Energy and Mood

How Hot Are You?

What can your Basal Body Temperature tell you about your thyroid health?

Knowing just how hot or cold you are running and how your body thermo-regulates itself can give you some key indicators about your state of health. Putting faith in modern medicine and technology while listening less to the intuitive signals of our own bodies has diminished the use of this cheap, easy, self diagnostic tool. But if you are reading this, you are in luck. The Basal Body Temperature (BBT) test helps us further understand thermogenesis, i.e., how our bodies regulates temperature properly.  We all know how terrible we feel when we have a fever, but being too cold may even be worse. It is absolutely critical that you don’t run too cold.  If your body temperature drops even a degree below where it should be then more than half of the enzymatic processes in the body will become dysfunctional.

As far as self diagnosis, this test is so simple, you don’t even have to leave the comforts of your own bed. It is a great way to connect with your body first thing upon rising to get grounded for your day.

BBT has also been used for many decades to helps detect ovulation. A spike in temperature is a confirmatory marker of ovulation. Learn more about charting your fertility cycle here.

Allow me to share why a BBT is the simplest way to tell you if your thyroid is functioning correctly.  The thyroid is known as the master gland and is part of the endocrine system.  It’s a butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck just below the adam’s apple. It’s the big boss of our metabolism and also governs other organs in the endocrine system. It is also a major contributor to how energetic or tired you may be.  It also plays a big part in hormone function and a properly functioning thyroid enhances our cognitive ability.

Thyroid disorders as reported by some medical research organizations affect a shocking 13 million people in the United States alone. Statistics are also showing that 1 in 8 women between the ages of 35 and 65 and 1 in 5 over the age of 65 will have some form of thyroid dis-ease.

The thyroid gland is your body’s source of iodine, and is itself ruled by the pituitary. The pituitary gland produces Thyrotropin (TSH), that tells the thyroid to make Thyroxine T4.  Thyroxine (T4) is used throughout the body to deliver iodine, which is used for many cellular processes.  Iodine deficiency is a large contributing factor to thyroid issues.

The thyroid also produces calcitonin that regulates calcium uptake, regulating the parathyroid gland, which takes calcium from your bones when you don’t have enough, but it can’t take excess calcium out of your blood if it is not working. Excess calcification wreaks all kinds of havoc on us, especially reducing our cellular bio-conductivity. Calcium, as we know, is not a good conductor of electricity, so too much weakens our biofield and destroys the delicate pH balance of intra and extra cellular membranes.  

The thyroid also makes Triiodothyronine (T3), which is five times more potent than T4, but the thyroid produces 17 times more T4 than T3. T3 is the primary hormone that helps your body regulate its’ temperature.

Overall, our thyroid is quite complex and puts on quite a coordinated orchestral performance affecting the overall chemistry of the entire whole body.

How Does the BBT Work?

So what will your BBT tell you that blood test won’t? Blood panels test your hormone levels, while measuring your BBT will be able to tell you if your thyroid is actually working and producing T3.

Blood work is also open to interpretation which can often be off the mark.

The normal range of TSH is somewhat controversial. In labs the normal can run as high as 4-5mU/L, with other experts using 2.5-3 mU/L and then you have integrative medicine with an upper limit of 1.5-2 mU/L.

This coupled with an over reliance on prescription drugs leaves many people continuously suffering the inequities of treating the symptoms and not the underlying cause. Remember, a band aid does not heal anything.

Another reason the BBT can come in handy over bloodwork is due to all the different variables that can contribute to your TSH levels being off.  A high TSH could be due to an overcompensation of the pituitary gland to get the thyroid to produce T3 and T4, if the thyroid is not responding. You have to find out why. Stress could also play a big role in suppressing the pituitary gland from producing enough TSH which would show up as low thyroid hormone production (T3 and T4). These results can be confusing and undermine a true determination of the actual state of your thyroid gland and whether it is properly functioning or not.

As I pointed out, your body temperature directly affects your enzymatic functioning. So if your BBT is low then enzymatic activity will be severely reduced and and your cellular function will be compromised which in turn will perpetuate a low body temperature. This is a vicious circle that if undiagnosed will eventually lead to the manifestation of dis-ease.  If you suffer from extreme fatigue, brain fog, digestive issues, mood swings and weight loss or gain, do yourself a favor and test your BBT. Do it before you get misdiagnosed and prescribed antidepressants for hypothyroidism, which is plain wrong. This study addresses this specific problem in the medical industry today of doctors misdiagnosing a weak thyroid as a mental condition.

Your ideal BBT is 37 Celsius (98.6 Fahrenheit). Anything under 36.5 Celsius (97.7 Fahrenheit) is a indication that your thyroid is dangerously sluggish and not functioning correctly. This seemingly small drop in temperature, even by half a degree, considerably hinders every cell in the body.

How to Take the Test

Step one: Purchase a glass basal temperature thermometer. Pharmacies also sell specific thermometers for BBT.

Step two: Get comfortable with reading your thermometer and create a routine of rising out of bed slowly, and being more present. Have a place to properly keep a diary to chart your tests because you are going to have to take it every morning before getting out of bed for a week to get an accurate picture.  Find a system that will work for you, there are many smartphone app options for charting your BBT as well.  The key is to take it the same way, same time,  every day.  After you are done, reset the thermometer by shaking it back to zero so it is primed for the next morning.

Step 3: Choose to start on the second day (skip the first day) of your monthly period. Take your armpit temperature for ten minutes as soon as you awake and before you gotten out of bed.  It must be the first thing you do even before speaking.Taking your temperature under the tongue will not work for this. A minimum of three consecutive days is encouraged to have a chart that tells you if you have hypothyroidism. But like I said, a week of measuring BBT is better.

 

Resources

www.holistic-hypothyroidism-solutions.com/basal-body-temperature.html

Massoudi, M. S., et al. (1995). Prevalence of thyroid antibodies among healthy middle-aged women. Findings from the thyroid study in healthy women. Annals of Epidemiology, 5 (3), 229–233.

