Mental Fitness

Our Favorite Wellness Apps


person listening to meditation on the beach

How many times have you downloaded an app, excited for it to deliver anything from an increase in productivity to a decrease in stress, yet after just two days in - you’re out? We get it, but maybe the app you chose just wasn’t a good fit. To help you give it another try, we did the research and rounded up our favorites in a few top categories. 

We chose them based on reviews, accessibility, price, and offerings - so whether it’s wanting to up your fitness routine, learn how to meditate, or get more sleep, we’ve searched high and low to share the best of the best. 

Some are free and some have a low monthly fee, so if you have room in your budget alongside Netflix and Prime, we think they’re worth it for the extra content and support they provide. 

In the end, the real deal breaker as to whether an app will work is if you not only download it but actually use it - and the only person who can help you with that is, well, you. Set a goal within the app, then create space in your calendar to follow the program, videos, etc. and commit to it for at least 30 days to see and feel results. 

Best of luck, we know you can do it!

Meditation

If you’ve ever tried to meditate on your own and declared you’re “not good at it,” we urge you to try again. Not only is meditation an amazing way to stay present and calm your nervous system, it can also help you sleep. These apps have guided meditations that help you stay focused and relaxed all at once.

  • Headspace: 14 days free, then $5.83 per month
  • Insight Timer: Free

Sleep

We all know how important a good night’s sleep is, yet it’s something so many of us are lacking. Try these apps to not only track your sleep, but set gentle wake up reminders, detect snoring, and even play relaxing sleep sounds to lull you into next level slumber.

  • Sleep Cycle: Free with in app purchases
  • Calm: Free trial then $69.99 a year


person looking at phone

Nutrition

Sticking to a healthy eating routine isn’t always easy, but having a pocket nutritionist and endless recipes at your fingertips make it so much easier. These apps not only have amazing recipes, nutrition guides, and calorie trackers, but they also offer workout videos.

  • Deliciously Ella: Free 7 day trial, then $9.99 a month
  • My Fitness Pal: Free with tons of tools, upgrade for more personalized data at $49 a year

Fitness

Staying on track with exercise is something many people struggle with, so using an app that guides you through workouts you can do from your living room, in under 20 minutes, is a gift. These apps offer everything from strength training to guided runs and help you track your workouts so you have a record of what you’ve done each week.

  • Pear Fitness: Free with in app upgrades
  • Nike Training: Free

Yoga/Pilates/ Hybrid

If you’re looking for more of a mind/body workout, these apps offer great classes, some even incorporating strength training moves that get you not only flexible, but also strong. Plus many of the classes end with meditation for an all-in-one experience.

  • Alomoves: Free trial, then $20 a month
  • Gaia Yoga: Free trial, then $11.99 a month / $99 a year

BONUS: Goal Setting

Here’s the thing- you can set the loftiest of wellness goals, but if you don’t keep track of getting them done, there’s less of a chance you’ll stick with them, so we’ve included a bonus app that helps you do just that. Whether it’s drinking more water, walking your dog to get in your steps, or avoiding sugar during the week, Streaks can help you follow your progress.


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How Affirmations Can Change Your Life

How Affirmations Can Change Your Life


woman writing affirmations

Have you ever woken up, before touching your feet to the floor, and immediately thought, “ugh…. ?”

Unfortunately, you’re not alone. A recent study has shown that only 14% of Americans are happy - but that doesn’t mean you should continue to be a card-carrying member of the Unhappy Club. You have the power to change your life every morning when you wake up, and we’ve got a great tool to help you do just that - daily affirmations.

Daily affirmations are a great tool to create the life we want, and have been proven to help us develop a positive mindset, where we are not only grateful for what we already have,  but that we believe we are worthy right now of what we want to cultivate in the future.

What exactly are affirmations?

Affirmations are positive statements that can be used to overcome negative and self-sabotaging thoughts. The theory is - the more you repeat them, the more you start to believe them, and that helps to create positive change in your life.

If you’re thinking this all sounds a bit “woo-woo,” and could never picture yourself practicing daily affirmations to train your mind, just think about how you might perform daily exercise to train your body - it’s not any different, and there is actual science behind it.

