A Healthy Body Promotes a Healthy Mind

“It’s widely acknowledged that a healthy body equals a healthy mind,” says Dr. Dregan from Psychological Medicine.  Have you come across this saying sometime in your life?  Have you wondered as to its validity?  Surely, it must be a safe bet if so many doctors preach this philosophy.  But, since it’s easier to equate sitting on the couch with a slice of chocolate cake as happiness, we might toss the whole “healthy body, healthy mind” notion to the back end of our thought stream.  However, in a world where people are living longer, and health and fitness journals abound, it wouldn’t hurt a thing to give some serious consideration to this theory.

One of the first things that might spring to mind is the word endorphins.  We’ve come across the word a time or two.  People say they’re going to go for a run to get those endorphins moving.  Essentially, endorphins are hormones produced within the body which benefit the brain.  Your body produces an array of hormones that are beneficial, adrenaline being another popular one.  When we exercise, our bodies cheer, releasing higher levels of these helpful hormones.  Yes, if we truly understand and appreciate our bodies, they will give off their own natural and healthy highs – one that no drug or swig of alcohol can provide.

So, let’s take a further look at this theory, and think about how we might further promote these natural highs.  After all, who doesn’t want to be happy?

What Are Some Ways to Maintain a Healthy Body?

Nothing that’s about to appear in this list below will be earth-shattering.  However, if you pause just for a moment and reflect today, then you might find yourself incorporating these tips into your life tomorrow.  I wouldn’t say we can change our entire course of life in a week, but slowly implementing one of these tips, week by week, could surely turn the tides, giving us that enviable healthy body, healthy mind.

1. Drink more water.

Why is this constantly being preached?  Goodness, who really enjoys standing in the kitchen and sipping on a cold glass of water?  I suppose those who have recently gone jogging for five miles, but we’re not there quite yet.  On any given afternoon, feeling a bit restless, just as you’re about to sit down and enjoy your favorite TV show or work on the computer, are you craving that cold glass of water, or are you thinking about that Arizona iced tea, Pepsi, or chocolate milk?

Well, the truth is, we ingest all kinds of “junk” into our bodies all day, every day.  With every bite of food being somehow processed or filled with sugar, there needs to be a way to wash that stuff out of our bodies.  Water is the secret key to unlocking the door to the garbage and letting it flush right out of the house.  Imagine a fast-flowing stream.  It’s sure to pick up debris and other non-essentials from the bedrock.  Water can do the same for your body.

If you’re not a fan (hop on the long line), then try tea.  Consider green tea, hot or iced.  If we opened the door to the land of tea, you’d…be…astounded.  There are endless flavors, endless benefits.  I’m not saying become a tea connoisseur, but definitely, definitely think about opening that Pandora’s box someday.

2. Drink less alcohol.

I know.  Insert heavy, sorrowful sigh.  But, alcohol truly is a toxin to the body.  Yes, yes, there are those handy benefits to red wine.  But, we’re talking about a meager four ounces of wine as the “allowable” limit in that scenario.  The benefits to alcohol start to become negated when we’re moving onto our second or third beer or glass of wine.  Now, alcohol is quickly approaching the villainous category.

It’s all true.  Alcohol dehydrates the body, dehydrates the brain.  It’s loaded with sugar, all of it, and that does a number on the kidneys over time.  Our poor livers have to work harder on any given where it has to deal with alcohol, as opposed to, say, that glass of peach oolong tea.

Yet, it can be difficult to achieve the lofty goal of laying off the alcohol when the world seems to revolve all social activities around having a drink – dinner, happy hour, picnics, barbecues, days at the beach, bowling, and on and on.  However, if, at some point, you can make the switch from wine to, say, seltzer, your body will cheer for you.

3. Exercise every day.

Every day?  Impossible.  I’ve got work.  I’ve got kids.  I’ve got night classes.  I’ve got an ailing parent to care for.  I need, at least, an hour to relax in the evening.  Exercise is not happening.  Like the water bandwagon, hop right on.  It’s hard.  It’s one of those things where we don’t want to do it, but after it’s done we feel great.