We Are All Loving By Nature

You might be a goody two-shoes and there’s nothing you can do about it, or you might be a grumpy grouch hating your way through life, and the good news is there is something you can do about it!

A new study asserts that people are born altruistic, perhaps quashing the age old argument of nature vs. nurture.  

Altruistic is defined as the belief or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others.

Hello. This is huge!  How many people do you know that genuinely get a boost from doing good for others without any interest in getting something out of it themselves?  I know a few, but not enough.  Maybe there’s a way to awaken that bodhisattva gene in you, or maybe it’s not a gene at all but a special chemical and physiological condition of the brain.  I’ve studied the brain and behavior for many years and my work with oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin triggers suggests that neurotransmitters regulate our mood and behaviour in a feedback loop of constant sensory information that is framed in context to the state one is in, i.e., parasympathetic vs. sympathetic.  Some scientists at UCLA have confirmed it.

According to a UCLA neuroscience study, non-invasively dampening certain parts of the pre-frontal cortex disconnected people from their learned selfish and self centered behavior and made them more empathic and prosocial.  

So, if you’re generous to a fault, just know it’s not your fault.  

Read the study here.

Author: Vic Love, www.Fb.com/Vityalove

Best to Sleep on it

I love when science validates common sense, but common sense is not so common, so some of us need scientific proof to believe anything.   In this case, research at the University of Bristol shows how brain activity during sleep sorts and consolidates experiences into memories, filing what is important for later recall and discarding the rest.  So, if you don’t get proper sleep your memory could suffer; you may be forgetful and slow to action.  And that starts you down the downward spiral of stimulants and supplements to be the band aid to your lack of dreamtime.  This research explains exactly the mechanism of how memories are processed while you’re out cold and points out something quite profound, that “successful replay of brain activity during sleep is dependent on the emotional state of the person when they are learning.” Thank you science for validating what some of us already know! Read about it here!

Author: Vic Love, www.Fb.com/Vityalove

Pet Power: Living Longer with Animals

As far back as 1789 Frederick II, King of Prussia coined the phrase, “dog is man’s best friend”, but did you know that having animals around can actually help you live longer? It’s true, pets can not only increase your lifespan, but also improve your quality of life.

The secret is out: the fountain of youth is alive, running around on four legs and wants you to go throw the frisbee.

FETCH FOR FITNESS

Maybe that’s why we live longer with animals in our lives… we’re so busy playing, we forget to age.

Children eventually grow up, stop playing and may even become your biggest source of stress (just ask my mother), but dogs always want to play and maintain a youthful spirit well into their senior years.

Anyone who has ever taken a walk in nature with a dog can attest to the fact that dogs help you enjoy the great outdoors on a whole new level. Who is as excited to run amok in the wild, smelling every flower and rolling around in the dirt as gleefully as our faithful canine companions?

Dog-owners have been found to spend considerably more time outside. Spending more time in the outdoors means more active time, which is obviously great for your overall health; from reducing your risk of heart disease and cancer to strengthening your bones. Just being outside more has other health benefits too, like reduced stress levels, lower risk of respiratory allergies and a boost for your brain (due to an increased sense of novelty and excitement).

Man playing with cat

AT HOME AND AWAY

After a long day at the office, who on Earth is as happy to see you as your dog?

Your cat.

Okay, maybe not, but a study by the Minnesota Stroke Institute, following more than 4000 cat owners for 10 years, showed that having a cat can significantly decrease the risk of dying from heart disease.

Research has repeatedly shown the long-term benefits of having a pet include protection for your heart. During a 20 year study, people who never owned a cat were 40% more likely to die of a heart attack than those who had a cat. Another study showed that dog owners had a significantly better survival rate one year after a heart attack. Overall, pet owners have a lower risk of dying from any cardiac disease, including heart failure.

But why leave your pet at home when you can bring them with you to work?

A 2012 study in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management found that office workers who brought their dogs to work had lower levels of stress than employees who did not have pets and employees who left their dogs at home.

Woman playing with a cat in the office

PAWS-ITIVE BENEFITS

Having animals in your life helps decrease your stress levels, lowers blood pressure, supports your cholesterol levels, improves your mood and boosts your immune system.

A recent study even found that people who have animals in their homes recover faster from surgery!

The benefits of having a pet or animal in your life are too numerous to count, but we can have fun trying. Some of the main advantages:

  • lower risk of depression and anxiety,
  • increased levels of serotonin, a chemical associated with feelings of well-being
  • decreased levels of cortisol, a hormone caused by stress and associated with higher risk of heart disease and larger waistlines
  • increased heart rate for over 20 minutes a day while on walks
  • lower levels of cholesterol and triglycerides compared to people who do not own pets

Having an animal around helps to keep you active even on those cold and gloomy days when you would prefer to sit in bed and eat ice cream. Your dog will get you outside to see the rainbow you would have otherwise missed, and you’ll even have a buddy to snuggle with under the covers when you return from your walk. The love a pet adds to your life cannot be measured.

The jury is in and the verdict is unanimous:

Having a pet doesn’t just add years to your life, it adds life to your years.

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”
                                                                                               -Anatole France

Sources:

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3317329/
www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120330081235.htm

———-
Kerry Emerson is a proud pet owner and a writer based in Hawaii.  Taking his cue from his famous relative, Ralph Waldo Emerson, he has a passion for the outdoors, natural living and the art of the written word.

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Socializing for Longevity: With a Little Help from Your Friends.

Humans are social creatures. Whether or not we like to admit it, we literally need other humans to survive. From the moment we’re born, our survival is linked to our connections with others. The way we grow, develop and learn are all filtered through the values and influences of our family, friends and the social world around us.

Even those of us who tend to lean towards being more independent or introverted still need a helping hand sometimes, a kind word now and then and some affection here and there. It’s not just for basic survival; your need for others is directly linked to your quality and length of life as well.

