This article is part of my 12 month new year’s health challenge. I have used one word as a catalyst for my life in the upcoming year: HEALTH. That may seem like a rather broad goal or resolution and it absolutely is. This is why I am breaking down this lofty goal…to reclaim my health, into 12 monthly challenges.
I plan to completely immerse myself in one aspect of health each month and establish new products and practices into routine before I move on to others. It is said that it takes at least 21 days before a lifestyle change becomes habit. We also know that if you bite off too much at one time you can end up losing momentum. A 12 month challenge will give me 21 days of focus and less chance I will burn out trying to do to much.
This doesn’t mean I plan to completely ignore other aspects of health I am just giving myself permission to be a bit relaxed about it while I concentrate most of my focus elsewhere. Focus on exercise for instance will not be making an appearance in this challenge for a couple of months but that does not mean though I will be a couch potato until such time. It just means exercise will be secondary and a source of no stress or guilt while I work on other parts of me and my life.
Let us begin…the first monthly challenge is all about SLEEP.
Why sleep? I believe that sleep is the secret ingredient. It is the foundation for good health or lack thereof. There is no aspect of your life…physical, mental, or emotional that is not directly impacted by the quality of your sleep. Sleep is when your body regenerates, builds, heals, grows, balances your body systems and hormones, and generally repairs all the damage you do it to it during the day. And frankly some of us do a lot of damage with bad diets, prescription drugs, sedentary jobs, high levels of stress, and so much more. When you do not get enough sleep or when the sleep you do get is low quality due to lifestyle choices and modern conveniences you are crippling your body’s ability to perform and thrive.
So what is my issue with sleep? Well, I get about eight hours a night of sleep by design and I stick to that fiercely but the quality of my sleep is not great. I often have a hard time falling to sleep. I wake multiple times each night. I toss and turn and I do not generally feel refreshed when I wake up. I know that the quality of my sleep is lacking and the first month of this challenge is all about how to change that. Here are my plans to create the ultimate sleep sanctuary:
Comfortable Relaxing Atmosphere: For awhile now I have been wanting to make my bedroom a more relaxing and appealing place to be, more like an upscale hotel. I plan to get a couple more sets of my favorite super soft bamboo sheets from Cariloha. They have deep pockets and they are the softest and most luxurious sheets I have ever felt. I also ordered a luxurious sherpa and velvet comforter. I will hang some art, clear some clutter, and generally create a room that makes me happy to walk into.
No Pets: Having my dog in my bed really impacts my sleep in a negative way. She likes to sleep right up on me and takes up half the bed until I am uncomfortable and about to fall off. I am sick of struggling for room and for covers. She has go to go! She has a dog bed but it is uncomfortable and she hates it. I plan to get a different one or perhaps even a futon or chaise since we have a big enough bedroom. Then I can reclaim my bed.
Blocking Artificial Light: Sleep quality is best when there is total darkness. Artificial light throws off our circadian clocks and throws off our natural melatonin production. This is a big problem! Not only does melatonin help with our sleep cycles it has also been shown to have a hand in improving our immune system, improving thyroid function, and balancing blood pressure. To block outside light I am replacing my curtains with blackout curtains. I have them in other areas of the home but not in the bedroom where I need them most.
Blocking Harmful Blue Light: Blue light from our TVs and devices (tablets, computers, phones) really alters sleep quality and quantity. This is why it is often recommended that you not have a TV in your bedroom and also that you not watch TV or use your devices within two hours of bedtime. In fact use within 2 hours before bedtime has been shown to significantly suppress nighttime melatonin levels.
I plan to try and reduce my nighttime use of electronics but frankly I think I may be setting myself up to fail because this is really the only time I have available to watch a little TV and catch up on shows I missed. I enjoy this time. Even so, I plan to make a couple nights a week device free and then use blue light blockers other nights. You can watch TV or use your devices with blue light blocking glasses, which I have. And you can block the light with apps such as f.lux. I have this amazing app installed on my phone, computer, and my TV. Booyah!
