L’amour Chemicals

Back in the summer of 2007, Phillip, my husband, (he was my fiancé then) introduced me to a Radiolab podcast called This is Your Brain on Love from NPR.  For those of you that don’t know about Radiolab, it’s a radio show hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich (who appears regularly on ABC’s Nightline and ABC News Tonight).  This agnostic duo take simple ideas and questions like: “why do humans need sleep?”, and explore the science behind that question in an entertaining yet educational way.  This particular podcast was about how we, as humans, fall in love.  Apparently it’s a lot more than just boy meets girl…some stuff happens….and then live happily ever after.

Fast forward to present day-ish.  Last Saturday I was in class and we were learning about the neurotransmitters, dopamine, norepinephrine, endorphins, oxytocin, etc.  My ears perked up because I had heard these words my teacher was mentioning and how they manipulate our moods and feelings on Radiolab a few years ago.   Neurotransmitters are chemicals the brain secretes that affect our moods and feelings.  These chemicals are kind of like drugs that our brain makes in our own bodies.

As some of you know, yesterday was Phillip’s and my four year anniversary.  It was also a partial inspiration for this post.  Let’s all think back to when we met that special someone, whether it be a life partner, spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, whoever.  The initial attraction to that person was actually caused by dopamine.  Dopamine is what makes us giddy when we see or think about that person but dopamine wouldn’t be anything without norepinephrine.  The two go hand-in-hand.  It’s a mood elevator, so it communicates good feelings.  The faster it communicates the better your mood will be and the more “in-love” you will feel.  Now, once the whole initial giddy, starry-eyed, lovey stuff has past, it’s the neurotransmitter, oxytocin that keeps us in long-term relationships.  Oxytocin is probably the most diverse chemical (it also plays roles during childbirth) but in this sense, it is released and maintains deep, true love and friendships.  Even though Phillip and I just celebrated our four year anniversary, we’ve been together for ten.  The oxytocin is going strong.

There’s one more neurotransmitter I want to write about and that’s endorphins.  Whenever I hear the word endorphin, I think of this quote from the movie Legally Blonde:

“I just don’t think that Brooke could’ve done this. Exercise gives you endorphins. 
Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands…”

Endorphins are the chemical that get released when performing physical activity and attribute to a feeling of euphoria afterwards.  If you’ve been to a fantastic yoga class, or had a great run (for example) and experienced what’s known as “runner’s high” then you know what I’m talking about.  These are the endorphin’s at work and it’s something people get addicted to.  It’s actually similar to morphine.  Weird, right? The human body creates a “drug” similar to morphine.  It’s a natural pain reliever so when you’re sore from a previous day’s work-out but you’re going at it again, the endorphins mask the pain and get you through the activity.

Jad and Robert debate whether love is strictly chemical or something a bit more magical.  Take a listen, and comment your thoughts.  I think the story, evidence, and cool banter is very engaging.  You will be sure to enjoy every minute, like I have, in discovering the link all our neurotransmitters, drugs, and feelings play together to make people happy and in-love.  Is there anything better than…..l’amour?

Sunshine Award!

Last Friday, Hélène aka HealthyFrenchie nominated me for a Sunshine Award!  It made my day! I kept meaning to post about it, but since my weekend was full of places to go, people to see and getting priorities out of the way, it was a little hard.  It’s so nice to be thought of as someone who spreads some sunshine in the blogging world and it’s nice to be able to nominate other bloggers and spread the love.  So without further ado…

The Official Rules of the Sunshine Award:

_____________________________________

• Include the award’s logo in a post or on your blog.
• Answer 10 questions about yourself.
• Nominate 10 other fabulous bloggers.
• Link your nominees to this post and comment on their blogs, letting them know they have been nominated.
• Share the love and link the person who nominated you.

