Thursday, May 26, 2022

Benefits Of Being Outdoors

Question for you… How do you feel after a long day of staring at your computer, answering phone calls, texts, and emails, or weaving in and out of traffic that’s laden with honking horns? Frazzled? Tense/stiff? Overwhelmed? Disconnected? Exhausted? Yep. We are not surprised.


How about this…


Remember how you’d feel as a kid after a long day of playing tag, hide and seek, climbing trees, or catching fireflies? Calm, relaxed, and content? We all know that feeling, even if it seems so far away in your distant memory. What if we told you that you could feel that way now? 


Spoiler alert: YOU CAN.


Who is this ecotherapy for? Everyone. 


Let’s dive deeper into the WHY you should spend more time outside…

  • Calming and relaxing effects - Being outside is a true mindfulness practice because it’s so much easier to stay in the present moment. Whether you are walking trails while listening to the birds, playing in the sand with your kids, gardening, or eating dinner on the back porch, the act of just being outside helps us to become absorbed in our environment. This is really good for your brain to take a break from the past, present, or future stresses that you can get caught dwelling on throughout the day.

Healthy distractions from unpleasant thoughts and pain can help to reduce cortisol, alleviating symptoms like anxiety, depression, PTSD, racing thoughts, muscle tension, and fast heartbeat. The sounds of birds, water, and rain, as well as looking at colorful scenery filled with various greens and all of the colors of the rainbow can positively impact your nervous system. 

  • Reduces symptoms of depression - There is proof that adults and children who regularly spend time outside throughout the week experience elevated moods and a better ability to handle change and the stresses of life.  A study in the journal “Mind” reported that 95 percent of participants interviewed after spending time outside noticed mental changes from depressed and anxious to a calmer and more balanced state. After time outside, people are often more motivated and take on a higher sense of self-worth.


  • Increase your energy and prevent burnout - When you are staring at screens all day indoors, while also trying to multitask, it can be extremely draining and exhausting for your mind and body. Even if you take a few minutes to go outside, feel the sun on your skin, or simply sit in nature and listen to the sounds, you can feel the benefits of a natural energy boost.

If you are partaking in outdoor exercise like walking/running, gardening, biking, swimming, riding horses, farming, yoga, or whatever else you love to do, these activities can increase energy and motivation, as well as positively impact sleep and immune function, which can benefit your energy levels as well.

  • Improved connection to others - Even when I was in medical school in Portland, amongst the bright lights, honking horns, asphalt, and traffic jams - all of the things that Tanda’s hate, I was able to find tranquility and connection when I walked the quiet trails outside of the city. When people walked by and we exchanged a hello or a headnod, there was an instant sense of belonging and camaraderie even when I didn’t know them. Why? Because we were all out there seeking the same thing… connection to the earth and the peace that it gives. And I think everyone that consciously spends time outside in nature has that collective understanding.


The point is, you can find connections with others through nature no matter where you live. You can find it in the big cities or you can find it when completely immersed on a 40 acre farm in the middle of nowhere, doing chores and eating dinner with loved ones daily, like I am today. Mother Earth wants to be found by all. And she knows how important it is for us to find her together.

  • Brings you back to your childhood - When we connect to our playful inner child and the joys that we experienced before the major stresses of life hit us, it’s extremely therapeutic and healing for all that we have endured over the years. Take time to think back to the outdoor activities that brought you joy, calm, excitement, and feelings of safety and security as a child… What were they? And then, implement them.

I am sure this all sounds great, but I also know it could also sound a little daunting. Getting back to the basics of life and reconnecting to earth in ways that feel so unfamiliar at this point may seem hard. Well, that’s why I am here. I have some really great options for ecotherapy so that you can get started as soon as possible and rekindle that long-lost love affair you had with mother nature years ago.


How to connect with the earth…

  • Hike some trails
  • Do yoga in the yard
  • Eat dinner on the back porch
  • Walk at a local park or in your neighborhood
  • Spend time with your animals
  • Visit a farm… or start a farm
  • Create a garden
  • Rake leaves… and don’t forget to jump in them
  • Spend time at the beach…build a sandcastle
  • Tie-dye t-shirts in the yard
  • Go camping
  • Kayak or canoe the river
  • Have a bonfire and a cookout
  • Workout outside instead of inside the gym
  • Shop at the outdoor farmers market
  • Read on the porch
  • Try mountain or rock climbing
  • Ride a horse
  • Plant flowers
  • Climb sturdy trees
  • Play a game of kickball or tag with family or the neighbors
  • Go swimming
  • Play outdoor sports
  • If it’s cold, build a snowman, go sledding, and make a snow angel
  • Get chickens…you can have them anywhere these days
  • Catch fireflies in a mason jar…and then let them go 

The list is endless. Even just starting with a little time outside will show you how much good it does for your soul.  We want to know your favorite things to do outside, so report back. Enjoy this earth that we get to live on!



