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How to Create a Meditation Space in Your Home

Filed Under: General Wellness & Wellbeing,Mindfulness at 3:36 pm | By: Ysolt Usigan

It’s no secret: Meditation can reduce stress, improve concentration, increase happiness, slow aging and encourage a healthy lifestyle overall. In some cases, it can even help with cardiovascular and immune needs. Many people also meditate for the sake of better self-awareness and enlightenment, or mindfulness.

“I find the time to meditate because it truly sets my mood and perspective for the day,” says Melissa Berry, lifestyle expert and founder of “I always try to practice first thing in the morning and right before I go to sleep.”

While you can pretty much practice it anywhere, let’s explore how to create a special place within your home that you can retreat to whenever you need to meditate.

The ideal space should be an area in the home where you feel most relaxed. There are also specific items you can incorporate into the space to ensure meditation’s effectiveness.

Choosing the Right Place for Meditation

So where should you meditate? Where is the best spot in your home? It’s important to pick a simple, clutter-free environment. You should also avoid picking a spot in the house that gets a lot of foot traffic if you live with other people.

“It’s important to clear out the clutter physically and energetically,” explains Michelle Cromer, a feng shui healer, speaker and author. “Remove anything out of the dedicated space that will not aid in meditation.”

Clear the invisible energy and set an intention for the space before every meditation session, Cromer advises. “Some people like to use beautiful, soothing music to clear out the invisible energy in their meditation space,” she adds.

Lastly, don’t forget to factor in lighting. Do you want a well-lit environment or a dim one? Light up your space as you like. Many people want versatility—using sheer curtains to let sunlight enter during the day and lights with dimmers at night to adjust the mood.

Meditation Space Essentials

There’s no right or wrong about what to have in your meditation space. This is your space, after all. But, here’s a shortlist to inspire you:

  • Meditation pillow (to sit on)
  • Yoga mat (for sitting or yoga)
  • Inspiring painting
  • Plant or something to bring you close to nature
  • Oil diffuser equipped with essential oils (try lavender, frankincense, sage, just to name a few)

“Using essential oil activates grounding earth energy. I would use the life-affirming energy of orange essential oil,” explains Cromer. “Using nine drops in a diffuser or on yourself will introduce a vibrant transforming energy.”

Cromer also suggests hanging a faceted crystal in the back right corner for love or on the back left corner for abundance. “This will bring in light, clarity and serve to constantly move the energy around the space.” Crystals raise the “chi” (which is essentially a warm current) in your space and in your life.

Think you’re ready? “Technology feeds us with so much information that it’s important to take the time to simply be and not think about anything,” Berry says. “It’s like a vacation for your mind, and I highly recommend becoming a frequent flyer.”


8 High-Tech Gadgets That Can Help You Sleep Better

Filed Under: General Wellness & Wellbeing,Home at 1:45 pm | By: Jessica Remitz

These days, it feels like no one ever sleeps enough. As sleep becomes more precious than ever, we’re finding it harder to fall and stay asleep—often due to technology.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, 95 percent of people use some sort of electronic device during the hour before bedtime (1). While it may seem harmless to shoot off an e-mail or take a final peek at Instagram before turning in, the blue light emitted by our tablets, laptops and smartphones mimics daylight (2). This makes it harder not only to fall asleep but also can leave us feeling tired, anxious and depressed when we wake up.

After a day surrounded by technology, it can seem like the only solution is to power off and kick all electronics to the curb. However, there are some gadgets designed specifically to help you get the best night’s sleep ever.

“I often recommend that patients use apps and/or online community support as an adjunct to treatment, in addition to recommended behavioral strategies to improve sleep and mood,” says Dr.  Sara Nowakowski, a clinical psychologist who is board-certified in behavioral sleep medicine. “These devices, mobile apps and internet-delivered insomnia programs are improving all the time, and there is value and clinical utility in them. It is finding the right balance for the patient.”

Below, find eight different devices targeted to help you sleep better.

SleepScore Sleep Tracker

One of many on the market, the SleepScore Max is a non-contact nightstand monitor designed to record sleep and send feedback on how to get better sleep to your smartphone. Touted as “the world’s most advanced sleep improvement system,” it asks you certain questions before bed (such as how much caffeine you’ve had that day) and calculates a nightly “SleepScore” to determine how productive your sleep is.

Sleep Number i10 Smart Bed

If you have a few bucks to spend, the pricey i10 Smart Bed promises the “ultimate in blissful, cooling comfort.” Depending on the model, the bed can adjust height and firmness and can accommodate different settings on both sides. The i10 tracks how you sleep by sending a “Sleep IQ” score to your phone and also controls your temperature while you sleep by absorbing excess heat and releasing it as you cool down.

Smart Nora

The Oprah-approved, non-contact Smart Nora promises to banish snoring once and for all. The device comes in two parts—a nightstand monitor and a pillow insert with a pump. As soon as the Nora detects early sounds of snoring (before they become loud enough to wake a sleeping partner!), it triggers the silent pump to inflate and deflate the pillow insert. This motion stimulates the throat muscles, which allows for natural breathing to resume.

Philips Wake-Up Light

If you sleep in a room with minimal sunlight, it can be difficult to get out of bed in the morning. Enter the Philips Wake-Up Light, which uses a combination of light and sound to help you wake up in a more refreshing, natural way.  The light also has a sunset simulation to help you wind down before bedtime.


The Aromarest nightstand monitor uses light technology, dual aromatherapy diffusers and sound to help “restore your natural ability to sleep well.” The Aromarest has simulated sunrises and sunsets and can also play soothing sounds to help you fall asleep and wake up or white noise to help you sleep throughout the night.

Dreem Headband

Designed to monitor your sleep by recording and analyzing brain activity, the Dreem sleep headband claims to have the “most accurate sleep monitoring” technology. Designed for comfort, the headband tracks sleep while also providing sounds to help you sleep through the night through bone conduction. Once you wake up, plug the headband into its charger and it will sync with your phone, providing you with a personalized sleep report.

