Thursday, March 3, 2011

Meditation to Calm the Chaotic Mind

As I've stated many times before, I've come to the realization that stress can make you sick. I truly believe that stress eats away at your insides like a cancer. If it is left to fester, it will eventually manifest itself in to some form of physical sickness whether it be an autoimmune disorder, heart or blood pressure problem, digestive issue or any other form of common illness that affects so many people today.

On my latest endeavor, I have stumbled upon a new favorite pastime: meditation.

This is what I've learned about meditation: Many people meditate. Some without even knowing they're doing it. There are many forms of meditation. There are people who meditate in accordance with their religion, there are those that do it to enhance their spirituality and there are those that do it for their own personal reflection. I wanted to try it to see if it would help work on my stress levels.

Everyone has stress. No matter how hard we try to make our lives less stressful, there are things that happen in life that are just beyond our control. I've come to realize that it's not how much stress you have in your life but how you deal with it that's important.

Now I could jump on the most popular bandwagon and choose a vice such as smoking or drinking to help release anxiety. Or, I could inhale a carton of Breyers Vanilla Bean Ice Cream with a side of double chocolate brownies. Instead, I've decided that I want to live a healthy life and really find relief from stress instead of just delaying it as the above options have always done for me. (Or add to it in some cases.)

So, I started researching meditation and decided to try my hand at it. I found a few tutorials online & decided it couldn't be that hard. Or could it?

At first I sat there trying to concentrate on my breathing as I read was the most popular route for beginners. I got nowhere. I really just sat there concentrating. I never drifted off in to nothingness. I never had any self reflection. So, I read on and decided that I was going to just assume the traditional meditation pose, put on some lovely meditation music I found on Youtube, and I got comfortable on my living room floor. I made sure there were no distractions and I decided my goal was just to sit there and relax. I closed my eyes and imagined a sort of warm glowing light shining on me starting at the top of my head, then down my face & eventually over my entire body. As the light moved over my skin I made it a point to relax all of the muscles it touched. By the time it was at my toes I realized that I was extremely relaxed. I just sat there in my comfortable position while maintaining good posture. I didn't force any thoughts out. If they floated in to my head I ignored them & they kind of floated back out. I felt more relaxed than I have in a very long time. I was completely conscious though & was aware of everything around me. It was just a state of relaxation for me. Maybe it wasn't even meditating.  All I know is that I slept great that night. I felt relaxed all over. Even my muscles and movements seemed more fluid than usual. If I got on a scale and weighed 10 pounds less than I did prior to the session I wouldn't really have been that surprised because I was so relaxed I actually felt lighter.

That was it. I was hooked. I've tried to meditate every day or every other day since. Even if it's not true meditation, it's a moment for me to unwind, relax, and take a few moments out of my day to just "chill out".
I love stress relievers and relaxation techniques that are as simple as this. They don't cost any money. You can do them anywhere and for me, they're effective. I'm going to continue my research on this because I am enjoying this practice so much. As I learn more, I'll share more.
Until next time my faithful reader, be well!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Super Cheap, All Natural Cleaner

When I was a young girl I remember staying at a friend's house. Her stepfather was very frugal and being as young as I was, I didn't realize it was a smart way to be. After dinner we would all help to clean up & I distinctly remember the cleaner they used always smelled a lot like vinegar.
I asked my friend about this & she said it was. She said they used vinegar to clean because it was cheap and because it was good for the environment.
Now, fast forward about 21 years to last week. I ran out of my usual "all natural" cleaner that I use and love. I started thinking about how I wish I could find a really cheap cleaner that wasn't bad to spray while my daughter was within a 20 foot radius. I remembered back to when I was younger & thought of my friend and her economically minded stepfather. I quickly jumped online to read up some more on vinegar. Sure enough I found this awesome site with 1001 uses for vinegar. Click here for vinegar tips.
I mixed a solution of one part vinegar & one part water. I put the solution in a spray bottle & off I went. I cleaned everything in my kitchen. From sink, to fridge & back to the stovetop.
Then I thought, why stop there? I used it on the shower doors in my bathroom & let the solution sit on the soap scum that had accumulated on the doors. I wiped them down with a soft scrubby sponge and now I can see through them again. Woo hoo!
What I love most about this is, I can use it while my daughter is in the room with me. If I clean the counter tops with it & food drops on the counter I'm not freaked out about what kind of chemicals may be there.
At first I thought the smell would be awful. But it's not. While I'm cleaning my kitchen I'm reminded of an Italian deli. I must say I have smelled a lot worse. Besides, the smell completely disappeared after about 10-15 minutes.
Have you ever read the ingredients that go in to a lot of cleaners? It's really scary what most commercial cleaners are made of. I decided that I would bookmark the vinegar tips webpage & make a few different concoctions to use when cleaning depending on the cleaning project at hand. I am also on a new mission to find additional, all natural cleaners. If you have any ideas please feel free to post a comment. I'd love to hear about them.

