Monday, November 28, 2022

Financial Health During The Holidays

The gift-giving season can be stressful for you and your bank account, especially since the rest of your bills don’t take snow days. Financial wellbeing is important to your overall health, which is why this year we suggest you stress less about the price tag of the holidays and focus on a more strategic shopping regimen. We’ve put together the following tips to help keep you from over-shopping and overspending this holiday season.

Budgeting is best.

The best way to avoid overspending is to set a budget. Think of those you want to buy for and set a limit on the price of each gift. Decide how you want to shop and how deep into your wallet you’re willing to dig. Some people find success in one blanket gift for everyone on their list, like buying everyone the same fruitcake or hat and scarf. Others find joy in personalizing each gift, giving something that’s unique to each recipient. No matter how you shop, one thing’s for sure—you’ll fair better financially by making and adhering to a budget.


Make a list and check it twice.

Before you embark on your gift-shopping journey, have a clear objective of what exactly you’re shopping for, and for whom. Have you ever gone grocery shopping on an empty stomach? If you’re starving at the grocery store, odds are you’ll fill your cart with more food than you bargained for. It’s a common mistake, and you can struggle with the same over-shopping problem if you do your holiday shopping without a list, plan or agenda. Without a clear goal, you’re more likely to over-shop and overspend this holiday season. Be clear and concise with your gift giving this year, and stick to your list. Try a digital list or a gift-giving app to help you stay on track while on-the-go.

Do all of your shopping at once.

A little shopping here and there could result in a lot of money spent. That’s because every time you venture out to the store or begin tapping around online, you run the risk of finding another good deal or sale that you can’t refuse. If you finish your shopping in one swoop, you’ll hamper that temptation to just one outing or Internet browsing session—and help your financial state stay intact. Your financial wellbeing will flourish too, because you’re limiting all the stress and anxiety of crowded stores to one event. Take a page out of Santa’s playbook and spend just one night worrying about gifts, so you can enjoy yourself the rest of the holiday season.

Try something homespun.

Great gifts don’t have to be store bought. Try turning a hobby into a holiday favorite by using your skills to create a thoughtful present. If you knit or crochet, consider creating a warm blanket or socks for loved ones. Everyone in the mitten state could use their own pair of mittens. And who doesn’t love receiving something that’s been handcrafted just for them? If garments aren’t your thing, maybe you can paint or draw a portrait, build a birdhouse or create a culinary delight in the kitchen. Combine several treats into a basket or bin that could be repurposed for storage year-round. If you love essential oils, try creating a blend of homemade all-purpose cleaning spray with a mood-boosting scent that every living space could always use. From quilts to chocolate chip cookies, you can save some cash on gifts this year simply by being crafty.

While we all want to woo our friends and loved ones by showering them with gifts, it’s best to remember this: it’s still the thought that counts – not the price tag.  The holidays have their way of affecting our mental health and physical state through stress and anticipation, the last thing we need is to let this time of year strain our financial wellbeing any more than it has to.  So go shopping, but please keep your wellbeing, and in this case, your bank account, in mind. 

Saturday, November 19, 2022

The Daily Practice of Gratitude


Gratitude is about grounding yourself and focusing on the good. The good can really be anything that makes you happy: from the cup of coffee you had this morning to the people in your life. Practicing gratitude is not lecturing yourself and saying “you should be grateful, other people have it worse.” Instead, it’s about spending time to focus on the good, however large or small that may be. And by regularly taking some time to do that, you will develop habits (and even rewire your brain!) to think and live a little more positively, benefitting both your mental and physical health. 

Here are some benefits of gratitude: 

Better sleep!

The thing we all need: more sleep! People who practice gratitude before bed are proven to sleep better. It totally makes sense! We all know that spiral of negativity that keeps so many of us awake: Did I remember to send that email? I have to do laundry tomorrow. Why did I say that thing 10 years ago?  By regularly

practicing gratitude, you’re more likely to be able to focus on positive thoughts at bedtime and avoid that negative self-talk that keeps us awake.

Higher self-esteem

We live in a society of judgment, competition, and unreachable standards that tries to crush our self-esteem, resulting in negative and unhealthy relationships to our bodies and selves. Practicing gratitude is a great way to combat negative self-talk and feeling less than. Rather than compare ourselves to others (whether it be physically, emotionally, career, etc.) gratitude helps us to center ourselves and focus on the positives, improving our overall outlook on like and ourselves! 

Improved mental health

It sounds obvious, but it’s true. By routinely practicing gratitude, you rewire your brain to think more positively. Gratitude literally makes you produce “happy hormones” aka dopamine and serotonin. Just like with physical exercise, by regularly practicing gratitude, you can literally strengthen these neural pathways, resulting in better and long-lasting production of positive feelings. We’re not suggesting this is a cure for depression or anxiety, but it truly does make a difference on your mental health by regularly taking time to focus on positives. For a more in-depth look at how gratitude both directly and indirectly impacts depression and anxiety, check out this article from Psychology Today. 

It’s good for your physical health, too!

