Tag Archives: self-care

5 tips for your best bath ever

About a year ago, I moved into an apartment in a great location, with updated appliances and lovely neighbors.

The *only* outstanding issue is that there’s no bathtub. This was almost a deal breaker, but I’ve managed somehow over the last 10 months to go without.

However, any chance I get to use a bath when I’m staying at a hotel or friend’s house, you’d better believe I take the time to soak for awhile.

There really isn’t anything like a good bath, and we’re going to talk about a few ways to make your next soak in the tub something to sing about.

1. Mood Lighting

Please don’t just flip on the light switch and hop on in. Bath time means taking time to relax, so skip any kind of overhead light and light some candles.

igw0092.t5
Indigo Wild’s Lavender Zum Glow candle

Aim for some aromatherapy and try scented candles: lavender aromas help soothe anxiety and promote relaxation. Indigo Wild’s Zum Glow candle has a fresh and floral aroma, perfect for a stress-free evening.

If you don’t have scented candles, low lighting or unscented candles from your grocery store work, too. The key here is no harsh lighting and a calm environment.

2. Music

Music can greatly impact your overall mood and energy, and it’s a great way to set the tone for a relaxing bath. I have a go-to playlist that I use, but music services like Pandora and Spotify offer playlists based on occasion/atmosphere.

The physiological effects of music have been researched extensively. “Dr. Frank Lipman, founder and director of Eleven-Eleven Wellness Center in New York City and a pioneer in integrative and functional medicine, recommends musical time-outs as a way to calm your body and brain with soothing rhythms and to slow down your heart rate and help you breathe easier.”

Check out the Cool, Calm, and Collected playlist on Spotify for a mix of mellow and modern tunes as your background music:

3. Recipe for Relaxation

There are a ton of choices out there for bath “additives.” From bath salts to oils to bath bombs and bubbles — these can take a bath from boring to totally blissful. Add to your water while you fill up the tub and soak with your favorite aroma surrounding you.

hdn0071.t1
Rose and Sandalwood Fizzy Bath Bomb from Hugo Naturals

The Rose and Sandalwood Bath Bomb from Hugo Naturals fizzes pleasantly when it’s in the water, and you’ll come out of your bath smelling fantastic.

Bath time is also ideal for an overall body scrub, to slough away dead skin and help moisturize it. Take an extra five minutes and apply the scrub after you’ve soaked for a bit — you’ll come out feeling like a whole new person.

4. Hair and Face Pampering

Since you’re taking the extra time, a long bath soak is a great opportunity for a weekly face mask or deep conditioning treatment.

pac0226.t1
Pacifica’s Vital Immersion Deep Hydration Mask

The warm water helps to relax your skin and loosen any oils or dirt in your skin and pores — perfect for a deep (but not harsh) clean.

Pacifica’s Vital Immersion Deep Hydration Mask delivers lipids and antioxidants to your face, making this mask from Pacifica your secret weapon for damaged, dry skin.

5. A Fantastic Follow-up

Be sure to finish off your bath experience by toweling off lightly (no need to rub the skin vigorously – just pat yourself dry) and applying a nutrient-rich moisturizer.

bgr0041.t1Lotions are typically water-based, so your best best for super soft skin is a body butter.

Body butters and balms are perfect after a bath – they’ll help to retain all of the moisture after you’ve soaked for a while. Badger’s Cocoa Butter Body Balm is an excellent source of vitamins and nutrients, and I find that it has no trouble keeping my dry skin soft for hours afterward.

 

Do you have a go-to routine for bath time? Feel free to share below!

 

 

5 Reasons to Start a Meditation Practice Today

We can all take some time to slow down and breathe, as we’ve suggested a few times here on the Good Life blog.

We tend to glorify the idea of staying busy and being on-the-go.

watch steering wheelResearch and science, however, are suggesting that the levels of stress and anxiety that we consider “normal” can have some pretty unwanted and sometimes dangerous long term effects.

“In primary care, stress-related illnesses are known drivers of healthcare resource utilization in the US,” states a recent study. “Healthcare expenditures attributable to stress-related disorders, such as, depression and anxiety, were over 80 billion dollars/year in 2012.”

Meditation isn’t a cure-all for our health issues, but there is growing evidence that dedicating more time to mindfulness and relaxation can make significant improvements in overall well-being.

1. Lower blood pressure

The American Heart Association recently wrote that a regular meditation practice can lead to lower blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease.

“Meditation provides a technique for reducing stress,” says Dr. Richard A. Stein, professor of medicine and director of the exercise and nutrition program at New York University’s Center for Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease.

When we experience stress, adrenaline is released — it’s our body’s natural alarm system, when we’re provoked in some way. You might know this as the “fight or flight” response.

Living in this constant state of alarm, however, can have adverse effects.

