6 Reasons You Should Drink More Water

Water Drops

If You Aren’t Drinking Water Here are the Reasons Why You Should Start

Drinking water is an important part of having a healthy lifestyle. Since I have incorporated drinking water regularly into my life, I have reaped wonderful benefits.

Most important is the fact that our body is made up of about 60% of water.  On a normal day with no exercise our bodies lose 64 ounces of water through perspiration. Perspiring is our body’s way of regulating its temperature. So think of your body as a bank account and water your money. If you keep withdrawing money (water) from your account (body) and you never deposit more money what would happen to your account? Your bank account would become empty and then bad things would happen right? So why would you do that to your body?

I know water seems to be boring and have no taste, but you are talking to the girl that went from drinking six cans of soda a day to one soda a month. If I can do it I know you can. I have found that once you start drinking water your body wants more, and that it is just natural and easier to reach for the water then the soda.

Once you start drinking water regularly you will start noticing the benefits. Let me tell you about the benefits so you will have something to look forward to when you start drinking your first glass.

Read more…

When My Mind Grasped Mindfulness

mindful sunset

I have read a lot about mindfulness. I understood the concept and how important it is for a happy life, but my mind didn’t really grasp what it really meant until one day a few weeks ago.

My husband and I were on a walk after dinner. We have a nice nature trail near our home with a creek and small waterfall. It is a really quiet and peaceful place. Justin and I spend our time there planning future trips, talking about our day, or discussing ideas for the blog. While walking we saw a family approach, a mother, father, and two kids between the ages of seven and ten. The father and kids were in the moment, but the mom was walking with her cellphone literally in front her face. I was stunned. It really bothered me. I wanted to say “ hey lady put your phone down! Don’t you realize you will never get this time or day back with your family, because once it’s gone it is gone forever?!?!

Then I realized that I do the same thing in my life. I will get on my phone and before I know it 30 minutes has flown by and I have literally done nothing of value. I asked Justin if he had seen that lady ignoring her family because she would rather be on her phone and he said he had. I told him that I didn’t want to be like that. That is when I actually grasped what mindfulness meant. Be mindful of the moment and knowing that it may never happen again, so enjoy it while you can.

Justin and I started discussing mindfulness and times when we were not in the moment and took things for granted. For instance, we loved to eat at a German restaurant an hour away. We would always order the German Burrito for a starter. What is a German burrito you ask? It is a potato pancake rolled up like a burrito and stuffed inside is ham,cheese, and caramelized onions. On the side is sour cream and applesauce to dip it in. The restaurant is now closed and we will never get to eat a German burrito again. Justin and I can’t remember eating our last burrito because it didn’t enter our mind that the last time we ate it that it would be our LAST time. I regretted not being in the moment and paying full attention to what I was eating that day. Then I thought what else have I missed because I wasn’t in the moment?

I decided right then and there that I was going to start living life in the moment. It didn’t matter how small or unimportant it seems at the time, I would be present for everything. I have decided to cut back on the amount of time I spend on my personal social media accounts. In fact I have deleted the facebook app off of my phone. I didn’t realize how much time I wasted on my phone and how disengaged I had become.

I have also started looking at other ways I can become mindful because it does have a lot of benefits. Some benefits of mindfulness are:

  • Better quality of sleep
  • Helps sustain weight
  • Reduces stress levels
  • Helps shake off negative feelings
  • Boosts attention span
  • Helps diminish anxiety

There are several ways to practice mindfulness. The most commonly talked about is meditation, but there are other less talked about ways as well.

  • Mindful Eating: when you eat do not do anything else like check emails or watch TV.
  • When you take a walk notice your surroundings such as the sites and sounds around you: The changing color of the leaves, the shape of the clouds, the sound of the nearby creek.
  • Pay attention to your breathing: it can take your thoughts from your mind and make you more aware of your body which can free you from your worries and problems.
  • Focus on your senses: How your day’s first cup of coffee smells, the feel of the sun as it warms your face as you sit outside, Hearing the birds chirping as you walk to check the mail, the taste of the summer’s first strawberry, seeing the first snowfall of winter.
  • Truly listen: when someone is talking to you truly listen to what they are saying. People aren’t fully listening because they are thinking about how they will respond, judging what the speaker is saying , or are just in their own thoughts.
  • Engross yourself in the things you love to do: If you love to cook, read, or hike focus your attention on to that activity instead of thinking of your to do list or other mind distracting projects.

Being mindful is different for everyone, what works for me may not work for you. I hope you find your path to mindfulness using my tips or thinking of other ways for yourself. I would love to hear your ideas on what mindfulness means to you.

