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WELLNESS--Sleep is very, very good. And while it’s essential to get a solid seven to nine hours per night, when you occasionally miss the mark, a nap can help a great deal. Hey, it’s still a good idea even if you do get enough sleep.

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WELLNESS--Sleep experts say adults should be getting a seven-to-nine hour block of sleep each night. Sleep that lasts that long has been linked to numerous health benefits. Bonus points go to those who tend to be early risers ― there’s some evidence you’re healthier, too.

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WELLNESS--You may want to reconsider your nightly nightcap if your goal is solid slumber. Wine, beer and liquor can all help you fall asleep faster (or “shorten your sleep latency,” to use a more technical term), but experts agree that if you drink before bed, you’re more likely to wake up throughout the night and get less deep sleep.

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WELLNESS--So many people want to meditate but they either don’t know where to start or can’t find the time. Fitting meditation into your life doesn’t need to be complicated or elaborate. Start small and be realistic about what will work for you. Here are five tips to get you started.

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WELLNESS--One of the simplest ways to improve your family’s diet? Plant a fruit tree. Or plant several.

The last time I was fortunate enough to have a yard, I planted four of them. Unfortunately, I broke up with my then-boyfriend and moved out right about the time all four began producing fruit.

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WELLNESS--If you suffer from stress and anxiety, odds are someone in your life has mentioned meditation as a way to cope with it. Psychiatrists often recommend this therapy, and for good reason — research based on 19,000 meditation studies found mindful meditation can in fact ease psychological stress. 

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WELLNESS--Before I became a mom, I woke up naturally, as bluebirds pulled back my covers with their little beaks and doe-eyed deers brought me my slippers. At least that’s my sleep deprived memory of it all.

One thing is for sure, with or without kids, getting up in the morning with a smile on your face can sometimes be hard.

For those of not predestined to be “morning people,” you can try to counter this grumpy mood by investing in a good, comfortable mattress, getting enough sleep (but not too much) and waking up slowly.

If you usually have a case of the grumps when you first open your eyes try these tips to turn that early morning frown upside down.

  1. Get things tidy the night before

A few simple steps taken before bed can make all the difference to our morning happiness. For me, that means placing a bottle of water on my nightstand (I always wake up thirsty,) and making sure the coffee pot is programmed to start brewing the minute my eyes are pried open by an enthusiastic toddler.

Try laying out your clothes for the day, prepare your lunch and if you are feeling really ambitious have your gym bag packed and ready at the door.

A study in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that that women who described their homes as “messy” or “cluttered” were more prone to depression, fatigue, and anxiety. Having a quick tidy before bed ensures you wake up without a list of chores to do. 

  1. Do some quick stretches

Most people get up too quickly in the mornings without giving their body time to wake up. Instead try lying in your bed for a while and stretching out all your muscles, then slowly rise and do more simple stretches

Scientific American reported on a study that shows even small amounts of physical activity can make you feel good.

  1. Indulge in the bathroom

Instead of just jumping in the shower and sudsing with a basic soap take the time to make this a mini spa experience. Use a luxe shower gel, body lotion and invest in fluffy towels. Add some whale song for the ultimate in gentle waking.

Innovative thought and creativity can strike you in the shower, bolstering happiness and self worth, according to Washington University psychologist R. Keith Sawyer.

  1. Eat, even if you don’t feel like it

Make something really tasty that gets you down the stairs and fuelled up for the day’s work. If you can’t bear to eat early in the morning try a liquid breakfast like a smoothie or veggie juice with mood boosting ingredients

A study in Psychological Science found that by being organized with a little pre-planning we naturally make better nutritional decisions.

  1. Plan something fun for later

If all else fails, having something to look forward to during the day really helps to chase away the early morning blues. Plan to make your favorite meal for supper, arrange to get coffee with a friend, or send a sexy text message to your honey.

After all anticipation, itself can make you happy

(Fiona Tapp posts at Huff Post … where this report originated.)

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WELLNESS--For some of us, the best part of waking up is a piping hot cup of coffee. However, a majority of Americans are doctoring those drinks with a lot of added calories, according to an analysis published in the journal Public Health.

Two-thirds of coffee drinkers include milk, cream, sugar or other calorie-laden additives in their beverages, according to researchers at the University of Illinois and University of California. And it’s not just java lovers: An estimated third of tea drinkers do the same.

The researchers examined more than a decade of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to measure the consumption of the drinks with add-ins as it relates to the overall energy, sugar and fat intake of U.S. adults. Of the more than 19,000 people analyzed, approximately 51 percent were daily coffee drinkers and 26 percent were daily tea drinkers. 

More than 67 percent of the coffee consumers drank the beverage with at least one caloric add-in, as did some 33 percent of tea drinkers. Researchers estimate these additives equate to about 69 extra daily calories on average for coffee drinkers, 60 percent of which is from sugar while the rest comes from fat. Tea lovers add on average 43 calories to their diet a day with add-ins, the majority of which comes from sugar. 

Of course, the total number of daily calories may not seem like a lot ― and consumed every so often, it isn’t. But the researchers stress that this consumption is daily, and many people don’t consider this intake as part of their overall diet.

“Our findings indicate that a lot of coffee and tea drinkers regularly use caloric add-ins to improve the flavor of their beverages, but possibly without fully realizing or taking into consideration its caloric and nutritional implications,” lead study author Ruopeng An, a kinesiology and community health professor at the University of Illinois, said in a statement.

Translation: Excess sugar and fat are critical to monitor in an effort to curb health effects like weight gain. So while fewer than 100 calories may not seem like a lot in theory, the researchers warn that stuff stacks up over time ― often without you thinking about it. An extra 69 calories in your coffee each day adds more than 25,000 calories to your diet per year; as running a mile burns about 100 calories, you’ll have to run approximately 250 miles to burn that off.

This doesn’t mean you have to give up your drink entirely. The best way to avoid this calorie trap is to ditch the sugar, spice and everything nice and opt for a plain version of the beverage. (It may actually be beneficial for your health.)

But if that’s not your cup of tea, try swapping for healthier options, like cream for milk with a lower fat content. And take heart in the meantime: Research shows your taste preferences change over time, so maybe one day you’ll get to the point where you’re a black coffee person.

(Lindsay Holmes is Deputy Healthy Living Editor at Huff Post … where this wellness piece was first posted).

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