Truly, there exists no magic pill to make this lofty goal happen.  It’s just something you have to ask yourself.  Am I worthy of having a fine-tuned, well-oiled machine of a body?  If the answer is yes, then start small.  Take an hour’s walk every morning.  Start somewhere; start anywhere.  Just consider yourself worthy of a happy life.

4. Eat your greens.

Stop picturing your grandmother there in her apron, shaking her wooden spoon at you.  And, eat your greens.  The darker the green, the better.  Lettuce, avocado, lime, broccoli, brussel sprouts.  It’s not fun.  But, perhaps you’ll serve your fish on a bed of sautéed spinach, instead of beside a loaded baked potato.  Perhaps you’ll have a cobb salad, instead of a juicy cheeseburger, medium rare.

That’s just one healthy choice per day.  And, okay, once in a while, head out to that Sunday barbecue and have that burger and beer.  Wash it down with the brownies and the ice cream.  The thing is, you’ll appreciate and smile over those treats the more they become just that – a treat, and not an ordinary thing.

What Will Happen Once We’ve Improved the Health of Our Bodies?

1.  You will feel proud.

Enter the mind, stage right.  As you, slowly but surely, start to see the benefits to these few, small, weekly changes, you will start to realize you did this.  You brought this positive effect into your own life, all on your own reconnaissance.  Recall that time you worked hard for two weeks and pitched that amazing presentation to the higher-ups.  You felt so proud that all your hard work materialized into a spectacular presentation, and the looks of that PowerPoint presentation didn’t hurt a thing.

Well, all the hard work you’re putting into the health of your body will make you feel as though you’re doing something meaningful, and you are!  One of the side benefits to that work will be similar to that of the good-looking PowerPoint presentation.  On the exterior, your clothes won’t tug and pull.  They’ll just sit pretty on you, as they should.  Comfort, confidence, and a greater sense of accomplishment all wear themselves well on one’s sleeve.

2.  Your skin will clear up.

This is not a teenage acne sort of thing.  This is a brightening to the skin.  This is a lack of redness or splotchiness.  This is a tightening to the otherwise dehydrated flesh.  Think of all the sodium we ingest.  Think about the talk we already had about alcohol.  Skin needs hydration, vitamins, and care, too.  With every bite of something green, we’re swarming our body with healthy vitamins and minerals.  Walking hand in hand with those better-fitting clothes, healthy, glowing skin is not too shabby a benefit.

3.  Your heart will smile.

Whenever I cook up an old fashioned pot of oatmeal, I see that Heart Healthy sticker boasted proudly on the center of the container.  I wonder what this means.  Turns out, whole grains and oats work magic on the body, too.  With every bite of red meat, every sip of wine (beyond those meager four ounces), our heart becomes the target for the disrepair we bring upon our bodies.  Letting your heart pump after a robust morning walk, and then filling your body with vitamins and minerals seems like a cleansing, rewarding way to start the day.

4. You just might live longer.

Turn the spotlight on your best friend’s grandmother who smoked like a chimney and drank like a fish and lived the ripe old age of 97.  That cannot be explained, unless you want to get into the whole “higher power” debate.  Shall we stack the many, many men and women who have suffered heart attacks or strokes due to an unhealthy lifestyle against that lovely old grandmother, who probably has the best stories to tell?  Unfortunately, that stack would be shocking.  There’s just no way around the glowing testament that good health and proper nutrition provide.

So, in the very simplest, borderline-oversimplified terms, you can equate mind with mood.  Feelings of accomplishment, clearer skin, a stronger heart…  These will, more than likely, boost your mood.  With that added spring in your step, it’s a straight shot down center field.  Your mind will be happy, healthy, and whole.  Like anything else, the mind is a terrible thing to waste, and so is the body.  Why not contribute vitamins, nutrients, and good choices to your individual makeup?  That sense of accomplishment, that ensuing transformation will really turn a light on and turn your life around.  Let’s take it one small step at a time, and let’s live lives filled with happy, healthy minds that rejoice alongside the happy, healthy body that’s just glowing with pride.  Good luck to us all!