Why You Should Make Your Own Yogurt

One of the best habits I have started is eating yogurt on a daily basis. I eat it every morning for breakfast no matter what. The benefits of yogurt are too good to overlook. Yogurt is rich in B vitamins such as vitamin B12 and riboflavin which may help reduce the risk of heart disease. Yogurt is also a great source of calcium which helps maintain strong bones which can lower the risk of osteoporosis in women. Yogurt tends to be high in protein which can help aid in weight control. A study conducted by the Pennington Biomedical Research Center suggests that protein may have a big impact on your body-fat percentage, so it stands to reason that by increasing your muscle mass you can boost your metabolism. Yogurt can also be great for your digestive health as well.

I have gone on a yogurt journey so to speak. I started my journey eating Yoplait but after awhile it was too sugary. I then moved to the greek yogurts such as Oikos and Chobani and again after a time they became too sweet as well. I then moved on to Fage greek yogurt. It took awhile to get use to Fage because it had a tangy and way less sugary taste. I then read about making your own yogurt and I thought wow that would be nice but I am not that kinda gal. Well I was wrong, I am that type of gal and I have not looked back. Last Christmas I asked for a yogurt maker and my mother-in-law ordered one for me on Amazon. Now at first it was hit and miss ( thank goodness my husband doesn’t mind being a taste tester) but I finally came up with a recipe that I love.

The benefits of making your own yogurt is that YOU decide what goes in your yogurt and how much. If you look at just about any store bought yogurt the sugar content can be unbelievable. There are 16 grams of sugar in Dannon Oikos Traditional Greek Yogurt Raspberry which is about 4 teaspoons of sugar. Chobani Raspberry Greek yogurt has 18 grams, Yoplait Peach has 26 grams! My yogurt has 12 grams but it is pure sugar and not sugar additives, and I do have a sweet tooth! I also use whole organic milk and five percent fat content plain Fage yogurt as my starter. I want good quality products in my yogurt, and despite what you may have read the fat from yogurt is considered fat that is good for.

Homemade Yogurt

Another benefit to making your own yogurt is the cost of buying versus the cost of making. My husband and I both eat yogurt for breakfast every day and that really added up. We were spending $21.00 a week on yogurt. Now that I make our yogurt we are spending roughly $6.49, which is a weekly savings of $14.51! With that money saved we buy fresh fruit to top our yogurt and yummy granola.

Making yogurt is not for everyone, but if you give it a try you may just be that kind of person! Also don’t give up because with just about everything else practice makes perfect. It will take several attempts to get your yogurt how you want it so don’t give up!

Homemade Vanilla Organic Whole Milk Yogurt

Equipment needed

  • One yogurt maker (glass jars and lids should be included (Euro Cuisine Brand))
  • One cooking pot
  • Thermometer (Euro Cuisine Brand)
  • Whisk
  • Medium size bowl
  • Four cup measuring cup
  • Cheesecloth
  • One measuring tablespoon
  • One ¼ measuring cup
  • One wire mesh strainer

Ingredients

  • Four cups organic whole milk ( I use Aldi brand and save about $3.00)
  • ½ cup dry milk (Nido brand)
  • Sugar to your taste ( I use six tablespoons but it is now tasting a little too sweet so I am going to take it down to four Tbsp)
  • One package good quality plain greek yogurt ( I use Fage plain 5% fat)
  • One tablespoon vanilla

Directions

  1. Pour 4 cups of milk in to the pot at medium to medium high heat. Set the thermometer in the milk, making sure the thermometer doesn’t touch the bottom of the pot. Bring the milk to 180 degrees F. Remove pot from the heat and remove thermometer.
  2. Whisk in the dry milk a ¼ cup at a time. Next whisk in the sugar a few tablespoons at a time. Make sure dry milk and sugar is dissolved.  If you see little lumps don’t be alarmed, this will be strained off towards the end. Put the thermometer back in the milk mixture, again making sure it does not touch the bottom of the pot. Let the milk cool until it reaches 95 degrees F.
  3. Meanwhile, set out the yogurt maker, glass jars, and lids. Empty yogurt starter into medium bowl. When the milk mixture has cooled to 95 degrees pour a little bit of it in the bowl with the starter to temper. Whisked until combined. Combine the yogurt starter mix in the milk mixture and whisk until smooth. Add 1 tablespoon vanilla and stir lightly.
  4. Get your cleaned 4 cup measure and put the mesh strainer over opening and cover with the cheesecloth. Slowly pour milk mixture through the cheesecloth.  When all of the mixture is strained slowly pour the mixture into the individual glass yogurt jars. Put glass jars in yogurt machine, cover with lid, and turn machine on. Once the maker is on do not move or shake. Leave yogurt in the maker for 12 to 14 hours. When yogurt is finished remove jars and cool slightly. Cap the jars and refrigerate for least 4 hours before eating.