Many times we start our day off negatively because we’re in a state of lacking, and when we constantly have negative thoughts surrounding our appearance, our financial state, our relationships or our career, it affects our confidence, mood and mindset. The problem with constantly thinking negative thoughts, even in our subconscious, is that we start believing them.

The great news? Because you’re in control of your thoughts, words, and actions, you can ditch the Debbie Downer mindset, think the opposite, and create the reality you really want to be living in.

woman standing at the beach

Research has shown that the subconscious mind plays a major role in the path our lives take and the actualization of our goals, as repeating positive statements can reprogram our thinking. What we tell ourselves on a subconscious level can have a significant impact on our self-esteem and therefore our motivation and determination, which ultimately nudges us to think and act differently so we can live our best lives.

Think about a day when you felt good about yourself - maybe you landed a new job, ran your first 5K or got a clean bill of health from the doctor. Can you remember how that one thing made you feel good about your entire life in general?  Maybe it gave you the motivation to eat healthier, to pitch a new client, or to finally ask out that person you’ve had your eye on at the coffee shop every morning. 

Daily affirmations can also simply be a reminder to be grateful or focus on the positive in every situation, or they can serve as a stepping stone to create incredible transformation. 

Research has studied the multiple benefits of daily affirmations. They can:

  • Help you to perform better at work, even by just repeating to yourself that you are confident before a big meeting.
  • Lessen the effects of stress. In one study, a short affirmation exercise boosted the problem-solving abilities of "chronically stressed" subjects to the same level as those with low stress.
  • Decrease low self-esteem, depression, and other mental health conditions, as they have been shown to stimulate the areas in our brains that motivate us to create effective positive changes in regard to our health.
  • Increase confidence and decrease negative attitudes. One study found that a stronger sense of self-worth makes you more likely to improve your own health, and using affirmations to boost your confidence helps to create that positive self-identity.

How to write your own affirmation: 

  • Start in the first person, “I” or “I am....”
  • Write your statement in the positive, for example, instead of saying, “Today I won’t be lazy or eat any bad foods,” say: “Today I will nourish my body with healthy food and exercise so I have lots of energy.”
  • Write in the present, not in the future. This is where most people get caught up when starting because they don’t feel like they can repeat something that they don’t actually see as being true, but this is where rewiring our subconscious mind starts. So instead of saying, “When I get a new job and lose ten pounds I will be happy,” say, “ I am happy now at my job and in my current body.

If you’ve ever had someone tell you to “Fake it till you make it,” they were on to something. That last one has the most potential to create change, as studies show that if you act like something is already true, then it’s more likely to materialize in real life because you will start to take action as if it’s a reality.

Sample affirmations:

Today will be a productive day.
Each day, I am getting closer to achieving my goals.
My body is healthy; my mind is brilliant; my soul is tranquil.
My relationship is becoming stronger, deeper, and more stable each day.
I possess the qualities needed to be extremely successful.
My business is growing, expanding, and thriving.
My potential to succeed is infinite.
I acknowledge my own self-worth; my confidence is soaring.
Everything that is happening now is happening for my ultimate good.
The perfect partner for me is coming into my life sooner than I expect.

Right now, pick one area in your life where you’d like to create change and either write your own or choose an affirmation from the list above, then commit to repeating it to yourself every morning for at least a week.

Write it on a post-it, make a graphic for your phone screen, or even program your Alexa to make it your morning alarm, and then say it out loud. However you commit to repeating your affirmation daily, we promise it will make you feel more confident, more powerful, and ultimately happier!


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6 Quick Ways to Destress

person walking

According to mental health therapists, this past year has been one for the books in terms of stress. Even 18 months after the start of the pandemic they’re still seeing record numbers of people suffering from anxiety who can’t quite break the cycle.

Have no fear. Although there are serious mental health situations that require guidance from an MD, there are many ways to manage the daily stress that we’ve been feeling, and it’s something we should make a priority.

So, if you’ve drunk all the chamomile tea you can stomach and you’re still stressed, we’ve got a few quick and effective ways to relax and lower your heart rate that will leave you feeling post-luxury massage without the high price tag.

When we’re constantly stressed, our adrenal glands become overloaded and our bodies can’t tell the difference between running away from a bear or being annoyed from sitting in traffic.