______________________________________

Questions:

1. Favorite color? Green.

2. Favorite animal?  The incomparable Nimborino, aka Nimbus the super-cat!

3. Favorite number? 1 (because it’s my birthday) though I like 8 because it’s fluid and unending.

4. Favorite non-alcoholic drink? Water or freshly squeezed juice.

5. Prefer Facebook or Twitter? Facebook (click “like”! :-))

6. My passion? All things nutrition, wellness and yoga.

7. Prefer getting or giving presents?  I love giving presents but it kind of stresses me out, because, what if the person doesn’t like it?

8. Favorite pattern? A healthy one. :-) ….But if we’re talking about decorative patterns, I really like the French, floral, Marie Antoinette-inspired patterns.

9. Favorite day of the week? Saturday.  I love waking up early on a day off and getting the most out of the day.

10. Favorite flower? Lily of the Valley

Who I nominate:

  1. Meg at Maknwaves – she has a fantastic passion for life, blogging about everything from working-out, to at-home DIY projects.  Love it!
  2. Anne Kristin at alternativeeating – She posts a great daily work-out and a lot of information on food, food allergies, travel, and she recently had a baby.
  3. A Charmed Yogi – A yoga instructor in Georgia, a dog lover, and she practices/teaches aerial yoga!  So cool!
  4. Mrs. Buena Vida – She has great, healthy recipes and all around entertaining writing.
  5. Hilary at The Nomad Grad – great info for a young person who loves to travel but needs to travel on a budget.
  6. Thisdynamiclife – One of my favorites!  She’s a lawyer, yoga instructor and has some really beautiful and meaningful writing.
  7. Ahimsamaven – a great writer of all things yoga, self discovery and a yoga teacher as well.
  8. Terra at adkjerseygirl – “a recovering attorney” (as she says) obsessed with all things healthy and a wellness coach among many others.
  9. Seed to Salad – an at home gardener in Missouri with a strong passion for healthy, home-grown, flavorful food.
  10. Self Blossoming – a beautiful compilation of quotes and phrases, and the like about wellness and personal spirituality.

Priorities….priorities….

It was quite a busy weekend and I have a huge test on the joints, muscles, nerves and spine coming up on Saturday.  I am doing really well in Anatomy and Physiology so I want to keep up the good work.  I had to finish writing out all my flash-cards before I began writing anything here.  I finished last night and now have a stack of about 200 flash cards, about 2-3 inches tall that I have to learn. :-)  Not to mention, Thursday is our fourth wedding anniversary and after the test on Saturday we are going to Puerto Rico for a little getaway.  So excited!!  But yeah on top of all that I have to pack and take Nimbus to my parents house before Saturday, meet with my lab partners to study and, of course, practice some yoga…oh yeah, and I have to go to work.  When there’s a lot going on, I have a tendency to become scatter-brained to the point that I feel I have dementia.  Scary!!  So I set my priorities.  For example, today my first priority (after writing this) is to make some juice, study (while on my subway commute and on my lunch break) then work (I hate when my “day job” gets in the way of my real life ;-)) then get to a yoga class tonight.  I know it will help to keep me grounded and focused so I don’t go crazy.  Setting priorities is what today’s post is about.

When there’s a lot going on in life, both personally and at work, and your priorities are not straight, it’s nearly impossible complete anything to the fullest potential.  We’ve all felt overwhelmed, fatigued, unmotivated and sometimes crazed by the amount of work to be done in both personal and business lives at one point or another.  Sometimes everything is motivation enough to  run away, hide under the bed covers and pretend as if your responsibilities don’t exist.

So what does one do when the going gets tough?

I say, take the bull by the horns and get going!  Scrounging up the determination is usually the first step.  Putting on some good motivating music, the kind that gets you pumped and moving will help.  Mentally prepare yourself to focus in and complete your work.  When you’re determined and motivated, write out a list of  tasks arranging what is most imperative to complete.  With a clear mind, think of the easiest path to complete your work.  If it means writing out a strict schedule for the week, then write out a schedule.  Realize what’s most important and take one task at a time.  As my brother-in-law would say, “don’t chase many bunnies…pick one to chase and you will win.”  The hard part is coming to terms with the fact that the task at hand may not be the most important thing in the world to you, but it’s the most demanding of your time and energy at that moment.  And sometimes, it’s better to get the little things out of the way (if they won’t take too long) so they’re not looming overhead as a distraction.  Figure out what works for you and get the job done.

