Tag Archives: health

Color Your Brain Happy

coloring page Tibetan

When we talk about good health, we talk a lot about food, physical activity and sometimes even sleep habits.

We might toss around ideas about stress reduction and exercising our brains to maintain faculties and ward off diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Perhaps you’ve also heard the current conversations on the downside of chaotic lifestyles that keep us constantly on the go.

For many of us, daily life is busy – too busy. And this can contribute to poor habits around diet, exercise, sleep, stress and brain health. Worse, because a lot of us relax by flipping on a screen, we’re further contributing to some of the trouble around sleep and stress.

What to do? My guess is you’ve caught wind of the coloring book trend for adults… if not, just know that over the past year, stores have increasingly carried coloring books full of intricate designs, and grown ups are raving about the loveliness of losing themselves in the hobby.

For a few months now, I’ve had “color” on my to-do list (ridiculous evidence of my own busyness). This past weekend, I finally crossed it off the list, but I plan to put it right back on there. It was incredibly relaxing and mood enhancing to complete the page pictured above, which is from a book I’ve had for years and barely touched. I received a book of mehndi designs for Christmas, and I plan to try a page from it next.

Why is coloring so enjoyable and even healthy as a habit? According to the Cleavland Clinic, coloring:

  • Takes us out of ourselves, becoming like a meditative practice.
  • Relaxes the brain and distracts from life’s difficulties because of its simplicity.
  • Is without consequences if we don’t do it perfectly, so is fun and not stressful.

My colorful friend up there isn’t exactly an amazing work of art, especially as I only used about eight colors and did minimal mixing and shading with them. It’s not about making something that looks incredible. What it is about is slowing your brain, using your hands and not relying on a screen to distract you from real life.

I can’t wait to do it again.

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Get a Pet

orange cat face

11 year-old Ted is less than thrilled with the 3 year-old…

I’ve loved felines my entire life, but did not have one to call my own until the age of 23. While it’d be dishonest to say it was an easy adjustment in every way, the full truth is that the small amount of extra work is well, well worth it.

According to the Humane Society, these are the reasons to adopt (rather than shop for) a pet. In addition to these points about saving an animal’s life and not supporting puppy mills, adopting a pet can be good for your physical and mental health. Would you like a healthier heart and better mood? Walking a dog gets you exercise, fresh air, vitamin D, social interaction and all that comes with it.

For my part, I ended up with a partner who’s had cats his entire life, and can’t really imagine it any other way. As long as we’re able to care for one, we’ll have a kitty or two hanging around our furniture and heads at bedtime. We’ll also have cat hair here and there, and occasional vet bills. Small price to pay for those purring nuzzles and hilarious antics with the laser pointer.

When kids are involved, pets offer even greater value. For many kids, the death of a pet is their introduction to loss, and a chance to understand in a very real way what the absence of a physical, living being means. Caring for pets is a responsibility, and being around those that go outdoors can even minimize allergy risk for children.

No question about it – adopting a pet is good for you, animals, kids and the larger society. Finding one is easy, and caring for one is as natural to human nature as anything. This is one of the simplest ways to put some good out there in your world.

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Filed under Health, Of Family and Children

Cold, Fresh Air

I work hard at not hating winter, mostly for Iris’ sake. But, in all honesty, it’s tough to get excited about playing outside in this weather.

So, I look to the benefits of getting out in the frigid air. Did you know that outdoor winter exercise can ward off Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and support immunity? In Finland, babies and young children actually nap in the winter elements to boost their health.

When a hot tub is involved, I don’t mind being out in the cold much. And I admit that swimming in a heated pool under the winter night sky sounds pretty sweet.

For now, I’ll meander around the backyard while Iris investigates the bird bath ice rink and squeals over the crunch of snow. And I’ll do it in 20 minute increments.

Hope you’re staying cozy!

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The Fascinating Bugs in Your Gut

Human health is a fascinating topic, and the philosophies on what preserves it are constantly in flux.

This Mother Jones article on the link between intestinal microbes and obesity concentrates on the bugs that live in our gut and how we can either help or hinder them when it comes to keeping ourselves healthy.

Something to recognize – health is far more complex than weight, and weight is more complex than calorie counts. As always, the best advice is to eat a variety of whole foods – fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, healthy fats, and minimized processed junk and excess fats, salts and sugars.

If you don’t have time to read the piece, please just take this away:

The very qualities that improve palatability and lengthen shelf life—high sugar content, fats that resist turning rancid, and a lack of organic complexity—make refined foods toxic to your key microbes. Biologically simple, processed foods may cultivate a toxic microbial community, not unlike the algal blooms that result in oceanic “dead zones.”

Figure this is a good reason to try something new, whether it’s brown rice and a clementine or kombucha and kimchi. Good food can offer us so much, and what better time to experiment than when the holidays loom, the temperatures drop and the days darken?

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Shift and Disrupt

woman walking dress sand sky

I have a disruption at my core, a gnawing sense that a shift is coming soon. I see a daily news feed full of civilian protest and police retaliation, while genuinely feeling the loss of a man I never met. I know now that my innocence was always fleeting, when a world of cartoon bats and grown-up Peter Pans is replaced by an inability to ignore rampant sexism, violence against black youth and the horrific invasion of fast food and obesity.