Dreamlight Sleep Mask

This ain’t your regular sleep mask. The Dreamlight uses light, sound and genetics (!) to help you fall asleep faster and wake up with more energy. The mask has embedded sleep-inducing orange and wake-inducing green lights as well as technology to aid in relaxation techniques. The mask syncs to your phone to track sleep and provide you with a “personal gene profile” to deliver a more tailored sleep schedule.


A climate-controlled, self-making (yes, self-making!) bed can be yours with the addition of the SmartDuvet insert. Placed between the duvet and duvet cover, the SmartDuvet controls the temperature of your bed (allowing for different temperatures on both sides) and also rolls the duvet back into position to make your bed in the morning. Set your ideal temperature and bed-making time from your phone and the SmartDuvet claims to do the rest.

As with all new technologies, it’s important to note that these sleep gadgets, while appealing, may unintentionally disrupt sleep, according to an article in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine (3). In addition, very few have FDA approval or endorsement by American Academy of Sleep Medicine-accredited sleep facilities or sleep specialists.

“As with all medical interventions, they are considered ‘experimental’ until randomized clinical trials are conducted to provide empirical evidence of the efficacy and safety,” Nowakowski says. “It is important for consumers to do their homework and look at the evidence that supports its use to improve sleep.”


What Is Earthing and How Does It Benefit Your Health?

You know that feeling of calm you get when you sit at the beach, allowing the sand to slide effortlessly between your toes? How about letting all your troubles fade away as you walk barefoot on a dewy lawn on a spring day? Turns out, those moments may not only bring you bliss; they could benefit your overall health, too.

What Exactly Is Earthing?

Earthing, or grounding, is the practice of absorbing electrons from the Earth into your body. By absorbing these electrons, you can improve everything from sleep issues to hormone levels to better blood circulation, according to the experts.

So how exactly does all this work?

“The Earth has a natural electric charge, based on lightning strikes and other meteorological phenomenon,” explains Martin Zucker, coauthor of “Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever?” “Humans are highly conductive, and when the skin of our bodies contacts the Earth, we create a mind-body-Earth connection.”

Zucker says that the Earth has an “unlimited reservoir of electrons” that are critical to “the operation of our cells and ourselves.” These electrons from the Earth are able to neutralize free radicals in the body that contribute to health issues such as inflammatory conditions and diseases.

In other words, the electrons from the Earth have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and we can apparently harness this energy by making direct contact with the Earth’s surface, either by going barefoot outdoors or by using grounding products, such as blankets, wristbands and floor mats.

Indoor grounding products are made of conductive materials and used via a grounded wall outlet or an earthing ground rod that’s placed outside, Zucker describes.

Since not everyone has access to safe outdoor space, Zucker says these products provide a way for people to reap the benefits of earthing from their desk, their couch or even their bed.

Benefits of Earthing

Integrative pain and rehabilitation specialist Tina Michaud-Gray not only practices earthing with her family, she also uses it for her patients. “It really helps accelerate the healing process,” she says.

Earthing cannot only be used as an anti-aging remedy, but also can assist people who have been living with illness or chronic pain, Michaud-Gray adds. Being one with nature, whether it’s outdoors or via other earthing methods, is a “primal need….our bodies, minds, and spirits require it,” she says.

While results vary from person-to-person (one person may see rapid changes within a week, while another may see subtler health benefits over a longer period of time), Zucker says that earthing “creates a new normal in the body.”

Though there are some skeptics to the practice, there is evidence to back up these claims. “Emerging evidence shows that contact with the Earth—whether being outside barefoot or indoors connected to grounded conductive systems—may be a simple, natural, and yet profoundly effective environmental strategy” against issues like chronic stress, inflammation and pain, as well as common health disorders, such as cardiovascular disease, a 2012 study concluded (1).

Whether you’re hoping to gain more energy, heal a wound or combat an illness, earthing may just help improve your overall well-being. As Michaud-Gray puts it, “It’s right there at your feet…literally.”


How a Ketogenic Diet Can Help You Lose Weight

Filed Under: Ask The ND,Diet & Weight Loss,General Wellness & Wellbeing at 4:27 pm | By: Deidre Grieves

One of the latest diet trends to explode in the health and wellness space is the ketogenic diet. But if you aren’t quite sure what it is or how it works, we’re here to help. Let’s take a closer look at this diet craze, so you can decide whether it’s right for you.

What Is a Ketogenic Diet?

The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, moderate protein, and low carbohydrate diet. It was developed by Dr. Russell Wilder in 1924. It was historically used as a treatment option for patients with epilepsy, but researchers now believe this type of diet can help other neurological conditions.

Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet

One of the main benefits of following a ketogenic diet is weight loss, according to Jeremy Wolf, a naturopathic doctor and lead health advisor at LuckyVitamin. “When properly adhered to, this type of diet causes the body to break down fatty acids into ketones,” he explains. “When ketone levels in the bloodstream are elevated, individuals enter into a state of ketosis, which often helps shed pounds quickly and consistently.”

The ketogenic diet may also protect against certain diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, by controlling the release of insulin into the body and lowering cholesterol levels.

And while more research still needs to be done, there are plenty of studies that demonstrate ketogenic diets may aid in the treatment of neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, autism and severe migraines.

How Does the Ketogenic Diet Work?

Adhering to the ketogenic diet is not as simple as cutting carbs, Dr. Wolf stresses. “There are specific calculations and ratios of fat to protein to carbohydrates that need to be followed in order for the diet to work properly,” he says.

Before starting on a ketogenic diet, it’s important to speak with your health care professional to work on a plan that is right for you.

“The classic version of the ketogenic diet involves a ratio of fats that is three to four times greater than the intake of proteins and carbohydrates,” Dr. Wolf says. “This means that approximately 75 percent of calories would come from fats, 25 percent would come from protein, and only 5 percent would come from carbohydrates.”

A more moderate version of this diet includes a ratio of fats that is two times greater than the intake of proteins and carbohydrates.