Protection from EMFs: All electronic devices emit electric and magnetic fields called EMFs. Eelctric fields can often be blocked by walls but magnetic fields can pass through walls and buildings with ease. This is bad because they can dissrupt communitcation between cells in our bodies which can cause big issues. The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies electromagnetic fields as a Group 2B carcinogen and recommends that everyone find ways to reduce their EMF exposure.
I plan to turn off and unplug as many electronics in my home/bedroom as I can each night and this includes my sleep number bed. I plan to put my wifi router on a timer so it shuts off when everyone is alseep. I plan to use EMF protection sleeves for our phones since we use them as alarm clocks and I am going try putting my phone in the bathroom instead of right next to my head.
Beneficial Exposure to Light: Sunlight is really beneficial for our health and for our sleep. I wake up at 4AM though when it is dark, dark, dark. I am going to break out my happy light and use it while I drink my morning cup of tea and check my emails. I am also going to try a wake up light that simulates the sunrise with gradual light. It is also an alarm clock so maybe my phone could then go downstairs. I am also going to try and sit outside for 30 minutes each day when I come home. That should help with vitamin D levels too.
Magnesium Oil: I used to use magnesium oil every day and it really helped with aches and pains as well as sleep. Why I got out of the habit is beyond me but in general but I am bringing it back. Magnesium is responsible for maintaining muscle and nerve function, brain health, building bones, and immune support. This is the fuel your body needs to do its job at night and since magnesium is most readily absorbed through the skin, an oil is the best way to get more magnesium. Spray it on your body each night and let it air dry.
Exercise: Physical activity makes you happy and it ultimately helps with sleep. My goal this month is just to start to move more each morning. I plan to spend 5-10 minutes doing tabata exercises such as squats, dumbbell presses, kettlebell swings, Russian twists with a medicine ball, or wallballs.
Nightime Tea: I plan to enjoy a hot cup of Yogi Bedtime tea each evening as part of a bed time ritual. Hopefully it won’t mean I have to wake up to pee in the night!
Essential Oils: I love my essential oils and they really help with just about anything that ails you. To promote sleep I plan to diffuse chamomile, vetiver, or jasmine in my room each evening just before bed. I also have a roll-on that stays in my bedside table with lavender, cedarwood, roman chamomile and coconut oil. I may also use a spritzer for my pillow.
So this is my plan and it starts today. I plan to focus and get this sleep thing under control! Do you have any advice to offer or tricks that have worked for you?
Must Read Book List:
Sleep Smarter – I recommend the audio book version and the author’s podcast is a MUST!!!
The Magnesium Miracle
It is the time of year for resolutions, goals, and promises for the future. I have made them myself and often posted on this blog about plans and resolutions for the upcoming year. I managed to accomplish some of what I wanted and at the same time I lost momentum and gave up on other plans. I think the biggest obstacle is that we write a list of resolutions or goals and then try to tackle them all pretty much simultaneously. We end up running out of gas because we didn’t break things into smaller more manageable goals.
For instance if you want to lose 50 pounds this year why not set the goal to lose 4.5 pounds per month instead. And to break things up a bit more why not plan to start January and February with a better diet plan and wait to address the fitness aspect until March or April. That way your eating plan becomes habit before you jump into another difficult transition, such as weight training or exercise.
I am going to go this route myself this year and instead of making a list of goals I am going to use one word to guide my journey this year…
That one word has resulted in a 12 month plan of action that will work harmoniously to help me reclaim my health after a few really rough years.
A couple years ago I went through some tumultuous changes. I was a happy stay at home mom who was at a healthy weight and doing crossfit 4-5 days a week with my husband. I could strict press 115 pounds over my head and deadlift 250 pounds. I loved my life and daily routine.
Things began to change though when I made the decision to take an outside the home job. Being self employed brought me happiness but it it was also stressful to keep my income at a certain level, especially since we were paying quite a bit for CrossFit and paleo food. I thought getting a “real” job would help with that stress. It helped with income but brought a whole different set of issues. I was not able to work out with my husband in the mornings anymore. I had to work out in the late afternoon and I hated it. Not only was I tired from working a full day, I disliked the huge crowds of people that were at the gym during those hours. The morning hours had lots of moms and professional men getting a workout in before work, usually no more than 10-12. I liked the people and the atmosphere. The afternoons were full of 30 or more college age athletes (some professional) who put as much energy into looking hot and hitting on each other as they did their workouts. It just wasn’t a place I liked to be anymore.
