Plants that Clean the Indoor Air

I LOVE a statistic! Maybe because most of the time they totally take me by surprise, and who doesn’t love surprises?!? A recent statistic that caught my attention is that the average American spends 90% of their time indoors. Yes, there are people who work in the great outdoors and benefit from all that fresh air, but most people go from their home to work and back. Given all this “indoor” time, it is of vital importance that the air in our homes, schools and offices be of good quality. Sadly, this is not always the case and indoor air pollutants have been ranked among the Top 5 environmental risks to public health! This is serious!! Poor air quality can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, ear nose and eye issues and can lead to various health issues including asthma, allergies and inflammation. Inflammation in the body is a risk factor for many diseases. Everything from the building materials used, the glue that holds things together, the furniture, rugs and upholstery, to the cleaning products we use can all give off a variety of toxins including formaldehyde – yuk! Other contaminants like pollen, bacteria and mold also find their way in. Don’t panic – there’s a simple, affordable solution to the problem. In the late 1980’s NASA scientists conducted a study to find ways to improve air quality and what they discovered is that houseplants do the job perfectly! Don’t you just love when the solution is a simple one! The plants filter out the toxins so we can breathe in good, clean, healthy air. 6 Houseplants that purify the air – aah!!

Aloe Vera

IMG_4914 REMOVES: Formaldehyde, Benzene This succulent loves a sunny spot and requires little water. It’s ideal for those who really want low maintenance and a plant they can forget about and find it alive when they do remember! It might be small but it is a powerful air filter. We typically think of aloe for it’s precious gel which is known for healing burns and cuts but it does so much more!

Spider Plant

Wonderful information for care and growing! http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/houseplants/spider-plant/spider-plant-care-gardening-tips-for-spider-plants.htm REMOVES: Formaldehyde, Xylene The spider plant is one of the easiest to grow and a great choice for those who’ve never grown plants or tend to forget they have plants. They thrive in indirect sunlight and before you know it, will produce flowers that turn into baby spider plants (spiderettes), and you’ll have enough for every room in the house.

Snake Plant (Mother-in-Law’s Tongue)

IMG_4964 REMOVES: Formaldehyde, Benzene, Trichloroethylene, Xylene This is a popular plant in offices, hotels and restaurants because they’re attractive, easy to care for, like dry soil (excellent for those who don’t like to water plants often or forget) and need little sunlight. I can vouch for this as a low-maintenance plant and have two that seem to have doubled in size in just two years.

Peace Lily

REMOVES: Formaldehyde, Ammonia, Benzene, Trichloroethylene The pretty peace lily will work hard to improve your air quality. They prefer a shady spot and moist soil to thrive. More fabulous info: http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/houseplants/peace-lily/peace-lily-plants.htm NOTE: Toxic to pets and young children, so keep out of reach or choose an alternative.

Boston Fern

REMOVES: Formaldehyde, Xylene The Boston fern is a star when it comes to removing formaldehyde, however, it can be tricky to maintain. They like a cool location with high humidity and indirect light. Depending on the humidity levels in your home or office you may need to mist them daily. More information: http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/houseplants/boston-fern/boston-fern-care.htm 