Those following a ketogenic diet plan will drastically increase their consumption of fatty foods, Dr. Wolf says. “Popular ketogenic food options include eggs, fatty fishes like salmon, cheese, avocado, olives and olive oil, nuts and nut butters, seeds, ghee, and coconut oil.”

Things to Consider with a Ketogenic Diet

If you are thinking about making the switch to a ketogenic diet, there are some things you should take into consideration. “This type of diet completely cuts out sugars and sweets such as candy, cookies and desserts, so individuals should be ready to give up indulgences if they want to be successful,” Dr. Wolf says.

Additionally, many medical professionals will recommend gradually decreasing your carbohydrate intake and introducing the ketogenic approach over a three- to four-day period, Dr. Wolf says. “This slower transition will help stave off a big loss of energy.” (Keeping hydrated while on a ketogenic diet is very important, and some supplementation with vitamins and minerals may be necessary to help meet nutritional requirements.)

“And while a strict ketogenic diet could be exactly what you need to jump-start weight loss, it may not be the best option for your long-term health and wellness,” Dr. Wolf advises. “Make sure to consult a health care professional to identify a plan designed around your individual needs.”


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11 Things You Don’t Want to Forget While Camping

Who wants to de-stress, unplug, connect with nature and give their overall wellness a boost? Everyone, of course! But who has the time? Everyone, of course!

Why? Because one single activity provides all of these benefits and more: camping.

Camping is a chance to enjoy the outdoors, re-energize and create lasting memories with family and friends. Make sure those memories are good ones by packing these 11 essentials (plus the tent…don’t ever forget the tent):

First Aid

A first-aid kit tops the list. A bare-minimum kit includes bandages, gauze, antibacterial ointment and tweezers (vital in tick-prone areas). To bulk up your kit, add medications you might need like those for pain or stomach problems.

Baby Wipes

All-natural, biodegradable baby wipes can clean a scraped knee, wash hands before dinner, scrub the sunscreen off your face before bed and so much more.

Matches or a Lighter

Or both to be extra cautious. You’re going to be cooking on a campfire or camp stove (don’t forget the propane in that case), so don’t forget the method to light it!

Water Bottle

Bring plenty of water in a reusable, refillable water bottle, especially if you won’t be near a water source (most campgrounds have water fountains). If you’re in the backwoods, bring a water bottle with an integrated filter to clean as you collect. Dehydration is a real danger when camping, so bring and drink plenty.

Healthy Snacks

Camping provides fun exercise opportunities, but activities like day hikes, swimming, kayaking and climbing will torch calories. Keep your energy up with healthy snacks like seeds, nuts, granola or dried fruit.

Toilet Paper

Enough said.


A flashlight is great, but a headlamp is better. Why? Late-night bathroom dashes are much easier if you’re hands-free. Same with washing dishes by campfire. Having both hands free to complete tasks in the early morning or evening hours is invaluable. (Stash a flashlight, too, to cover your lighting bases.)


Even under a canopy of trees, you need sunscreen. Sun damage is real, and sunscreen is a simple way to keep yourself safe. Choose a natural formulation that will work for the activities you plan on doing (e.g., active, sport, water-resistant).

Bug Spray

Know before you go: What kinds of bugs are prevalent where you’ll be camping? Choose an insect repellent formulated for the worst offenders. Then, don’t forget to toss an anti-itch stick or cream in your pack to combat any bites you do get.

Waterproof Storage

Hopefully you have nice weather throughout your entire camping trip! Unfortunately, that’s never guaranteed, so waterproof storage is a must. Keep food and food prep items sealed tightly in food storage containers, and keep your matches or lighter in a separate waterproof container. As for clothes, here’s a packing hint: Pack outfits in reusable, waterproof storage bags. That way, they stay dry if it rains, and when you change your clothes, you can pack dirty, wet, stinky, sunscreen-covered clothes into the storage bag to keep your other outfits clean and dry.

Large Totes

Whatever you bring into your campsite, you must bring out. Stash large reusable totes to collect trash and recycling. If you’re camping with your car, keep them tucked inside to prevent wildlife from getting too interested; if not, be sure to hang your trash and recycling just as you do your food.

This list isn’t all-encompassing, of course, and so much of your camping packing list will be determined by your location and activities. That said, if you have these 11 items, the basics are covered and you can focus on the fun!


5 Simple Ways to Make Time for Self-Care

Filed Under: General Wellness & Wellbeing,Mindfulness,Personal Care at 3:58 pm | By: Joe Palinsky

Tending to your own needs can often be the last thing on your mind. Life is loaded with responsibilities, obligations and things you really don’t want to do but do out of necessity. In-between long hours at work and running endless errands, you probably find yourself feeling frustrated that you don’t give yourself the same level attention as you do to, say, paying your bills. While taking care of your utility costs is essential, so is taking time to focus on yourself and engage in a bit of self-care (1).

Most people go about their days without taking a second to stop and wonder whether they are doing what is best for their bodies, minds and spirits. The problem is so prevalent, that researchers have spent years analyzing how a lack of attention to the self can be damaging to people who work in medical and legal fields (2). Luckily, figuring out a solution is as simple as remembering to take care of some of the basic functions of your body.

Here are five simple ways to make time for self-care.

1. Be Mindful

The first tip on how to practice self-care cuts right to the core of the matter: mindfulness. Purposefully focusing on the present moment is one of the most difficult tasks a person can be asked to perform, even though it only requires stopping actions and thoughts for a few minutes. Mindfulness might be hard to achieve because “our brains really like stimulation,” wrote Gary L. Wenk, professor of neuroscience, immunology and medical genetics at Ohio State University, in Psychology Today (3). Biologically, the human mind responds well to stimulation. Sadly, this information is also used a lot with creating advertisements.