*I've read though that vinegar should NOT be used on marble surfaces. I'm not sure if the vinegar is not suitable to use on other surfaces as well so always check with the manufacturer instructions on your surfaces before trying anything new.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

I Feel Like Dancing!

There are icicles hanging from my house that are as big me. As the snow continues to fall my anxiety continues to rise. Where I live it has snowed every week since Christmas. That's a LOT of snow. I have always been an active person. I want to go out for a walk or take my daughter to the park but everything is frozen & it's absolutely frigid out there. What's a girl to do? Turn on some tunes!

My daughter & I were moving from room to room trying to find something to do. I dug out a pile of unlabeled CDs & decided to pop them in the stereo to see what they contained. The first CD I came across was a mix of 70s songs that had great beats. First on the list: Black Betty by Ram Jam. I put the volume up & my little peanut started dancing all around the room. I couldn't help but join in. I forgot how much fun dancing is! After we went through that CD I stuck another in the player & off we went. We danced & danced & by the end of all our craziness we were both pooped.

I thought about it for the rest of the evening. I couldn't help it. I felt great! Better than I have in a while. I slept like a baby that night, as did she.

So, after much thought I figured I'd compile a list for myself for later reference.

Here's a list of why I love to dance:
1.) I can pretty much do it anywhere.
2.) I don't have to be good at it. In fact, the worse I am the more fun it is to watch.
3.) It's a great workout when I can't get out.
4.) It's a huge stress reliever.
5.) It's just plain fun!
6.) It's something I can do with my daughter.
7.) In my mind I'm the coolest person in the world when I dance. (I'm sure anyone watching would disagree but that's the beauty of dancing alone in your own home.) 

I haven't stopped dancing since that day. Have you ever tried dancing when you're upset about something?
I was really stressed about a few things; money, upcoming dental work I was scheduled for, trying to find a job, etc. I am making a strong effort to not let stress control my life anymore so... I started dancing. I was home alone & decided to just put the stereo on high & let loose. I'm talking full on crazy lady with flailing arms & all. I'm sure anyone watching would think I was having some sort of seizure. In the famous words of my BFF I say "Fine by me!" I couldn't care any less.
See reason #7 above and move on.
I'm gonna check out now & try to get some rest. There's snow in the forecast for tomorrow again & I feel like dancing!

Problem Viewing My Blog Posts in Reader

I am putting this post out there with hopes that anyone following my blog is able to read this.

There is currently an issue where my blog updates are not showing in either the Reading List off of the Dashboard page or in the Google Reader.

I have brought this issue to the attention of a very helpful person through the help forums & I have been advised that the issue has been escalated. In the mean time I was advised that if I stop following my blog & then re-follow again, it should clear the situation up. I tried it & sure enough it worked.

I hope you are all able to read this & I hope this issue resolves itself soon. I have delayed any recent posts because of this. I am going to continue posting in hopes that this issue has been cleared up.
Thank you for your time & understanding.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Benefits of Cinnamon

Mmmm.. Cinnamon. When I think of cinnamon I think of apple pies, ooey gooey sticky buns, and buttered toast sprinkled with cinnamon & sugar. Yum!
This spice is one of my favorites. It's so versatile. Cinnamon is most often used in dessert recipes however it can be found in many side dishes or main courses as well. It adds a great taste and aroma without adding a lot of calories. It picks up boring dishes & helps to calm down spicy dishes.
The nutritional content of this spice can be found here. You'll find it listed there that cinnamon has
4 grams of fiber and supplies you with 8% of calcium and 4% of iron per serving of the daily requirements. Not bad for a spice!

Dating way back, cinnamon has held it's own throughout history. It's mentioned in biblical writings, it was considered a source of wealth and has been used for centuries not only as a food product but for medicinal purposes as well.
I've read that it has been used in the treatment of and for prevention of colds.
It's also known to help aid digestion. I personally add cinnamon to dishes that tend to cause gas. I've noticed that the cinnamon helped to decrease the amount of gas or indigestion caused by certain dishes.
I've also read that certain studies show this fragrant spice can help lower blood sugars. Today, cinnamon is also often used as an ingredient in aromatherapy treatments. Here's a how to from cinnamon aromatherapy .

