Tag Archives: sleep

8 tips to beating the winter blues

how to beat the winter bluesI have lived in the Midwest my entire life. I love the change of seasons: spring brings rainstorms and blossoming flowers while fall offers the beauty of colorful leaves and a nip in the air.

About January, I usually start wishing I lived somewhere sunny and tropical. I begin to long for warm breezes, green grass and flip flops. Right now, I get up in the dark to put my kids on the school bus, and it’s dark by the time we finish dinner. I feel tired, grumpy and have very little motivation.

So, what can we do to beat the winter blues? Here are 8 tips to boost your energy level and lift your spirits during the winter:

Soak up some sun
I don’t like to be cold. So, in the winter months, I hibernate in the house. However, exposure to natural sunlight can improve your mood. There is a scientific reason why you might feel blue during the winter. Lack of sunlight reduces the amount of serotonin we produce. This hormone makes you feel happy. Try to spend some time outside in the sunshine every day.

I have a huge window in my living room that faces to the west. I am not sure if it has the same effect, but I enjoy sitting on the floor in the sun. It warms me up and makes me feel like I am soaking up the sun.

Keep up the exercise routine
It is tempting to lie around and wallow in the winter blahs. It can be hard to get motivated to exercise. In the long run though, exercise will help your mood and improve your outlook. That’s because exercise can raise your serotonin levels just like sunlight. So even better, spend time outside in the sun and go for a bike ride, play street hockey, ice skate, jog or simply take a walk.

Fuel up with healthy foods
Beware of the munchies. When your serotonin levels are low, your body may crave foods that are high in carbohydrates, such as sugary foods and soda. Loading up on sugar will only make you feel more blue when it wears off. Stick to your healthy eating habits, and include as many fruits and vegetables as you can.

Spend time with friends
You may get in a rut and want to hole up in your house. Brave the cooler temps and get out and do something. Meet up with friends for coffee or dinner. Spending time with friends has so many benefits. Or, plan a get together with your family. I know having people over to my house energizes me to clean and create fun snacks. Something as simple as calling a friend can also help brighten your day – and theirs!

Get plenty of sleep
We have talked about the importance of getting enough sleep in previous blogs. Try to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night, but don’t sleep too much. Both too little and too much sleep can affect your mood. A short nap (15 – 30 minutes) can also help re-energize you during the day. Naps may also help you live longer!

Pamper yourself
What feels like a luxury to you? Soaking in a hot bubble bath, drinking a cup of hot tea, or watching the big game on TV with friends or family? Find ways to give yourself a little treat that will perk up your spirits.

Plan something fun
Come up with a fun activity you can do next week. Maybe it’s taking your kids to a movie or planning a lunch date with a friend. Then, think about making plans for something you can look forward to. Schedule a fun activity for the spring when the weather warms up. Or, start looking into locations for a summer vacation. Sometimes the planning and anticipation can be half the fun!

Look forward to spring
Start thinking about things you can do when spring arrives. You may want to create a new flower bed. It may be time to purchase patio furniture to spruce up your outdoor living space. You could think about new routes for bicycling or places to go hiking. These activities can help you get geared up for a fun and healthy spring!

Do you notice a difference in your mood during the winter months? What do you do to fight off the winter blues?

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14 secrets to living longer

living longerMy husband and I have very different views on aging. He wants to live as long as possible – on the condition that he is in good health. He has made it clear to me that if he were on life support and there was no chance of regaining quality of life, he wants me to pull the plug.

I, on the other hand, want to live forever. Since that’s not possible, I at least want to live to 100. I have told him he is – under no circumstances – to pull the plug. I could be one of those miraculous survivors who beat the odds.

I know this is a rather morbid subject, but if you are like me and want to live your longest life, you want to know what you can do to make it to 100. After reviewing studies, research and even tips from centenarians, here are some secrets to longevity:

Be conscientious
Having a conscientious personality and attributes like attention to detail and persistence may help you live longer. Studies have shown that conscientious people do more things to protect their health  – such as exercise, eat healthy and avoid bad habits – and make choices that lead to stronger relationships and better careers.

