Bedtime Habits to Improve Sleep

Hey guys, sleep is important. Sleep is king. Sleep is essential to our overall functioning! Above are 10 bedtime habits to improve sleep. Use as many of your senses as possible when creating a bedtime routine (e.g. touch, taste, smell, sound). Most of the tips are self-explanatory but I want to clarify a couple. No. 1: turn off electronics 1 hour before bedtime. As soon as the blue light from electronic screens hits our retina, the body stops producing melatonin (nature's Ambien). I know  I'm guilty of using electronics too close to bedtime, but if you are having trouble sleeping, electronics should be the first thing you eliminate in the nighttime. Finally, No. 6. Read (preferably fiction). Fiction helps you to escape everyday life, to get lost in a fantasy, and to take a mental vacation. Majority of people who have difficulty falling asleep report they have trouble shutting their brain down, slowing the thoughts in their head. Reading is helpful in general, but I think fiction does a better job at calming the brain, so that's the reasoning behind the preference given to fiction. Build a bedtime routine that feels authentic to you and your lifestyle, but do try to create some kind of a routine. Good bedtime routines, practiced over time can help signal the brain and body to start winding down, thus improving your ability to relax and fall asleep when the time for bed comes. Hope this was helpful and happy snoozing everyone!

5 Reasons to Eat Hemp Seeds

Hemp seeds a.k.a. hemp hearts, are the seeds of the hemp plant. They are neutral in flavor, add great texture to any meal, and pack a lot of nutrition in a small amount. Seeds should not contain any THC though there is a possibility they could have trace amounts from exposure during processing. Hemp seeds are my new, can't-live-without kitchen staple. Below are my top 5 reasons to eat hemp seeds:

  1. Protein: 3 tbls of hemp seeds have about 10g of protein which is pretty amazing. Protein and fiber help to keep you full longer, so adding hemp seeds to your meal will give it staying power to stave off the hangries.
  2. Fiber: Fiber is super important for digestion, feeding healthy bacteria in your gut micro biome and promoting colon health. More and more research is turning up confirming the importance of fiber in the diet for preventing multiple types of cancer. 
  3. Weight Loss: Hemp seeds have healthy fats, fiber, and protein. Added fiber, healthy fat, and protein promote satiety which means you'll eat less snacks, get less hangry, and will be less likely to overeat at your next meal. 
  4. Full of amino acids: Hemp seeds contain all 20 of the amino acids, including those that our bodies can't produce. For vegans and/or vegetarians, this is a very big deal.
  5. Promotes balance in the body: Full of Omega-3, and Omega-6, the nutritional profile of hemp seeds have been shown to help balance the body with regards to hormones, inflammation, and immune system. While hemp seeds aren't a 'cure all' they definitely support overall internal balance in the body. 

We have been adding them to something everyday. Hemp seeds are perfect for adding to salads, soups, oatmeal, tacos, rice or lentil dishes, smoothies and smoothie bowls. 3-4 tbls is a typical serving so you don't need much to get the full benefits. You can buy at bag at your local health food store. We purchase ours online here and here.  Enjoy : )

simple pleasure of the week: fresh, local berries

With summer in full swing here, the farmer's markets are chockerbock full of fresh, locally grown berries. Strawberries are always a treat, one I cherish during the summer months. They are delicious by themselves, semi-frozen, as dessert, on pancakes, atop ice cream or in pies. I have fond memories of strawberry shortcake before fireworks on the 4th of July, and strawberries atop waffles with whipped cream on lazy weekend mornings. It's always a treat to have berries after lunch at work. Plus, how beautifully iconic are strawberries piled high, as they peak above their green baskets?!  We always buy organic berries, because strawberries are on the dirty dozen. Next time you're at a farmer's market, pick up a basket of fresh berries and enjoy this simple pleasure before the season is over. 

let's talk about spf and sun protection

Since it was Summer Solstice on Monday, I figured it was a good time to talk about sun protection. Not sure about those on the East Coast and abroad, but over here in California, it has been hot! Definitely not complaining, I absolutely love the sun. But it does mean we need to be more aware of exposure to harsh rays. Consumer Reports recently came out  with some in depth statistics on sunscreen and which products live up to the bottle's description. I found the information really eye opening so thought I would share some of it here. If you feel this doesn't apply to you, it's worth noting the following that came straight from the Skin Cancer Foundation:

  • 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime

  • Over the past 3 decades, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined

  • More people develop skin cancer because of tanning than develop lung cancer because of smoking

  • An estimated 90 percent of skin aging is caused by the sun

  • People who use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher daily show 24 percent less skin aging than those who do not use sunscreen daily

  • Regular daily use of an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen reduces the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by about 40 percent and the risk of developing melanoma by 50 percent

This isn't here to scare, but just to bring an awareness to the issue and hopefully prevent unnecessary illness. I collected what I thought to be the most valuable points from Consumer Reports' article and put them down below. The article can be read in full here.  To see the 69 products tested you do have to subscribe.

  • SPF 30 is the minimum level recommended by the  American Academy of Dermatology

  • 28 of the 69 sunscreens tested failed to meet the SPF claim on the label

  • The mineral-only sunscreens (more natural versions) performed much worse than the chemical formulations with only 26% of the 19 products tested meeting their claims

  • Their suggestion is to purchase a sunscreen with an SPF of 40 or higher, which will allow more of a chance for the product to contain at least the recommended SPF 30

In addition to sunscreen it's important to avoid prolonged sun exposure when possible. Here is what I do to protect myself from the sun and also what I recommend to my students. Besides wearing a high SPF all over, I wear hats quite often. Baseball caps, straw hats, bowlers...whatever works with my outfit and protects my scalp, neck, and face. I also stay shaded whenever possible. My husband and I purchased a beach tent a few years back and it may have been one of the best purchases we've made! We got the Pacific Beach tent from Amazon. (pictured below from this past weekend). It allows us to be outside and enjoy the beach, but be shaded at the same time. Something else we do is check the UV index periodically throughout the day. The number will tell you how strong the rays are wherever you happen to be. We have a fabulous weather app called Dark Sky that is usually right on when predicting weather patterns and it also tells us what the UV index is. If you don't have the app or want to purchase it, weather.com can give that same information. 

my "no-diet" diet

As a yoga teacher and Health Educator I am regularly asked by my students what kind of diet I follow. I figure since it is asked in those settings, perhaps it is questioned by our readers as well. It is actually a more complicated question for me to answer. The yogic diet (or sattvic diet) suggests you eat a vegetarian diet full of vegetables, fruit, and whole grains light in nature that help clear the mind. They suggest you avoid meat, coffee, refined sugar, or excessively spicy, salty, or sour foods. More on this diet can be found here at Yoga Journal.

While I actually do follow this diet for the most part, I make daily exceptions. For one, I love a cup of coffee in the morning and have no plans to take this out of the morning ritual. My diet most closely resembles a pescetarian diet, where I do not eat meat but I do eat fish. With that being said I don't label myself as anything; vegetarian, pescetarian, vegan, gluten free, paleo, etc. My diet usually consists of vegetarian or vegan meals, but I do throw seafood into the mix once in a while. Sushi is my everything. With that in mind, I take ahimsa, the sanskrit word of non-violence and a large part of yogic philosophy, always into consideration. I try to do the least amount of harm to the environment and animals through my diet. I pay close attention to where my food comes from. I use the Monterey Bay Aquarium's seafood watch program to choose the best seafood choices. I buy most of my vegetables and fruit from JP Organics, a local CSA program, and my eggs from a local woman with a small farm. 

I eat what feels good to my body. I listen to my cravings, what I need, and have just that. I believe in all things in moderation and balance, meaning if I want the dessert I will have the dessert and then in turn choose a healthier, less sugar filled meal next time I eat. And above all, I do not go on diets! I did this once, it was the Atkins diet, about 10 years ago. While I did lose weight, it was not sustainable or satisfying. As soon as I went back to my normal eating patterns, the weight came back and then some. My metabolism had slowed and I ate substantially more of the foods I had been denying myself. It was a lesson I thankfully only had to learn once to leave a lasting impression. Besides, food is such an enjoyable part of life I don't want to miss out on through restrictions.