In addition to these lovely facts, researchers are currently working on creating a bug spray or repellent to ward off mosquitoes. Apparently, they don't like cinnamon. (Fine with me!!) Hopefully the manufacturers of these sprays will keep it natural for those of us that don't like to pour synthetic chemicals all over the largest organ of our body.

I not only like to add cinnamon to my dessert dishes but I also add them to any chili's I make. If I make a standard red
Texas chili I'll add some as well as when I make my favorite White Turkey Chili. The cinnamon adds a nice spicy, fragrant flavor and it also aids in digestion.

Also, a really delicious snack recipe I have is to take a bunch of small store bought pretzels & put them in a bowl. To that bowl add canola oil, cinnamon & sugar & toss to coat. Place the pretzels on a cookie sheet & bake until just warm. The pretzels absorb the oil & the cinnamon and sugar stick. It's the perfect sweet & salty snack. (Please realize this is not a diet food. ;o)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Kourtney Kardashian on Natural Parenting

I knew I liked this chick for some reason.
Check out this article from Parenting Magazine.

It discusses Kourtney's parenting choices with her son. I ♥ all aspects of what she's doing.

I'm looking forward to posting on Breast Feeding as it's a huge topic that I love to talk about. There isn't enough positive press on it anymore and too many women opt for formula because of this.
This article makes me smile. Kudos to Kourtney for bucking popular opinion & giving her son the best gift she could: a strong nutritional foundation.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I've decided to start a product list of items I use that are all natural or earth & people friendly. The first item on my list will be Feline Pine Cat Litter.
My cat has decreased kidney function which means she uses the cat box quite often. So much in fact that I have to clean the box every other day or else it's like a cement block.
Due to the fact that my cat has long hair she tends to get a lot of litter clumped in between her toes & it can't be comfortable for her. Plus it's a pain to try & wash a cat's feet in the sink. I pretty much look like I had a visit from Freddy Kruger the night before. I'm also really not comfortable knowing that she's tracking all of this stuff through my home where my daughter crawls & plays.
A few weeks ago when I was changing the cats litter box and I was adding more litter to the pan I accidentally inhaled some of the dust from the clay litter and it was awful. It took my breath away & I was left with a flowery, cotton fresh taste for the rest of the day. Yuck!
At my next grocery store visit I checked out other litters & stumbled upon this Feline Pine Cat Litter. It uses all natural ingredients and it's made of shredded pine. There's no obnoxious perfumes and I don't have to worry if my cat ingests it when she goes about her daily cleaning routine. And since it's not made of clay it doesn't get all clumped up in her paws.
I was afraid to look at the price tag because unfortunately a lot of all natural products tend to be on the pricey side & I couldn't afford to spend an arm and a leg on cat litter. But to my surprise, it wasn't a lot at all. In fact it was pretty much the same price I pay for the litter I was currently using.
So, I figured I'd give it a go. I picked up the box & was amazed at how light the box was. Bonus! No strained back from carrying 20 lbs of litter all over the grocery store. I took it home & mixed it in with some of the clay litter already in the pan so it wasn't such a shock to her. I was immediately impressed with the litter. The litter clumped as it stated. It also controlled the odor from the cat box.
Then came the true test. I kept checking the cats paws for clumps of pine & none could be found. Hooray! Finally! No sticky litter stuck in the cats paws, no clumpy litter balls all over my house. I am not going to say though that this stuff doesn't track. It does. But now I am not as freaked out by it. If my daughter touches it, I know there's no chemicals that would harm her in it. And my vacuum picks this litter up a lot easier since it's so much lighter.
All in all, I would say I am now a Feline Pine Cat Litter fan. This will be our new litter go forward.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Toxic Beauty?

Are you slathering toxic chemicals on to your skin? You may be. And you probably don't know it.

Have you ever flipped over your shampoo or lotion bottle & read the ingredients? If not, try it sometime. Try pronouncing some of those words. I'll bet you can't. I know I couldn't. So, again I decided to further investigate the situation. Here's what I found:
Most personal care products have Pthalates, Parabens, Sulfates & other controversial ingredients.
I say controversial because there are arguments to support both sides. There are claims that these ingredients are endocrine disruptors, causing an increase in certain hormones including estrogen. Certain groups claim that an increase in these hormones can lead to hormone specific cancers such as breast cancer. These groups also claim that these ingredients also contribute to the obesity problem that faces our nation along with other problems as well.
On the other hand, the manufacturers and other research groups show conflicting data that states these products are safe to use and the foundings previously noted are incorrect.