Some days I look over the ocean with an ignorant romanticism that says the Mother Land is better. Galway, Amsterdam and Malta whisper, then sing a siren’s song of ancient unity and forward-thinking innovation. They promise eternal life with unquestioned access to health care, better food and breathable air. I return to the task at hand, and remind myself that the antique couch and 10 year-old cat would never make the trip. My defiance against a time-sucking social network and all the drivel upon it is overshadowed by the desire to know what my friends are doing, and I wonder if I could ever really leave them for good.

My generation saw many careers nipped in the bud; parental retirements and travel plans obliterated in the face of a market that doesn’t cut it and doesn’t care. All the while the subsidized meat, sugar and cheese take their toll on the fading youthful vigor. Then we’re told to love these unhealthy bodies by a gimmicky “rebel” media that cares even less about the poor, sick and aged.

Salads and chocolate… a constant balancing game. I have to do something worthwhile with all of this “being alive” business.

We who feel plagued by information and platforms might also feel responsible. Responsible because, what would we have done in the shoes of another? I could have been that greedy Wall Street banker, that scared cop with a sweaty finger too hot on the trigger, that 1970s mom feeding her kids bologna every day… if only I’d been born other than myself. Responsible to speak out because I am not the banker, the cop or the 1970s mom, and really, truly do care. But no one wants to hear it, no one wants to feel like they’re being judged or their politics challenged. Can I blame them? Would I want that from the vantage point of their shoes?

There are days when I’m convinced we’re on the cusp of revolution, and days when I relax into the way things have “always been and always will be.” Then I remember that it really doesn’t matter either way, as my existence – and ours as a species – is a blip on the cosmic calendar. I’ve found a certain comfort in the fact that I’m a living collection of star stuff, and that my atoms will someday contribute to yet unfathomable lifeforms and structures.

The shift is already happening, and I know I’ve caused some disruption. I could go on and on about what disrupts me, and the shift for which I so constantly long. But you have your own business of being alive… look for shoes further walked than mine.

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Filed under AutoBio, Current Events

In My Skin

woman beach swimsuit

Showing some epidermis

I’ve been blessed with delicate, easily angered skin. During my teens and twenties, I spent more time than I’d like to admit aggravating and covering it, and all under the delusion of improving its health.

The trick to skin I’m not afraid to bare? Pregnancy hormones and little to no time to obsess over every little blemish. Well, it’s more than that, but those seem to be the largest, most impact-having factors.

Nowadays, I’m more focused on preventing skin cancer than presenting a flawless face. Interestingly, this shift has made both more possible. Hippie sunscreens, minimal makeup, more water, less alcohol, whole foods and a literal hands-off approach – it’s that easy.

Katie at 13, 19 or 25 would not have been caught dead showing the skin I do in this recent beach snapshot. I can’t say how freeing it is to move past that kind of self-consciousness.

See, for a number of reasons, I bought into a philosophy that says blemishes must be punished, then covered. One must not let them show because even the most subtle of red spots will distract from an otherwise pleasant enough body and personality. Worse, this all coincided with a trend of telling teenagers that diet had nothing to do with skin health. Little did I realize the damage I was doing. Damn you, cover stick and Taco Bell!

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Soapbox: Healthful Reminders Part 2 of 3

milk documentray film flierMissed the first installment? Never fear, Part 1 is here.

Now for the second part of my little health rant – originally an email for family, now a refresher for me as I try to control my sweet tooth and get ready to lose 25 pounds of pregnancy weight.

I want to step back a minute and say that, though I might sound obsessed (and perhaps am, a little), my goal is not to cheat death or live to be 120 or anything like that. My hope is to live to the average life expectancy, hitting at least 80 or so.

I want to see my kids and grand kids grow up and do all the awesome things I know they’ll do. And I don’t want to watch from a wheelchair or be weighed down by medications and treatments. Everybody’s going to die from something, but why not put the odds in your favor for not having a slow and painful demise? If you want to live, don’t you want to live well? Then read on, loves:)

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Soapbox: Healthful Reminders Part 1 of 3

vintage print of little girl on soap box with kittenI’ve eaten more desserts in the past few months than I have in the past several years combined. I’m allowing myself this indulgence while I’m pregnant… consolation for the little (and gladly suffered) physical discomforts my dear daughter is causing.

But here at week 34, my season is quickly drawing to a close. In six weeks (okay, maybe eight or 12) I’ll probably start thinking about getting my body back to it’s pre-pregnancy shape and range of motion.

I felt like I needed a little refresher and motivation, and so revisited something I wrote just over a year ago. Originally part of a health plan I was working on with my mom, it’s been polished a bit to share with you here:

This really isn’t “health nut” stuff – it should be common sense. It needs to be the way we think about food.
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Rock the Broccoli


Broccoli – the stereotypical bane of fun loving children everywhere. I’ve always wondered how kids can hate food that looks like trees…

First, the facts. Broccoli is a part of the cabbage, or cruciferous, vegetable family. Other members of this crew include cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbages. Broccoli develops best during the cool months of the spring and autumn.

For the best storage, keep dry broccoli in a loose or perforated bag in your fridge’s vegetable crisper. As with any produce, the fresher it is the better it will taste and be for you, so try to eat your broccoli within three to five days.

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Filed under Recipes

Telomere Me – Thinking of the Future

Full disclosure: The main reason I started writing this post (way back in early June)  is that I really liked the word ‘telomere’ – I like the way it looks and I like the way it sounds. The content just happens to be interesting science stuff, and relevant to each and every one of us.

Ok, so have you ever had your palm read? How about your DNA? What if I told you that there was a way to get your life line interpreted by reading the tips of your chromosomes?

Would you buy it?

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Filed under Health, Science