts disagree and say that somewhere between 10 and 12 million Americans have some form of the disease. That’s 1 out of every 30 people!
How Do You Know If You Have SAD?
Unfortunately, there are no diagnostic tests that doctors can give to determine whether or not you suffer from SAD. They are only able to diagnose people with the condition by observing them and using their history. True SAD sufferers:
• Only experience depression during a specific season — usually winter.
• Have gone through this depression for at least the last two years in a row.
• Have seasons with depressive symptoms that outnumber those without depressive symptoms.
Without those three things, Seasonal Affective Disorder cannot be given as a diagnosis.
Still there are things that can make you a more likely candidate to suffer from the condition. People in colder northern climates are far more likely to get it than those who live in places that are warm and sunny all year round. Those who don’t get a lot of light have a greater chance of suffering from SAD, because experts believe this is what leads to the negative effects on the brain.
Most people with SAD are women, so depressed men are likely suffering from something known as the “winter blues” or possibly another form of depression. And because there seems to be a genetic link, those with relatives who have Seasonal Affective Disorder, another depressive disorder, or who abuse alcohol are also more likely to get SAD.
What Does SAD Look Like?
There are many symptoms associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Unfortunately, many also occur in those who are dealing with other psychological issues, so they can’t confirm the presence of SAD all by themselves. Still, it’s important to know what to look for so the diagnosis can eventually be made – and you can get the help you need.
• Body aches
• Crying spells
• Poor sleep
• Trouble thinking or concentrating
• Feeling tired
• Decreased activity level
• Weight gain
• Loss of sexual desire
What Can You Do About SAD?
If you have been diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder, or truly believe that you have the condition, there are several things you can do to alleviate your suffering.
Counseling. When you are dealing with a trying psychological issue, you go to see a psychologist or psychiatrist. There’s no difference when that problem is SAD instead of bipolar disorder or another disease. While it certainly doesn’t help everyone, many find that simply going to counseling and talking to a professional helps to make them feel better.
Get away. As the name implies, Seasonal Affective Disorder is related to the changing season. So if falling leaves, colder temperatures, and darkening skies make you feel like you just can’t cope, one potential solution is to leave and head somewhere with a more hospitable climate. For most, simply planning your vacation to skip town for the worst of it is enough, but there are some who find that their symptoms don’t completely disappear until they pick up and move.
Phototherapy. Since SAD symptoms are believed to be related to a lack of light, some people receive treatment that includes being exposed to artificial or natural light for a set period of time each day. Apparently it works quite well, because 80% of people show improvement within 2 to 4 days.
If you’re worried about SAD and want to learn more, this infographic from Yellowbrick covers a lot of ground.
Let’s face it: when it’s chilly outside, the last thing you want to do it reach over to your cold water bottle and drink eight ounces of life-giving water. In the winter, the air gets drier and heaters only dry out indoor air even further. Combined with that, because it’s colder, we don’t sweat as much and so are less apt to notice if we are becoming dehydrated. No matter the temperature outside, dehydration can cause muscle fatigue, exhaustion, cramps and dizziness, and can make you more susceptible to winter colds and the flu. Drinking water bolsters your immune system and lets your body run at full capacity.
The old rule of thumb was to drink eight, 8-ounce glasses of water a day. This was set in place primarily because it’s easy to remember: 8 x 8, water is great! According to the Mayo Clinic, an adequate intake for men is closer to 13 cups of water, while for women it’s only nine. This number increases when you add exercise (two more cups), weather (hot or cold), and/or illness.
Unfortunately, cold weather in winter makes it tough to want to hydrate, even though this is the time of year we need it most. (Just ask your dry skin and chapped lips!) Try some of our tips to stay hydrated and healthy this winter.
1. Make It a Goal
Consciously decide you want to drink more water, and you can create a healthy habit. Invite your family and friends to join you—you could even turn it into a competition. Make a schedule—you could even write it out directly on your water bottle. There are many apps that can help you track your water intake, like Waterlogged or Water Your Body for Android. Try to replace every soda you might have with a glass of water, and see how you feel after a week.
2. Drink Tea
Tea is a great way to drink more water. The hot water is inviting on a chilly day, and gentle tea flavor can be invigorating. Plus all those other great benefits of tea. Studies show that having one cup of green tea a day can greatly increase your immune system function. You could even experiment with herbal teas—mixing up your own “tea” (it’s not real tea without tea leaves) with fresh or frozen fruit, or some slices of ginger root for added health benefits!
3. Keep It Nearby and Visible
You’re much more likely to drink water from your stainless steel or BPA free water bottle than walking all the way across the building to the water fountain. Don’t give yourself any excuses. Keep water at your desk, in your bag, or even better, right in front of you!