 

THE ROSETO EFFECT

If you want proof that humans are wired for social connection, ironically, all you have to do is look to your computer. The Internet’s most popular websites are social networks that allow us to connect with family and friends all over the globe. Services like Skype take networking to the next level by allowing us to have face-to-face conversations with people half a world away.

Out in the physical world, the importance of socializing for our health, happiness and longevity has been studied for decades. In what has been called The Roseto Effect, researchers have kept tabs on a close-knit community of Italian-Americans in Roseto, Pennsylvania who seem to defy the odds by living longer, healthier lives than average Americans.

It was more than thirty years ago when researchers first became baffled by a phenomenon that defied all medical logic. The citizens of Roseto had half the heart attack death rate compared to the rest of the United States. Scientists were fascinated and began decades of research into the phenomenon.

It wasn’t a diet or an overly active lifestyle that was creating this effect. The researchers found that the eating habits and exercise practices of Roseto residents were no different from any other blue-collar American town. The men of Roseto smoked like chimneys and drank wine freely. Their diets were full of modernized Italian cuisine, eaten in large quantities. So, what was different about the people of Roseto, Pennsylvania?

Socialization, networking and a neighborly atmosphere on a scale that would even impress Mr. Rogers.

Roseto was an incredibly close-knit community. They dined together, celebrated together and came together to help out when a neighbor was in need. The elderly weren’t sent away, but taken care of and kept close. Nearly every home had three generations living under the same roof. As a group they enjoyed many communal rituals, such as social clubs, evening strolls and church festivals. These all somehow combined to bring good health, happiness and longevity to the people of Roseto.

A group of friends having dinner outdoors in the sunshine

POWER OF THE CLAN

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The Power of the Clan is a report on the Roseto Effect by physician Stewart Wolf and sociologist John Bruhn. Their study covered the period of 1935 to 1984. The report highlights the fact that when a community bonds together, it actually contributes to the health and wellness of the people in that community. On the flip side, a lack of concern and disconnection between residents can have the opposite effect.

“We looked at the social structure of healthy communities,” Wolf said, “and found that they are characterized by stability and predictability. In those communities, each person has a clearly defined role in the social scheme.”

There’s no doubt that socializing makes us feel good. Whether it’s chatting with the person next to you in line at the store, making new contacts at work or being with family and friends, we are stimulated in ways that make us happy when we connect with others. In fact, it’s instrumental to our emotional well-being.

According to the Gallup-Healthways Happiness-Stress Index study, we are at our happiest when we spend time socializing. Over 140,000 Americans were surveyed and it was found that those with the lowest scores on the Happiness-Stress index tended to be at home all day and had zero hours of social time. The opposite was true for those who devoted spending large amounts of time with others, the ratio rising with each hour of socialization.

THE ANTIDOTE TO STRESS

If you’re wondering how this works, it all begins with stress. When your stress levels are high, your levels of the hormone cortisol rise. That can lead to a rise in blood pressure and a destabilization of your immune system. Constant stress leads to all kinds of issues, from heart disease to other illnesses that find their way in due to a compromised system.

According to Shelley Taylor, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, there is a cure for high-stress levels that can ultimately lead you to a longer, healthier life. “(Social contact with others) has effects on the body that are more powerful than cigarette smoking and your cholesterol level,” said Taylor. “The magnitude is very strong.”

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This is the answer that surprised researchers many decades ago in Roseto. Socialization is key to your ultimate health. It cuts down on the amount of stress you carry around in your body, which has a direct impact on your overall health. If increased socialization impacts your health with the same as magnitude smoking, it’s no wonder the people of Roseto had fewer heart attack deaths than the rest of the country.

We all know that exercise and a proper diet are important for our health, but the evidence here reveals that having an active social life can offer equivalent results for your well-being. While times have changed and gadgets can make it hard to feel like actively socializing, you can take steps to become more connected. Put away the cellphone at dinner. Have more family time; plan game nights for example. Invite the neighbors over. Eat lunch with a coworker instead of at your desk, staring at a screen. Expand your network. Soon, you might just find yourself living a longer, more fulfilled life.

An active social life isn’t the only thing that can help you live longer with less stress… Sleep is fundamental to good health, happy living and longevity. Check our new book Sleeping Without Pills to discover more about the importance of natural, restorative sleep.

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Sources:

www.uic.edu/classes/osci/osci590/14_2%20The%20Roseto%20Effect.htm
www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199308263290921
www.gallup.com/poll/107692/social-time-crucial-daily-emotional-wellbeing.aspx
dailybruin.com/2008/08/24/socializing-boosts-health-happiness/

Insomnia Help: Sweet Dreams are Made of Zzzzzs

Good quality sleep is a must. It’s as important as food, oxygen and water. According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than a third of our lives are spent sleeping. Typically, a person with great sleeping habits is in excellent health. Does good health lead to better sleep or does good sleep lead to better health? It can be tough to tell which comes first, but if you have insomnia, working on fixing that issue is a good place to start.

Insomnia is a terrible condition to live with. If you’ve got insomnia, you’re probably waking up feeling exhausted. Makes it hard to get through a normal day, right? It’s probably not only complicating your ability to get things done, but it might be impacting your mood, health and overall quality of life too.

 

DO YOU HAVE INSOMNIA?

Insomnia is a tricky thing to diagnose, but if you regularly suffer from these symptoms, you probably have it:

  • waking up frequently during the night
  • having trouble falling asleep (more than 30 minutes on average)
  • waking too early (getting less than 6 hours a night, despite making time for more)
  • not feeling rested after waking

If you do have insomnia, you’re probably also dealing with other unpleasant symptoms like:

  • headaches
  • gastrointestinal issues
  • struggling to concentrate or focus
  • feeling exhausted during the day
  • depression or irritability
  • distraction
  • feeling clumsy or like you’re making a lot of mistakes

With insomnia, these conditions get progressively worse as time goes on. If you believe that you have insomnia, you should see a doctor to be properly diagnosed, especially because insomnia can sometimes be a sign of a deeper problem. A qualified medical professional can determine the right path and schedule you in at a sleep center for testing.