“When we were cavemen, that adrenaline helped us be ready if a tiger was going to attack,” Dr. Stein said. “Today, all the tigers are in our heads.”

Making the time to meditate regularly has shown promising results for those suffering with cardiovascular issues.

In a 2012 study, “African-Americans with heart disease who practiced Transcendental Meditation regularly were 48 percent less likely to have a heart attack or stroke or die compared with African-Americans who attended a health education class over more than five years.”

2. Better memory

In a recent study at University of California, Santa Barbara, participants who underwent a two-week mindfulness course showed improvement in their reading comprehension and their “working memory capacity.”

asian-863318_640“Improvements in performance following mindfulness training were mediated by reduced mind wandering among participants who were prone to distraction at pretesting,” states the study.

“Our results suggest that cultivating mindfulness is an effective and efficient technique for improving cognitive function, with wide-reaching consequences.”

3. Functional connectivity in the brain

Establishing a meditation practice as a regular part of your routine can actually change how your brain works.

In one study, “participants with more meditation experience exhibited increased connectivity within attentional networks, as well as between attentional regions and medial frontal regions [of the brain]. These neural relationships may be involved in the development of cognitive skills, such as maintaining attention and disengaging from distraction, that are often reported with meditation practice.”

To sum up: practice makes perfect. Training your brain to focus and to avoid getting fully distracted (as one does during meditation) are both skills that can be improved on, and even used outside of a meditation practice.

4. Treatment of depression

A recent research study tested the effects that meditation has on depression, compared with the effects of medication on the condition. The study found that “mindfulness meditation may rival antidepressants in easing the symptoms of depression.”

woman-506120_640“Also relevant for physicians and patients is that there is no known major harm from meditating, and meditation doesn’t come with any known side effects,” said Dr. Madhav Goyal of Johns Hopkins. “One can also practice meditation along with other treatments one is already receiving.”

It’s not entirely clear how meditation helps depression, but studies have shown that a mindfulness practice like meditation reduces activity in both the amygdala (the stress center of the brain), as well as the brain’s “default mode network.”

5. Better grades, happier students (and teachers)

Students at Visitacion Valley Middle School in San Francisco were considered “largely out of control, frequently fighting in the corridors, scrawling graffiti on the walls and cursing their teachers.

studyIn 2007, the school implemented their “Quiet Time” program, and it’s something they’re still practicing today.

Twice a day, students settle into 10 minutes of quiet reflection. A gong sounds, and the students at Visitacion Valley sit still and try to clear their minds. (Yeah, middle school kids. Sitting still.)

Since 2007, other schools in the area have adopted Quiet Time.

“On the California Achievement Test, twice as many students in Quiet Time schools have become proficient in English, compared with students in similar schools where the program doesn’t exist, and the gap is even bigger in math,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

And the program isn’t just helping the students. “Teachers report they’re less emotionally exhausted and more resilient.”

Getting started

Okay, so where do you start, if you’re new to meditation?

We don’t all have to be monks or live in a pastoral setting, in order to practice or benefit from meditation.

lay down“Find what works for you,” says Dr. Stein from NYU. “Maybe it’s just listening to your favorite music while you walk at a moderate pace.”

And thankfully, you don’t need anything but your brain and your breath to meditate. There are a number of mobile apps and video tutorials on meditation, so you might look around to find something that makes sense for your own meditative needs.

I’ve listed a few helpful online guides below, as well.

What other ways do you practice mindfulness? Do you have a meditation practice? Feel free to comment below!

Meditation Resources:

How to Meditate

A Guide to Meditation for the Rest of Us

How to Get Started with Meditation

————————————————————–

Need some relaxing inspiration? Here are a few of our favorite Soap Hope items!

 

Self-Care: The Importance of Taking Care of Number One

(Written by guest author Sarah Galla of The Nourished Seedling.)

I was on empty – diapers, that is.

My youngest was now using the spare diaper I kept hidden in the car – the one only to be used in emergency situations. I had to drop off my oldest at school, get to the store and then get back home to a playdate with friends that were coming over within the hour.

Scrambling out the door, I took a last sip of my water. However, in my haste, it slipped from my hand, shattering all over the floor. As I jumped in surprise, my purse fell off of my shoulder, spilling all over the floor.

After frantically cleaning the glass up, then washing the floor, I stepped on a remaining shard, crying out in pain. Meanwhile, my kiddos were starting to bicker with each other, waiting by the front door, mostly out of a nervous apprehension while their mom was pretty much losing it.

It was nothing huge, but it made me pause.

These little people, whether I like it or not, are picking up on my energy, my anxiety, almost as if my racing thoughts were pouring out of my head and seeping into their little bodies.

It Made Me Pause

black-and-white-person-woman-girlAt this point, I was more upset at myself for letting the little things get the best of me than actually anything related to the mess that lay before me. I was irritable, tired, and, overall, just disappointed in myself because I felt I was failing at life.