I recently read the book, French Women Don't Get Fat, which made me think of writing this post. It is a fabulous book (recommended to me by Ashley), not about dieting, but about living a healthier lifestyle in order to keep the body at an equilibrium and avoid putting on those extra pounds. Much of what the author discussed was similar to my viewpoint, and what I described above. She also brought up some great practices I need to incorporate more into my day to day, like drinking more water and walking more. A highly recommended read.

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simple pleasure of the week: stargazing

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When was the last time you stepped outside and just looked up into the sky? On a clear night, spending some time just laying on the ground looking up at the stars and identifying planets can be such an enjoyable, relaxing activity. No money is spent and so much can be gained. It can be a time to bond with a loved one, get more in touch with nature, become more mindful of our place on this planet, and learn a little something about the solar system. There are some fabulous apps out there too to help identify stars and planets. A favorite of ours is Sky Guide

simple pleasure of the week: board games

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While people tend to gravitate towards their phones or computers for entertainment, Perkin and I prefer physical games over their digital counterparts. About 75% of the time we have Scrabble sitting out in our living room. If not Scrabble it is either Exploding Kittens,  Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride. Board and card games lead to more personal interactions and more time spent enjoying each others company. When we reach for our phones for entertainment, we often zone out not noticing those around us. Playing games face to face helps improve problem solving skills, memory, creativity, and social skills. There is also something comforting about playing a game we grew up with, such as Scrabble. It brings back fond memories. 

all natural makeup favorites

Last week we discussed the harmful effects toxins found in conventional makeup, and the barriers of switching over to all-natural makeup. Today we want to share some of our favorite clean beauty products. These are tried and true and have become must haves in our makeup routines! It is also important to note that all the products mentioned have received a 3 or lower from the Think Dirty app mentioned in the previous post. 

Sarah's picks:

  • Bite Agave Lip Mask. My go to for smooth lips! I have tried so many natural and not so natural lip conditioners and this stuff is better than anything out there. Apply this formula at night and wake up to moistened, healed lips. An extra perk is that it tastes good too!
  • Alima Pure Satin Matte Foundation. I have tried many mineral foundations and find this one to be the best for my sensitive, combination skin. Between the natural appearance and build able coverage, it is a winner. The best part? There are only 4 ingredients in this.
  • Alima Pure Highlighter in Luna. If I feel like my skin is looking especially dull I will apply a little of this to brighten things up. I'll put it on my cheek bones, brow bones, and cupids bow for a healthy, lit from within glow.
  • Ilia Tinted Lip Conditioner. When I want some color on the lips, I love this stuff. During the summer when my skin is a bit more tanned, Shell Shock (a bright coral) is my favorite. 
  • Physicians Formula Organic Wear MascaraThis stuff is surprisingly good! I have tried other Physicians Formula products with some disappointment but this mascara makes my lashes full and long. Plus it is easy to get off, which is a win in itself. My eyes really get irritated if I have to rub them to get product off. With this mascara it just isn't needed. 

Ashley's picks:

  • 100% Pure Cocoa Bronzer. This is really, really good. I used a popular holy grail high end brand for years, and this is just as good, maybe better. It warms up the skin and looks super natural blended out. This stuff is very pigmented though so a little goes a long way (p.s. this company is having 25% off everything right now).
  • 100% Pure Fruit Pigmented Blush in 'Healthy'. Love this. Don't know what else to say except that it's truly pigmented and this shade does look like a healthy glow. I want to try  more of their shades (p.s. this company is having 25% off everything right now). 
  • Mineral Fusion Eye Shadows. I have the 6 shade palette available only at Whole Foods, but I'm so impressed with the pigment and blend ability of these babies. Definitely perform like high end eye shadows!
  • RMS Uncover Up Concealer. I'm the shade 22 (which is the most popular shade). I use this coconut oil-based concealer under my eyes and it stays put all day. This concealer does need to be set with powder, though, so make sure to have that on hand. 
  • ZuZu Luxe Eyeliner in 'Obsidian'. This is the best black, natural eyeliner I've found. I tried a few, and this one had the best black pigment and smoothest texture.  

the spring equinox: a time of awakening

This past Sunday marked the spring equinox, when the sun crossed the celestial equator and moved north. As we transitioned from winter to spring we were met with a balance between light and dark, with exactly 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night. I love this time of the year as nights become shorter and daylight longer.