CAUSES OF INSOMNIA

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Stress and anxiety are major causes of insomnia. Worries related to work, school, money and family issues can keep your mind active at night, even if you don’t normally suffer from insomnia. A death in the family, illness or struggles relating to lack of work, divorce and other difficult situations can make insomnia worse, leading to a chronic condition.

Beyond the day-to-day struggles that nearly everyone faces at one time or another, insomnia is also often linked with illness and disease. Cancer, heart disease, acid reflux, GERD, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and arthritis have all been known to cause bouts of insomnia, as have many types of medication. Discuss with your doctor before starting any regimen if you know it will cause you to lose sleep, as a proper good night’s rest is a great start to fighting off any ailment.

Woman writing in a notebook

MAKE SLEEP A PRIORITY

You may not need to see a doctor. Initially you may want to treat your insomnia by making simple adjustments to your home life and your diet. For starters, figure out how many hours of sleep you need each night and set out a plan and schedule. It’ll probably take a couple of weeks to nail it down, as you see how you respond to different amounts of sleep. Track your mood, energy levels and overall health on good nights versus bad nights.

By sticking with a sleep schedule, and tracking how you feel the next day, you will learn what works best for you. Keep to it even on the weekends. Set up a time each night when you will put away all distractions and start a nice, relaxing bedtime ritual. 

We’ve created the ultimate sleep routine to get you started. Check it out here.

SWEAT FOR YOUR SLEEP

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According to the National Sleep Foundation, studies have revealed that a regular exercise regimen can help sufferers of chronic insomnia. In one study, there was significant improvement in sleep quality after moderate aerobic exercise (at any time of day) like walking or swimming laps. Insomnia sufferers found themselves able to fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep longer.

There is still a lot to learn about insomnia and exercise. There seems to be a lot of variety from person to person when it comes to the impact of exercise on sleep, especially where time of day is concerned. Some people find that working out right before bed is the key to great sleep, while others find it keeps them up. Studies show that exercise does help, it’s just not easy to know what kind of exercise to do or when to do it. Keeping a sleep journal with notes on your exercise routine will help you determine what works best for you.

Foods high in tryptophan

INSOMNIA AND YOUR DIET

A great way to combat insomnia is by eating the right foods, at the right times and avoiding certain other foods. Several natural components in food can work as sedatives and help to inspire sleep.

For example, we all hear about tryptophan around Thanksgiving. When you eat turkey or other foods with tryptophan in them, it creates a neurotransmitter in the brain known as serotonin. Serotonin is the ‘happy hormone’. It also helps to calm the body and makes it easier for us to fall asleep. Tryptophan is in tofu, cheese, eggs, red meat, beans and lentils, among other foods.

A 2005 study found that patients who suffered from chronic insomnia found improvements in their sleep when they ate a tryptophan-heavy diet or took dietary supplements with tryptophan as the main ingredient.

Tryptophan needs a little bit of help to get into the brain, though. Studies have shown that eating carbohydrates triggers a release of insulin and that insulin helps the tryptophan to cross the blood-brain barrier. So consider this your free pass to enjoy some carbs before you hit the hay!

Whether you suffer from occasional insomnia or deal with it every day, hopefully, these tips have given you a place to start. Insomnia is a big deal, unchecked it can affect every aspect of your life and can put you in danger of serious health risks. Always check with your doctor before starting any program or regimen.

We’ve got lots more info on insomnia and other sleep issues, as well as tips for getting better rest in our new book. Download your copy of Sleeping Without Pills.

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10 Proven Ways to Cut Stress

Stress is a killer. Jobs, money-worries, marriage complications, illness, children and lack of sleep are all things that cause us stress in our daily lives. After a long, demanding week we often find ourselves just struggling to unwind. We all know that stress can cause depression and anxiety and elevate blood pressure. Now, science has discovered a direct link between stress and brain damage, as well as increases in inflammation and heart attacks. According to the study (sourced below), people who have had prolonged incidents of stress throughout their lives have more cardiovascular issues.

 

According to Ash Nadkarni, MD, an associate psychiatrist at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, stress triggers the fight or flight response in our bodies. “Long-term overexposure to stress hormones can cause increased risk of health problems such as anxiety, depression, heart disease, weight gain, and memory and concentration problems,” she says. These triggers cause regular adrenaline spikes, a faster heartbeat and a rise in blood pressure. Over time that takes a real toll on your body. We all have different amounts of stress in our lives; no one is immune. It’s only natural for you to get overwhelmed at times.

The key is to try and find ways to prevent stress from building and accumulating. In this article, we’ll take a look at 10 proven ways to cut stress from your life. It’s important not only for your short-term health, but long-term as well. Many of these are small changes you can make in your daily life that will make a big difference throughout the rest of your day.

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STRESS BUSTER #1: WAKE UP EARLIER

Okay, so this one might not sound all that appealing. And how is losing sleep going to benefit you anyway? Well, consider this: how often are you running behind in the morning, only to have it throw off your whole day? According to psychologist Leslie Carr, PsyD., we all need to take it slow in the morning. “Take time in the morning to center yourself. A lot of people shoot out into their days like a rocket ship and it never gets better from there.” If you drink coffee in the morning, it takes about 20 minutes for the caffeine to reach to full effect. Take that time to slow down the morning rush. If you take your mornings at a more leisurely pace, you may find that your days are smoother and less hectic.

STRESS BUSTER #2: COLOR THERAPY

It may be difficult to understand, but colors play a huge role in helping to regulate our emotions. Could you really be overstressed due to the wrong colors painted on the walls of your home or office? According to Molly Roberts, MD, president of the American Holistic Medical Association, the connection is very real. “The theory behind the use of color therapy is that colors enter the eyes, which then send messages along the nerve pathways to the area of the brain that regulates emotion,” Roberts says. “There are a lot of ways to surround yourself with colors that can ease stress throughout the day.”