Stomach Rumblings? It Might Be Because You Lack This.

Probiotics.  It’s a safe bet that you’ve, at some point or another, heard the murmuring of this science-sounding word before.  If you take a stroll down the dairy aisle at your local supermarket, many of our classic yogurt brands now boast the inclusion of probiotics in their products.  Whole Foods has an entire refrigerated section devoted just to this petri-dish-sounding wonder.

What Are Probiotics?

In short, probiotics are live bacteria.  Don’t back out of this page just yet!  The experts at HealthLine tell us we ingest live bacteria every time we munch on a slice of sourdough bread, sip on miso soup, or swallow those veggies mom always made us eat.  Truthfully, our digestive tract is already packed full of good bacteria.  And, as we know, anything good in life must occasionally combat evil.  Therefore, whenever the livelihood of this good bacteria is jeopardized, probiotics come to the rescue.

Where Can We Find Probiotics?

Who wouldn’t want a superhero living in their gut?  Prompted by the notion that live bacteria is a good thing, let’s explore further sources of these natural wonders.

1. Yogurt

Yogurt is not a go-to snack for everyone.  But, smoothies are vastly favored.  Just take a stroll down any big-city lane where smoothie shops abound.  Or, maybe you’ll have some frozen raspberry yogurt next time, instead of a serving of triple chocolate vanilla ice cream.

2. Kombucha Tea

Don’t wonder for too long about kombucha (pronounced cum-bu-cha).  If you’re a tea-drinker, spice it up a little with this new addition.  It’s, essentially, fizzy black tea.  Fizzy always denotes refreshing (and it is), and this natural source of probiotics will leave your stomach singing.

3.  Sauerkraut

The next time you hit up your local hot dog stand, or stroll down the meat section in your grocery store, add just a dollop of sauerkraut to your toppings and, all of a sudden, this ballpark favorite is now a tad bit healthier!

4.  Sourdough Bread

Have you ever felt the need to “up the stakes” in your culinary pursuits?  If so, adding a slice of your home baked sourdough bread to your meatball and spaghetti dish could be just the ticket.

Did You Know?

Our friends over at Livestrong dare you to take the probiotic challenge one step further.  They encourage you to not only hop on the probiotic train, but consider Greek yogurt in this new quest.  Greek yogurt gets strained a few more times than regular yogurt (thus, boosting up its density).  With all this extra effort, it packs a greater punch in the protein and probiotic categories.

So, while many health fads may come and go, probiotics have held on strong and steady. As we all search for quick and easy ways to boost our healthfulness, why not try a spoonful of live bacteria?  Neither you nor your tummy will be the least bit discouraged.  Cheers!

Should You Really Consider Working from Home? Three Reasons Why the Answer Is a Resounding Yes!

I bet you’ve thought about it. After a grueling day at the office filled with real-life temper tantrums, nauseating levels of interpersonal gossip, and an arduous commute home, you wonder about all the lucky stars out there who work from the comfort of their pajamas. Is it really all it’s cracked up to be? I’m here to give you a resounding yes and provide you with some food for thought. It’s no easy life change but, after all, hope is the biggest factor in propelling us forward. I hope to provide a small sprinkling of just that.

Let’s break this down into three pros, and I’ll try to debunk three top cons.

1. You avoid all (if not most) of the sticky office drama.

 Do you currently walk the long way to the kitchen just to avoid a few unpleasant souls? Okay, maybe that was just me. Or, maybe you stress yourself out trying to dodge the office gossip patrol because all they do is rain grief down on everybody. Perhaps you report to someone who always seems to put you down instead of build you up.

Well, there’s no denying you might still encounter a sticky snafu or two with someone via e-mail while working from home. However, it’s far easier to control our reactions and compose something thoughtful via e-mail than in the heat of the moment.

2. You never have to submit another PTO request!

This, for me, was the main component to my quest to work from home. I’m not sure why, but I always felt such anxiety whenever I had to request time off. Or, if I woke up with a 102 degree fever, the prospect of having to call out left me as light-headed as the heatwave that was soaring through my body.