Happy prioritizing!

Do you have any prioritizing tips?  Leave a comment, let me know!  Thanks! :-)

PS – I added a Facebook page and widget on the right side of the page.  Click like if you like me. :-)  And, I was nominated for a Sunshine Award!  More on that later.  Time is running out to make/drink some juice!

Counting My Blessings 4/20/2012

This week has had it’s ups and down.  I am purposely writing down singularly because one of my best friend’s grandfather passed away.  I didn’t know him well but I do know he had a great sense of humor and served our country in the Korean War.  He was awarded the Purple Heart.

His Purple Heart made me think of  my grandmother.  At a very young age I remember drawing a purple heart and she told me that I shouldn’t.  She explained that Purple Hearts were specially reserved for men and women who serve(d) in the U.S. military.  I’m still not sure why I couldn’t draw one, it’s possible that I misunderstood her.  Her husband, who served in the Navy in World War II passed away probably shortly before this interaction.  Maybe it had something to do with that?

 

My grandmother passed away almost a year ago from cancer and last night I fell asleep thinking about her amazing sewing ability.  She would make really nice clothes and costumes as I was growing up.  Daily, she inspires me to make each day great and help make the world a slightly better place by spreading love, advice, help and smiles.  She was always interested in nutrition and how the foods we eat affect us.  She preferred to eat a better diet than take heart medication.  Not to mention, she was the first person to teach me the importance of a freshly squeezed juice!  I like to hope that she’s guiding me through this journey into nutritional health, wellness and yoga.  I taught her basic meditation and yoga poses including reverse prayer pose (which she was able to do, with ease :-)) just before she got sick.  It’s a memory I will cherish forever.

Here are this week’s blessings:

  1. Grandma – you are forever and always in my heart.  You set me on the right path.  Thank you for everything you t
  2. aught me.
  3. Grandpa Charlie – thank you for your service to our country and for one of my best friends.  She always makes me laugh the hardest…sometimes a little too hard.
  4. Spring Break (always a nice respite from continual studying).
  5. A great new breakfast: Granola, greek yogurt and frozen berries.
  6. Baseball!
  7. Megan – the amazing friend who invited me!!  Thank you again!!
  8. Having the means to travel (upcoming 6-day vacation! :-))
  9. Fresh air – it’s so nice to be outside and take a warm, fresh and rejuvenating breath.  It always makes everything seem better.
  10. Sunshine – After being cooped up all winter, the vitamin D is warmly welcomed!
  11. Thank you all for reading! :-)

I hope everyone had a great week and I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend.  Class starts again tomorrow.  Finishing-up the study of muscles and onto the nervous system.

Any fun/interesting weekend plans? 

For The Love Of The Game

Hi Everyone!  Last night I was invited to a Yankee game by one of my besties that I’ve known since high school.  So totally awesome!!

Now, if you know me, I know what you’re thinking…

YOU went to a YANKEE game??”

Gasp.

(And yes, my mother knew I was there.)

My parents are HUGE baseball lovers and plan their summer days around the Met’s schedule.  My mother grew up in Queen’s and was a die-hard Brooklyn Dodger fan.  When the Dodgers left NY in 1957 for LA my mother couldn’t bring herself to be a Yankee fan.  Especially after this huge upset:

So, when the Met’s came to town, my mother’s world was at peace, and, in turn, I was born and raised a Met fan.  When I moved to Washington, D.C. for college and the National’s played their inaugural season, I considered myself a National’s fan.  My friends and I went to a lot of games and have some great memories.

When it really comes down to it, I’m a fan of baseball. I love the game, always have and always will.  I don’t feel it’s sacrilegious to go to a Yankee game while being a “Met fan”.  I will never pass up an opportunity to watch a live game, regardless of what team is playing.  There’s nothing like being in a ballpark, watching a live baseball game and eating a hot dog and peanuts.