Bright, warm colors have a tendency to excite a person and cool colors are known for relaxation. At home, consider painting a wall or the trim a cool color. At the office, you may not have that option, but you can find ways to surround yourself with relaxing tones, such as wearing cool colors, draping a colored scarf over a chair or even changing the screensaver on your computer. These options should help to significantly cut down stress in your life.

STRESS BUSTER #3: WATCH CUTE AND FUNNY ONLINE VIDEOS

Here’s another overtly simple idea that works wonders to bring you peace and calm. After a long day of work, unwind by watching those cute videos people post all over Facebook and YouTube. You know the ones. The hilarious blooper reels, thieving cats, kittens running around doing kitten things, babies dancing…they all have a mental impact on your well-being. Rose Hanna, Professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies at California State University Long Beach agrees. “After a stressful day, looking at these funny things actually activates the part of the brain that delivers tranquility and a calm physiological response. This decreases anxiety and helps tremendously with reducing stress.”

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STRESS BUSTER #4: SING!

Okay, so maybe this isn’t something you can do at work, unless you’re a professional singer. But singing is a great way to really relax your mind. Whether it’s a chorus from your favorite song or sitting in your favorite spot while humming, the sound helps to reduce the amount of cortisol in your body. Cortisol is a stress hormone that builds up over time. Rita Eichenstein, PhD, a neuropsychologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Towers in Los Angeles, states that it’s the sound reverberating throughout your body that calms the mind. “Singing tunes you love brings up positive memories and takes your mind off the stressors,” says Eichenstein. Doctors have even used singing as a means to reduce a person’s blood pressure before surgery.

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STRESS BUSTER #5: TAKE UP A HOBBY

What better way to take your mind off of a bad day or stressful situation than to indulge in a favorite hobby? When the mind gets flooded with thought after thought and worries you’re constantly facing, there’s no better way to direct the mind than by focusing on something else instead. Our brains aren’t that good at multitasking and like to bounce around. But if you can focus on one activity, like gardening, scrapbooking or knitting, it has a way of channeling those thoughts and energy to the task at hand. “There’s something about the tactile element of scrapbooking—cutting, pasting, positioning—that is probably more relaxing than posting online,” says Nina Savelle-Rocklin, PsyD, a Los Angeles-based psychotherapist.

With gardening, you hold the soil in your hands and spend more time outside in the sun. Many people find the tactile, repetitive nature of knitting to be meditative. Whatever you do, pick one thing and put all your focus and energy into it.

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STRESS BUSTER #6: SCENT THERAPY

Scents, like colors, are often overlooked when it comes to impacting your daily life. Truth is, there are scents out there that can actually help you relax, relieve tension in your body and even refocus your thoughts. They are an especially helpful tool at the end of a long day. Adding coconut oil to your favorite scent during a hot bath is a perfect way to unwind. “It is believed that once inhaled, the scents alter the mood by stimulating various parts of the brain associated with emotion,” says Brooklyn-based therapist and social worker La Shawn M. Paul. “Smells like salt water or fresh rain are especially calming because they help you to think of life outside of your current stressor.”

STRESS BUSTER #7: GOOD FOOD

The food you eat can either make or break you when it comes to stress. When we’re under stress, most people have a tendency to start munching on some not-so-good foods. A rise in cortisol is linked to wild cravings for sugar and heavy carbs, according to researchers at the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center. It becomes a nasty endless cycle of weight gain and even higher cortisol levels, leading to more binge eating. Many people reach for heavily processed foods when they indulge these cravings and those types of foods are also high in chemicals additives, preservatives and sodium. The high-sodium content alone will make you feel bloated, increase your blood pressure and leave you feeling blah mentally.

The trouble with processed foods and carbs is you become addicted to them, so you keep running to them every time you feel down. Instead, swap out bad foods for good, nutritious, whole foods. When you think you want sugar, your body is desperately craving the vitamins and minerals it needs to function. Some foods even serve as stress-relievers. Take avocados as an example. They are incredibly rich in glutathione, lutein, beta-carotene and B-vitamins which can help block fat absorption and stress-proof your body.

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STRESS BUSTER #8: SIMPLIFY YOUR LIFE

Sometimes it seems like everything we do is about seeking out bigger and better material goods. We work extra hours to pay for things we don’t need. While it’s nice to have things, all this extra stuff can really complicate your life. Is it worth the stress and health issues it leads to? Only you can decide that. Of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone, but take a moment away from the grind and look around. Are the goals in your life meaningful? We are seeing more and more books and magazines with this same message.

It’s not necessarily about living frugally, but just slowing down to smell the roses, so to speak. De-clutter your house. Consider downsizing goals and ambitions that just seem to bring you down. According to a study conducted by the University of California Irvine and published in Psychosomatic Medicine the blood pressures of men who had stressful jobs were ten points higher than those less stressful. This is an obvious point: people who are constantly in stress-mode are in worse health. Making more money may not be worth the added stress that comes with the job.

 

STRESS BUSTER #9: EXERCISE

Not only does exercise give you something to focus on, it also helps to burn all the stress hormones that build up in your muscles. Plus, when you exercise your brain releases endorphins, which elevate your mood. Over time, exercise also helps you to develop your general ability to focus on a single task, which can make managing your life a little easier. Regular exercise has also been found to improve self-confidence which is good for helping you to cope with stressors. Finally, getting exercise on a regular basis can improve your sleep, which can help you keep a more even keel.

Finally, getting exercise on a regular basis can improve your sleep, which can help you keep a more even keel. Exercise is the number one stress-busting strategy recommended by health professionals. It doesn’t have to be an intimidating, high-impact workout. If physical activity isn’t already a part of your routine, start slow by going for a walk at lunch-time or playing a game of tag with your kids.

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STRESS BUSTER #10: MEDITATION

A few of the stress busters mentioned above involve distracting yourself. Sometimes, though, distraction isn’t enough. You need to fully remove yourself from the stressor. There are a lot of great ways to do this. Meditation is one of them. There are lots of guided meditation recordings out there that can get you started. Related to the point about singing, the right kind of music has a way of relaxing us, so you can try adding some tunes to your meditation practice. Online, there are plenty of audio recordings designed to take your mind away for however long you need.