Make friends
Be grateful for your friends. As we mentioned in our blog, 7 Reasons We Need Friends, your friends may help you live longer. But, be picky. You want to have friends with good habits, such as exercising and healthy eating. Otherwise, a friend’s bad habits, like smoking or overeating, can rub off on you.

Take naps
This may be one of my favorite secrets on the list. I now have permission to take naps! There’s scientific evidence that napping may help increase longevity. A recent study suggests that by taking naps you are 37% less likely to die from heart disease. So, go take a siesta!

Get married
There is some debate about whether being married will help you live longer, but having a partner in life may have its benefits. With marriage, you have a friend and your own support system. In addition, being married may mean you are more financially stable, which can make you feel more secure and give you more opportunities to do things you enjoy.

Eat a Mediterranean diet
A Mediterranean diet consists mainly of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil and fish. Studies have shown that this type of diet can help reduce obesity, lower blood sugar, decrease blood pressure, and help lower your chances of heart disease and diabetes.

Lose weight
Belly fat seems to be particularly bad for your health and longevity. So, work on slimming down and deflating the spare tire. The health benefits can include protecting against diabetes, heart disease and other life-shortening conditions. One way to lose weight is to eat less. Stop eating when you’re 80% full. Eat less meat and eat twice as many fruits and vegetables. We know we need to eat better, so add living longer to the reasons you should adopt a healthy diet.

Keep moving
According to studies, regular physical activity reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, some forms of cancer and depression. Exercise may even help you stay mentally sharp as you age. You should aim for 2.5 hours of moderate exercise per week. You can break that down to 30 minutes, 5 days a week. Even if you can only get in 10 minutes at a time, it all adds up to increase your lifespan. Here are some tips to Get Motivated to Exercise in 2013.

Drink in moderation
Yes, heart disease is less common in people who have a drink or two a day than those who don’t drink at all. However, you need to remember that alcohol is also empty calories that add to that belly bulge. The American Heart Association recommends that if you drink alcohol, the limit should be one drink a day for women and one or two for men. If you don’t drink currently, you shouldn’t start.

Quit smoking
We all know that smoking is bad for your health. Not only is there a greater risk of cancer, you’re also taking years off of your life. So, if you haven’t already, now is the time to quit smoking.

Have faith
Having faith seems to help you live longer. By having strong spiritual beliefs, you are able to better deal with stress and difficult times. It may also offer protection against heart, respiratory and digestive problems. In addition, the strong social network that you create when you worship with others may contribute to overall health.

Manage stress
We always hear that stress is bad for you, but moderate stress can be a good thing. It means you are probably busy, active and involved. Rather than being sedentary and ambivalent, you are persistent and dedicated to getting things done. However, too much stress can be harmful if it causes anxiety, insomnia or digestive issues. Are you too stressed? Read our blog Do You Have Chronic Stress? 6 Major Signs.

Sleep more
As you may have read in our blog, 10 Reasons Get More Sleep, getting plenty of rest can help you fight disease, lose weight, look better and build your brain. Getting enough good quality sleep can even lower the risk of diabetes, heart disease and mood disorders. Sleep will also help you recover from illness faster.

Offer forgiveness
Just let it go. Offering forgiveness has surprising physical health benefits. Forgiveness can help you reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure and help you to breathe more easily. These benefits tend to increase as you get older.

Have a sense of purpose
There is something to doing what you love. We all have days when we need a reason to get out of bed. Having a sense of purpose leads to a higher quality of life. You may love your work and look forward to it every day. You may have hobbies and activities that have meaning for you. You may find that volunteering makes you feel fulfilled. For more benefits of volunteering, see our blog, 5 Surprising Benefits of Giving Back. Basically, doing what you love may contribute to a longer life.

So, now you know what you need to do to live your longest life! Do you know someone who is 100 or older? What are their secrets to longevity?