If you decide to start making your own yogurt drop me a message I would love to know how it goes for you.

 

The Power of Disconnecting

Disconnecting from digital media – even for a short amount of time – can clear your mind and make you more able to focus on what’s important. It can reduce distractions, stress, and make you a happier person.

Do you ever feel like your life is constantly being interrupted by your cell phone? You sit down to work, and you hear a beep or a notification. You want to ignore and just continue what you were doing, but you can’t. There is an instinctual need inside of you to check your phone, driven by the mystery of not knowing what the alert signifies. Is it an important text message? Something interesting on Facebook? An email from a colleague or friend, perhaps? So you check it out, then get back to whatever you were doing.

Then your phone beeps again.

We have become increasingly accustomed to living in a world of constant distractions. Not only is it counterproductive in the sense that it takes time to check your phone and reply, but it also makes it very difficult to give your full focus to anything. In fact, I would argue that it’s nearly impossible to do anything as well as we can if we are constantly living in a state of distraction. It’s also more difficult to enjoy life, because it makes it much tougher to live in the moment. I remember when I was a child, I was able to immerse myself in all aspects of my life. I was present – physically and mentally – for all the important events of my childhood. Now, no matter what happens, my mind is split.

There are a few exceptions to this. I notice that I do my best thinking in the bath. Part of it is because I am calm and relaxed in the tub. But another huge part is that my phone isn’t with me, and I couldn’t check it if it was. I get half an hour of peace and relaxation, and I feel fabulous afterwards. Another exception is when we were on vacation in Spain and France last fall. Sure, I checked my phone when I was on wifi in the hotel, but it wasn’t a constant thing. I was able to go most of the day simply enjoying what I was doing and who I was with. Also, when I am hiking I don’t check my phone. I have written about the mental and physical health benefits of hiking in the past, and this is just another great reason to hike. Being at peace, out in nature, and free of distractions is an amazing feeling.

Disconnecting in your daily life

Recently, I have decided to take some time each day to disconnect. Now, I can’t live without my cell phone, and I can’t expect anyone else to either, but you can set aside a bit of time to be without your phone, away from your computer, with your TV off. Meditating alone in a quiet room is a great way to disconnect. Also, you can take a bath and leave the phone in the other room, or go for a walk and just leave your phone at home. You can have a no-phones-allowed dinner with your family. You will realize how valuable your time is when you take a moment to appreciate the simple joy of being present. And the longer you do it, the better you will feel. Your mind races less. You will be less preoccupied. You will be less distracted. You will focus more on what’s important and what is in front of you right now.

Disconnecting at work

Disconnecting can help with your work as well. You probably have less control over your environment, but you can still set aside blocks of time where you don’t check texts, alerts, or emails. You will quickly find that you are much more productive and focused as a result. Of course, you can’t go all day like this – functioning in your work environment requires communication, and you can’t cut that off entirely. But having a few blocks of time set aside where you can focus will improve your productivity and make you a better worker. You will be a little less ‘available’ – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You may actually find out that people respect your time more if you are not so willing and anxious to reply to everything in an instant.

You won’t miss anything

Your text messages will be there when you get back. Your alerts will be there. Your emails will be there. The world will not end if you don’t reply to someone immediately. The first few times you disconnect, you might have some anxiety. This will manifest itself in a strong desire to check your phone. This is normal! We use our phones to feel connected, and when we don’t have them, we don’t know what to do. But this is because our brains have been programmed by constantly having our phones there to provide instant gratification. But after you do it a few times it gets so much easier.

5 Easy Tips for Healthy Snacking

To snack or not to snack, that is the question! I love to snack, as do a lot of people.  An otherwise healthy diet can be completely derailed by making poor food choices between meals. My husband is not much of a snacker and I envy him for that. The reason I snack is because I have always snacked. My parents bought snacks and I ate them. I even once went through what I call my “Twinkie phase”, which was about a one-month period during my junior high years where I ate a package of Twinkies every day. My husband on the other hand very rarely snacked as a child. His parents didn’t buy snacks, but he was spoiled when he went to visit his grandmother a few times a year. He had occasional treats instead of every day snacks.

