Posted in Health & Fitness, Healthy Living, Lifestyle

Why I Take Both a Morning and an Evening Walk Each Day

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Even though I’m a runner who hits the gym most nights at about 8 or 9pm (or at least I did until lock-downs), I take walks twice daily whenever possible. When I first get up and right before the sun goes down, I’m out there, stalking through the snow or meandering a sun-kissed trail through the neighborhood.

With all the running I do, you might think it’s a little weird that I bother with two walks each day on top of my jogging adventures, but I’ve found that two walks a day does wonders in several areas of my health.

Two Walks Per Day Helps My Mental Health

On my walk a few weeks ago – a lovely Weeping Willow in my neighborhood

In the early morning, a bright (or grey) sky helps to set the mood for the day. I’m out, I’m active, and I’m getting my body in motion. This not only helps me physically, but it helps to set my mind for the day. I tend to think all night long, even in my sleep. Getting out on a trail with the birds and the squirrels is life-giving for a nature nut stuck in the city.

Two Walks Each Day Helps De-clutter My Mind

I work a lot. As a writer, I’m jotting down ideas, sending out pitches, contemplating new stories, scripts, and novels just about every waking hour. But I have a life! I’m married to a wonderful man and have a crazy cat who craves attention.

Taking a couple of walks throughout the day helps to de-junk my brain. I can work through the stuff that’s in my head, rattling around. And working through it clears out my thoughts and frees up space for life apart from work.

Multiple Walks Keeps Me Active Throughout the Day

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I used to work at active jobs, as a nanny, dog walker (biking my route), recess coach, tennis coach, home organizer, etc. Until becoming a full-time writer, I only sat down for a couple of hours a day. Now, I am on my butt for most of the day.

I keep active throughout the day by taking these two walks, getting up every 25-30 minutes and moving for 5-minutes, and doing my running, yoga, and weight training. These two walks help take me past the “basics” of my day and keeps my body more fluid and relaxed.

But the days I don’t take these two walks? I don’t get up as much. I don’t exercise as easily. I don’t get in nearly as much movement and I wind up stiff and achy.

Even Ten Minutes Can Make a Difference

If you’re not able to take long walks but still want to benefit from taking two walks, you can. Even ten minutes per walk can make a huge difference. Try it for a month. Set an alarm each morning and night and get out there. Even if all you can do is pace the hallway in your apartment building or meander throughout the house, you will likely find that your body thanks you.

Posted in Health & Fitness, Healthy Living, Home & Family

How to Add Some Humidity To the Air in Your Home

Recently, I wrote about us working on improving our immunity fighting skills by taking special care to do certain kinds of cleaning, etc. One of the items was adding more humidity to the air in our home, especially because ours is so dry and dusty.

These are the ways we’re doing that.

Hot Showers Become Steam Baths

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This is one my husband and I have been employing for quite some time. Specifically, we discovered this was great for me when I was having asthma attacks on the regular, due to seasonal allergies.

There are two ways to take advantage of this. The first is leave the bathroom door open and part of the shower curtain or door, if you can do so without spraying the room while you shower. This immediately releases steam into the air that then spreads out into the outer room and evaporates.

The second is more for extreme relief. Crank up the shower as hot as it will go and let it run, with the door open, for 10-15 minutes. It’s a bit wasteful, but if you’re desperate, it adds loads of moisture very quickly.

Water Bowls with Marbles

Image by Carrie Kellenberger on Flickr

Find some pretty bowls, pots, or wide-mouthed jars and set them out around the house. Specifically, placing them on windowsills and around heating vents and near fans will be the best spots to place these. If possible, add some rocks, marbles, or similar, and then fill with water.

The water will evaporate into the air and add some moisture without waste or energy use. Plus, our cat always has some extra places to drink from.

Teapot Steam

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This one doesn’t add tons of moisture to the air unless you drink loads of tea or pour-over brew coffee. But letting the kettle steam and whistle for a minute or two will add a little bit of moisture to the air. We both happen to drink a ton of tea, so it winds up being a little productive for us.

Lightly Damp Curtains

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This one is a last resort in my opinion because of the possibility of mold, but if you’re really desperate, you can very lightly mist water over the curtains around the time they’ll receive direct sunshine.

I would avoid doing this on cloudy days, as they may not dry out quickly enough to avoid molding. Which, of course, is worse than dry air.

Re-Purposing Candle Warmers

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This handy little trick is something I hadn’t even thought of until I spotted it on SimpleMost. But the second I saw it, I knew it was a great option for us. We have one or two of these candle warmers lying around, and though we use them sometimes to add some lovely scents to our home, we are definitely going to start doing this with them now, too.