(Side note: as a child, I spent the summer of 1992 pretending to be a Rockford Peach inspired by the movie A League of Their Own.)

Anyway, they must have known I was coming and wouldn’t be pleased with their lack of healthy food options, so they gave these out:

 I’m going to grow my own tomato plant!  Thanks Yankee Stadium!

They did offer corn on the cob as a food option, but my friend informed me that it was doused in butter.  And I did scope out a stand that sold gluten-free buns for hot dogs and sausages.  But I didn’t feel too much guilt eating typical ballpark food because I ate my granola for breakfast and chickpea salad for lunch.  When in Rome. :-)

By the way, the Yankees lost to the Twins, 6-5.  (The Met’s lost to the Braves, 14-6.)

Time for Another Healthy Breakfast!

Morning everyone!  I have discovered a breakfast that I love and want to share.  The last time I wrote about breakfast was back in July and it was one of the first posts that I wrote.  Today’s breakfast is similar but instead of milk, I used vanilla Chobani  and added Cascadian Farm Organic frozen blueberries to Cascadian Farm Oats and Honey Granola.  I love Cascadian Farm products.  They’re all organic and a staple product in my home. My freezer is loaded their frozen fruits and vegetables.

The oats and honey granola is about 230 calories per serving, which is about 2/3 of a cup.  The Greek yogurt is about 40 calories and the blueberries are about 70 calories.  Some people say to stay away from granola because it can be high in fat and sugar but I think it’s great, if it’s organic and especially good for a yummy start in the morning.

Also, aside from this yummy breakfast, I’m trying to switch over to almond milk.  It’s very creamy (much more than skim milk) and tastes great.  There’s more calcium in almond milk too.  I put it in my coffee and it’s almost like having some sugary coffee creamer in there, but there’s not.  And I got the original flavor too.

1 cup of almond milk is 60 calories. It’s also a good source of protein.  I’ve heard of people making their own almond milk.  It sounds like a good idea but it also seems like a waste of perfectly good almonds, to me at least.  Any thoughts on that?  I do admit though, it seems like the nutrition from pure, homemade almond milk is amazing.  Especially for breakfast in the morning….yum!

Try this breakfast, it’s yummy, nutritious and a great way to start your day.  I hope you all have a lovely one. :-)

Did I inspire you to try a new breakfast?  :-)  Also, let me know if you have any insight into homemade almond milk.  Thanks!

Tips for a Better and Healthier Work Day

In continuation of yesterday’s post about simple yoga stretches to do in the office, there are a few more non-yoga, but essential activities and helpful ideas that will help to keep your energy up and your body relaxed, focused and comfortable while in your work place.  Whether you work from home, in an office, from your car, anywhere really, these tips will help to provide you a successful work day.