And while those adrenal glands jumping into action serve a very important function, when they’re overloaded on a daily, weekly, or even yearly basis they aren’t able to produce the amount of hormones the body needs to function properly.

And that’s a problem we don’t want you to have. So if the stress you’re dealing with isn’t a medical emergency, these tips will help you lay your head on the pillow at night with a clear mind and calm body.

Move your body

Walk, run, jump on a trampoline, or go out with your friends and dance. Not only will it get your mind off any stressful situation you might be dealing with, but it will boost your endorphins, which decreases stress.

Do something creative

Don’t fancy yourself an artist? It doesn’t matter. You don’t have to paint a picture on a canvas, even grabbing an adult coloring book will help get your right brain going and distract you from whatever is causing you stress. And yes, coloring with your toddler counts too!

Unplug

Put down your phone and turn off notifications from your apps. Not only does staring at a screen nonstop cause stress, it can also disrupt your sleep and even cause depression. Instead of scrolling, read a book, put on a sheet mask and take a power nap, or spend time with people you love - those who make you laugh, not stress you out.

Once you’ve unplugged, you can move on to our last suggestion that will really take your stress down a notch - or 20.

 

woman breathing in and relaxing

Take Your Vitamins

Research proves that keeping certain vitamin levels balanced can help our mood and stress levels, so it’s a quick and easy way to stay centered and calm - and also keep our cells healthy while we’re at it.

“Stress” can refer to either the mental stress we feel from being overwhelmed or physical stress that our bodies encounter on a cellular level, which can then have an effect on how the body functions as a whole.

Our resident nutritionist, Keri Glassman, stresses the importance of eating your vitamins as much as possible, but also promotes taking supplements when chewing 50 pounds of vegetables won’t cut it. There are certain vitamins that she always recommends to her clients and we’ve made sure to include them in our supplements.

B vitamins help us optimize energy from the food we eat, Vitamins A, C, and E are powerful antioxidants, which help us keep damage from free radicals at bay. If you don’t know where to start, check out our Multivitamin, developed with Keri, to provide just the right amount of the vitamins you need to thrive.

Restorative Yoga

A restorative yoga pose combined with a breathing exercise, thanks to an increase of oxygen, will have you feeling like jelly in no time. Restorative poses are designed to open the body in a gentle and comfortable way, while engaging our parasympathetic nervous system to take us into a resting state. The following pose allows you to let the body settle into the pillow to open the shoulders and relax the torso, while supporting the legs in a butterfly position releases the hips from the stress.

Supine Bound Angle:

  • Grab a yoga bolster or a hard pillow from your couch to support you in a reclining position.
  • Lying on your back, bend your knees and bring the feet to the floor as close to your seat as is comfortable.
  • Slowly open your knees out wide and bring the soles of your feet together.
  • You want to feel a nice stretch in the inner groin, but not as though anything feels like it’s being pulled too much.
  • Extend your tailbone toward the heels, and reach the crown of your head in the opposite direction, lengthening the spine.
  • Place the palms, face-up, next to your hips, and relax your shoulders down toward the mat, away from the ears.
  • Lastly, soften your face, eyes, jaw, neck, and throat, coming into a nice even breath.

Want to get even more chill? Add this breathing exercise.

1:2 Breathe

As you learn to control the breath to an even 1:2 ratio, the body relaxes and the mind becomes peaceful. If you can’t do this in the pose above, this can be done while waiting for your kids after soccer practice. Begin to take full deep breaths, creating a steady inhale and exhale; then mentally count the length of each inhale and exhale. Gradually begin to extend your exhale so that it eventually doubles the inhale. For example, if you are working with an inhale of four, then you will exhale to eight. Once you find your rhythm without any strain, try to stick with it for at least 10 rounds of inhales and exhales, or longer if you can. You’ll instantly feel calmer after only a few rounds.

Pick one or try them all, we promise you’ll feel less stressed in only a few minutes with any of these suggestions - unless your toddler is having a meltdown next to you, then you might need to try all of them at once.

If you do feel overwhelmed by the amount of stress you’re experiencing it’s important to seek help. Mentalhealth.gov has incredible resources.