Or at the very least, grateful people are more likely to make healthier choices, like exercising regularly.  Studies suggest a wide range of improved health in people who practice gratitude including better sleep, lower inflammation and aches and pains. As we know, our mental and physical health are deeply connected. If you consider all the impact gratitude has on things like sleep and mental health, it makes sense that it would impact your physical health as well! Whether you feel better and are making healthier choices directly due to being grateful, or as an indirect result of things like sleeping better. 

Gratitude can even help us through trauma

As simple as it may sound, having the ability to reflect on what we’re grateful for can help us heal in the hardest of times. There have been numerous studies on the positive impact gratitude has on people who have experienced trauma. 

What it means to Practice Gratitude

There are a lot of ways to incorporate more gratitude in your life. It could be as small as thinking about one thing you’re grateful for that day. 

  • Make a list in your head. We suggest doing this either first thing in the morning or when going to sleep.
  • Say things you’re grateful for out-loud - try it while looking in the mirror. 
  • Tell people in your life you’re grateful for them and why. 
  • Meditate. Intention and gratitude go hand-in-hand. 
  • Write it down (our favorite). There are lots of ways to do it, the thing we like so much about this is having a record to refer to of things you’ve been grateful for. Some fun ideas include a gratitude jar or a gratitude journal. 

Since the idea is to make this a regular practice, try to figure out a method and time of day that works best for you, that way you’re more likely to stick with it.  When writing a list, try to aim for ten things no

matter how small. Even then, it can be hard to come up with all ten, and that’s okay. You’re not trying to put more pressure on yourself, but rather practically incorporate this positive (and free!) practice into your wellness routine. In a time where our culture has capitalized and corporatized “self-care” having these routines and practices that actually help us without charging us is that much more important! (And hey, that’s something you can add to your gratitude list). 

Remember, these changes won’t happen overnight. 

Just writing down a couple of things one morning will feel good at the moment, but won’t have a lasting impact. This is what we like so much about something like a gratitude journal or jar: it’s a tangible accumulation of what you’re grateful for - and the more you add, the larger that collection gets. So on those bad days, you have a physical reminder of all the good. 

Taking a few minutes a day to reflect on what you are grateful for can make a positive, long-lasting impact on your health and well-being. 

Regularly practicing gratitude is a special way improve both your mental and physical health. Whatever gratitude looks like for you, taking a little time to think about what you’re grateful for every day could make a big difference in your life. 

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Is Muscle Confusion A Legit Training Theory?

If you ever get confused by fitness fads and trends, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Apparently, your muscles get confused, too. Muscle confusion, thought of when changing things up often in your workout to avoid a plateau, isn’t a scientific term.

You won’t find it in exercise science research journals or textbooks. You’ll also be hard-pressed to find a certified trainer or fitness expert that believes wholeheartedly in it.

That’s because the theory of muscle confusion is really just a myth that’s found its way into the marketing for popular fitness programs such as P90X.

The theory behind muscle confusion

At first glance, the theory behind muscle confusion sounds convincing. In order to make progress toward your fitness goals, you need to keep your body guessing. Which means, changing up your workouts frequently so you don’t hit a plateau.

So, just how often is frequently? Well, some programs that rely on muscle confusion say to vary your exercises weekly or every other day, and others recommend you switch things up daily. By changing things, your body won’t be able to stay the same and will have to adapt to the changing workouts.

But here’s the thing, our bodies don’t change that quickly. Sure, changing up your workouts can be helpful, but only after some time.

That’s why workouts should remain mostly the same for at least four to six weeks.

So, is it real or hype?

Compared to other fitness theories that’re grounded in science, it’s pretty safe to say that muscle confusion is hype. What muscle confusion completely misses, is the fact that we’re exercising so our bodies adapt by getting stronger and leaner. So, we actually want to be consistent with what we do in workouts so that our bodies work hard to adapt.

What are some ways to break a fitness plateau?

If you find that your progress is lacking and your motivation has left the building, you might want to consider the fact that you’ve hit a plateau. The good news is there are several ways to break through a fitness plateau.

“To break through a plateau, we first need to identify whether it’s actually a plateau or not,” says Dutton. For example, if your weight hasn’t budged, or you haven’t gotten stronger for a few weeks, it’s time to change things up a bit.

Try progressive overload

One theory you can design your workout around is progressive overload.  

The idea behind progressive overload is that you challenge your muscles by changing the stress you put on them. This stress comes in the form of intensity, or the number of sets and repetitions you perform, and duration, or the amount of time you engage in the activity. Ways to use progressive overload to break a plateau include:

  • increasing the amount of weight you train with during your strength training days
  • increasing the duration of your cardiovascular workouts
  • changing your current exercises for new ones, such as taking an indoor cycling class instead of running on a treadmill
  • changing the number of sets you perform
  • changing the number of repetitions you do each set by adding resistance

By changing up the number of reps you perform and adjusting the resistance, you can elicit more significant increases in strength. For example, performing lower reps with heavier weight on one day and lighter weight with higher reps the next day.

A note about weight loss

If it’s a weight loss plateau you’re facing, a few days of tracking your food can give you insight into how much food you’re really eating and what you might be lacking. Most people need more protein in their diet.

When should you see a personal trainer?