Spring is thought to be a time of rebirth, rejuvenation, renewal. A time of new life and new beginnings. This can be taken literally as both plants begin to grow and animals are born, or figuratively as a time of change and development within ourselves. It is said to be a time of awakening. A time when what we think, feel, and do is magnified. I think Seane Corn said it beautifully the other day, "Everything changes. This is the beauty and devastation of being alive. Light becomes dark, birth becomes death, attachment becomes loss, and on and on. Surrender to the flow, accept the inevitability of change and know you are part of the great mystery of being that is life. For this spring equinox embrace change and growth and release all that no longer serves your light."

For me it is a time to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. To take a holistic approach and evaluate what is working and what is not in all aspects of my life. To contemplate what areas need adjusting or could benefit from some change. Do I still want what I wanted last year at this time? Is my 10 year plan the same? Am I still working towards those bigger goals? Are my motivations and actions in line with my values? 

Spring definitely awakens my spirit. I'm not sure if it is that increase in vitamin D from the sun, the extra daylight to get things accomplished, or just the concept of this time being that of rebirth and renewal. But whatever it is, as Seane suggested, I embrace it whole heartedly as I connect deeper with myself and that which I value.

5 morning rituals to jumpstart the day

I began my job at CSUMB almost two years ago. Before that I was taking night classes and interning a couple days a week. Because of my previous schedule I would sleep in and start the morning off at a slow pace. Nowadays, with a full time job I have felt rushed in the mornings. My head is scattered as I plan out what to eat, wear, how to do my hair, and somehow manage to not be (too) late for work. I craved long moments of lingering over coffee with my hubby while chatting about life. I thought I could never get back to that during the weekdays. I then listened to this Tim Ferriss podcast about his five morning rituals. That inspired me to change some of my habits around and carve out an hour each morning to attend to that which matters most to me. I wake up a little earlier, keep the phone turned screen down, and plan out my outfits the night before. 

Something that stuck with me from Tim's podcast was the notion of, "If I win the morning then I win the day". I think that is so true. If I can start the morning with a clear mind, a healthy meal, and a smile on my face, my day will go so much smoother. There is a lot of uncertainty in life and to be able to have control over specific moments in the day brings me a sense of calm and balance.

There can be added stress when I think I absolutely have to hit all of these activities in order to have a good day. Instead, I try to accomplish at least 3 out of the 5. If I can do just that I know I will have a more positive outlook on the day ahead. Below I have compiled my 5 morning rituals. 

  1. Make the bed. I am a highly visual person who needs her house to be in order. A messy house to me equals added stress. When I can spend a couple minutes smoothing out the sheets and making my bed, I feel a sense of calm and order rush over me. It is something I can control that adds beauty into my life. 
  2. Meditate for 10 - 20 minutes. This varies depending on the day but a minimum of 10 minutes in the morning helps me to center myself and energize my body. I wrote a whole post on just this topic, which you can find here.
  3. Laying on the Dharma Yoga Wheel. I actually try to fit this in for 3-5 minutes every morning and evening. The wheel is designed to match the contours of the spine and help with back bending. It helps me to release any tension or tightness in the back and shoulders. To be honest it just feels so good to lay on, especially after a bad nights sleep or a long day in the office!
  4. A tea or coffee moment. Perkin and I will have either a loose leaf tea or coffee. A great coffee recipe using the Chemex can be found here. This is my favorite part of the morning. We will sit for at least 15 minutes and just chat about the day ahead or life in general with NPR playing in the background. 
  5. Walk the dog. We will either head to the beach or walk around Carmel-by-the-Sea checking out all the cute homes, each different from the next. We aim for at least a 30 minute walk but that depends on how much time we have before needing to head to work. I feel so awake and alive after a walk in the crisp morning air. This is a simple pleasure of ours. 

Other ideas could be writing in a journal, practicing yoga, stretching, checking in with a friend, or taking a bath. What does your morning routine look like? Anything you would like to add or change? 

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