While marketing professionals and the media as a whole assume bombarding the senses with videos, images and text is the best way to grab attention, all of the noise might be in vain. According to several studies conducted in recent years, the same over-stimulation distracting you from mindfulness may actually make people less likely to buy products or further research services (4). If you can wade through the madness and find a moment of serenity, you’re heading in the right direction for self-care.

2. Pinpoint Problems and Distractions

Distractions are a problem to both mindfulness and the idea of self-care. The more your attention is split between different tasks, the more impossible it becomes for you to slow down and focus on the present. Though you might not be able to actively change the world and how many distractions are thrown at you in a single day, you can definitely do your best to keep your head above the water. You simply need to get into the right habits and stick with them.

What distracts you individually is going to be different than what distracts someone else. The first step toward eliminating what breaks your focus is by figuring out the exact culprits. If you tend to laze in front of the television and watch endless streaming programs after work when you should be focused on yourself, the problem is somewhat evident. Pinpoint your biggest distractors and work toward cutting back on these habits or eliminating them altogether. You might really want to binge that show, but you’ll feel better taking care of your own needs before anything else.

3. Eat Better Food

OK, so this is going to sound obvious: you need to eat better. While most people try to pay attention to the ingredients in what they buy or want to know the source of meat or produce, these details are not as important to your diet as the actual act of eating. You definitely want to make sure you don’t eat too many processed foods, sure, but it is more important to eat something when your body gives you the impulse. Eating when you’re hungry, regardless of the meal, might help your body create energy and regulate hunger overall (5).

The reason for this is simple: survival. Your body is designed to work the best when it is being given sustenance and nourishment. Ignoring hunger pangs because you can’t find organic options is working against your health in subtle ways. Unless you always have access to the specific snacks and meals you prefer, you need to make compromises now and again for the benefit of your health. This doesn’t mean you need to hit fast food when you feel pangs of hunger, you just need to remember you might not find exactly what you want.

4. Take a Stroll

Getting out of your house is also a fantastic move to make when you want to practice a little bit of care. Some people enjoy the great outdoors and some people find all the fresh air to be too much. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, there is overwhelming evidence to suggest taking a walk outside can do wonders for your wellness. The act of walking is enough to engage your cardiovascular system and keep oxygenated blood flowing (6), but that is only the beginning.

In Japanese culture, there is a popular activity known as forest bathing (7). Essentially, the mentality behind this action is to simply exist within a forest and see how it improves a person’s mood, ability to think and overall health. Research on forest bathing suggests it can do wonders for a person’s overall feelings of wellness (8). Some studies believe this actually has to do with the green found in the leaves of each tree (9). No matter the reason, experiencing a bit of nature for your health seems like a sensible choice.

5. Get Sleep

The idea of getting extra sleep can be laughable to people who have packed schedules. Still, the whole point of this article is to remind you to take care of yourself! No matter how busy you might be, you absolutely must get a full night of rest. Consistent sleep is incredibly important to your physiology. Without ample sleep, you are increasing the odds of developing a number of psychological and cardiovascular disorders (10). You might even die far sooner by pushing sleep off (11). Whatever you need to do can actually wait when the time comes to snooze.

If you have a difficult time sleeping, there are plenty of tactics to explore. Essential oils might be the natural, effective solution you have been searching for. As long as you stay aware of the importance of sleeping, eating and engaging in healthy practices, you are going to have a far easier time showing yourself the self-love you deserve.


Need to Unplug? 7 Tips for a Digital Detox

Filed Under: General Wellness & Wellbeing,Mental Wellbeing at 4:20 pm | By: Joe Palinsky

Have you ever felt a little bit too connected to the rest of the world? Do you wake up and immediately disappear into a cycle of social media apps, news sources and targeted advertisements that seem to follow you throughout the day? If so, you’re not alone.

Technological advancements are happening faster and faster with each passing year, integrating gadgets like smartphones and tablets further into our everyday routines. While there are countless benefits to these inventions (1), people are becoming more aware of the cost of always being connected.

Internet addiction is very real (2). Well before Twitter and iPhones began to dominate popular culture, researchers, academics and behavioral therapists started recognizing a problem (3). When the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders was published in 2013, psychiatrists listed internet addiction disorder as a condition recommended for further study (4).

You might not feel addicted to the internet per se, but there are plenty of reasons to think about a digital detox. If you need some help unplugging, consider these tips.

1. Cut Back in Small Increments

Depending on how ingrained your devices are in your everyday life, you might experience a bit of difficulty getting the process started. You might find yourself saying, “I’ll start tomorrow,” so many times that you feel like you’re never going to switch off. This is because suddenly breaking free from sites like Facebook and the 24-hour news cycle can fill you with a sense of something missing from your life. Cold turkey might be an effective method when you’re looking to quit smoking, but this is slightly different. Baby steps and small cuts will go much farther (5).

While you might not believe you are addicted to the internet, cutting everything out at once might be too much of a shock. It may sound strange, but there are documented cases of people entering states of psychosis due to unplugging (6). Whether you’re afraid of having a bad reaction or you worry that FOMO levels will shoot through the roof if you’re not glued to your phone, you should introduce changes to your digital habits at a pace that works for you.

2. Deactivate or Delete a Social Media Account

Social media is one of the biggest issues people have with the internet these days. When first introduced in their current form a little over a decade ago, social media websites seemed innocuous enough. Cut to the present, and the news is flooded with politicians fighting on Twitter (7), Snapchat getting into one PR nightmare after another (8) and Facebook essentially mining and selling off user information in secrecy for years (9). When looking for a digital detox, you undoubtedly have considered removing yourself from the social media equation altogether.

Here’s the truth: there is no such thing as “limiting social media usage.” Sadly, it’s all or nothing. If you hold an active account, research shows you are going to log back in even if it is a subconscious action of habit. What’s worse, being depressed can increase the odds of you caving and logging back in (10). In order to break free, you need to commit to deleting an account. Luckily, with so many different sites out there, you can easily get rid of most and hold on to one to check at your leisure. Cutting back on how many accounts you have can lower the pressure to stay socially connected that these apps have instilled.