10 reasons to get more sleep

need more sleepI have terrible sleep habits. I like to stay up late, I watch TV or play on my iPad in bed, and then I don’t want to get up in the morning. Most nights, I get maybe 6 hours of continuous sleep. No big deal, right? So what if I can take a nap standing up and get grouchy for no reason.

Well, after doing some research, I was surprised by how much getting enough sleep affects overall health and well-being.

Check out these 10 reasons you should get more sleep:

Live longer
I was surprised to learn that getting enough sleep can help you live longer. Sleep may have more influence on longevity than healthy eating habits, exercising or heredity. Without enough sleep, you are more likely to suffer a heart attack, have a stroke or possibly even develop breast cancer.

Be healthier
Sleep may also help you fight off illness. Good sleep helps boost your immune system. When you don’t get enough sleep, you are more likely to catch colds, the flu and other infectious diseases. It will also take you longer to recover if you are skimping on sleep.

Look better
Yes, you do need your beauty sleep. We undergo changes in metabolism and secrete growth hormones when we are in our deepest sleep. That means you look better – and possibly even younger – when you are well-rested instead of deprived of sleep. 

Feel better
You also feel better when you get plenty of sleep. You have more energy, ambition and enthusiasm. Being more rested can help you have a better attitude and be prepared to deal with whatever comes your way throughout the day.

Build your brain
Sleep can boost your memory. During sleep, new memories are processed in your brain. Lack of sleep affects your concentration, decision-making skills and overall performance. In fact, not getting enough sleep can have mental and physical affects similar to drinking too much alcohol. Sleep just helps your brain work better.

Be skinnier
Studies suggest that people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to gain weight. Sleep can help you maintain better hormonal balance, and that helps you choose to eat healthier foods. When you are sleep deprived, you crave high-carb and high-sugar foods. So, sleep more and leave the cake, donuts and cookies alone.

Be safer
As mentioned earlier, being sleep deprived is similar to drinking too much alcohol. With the right amount of sleep, you are more alert and aware. You are less likely to have an injury due to falling or being careless. In addition, you are a better driver when you are more rested.

Make better decisions
Lack of sleep can make it difficult to make good decisions, or for that matter, even any decision at all. I have been known to stare at my sock drawer for five minutes in the morning, trying to pick out a pair of socks. I have trouble making decisions on a good day, but without enough sleep it’s nearly impossible.

Reduce pain
Physical pain can be associated with lack of sleep. Studies have shown that if you have chronic pain from an injury, getting enough sleep may help reduce the pain. Sleep is nature’s pain reliever and can even help reduce the need for pain medication.

Be happier
When you are deprived of sleep, you may experience more moodiness and anxiety. Some studies have shown that lack of sleep can also lead to depression. Getting enough sleep can improve your overall mood, help you concentrate and improve your productivity. You can better cope with stress and stressful situations in your day-to-day life.

After learning how important sleep can be to my overall health, I am setting a goal to get 8 hours of sleep every night. Are you sleep deprived? Tell us about your sleep habits!

Staying on the Path to a Balanced Life

path to balanced lifeWe all live in a crazy, hectic, fast-paced world. We are bombarded with different obstacles and challenges every day. It is a lifelong journey to become the best version of ourselves we can be.

There are temptations at every stage of your life that will pull you from the path to a healthy, balanced life. It may be as simple as taking a detour, or you may end up going down the completely wrong road.

As you prepare for a new year, it’s a good time to reflect on the changes you can make in 2013 to help you achieve a more balanced life.

Where are you on the path to balance?
What can you do to find balance now and create more balance in the future?

Depending on your age and the stage of your life, you will face different challenges and obstacles. You can adjust your priorities and your goals to find a healthy balance at each stage:

The Roaring 20s
In our 20s, we can be tempted to stay up too late, party too hard, take our families for granted, and neglect our finances and overall health. We want it all and think we are invincible. We have plenty of time to become grown-up and responsible. Yet, the habits we develop at this age will be the hardest to break as we grow older. Now is the time to develop healthy habits that will stick with you and help you maintain your balance as your life changes.