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Start Your Day Off Right

Don't Disconnect, Decrease

man watching television

With the New Year here, many of us are thinking of some good habits we want to implement into our lives. One of the biggest things people think of is to completely disconnect from technology. This could mean staying off and away from their smartphones, televisions, and computers. While it sounds good on paper, it may not be the smartest to quit cold turkey. This can be quite unrealistic and hard to stick to, so a better option would be to decrease, not disconnect.

We get it, technology can be pretty overwhelming sometimes. You probably catch yourself scrolling through social media or stuck in front of a TV for hours at a time. Before you know it, the day just passes by. One of the other things about technology, primarily social media, is that we constantly compare our lives to the people we see online. This causes an unhealthy relationship with yourself as you start to become unhappy with your own reality. There are other harmful effects of too much screen time including:

  • Eyestrain
  • Blurry vision
  • Headaches
  • A disrupted circadian rhythm
  • Neck and back pain

So, it sounds pretty reasonable when you decide that you want to go on a full technology detox. You may think it’ll relieve you of any related stress and allow you to fully relax without the worries of needing to respond to someone. This may have worked well in the past, but it doesn’t necessarily do as much good as you think.

smartphone and laptop

Technology surrounds us in our everyday lives. Whether you work on a computer, or make calls and texts on your phone, our society is engulfed in it. Technology has only grown over the years, which has made it even harder to disconnect from it. Some of us might even flippantly say we are addicted to it. In saying this, it’s important that we don’t completely rid ourselves of it. Not only would it not last long, but it also doesn’t work so well when you are trying to go about your normal day. Texts, calls, and work emails are just a few things that make it difficult to fully disengage.

Instead of completely disconnecting from technology, set a goal to decrease and limit your time on it and around it. This is a much easier habit to implement into your life since you won’t be quitting it so abruptly. For example, if your screen time on your smartphone tends to be around five hours a day, set a goal of  two hours, or any amount you feel is achievable. Find yourself sitting in front of the television binge watching your favorite show? Decrease down to an episode or two.

If you find it hard to stick to it, you can write it down where you’ll always see it so you’re constantly reminded of it. You can even tell a friend to help hold you accountable. Set yourself up for success and schedule this time away from technology to do other activities. You can go for a walk, talk to a loved one, or spend time doing a hobby. Little by little, you will start to feel the results of decreasing your tech time, both mentally and physically. You can do this!

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Set Goals, Not Resolutions

journal writing

2020 has been quite the year and we’ve all been through this journey of ups and downs. The new year is finally here and you might be tempted to think of a long list of resolutions you want to accomplish. Maybe you want to start going to sleep earlier, make a workout plan, or save a certain amount of money. We get it - you may feel like you lost a lot of time and need to catch up on life. We’re here to tell you though, resolutions shouldn’t necessarily be your focus in the new year. Goal setting is a much more realistic way to reach where you are striving to be.

What is goal setting?

Goal setting is the process of defining exactly what your goals are and what steps you will take to achieve them. This ensures you have a solid plan in place with set deadlines. As you define these objectives, they should be attainable and tangible.

Why does goal setting work better than resolutions?

Resolutions are merely goals or habits you want to incorporate into your life without actually having a plan in place. This can make it extremely difficult to live out your resolutions in the new year. In fact, about 80 percent of resolutions fail before the end of February! This is usually because the resolutions set are huge goals that end up being very overwhelming, especially when you don’t have a deadline or clear plan set for yourself.

In saying this, goal setting is much more efficient in this way because even if you have a big, intimidating goal you want to reach, you can break it down into smaller ones. For example, if you are aiming to shed a bit of that holiday weight, it is better to take it little by little. Aim to lose a lesser amount of pounds each week rather than a higher amount of pounds in six months. Smaller goals are easier to obtain and you are much more likely to reach your target.

woman victory

How can you incorporate this into your life?

It’s best to identify a few goals you want to achieve. Don’t overwhelm yourself with a bunch of things you want to get done this year. It’s okay to have a top two or three objectives and put all your energy into those few. On top of this, there is also something called setting “SMART” goals. This means your goals should be:

  1. Specific - Stay away from generic goals like “eat healthier.” The more specific you are, the better it will be when you start planning.