Fitness newbie or not, anyone can benefit from a fresh set of ideas. There really is no wrong time to hire a personal trainer. Some people like to have a trainer to get them started, while others bring one on when they need some motivation and a fresh way of working out.

That said, hiring a personal trainer might be beneficial if:

  • you’re new to exercise and need help designing and implementing a program
  • you need help with proper form on strength training exercises
  • you need a boost of inspiration and motivation that a trainer can provide by taking you through a workout
  • you’re getting bored of doing the same workouts and need a trainer to design a series of new workouts based on your interests, goals, and current fitness level
  • you’re looking for a challenge
  • you have a specific injury or health condition that needs modifications in order to participate in an exercise program safely

At minimum, a qualified personal trainer will have a certification from a reputable organization such as ACSM, NSCA, NASM or ACE. Additionally, many personal trainers have degrees in areas such as exercise science, kinesiology, or pre-physical therapy.

The bottom line

The hype behind muscle confusion may continue to circulate in certain fitness circles, but one theory that will always stand the test of time is being consistent with how you train.

By following the principles of progressive overload — increasing the number of reps or sets you perform or adding time to your workouts — you will continue to see progress and reach your fitness goals.


Wednesday, November 2, 2022

It's Siesta Time!


What is the perfect time of day for a power nap?

There isn’t really a perfect time to take a power nap. The ideal time will depend more upon individual factors, such as a person’s individual schedule. For example, for people on a 9–5 work schedule, the best time to nap might be before or during the “post-lunch slump,” which is usually sometime between 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m.  

For those working during the day, naps after 4 p.m. are not ideal. Taking a nap too late in the day can interfere with getting quality nighttime sleep and interrupt a person’s circadian rhythms.

However, for shift workers or those who work nights, the ideal time for a power nap may be earlier or later.


Can sleeping too long or too short be bad for you?

There is some discrepancy among experts over what length of nap is most effective and beneficial.

Dr. Sara Mednick, a psychologist at the University of California, Riverside, states that by taking a 90-minute nap, a person can get the same benefits they would from sleeping 8 hours. However, another study suggests the ideal nap length is 10 minutes.   

The science behind limiting the duration of a power nap boils down to something called sleep inertia. This term refers to the drowsiness a person may experience upon waking from a very long nap, which may significantly impair cognitive performance throughout the course of a day.


Health benefits of a power nap

There are many health benefits associated with taking regular power naps, among them long-term memory improvement, enhanced cognitive function, and increased creativity. Research also shows that naps might be beneficial for heart health. A recent case study followed Swiss adults who took 1–2 naps per week. it found that over a period of 8 years, these same individuals had a lower risk of heart disease and strokes than those who didn’t nap.

On the flip side, it’s worth noting that other research shows there may be negative long-term effects of regular napping. Research analyzed by the American Heart Association (AHA) shows that those who napped for an hour or more per day had 1.82 times the rate of cardiovascular disease than people who didn’t nap. However, this is probably due to correlation rather than direct causation, as that group may have had underlying health reasons that led to them taking frequent naps.


Ultimately, if a person is able to take short naps on any given day and feels more alert upon waking, they should feel free to do so. The benefits of napping seem to outweigh any potential drawbacks. However, researchers must continue to study the overall effects of napping on health.


Power naps vs. meditation

Though they’re quite different, napping and meditation seem to have several overlapping effects and benefits. While those who meditate are conscious and those who nap are unconscious, both groups enjoy an improved mental state afterward, accompanied by reductions in blood pressure, stress, and anxiety.  

While both can be healthy habits, those who meditate reap additional benefits that nappers may not receive. A few of these include needing less sleep, an overall boost in mood, and increased melatonin levels which can promote a more restful night’s sleep. Meditation also has the potential to reduce inflammation and provide pain relief.  


A person who incorporates both regular or semi-regular naps and meditation into their lifestyle can expect improvements in many physiological and psychological areas.


Importance of sleep

If a person consistently fails to get enough restful nighttime sleep and naps as a result, they’re in a better position than a person who doesn’t get enough sleep and doesn’t nap at all. This is because napping can help reduce a person’s “sleep debt,” or the amount of sleep they’d ideally get to make up for the amount of sleep lost each night.


The American Psychological Association states that more sleep would make most Americans happier and healthier. The average American gets well below the recommended amount of 8 hours of sleep each night. While everyone’s sleep needs are different, a good night’s sleep of at least 7 or more hours for adults aged 18-60 helps protect the immune system and the heart, and allows optimal brain function and mental clarity throughout the day.

People who are chronically sleep-deprived — those who fail to get enough sleep over a period of 2 weeks or longer — exhibit brain deficits similar to those who haven’t slept in 3 days. They are also more prone to high-blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and depression. 


Overall, power naps can be an effective way to enjoy boosted energy, heightened focus, increased attention, and mental clarity. The ideal length is around 10 minutes according to some research.

Naps should not be used as a substitute for getting the recommended amount of sleep each night, ideally 7-9 hours for adults aged 18 – 60.

When kept to about 10–20 minutes per day, power naps can make a great addition to a healthy lifestyle and promote a variety of benefits for those who take them