English Ivy

REMOVES: Formaldehyde, Benzene, Reduces airborne fecal matter Outdoors, this plant can wreak havoc on the exterior of your home, but indoors it’s a highly effective air cleaner. For those with pets, English ivy has been shown to reduce the amount of airborne fecal matter (an icky thought, I know…however, it’s nice to know there’s a solution!). It likes part sun and part shade, so you might have to experiment to find the perfect spot for it. For more information: http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/houseplants/ivy/indoor-ivy-care.htm I have to admit, that I used to be very “anti” indoor plants. I never seemed to be able to keep them healthy and happy and so they inevitably ended up looking sad and being thrown away :( It was about two years ago that I first read about all the amazing things that plants could do for our indoor air and I decided to try to add them back into my life. I can now say that I LOVE my plants. The key for me was to find ones that a) I love stylistically and b) ones that are a wee bit forgiving of a perfect watering schedule. Success! I now have many beautiful, thriving plants in every room in the house. I particularly LOVE aloe vera and have them in every room! So, if you’re like me and think you don’t like plants or you can’t keep them alive, I’m going to encourage you to give it a try. Start small. Buy (or get a cutting from a friend) of just one! It’s a simple, inexpensive way to improve the health of your home or workplace, remove toxins and improve your concentration! If they’re good enough for NASA, they’re good enough for me!   email_signoff1 Formaldehyde is a colorless strong smelling gas used in making building materials and household items. It is used in pressed wood products like particleboard, plywood and fiberboard. It’s also found in glues and adhesives, permanent press fabrics and paper product coatings Benzene is a chemical that is colorless or light yellow liquid at room temperature. OUTDOOR sources of benzene would be from gas stations, motor vehicle exhausts, tobacco smoke, and industrial emissions. INDOORS it comes from products containing benzene such as glues, paints, furniture wax, and detergents. A major source of benzene is tobacco smoke. Xylene is a chemical product that is colorless but with a distinct odor and is found in many household and industrial items. Products that contain xylene include paint, varnishes, fingernail polish, adhesives, rubber cement and gasoline. Ammonia is one of the most widely produced chemicals in the US. It is colorless with a sharp odor. The majority of the ammonia produced in industry is used in agriculture as fertilizer. It is also used as a refrigerant gas, to manufacture plastics, explosives, fabrics, pesticides, dyes and other chemicals. It can be found in many household cleaners. Trichloroethylene is a colorless volatile liquid with a sweet odor. Trichloroethylene is used in consumer products such as paint removers/strippers, adhesives, spot removers, dry cleaning fluids (and dry cleaned clothes) and rug cleaning fluids.

Buckle Up!

Alison_Drake_quote_card_feel_the_fear A New Year! As I head into this brand new year, my mind is full of thoughts and questions about the year that lies ahead of me. Thinking about it makes me both excited and a wee bit terrified all at the same time! Looking back on my life, there have been years that stand out as pivotal, significant years. I didn’t necessarily know going into them that they would be so important, but by the end it was clear that they were literally “life-changing”. I seem to be having more of them these days. Last year, 2015 was an unexpectedly big year which culminated in my “Cups of Prevention” project and starting my new blog.

Here we go!

However, as I enter 2016, I know this is going to be a HUGE year for me. I’m not sure I’ve started many years actually “knowing” this in advance?! I feel like I’m entering a whole new phase of my life as I embark on my new Masters program. I will be learning new things, meeting new people, spending time in a different place…and these are just the obvious things I can predict. I have a sense that along with these there will be many other new things in my future this year. This is both an exhilarating and scary thought!

Ready, Steady, Go!

Several people have asked me if I feel ready. From a practical standpoint, I’m ready. I’ve registered for my classes, I have my schedule and I have my books. More than this though, I’m ready to get started on what feels like the beginning of a journey towards fulfilling my true life’s purpose. I’ve wondered over the years, what my true purpose in life is, and used to try to make it fit into something I was doing, so as I could make sense of it and feel like maybe I had actually found it. I never did truly find it, until now. It’s been an interesting, winding road to this place, but I am so grateful to have finally reached this point.

Starting Point.

Of course, as much as I feel that I have finally “arrived” at my life’s purpose, I’m also more than aware that this is really just the beginning. Wheee! I trust that all will be revealed to me as time goes on. I’m trying not to focus too far ahead or feel like I have to have all the answers right now. I am going to allow the next 2 years while I’m in this program to reveal these answers to me and point me in the right direction.
“If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking.” -Buddhist Proverb

Am I nervous?