I don’t think I have very good snacking habits, but I don’t want to give up snacking so I need to change how I snack.  I love sweets and since I have cut a lot of processed food out of my diet, I am now craving salty snacks as well. Not only do I need to change how I snack but when I snack. I have noticed I snack when I’m not even hungry!

Here are the changes I have made to improve my snacking habits:

  1. Eat a bigger breakfast. This makes it so I am less likely to snack before lunch.  I usually eat Greek yogurt, whole grain cereal, toast, or oatmeal.  This usually keeps me full until lunch.
  2. Snack on healthy, filling foods.  After lunch – usually by 4 pm I start to get a little hungry, so I switched to snacking on grapes, cheese, and or nuts for my afternoon snack. Grapes and other fruit can satisfy my need for something sweet, and cheese and nuts can satisfy my need for something salty.
  3. Drink water or tea throughout the day.  Drinking a lot of fluids is great for you in a number of ways, one of which is that it makes you feel more full and less likely to eat.  Sometimes, I will even have a cup of tea instead of eating.
  4. Plan and pre-pack snacks.  I plan my meals ahead of time so I can better control what I eat, why not do the same with snacks?  This way I know what I am going to be eating. Planning ahead may keep me from grabbing an unhealthy snack on the spur of the moment. Pre-packing snacks also helps control the portion size, and makes me less likely to grab an extra handful of food.
  5. Control the portion size of less healthy snacks.  Sometimes I want an unhealthy snack – and that’s OK.  When I have a less-than-healthy snack, I make sure that I control the portion size.  I have a sweet tooth and chocolate is a huge weakness for me. Reese’s cups are my favorite, but I have accepted the fact I cannot eat them like I did when I was 15 and had the best metabolism! So an hour or so after dinner I will have one piece of chocolate. I try to get a good dark chocolate and eat just one piece and it satisfies my chocolate cravings. I have learned I don’t need to eat a whole candy bar to satisfy the chocolate monster inside me.

Using these methods, I am able to satisfy my desire to snack – but also prevent myself from falling off the wagon and spoiling my diet by making poor food choices between meals.

3 Tips to Boost Your Immune System

How to Naturally Boost Your Immune System For Cold and Flu Season

Naturally Boost your Immune System

1) Boost your vitamin D levels by spending time outside

Some scientists have suggested that one reason that cold and flu are seasonal is that people tend to stay inside in the winter and don’t get their recommended amount of Vitamin D. Your body naturally produces Vitamin D by being exposed to natural sunlight, so staying indoors reduces the amount of Vitamin D in your system.  And since Vitamin D is crucial to your immune system, not getting enough of it can make you susceptible to the cold and flu.

But you don’t have to spend a great deal of time outside.  In fact, your body produces your daily allowance of Vitamin D in just 10-15 minutes of moderate sun exposure!  A short walk once a day can help boost your immune system!  In addition to boosting your vitamin D, there are a bunch of other reasons to take a short walk every day.

2) Drink lots of tea

Tea, particularly green tea, is filled with antioxidants, which boost the immune system by neutralizing free radicals – a type of atom that can damage your body.  Tea is loaded with catechins – a very specific type of antioxidant that prevents the breakdown of cells.  Tea is especially high in catechins because it is usually minimally processed. Green tea has the added benefits of increasing blood flow and lowering cholesterol. Also, the warmth of the tea can soothe a sore throat, reduce congestion, and fight inflammation if you already have a cold.

3) Eat these foods:

Yogurt – Probiotics in yogurt keep your intestinal lining healthy.  Probiotics are good bacteria that keep germs and other bad bacteria out of your stomach and digestive system.  Just one cup of yogurt a day can help keep your digestive track healthy.

Garlic – Garlic contains a substance called Allicin, which, has antimicrobial properties and resists germs.  According to research, it can also help prevent the common cold and reduce the symptoms once you have it. Check out our hummus recipe for an awesome, easy dish containing garlic.

Citrus – Citrus contains vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, which has antiviral and antibacterial properties.  Drinking citrus fruit juice, or better yet – eating fruits themselves can increase your body’s Vitamin C levels.  Citrus fruits are typically in-season in the winter, so you will find a great variety of fresh fruits in your grocery store.  Citrus fruits also contain fiber, so eating the fruit rather than simply drinking the juice has added benefits.

Lean meat, like beef – Meats contain a great deal of zinc, which can help your body produce white blood cells.  White blood cells fight viruses and bacteria, and keep your immune system healthy and able to fight off a cold.  You can take zinc supplements, but you can also acquire it naturally by eating lean protein in the form of beef, lamb, chicken, and pork.