  1. Sleep: 7-9 hours per night on a regular schedule.  Go to bed around the same time every night and wake up about the same time. You will feel refreshed each morning and your energy will flow throughout the day.  If you can, try waking up without an alarm.
  2. Juiceif you don’t reach your fruit and/or vegetable intake per day (to know how many you should consume here’s a helpful guide brought to you by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention) it is so much easier to juice them and get the nutrients that way.  Be sure to drink your juice as soon as possible otherwise it just becomes like sugar-water because the nutrients begin to break down pretty much right away.  Lately, I have been combining  (all organic) kale, carrots, apples sometimes kiwis and oranges.  This photo, of one of my recent juices, is 2 large apples, 1 orange and 1 carrot (that’s all that was available that day).  I love the color!
  3. Breathe: take a minute (more would be better, but I know that’s sometimes hard in a fast-paced office) to close your eyes and focus on nothing else but breathing (sometimes I have to seclude myself in the bathroom for this to actually happen).  It will refocus your mind and bring some energy and relaxation to your body.
  4. Eat: natural, organic, healthy snacks between lunch and dinner to keep your energy up and help keep you feeling full.  Some great examples are organic fruit, nuts and organic peanut butter and whole wheat crackers.
  5. Move: along with your regular work-out schedule, try to stand up and walk around the office more.  Do not sit in your chair all day.  If you can stand while typing, even better! Though, I will admit, I find this hard.  Going to the gym in the morning or evening does not make up for sitting in a chair for the rest of the day.  Wear comfy and supportive shoes and remain on your feet as much as possible.
  6. Sit in a chair that keeps your posture: I know I just mentioned that it’s better to move around during the day, and you should move around!  But when you have to sit, invest in a balance ball chair (if your office will allow it).  Balance balls strengthen your core and help your posture.  They’re also pretty comfortable and give cushy support to your sit bones (or the ischial tuberosity in scientific terms). :-)
  7. Stretch: stretching is so important to keep the blood flowing and keep your body from tensing up.  Here are some helpful yoga stretches to do while sitting or standing in your office.
  8. Drink water: I keep an 18oz. mug on my desk and refill it about 3 times per day and then continue to drink water after I get home.  Not only does water keep you hydrated but it removes toxins from the body and carries nutrients to the cells, all to keep you healthy and happy.

Follow these guidelines and you will maintain health, happiness and an open mind while working in your office, wherever that may be.

Office Chair Yoga Stretches

Hi everyone!  Happy Monday morning!  It’s time to start another week.  Mondays are hard for a lot of people.  It is certainly hard to go back to work after a nice weekend.  But just remember, it’s your choice to make them tough.  If you approach Mondays with an open mind and heart, anticipate the day, then it may not be so bad.

I got a new desk chair at work and at first I really liked it because it was a nice change from the less supportive, super-old chair I had.  Now that I have sat with it for a few weeks, I am coming to realize that it’s too big for me and it’s turning out to be even more uncomfortable than the last chair.  I have found myself stretching more often, which isn’t a bad thing anyway.  So here are a few of the stretches I have been doing to keep myself comfortable, happy and productive while stuck in a chair at work.

Wrists:  flex and extend both wrists as shown in the photo courtesy of health.com (this can be performed seated or standing)

Ankles: while sitting in your chair, extend your knees a little so the feet are off the floor, roll around your ankles in and out (this can be done one at a time or simultaneously)

Waist: while seated or standing, interlace your fingers and reach up the arms over the head.  From your sides, bend over to the right and left and remember to take deep inhales and exhales with each movement.  Keep it light and easy.  Don’t force anything.

Shoulders: either seated or standing with both feet flat on the floor and your weight distributed evenly between both feet, fold over your legs, resting your chest on your thighs (if you’re standing and your chest won’t touch your thighs, bend your knees).  Let your head, neck and arms hang.  Next, interlace the fingers behind you and raise your arms behind you.  Don’t force this one either.  Go as far as you can until you feel a good stretch in the shoulders.  If it hurts, back off.  (picture courtesy of Barry Stone and about.com)

Neck: reach your left arm over your right ear and stretch the head over to the left side.  Repeat and stretch to the right side.  Remember to keep breathing (roll the head down and around from one side to the other if that feels good).  This is good for headaches and if you have some eye strain, keep your eyes closed while performing this stretch.

Spine: twist around from the belly to look behind you.  With each inhale lengthen the spine. Don’t force this one by pulling yourself around using the back of the chair or the arm rest.  Just take it easy.  (pictures from glamour.com and workawesome.com)

Finally, for a good anytime stretch step out into down dog and take a few deep inhales and exhales.  If you’re like me and your desk is in the open for all to see, you might have to go to the bathroom for this one.

These few, easy, light stretches can be done by anyone while at work but can be performed anywhere at any time.  When you feel cramped and in need of some tension release try these before you eat, in a movie theatre (just don’t disrupt the people around you), on a park bench, etc.

Do you have any office yoga stretches you prefer?  Let me know by leaving a comment!

Have a great day everyone!  Happy Monday!