I suppose I felt what was, truthfully, quite obvious. I was not in control of my own life. Whether or not I could attend my sister-in-law’s bachelorette party was dependent upon whether or not the office would have enough staff to function properly on that day. (Insert big, sulky, sigh.)

3. You can travel.

I’ll bet you know a few folks out there who, upon retirement, say they can finally travel now. My father is among those ranks. He worked over 30 years for the New York City Transit Authority and only, finally, made it to Paris upon retirement. I actually got a little choked up when he finally booked the trip. The only thing that was holding him back was his need to provide for his family and create a stable environment.

Well, working from home, you can check off all the aforementioned boxes and more. You can work. You can travel. Here are a few real-life scenarios. Instead of “enduring” the nine hour flight to Paris, you can get a full nine hours’ work in, then stroll down the Champs-Élysées. Instead of hiring a nanny to watch your kids after school, you can step away from the laptop at three o’clock to meet the school bus and serve your kids warm, homemade brownies. Or, if you’re a singleton like me, you can pitch an article today, hop on a flight tonight, and resume your work from a thatched roof cottage in Ireland before sailing down to the local pub for a pint and a soul-quenching order of fish and chips.

Okay. Here come those dreaded cons. What about the loneliness? What about the 401(k)’s? What about the benefits? All these things are real. But, allow me to attempt to debunk.

1. There will be moments of loneliness.

Working from home, there’s no harmless chatter by the coffeemaker. There’s no grabbing lunch with your girl in the next cubicle. But, we don’t make all our friends through work, do we? We join a kickball club on the weekends. We volunteer at the animal shelter down the road. We attend father-daughter dances with our kindergartener and chat with the guys about how awesome it is to watch them grow up. There are plenty of ways to make meaningful relationships outside the realm of a gray cubicle.

2. There will be no 401(k).

This is a tough one to debunk. However, I started noticing that a small handful of my friends who work those 9-5’s don’t have 401(k)’s either! They receive a steady income and health insurance, but no 401(k). Furthermore, a full-blown pension seems even fewer and farther between these days. So, in this case, I would simply set aside a certain portion of your earnings and invest in your own IRA. I’m no financial expert, but it gives you something to hold on to, aside from the vision of working ’til the age of 93.

3. What about health insurance?

I can’t say that this is a huge detractor from working from home. Of course it cuts the price tag for this monthly expense in half. But is that $70 you’re saving each month worth the dread you feel on a Sunday evening, knowing you have to return to work on Monday? Heck no! You can research your own health insurance and find a plan that works for you. How about this. I knew someone (ahem, me) who used to dread going to work so badly that she ground her teeth while she slept and, eventually, needed to seek medical attention to stop the pain her popping jaw brought on. I know, I know. That’s really extreme. I’m just saying… Stress is no phantom ailment. It has serious repercussions.

So, in the end, we each find our way to the magical realm of working from home. Every path is different. Maybe you’ll work in Customer Service from home. Maybe you’ll write. Maybe you’ll create your own startup. Maybe you’ll piece it together like me, as a Freelance Writer and Adjunct Professor. The list is endless. Either way, I hope you’ll give it some serious thought, map out a workable plan, and hold on to all these trinkets of hope. It is doable, and I wish you nothing but happiness and success as you make it happen!

A Fairy Tale Oasis

TiffaniTaylorArtSource: TiffaniArt.com 

Savannah is this 18th century goddess, always festooned in her brightest frock. In the midst of her streets, there exists a fairy tale oasis – The Tiffani Taylor Gallery. Once you open those lovely white doors, you’re swept into a land where hope flitters like butterflies, dreams dance atop red poppies, and scenes of Paris tickle your heart.

Mixed media paintings leave you longing for old times, as antique sheet music wraps its loving arms around fields of glistening poppies. Local Savannah scenes stay with you as you sigh with pleasure over the old cobbled streets.

Lo and behold, Tiffani Taylor is a fairy tale vision herself. She undoubtedly embodies her artwork, radiating joy and kindness. My entire day is set right after drifting in and out of that oasis. I’m reminded that love still blossoms and dreams do come true, especially as you dance through the moonlight, underneath Savannah’s glow.