Yes! I can’t help but think that everyone else in my class will somehow be further ahead than me already. That they will already have a grasp on Organic Chemistry (just the title alone freaks me out a bit). I’m wondering if I’ll be the oldest person in my class…and by how much? Rationally I know these things don’t matter and I know that once I get there these wee worries will dissolve. Roll on January 15th!
“You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.” -Brian Tracy
So as my amazing husband Randall always says when something big is about to happen…”Buckle Up!” So “buckle up” with me and have an epic 2016!! IMG_4026 What does the new year hold for you? Are you trying something new? Embarking on a new project, hobby or career? I’d love to hear what your hopes and dreams for the year are. Please share in the comments. email_signoff1  

Just Breathe

breath We hear and see phrases like these all the time these days: "Just Breathe." "Breath is Life." "Take a deep breathe." "Catch your breath" But, what do they really mean by breathe? Surely, I AM breathing?! Of course I’m breathing, or I would not be alive.

Breathing: we simply can’t live without it!

The truth is, most of us are not breathing effectively. Notice your breathing right now. Is anything moving? If not, then chances are your breathing is shallow. Deep breathing should be an essential part of everyday life. It can help you to feel happier, give you more energy and even make you more productive. Deep breathing is probably best known for stress relief, but this #DailyMeasure has many other amazing health benefits, and I’ve highlighted some of my favorites for you.

Breathing Detoxifies and Releases Toxins

The body is designed to release 70% of its toxins through breathing. I know – I was surprised too! You know I’m a huge fan of detoxing the body to keep it healthy and happy, so this is reason enough for me breathe deeply! If you don’t release these toxins through your breath, other systems in the body have to work overtime to help out, which can eventually lead to illness.

Improved Oxygen Delivery

Deep breathing removes the carbon dioxide from your blood and floods it with oxygen – ah! Your cells will thank you! This increases the functionality of every system in your body.

Deep Breathing Makes You Calmer

Deep breathing naturally relaxes the body and the mind. We all have times in our day when stress creeps up on us and we know that stress is at the core of most diseases, so finding a simple way to manage stress is key. When we feel stressed our breathing tends to become short and shallow. When we breathe shallowly our body doesn’t receive as much oxygen as it needs and this constricts our muscles. We’ve probably all had that feeling of tightness in our body when we’re stressed or angry. This response triggers the sympathetic nervous system to release cortisol and adrenaline into the body, fueling the response again. The parasympathetic nervous system is the antidote to this and breath is the fastest way for these two systems to communicate. Deep breathing will quickly stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, to help you relax. So the next time you feel stressed, anxious or angry…take a few deep breaths and think about breathing in “the good” and breathing out “the bad”.

Breathing Relieves Pain

When we anticipate or feel pain our natural reaction tends to be to hold our breath. This is the absolute opposite of what we should be doing. Studies show that breathing into your pain actually helps to ease it. Deep breathing releases endorphins, which improves feelings of well-being and provides pain relief. Yay!

Deep Breathing Helps to Regulate Weight

Deep breathing can help whether you are overweight or underweight. If you are underweight, the extra oxygen feeds the cells and tissues. If you are overweight, the extra oxygen in the body will help to burn up excess fat more efficiently. When we are stressed (and most of us are at some point in the day) your body burns glycogen instead of fat. However, when you practice deep breathing and engage the relaxation response, this encourages the body to burn fat instead. Other Benefits of Deep Breathing
  • Elevates your mood
  • Helps you sleep
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Improves posture
  • Increases energy
  • Improves digestion
  • Strengthens lungs
  • Clear thinking & improved concentration
We all have to breathe, so why not make the most of it and reap these benefits.

Keep it simple

It doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming. It can be as simple as spending some time each day consciously breathing slowly and rhythmically. Draw your breath deep into your lungs and imagine and feel them expanding. When you’re breathing is shallow you’re only using a small portion of your lungs. Breathing deep into the lungs drives more oxygen into the body, which cleanses the blood and in turn benefits your entire body. You can practice this anytime, anywhere. Driving, sitting at your desk or computer or lying in bed at night.

Deep Breathing

Find 5-10 minutes once or twice a day to practice Deep Breathing. I can hear you all now, saying this is just one more thing you don’t have time for :) I totally get it. This is the one thing I had the hardest time with, and yet I find it incredibly beneficial, and I know you will too! There are several different breathing techniques, but I’m going to share just one simple version.