  2. Measurable - Measure your progress in terms of amounts, time passed, etc.

  3. Attainable - Goals are meant to be achieved! They should not be so out of reach that you cannot attain them.

  4. Relevant - Keep your goals aligned with your life. Make sure it helps you get where you want to be.

  5. Time Bound - Set a deadline! It will only make it that more rewarding for you when you achieve it.


Now that you have your goals, it’s time to make a plan for each one. Write out the small steps within your large goal and make deadlines for those too. All that’s left to do is stick to your plan! Just remember that you can take advantage of goal setting at any time of the year, it isn’t only limited to each time the new year comes around.

Happy planning and Happy New Year!

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Journaling For Your Self-Improvement

woman writing in journal

There’s never a better time than now to evaluate your habits and goals plus make changes that will benefit you. Some people might reflect on their daily routine and decide they want to start a fitness plan, focus on their diet more, or learn a new skill. It’s also just as important to pay special attention to your mental and emotional health while truly investing time in YOU!

This year has brought many difficulties as well as a “new normal” that we are all trying to get accustomed to. While physical distancing is necessary during these times, it is not optimal for mental and emotional well-being. It is natural for people to want social interaction and the lack of time spent in person has led to a great deal of anxiety and stress for many. There are multiple ways to work on your mental and emotional health, but journaling is an effective way to track your day-to-day moods. This is an age-old activity that allows you to reason through daily situations as well as make sense of both positive and negative thoughts.

Types of Journaling

Journaling can take many different forms. Many of us may have had a diary when we were younger, and though the fact that Kristi had a crush on Chad isn’t of great consequence, that was a form of journaling. You may have had to keep a journal in your English class when you were in school or maybe your healthcare provider asked you to keep a nutritional journal or one for any type of therapy.

The great thing about keeping a journal is that there are no real rules. Your journal can be about any topic that helps you or about anything that you're interested in. Some people keep journals full of poetry or little blurbs about daily events in their life. It can be a way to write out all your thoughts on paper. Journals can be strictly private for your eyes only, or they can be shared with others. Blogs, for example, are sometimes considered online journals. These are the blogs that are often personal in nature.

What Journal Method Is Right for You?

This is a personal decision. Some people are comfortable sharing their journal and they get a great deal from the feedback they receive from readers. In other cases, it might be easier to be fully honest if you know that no one else will read your thoughts. A mental health journal should help you gain clarity and it needs to be honest.

Your journal should be a way to guide you with self-improvement. This is going to be specific to your own needs. You might find that it's a good place to help you prioritize the things that you need to do in your life. Or, maybe it's a good space to write about the things you're afraid of or the relationships you're having trouble with. Again, there's no right or wrong answer here. You'll find that the act of writing these things down can offer a great benefit both in the present moment and long term.

Writing in a journal can be like a form of meditation. You have the ability to clear your mind and verbalize all of the thoughts in your head on the page. You can also look back at your writing later, with a clearer mind, and really analyze the thoughts in a more unbiased way. This can help you decipher and analyze things in a way that is exceptionally difficult to do in the moment.

How Do You Begin Journaling?

While journaling is unique to you, there are some basic rules you can follow to stay on track.

  • Choose the method that's most convenient. If you prefer typing or keying information, you might open a blank document to become your journal. You can also create a blog that's private or public.

  • Add your own creativity to the process. Journaling doesn't need to only be words, unless you prefer to use prose exclusively. You can add any form of creativity that you want to make it yours. This might include adding photos, drawings or paintings, and decorations of any type. This works for an online journal as well as a physical book.

  • Develop a routine. Journaling reaps the most benefits when it becomes a habit. You can set aside time each day to work on your journal or you might simply keep your journal handy to add bits as the mood strikes.

writing in journal


Your journal may change over time as your needs and goals change. It’s not a static process. Your goals now might focus on your health while in a year you may start to work towards a new hobby. Journaling can become a self-improvement tool that you can turn to at any point in your journey through life. So, grab your journal and start making strides towards the best version of yourself!

3 Ways Dogs Help With Mental Health


dog sleeping on person

Millions of people around the country love having dogs as a part of their family — what they may not know is how greatly their furry friend can benefit their mental health.

Recent studies exploring the bond between humans and animals have started revealing what so many of us have suspected all along - having a dog has many benefits! This research is how we found that dogs are great at interpreting our mood through our tone of voice, body language and gestures. 