Do you enjoy hearing waves crashing on the beach? The sound of a distant thunderstorm or rain? How about a soft piano ballad? Put on your headphones, sit back, close your eyes and just relax. We all need to find ways to get away from the grind. If you allow stress to constantly eat at you, it will only make you sick and miserable. By changing the way you look at your priorities, taking some time away to relax, eating the right foods and doing the things you love, you can really fight back and win the war against stress.  

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Sources:

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120329171601.htm www.mensfitness.com/nutrition/what-to-eat/eat-to-beat-stress-10-foods-that-reduce-anxiety/slide/2

www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/features/cut-stress-simplify-life?page=2

10 Reasons Why You Can’t Fall Asleep

There is nothing more important to your health than getting a good night’s sleep. I know when I get less than what my body needs, my entire day is completely thrown off. I mean, how can I properly concentrate on my deadlines when I can barely keep my eyes open?  Lack of sleep every night can really sabotage your performance, drive and ability to function. Not to mention your health. It shouldn’t be mind boggling to think of sleep as equal to a healthy diet when it comes to overall health, even if the relationship between sleep and wellness is just now being found out.

 

Obesity and sleep deprivation appear to go hand-in-hand, along with several related conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. I would’ve never guessed weight gain was impacted by the amount of shut-eye you need, but the link is there. The good news is you can reverse sleep-related health conditions by changing your sleep habits. Changing your habits though, means you need to understand what’s causing you to lose sleep in the first place.

Once you figure out what’s robbing you of those precious zzz’s, it’ll be easier to devise a plan to get the optimal rest you need to function at your best.

REASON #1 SLEEPING IN

This one is definitely a drag. I’m sure the majority of us hit our alarms at 5:30 a.m. every morning and mutter something about how we can’t wait for Saturday so we can sleep in. Maybe you even stay up late Friday night painting the town. It’s become a tradition, week in and week out. Little do we realize how badly this throws off our internal clocks. Essentially, sleeping in on Saturday morning sets off a chain reaction of inappropriate sleeping conditions for the rest of the weekend.

We stay up late on Saturday night, knowing we can sleep in again on Sunday morning. So what happens on Sunday? Our sleeping habits have now been reprogrammed. We stay up later Sunday night and then feel like garbage Monday morning when 5:30  rolls around again. To fix this, I know what has worked for me is keeping to a regular sleep schedule, even on the weekends. Even if you decide to stay up late Friday night, wake up at your usual time on Saturday morning. Try taking a quick 30-minute nap in the early afternoon to make up for it.

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REASON #2: INCONSISTENT NOISE

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I personally cannot sleep without a fan blowing somewhere in the room. I need that white noise to lure me to slumber. I’m not sure where that need came from, other than growing up in the deep south where there were fans on all the time. I guess it stuck with me. All I know is if I stay at someone’s house and there’s no fan, I cannot sleep. Period. If you’re sleeping somewhere where sleeping conditions are less than ideal, a fan or white noise machine might do the trick, even if you generally prefer silence, suggests Thomas Roth, PhD, director of the Sleep Disorders and Research Center at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

Turning on a fan in the room or in the hallway outside the door can do a lot to cut down on the noise around you (like traffic or noisy neighbors) or is a perfect solution if you need noise to fall asleep. “This will act as white noise, both blocking out disruptive sounds and providing just enough noise for those who can’t stand total silence,” says Roth.

REASON #3: ALLERGIES

According to Alan Goldsobel, MD, a fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology in San Jose, CA, your bed probably has a pest problem. As many as 10 million dust mites could be sharing your sleep space, leaving behind a nasty residue known to trigger allergies. If you are prone to allergies, especially at night, this may be the cause. Luckily, there are ways to reduce this disgusting problem.

You can purchase what’s called AllerRest bedding, which has been approved by the American Lung Association because it blocks mites from sharing your precious sleep space. Other countermeasures include cleaning regularly by dusting and vacuuming, as well as opening a window, one of the most effective ways to cut down on mites.

REASON #4: FOOD INTAKE (OR LACK THEREOF)

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This one can go both ways. If you have a habit of eating a large meal before hitting the sack, which most of us are probably guilty of at times, the food digesting in your gut can keep you awake. This is especially true for high-protein foods, as they require more time and energy to digest. Fatty and spicy foods, along with anything else that disagrees with you, can cause gas, heartburn and discomfort, which are all things to avoid if you hope to fall asleep peacefully. And of course, do I need to mention caffeine? It’s a major stimulant that can make sleep difficult. Try not to consume any caffeine in the afternoon. Keep in mind that some foods, like dark chocolate, contain caffeine too.

Try not to consume any caffeine in the afternoon. Keep in mind that some foods, like dark chocolate, contain caffeine too. On the flip side, there are probably times when you can’t sleep because of hunger pangs keeping you awake. I struggle with this personally, as I eat dinner earlier than most people, but I find that eating something simple, like a small wedge of cheese or a hardboiled egg late in the evening holds me over to the next day.

REASON #5: YOUR BEDROOM SHOULD NOT BE A WORKROOM

Stress can be caused by even the smallest of situations. Do you use your bedroom as an office? Is it a big ‘ole pile of papers and clutter? It’s said a cluttered room is a sign of a cluttered mind and an overworked mind keeps running, keeping you awake. The reality is, using your workspace as a sleep space does not work. What you associate at one time of the day with stress will inevitably prevent your bedroom from being a restful place if you don’t separate your sleep space from your workspace. 

According to the American Psychological Association, stressors are the top cause of short-term sleep and frequent waking. This means if you physically bring stress into your bedroom with you, you’re going to struggle to get the sleep you need. Once you remove all that stress, you’ll begin to associate your room with sleep and intimacy.