3. Get Rid of Non-Essential Apps

Take a broader look at the programs you run on your phone, computer or tablet each day. Which of these applications do you feel are essential to going about your routine? You might need to use your email app frequently for work, making it more essential than an app you use exclusively to shop. In order for you to appreciate a digital detox, you should limit yourself to apps you absolutely need.

When all is said and done, you actually don’t need any of your apps to survive. Until a phone can provide shelter, sustenance and improved health, it remains a tool for making other aspects of life easier. In determining which apps are essential, you will have an easier time cutting out any programs that only serve to distract, agitate or waste your time.

4. Read a Book Before Bed

A number of academic institutions have been putting intense research into how daily smartphone usage impacts basic functions of the body. One study that made a lot of waves revealed that the soft, blue light emitted by smartphones actually “tricks” the mind into thinking it is receiving sunlight. This confuses the body’s internal rhythms and can easily cause insomnia and other sleep issues (11).

Though you might enjoy looking at your phone while hanging around in your bed before slumber, you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor by cutting out this habit. Instead, grab a good old-fashioned book off the shelves. Even if you aren’t an avid reader, looking at a paper with words on it instead of a glowing box can help lull you to sleep without messing with your circadian rhythm.

5. Improve Short-Term Memory

Another great way to begin detoxing from the digital world is by actively working to improve some of the areas where technology has an adverse effect. Research in this area suggests smartphones and similar devices impair an average individual’s attention, which, in turn, compromises short-term memory storage (12). In other words, it is much harder to remember details of your day and get tasks done when you’re constantly looking at your phone.

By removing your phone from the equation for a few hours each day, you can give yourself a bit of time to restore your mental faculties to a place you’d prefer. Play brain games or write in a journal for a bit to get your mind working. A cup of green tea is packed with antioxidants and can also help to improve how your mind functions in relation to memory (13).

6. Dedicate Time to a Hobby

The idea of “free time” is kind of funny. When your life feels overwhelmingly busy, you might imagine you don’t have a second to spare. Now, try and think about how many hours you waste aimlessly scrolling through the same posts online. Adding all that time together might reveal some startling findings about how much time you would actually have for your passions if you unplugged.

Dedicating time to a hobby or skill you want to hone is the only way to get better at it. If you’ve been dying to learn a new language, play an instrument or take a painting class, this is the opportunity you’ve been waiting for. The minutes you free up by removing yourself from the digital world can help you chase some of the dreams you’ve left sitting on the backburner.

7. Experience the World

Finally, there is a lot to be said about leaving your phone in the house and taking a long walk, run or ride (14). Often, it is far easier to lose oneself on Wikipedia than in nature. The world is a vast and varied place filled with wonders and oddities. Instead of reading about it on the internet, unplug and get out there for a bit. Though you might find yourself reaching for your phone to take pictures of everything you see, remember your mind is also a wonderful place to store a treasured moment or image.

A digital detox might seem more like a lifestyle choice, but overwhelming evidence suggests it is a great move for your health. Discover which tactic works best for you, and get ready to unplug and relax.


How to Practice Meditation for Contentment

Filed Under: General Wellness & Wellbeing,Mindfulness at 4:23 pm | By: Aly Semigran

In our increasingly busy and stressful lives, it’s all too easy to get wrapped up in the things we don’t have, as opposed to what we do. Not getting enough likes on an Instagram post (especially when that granola breakfast you prepared looked so yummy!) or getting overlooked for a raise at work can send even the most level-headed among us into a spiral.

But, by giving yourself just a few minutes every day to meditate with a focus on contentment, you’ll not only be able to find peace within yourself, but also change how you see the world around you.

Whether you’re a newcomer to the world of meditation or it’s already part of your everyday routine, Sylvia Maldonado, founder of the meditation and wellness service Breathe Bar in Chicago, says you can start small and work your way up to what you want to achieve.

Choose the Right Meditation Style for You

Maldonado, who started her daily meditation routine at just three minutes a day, suggests that you first find what practice works best for you and your learning style.

For some, meditation apps on phones work best, while others learn from teachers in a class. “Once you have your goal and motivation and baseline, then you can have your own practice at home,” she Maldonado says.

Once you find what style of meditation suits you and your lifestyle, you should expose yourself to different kinds of meditation as well, including mantra, mindfulness, breath work, and gratitude, among others.

Create a Meditation Space

Maldonado recommends creating a designated space in your home for meditation practice that makes you feel the most relaxed. After all, meditation should be something you look forward to. Light candles or put on essential oils, if that is something that brings you serenity.

“You simply want to position yourself for success,” she says. “Your spot doesn’t have to be on a cushion on the floor, especially if you have back or knee issues.”

If you choose to meditate in a chair, for instance, Maldonado says to plant your feet on the ground, keep your palms by your side (either facing up or down), and keep your back straight.

Practice Meditation for Contentment

Depending on the time you want to set for yourself (once you get into a routine, anything from five to 15 minutes is a reasonable goal), you are now ready to achieve contentment in your everyday life.

It’s a goal that Maldonado believes is an important one to aspire to. “Contentment is a really powerful word,” she says. “Contentment is different than happiness; it’s a way of being and an attitude that radiates its own positivity.”

Oftentimes, Maldonado points out, we get stuck in the what-ifs and possible future scenarios, rather than being in the here and now. “We’re swirling with these thoughts and that can be really stressful and drain energy and headspace.”

Meditating on contentment can “liberate you from all that made-up stuff,” she says. “It’s discernment between preparing for various scenarios and letting it take over.”

Contentment meditation can be something as simple as being grateful for your morning cup of coffee or appreciating all the loved ones in your life. “There’s no judgment for what you’re grateful for in that moment or that day,” Maldonado says.

The 5-3-1 Meditation Technique

One particular exercise Maldonado likes for contentment meditation is the 5-3-1 technique, in which you meditate for five minutes, write down three things you’re grateful for, and do one good deed every day (1).