Now we have started to better analyze precisely how our furry friends benefit us mentally and emotionally. Here are three ways dogs can help with our mental health:

1. Early exposure to dogs decreases the chance of psychiatric disorders

A recent study showed that adults who had a dog during childhood were 25% less likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia.  

The apparent effect of exposure to a pet dog is the most evident when the dog is present at a child’s birth or joins a family before the child turns three years old. Exposure to a family dog during this time was associated with a 50% less chance for a schizophrenia diagnosis.

2. Dogs can help battle depression

Studies have found that dog parents are less likely to suffer from depression than those without dogs. Playing with dogs and even feeding them treats has shown to raise levels of serotonin and dopamine, which helps pet parents relax and be happy. 

Companionship from a dog can help fend off some triggers of depression such as isolation and loneliness. Studies have shown that having a dog can even prevent illness and add years to your life!


dog playing with toy

3. Dogs promote a healthy routine and self-care

A lack of routine and structure in a person’s life can make them feel unorganized or anxious. Many people who struggle with maintaining a healthy, normal routine may benefit from bringing a dog into their life.  

If you don’t wake up early enough, your dog most likely will! Going for a walk in the morning and eating breakfast is a staple in every dog’s life. This gets you up and out of the house for walks, hikes or runs — just being outdoors provides its own mental health benefits. Taking care of a pet reminds us to take care of ourselves. 

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Of course, bringing a dog into your home isn’t the answer for every person or family, but people should be aware of the mental health benefits that come with the furry package! Remember, dogs can help us just as much as we can help them.

 

4 Ways to Embrace Self-Improvement Month

Woman With Arms Raised In Victory

The myth that self improvement is difficult can lead you to put off your goals for way too long. It’s time to change that!

Given that September is Self Improvement Month, now is the perfect time, If you’re ready to focus on bettering yourself, start by making small changes. After only a month or two of attention to these new ways of life, they will rewire your brain and become habits rather than efforts.

Here are four easy adjustments to jumpstart your self improvement, find greater serenity and love who you see in the mirror!

1. Clear Clutter
Believe it or not, clutter is a reliable stress indicator. The more cluttered your environment, the less likely you are to feel mentally balanced and physically healthy. If you’ve wanted to tackle clutter for a long time, start now. You’ll notice a stress decrease immediately.

A clutter-free environment will also make it easier to assess what you have and what you still want. For example, many people are surprised to discover that once they get rid of half their clothes, they quite like their remaining wardrobe! The clarity then allows you to identify what you might add to your life — a new chair, a fresh fuzzy blanket, or even a replacement set of spoons.

Narrowing down your possessions to know exactly what you have rather than simply replacing everything that’s lost in the mess allows you to be much more intentional. You’ll find that buying items that you really desire and believe in is a much more cost effective strategy. You can even take this opportunity to pursue more environmentally friendly and less toxic purchases.

2. Adjust Your Diet
One reason you might feel physically drained is due to diet, but it’s easier than you think to make adjustments that lower your sugar consumption, keep you fuller and increase your nutrient intake. Here are four changes to start with:

  • Clean out the fridge and start using clear containers. This will give you an unobstructed view of the fresh, healthy food available to you.
  • Switch out soft drinks for seltzer water — if you want to switch it up try our Minerals & Antioxidants or Greens Blend mixes.
  • Replace white bread with organic whole grain options (many of which are just as soft and even tastier than white).
  • Add a veggie to every meal, even if it’s just a small pile of spinach, a handful of cherry tomatoes or sliced peppers.

Fridge Stocked With Fresh Fruit and Veggies

3. Tackle Your Finances
It’s hard to imagine a bigger source of dread than finances, but financial wellbeing is absolutely critical if you’re to be a happy and serene person. Again, start small. Clean out that teetering pile of old bills and file them in folders or shred them. Once you “declutter” your finances a bit, start tracking your expenses, categorize your spending, and set money-saving goals.

4. Begin Exercising
Because so many people find exercising intimidating, we’ve saved it for last. Once you have other habits in place, you’ll find it less scary to start a fitness routine. First off, don’t get discouraged if you don’t immediately see drastic weight loss. Research shows that you need to handle that through diet, so when you start a regimen and don’t see massive pound shedding, don’t fret.