A Sponge Humidifier

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A simple way to add some moisture to the air is by using a sponge and a zipper seal bag. You’ll want one of those large sponges like you’d use for washing your car, and a zipper seal bag large enough to hold the sponge.

Pierce the zipper bag with several holes, then fill the sponge with water but squeeze out the majority of it to avoid leaking. Then, put the sponge in the bag and hang it somewhere in the room, away from the wall. Moisture should increase in the room within a few short hours.

To repeat the humidification, microwave the sponge every other day to kill germs. Clean out the bag with soap and water. Then, refill and squeeze out the sponge, return to the bag and repeat for up to 2 weeks with the same materials before replacing.

We’re recycling a set of three bags to allow the bag to dry completely between each use.

Posted in Health & Fitness, Healthy Living, Home & Family, Lifestyle, Personal Growth

How I’m Fighting Our Poor Immunity In the Home

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Lately, we’ve been getting sick. A lot. And I’m the girl who never used to get sick at all, until I wound up working as a nanny for a family that appears to have had a very similar immune system to my own. We constantly passed illnesses back and forth, despite me only being in their home about 20 hours a week.

Then, I married a man who has several auto-immune diseases, including Fibromyalgia, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and others they’re still working on diagnosing. He has no gallbladder, a history of depression, anxiety, and migraines. Sometimes, it’s hard to know if he’s having his “usual” cocktail of illnesses or if he’s actually ill.

While I don’t have any of those issues, apart from some anxiety episodes, I have struggled with fighting off the flu, colds, and other viruses.

It’s time to do something about that. Even if I feel too ill to do it today, I’m going to anyway. And these are some simple ways I’m doing just that.

Using Clean Towels Daily

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This is one of the more wasteful ones, which I’m not thrilled about, but using only clean towels every time we shower is really important for our health. Those great, natural cleaning bars and soft lotions help us feel great, but they’re limited in power by using dirty towels. So, we’ve invested in enough towels, washcloths, and hand towels to use new ones every day.

Take Out the Garbage Immediately

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We don’t take trash to the dumpster every day, but we do make a habit of not letting the trash overflow, get smelly, etc. In other words, every day, we check all the trash cans in the house to make sure lids are closing properly, and nothing smells funky. We also immediately take out any trash that’s got meat, fat, fish, eggs shells, or similar animal products that could make us sick once they go bad.

Give the Cat More Frequent Baths

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Like most kitties, our feline friend isn’t fond of baths (despite once loving them!). But the reality is that she’s a contributor of potential germs and illness around the home. She collects blobs of germs in her fur. And though she cleans them out with her tongue, she’s still carrying them. So, bath time has to come pretty frequently, even if she’s not terribly happy about it.

And because Stardust is so unappreciative of this process, we use a water less cat shampoo that won’t irritate her as much as standard bathing options.

Keep Pet Areas Clean

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It’s easy to neglect that litter box tucked into a corner, especially if you use high-quality litter that prevents odors (a must with the very stinky Lady Stardust!) and keeps the area smelling odor-free most of the time. It’s also easy to neglect cleaning her dishes in the dishwasher/by hand daily because, well, cats don’t seem to mind using the “same dish twice.”

It’s more of a hassle cleaning out her dishes daily, but it’s worth it. Fewer germs are collecting in her dining area that way.

It’s also more of a hassle cleaning out the litter box near constantly, but, again, it’s worth it to reduce germs and potential illness. So, we scoop any time she uses it. We change out the litter frequently (partial changes constantly, full changes on schedule with instructions on packaging).

Vacuum and Sweep Daily

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This one isn’t as critical for everyone, but for those of us who have dust or pet-hair allergies, sweeping up and vacuuming away everything on the floors is key to improved health.

Our cat sheds giant clumps of fur every day. Our house is excessively dry and dusty. These both mean that we need to sweep daily and vacuum every other day, especially in any of the areas where the cat likes to snuggle down for a nap.

It’s a bit of extra work, but to feel better, it’s worth it.

Of course, we also use a robot vacuum that a friend gave to us. It’s been a real life saver on days when we’ve been sick. We just charge it for a few hours and hit the clean button and let it run wild. Stardust isn’t terribly thrilled with it, so she stalks it, but we’re all adjusting.

Never Leave Dirty Dishes Overnight

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I’m a cookbook developer. That means, sometimes I make five or six recipes in a single day on top of the regular cooking I do for our meals. That’s a lot of pots, pans, bowls, platters, and baking sheets. It’s tempting to call it a night when I’m tired and just leave the pile of baking pans beside the sink. “I’ll get to it first thing.”

Leaving dishes overnight, though, isn’t a good idea. There’s already food particles – obviously, else they’d be clean! – and that means insects, rodents, and other nasties are going to be attracted to your kitchen, even if you’ve never seen them inside before.