Whether you do some variation of the 5-3-1 technique or your own brand of meditation, Maldonado recommends incorporating writing exercises, as it “reinforces the practice and the result can be a lot more powerful.”


Mindfulness Steps to Take in the First 10 Minutes of Your Day

Filed Under: General Wellness & Wellbeing,Mindfulness at 2:55 pm | By: Aly Semigran

Your alarm has gone off and after a few bleary-eyed moments of coming to, you start to realize everything you have ahead of you that day. You have a big meeting at work that you have to present for, but what if the subway is delayed again and you arrive frazzled and late? Your kids have a test today and even though you helped them study all night, what if still they get a dreaded C?

Phew, OK. Deep breaths. Time to incorporate some mindfulness.

Live in the Present Moment

Rather than worry about the what-ifs of the day, allow yourself to use the first 10 minutes of your morning to live in the present moment.

“A lot of people are in a heightened state of anxiety first thing in the morning,” says Keeley Teemsma-English, a Brooklyn-based therapist and licensed clinical social worker. “You wake up and all the stress of work, life, relationships, etc., can hit you all at once.”

This is where mindfulness can come in to save the day, so to speak.

“Mindfulness is about being in the moment,” Teemsma-English says. “You’re not worrying about the future, you’re not worrying about things that have already happened, you’re in that moment in time and you’re aware of what’s going on around you.”

By being aware of not only how you feel emotionally and physically in that place in time, you also get a stronger sense of what’s going on around you and focusing on that.

Five Senses Mindfulness Exercise

For your mindfulness morning exercises, Teemsma-English suggests incorporating all five of your senses. For instance, listen for sounds (the singing of a bird outside your window), look for sights (the way the morning sun hits your window), smell scents (the brewing of your morning coffee), experience tastes (enjoy the various texture and yumminess of your peanut butter and banana on toast), and reach out and touch something (give your dog her morning pet).

You can do this five times for each sense, she says, focusing solely on them as part of your mindfulness practice.

She says that a lot of her patients enjoy using their meditation apps first thing in the morning, as the guided exercises are usually short and sweet (roughly three minutes) and it can re-wire you to open those instead, rather than a stress-inducing email or social media check-in.

Mindful Walking

Another possible mindfulness step to take in the morning, she says, is to quite literally take some steps. Before you start your morning routine or head out the door for food, take a 10-minute mindfulness walk to clear your head, all while incorporating your five senses.

But even if you aren’t someone who gets stressed out first thing in the morning, Teemsma-English says incorporating mindfulness into your daily routine “starts you off on the right foot.” “You proactively de-stress and you don’t worry yourself about things that are on your plate for that day,” she says. Instead, “you learn to assign importance to the things that really matter. You learn not to add value to the things that don’t deserve our time or energy.”


3 Reasons You Should Eat More Peanut Butter

Filed Under: Ask The ND,Diet & Weight Loss,General Wellness & Wellbeing,Nutrition at 10:55 am | By: Deidre Grieves

Peanut butter sometimes gets a bad rap from consumers who think it will pack on fat and calories. But the truth is that natural peanut butter—made without hydrogenated oils and added sugars—is a beneficial addition to any diet.

What to Look for in Peanut Butter

“Keep in mind that not all peanut butter products are created equal, so make sure to look for natural peanut butter that is lower in sodium and sugar than its traditional counterpart,” recommends Jeremy Wolf, a naturopathic doctor and lead health advisor at LuckyVitamin. Most natural brands will have 1-2 grams of sugar and anywhere from 40-65 milligrams of sodium.

Let’s look at a few reasons why you should add more peanut butter to your diet.

It’s Super Nutritious

First things first, peanut butter really does pack a punch when it comes to beneficial vitamins and nutrients. “It’s high in magnesium, which builds bone density; potassium, which amps up muscle mass; and vitamin B6, which boosts immune health,” Dr. Wolf says. “And everyone knows that peanut butter is a great source of protein, averaging about 8 grams per serving.”

It’s Filling

While you might think the recommended serving size for peanut butter—2 tablespoons—is relatively small, don’t be fooled. “The combination of fiber and the previously mentioned protein helps you feel full longer,” Dr. Wolf says. “So if you’re feeling hungry, eating a spoonful of peanut butter might actually keep you satisfied until your next mealtime.”

It Fights Off Disease

Although peanut butter is high in fat and calorie content, research shows that the popular spread can actually help prevent heart disease and diabetes. “This is because peanut butter is full of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats—also known as good fats,” Dr. Wolf says. “Like olive oil, eating peanut butter in moderation may actually lead to a healthier lifestyle.”

How to Add More Peanut Butter to Your Diet

If you’re looking to add more peanut butter to your diet, here are a few tips:

Spread it on fruit and vegetables. There are tons of fruits and vegetables that go great with a spoonful of peanut butter, so try adding a bit to apple slices, your daily banana, or some celery sticks.

Mix it into a marinade. Although it might not seem like an obvious choice, a peanut-butter-heavy marinade can be the perfect complement to meats such as chicken or steak. This will lock that nutty flavor into more savory dishes and bump up the PB intake.

Make it a breakfast addition. Who says peanut butter is only for PB&J sandwiches at lunchtime? You can jumpstart your day by adding a bit of peanut butter to your oatmeal or your morning smoothie for a nutrient boost.


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It’s Time to Get Rid of These 7 Things in Your Kitchen

Filed Under: General Wellness & Wellbeing,Home at 5:12 pm | By: Maggie Marton

Homes are run out of the kitchen. Unfortunately, because they’re high-use, high-traffic zones, kitchens accumulate clutter fast. A messy kitchen sucks the fun out of cooking and makes entertaining guests stressful.

“Kitchen clutter can be broken down into two broad categories: countertop clutter and cabinet (or hidden) clutter,” explains Brianna Berner, a professional organizer and productivity coach at SpikedParenting.

But where to start? Here are seven things to get rid of now to make a big impact on your kitchen organization. Trust us: Once your kitchen cabinets are decluttered and you can find the tools you need, you’ll be more motivated to cook that healthy dinner you planned!