Instead, think of exercise as a gift to your heart, blood vessels, brain and muscles. Even a 10-minute walk around the block at lunchtime or a quick evening jaunt with the doggo is a great first step. If you keep it up, you will pick up steam naturally.

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See? There's nothing on this list that you can't do, and it’s not hard to see that small changes can have big benefits. Choose one of these to start today, looking not for perfection or huge results, but rather for consistency. With a little dedication you’ll be amazed by how these changes stack up over time, leaving you with an overall greater sense of fulfillment!

Don’t Be D-Railed by Short Winter Days

sun-soaking-vitamin-d-woman

Even though the days are growing longer, we’re all coming off months of reduced time in the sun. While snuggling in the warmth of cozy dens holds appeal, there are some drawbacks to limited solar exposure. When it's colder and darker, outdoor activity is typically limited, too. Medically speaking, it also means we might start experiencing a dip in our vitamin D levels. The reason? According to the National Institutes of Health, most people need at least some of their vitamin D minimum requirements to be self-sourced through exposure to sunlight.

It's by no means a small problem. Approximately one billion people worldwide have a vitamin D deficiency. This fat-soluble vitamin helps us absorb calcium, grow strong bones and maintain our immune system. Those who are deficient in vitamin D might find themselves at greater risk for such troubling diseases as rickets (especially in children), osteoporosis (especially among the elderly) and even autoimmune disorders. Vitamin D deficiency is even increasingly linked to seasonal affective disorder, that feeling of sadness or anxiety that expresses itself during the winter months.

So how do you keep your vitamin D levels ramped up even during winter? Here are three suggestions to help keep your body nourished.

1. Boost Your Diet: Vitamin D naturally occurs in very few foods. Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel are likely your best source, although you can also find it in smaller amounts in egg yolks, cheese and beef liver. If the thought of beef liver or mackerel doesn’t quite do it for you, and you’ve had your quota of salmon for the week, look for fortified foods on your grocery shelves. A lot of cereals are loaded with vitamin D, and dairy products started adding vitamin D in the 1930's to fight rickets. If you’re trying to figure out how to create a menu containing the 600 IU of vitamin D an average adults needs, the USDA has compiled a comprehensive list of food sources (visit https://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/vitamin-d).

suns-rays-heart-hands

2. Go Outside: People who live farthest from the equator are at the highest risk of experiencing a vitamin D deficiency. That’s why it's so important that you make sure you expose yourself to sunshine every day, if at all possible. Even though we all know we're supposed to use sunscreen, doctors recommend that we all try to spend a few minutes outside without sunscreen so that those ultraviolet rays can soak into your skin, mix with your cholesterol and transform into vitamin D. You can keep your face covered, and just have your arms uncovered for 10-30 minutes a days. Healthline reports that midday is the best time to get some sunshine: “[A] study found that 30 minutes of midday summer sun exposure in Oslo, Norway, was equivalent to consuming 10,000-20,000 IU of vitamin D.” Be forewarned that melanin in darkly pigmented skin can act as a barrier that prevents vitamin D production. So, if you have darker skin, you might need to spend a little extra time outside. Try to schedule lunch breaks that coincide with the brightest time of day, especially during the winter months, to ensure that you're soaking up prime rays.

3. Pop a Multivitamin: Because so many people do live far away from the equator and struggle to meet their requirements with food, dietary vitamin D supplements are the best and easiest way to boost your health in this regard. Just one serving of our plant-based Life’s Abundance Multivitamin will provide you with the full recommended 600 IU of vitamin D.

Here’s to a bright and D-lightful New Year for all of us!

Sources

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4143492/
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/286496.php
https://ods.od.nih.gov/pubs/usdandb/VitaminD-Content.pdf
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vitamin-d-from-sun#sunscreen

7 Ways to Power Up Your Brain

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Humans are creatures of habit. Once we get into a rhythm, we're loathe to change things up. However, there's strong evidence to suggest that simply by doing things differently, you can boost your brain health. Others go so far as to suggest that opening yourself up to new cognitive activity can perhaps stave off certain forms of dementia (of which there are more than a dozen types), which is affecting an increasing number of Americans every year.

Before you balk at the mere prospect of doing things differently, check out the following easy - dare we say FUN - ways to get out of a rut and to start taking care of your brain's health.