Change the Tablecloth Weekly or Bi-Weekly

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It may seem wasteful to change out a tablecloth this frequently, but much like with dirty dishes, food particles collect and attract nasty critters that can make you sick. So, we’ve learned that we need to clear the table after every meal and change out the table cloth once or twice a week.

If you don’t use a tablecloth, using a good, natural cleanser after every meal is your alternative.

Add Homemade Humidifiers Everywhere Around the House

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Our apartment is excessively dry. We both wake up each day with dry throats, dry eyes, and sometimes other issues.

We have two humidifiers that run pretty much all the time, but that’s not energy-efficient or great for the environment. But we can do some natural humidifier options that will help our house and home be healthier.

Drink Tons of Water and Skip Sugary Drinks

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“Water, water, I love water!” to quote a song from one of my musical scripts, Nadia Trouve. And I really do. That cool, clear, sparkling liquid that cools and refreshes is a glorious fluid all our bodies need.

But even I, a water fanatic, can struggle to get enough water in daily. So, I use an app on my phone that reminds me to take a swig, in case I haven’t in the past little while, multiple times throughout the day. If I haven’t drunk in the past 1/2 hour, I take a guzzle.

Drinking enough water not only helps you keep your weight maintained, but it helps to keep your immune system healthier and stronger. Dehydration causes illness.

If you find yourself low on water intake, try adding in some non-sweetened (not just 0-calorie, but 0-sweetener, as that causes other problems) carbonated water, fruit infused water, and herbal iced tea. I also drink a ton of black and green tea, both as iced and hot tea, depending on my mood. I just don’t ever add any sugar or milk.

Using All Natural Cleansers Everywhere, Every Day

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It adds work, again, but we’ve been fighting off colds, flus, and other bugs so frequently in the past year that it’s well worth the 10 minutes daily to do some quick clean swipes with all-natural cleansers on the counters, tables, bathroom counters, sinks, tubs, and everywhere else I can think of. This will clean everything daily without adding chemicals into our lives.

Do a Nightly Reset

Image by Nick Keppol on Flickr

This also just takes a few minutes everyday, but helps tremendously with keeping things clean and cozy, while also fighting any build-up of dust, germs, etc.

All this involves is going around the house at the end of the day and picking up items like jackets, shoes, cups, books, etc., and putting them where they belong. It should just take about 10 minutes. It will help you get some stuff cleaned up and remove germ and dust build-up at the same time.

Do Laundry Every Time There’s a Full Load

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We have an advantage over many folks in two ways: 1. Our laundry is right next to our apartment door. I can toss a load in while I’m wearing my pajamas, and no one will see me. 2. We both work from home, so we can literally do laundry every time there’s a full load. We don’t need to wait for a specific day of the week.

Doing laundry every time there’s a full load is advantageous in multiple ways, but primarily it prevents the germs on clothing from collecting and “stewing” together for long before they’re eliminated by detergent, water, and the heat of the dryer.

Consume Lots of Vitamin C

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Vitamin C is one of the nutrients that helps our immune systems fight off colds, flus, etc. It’s not a miracle vitamin like some folks claim, and it should be consumed in natural forms (read: fruit and vegetables) in order to be truly effective. But even in lesser forms, I found in college that when I was consuming 100% of my recommended Vitamin C intake daily, I was healthier, happier, and almost never sick.

Make Sure We’re Getting the Other Nutrients We Need

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My husband and I both tend to be anemic, so getting iron and folic acid are critical to our health. I’ve noticed lately that my fingernails are a little flat, which is often linked to iron deficiency. I’m also feeling sluggish and tired a lot, despite usually being a very energetic individual. Yep. Iron is low.

It’s important to know what nutrients you struggle to consume. I recommend studying nutritional information and the natural sources of the vitamins and minerals necessary for optimal health. You’ll be able to identify immediately some of the things you don’t get enough of.

You should also see a doctor and get some blood work done to find out any other deficiencies you have, especially if you deal with depression, anxiety, chronic illness, chronic exhaustion (diagnosed or not), notice oddities in the shapes of your nails, have sinus issues a lot, etc.

You should also look for a nutritionist or dietician specifically if you eat a specialty diet, such as Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, etc. The reason? A dietician can give clinically sound advice on how to consume the missing nutrients from your dietary profile.

For example, folks who don’t eat animals products don’t get enough Vitamin B because this nutrient is found in meat, dairy, and eggs, and not in plants. That’s a huge problem for energy and health overall. Gluten-free and low-carbs folks (myself included) don’t get enough fiber typically, as well as some of the natural vitamins and minerals found in wheat and grains.

Once you’ve consulted medical professionals, do everything you can to consume the nutrients they recommend through natural means. Yes, take any supplements your doctor recommends, but focus as much as possible on changing your diet. Supplement pills, powders, and liquids, can only be absorbed so well by your body (which is why some nutrients are at something like 3000% DV).