Monday, May 16, 2022

Create A Solid Night Time Routine For Better Sleep


1. Make it a routine and set your bedtime

Having a regular bedtime is just as important for adults as it is for children. Set your bedtime, whether it’s 9 pm or 1 am and stick to it. A consistent sleep schedule can get you more and better quality rest and may lower your risk for heart disease. Additionally, a set bedtime will ensure you’re getting enough sleep. Adults generally need 7-9 hours of sleep a night, but the amount you need is highly individualized. 



2. Snacking: Eating some simple carbs after dinner may help you fall asleep faster and sleep better. Foods like potatoes, toast with peanut butter, low-fat cheese and crackers, almonds, bananas, or yogurt are easy to digest and may be sleep inducing. Avoid sugary or high-fat foods (sorry, no ice cream). Some spicy foods are also difficult to digest and may cause you to wake up throughout the night.


3. Stop eating early: Speaking of snacking, avoid eating 2-3 hours before bedtime. Beyond eating early, sticking to a regular dinner time regulates your circadiam rhythm and improves your sleep efficiency. 


4. Have a hot beverage: Warm milk is a traditional bedtime routine in some cultures. It may be that the sleep-inducing compounds that milk contains, such as tryptophan, can promote sleep. Tryptophan is an amino acid found in proteins (such as turkey) and plays a role in the production of serotonin, which boosts mood, promotes relaxation, and functions as a precursor in the production of melatonin.

If you don’t like milk, or you’re on a plant-based diet, you can try chamomile tea, which in addition to reducing anxiety and depression may also boost your immune system. Chamomile tea contains apigenin, an antioxidant that binds to receptors in your brain that can promote sleepiness and reduce insomnia.

5. Avoid caffeine: Coffee drinkers should stay away from consuming it in the afternoon. Some people are so sensitive to caffeine that they should stop before noon


6. Avoid alcohol: We’ve said it before. Alcohol may make you feel sleepy, but it is detrimental to a good night’s sleep. Sleep is an active process and alcohol inhibits those processes. Alcohol prevents you from getting enough REM sleep and deep sleep as your body metabolizes it.



Not every tip will work for every person, so experiment with different wind-down activities to see which ones work better for you.

7. Separate work from bed: The ability to work from anywhere means you can also work at any time. Working remotely often means you have less separation between home and the office, and potentially less separation between work and sleep. This was an issue during the coronavirus pandemic when people who were used to going into work suddenly had to work from home. Nearly one-third of American employees worked remotely during the pandemic, and about 40% of Americans polled reported new sleeping problems. 

Avoid working in your bedroom if possible. Maintaining a separate space for sleep lets you mentally associate your bedroom with relaxation and sleep. Additionally, try to stick to a schedule. You are in your work area for a specific time that is separated by at least a couple of hours from bedtime. This gives you a chance to have work, family and wind-down times, and spaces that encroach less on each other.

8. Tech-free time: Plan some technology-free time before you go to bed. Blue lights from most televisions, computers, and phones inhibit the production of melatonin. It also affects your circadian rhythm, which is one reason blue light and sunlight wake you up in the morning. Some electronics have settings that alter screen temperatures to a warmer color in the evening, but electronics can have other negative effects. Social media can create feelings of anxiety and depression, emotions you don’t necessarily want to feel when you’re trying to sleep.



9. Pre-bed yoga routine: A gentle activity such as yoga can calm your mind and heart rate as you prepare for bed.  One survey found that most adults reported improved sleep after practicing yoga and 85% said it reduces stress. Try relaxing positions such as child pose, reclined butterfly, or simply sitting cross-legged on the floor (or your bed) in the easy pose and breathing for five minutes to activate the parasympathetic system.


10. Music, white or pink noise: A sound machine for white or pink noise frequencies that generate a steady background hum can drown out noises that may keep you awake or jolt you out of sleep. Turn on the sound machine as part of your nightly routine to teach your brain that these sounds mean its bedtime.


11. Journaling: Writing in a diary the old-fashioned way lets you organize your mind, decrease overthinking and worry, and allows you to fall asleep faster. If you’re prone to staying awake with anxiety, organizing your thoughts on paper may help calm you enough to be able to rest. You can also use journaling to write about positive experiences to redirect your mind as you prepare for sleep.


12. Meditation: Like yoga and journaling, meditation decreases resting heart rate and improves heart rate variability. Meditation also promotes neuroplasticity.  