4. Drink Almond, Soy, Coconut or Other Non-Dairy Milks
Non-dairy milks are made of ground meal from almonds, coconut meat, hemp seeds or soybeans, which is then infused with water and strained. Almonds, soy, coconut and hemp all have great nutritional benefits on their own, so a glass of one of these milks will give you a vitamin boost without filling you up with protein and fats like dairy milk does. You can also learn to make your own almond milk.
Bonus: Hot almond milk with cinnamon and honey? Delicious.
5. Just Drink Water: Before and After Meals
More than anything else, drinking water before and after a meal can give you some structure to your drinking schedule. You may not realize you haven’t had anything to drink all morning until lunchtime rolls around. If you make it a point to drink 16 to 32 ounces of water at lunchtime, you'll be two to four cups closer to your goal! This is also one method for healthy weight loss, as you may find you eat less. Warmer water, even just at room temperature, can greatly aid your digestion as well. According to Livestrong, cold beverages are removed from the stomach much more quickly than warm drinks, thus not doing much for your system.
Coconut water (different from coconut milk) falls under a slightly different category. This is the liquid taken directly from a young (green) coconut. This is also a great hydrating beverage—often praised as a good substitute for Gatorade or other sugary post-sport drinks. It is hydrating, thirst quenching and full of natural electrolytes.
6. Eat Spicy Foods
You can “trick” yourself into drinking more water by adding some red pepper flakes to your meal, giving a simple dish a kick of spice. That spice will have you reaching for a glass of water in no time!
7. Serve Soups
Nothing quite erases the chill of a cold day like a cup of hot soup. This hydration trick can have you drinking more water while you’re eating your lunch—two birds with one stone! Soups with clear broth, particularly, have a high water content that will help replenish your water reserves. You can find some great soup recipes on our Soups & Stews collection page.
8. Flavor Your Water
This trick will work in the winter or summer, and can be changed to suit the season. Make your water look fun and interesting, while adding a touch of fruity flavor with fresh or frozen strawberries, blueberries, watermelon or cucumber—any sort of fruit will work! Toss in some cranberries, figs, pomegranate, rosemary or mint leaves for a real holiday slurp. You could even try infusing a cinnamon stick if you like drinks with a spicy kick. Infuse basil and cucumber for a refreshing herbal concoction. It’s hard to go wrong, so try a few of your own recipes with fruit and herbs that you have around the kitchen.
You could also add two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (ACV) and one tablespoon of honey to your water, for an alkali boost that aids your digestion. Turmeric and a dash of pepper make a great, semi-sweet anti-inflammatory combination for your water. You could also add a splash of your favorite juice to a glass of water to add light flavor without all the sugar (added or not).
9. Snack on Water-Based Foods
Watermelon may not be in season, but there are many other fruits and vegetables that have a high percentage of water. Eating your water also has the added benefit of giving you other much needed nutrients, antioxidants and vitamins. Try clementines, celery, tomatoes, peppers, cauliflower, spinach, citrus fruits, pears, pomegranates and winter squash (aka spaghetti squash) for a tasty, hydrating treat.
10. Hydrate Your Skin, Too
Your skin is the barrier between you and the elements. As air dries in the winter, your skin takes a hit (chapped lips, anyone?). When your skin is dry, microscopic cracks appear, making it easier for germs and viruses to invade and get you sick. These fluctuating conditions also make it hard to retain elasticity and thus leads to more wrinkles. Invest in a humidifier if you live in a particularly dry climate. Put on lotion or homemade body butter to seal in the moisture and give you skin a real pampering treat.
11. Avoid Sodium
Sodium retains water, effectively trapping it and making it inaccessible to the rest of your body. Sodium is not just table salt. A spoonful of table salt in a home-cooked meal is less than 100 milligrams of sodium, while an 8-ounce bag of potato chips can have more than 1,000 milligrams of sodium—that’s almost half of your daily recommendation! To lower sodium intake, avoid processed foods and foods with many additives to limit the dehydrating impact of sodium.
Do you have any tips on how to stay hydrated this winter? What are your favorite flavored waters or water alternatives? Share your best tips below!
Taylor Nutting is an editorial assistant at Mother Earth Living who loves to find new ways (especially if it involves cooking!) to live a healthy and happy life.
Growing up can be awkward. It's a point of discovery, adventures, friendships, getting hurt and that perpetual desire to fit in and be liked. There are some children who would rather be alone—not because they don’t like other kids but because they don’t know how to be around them.