Plus, I was starting to struggle physically for some reason. Thyroid issues that I had previously gotten under control came back with a vengeance. My vitamin D and B12 levels were in the tank. I started to gain weight no matter how healthy I ate and how dedicated I was to working out. It wasn’t long before the eating habits started to slide and I stopped doing CrossFit altogether. It was just to hard to manage after work and I now hated the environment I once loved. To drop a grenade in an already bad situation my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer…a type so deadly that she was given only a 4% chance of survival.
Fast forward to a couple years of working two jobs…my day job and my home business. Much of my time off was spent with my mom and dad, who lived in another county. Since we were away from home we ate out a ton and I would spend my days laying on a couch next to my mom. She eventually went into hospice and passed and I was left struggling with depression.
Mid 2017 will mark the two year anniversary of her death and I think that also makes this year a good time to get back on track with my health, mental and physical. It may seem like a very broad goal and that is why I am breaking it into twelve steps, one for each month of the year. And none of those monthly themes will include losing weight (even though I need to) because that will hopefully be a happy side effect and not the outright goal. Better overall health is the goal.
Each month will address a different aspect of my healthy transition and it all starts with January 2017 which will address…
Look for a new post this week about why I need to get better sleep, why I think that is the most important first step, and how I will create a sleep sanctuary. By the time February rolls around I will have hopefully established new habits and be getting much better sleep so that I can conquer my next goal with a solid foundation.
I hope you tune in every month to see where my journey takes me!
Have you heard of bone broth? Maybe you’ve heard it mentioned but aren’t quite sure what it is and why it is so highly praised by many. Just like coconut oil, it has many passionate admirers who claim it is good for just about everything under the sun. Nutritionally, it is a powerhouse that should not be ignored.
Bone broth is simply a liquid obtained from simmering the bones from chicken, turkey, pork or beef in water. The biggest difference between bone broth and regular stock is that bone broth is cooked much longer. The end result is a tasty liquid that’s delicious on its own, but it also makes a wonderful and nutritious base for soups and stews.
Nutritional benefit is one of the main reasons people make and consume bone broth regularly. Of course nothing beats the flavor either, but more on that in a second. When you simmer bones for a long period of time all sorts of nutrients, minerals and other beneficial things like glucosamine and collagen, are leached from the bones. The bones are a nutritional powerhouse and since we don’t eat the bones, this is how you extract the nutrients and the yummy goodness.
Broth is great for your immune system. Remember mom making a big pot of chicken noodle soup anytime someone would get sick? The same principal is at work here. Bone broth is a concentrated healing soup. The broth may even help you sleep better at night. Sip a warm cup of the tasty liquid before bed. It’ll work better than hot milk.
To make bone broth you take bones like those from that leftover roasted chicken or turkey carcass. Cover it with plenty of water and simmer for several hours. How long you cook your broth is up to you. Twelve hours gives you a very decent broth, but cooking it even longer makes it even more nutritious. Broth can safely bubble away in a crockpot or stock pot as you go about your day. You can keep leftover bones in a freezer bag until you have enough to make a good broth. Once made, the cooled broth can be stored in the fridge for about four days or in the freezer for up to a year.
If you want to freeze some for soups and stews these nifty, large silicone trays are excellent for freezing broth. Just pop them out as needed or transfer the blocks to another, larger container. These freezer containers are pretty awesome and they are stackable. Glasslock also makes some stackable glass containers that are safe to freeze. Glass is always better than plastic!
You can drink the finished hot broth as is, season it up with your favorite herbs and spices, or use it to make a pot of soup or stew. How many recipes do you make that require chicken broth or beef broth? Make it yourself! It will be healthier for you and it will be cheaper.