13. Supplements like magnesium or melatonin: Magnesium can help your body relax by inhibiting the sympathetic branch of your autonomic nervous system.  Magnesium deficiencies have been connected to sleep disorders and poor sleep. If you’re not getting enough of it in your diet a magnesium supplement may aid your sleep.   


Monday, May 9, 2022

Meditation For Weight Loss


What is meditation?

Meditation is a practice that helps to connect the mind and body to achieve a sense of calm. People have been meditating for thousands of years as a spiritual practice. Today, many people use meditation to reduce stress and become more aware of their thoughts.

There are many types of meditation. Some are based on the use of specific phrases called mantras. Others focus on breathing or keeping the mind in the present moment.

All of these methods can help you develop a better understanding of yourself, including how your mind and body works.

This increased awareness makes meditation a useful tool for better understanding your eating habits, which could result in weight loss.

What are the benefits of meditation for weight loss?

Meditation won’t make you lose weight overnight. But with a little practice, it can potentially have lasting effects on not only your weight, but also your thought patterns.

Sustainable weight loss

Meditation is linked to a variety of benefits. In terms of weight loss, mindfulness meditation seems to be the most helpful. A 2017 review of existing studies found that mindfulness meditation was an effective method for losing weight and changing eating habits.

Mindfulness meditation involves paying close attention to:

  • where you are
  • what you’re doing
  • how you’re feeling in the present moment

During mindfulness meditation, you’ll acknowledge all of these aspects without judgment. Try to treat your actions and thoughts as just those — nothing else. Take stock of what you’re feeling and doing, but try not to classify anything as being good or bad. This becomes easier with regular practice.

Practicing mindfulness meditation can lead to long-term benefits, too. Compared to other dieters, those practicing mindfulness are more likely to keep the weight off, according to the 2017 review.

Less guilt and shame

Mindfulness meditation can be particularly helpful in curbing emotional and stress-related eating. By becoming more aware of your thoughts and emotions, you can recognize those times when you eat because you’re stressed, rather than hungry.

It’s also a good tool to prevent you from falling into the harmful spiral of shame and guilt that some people fall into when trying to change their eating habits. Mindfulness meditation involves recognizing your feelings and behaviors for what they are, without judging yourself.

This encourages you to forgive yourself for making mistakes, such as stress-eating a bag of potato chips. That forgiveness can also prevent you from catastrophizing, which is a fancy term for what happens when you decide to order a pizza since you already “screwed up” by eating a bag of chips.

How can I start meditating for weight loss?

Anyone with a mind and body can practice meditation. There’s no need for any special equipment or expensive classes. For many, the hardest part is simply finding the time. Try to start with something reasonable, such as 10 minutes a day or even every other day.

Make sure you have access to a quiet place during these 10 minutes. If you have children, you may want to squeeze it in before they wake up or after they go to bed to minimize distraction. You can even try doing it in the shower.

Once you’re in a quiet place, make yourself comfortable. You can sit or lie down in any position that feels easy.

Start by focusing on your breath, watching your chest or stomach as it rises and falls. Feel the air as it moves in and out of your mouth or nose. Listen to the sounds the air makes. Do this for a minute or two, until you start to feel more relaxed.

Next, with your eyes open or closed, follow these steps:

1.    Take a deep breath in. Hold it for several seconds.

2.    Slowly exhale and repeat.

3.    Breathe naturally.

4.    Observe your breath as it enters your nostrils, raises your chest, or moves your belly, but don’t alter it in any way.

5.    Continue focusing on your breath for 5 to 10 minutes.

6.    You’ll find your mind wandering, which is completely normal. Just acknowledge that your mind has wandered and return your attention to your breath.

7.    As you start to wrap up, reflect on how easily your mind wandered. Then, acknowledge how easy it was to bring your attention back to your breath.

Try to do this more days of the week than not. Keep in mind that it might not feel very effective the first few times you do it. But with regular practice, it’ll get easier and start to feel more natural.

If you’re curious about trying other types of meditation or just want some guidance, you can find a variety of guided meditations online.  Two popular meditation apps are Headspace and Calm.  

When choosing a guided meditation online, try to stay away from those promising overnight results or offering hypnosis.

Other mindfulness techniques

Here are a few other tips to help you take a mindfulness-based approach to weight loss:

  • Slow down your meals. Focus on chewing slowly and recognizing the taste of each bite.
  • Find the right time to eat. Avoid eating on the go or while multitasking.
  • Learn to recognize hunger and fullness. If you aren’t hungry, don’t eat. If you’re full, don’t keep going. Try to listen to what your body is telling you.
  • Recognize how certain foods make you feel. Try to pay attention to how you feel after eating certain foods. Which ones make you feel tired? Which ones make you feel energized?
  • Forgive yourself. You thought that pint of ice cream would make you feel better, but it didn’t. That’s OK. Learn from it and move on.