Audiobooks – Will You Like Them or Love Them?

I like thinking about the classic paperback vs. audiobook argument. Don’t you? Each side holds its own value. What’s better than lighting a fire, cocooning under a blanket, sipping on a hot cup of tea from that fresh-brewed pot of oolong, and turning the page on your new book? Perhaps turning the page of a used book you found tucked in the corner of a local bookshop? Either way, a good old fashioned book will never, ever go out of style.

That being said, I’ve recently discovered a newfound love, adoration, and utter loyalty to audiobooks. I download them via Audible, and most of them are produced by Brilliance Audio. I used to download them through iTunes, but Audible has this really cute feature where it awards you stickers for things like extended amounts of reading time, being a night owl, and more. Also, you can track how many minutes/hours you’ve used the app via a nifty little bar graph. Some feelings of accomplishment in life are easily accepted!

Audiobooks’ new station in my life has been profound. Recently, I moved to Savannah. I only signed a five-month lease. I want to make sure it sticks before I really hunker down. Dare I even say it… I didn’t set up cable just yet. So, what does one do without cable? They read! And, what does one do in a new apartment? They nest! Faced with an inability to put USA’s perpetual NCIS reruns on in the background while I organized, I wondered what the alternative was… I downloaded Audible and now have my very own in-house storyteller ‘round the clock. I actually stick to the same author and must have nearly 50 of her books saved. (I’ll refrain from telling you who she is just for the moment. I don’t want you to judge me before I’ve shared this goodness with you!)

When I wake in the morning and go through the various “morning tasks” of making the bed, showering, putting away any stray dishes, and toasting up my daily serving of Eggos, I have company in my otherwise empty apartment. I pick up where I left off last night, and re-enter into stories of mythological battles or independent females settling into new towns. Oh, and guess what? When I fell asleep the night before, I did so to a 15-minute sleep timer. I was lulled to sleep while my favorite character nestled into her new villa in Corfu and imagined, like her, I was falling asleep to the sound of crashing waves under the dancing moonlight.

The thing about audiobooks is that they have their own set of producers and directors, just like any TV show or movie. And someone’s not just narrating it to you, they’re acting it to you. Their voice cracks when the character gets choked up. They reach fever-pitch levels when they’re panicked. They roar with laughter and giggle in a slight tease. You’re lifted up to new and varying levels that our singular mind alone can’t travel to.

So, if someone asked me for a checkmate argument on audio literature, here’s what I’d say:

  1. You can ingest new stories and vocabulary while taking a walk. You won’t get run over by a Savannah trolley because you were actually attempting to read and walk.
  2. You can have someone relay tales of sorcerers falling in love with small-town artists while taking the four-hour car ride home to visit family.
  3. You can put those noise-cancelling headphones on and vacuum, dust, clean, polish, or Windex while you go.
  4. In the event that you get tired of staring at your computer or TV screen, you can lay down in bed, snuggle under the covers and allow some talented storyteller to whisk you away to floating islands, ornate castles from another time, or a simple storybook town in Maryland.
  5. If you’re new to a strange city or town, you won’t feel quite so alone. Sharing your new space with the voices of a trio of Montana ranchers is, somehow, quite comforting.
  6. This last point holds a pivotal truth in my current state of affairs. Most of the leading characters that my favored author creates are strong, independent, resourceful, disciplined, uniquely quirky, and up to some new life-challenge. I like feeling like some of that is rubbing off on me while they purchase new homes in the background of my life, start up a new enterprise, or write their first novel. Maybe I, too, can be as brave as they are one day.

Simply put, I can’t imagine what I’d do in my new apartment which boasts a non-existence of cable, a slow Internet connection, and a somewhat anxious tenant. I have all kinds of friends packed into my one bedroom and we soar off to new lands and adventures regularly. Finally, I’m glad there is no world that exists without a plethora of Nora Roberts titles to keep me tucked in, warm and cozy, at night. Happy audio trails to you!