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REASON #6: SLEEPING WITH YOUR PET

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Yes, I know. You probably love Mr. Muffins more than you love most people. Our pets are like family to us. But they can also lead to difficulty sleeping. A small survey conducted by the Mayo Clinic has found that more than half of all animal owners claim their pets have, at one time or another, disrupted their sleep. If they must be in the same room with you, consider a crate, pillow or other bed for them to sleep in.

REASON #7: A PARTNER’S SNORING

Did you know a person’s snore can be as loud as a blender going full blast? That’s as much as 90 decibels. It’s safe to say you’re not sleeping peacefully when a partner is sawing logs in bed next to you. If their snoring is a regular thing, it’s recommended they see a doctor to rule out a serious condition, such as sleep apnea. If it’s only snoring, though, there are ways to combat it. First, ask your partner to sleep on their side instead of their back.

If that doesn’t work, consider purchasing a Sona pillow. The Sona pillow was designed by a Harvard neurologist and has been approved by the FDA to tilt the head a certain way that has been proven to reduce and even eliminate snoring in most cases.

REASON #8 LIGHT DISTRACTIONS

Like most people, I keep my smartphone next to the bed at night. Also, like most people, I’m guilty of doing a bit of surfing when the lights are out; engaging in a conversation, reading on my Amazon app or playing a game. I do it a lot less now after studying the effects light has on the brain, though. Any light at all, whether from your phone or from other sources, like a television, street lamps or even your clock, can keep you awake.

“Even a small amount of brightness can be strong enough to enter your retina when your eyes are closed,” says Amy Wolfson, Ph.D., author of The Woman’s Book of Sleep: A Complete Resource Guide. Any light at all tells your brain its daytime. Darkness signals that it’s nighttime, and as such, prepares you for sleep. Do everything you can to block out light, such as turning the clock away from your face, hanging blackout shades and refraining from browsing just before bed.

It’s not enough to turn out the lights while you’re trying to sleep; the blue light from televisions and cell phones can disrupt your sleep patterns even when you turn them off when you go to bed. Blue light suppresses the production of the sleep hormone melatonin for long periods of time. Ideally, you should avoid all blue light-emitting screens for two to three hours before bed.

REASON #9: OVERTHINKING

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Life can be difficult. With work, kids, bills and other stressors in our lives, often we’re left without enough time in the day to deal with everything we need to. These issues can spill over into nighttime and rob us of quality sleep. We’ve all laid in bed brooding over tomorrow’s troubles. What may help refocus your thoughts is a strategy called “stimulus control.” A well-studied idea, it suggests that getting up and walking to another part of the house before returning to bed will stop negative thinking and allow you to fall asleep.

It sounds simple, but it’s proven to work, as it helps you to overcome negative associations associated with your sleep routine. If you still can’t seem to shut down your mind when it’s time for bed, try doing some meditation before turning out the light. It takes practice, but with time you will learn to shut out the chatter.

REASON #10: LATE-NIGHT EXERCISE

Getting daily exercise is key for optimal health and longevity. The only problem is when exercise costs you sleep. Due to busy schedules, many people leave their exercise until late at night. While that might appear to be a sound strategy, the impact that that exercise has on your body may be robbing you of zzz’s. When you exercise, your body heats up, blood gets pumping, and your metabolism roars into gear…at a time when you should be relaxing for the evening. Instead, try to exercise first thing in the morning or early in the afternoon.

You may find you sleep even better after allowing your body the chance to cool down and relax before settling in for the night. Sleep is a wonderful and precious thing, and it is essential for a healthy mind and a healthy body. If you find yourself feeling groggy in the morning or waking up throughout the night, it’s important to pinpoint why and correct the issue immediately. Keep a sleep journal to track your sleeping habits to help you and your doctor diagnose any condition or illness that may be causing your insomnia.

Be sure to keep track of the food and beverages you take in before bed, what sorts of evening activities you engage in and any changes to your sleep space, as well as making notes on your actual sleep (how much, how many times up in the night, dreams, how you felt in the morning, etc.).

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Resources:

well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/06/how-sleep-loss-adds-to-weight-gain/

www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/at-a-glance/indoor-allergens.aspx

umm.edu/health/medical/reports/articles/stress

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/02/020215070932.htm

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15611895

Anthony J. McGirr is an author/blogger who currently resides in Davison, Michigan.

Good Mood Food: Diet Tips to Enhance Emotional Well-Being

We all have a pretty good sense that our diet affects our health in various ways. Increasingly, though, the intricate role that our food choices play in contributing to the occurrence of various diseases, exacerbating or mitigating symptoms and sometimes curing us completely, is becoming clearer and clearer. If you are interested in enhancing your emotional health through holistic means, it is well worth educating yourself regarding the nutritional aspects. While there is no officially established diet that will make you happy and well-adjusted once and for all, there are definitely some solid guidelines that you can follow. Here are just a few considerations for choosing good mood food.

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Free radicals are molecules that wreak all sorts of havoc on the body and contribute to all sorts of health woes, from premature aging to cancer. The brain may be particularly susceptible to their destructive ways, which could contribute to many different emotional problems, such as anxiety and depression. Antioxidants destroy free radicals, meaning that they are key to overall health. The best way to get the broadest range of these nutritional superheroes is to eat a large variety of fruits and vegetables in a range of colors. Some particularly good sources include spinach, sweet potatoes, berries of all kinds, nuts, seeds, broccoli and peppers.

GOOD CARBS ARE YOUR FRIEND

By now we all know the difference between the ‘good’ carbs and the ‘bad’ carbs. The latter raise our blood sugar levels, contribute to inflammation, and do all sorts of other damage. ‘Good’ carbs support our bodies in all sorts of ways. Their high-fiber content promotes digestive health and keeps cholesterol in check. They are also great for our emotional wellbeing because our bodies use carbohydrates for the production of serotonin, the mood-enhancing chemical that contributes to all sorts of warm, fuzzy feelings. An additional FYI…serotonin is a natural appetite suppressant as well, aiding you in maintaining a healthy weight.