Photo credit: Anitalorite via Flickr, Creative Commons
Clinical psychologist John Malouff says all children may experience shyness at some point in their childhood, although in varying degrees. Being shy is normal. Shy children and teenagers like observing others, but are reluctant to join or speak to them. Shy people are socially uncomfortable and are naturally uneasy when being confronted by authority, meeting strangers, speaking in front of a group, trying to make friends and interacting with the opposite sex. They are obsessed with one’s reactions, which is why they sometimes inhibit from social situations and go to great lengths to avoid attention. In short, they care about what others think of them.
Being shy knows no age or gender. Strategies to overcome shyness differ from one person to another. Some need warming up before joining a conversation, while others take forever. What is important is shyness is not a social disease or phobia: It's a behavior that can be unlearned and conquered. Here are a few ways that can help you overcome shyness.
Start with a smile. Look at yourself in the mirror and try practicing your gaze. Look at a picture and stare at it squarely in the eye. When out in public, try applying this practice with strong eye contact and a firm handshake. Continue building your confidence by learning and offering simple introductions and small talk. Rehearse what you want to say and write it down if necessary. Try saying it out loud. Start with the people you are most comfortable with then branch out when you are ready.
The most difficult and most crucial point of trying to be socially comfortable is getting started. Practice at home and learn how to deliver some tried and tested one-liners like “Hi, I’m ____ and we are in the same class,” “What is your topic for the report?” “That jacket looks good on you,” "How did you find the exams?”
Asking a question seems like an easier way to approach someone. Be ready for a conversation.
Look For Opportunities
Give yourself a chance and find opportunities to be more outgoing. In school, register in a group or club that you're interested in. When people around you have the same interests as you, it won’t be as hard to strike up a conversation. For adults, you don’t have to force yourself into settings such as bars and clubs. An infographic by PlaygroundEquipment.com shows that 48 percent of American adults are reported to be shy. Practice your social skills at a friend’s party or a family gathering. Talk to your friend’s friend or try being less shy with a cousin that you don’t get to see a lot.
For parents with shy kids, take them to a natural environment such as the playground. Play is fundamental in every childhood. Unfortunately, data collated by PlaygroundEquipment.com shows that only 1 in 3 children engage in physical activities each day. The lack thereof may result in challenges in speech and social skills.
Physical activities don't only help you overcome obesity (which is a major cause of shyness and social discomfort) but such movements also help you release anxiety. Activities such as walking and jogging help re-channel your energy and refresh your state of mind. Muscle meditation also helps you relax and calm down.
Find Your Strength
Shy people are overly self-conscious. They are always busy looking at themselves and most of the time all they see is everything that is wrong. Look at yourself once more and learn to like what you see. Know what you are good at doing and focus on improving that strength further. Accept your unique qualities and understand that it's okay to be different.
Excessive negative self-evaluation is usually heightened when you try to compare yourself to the most beautiful or most perfect person in the room. This is usually the case with women who carry with them a vision of another person’s perfection. Shy girls who are already having a problem with confidence often ask: Why can’t I be that girl? Why is my hair or my skin not like hers? This will only make matters worse.
Rejection Is Okay
Confidence is naturally shattered with rejection. But don’t forget: Everyone gets rejected at one point or another. When the person you approached didn't turn his or her head, or when you weren't invited to that party, remind yourself that it's okay. Don’t take it personally, move on, and try again.
You have probably heard this over and over again, and you've probably gone through this in your head many times before, but it's true. You can’t be someone you’re not, so stop trying. Give yourself time, don’t be too hard on yourself, and be patient. Do things that are natural to you in your own time.
Do not force yourself to fit in. Know that being shy is okay and that you will be okay. Breathe, relax, be graceful and you will surely get there.
Aby League is a medical practitioner and an Elite Daily writer. She also writes about business and other topics of great interest. She also writes a blog, About Possibilities. Follow her @abyleague and circle her on Google+.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) just are not fun. Bacteria can invade your urinary system for many reasons, causing pain and pressure in the pubic area, a burning sensation during urination, and later, fever and nausea. Women are 10 times more likely to get a UTI, and more than 50% of women will have at least one during their lifetime.* If left untreated, a UTI can become a kidney infection, which is much more difficult to treat.
Here are some tried-and-true natural remedies for UTIs—without antibiotics that will throw your systems out of whack.**
Water, water, water. It may hurt, but staying hydrated is necessary to be able to flush out the bacteria in your system. Water also keeps your immune system running smoothly and your cells happy, which can speed your recovery. The current recommendation is at least 8 glasses of water a day.
Cranberries (and blueberries) contain substances that keep bacteria from sticking to bladder tissue, making it much easier to clear out. Drink 12-24oz of unsweetened cranberry juice a day, or a 400mg supplement.
There are many herbs that are shown to deter bacteria. Try one or a combination of yarrow, Oregon grape root, goldenseal, garlic, or rosemary brewed in a tea.