I was supposed to do it all, be it all, have it all together. But I wasn’t, and didn’t.

Here I was, the designated grown-up, covered in water, limping with a chard of glass in my foot, contents of my purse (still) all over the floor and tears threatening to fall. Six beautiful big eyes looked back at me, shining of innocence and glaring uncertainty.

This was the moment – my opportune moment. I could continue to be angry, sad, frustrated and wallow in self-pity. Or, I could walk the walk and be the person I wanted my girls to see.

So, I sat – in the middle of the mess. They all looked at me, incredulously. I took them all in my arms and hugged them. And then, with some kid-interpretations here and there, I went on to explain about self-care, and why I was the example of how important it is to care for ourselves.

Why We Put Our Mask On First

We often give and give until we have nothing left to give. We give to our jobs, to our families, to our children, to our friends, but what about to ourselves? Not fancy clothes or expensive material items. No, I’m talking about something much harder and more precious to give – our time and attention. Without self-care, our bodies, our souls wither from the lack of nourishment.

Are we eating right, getting enough sleep, addressing our feelings of anger, sadness, and resentment? Or are we sweeping these underneath the rug, storing them away, promising ourselves we will get to them when we have time?

No one for sure knows what is going on in our heads at any given time. No one for sure knows exactly what is going on in our life at any given time.

However, there is one person that is aware, one person that can change the course or put on the brakes – and that person is us. Often we overlook the importance of how we think and feel, and just keep propelling forward, resolving that we will take time as soon as some ambiguous goal is attained.

However, there is a reason the standing rule of securing our mask before that of anyone else’s is still a standing rule. If we cannot function, how can we expect to help others function? If we start focusing on the desires of everyone and everything outside of ourselves, without regard to our own needs, we lose our bearings, our internal compass that not only guides us, but truly helps us thrive.

Checking In With Ourselves

I was so focused on trying to do all of these tasks and fulfill requests with speed, that I didn’t take the time to check in with myself. I didn’t notice I hadn’t consumed anything but coffee. I didn’t notice I had not taken at least one deep breath since I woke up.

Even more important to me, is that I didn’t notice how my frantic, yet robotic movements, profoundly impacted the feelings of serenity of myself and those around me.

Often times, it takes crippling body aches, emotional breakdowns, or even a great loss to see firsthand the importance of self-care.

However, when we take the time to assess our needs along with our realistic capabilities, and then ensuring these needs are met on a regular basis, we can head off many catastrophes and feelings of despair.

In fact, we become more accountable, more responsible, so not only can others know they can rely on us, we know that we can count on ourselves.

 


SGalla_profile2Sarah Galla, M.S., R.Y.T., is the creator, recipe developer, photographer and writer behind The Nourished Seedling. As a mother of three amazing kiddos, she is an advocate the importance of real food and mindful eating, and that no matter how hard the storm, to always look for the rainbow after the rain. Sarah is also a Soap Hope Ambassador of Hope!

Why your morning routine matters

Over the last few months, I’ve posted about all of the wonderful things we’re doing at Soap Hope — the ingredients we love, the organizations we work with, the team here at Soap Hope.

Fair warning — this post is going to get a little more personal!

Like everyone else, I’m starting to notice the effects of careless choices about my health. Stress hasn’t helped, either, and I’ve had to address some of these issues (insomnia, headaches, etc.) just so that I can function like less of a zombie.

I started seeing an Ayurvedic nutritionist, to discuss my overall health and the choices I’d been making, especially when it comes to eating.

I could write about twenty blogs on Ayurvedic therapy and its holistic approach to health, but today we’ll just focus on one of the aspects of the practice that has made the biggest difference for me already: a morning routine.

My Morning Routine

This last year has been kind of a whirlwind for me — without going into a ton of detail, I found that I’d been burning out. A lot.

Looking at the kind of schedule I’d been keeping, it seems SO OBVIOUS that I’d gotten beyond the point of stressed and scattered, and started to venture into some concerning levels of anxiety.

I knew I needed to work on something, and when I looked at how I was starting my day — forcing myself out of bed, skipping breakfast, rushing into the office and jumping into whatever I had going on — I realized I might start by taking back my mornings for myself.

So when I talked with the nutritionist, I was excited — she didn’t just tell me what kinds of things I needed to eat, but also brought up the importance of a morning routine.

Starting the Day Off Right

From the Ayurvedic Institute:

“A daily routine is absolutely necessary to bring radical change in body, mind, and consciousness. Routine helps to establish balance in one’s constitution. It also regularizes a person’s biological clock, aids digestion, absorption and assimilation, and generates self-esteem, discipline, peace, happiness, and longevity.”