Posted in Christianity, Faith, Healthy Living, Personal Growth

A Sabbath for Caregivers

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.                                                                  – Hebrews 4:9-10

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There are some days when helping those we care for just plain hurts. We’re exhausted, cranky, have physical pain or illness, and we just feel like we can’t do it today. But there’s this guilt – this sense of “I’m all wrong and selfish” because we just need a day off.

But there’s a reason God gave us the Sabbath in the Old Testament: “Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Genesis 2:3, NIV)

On the days when I feel like I just can’t help my husband – whether it’s because his body refuses to work or because he’s tied up emotionally by his PTSD – I have to remind myself of these passages. Neither of us is going to make it if I don’t get some rest of my own. It’s okay for me to do the bare minimums, and then just snuggle with him on the bed, resting in his arms.

Jesus, your love is so kind and gentle. You take care of me when I cannot care for myself. Please help me to rest in your love, especially on days like these, when I just can’t help other people. I need your strength.

Posted in Health & Fitness, Healthy Living, Lifestyle, Personal Growth

The Healthy Life: Learning What’s Truly Healthy for You

A healthy lifestyle on the surface looks the same for everyone: proper nutrition, exercise, healthy weight maintenance, and emotional and mental support. But when you cut beneath the surface, we all have slightly different needs. And sometimes, it’s difficult to find those differences and what specifically works for you.

With all the advertisements out there trying to convince you that their gym, their personal trainers, their supplements, or their diet programs are the only way you’ll lose weight and get healthy, it can get confusing and messy. So instead of getting overwhelmed, try a few simple things to help you find the truly healthy lifestyle you’ve been looking for.

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Be Patient with Yourself

Your journey to the ultimate healthy lifestyle for your body will take some time. Be patient with yourself as you look for all the elements that come together to bring healing, mental wellness, and physical health to your body.

Ignore the Advertisements and Look for Authority

There are millions of products out there that are advertised as “miracles” for healthy living. Skip clicking on links that use language like, “lose 24-pounds in two weeks!” or that use the word “diet.” Instead, look for reliable, nutritionally balanced, realistic, and medically sound options.

Check into legitimate programs and supplements that don’t have celebrity endorsements or hyped up miraculous promises, and are backed by qualified physicians and trainers who didn’t go into the weight-loss business to earn the big bucks.

Take Small Steps Instead of Giant Leaps

Taking giant leaps into goals of weight loss, better diets, or guzzling a gallon of water daily will most likely cause frustration, and possibly cause harm. You’ll also get discouraged because you won’t be able to keep up with your monumental plans. Instead, make one or two small changes on a semi-regular basis.

If, for example, you’re trying to improve your eating habits, try switching out your bag of chips at lunch for a pack of baby carrots or an apple. And then for dinner, switch out your routine of watching television with dessert to sipping a cup of herbal or green tea while relaxing with a good show.

After a few weeks of success, switch out another one or two small things, and repeat until you’ve replaced your bad habits with good ones.

Listen to Your Body

There are small things that vary from person to person, which can affect how healthy and happy your life is. Some people, for example, are simply better off not eating any kind of meat, while others just can’t be happy without it. If you’re struggling constantly to fight your craving for meat, you’re going to have stress over food. Stress over food may cause obsession over food. And obsession over anything causes unhealthy living.

Whatever you most love eating should be allowed in your diet sometimes, even if not all the time. Be kind to yourself, and those around you, by giving yourself permission to figure out what foods are healthy for you to include in your diet on occasion.

Keep an Eye on Everything

While it’s important to avoid obsessing over your health, keeping track of everything in your life can help you gradually improve your lifestyle. Keep a journal that allows you to make notes about things like how you feel on days you don’t drink enough water, how sluggish or energized you are with or without caffeine, or how certain foods affect you.

Listen to what your body tells you about new food options you’ve tried, a little extra walking you did, and how your interactions with your spouse affect your mental or physical wellness. Jot down your genuine observations, even if only using a sentence per category.

After a couple of months, look through your journal at all entries of the same kind. Are there significant differences in how you’ve felt after eating sugar, after drinking coffee after four p.m., or after arguments with your kids? How often did negative events happen? What positive things boosted your morale, weight-loss, or productivity?

From this gathered information, assess what you might do to change bad habits, even if slowly, to improve your mental, emotional, and physical health.

Your Healthy Living Won’t Look Like Your Sister’s

Every person is different. Every human body is different. And that means everyone’s pursuit of healthy living will look just a little bit different from everybody else. Remember to be patient with yourself, be kind to yourself, and give yourself some time as you learn exactly what your healthy lifestyle should look like.