Hiking Can Make you Happier

nature

We already know that light exercise can provide significant health benefits. But there is a lot of evidence that it can also have psychological benefits as well – particularly if you are doing it outdoors. There is a strong connection between the body and mind. Surrounding yourself in a natural setting can have a profound impact on your psychological well-being and overall brain function, particularly when its paired with physical activity.

I’ve always been and outdoors person.  Ever since I was young, I have always enjoyed spending time outdoors. Being outside and disconnecting myself from technology allowed my brain to relax and function without the distractions of the modern world. Without the constant beeping of my cell phone alerting me to text messages, emails and social media alerts, my brain could actually relax. And what I’ve noticed is the longer I was able to do this, the better I felt. When I would return from hiking, I experienced that my mind was much more focused, and my thought process was a lot clearer. I’ve spoken to other hikers and outdoorsy people who have shared the same experience.

So I was not surprised to learn that there is a lot of data to back this up! Several studies have shown that spending time outdoors can have huge psychological benefits. This is particularly true if you do so in a natural setting and even truer if you are disconnected from technology.

A recent study tested individuals on creativity both before and after a 4-day nature excursion, and found that there was a significant improvement. An article published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology suggests that the act walking can improve cognitive function.

Walking, preferably in a natural setting, can:

  • Improve creative thinking
  • Improve reasoning and problem solving skills
  • Relieve stress and improve your mental state

Not to mention the countless physical health benefits!

So if you’re feeling stressed, need to solve a problem, or just want to relax – take a walk somewhere. No matter where you live – even if it’s a big city – you can find a natural setting to walk. Go to the park. Take a hike. And turn off your cell phone!

The Benefits of Light Exercise

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Everyone knows that exercise is an important part of losing weight and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. However, the amount you actually need may be a lot less than you think. Recent studies have shown that even light exercise can produce significant health benefits. This is great news for those of us who don’t enjoy exercising. Personally, I have a great deal of trouble motivating myself to do any sort of structured exercise, so it was great for me to learn that most of the benefits gained by engaging in strenuous exercise cana also be enjoyed by taking part in lighter exercise, like walking or casually riding your bicycle.

One particular study suggests that simply walking about 30 minutes a day for five days a week can:

  • Lower your blood pressure,
  • Lower your cholesterol,
  • Lower your risk of heart disease
  • Lower your risk of diabetes.
  • Improve your mental health by relieving stress and reducing anxiety.

This data reinforces our philosophy that you don’t need strenuous exercise to be healthy.
People who live in the Mediterranean and Asian cultures that we are studying typically don’t do any organized exercise, but light exercise such as walking are just natural parts of their daily lives. To them, this isn’t work, or effort, or something they feel they need to do – it’s just how they already live. Since I have been walking my dog every day, it has become such a part of my routine that I would feel very strange not to do it. It doesn’t feel like an effort or a chore, it’s just part of my routine.

So, in short:
You don’t have to exercise a great deal to reap the benefits of exercise. Simply spending about 30 minutes a day exercising is good enough to get most of the benefits. While 30 minutes a day won’t help much with actual weight loss, you will get the bulk of the other benefits associated with exercise.
You don’t even have to exercise strenuously. You don’t have to do any sort of exercise that feels like ‘work.’ You don’t have to go to the gym and hop on a treadmill, lift weights, do jumping jacks, push-ups or squats. Don’t get me wrong – there are wonderful health benefits associated with strenuous workouts. The point is: you don’t have to do hardcore workouts to reap many of the benefits.
This type of exercise can be incorporated into our daily routines easily. Walk your dog a little farther. Walk to the corner store instead of driving. When you go shopping, park at the far end of the lot instead of finding the closest spot. Small things like this add up, and you will get your 30 minutes a day in no time.

Just half an hour light exercise is easy to do, easy to fit into your schedule, and provides a wealth of benefits. But one thing I always recommend is to track your results – at least until you establish your routine. I use a free app called Runkeeper on my phone. I simply tap a button every time I go for a walk and it tracks my time and distance and allows me to set goals. Other people recommend the fitbit, a wearable device that you can attach to your wrist that also tracks your progress. You could also simply log your walks with a pen and paper. The point being, when you track your data, you are making yourself accountable.

Learn more about the benefits of light exercise here:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19204218
http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/06/23/416482690/take-a-hike-to-do-your-heart-and-spirit-good
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/6944591.stm