  • Start a regular exercise routine
  • Develop relationships that will stay with you the rest of your life
  • Create a financial plan now that will guide you into a comfortable retirement
  • Establish good habits now and avoid bad habits later

The Thrilling 30s
When you reach your 30s, you may have a spouse, young children, sleepless nights, a mortgage, and a dog. It’s even harder to keep everything in perspective. You may be working at a job you don’t especially like, but feel you have to keep it so you can buy all the things you want. You may feel a little lost and not really sure how you got to this place. Staying on the path to a balanced life can help you put it into perspective and get you back to living your best life.

  • Think about what is important to you – do you need to have all the “stuff” that everyone else has?
  • Learn to manage stress now – for your future health and sanity
  • Focus on getting enough sleep to improve your physical and mental well-being

The Fabulous 40s
By your 40s, you may have moody teenagers who are testing their boundaries and your patience. You are worried about paying for college. You may be eating poorly and struggling to find time to exercise. You are stressed out and running from one place to another – trying to squeeze in all your commitments and doing everything for everyone. This is a crucial time to keep on the path to a balanced life. Now more than ever, you need to:

  • Eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Continue to challenge yourself to make exercise part of your daily routine
  • Reconnect with your friends and nurture those relationships
  • Take time to do things that make you happy

The Freeing 50s and 60s
The kids may be grown up and out of the house. Now, it’s time to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life. You may want to reconnect with your spouse, or you may find you have more time to help others.

  • Spend time getting to know your spouse again
  • Find a cause that you are passionate about and volunteer your time, provide your unique skills, or donate money
  • Evaluate your goals and think about what you want to accomplish in this phase of your life

To learn more about staying on the path to a balanced life at any age, check out the interactive book, A Completely Balanced Life, published by Remember Your Health.

Do you have chronic stress? 6 major signs

chronic stressStress is a part of life. Are you going to make it to work on time? Is your best friend still mad at you? Where will you find the perfect holiday gifts?

This is everyday, manageable stress. Normal stress actually helps you deal with things more successfully. If you barely make it to work on time one day, you’ll leave earlier the next day. You call your friend and resolve the issue. You decide to start shopping earlier or go online and make purchases.

However, there may be times when you become chronically stressed. When you are in a constant state of stress, you begin to feel overwhelmed and unable to cope on a daily basis. How do you know if it’s regular stress, or if you have chronic stress that may need to be addressed?

Following are some of the signs and symptoms of chronic stress:

Head and neck pain
Tension or stress headaches are one of the most common symptoms of chronic stress. Stress can also trigger migraines and lead to neck and back pain. You may even experience overall muscles aches and pains.

Upset stomach
It has been determined that psychological stress can lead to gastrointestinal disorders. You may develop acid indigestion, heartburn or irritable bowel syndrome. You could have an ongoing churning or upset feeling in your stomach and lose your appetite.

Anxious thoughts
Being under stress can affect your mood and general well-being. You may feel depressed, agitated or moody. You may snap at others over things that wouldn’t normally bother you. You may withdraw from your normal activities or spend less time with your circle of friends. You may just feel unhappy.

Lack of concentration
Do you misplace things? Wander into another room but don’t remember why? Are you putting simple tasks off instead of immediately taking care of them? While these are examples of normal forgetfulness and procrastination, these behaviors can become more severe with chronic stress.

Difficulty sleeping
Waking up drained and fatigued is another sign that you may be overworked and overextended. You feel tired all day and are exhausted by the time you go to bed. But as soon as you close your eyes at night, your brain just won’t shut down. You may also wake up frequently at night or toss and turn as daylight approaches.

Feeling overwhelmed
You may reach a point where it’s all just too much. You are so stressed over everything that you don’t feel you can truly accomplish anything.

To live a fulfilling life, we all need to have goals, dreams and responsibilities. However, there is a difference between living fully and living in a constant state of stress. If you are experiencing chronic stress, it may be time to make positive changes in your life that will help  you manage and control your stress levels.

Balance is the key. Take a look at A Completely Balanced Life for tips and guidance on how to live your best life by living a balanced life.