Overview

In order to breathe properly, you need to breathe deeply into your abdomen not just your chest. Proper breathing should be deep, slow and rhythmic, and through the nose, not the mouth. Are you sitting comfortably?
  • Find a comfortable, quiet place to sit or lie down
  • Take a moment to relax your muscles. Find where there’s tension in your body and release it.
  • Inhale through your nose, expanding your diaphragm (belly) then fill your lungs, counting to 5
  • Hold and count to 3. Feel your cells filled with golden, healing light.
  • Exhale fully through your mouth, emptying your lungs completely. Again counting to 5. As you exhale release tension from your muscles.
  • Continue this pattern for 5-10 minutes. You may need to build up this time. If you can only start with 2 or 3 minutes, that’s OK. It is better to do it for a shorter time than not at all. Doing this twice a day is ideal.
  • Concentrate on your breathing and counting, which will give your mind a much-needed break.
I can honestly say that since I have been practicing breathing more regularly, I find myself calmer and much more able to roll with life. The past couple of days are a perfect example. (If you’re short on time, you’ve read the important information already and now I’m just sharing a story of how I’ve applied breathing in my own life.) The quick-ish version is that upon returning home travel weary at 9 p.m. Saturday night after our recent trip to Portugal, just as we were getting into bed for some much needed sleep our house alarm went off. The message said “Gas Detected”. Eek! I was freaked out!! Randall checked what he could and said he thought it was an error. Hmm, I was not happy with that answer, thinking we might die in our sleep. I was all set to sit up all night, when the cavalry appeared. Within 15 minutes, what seemed like the entire White Stone Volunteer Fire Department were banging on the door. WOW – I was so impressed! In our sleepiness, it didn’t even occur to us that the alarm company might send the Fire Department! Although, honestly, I was relieved and happy to see them, although embarrassed for them to see me in my fluffy robe and glasses. They actually had equipment to check for a gas leak (unlike Randall’s hunch) and they reported all was well, but they would turn off the gas till we could have it checked. After all this excitement, I finally got into bed, practiced my deep breathing and drifted off. Sunday night we’re fast asleep and at 2:30 a.m. the alarm goes off again. Lights on, phone call to the alarm company to save the Fire Dept. another visit…none of this is helping with my lack of sleep or jetlag?! However, I get back into bed and practice my deep breathing and back to sleep I go. Today, we had the gas company, the alarm company and the internet service company all at the house…oh, did I forget to mention the internet was down? Grrr! There was so much going on and all I wanted to do was write my blog post. I sat in my office and breathed. I blocked out the comings and goings and before I knew it, I was feeling calm and rolling with all the visitors of the day. There would have been a time in my life when the events of the past couple of days would have me on edge and stressed, but not anymore! Please give it a try! I know you will feel better for it! Do you have a regular breath practice? What benefits have you experienced? If you’re new to a breath practice, please let me know what you think and how you feel! email_signoff1

Best Gift Ever!

best_gift If you had told me that the best gift I would ever receive in my life would be an old-fashioned bicycle horn, I would have thought you were crazy! I received this perfect gift three years ago. It arrived in a care package from my sister and brother-in-law, designed to cheer me up as I prepared for my scheduled bilateral mastectomy. Of all the lovely, thoughtful, heartfelt gifts I received during that time, none could beat this horn.

Here James

Those early days after surgery when my body needed rest and sleep, my husband would sneak out of the bedroom early taking our Scottie dog Dolley with him, leaving me to rest and repair. When I would finally wake, I would reach for my horn (strategically placed close to me, as reaching wasn’t easy after surgery) and toot the horn until Randall and Dolley showed up. I enjoyed this SO much!! It made me smile just squeezing the soft bubble of the horn, and of course I loved that it brought the love of my life to my side!

This would go on for some time.

