Power of Smell #bebetter52

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Whether it’s the delicious bakery aroma as we walk around town or the smell of pine trees after a rainy day, scent is a constant in our lives. Smells can be wonderful--or not so wonderful--but whatever the scent, we often experience an emotional reaction to what meets our noses. The beauty of scent is often overlooked yet holds more power than we may realize. Have you ever caught a whiff of a certain perfume that transports you back to that springtime when you were 16? Or felt an overwhelming sense of relaxation when you smelled a lavender bush in bloom? That’s because scent actually has a profound effect on the way we feel. Scents can trigger moods because of associative learning (the perfume example) or through aromatherapy from the natural properties of certain plants.This week’s #bebetter52 challenge is to harness the power of smell to our advantage.

Before we delve into the benefits of inhaling good smells from healthy sources, we should note that not all scents are created equal. In fact, many studies have shown artificial scents from candles, room sprays, or even perfumes can be harmful to our health. The truth behind our stack of fall-themed candles is most likely they are not as pretty as the packaging. That’s because “about 95 percent of chemicals used in synthetic fragrances are derived from petroleum (crude oil)”(Dr Axe). This means that the chemicals found in myriad common household cleaning products, toiletries, or other artificially scented products have the potential to be carcinogenic by simply breathing them through the air. Further, many of those compounds also act as endocrine disruptors that can lead to hormone imbalance, weight gain, as well as many diseases (Dr. Axe). These harmful smells often come with the label “fragrance,” a term that traditionally carries a positive connotation. It appears your nose is not the only part of you being deceived.

For some of us, this may be sad news to hear, but the good news is countless natural alternatives are available and offer an even better sensory experience! First, consider investing in some high-quality therapeutic-grade essential oils. These can be diffused for aromatherapy purposes or even digested to treat a variety of health concerns. If you are looking to fill your home with some awesome aromas on a budget however, all it takes is a journey through the produce section or the spice aisle and a few minutes over the stove. You can practice aromatherapy right in your kitchen by adding favorite herbs and spices to a boiling pot of water and letting it simmer to your heart’s content. Some suggestions include allspice, cinnamon, cloves, eucalyptus, lavender, citrus fruit, mint leaves, and nutmeg. The opportunities are endless. You can tailor your herbal selection based on the season, your desired mood, or the benefits you are looking to gain. For example, rosemary is known for enhancing memory and relieving congestion.

We hate to stir the pot (pun intended), but we want our 52ers to have the knowledge to make the best decisions for their health. And we think this fun kitchen activity is the perfect way to enjoy all that nature has to offer our bodies, minds, and, of course, our noses.

How to do it?

In a small pot fill with water, then heat till boiling. Add ingredients, then turn down to simmer. Add water as needed, every 30 minutes. Don’t forget to turn down the stove when you leave the house.

Check out these 5 simmer pot recipes to make your home smell like Fall. Our favorites:

Recipe #1
Cinnamon sticks
Apple peels
Orange rinds
Whole cloves

Recipe #2
A few drops vanilla
Orange peels

Additional resources:

Do Scents affect Mood

Dangers Synthetic Scents

Aromatherapy on the Stove for Autumn Cheaper and Healthier



Leafy Greens #bebetter52

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Kale. You either love it or hate it. (I guess a third possibility is you’ve never tried it!) Anyway, for some people kale elicits a negative response while for others it is the number one cure-all, the healthiest food one can have in the fridge. This week’s challenge is to eat leafy greens, one of the most concentrated sources of nutrients on the planet. Kale tops the list, but you may be surprised by the variety of healthy greens available. Try a green that is new or one you don’t eat often. Eating a diet full of rich leafy greens offers numerous health benefits, including reducing the risk of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and mental decline.

The top 14 healthiest leafy green vegetables and their benefits have been outlined by healthline.com

Kale: considered one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables on the planet

Microgreens: immature greens produced from the seeds of vegetables and herbs

Broccoli: part of the cabbage family; a single cup has 135 mgs of vitamin C

Collard Greens: loose leaf greens, related to kale.

Spinach: one of the most popular leafy greens with 181% of your daily vitamin K

Cabbage: cluster of thick leaves that come in green, white and purple

Beet Greens: the leafy tops of beets

Romaine Lettuce: common leafy vegetable good, source of vitamin A and K.