I see it this way: when in doubt, leave it out. I've decided to opt for products that are all natural, organic, or those that I have researched.

I've posted a link for a cosmetic safety database I like to frequent. You can enter the name of a product and it will give you a list of ingredients and the safety of these ingredients based on their research.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Scent-sational! Or Not....

Let me start this post by saying I have a very sensitive sniffer. Maybe I was a bloodhound in a previous life. All I know is that I am always the first to smell something others don't. I also know that I am very sensitive to a lot of perfumes & sprays. Growing up I had the worst allergies. I didn't really know what I was allergic to, I just knew that I was ALWAYS sneezing & blowing my nose. It wasn't a seasonal thing as it is with most people. I was always allergic to something. In fact my allergies were so bad I was referred to an allergist. There I was poked with a lot of little needles containing a common allergen to see if I would react to these different items. This way, if I could identify the problem then I could just do everything in my power to avoid that particular item. It turned out I was allergic to maple trees (really??), dust mites, & mold. Hmm.. Aren't most people allergic to dust & mold? I mean if you're watching a cartoon & someone blows dust off a table doesn't the character on screen always sneeze? I don't see everyone else running around with wads of tissues in their pockets like me.

So armed with my knowledge of my respiratory offenders I decided to try & take matters in to my own hands. I did everything I could to make my house dust free. I stopped swinging & hanging from all maple trees and I made sure I threw out any old food I had in the fridge so as to avoid the mold problem... Seriously though, I did everything possible to make sure I was living in an allergen free environment. Lo and behold, I was still sneezing. I'd also like to mention that I'm one of those chain sneezers. I don't sneeze once or twice in a row. I usually don't go less than 3-4 at a time. I've gone up to 18 times in a row that I can remember counting. People avoid me like the plague in the store because they think I'm flu ridden & they don't want to catch my cooties.
Unable to control the problem on my own I turned to prescription & OTC allergy medications alternately. They did help to stop the sneezing but I still had the post nasal drip (that's such an attractive description isn't it? I mean really, they couldn't come up with a better name for it?) and I also still had the itchy running nose. My contacts were always scratchy & my eyes were dry and itchy as well.

For years I just thought this was the hand I was dealt & that I had to deal with it. I have family members that have the same issues. Some even worse than I do. So I became a slave to the meds & nasal sprays and kept hoping one day the allergy issues would just stop.

Once I became pregnant & decided to pay more attention to my health I started reading labels on the beauty products I used. Have you ever done this? If you can pronounce more than 3 of the ingredients listed in most name brand lotions, perfumes, or hair products then I would be quite surprised. I started to research some of these ingredients & I have to admit I cannot believe I've been putting this stuff on my skin for so long!
Since I was preggo & read that some of these ingredients were known to cause metabolic or hormonal changes I decided to ditch the chemical lotions & opt for more natural products. In doing so I also noticed most were either fragrance free or scented with essential oils. I also noticed something else. MY SNEEZING STOPPED!

Whoa... back up.. I used to take a shower using the prettiest smelling soap I could find. Then I'd wash my hair & condition it with even smellier products. Then I'd get out of the shower, slather on a delectable scented lotion & dry my hair.  Next, I would spray the nicest smelling hair spray or shine spray I could find. Then I'd use some clean scented deodorant & get dressed. Just before I ran out the door, you guessed it! I'd run through a mist of fancy perfume that I would spray over my entire body. So now, I was layer after layer of fresh.. But was I really?

Once I realized that the "fragranced" items were bothering my allergies I started to cut them out. First the perfumes, then the lotions & now I use free & clear everything I can get my hands on. My laundry detergent, my deodorant, my soap, etc. What's funny (actually it's not funny at all) fragrance is a word that isn't regulated. When fragrance is listed as an ingredient it can be so many different things. As long as it's contributing to the scent of the product it falls under the fragrance category.

I wanted to write this entry since over the holidays I saw a family member who is also an allergy sufferer & I told him to try cutting out all of the scented things. I'm hoping he gives it a shot. I cant say it will work for everyone but I know it worked for me.

Until next time my friends... Be Well, Be Loved, Be You!!!! ♥