FERMENTED FOODS TO FIGHT ANXIETY

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A study conducted in 2014 found that people who consumed larger amounts of fermented foods reported less social anxiety. These types of foods are rich in probiotics, the friendly bacteria that are believed to offer numerous health benefits, from normalizing digestion to boosting immune system function. Many health professionals believe that the health of our guts greatly influences our overall health. Researchers sent a questionnaire to over 700 students asking about their consumption of fermented foods over the last month. To control for other factors that are known to boost mood, they also asked about exercise and overall diet habits. Those who consumed the most “living” foods reported less social anxiety even after the researchers accounted for the other factors. Examples of fermented foods include tempeh, sauerkraut, kimchi, natto, kefir and yogurt.

PACK IN THE PROTEIN 

Protein-rich foods are an important aspect of a diet that benefits emotional health. They aid the body in producing that awesome aforementioned serotonin and help boost alertness as well. When you are in the thick of a lethargic brain fog, a protein-rich snack may produce an immediate improvement in your mood. Healthy choices include yogurt, cheese, fish, nuts, seeds, beans and peas.

EAT LIKE THE GREEKS

The Mediterranean diet has been lauded for its amazing health benefits, and eating in this manner is believed to reduce your risk of a host of health problems, from cardiovascular disease to cancer. It looks like it delivers in the emotional health department as well. A Spanish study involving almost 10,000 men and women found that low levels of folate in men and low levels of B-12 in women were linked to depression. Intake of these nutrients is very high in the Mediterranean diet because of its concentration of legumes, nuts, fruits, dark green vegetables and fish.

This diet is also very rich in healthy fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids, which are very important for brain health, as this area of the body has a particularly high concentration of (very necessary) fat. The link between diet quality and mental health is becoming more and more obvious as researchers are beginning to examine the role of food as medicine and not just fuel. It is important to note that using diet as a means to improve a particular health issue is not something that will generate results overnight. You must be diligent in eating well, and patient. You also want to maximize the benefits of diet by adopting other healthy habits, like exercising regularly and managing stress.

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Article Resources:

www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/232248.php www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/06/15/fermented-foods-anxiety_n_7585802.html www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19175490

From Listless and Lethargic to Spry and Spirited: Quick Energy Boosts

Do you start off your day ready to tackle the world and then slowly deflate like a tire with a slow leak? Or maybe you are one of those people who all of the sudden experiences a major crash that seems to hit you out of nowhere like a ton of bricks? Or perhaps you are the type who starts feeling tired before you have even gotten out of bed, and thinking of all that awaits you in the day ahead makes you just want to pull the covers over your head and go right back to sleep.

 

No matter your particular energy woes, the end result is the same…you feel listless and lethargic, and every task seems Herculean. You can’t concentrate. Your work suffers. There is no joy and lightness. You can’t even bring yourself to do things that make you feel better and are good for you, like your favorite hobbies or exercise. It affects your parenting, which triggers guilt. The list could go on and on. When our energy is stuck and stagnant, not flowing along like it is meant to be, it affects our being on all levels. It damages our mental, physical and emotional health. Hey, we all get tired sometimes…that’s a given. But, when you’re experiencing a chronic lack of energy something’s got to give.

Here are just a few tips.

TAKE MINI BREAKS

While your mind is convincing you that you need to power through no matter what in order to accomplish everything on your plate, this approach is actually making it harder and draining your energy in droves. By taking short breaks of five to ten minutes and doing nothing — and that really means nothing — you can give yourself a nice boost and improve your focus significantly.

This doesn’t mean taking a smoke break, checking Facebook to see how many likes your new profile picture got, or putzing around on your phone. Taking a real break from outside stimulation will refresh and renew you. Committing to these breaks throughout the day will have a cumulative effect, and you can steadily increase your energy reserves. Let yourself walk away.

MEDITATE

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Meditation has been getting more and more attention in recent years, as Western researchers are starting to uncover the benefits that Eastern spiritual masters and enthusiastic meditators have known for years. It is simply an awesome tool for improving mental and physical well-being on all fronts. And it seems that meditation is an awesome fatigue fighter as well. It might seem that a practice meant to induce relaxation would just contribute to feelings of low energy and tiredness, but that is not so.

The fact that you can engage in the practice without expending a large amount of energy is probably a major contributor to its benefit. Meditation fights stress, which produces chemical processes in the body that lead to feelings of lethargy.  A study by researchers at UCLA found that people who meditate regularly report less fatigue. They also seem to sleep better, which is a huge boon to energy levels.

DRINK A BIG GLASS OF WATER

It is easy to forget to drink enough water throughout the day, and many people are not sufficiently hydrated. A small study that appeared in the Journal of Nutrition in 2012 studied the effects of hydration on 25 women. Some were given enough fluid to achieve optimal hydration levels, while others were induced into a state of mild dehydration through exercise alone or exercise and diuretics that increased urination. Cognitive abilities and mood were tested while exercising and at rest. While the results of most mental tests showed no difference in performance based on the level of hydration, those who had less fluid intake reported headaches, inability to focus, fatigue and low mood in both scenarios.

The most interesting thing about this finding was that the dehydration was very mild, a mere 1% lower than normal. To check your own hydration level, peek at the color of your urine: it should be the color of lemonade. If it’s darker than that, you need more water. While the old maxim about drinking eight glasses of water a day has been widely debunked as a myth, this and other research suggests that maintaining good hydration (if not quite that much!) is healthy. Flagging energy levels can be overcome. But, in order to fight fatigue, you have to make a deliberate effort to engage in strategies that combat it. You can’t just wish for more energy; you have to find a way to create it.

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Article Resources:

healthy.ucla.edu/mindful-meditation-improving-sleep

healthland.time.com/2012/01/19/bad-mood-low-energy-there-might-be-a-simple-explanation/

well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/07/really-the-claim-drink-eight-glasses-of-water-a-day-to-protect-the-kidneys/?_r=0

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