Food Storage Containers

“You don’t need an entire shelf full of Tupperware,” Berner says. “You just need enough to get you through the week.” Recycle the rest.

Duplicate Kitchen Tools

Tally up your pizza cutters, garlic presses, lemon juicers, paring knives and all the other little gadgets that stuff your drawers and cabinets. Eliminate duplicates to free up a ton of space and make an awesome donation to your local thrift store charity.

Extra Place Settings

Unless you frequently entertain large parties, it’s likely you have more place settings and more cutlery than your family can conceivably use. Keep a full set to serve your family, plus a few extra for when you do have friends over. Get rid of the rest.

Takeout Accoutrements

All those utensil packets and tiny condiments? It’s time for them to go! Bonus: This is a quick win, taking only a few minutes to recycle old menus and toss the soy and ketchup packets.

Piles of Mail

Or, really, anything that doesn’t belong in the kitchen. “For the dump zones, first figure out what the clutter is and then find a solution,” Berner says. “If it’s a bunch of junk mail, try to unsubscribe from what you can. If it’s loose change, put a canister there to catch it all. If it’s a bunch of receipts, redirect it to your shredder. Then, take a look at what’s typically being left out on the counter and why. Is it difficult to put this stuff away because your cabinets are a mess? Or is your family just being lazy?”

Expired Foods and Spices

Dig all the way to the back of your cabinets and get rid of anything expired. This includes spices and condiments lining your fridge door, too.

Fancy Kitchen Gadgets

Sure, you were going to spiralize all your veggies in that giant electric spiralizer, serve fresh waffles hot off the iron every weekend and whip up homemade quesadillas on that press, but… have you? Wishful purchases, especially large, single-use items, take up a ton of cabinet space. “And you don’t need every single gadget that you see advertised,” Berner says. “But I get it, there’s a lot of really fun stuff out there. So if you do find yourself wanting to get something that you really don’t need, then make yourself get rid of something else first to make room for it!”

Don’t feel guilty getting rid of any of these items! Instead, focus on how much space this exercise will open up for more family time and easier meals. To get your crew on board, get them involved! “If your family isn’t pitching in to help out, try to make it as easy as possible for them. Make it known where things go,” Berner says. “Create zones inside your kitchen for different activities. And make it clear that you expect them to put things away when they’re done. When all else fails, I’m not above a little bribery. Chocolate usually does the trick.”


3 Easy Ways to Motivate Yourself to Work Out When You’re Not Feeling It

Filed Under: Exercise and Fitness,General Wellness & Wellbeing at 4:17 pm | By: Joe Palinsky

No matter how dedicated you are to your personal fitness goals, there will be times when you can’t even. Working out is an admirable goal, but you never know when the pressures and responsibilities from your daily routine might get in the way of you hitting the gym. Drumming up the motivation to engage in some intense physical activity might not be possible some days. Luckily, there are plenty of tips you can explore to trick yourself into working out, even when you absolutely cannot deal.

1. Find a Workout Buddy

Motivation is tricky. You probably have some fitness goals you are working toward at the gym. Whether you’re looking to slim down, bulk up, or get your body a bit more toned for warmer weather, it won’t always be enough to motivate you to act. Psychologically speaking, this comes down to accountability. When the only person you are letting down by skipping the gym is yourself, it is easier to feel fine with the decision. To get out of this habit, you might want to include another person in your plans.

Exercising with a friend can be useful for a number of reasons. First and foremost, you are far more likely to make it to the gym when you have another person who expects you to be there. Holding yourself to higher standards can be a difficult process, but working with a friend who has similar fitness goals can help both of you become better at commitment. Some studies suggest taking a class with a consistent group increases the odds of a person consistently going to the gym each week (1).

2. Adjust Your Attitude

Complaining is an ugly color on anyone. Sure, everyone needs to vent and let out some steam now and again. If people didn’t get frustrations out when they began to bottle up, the world would be a much more tense place to live. Of course, listening to someone complain can be a huge turnoff. Attitude is everything when it comes to your mental health (2). When you harbor resentment toward the fact that you need to hit the gym, you are going to treat the activity as a chore.

On top of this resentment, you’re more likely to complain to those around you about how much you do not want to go to the gym. This negative attitude is going to work against you, making it more likely that you’re going to skip out. People who hear you complain will most likely tell you to skip out because they’re simply tired of hearing you go on and on. Though it might be difficult, changing your attitude about going to the gym can do wonders for motivating you to actually go.

3. Reward Yourself

No matter how mature people get, at their core, they always remain children. This can work to your advantage when it comes to finding motivation to exercise. The classic system of rewarding good behavior can do wonders when it comes to tricking your mind. If you like to shop, head to your favorite store and browse for workout outfits. Pick something you absolutely love and buy it with the specific intention of going to the gym that night. You’ll most likely be so excited to put the outfit to use that you’ll actually be excited to work out.

Rewarding yourself can take many forms (3). If you aren’t the type of person who gets excited by gym clothes, then switch the reward out for something you have had your eye on. It doesn’t have to be exercise related for it to motivate you. When a splurge purchase has been in the back of your mind, it can work wonders to get you to do something you are resistant toward. As long as you find a tactic that makes sense for your personality, you will be ready to work up all the motivation you need to keep yourself fit.


6 Healing Essential Oils to Keep in Your Medicine Cabinet

Filed Under: Aromatherapy,General Wellness & Wellbeing at 11:00 pm | By: Mauricio Matusiak

Essential oils have been used medicinally for years. These amazing products contain potent medicinal and cosmetic properties and can be used as an alternative to over-the-counter medication. Essential oils stimulate the body’s natural responses as well as its healing system. So, let’s check out 6 healing essential oils to keep in your medicine cabinet.

1. Lavender

The most well-known of the essential oils, lavender contains antiviral and antibacterial properties and can be applied directly onto the skin to heal scrapes, bites and stings. Plus, lavender can help promote relaxation and improve sleep.