Break Your Routine
Scientists have discovered an amazing series of life hacks to improve brain function. It all hinges on the fact that habitual actions - things we do by rote - require less and less brain power. By switching things up, the brain must compensate by creating new pathways and cells. If you drive the same way to work every day, mix things up by taking an alternate route. If you always go to the same grocery store, go to a different one. Use your non-dominant hand to brush your teeth. All of these activities can lead to a rapid and significant expansion of parts of the cortex, making cells stronger and more resistant to the effects of aging.

New Smells
Take a tour of your spice cabinet. Order collections of scented candles. Routinely vary your personal care products. Buy a new cookbook and try a new recipe every week. Begin your day by smelling something out-of-the-ordinary, then end your day the same. If you can connect new scents with an emotional meaning, you can stimulate different areas of the brain and naturally produce nerve-cell nutrients that improve memory.

Limit Your Binge Watching
In a 25-year study gauging the effects of binge watching, researchers note that people who watch more than three hours of TV score much more poorly on cognitive tests. In another study, binge-watchers reported higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression than those who were not. Same goes for the time spent staring at your phone. If you have a dog, take them for a walk along a completely new route. Or play a board game with the kids. There's a great big world out there that's not fictional, waiting for you!

brain-chart

Mental Stimulation
Switching your interaction with the world from passive to active can yield impressive changes in your brain. Rather than spending countless hours vegging, try on a new hobby or two. Crossword puzzles, sudoku or even a lecture series can stimulate new neural connections and the development of new cells, both of which contribute to mental elasticity. The best activities for your brain are ones that employ creative thinking and manual dexterity, so if you've ever wished you could draw or paint, now's the time to start learning!

Do All The Things
We've heard all the expert advice. All of what they've been telling us for years - don't smoke, don't drink to excess, exercise regularly, maintain an average blood pressure, get plenty of sleep, keep your blood-sugar and cholesterol levels in check - all of these can have a dramatic positive effect on your brain health. If you haven't been paying attention to these things, start taking steps beginning today.

Feed Your Head
If you're like most Americans, your diet could use some improvements. Walnuts, fish, olive oil, sage, blueberries, cocoa, tomato, broccoli, apples, spinach, black currants and pumpkin seeds all contain nutrients vital to brain health. To nourish your brain with a premium balance of omega-3's and 6's, look no further than Life's Abundance Fish Oil. Not only is it highly concentrated and ultra pure, research has shown that its consumption benefits cognitive performance due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Scientists believe that cognitive decline associated with minimal intake of omega-3’s may be a predictor of Alzheimer’s Disease. Furthermore, other studies have found a causitive link between deficiencies in omega-3’s and a number of serious psychological conditions, including depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, ADHD and even substance abuse.

Make New Connections
Socialization is hard-wired into your brain. When we isolate ourselves, it can lead to negative effects not only in the way we feel, but also for brain health. By cultivating relationships with friends, co-workers and family, you'll actually be helping to lower your risk for dementia, lower your blood pressure and even extend your lifetime. Get out there and make some new connections!

Put most simply, all of these tips boil down to being open to embracing new things. And the benefits are undeniable. We encourage you to try these simple tips and to let us know your experience in the comments section below!

References 
https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/12/03/tv-may-be-bad-for-your-brain
https://apha.confex.com/apha/143am/webprogram/Paper335049.html
“Fish, meat, and risk of dementia: cohort study.” British Medical Journal, 2002; 325; 932-933.
"Plasma fatty acids are associated with normative variation in mood, personality and behavior." Abstract #1411. Presented at the 64th Annual Scientific Mtg of the American Psychosomatic Society, Denver, CO, March 1-4, 2006.
Hibbeln, J.R.. "Fish consumption and major depression." The Lancet, 1998; 351: 1213.
Hibbeln, J.R.. "Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in depression and related conditions, in Phospholipid Spectrum Disorder." (Lancashire, England: Marius Press, 1999), pp. 195-210.
https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/12-ways-to-keep-your-brain-young
https://www.businessinsider.com/brain-exercises-that-make-you-smarter-2018-1
“Dietary intake of fatty acids and fish in relation to cognitive performance at middle age.” Neurology. 2004 Jan 27;62(2):275-80.