The next time you pick up a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store or roast that Thanksgiving turkey, don’t toss out the bones when you’re done. Use them to make a batch of delicious bone broth that’s good for you. Once you try it, you’ll be surprised just how easy it is to make and how truly wonderful it is.
If you want to get in shape and keep an exercise regime going strong, it is important not to become bored and feel like your fitness routine isn’t motivating yourself enough to push hard to achieve the goals you have set yourself. This is one of the main problems with working out in a gym. Those same four walls every day, the feel of the familiar thud as each step hits the treadmill, and you can probably see someone in much better shape than you a short distance away, making you feel bad for how easy they are making it look.
That’s why it can be so much better to run outside and discover the depths of your local area at the same time. Take advantage of parks, green spaces and nature trails to give your eyes a treat as you put some miles in. When your mind is distracted by what is around you, it is much easier to keep going as you don’t really notice you’re even training that hard if you get absorbed in your surroundings.
If you mix it up each day as well, you won’t get too used to that beautiful park run you did the other week, which keeps it exciting and memorable each time you do it. Find a route planner online that has all of the footpaths and trails you maybe hadn’t spotted before and map out a path to tackle. It is often said that if you know exactly where you will be running, it feels like less of a chore than if you just wander aimlessly as you can be aware of how far you have left to go and how much gas is still in your tank.
If you start to really get into it and feel like you can push yourself even further than you have been, then get outdoors and get as far into nature as is possible. It has even been found that running or jogging in natural surroundings can increase the positive effects of the workout by half, compared to expending the same energy in the gym. As being around trees and grass can actually reduce the levels of stress in your brain, it is the perfect excuse to combine exercise and relaxation in a beautiful space.
One of the best ways to stick to something like this is to rope other people in with you along the way. Get the whole family involved for a fun activity day and explore some local nature sites. If you’re planning on bringing the kids, make sure Mom or Dad bring a backpack with water and some healthy snacks so the little ones don’t run out of energy too soon and start complaining!
This is no bad advice for anyone, though. If you are out for a reasonably long time, make sure you come prepared with some hydration to keep going. Becoming dehydrated can affect performance levels, so make sure you top up when thirsty to carry on for longer.
When getting started or getting back into a routine it is important not to go all out straight away. Impact injuries are common when your body isn’t prepared for such a workout if the muscles haven’t been properly utilized in a while so it is important to listen to what your body has to say.
When considering injury prevention, you can find the best knee sleeves for running at reasonable prices online. If you know that a particular joint is likely to be troublesome, it can be worth the investment to ensure your best laid plans for getting fit aren’t curtailed by an injury that could have been avoided.
Remember though, that everyone has a bad day sometimes and there is no point in beating yourself up over that one day where you missed out on a run due to other arrangements or feeling under the weather. If you allow that disappointment and negativity to creep into your fitness outlook, it can drag you down back to where you started. Instead, figure out your schedule way in advance to limit the amount of times this can happen and remain positive that you will reach your fitness targets eventually.
So if you are feeling bored of the same layout, and the same exact routine in the gym, consider making the most of the world outside your window and see what beautiful things may pass you by as you make for a more enjoyable workout.
Local, raw honey is a powerhouse for natural healing and it can be infused with herbs and other medicinal plants so that you can address specific concerns. When you infuse it with ginger for instance it becomes a great aid for nausea and other intestinal illnesses, such as the flu. A home remedy of ginger infused honey is actually really easy to make, it just takes a bit of time. You must plan ahead and make some before the illness the strikes so that you have some on hand when you need it. It is just part of your natural home apothecary.
Ginger Infused Honey for Nausea & Stomach Flu
2 pieces ginger (thumb size)
1/2 lemon (sliced)
1/4 C chamomile flowers
1/4 C cinnamon bark (chipped)
10 cardamom pods
2 C local raw honey
Fill a pint sized mason jar with your dry ingredients and cover with honey. Allow to steep for six weeks.
After six weeks, warm the jar by soaking in warm water. Once the honey is warm strain the herbs and plant parts out and bottle the honey in a clean mason jar.
Whenever nausea or other intestinal bugs strike, take a teaspoon as needed. Feel better!