The surprising thing is, it would go on longer than I expected. I am constantly amazed at how the physical body can heal. I watched and documented in photographs, my entire healing process and there would be visible difference from day to day. I was in awe of my body for all that it was doing. The more surprising part for me was that all this healing and mending takes energy and I was obviously giving a lot of that up to this process. This meant that I slept a lot! This also meant that my horn became my best friend when I woke. Now, as time went on, sure I could have popped out of bed on my own and gone downstairs to find my husband…but that’s not nearly as fun as tooting a horn and having him lovingly appear!

Music to my ears

Never once did I hear Randall complain about the noise. He just kept showing up, cheery as ever. He would plump up my pillows and bring me a lovely cup of tea and this was my life for a surprising length of time.

Never could say goodbye

Three years later, and this horn still sits by my bed and I still use it on occasion…maybe when I need a wee lie-in on a Sunday morning to recharge. Mostly, I just love the comfort of having it there and all that it now symbolizes to me. So yes, as unlikely as it may seem, this horn was the “best gift ever” and if you should ever know anyone going through a similar experience, I would highly recommend it as a thoughtful, powerful and darned practical gift! Toot toot! email_signoff1  

Detox Your Skin by Dry Brushing: Get Your Glow On!

Dry_Brushing Get your glow on with this simple, quick, feel-good Daily Measure! Dry skin brushing will help you achieve softer, smoother skin, while also helping to cleanse the body – inside and out.

Give your body a helping hand.

Your skin is the largest organ in the body and is an organ of elimination. One third of your body’s toxins are excreted through the skin, and dry brushing helps to unclog pores so your body can remove these toxins more efficiently.

The Benefits of Dry Brushing

Softer, Smoother Skin with Improved Texture Dry skin brushing exfoliates your skin, removing dead dry skin (and encourages new cell renewal), clears clogged pores and allows your skin to breathe! Practicing dry brushing regularly will leave your skin looking clear and feeling soft, smooth and supple. It also prepares your skin to receive more nutrients. Stimulates Lymphatic Drainage Your lymphatic system is responsible for eliminating cellular waste from your body. Did you know there are hundreds of miles of lymphatic tubules in your body, which is responsible for collecting waste from your tissues and transporting it to your blood for elimination? This process is what’s referred to as Lymphatic Drainage. When your lymph system isn’t working properly, waste and toxins can build up and make you sick, and worse yet, can lead to inflammation and disease. Dry brushing helps stimulate the lymphatic system and help the body with this vital detoxification. Improves Circulation Dry brushing increases circulation to your skin, which encourages the elimination of metabolic waste. Reduces the Appearance of Cellulite Cellulite is simply toxic material that has accumulated in your fat cells. Dry skin brushing may help to soften hard fat deposits below the skin while distributing fat deposits more evenly. Dry brushing breaks down those toxins, allowing them to be removed from your body and therefore improving the appearance of cellulite.

The Basics

DSC_0330The brush. You’ll need a brush with all natural bristles (no toxic synthetic versions allowed). Choose one with firm (but not hard) bristles. A brush with a long handle will help you reach all areas of your body. It can be tricky to brush your back if your brush doesn’t have a handle, unless of course you’re the super flexible person in your yoga class! When? Ideally you should dry brush in the morning right before you shower. You’ll find this practice quite invigorating and energizing, so it’s a perfect way to jump-start your day! How Often? In an ideal world (which we know it’s not :) ) you’d dry brush everyday. Some people even recommend twice a day! I’m all about doing it as often as you can. If you can only squeeze it in a few times a week, it is still well worth doing and you’re still benefiting your body. Caution When starting out don’t brush too hard or too much in one area. Get used to the feeling, and how your skin reacts before you get carried away :) Skin should be stimulated but not irritated. A little pink is fine! If you have a skin condition such as eczema or psoriasis be cautious. Avoid any areas of broken skin and varicose veins. Do not Dry Brush your face unless you have a special separate brush for this purpose only. Brush Care Wash your brush with warm soapy water once a week and allow it to dry thoroughly before your next session.

Let’s DO this!!