Watercress: an aquatic plant used in medicine for centuries

Swiss Chard: dark-green leaves with a thick stalk that is red, white, yellow or green; often used in Mediterranean cooking and belongs to the same family as beets and spinach

Arugula: slight peppery taste packed with vitamin A, B9 and K

Endive: less known because it is difficult to grow; crisp texture, sweet, nutty flavor with a pleasantly mild bitterness

Bok Choy: thick, dark green leaves, mostly used in soups and stir-fries

Turnip Greens: the greens of a turnip plant which have a strong and spicy flavor


A few questions answered:

Raw or cooked? It’s a heated debate out there in the health world—should veggies be eaten raw or cooked? The answer is both, depending on which veggie you’re eating and what nutrients you’re trying to get out of them. Vitamin C, for instance, oxidizes almost immediately in cooked foods, but other nutrients can become more bioavailable when lightly steamed. Kale’s health-promoting properties are enhanced when lightly steamed for five minutes, especially its ability to lower cholesterol. The fiber-related components in steamed kale do a better job of binding together with bile acids in the digestive tract, making it easier for bile acids to be excreted, thereby reducing cholesterol levels.



Be Unproductive #bebetter52

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The title of this challenge may have some of you perplexed. What could we possibly mean be “unproductive”? After all, our challenges are all about taking action to improve our lives and the lives of others. Why would we encourage the opposite? And for those of you who immediately had such thoughts, this challenge is for you more than anyone. The culture we are a part of has a tendency to be very focused on acheivement. This enables us to be very ambitious and innovative, but simultaneously far more stressed out than many other countries in the developed world. There is something to be said about forgetting your to-do list for a day.

So yes, this week’s #bebetter52 challenge is to allow yourself a break from your bustling life and be unproductive. We encourage you to give yourselves permission to do the things that you may have previously deemed as a “waste of time.” Whether that be sitting down to do a puzzle, starting a craft, or even trying a new recipe, this is your opportunity to do that thing you haven’t made time for. After all, allowing ourselves this freedom to truly get distracted by something that brings us joy is not a waste of time at all, and might even be something we adopt into our routines going forward.

Spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle is a strong proponent of this concept. One of the core principles to his teachings is the idea that we should not define our self-worth based upon our accomplishments, but rather by who we truly are. Let this be a week of reflection and appreciating yourself for all that you have accomplished. Rather than forging ahead, take in the moment by doing whatever your heart desires.

Shifting your attention to the present and allowing yourself a guilt-free break from your plans and objectives is incredibly restorative. It can lead to mental clarity, so that you may become aware of your priorities, your purpose, and the next steps to reaching your goals. Not to mention, it can greatly reduce stress and anxiety. We hope that you incorporate this idea into your life going forward and realize it is just as much about the journey as it is the destination. This is the challenge we think many of our 52ers do not realize they need, but by the end of this week it will be clear that it was the most needed of them all. Have a lovely, unproductive week!
 

Honey #bebetter52

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Did you know honey is one of the oldest sweeteners on Earth? Not only is it yummy, adding a burst of flavor to pretty much anything, but honey is a power-food with benefits galore. Honey is a simple sugar that contains antioxidants, catalase, ascorbic acid, flavonoids and alkaloids.  These helpful free-radical fighters have been scientifically proven to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.

But, not all honey is created equal.  

This week’s #bebetter52 challenge is to buy raw local honey and incorporate it into your life.   Believe it or not the artificial honey market is growing, due to the rapidly declining bee population and the high cost of honey. Manufacturers dilute this delicious substance with various forms of artificial sweeteners.  But eating raw and local honey preserves micronutrients and enzymes that assures many positive health side-effects.

So what can we do to help?  Olivia Box, beekeeper and honey bee researcher suggests, "The absolute best thing you can do is buy local honey. Whether it is from your farmer’s market or a friend, supporting local beekeepers is key to making sure we can push artificial honey off the market.  Be sure to check your labels for where it is from and what is in the honey."  Buying from local farmers also helps the local economy!

The FDA recently drafted guidelines that state, “Only manufacturers that do not add sugar, corn syrup or other sweeteners should label their products as “pure honey.”  It is also important that we as consumers read labels and know exactly what we’re buying.  Don’t have access to the label?  Rub the honey between your fingers.  If it’s sticky, it’s probably fake.  