Antispasmodic herbs relieve muscle tension and cramping, which can be common symptoms of UTIs. Try one or a combination of black cohosh, wild yam, chamomile, or cramp bark brewed in a tea. Read more about the Best Herbs for Pain Relief, and also more remedies for menstrual cramps that can help.
These herbs will help you to literally wash out the invading bacteria—so be sure to drink plenty of water to replenish your systems. Try yarrow, dandelion leaf, nettle leaf, celery seed, or elderflowers brewed in a tea. Allow to cool to a lukewarm temperature for best results.
Bolster your immune system to give your biological systems a fighting chance. Have plenty of vitamin C (bonus, the acidity of Vitamin C can discourage bacteria), eat more vegetables (especially the dark green leafy kind) and antioxidant-packed fruits, like blueberries and tomatoes, and try a tincture of elderberry and Echinacea to give you an extra boost!
Play defense, and restore some balance by introducing more good bacteria to your system.
Let your body heal without adding more stress. Avoid processed and fried foods, as well as sugar, white breads and alcohol.
For more tips on how to treat UTIs and relieve symptoms, check out the University of Maryland Medical Center webpage or Web MD for more home treatments.
Have you suffered from frequent urinary tract infections? Do you have any tried-and-true remedies to treat UTIs, naturally? What are the best ways you've found to avoid recurring infections? Share your tips and remedies in the comments section below.
*If you get UTIs frequently, there may be an underlying issue that cannot be solved through these remedies alone. Please consult your doctor to determine the best way to proceed.
** Consult with your doctor before, during, and after symptoms are treated. Even if symptoms have resolved, only a urinalysis will determine if all offending bacteria has been flushed out. If herbal remedies to not work quickly, you may need additional medication. Some remedies should not be taken if pregnant.
Baths (and bath houses) have been around for centuries, so there has to be something good about them other than the luxury of hot water. In fact, hot baths have been shown to offer both physical and mental benefits. According to the Huffington Post, baths can boost your mental capacity and improve your memory, just by taking a few intentional moments to relax your body and mind. The humidity from the warm water can heal dry nasal passages and soothe your lungs, even if you didn’t realize they were working harder in the colder weather. The warm water of a bath will relax and promote healing of sore or aching muscles. Baths are also ideal for reaping the benefits of aromatherapy. A lavender bath will promote relaxation, while rosemary, mint and sage will calmly energize and, and even improve your memory. And adding salt introduces a new element of detoxification, drawing out the grit and stress of your day, and Epsom salts can give you a gentle magnesium boost.
Unfortunately, contrary to popular belief, taking a bath might not actually save as much water as taking a really quick shower (according to National Geographic: Green House and Waterwise), unless you have a super-mega-inefficient power showerhead, so you can’t necessarily pull the “it’s better for the environment” excuse to soak. That being said, baths usually require around 20 gallons of water, which is the same amount as a 10-minute shower. So, if you have more than 10 minutes on your hands, a relaxing soak may be just what you need!
Though baths are wonderful all year round, they are especially luxurious in the winter. Even a 10 minute soak can do you a world of good, so try one of the following recipes if you want to take your bath to the next level!
Recipe from Happy Money Saver
These lovely darlings are a perfect hybrid of body butter and bath scent to pamper you and give your skin a treat. Since oil (therein butter) and water don’t mix, the hydrating skin food gets absorbed, leaving the bath smelling wonderful with tea and essential oils.
Recipe From Humblebee & Me
Remember that science project with the baking soda volcano? These homemade bath bombs run on a very similar principle. The mix of baking soda and dry citric acid (often used for canning) explode into a perfect fit of effervescence in your tub, and you can create your own fragrance too with essential oils! Try a Soothing Aloe and Coconut Milk variation.
Image from the Gardener’s Supply Co.
Recipe from Frugal Granola
Who says tea is just for drinking? This bath time herbal “tea” (it doesn’t have any tea leaves, and won’t stain you or your tub!) is a perfect herbal mix to reap the benefits of herbal aromatherapy. Mix up a bag of your favorite herbs and let your stress wash away. Rosemary, mint and basil energize and revitalize the mind, while lavender and sweet orange peel relaxes. You could also let herbs free-float in your tub for picturesque-ness, but it’s a lot easier to clean up just a tea bag. Plus, the tea bag can also be used as a body scrub! And it can work as a potpourri until you can steal a minute for the tub.
After your skin has soaked up all the clean moisture from your bath, slather on an organic moisturizer or homemade body butter to fortify a moisture barrier between your skin and the dry air, protecting your newly replenished and pampered skin, and leaving your skin extra soft.
Taylor Nutting is an editorial assistant at Mother Earth Living who loves to find new ways to live a healthy and happy life.