  • Get naked
  • Stand in the shower or tub so as to contain the dead skin cells
  • With brush in hand, start on the soles of your feet and brush in gentle, circular strokes. Continue with long sweeping strokes up towards your knees. Circular strokes on the knees, and again long sweeping strokes up the thighs.
  • Brush multiple times, overlapping as you go.
  • If you’re working on cellulite, you might want to give a little extra time and love to the thighs and buttocks and throw in some good circular motion there too.
  • Brush the stomach in a gentle circular motion.
  • Move up the chest towards the neck (be super gentle with the delicate breast tissue)
  • Use long upward strokes on the back and short downward strokes on your shoulders
  • Move to the fingers and work up the arms in the same sweeping fashion.
  • Shower
  • Apply a moisturizer. These days, I am loving body oils. Argan oil and coconut oil are great. If your skin is extra dry, apply a lotion after the oil.

Tips

DSC_0314 Don’t get too caught up in whether you’re dry brushing perfectly! A good general guideline is to brush towards your heart, which is best for circulation and the lymphatic system. Do what feels right to you! Have some fun with it and make it your own. You can’t mess it up! You can spend 2 minutes or 20 minutes depending on the time you have available. If you only have time for a quick once over, that’s fine. Maybe on a Sunday morning you’ll indulge and take 15 minutes! It’s all good! Don’t dry brush at night, as it can be stimulating and give you energy (not what you want when you’re trying to fall asleep) but ideal when you want to wake up in the morning! This is a simple daily measure that you can add to your morning routine just like brushing your teeth and brushing your hair…now you can add in brushing your skin! It just feels SO good and your body will thank you!! Do you already Dry Brush? What benefits have you noticed? Are you going to give it a try? Please share your results in the comments, we’d love to hear! IMG_3082

Shattered but Not Broken

shattered Today the unthinkable happened to me. I dropped a mirror and it shattered!! I gasped as I looked at it on the floor and of course my first thought went immediately to the superstition “that’ll be 7 years of bad luck”. A few years ago I would have totally bought into this, but not today! I quickly regrouped, picked the mirror off the floor and told it “You don’t have power over me”. It felt good to look defiantly at the cracks and see things differently. My next thought was, “where’s a ladder? I need to walk under one”! I used to be the queen of superstition. It’s so interesting how this has shifted and I didn’t even really notice it happen, until I was confronted by this incident.

When did this happen? Why did this happen? How did this happen?

I can only imagine that the past three-ish years of my life are responsible for many changes in me, some of which I’m only just finding out about. I have dealt with much worse than a shattered mirror and I’ve proven to myself that I cannot be broken. No superstition can scare me or control me. I have proven to myself that I’m in charge of my life, my health, my destiny. I am not a victim and I’m certainly not a victim to an old wives tale.

Damn, I’m feeling bold and powerful!

As small and silly of a thing as this seems, it’s just another marker in the progress I’ve made. I feel like my life has taken on a whole new dimension. I wake up everyday excited and ready to work on my passions; nutrition, prevention, health…and of course, my blog!

I am always looking forward.

And I have SO much to look forward to. I can hardly wait to begin my new Masters in Nutrition program in January. The very thought of all I can learn and the potential good I can then do with that information, makes me positively giddy. I was thinking just the other day, about the fact that prior to this blog, I’ve never really written before. I’m all too aware of the fact that I’m not “technically” a great writer and will never be classified as a “writer” as such. However, I’m perfectly OK with that because my desire was never to be a “writer” but a “communicator”. I see those things very differently. My goal is not to write the next great American novel, but to learn all that I can about health and nutrition and in turn pass this information on to others, in the simplest, most appealing way possible. So, I thank my broken mirror for yet another good reminder of the new, powerful life that I have. One that I’m grateful for everyday. It was a long, windy, bumpy road to this place but I don’t regret any of it. I am who I am because of every crack I crossed and all those cracks have brought me to a place of feeling whole. Are you superstitious? How does it affect your life? Would you like to try to leave those superstitious thoughts behind you and join me in my new found freedom? Please share, we’d love to hear. email_signoff1