The Institute suggests several habits to adapt when building your morning routine — everything from exercise to water consumption to self massage.

As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, it was a struggle not to adopt ALL of the suggested activities. My therapist suggested working on just a handful of things, so that I’d make my routine something that works for me.

So every morning, I wake somewhere between 6 and 7 AM. I get up and take my dog out, and then I go for at least a mile-long walk.

IMG_6580
Me, on my morning walk.

My morning walk has proven to be such a fulfilling part of my day. I’m getting up and moving, I’m connecting with myself and clearing my brain before I jump into things. I’ve really gotten to enjoy this particular part of my routine.

When I get back home, I drink a glass of water with lemon. It’s refreshing, it’s good for my kidneys, and I like to think it helps wake up my insides.

bgr0045.t1
I use this lovely Sweet Orange massage oil from Badger Balm.

Then I shower, and afterwards, I use a body oil and take the time to give myself a massage. It stimulates my skin and muscles, and it’s another great way to practice self-care.

I go about getting ready, and make sure to sit down and eat my breakfast, instead of just picking it up at a drive-thru or skipping it altogether.

Daily Self-Care and Long-Term Benefits

Stress isn’t just an inconvenience or something that keeps us awake at night. Chronic stress can lead to a number of diseases, weakens the immune system, and can take years off of your life.

According to the APA: “Reducing your stress levels can not only make you feel better right now, but may also protect your health long-term. In one study, researchers examined the association between “positive affect” — feelings like happiness, joy, contentment and enthusiasm — and the development of coronary heart disease over a decade. They found that for every one-point increase in positive affect on a five-point scale, the rate of heart disease dropped by 22 percent.”

By taking the time in my morning to care for and nourish myself, I’m setting the tone for my day. that time for myself is important, and so is my own health and happiness.

Do you have a daily routine? What are some ways that you start your morning off?

4 Ideas for Self-Care That You Can Use Right Now

It’s been a long week, with errands filling up every free moment that you thought you’d had, surprise repairs needed on the car, and a toddler who seems to be sniffling an awful lot lately.

Sound familiar?

All of us get swept up in our daily tasks and minor crises — and it’s easy to fall into that mindset of constantly moving and staying “productive.”

But not catching our breath or slowing down every now and then can lead to some serious burnout. A high level of anxiety leaves our bodies more susceptible to illness and can cause long term complications like heart disease or stroke.

However, setting aside just 20-30 minutes a day for self-care can go a long way.  In fact, studies have shown that taking time to relax or meditate consistently has the potential to reverse negative effects from stress, like high blood pressure.

“We know stress is a contributor to all the major modern killers,” Dr. Charles L. Raison at Emory University points out. “It’s hard to think of an illness in which stress and mood don’t figure,”

So, set down your phone, turn off the TV, and take a little bit of time to do something that will pay off big time. The dishes in the dishwasher can wait.

Need ideas for self-care? Here are a few you can try out right now!

1. Start by breathing.

Deep breathing is one of the easiest and most efficient ways of slowing down your body and stilling your mind.  Even just five minutes of abdominal breathing can help — the goal being to calm the mind by increasing oxygen to the brain (which helps to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system).

person-802090_1280“Breathing techniques help you feel connected to your body—it brings your awareness away from the worries in your head and quiets your mind.”

2. Take a bath.

duck-701147_1280Fill up the tub and hop on in — research has shown that relaxing in a bath on a daily basis can be more effective at reducing anxiety than taking a prescription drug.

If you take a bath before bedtime, chances are you’ll sleep more soundly, too, as “it temporarily raises your body temperature, after which it gradually lowers in the cooler air, cueing your body to feel sleepy. ”

Add in yummy-smelling bath salts or a bath bomb for a luxurious and therapeutic soak!

3. Sing/dance your cares away.

The benefits of listening to music are far reaching, so put together a short playlist of your favorite songs and shake what your mama gave you.

music-791631_1280“Music’s neurological reach, and its historic role in healing and cultural rituals, has led researchers to consider ways music may improve our health and wellbeing,” states a recent article from Huffington Post.

“In particular, researchers have looked for applications in healthcare — for example, helping patients during post-surgery recovery or improving outcomes for people with Alzheimer’s. In some cases, music’s positive impacts on health have been more powerful than medication.”

4. Have a cuppa.

living-room-690174_1280Tea is the second most widely consumed drink in the world, and it’s been around forever.

Green tea is especially popular, perhaps for the positive effects that it has on cardiovascular health. A recent study found that drinking green tea “significantly lowered the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. (31% lower risk in women, and 22% lower risk in men.) The risk of dying from stroke was even lower: 62% lower in women and 42% lower in men.”

Test out different varieties of tea and pour yourself a cup.

After all, you’re worth it.

 

Here are a few products from Soap Hope you might consider for your self-care routine.