2. Calendula

Often used in shampoos and lotions, calendula has anti-inflammatory properties due to its high level of flavonoids—plant-based antioxidants that help protect cells from free radical damage. One of the best essential oils for scars, calendula also works great to heal many inflammatory conditions, including dermatitis and diaper rash.

3. Peppermint 

Peppermint can be used as a cooling oil to treat fever as well as sore muscles. You need to mix peppermint with a carrier oil first, and then apply the solution to your back, neck and chest for an instant cooling effect.

4. Eucalyptus

A powerful antispasmodic, antiviral and antibacterial oil, eucalyptus oil can be a natural alternative to treat coughs and colds. Just add a few drops to a basin of steaming water to inhale, or a vaporizer, as it can help disinfect and clear both the nasal passages and lungs.

5. Tea Tree

One of the most popular essential oils, tea tree is a powerful antibacterial, antifungal and antiseptic oil. It can be used to treat cuts, fungal infections, and insect bites. Plus, tea tree oil is used in multiple lotions and creams to help treat acne.

6. Lemon

Lemon essential oil contains high amounts of vitamin C and antibacterial properties. It can help minimize acne breakouts and prevent future scars. Its vitamin C content helps trigger the production of collagen, which keeps the skin firm and encourages the formation of new skin cells.


3 Ways Journaling Can Help You Get Your Life Together

Filed Under: General Wellness & Wellbeing,Mindfulness at 11:03 am | By: Joe Palinsky

Life can be messy sometimes. OK, honestly, life can be a real prankster. You think you’re on the right path and suddenly you get hit with a reminder of all of the responsibilities you have swirling around in the back of your mind. This can be a real obstacle and can even prevent you from taking care of business in the same effortless way you usually do. Getting your life together can often feel like a full-time job with absolutely terrible pay and confusing benefits.

Discovering a way to break free of the chains of your own mind is no easy goal. Still, there are some fun and challenging ways to push yourself to the limits of your own understanding and emerge a more adept and self-aware human. The best way to get this started? Grab a pen and a journal and get to writing. It might seem like too simple of a fix for many of the complex problems that come about in life, but there are some wonderful ways journaling can help you to grow.

Use “Busy” Less

You probably use the excuse “I’m busy” quite often. It is totally fine if you do—most people wind up pulling out this phrase when they are presented with making plans with friends or being asked to take on some extra work around the office. Though saying “I’m busy” is a commonplace response in the modern age, studies have shown a vast majority of humans say that they are busy when they really have more than enough time to get things done (1). The truth is most people do not actually “see” how much free time they actually have.

When you are not actively confronting big problems in your life like a heavy workload or intense family dramas, they are going to start to grow in size in your imagination. Dedicating time to getting your thoughts on paper at the end of the day can allow you a moment to actually assess the responsibilities in your life in a more logical manner. The more you write, the more you will see you are not as busy as you had initially thought and can start to improve upon your personal connections.

Go for Gold

As life begins blindsiding you with all kinds of minor troubles and lasting anxieties, it can cloud your reason. Your own personal goals and intentions can easily fall to the wayside when you have more pressing problems making your life difficult (2). By getting into the habit of journaling, you are going to be able to clear the air and make a bit more sense out of your personal ambitions. A great activity involved with journaling is writing out your hopes for the future.

Once you have put pen to paper, you can let your thoughts inform each and every stroke. Start to write about your visions of the future, what you want your life to look like in a year, and what you think you are going to need to do to get to that place. The more you write out your ideas, the easier it is going to become for you to create a tangible plan for arriving at your preferred destination down the line.

Exercise Your Imagination

Hitting the gym a few times a week to exercise your body is probably already a part of your routine. Unfortunately, most people forget they need to exercise their minds as often as their muscles. Dedicating time to journaling might seem like a small action, but there are studies suggesting it can actually do wonders with how you process information. Writing strengthens your imagination, allowing you the chance to get more imaginative with your problem-solving skills. Some professionals even argue that journaling is a surefire way to boost your I.Q., which can be a nice improvement to make (3).

When you sit down to write, you do not need to worry about whether it is any “good.” You are not trying to write Shakespeare under the table, you simply need to do it for yourself. The more you practice this activity, the better you are going to get at sorting through the madness of your own life to find a sense of clarity and stability once more.


Fire Cider: The Power of Raw Apple Cider Vinegar

Filed Under: General Wellness & Wellbeing,Health Foods at 5:28 pm | By: Guest Blogger

This post was provided by our friends at Shire City Herbals, makers of Fire Cider.

For centuries, New Englanders have taken a daily spoonful of Apple Cider Vinegar and Honey. You only need a tablespoon a day to benefit from the power of Fire Cider, but if you’re like us, we are more generous and take a whole shot as well as work it into our beverages, marinades, sauces, dressings, dips, etc. The list goes on and on.

Our flavor-packed Fire Cider is based on traditional family recipe and ideas that harness the exquisite flavors and power of raw apple cider vinegar infused with roots, fruits and spices. Specifically, apple cider vinegar, honey, oranges, lemons, onions, ginger, horseradish, garlic, turmeric, habanero pepper, and black pepper, all of which are USDA certified organic. We invite you to explore our three different flavorsOriginal, Honey-Free, and African Bronze—to see which is your favorite and to get adventurous with incorporating Fire Cider into your beverages and recipes.

We created Fire Cider for anyone and everyone interested in a more of-the-earth, connected way of living and in challenging convention. For those who don’t settle. For those who know that healthy equals happy, and happy equals healthy.

At Shire City Herbals, we celebrate harmony, health and happiness. Our certified organic, sustainably sourced apple cider vinegar blend is meant to be incorporated in your daily wellness routine. When you feel great on the inside, it’s amazing how that radiates outward to everything around you!

We recently added black pepper to our recipe. Black pepper is known to increase the bioavailability of turmeric in your body. This means more of the curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric) can get absorbed into your bloodstream!

You’re welcome.