Benefits of Honey

- Honey is a natural source of carbohydrates, which provides our bodies with instant energy and strength. When it comes to athletic performance, honey improves endurance and plays a key role in preventing fatigue during exercise. So before your next workout, grab a spoonful of honey for that extra push. Or if you’re feeling lethargic in the morning, try putting honey on toast or replacing the sugar in your drink with some honey for a quick energy boost.

- Honey also has antioxidant and antibacterial properties. Honey helps make your digestive system run smoothly and keep you healthy and disease-free.

- The antibacterial qualities are especially helpful for moisturizing and nourishing the skin. Check out this beauty treatment recipe for a carrot face mask which contains honey.

- Locally grown, raw honey contains immune-stimulating properties that help our bodies adapt to our environment. This means honey can boost your immune system.

- Although honey contains simple sugars, ironically, it also helps regulate blood sugar. Honey’s combination of fructose and glucose aids the body in regulating blood-sugar levels.

How can you use honey?

Use honey in the foods you eat. Spread it on a bagel or muffin.

Pour some in your coffee or tea.

Even consume a teaspoonful for a sweet treat after dinner.

You can also use honey on scrapes and scratches or minor skin ulcers. Dab a little on your bandage and cover your injury.

And next time you feel a cold coming on, grab a local bottle of honey, and you’ll experience the benefits!

Other fun facts about honey:

·       Honey is a natural cure in first-aid treatments of cuts and burns.

·       Honey can help combat hangovers.

·       Honey can soothe a sore throat and kill the bacteria that causes the infection.

·       Honey can even help sleeplessness. Just take a glass of hot milk and mix with a teaspoon of honey to induce sleep.

So grab a jar of the sweet stuff (preferably raw, organic, fair trade) and have at it!  Also by posting a picture of how you used honey this week, #bebetter52 will donate extra money to Every Mother Counts. Let’s all Be Better this week.

(Warning: The Mayo Clinic does not recommend giving honey to babies under the age of one due to their immature digestive system.)

Phone Timeout #bebetter52

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We see it everywhere--while waiting in line at the grocery store or driving to work or eating out at a restaurant: people’s eyes seem glued to their cell phones. We’re not sure if it is because folks are too scared to have a genuine conversation with the stranger standing in front or behind them, or if it’s because they actually have important emails and text messages to send. It has become part of the social norm for individuals to be attached to their phones, constantly checking, typing, scrolling.

In addition to our daytime cell phone use, the problem has continued or almost increases after work hours. For many of us at the end of a long day, it has become customary to sit on the couch and aimlessly scroll social media. You have every intention to go to bed early, but by the time you check the time, 50 minutes has passed, and it is now almost 11pm.

This week’s #bebetter52 challenge is to place your phone out of sight (perhaps a totally different room) for at least 15-minute increments. This may feel uncomfortable at first since we are so used to having our phone by our sides all day long; however, the time you spend disconnected from your phone is actually liberating. Throughout the day, find opportunities to put your phone aside and be present in the moment.

Listed below are some great moments to detach from your cell phone:

·       When you’re at dinner with friends or family, have everyone stack their phones on the side of the table or elsewhere. That way you can hold each other accountable for not using your phones.

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·       Delete your Facebook app for the week so you are not checking Facebook every five minutes when you are away from home.

·       Do not answer calls and texts while exercising if you are using your phone for exercise apps or music.

·       Leave your phone at home while running errands.

·       Embrace your surroundings: look at everything around you and try to find peace in these moments without your phone.

Here are some helpful tips:

1. Put your phone on do not disturb or schedule set hours in settings.

2. Switch to airplane mode.

3. Turn it off completely.

4. Download a variety of apps to ensure you are actually limiting your cell phone usage. Apps include Moment and SPACE.

5. Check out an article on Buzzfeed that actually lists 22 ways to break up with your cell phone.

Remember, this week’s challenge is not a complete digital detox; it is just a way to spend more time focusing on the people you are with or on the tasks you are doing. Who knows, maybe after the challenge you’ll want to keep the trend going so you can inspire others to put their phones away and be fully present. Technology and social media are amazing innovations with positive rewards; however, it is essential for our own health and well-being to take a phone timeout every now and again.