By Donna K. Kelly
When you see a dandelion, do you think, “oh no, a weed?” Weed is a term we use to label plants we have decided are undesirable. Another definition is a plant we have not yet found the virtues of or have forgotten its value. Do you believe that nature would spend the energy and resources to evolve a plant that was not useful?
Dandelions are food. People used to forage dandelions in the spring for their nutritious greens, blossoms, and harvest their roots in the fall. Today, you would only want to pick dandelions if you were certain they were never sprayed with chemicals or herbicides. I harvest dandelions from our garden and use the greens in salads. You can find recipes that use dandelions sautéed, in salads, and jellies. The blossoms can be used for making syrup and cookies. The root can be dried and used for teas.
Before refrigeration and advances in transportation, people had to rely on their local environment to sustain them. Shipping was by boat and by horse and wagon. People may have more easily understood the importance of protecting their environment so that the plants and animals could thrive.
Bees will thank you for making peace with a few dandelions as they look for pollen. More bees mean more food since we need bees to pollinate our plants that give us fruits and vegetables.
The hardy root of the dandelion breaks up the heavy clay soils and allows oxygen to get to roots and the soil’s bacteria. That reduces the need to aerate that lawn.
The bees and insects need diversity in their diet just as we do. Lawns are the second or third largest monoculture in the United States. Our green lawns require water, petroleum-based fertilizers, and pesticide and herbicide to keep that green appearance. But what is the cost to our environment of a weed-free lawn?
More biodiversity everywhere is what the earth and her bees, insects, birds, and wildlife are crying for. Are we willing to dedicate part of our lawn to allow more biodiversity into our lives with appreciation and thankfulness?
We are a part of the web of life. All life is connected.
By Donna K. Kelly
Joy is a pillar for good health. Do you allow yourself to experience joy every day? Does joy truly help us to stay healthy? Do you even know what brings you joy or happiness? I hope your answer to each of those questions was yes.
We may now have to opportunity of time to explore these questions in a new way. We may learn joyous opportunities we took for granted in the past. These might be as simple as sitting in a café and enjoying a cup of coffee or tea. We may miss hanging out with friends in our favorite restaurant. We may be missing attending lectures, going to the library. The list can truly to on and on as we are given the chance of a lifetime to experience the joy of life in an entirely new way due to our mandatory stay at home and social distancing orders. Now just a simple free walk outside and seeing other people at a distance can be comforting. Being outside with the sun and blue sky is rejuvenating and brings joy.
Our immune system is the front line for fighting any infection, viral or bacterial. Of course, we know COVID-19 is a virus which we want to fight. So how does joy help us to keep our immune system optimal?
Our nervous system has two pathways. One is the sympathetic pathway, which is our fight or flight system. It is important when we are under stress or danger. This fight or flight system helps us to stay alive from injury. It helps our blood to clot more quickly and constricts our blood vessels, so we don’t bleed to death. Longterm, one may see how this may raise blood pressure.
More importantly for dealing with COVID-19, stress decreases the optimal functional of our immune system, which requires a lot of energy for the body to maintain. If our bodies sense danger, they prioritize energy use on processes that enhance short term survival. Stress, whatever the form, activates our body’s fight or flight system, which does not know the difference between the proverbial tiger bite, the common cold, or COVID-19.
The balance of our fight or flight system is our parasympathetic system. It is our rest, digest and repair system. We would be well served if we lived most of our day in this state. Here our body may more easily digest our food to absorb the life-supporting nutrients of our food. Our heart is at rest and pumping more slowly. Our blood vessels are not constricted. Experiencing joy during the day may allow us to more easily drop to sleep at night, which is also critical for our health.
Both paths of our autonomic nervous system are important for health. We would like to easily shift from one system into the other. In our hectic world, we rarely allow ourselves to be at rest. People may experience mental and emotional stressors. But we also face environmental stressors, like water and air pollution, nutrient deficiencies, injuries and of course infection from virus and bacteria.
Joy may be a path to allow us to tip our body back toward the rest, digest and repair mode. Repair helps us to overcome sickness and injuries. As a bonus, it may help us to age more successfully.
Joy and happiness help us to be more optimistic. There are measurable changes in the body when we allow ourselves to experience joy. We have a decrease in cortisol (our stress hormone) and increases in endorphins, which help us to feel less pain. With less stress, our body feels safe and more easily shifts functions to long term survival; therefore, our immune system is given the energy it needs to functional optimally. Think, fighting infection. Our mood may be lighter because there are increases in serotonin (the happiness neurotransmitter) and oxytocin (the connection hormone). There is an increase in Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor (BDNF), which helps us to grow new neurons in our brain to protect our memory. We dilate our blood vessels and increase our lung capacity which helps to send more oxygen throughout our body. Laughter may force us to breathe more deeply. Just breathing deeper stimulates the vagus nerve, which runs through the entire body to let all the body’s systems know to rest, digest, and repair.
How can we bring more joy into our lives? There are comedy clubs, funny movies and books, and even laughter yoga. I am finding many humorous websites for jokes helpful. We would like gentle humor, not humor at the expense of another. You may want to google Christian jokes, Reader's Digest jokes, jokes for children, coffee, cats, dogs, computers, diets, daily life, dads, and moms. The laughs can go on and on. I am experiencing the joy of learning how to find humor to share.
Our bodies will react the same even if we are faking the laughter or smile. When was the last time you experienced a good belly laugh? It might be helpful to have a good laugh every day.
In closing, I offer you this.
Day 4 of our new 6 social distancing: I struck up a conversation with a spider today. Seems nice. He’s a web designer.
Disclaimer: This information is being provided to you for educational and informational purposes only. It is being provided to you to educate you about healthy eating and lifestyles and as a self-help tool for your own use. It is not medical or psychological advice. This information is to be used at your own risk, based on your own judgment. For my full disclaimer, please go to www.donnakkelly.com.
By Donna K. Kelly
The importance of the correct quality and quantity of high-quality sleep cannot be overstated. During sleep we renew and repair our body and cleanse toxins from our brain. Sleep is when we lay down new short-term memories into long-term memory. For those of us wanting to perform better, getting a good night’s sleep is critical, especially before an event where we want to do our best. Is there a day where we don’t want to do our best?
Sleep may help us optimize the use of our prefrontal cortex, the part of our brain that helps us to make good decisions. This can be important in everything we do from choosing better foods, to having more patience with our family, fellow workers, and even other drivers on the road.
Optimizing sleep may allow us to have more energy and not be tired. With more energy, we may decide to move more in our day. Better sleep may calm your desire to eat to get more energy.
Total darkness helps improve the quality of sleep. Melatonin, the sleep hormone, is maintained better in total darkness. This is darkness to the point you can not see your hand in front of your face. This can be difficult to attain if you live in the city and have streetlights nearby. Blackout shades on the windows can help. These should also not allow light in around the edges. Using a sleep mask is another inexpensive way to eliminate light from reaching your eyes while sleeping.
In a study done in Tel Aviv, researchers measured the amount of light from streetlights. Then they overlaid this on breast cancer incidence in the city. The two areas matched. Just because they matched does not mean that the light caused the breast cancer. Correlation is not causation. However, it may be prudent for one to increase sleep quality so one can repair and heal optimally each night.
Walking safely in the dark is imperative. It is critical to avoid slips, trips and falls. Clear the paths of trip hazards. For lighting, there are red-light motion sensor night lights. Plug those into an outlet in your bedroom, hallway, and bathroom. You should be able to see appropriately to navigate the area safely in the dark. The red light will not decrease your melatonin production; therefore, you may be able to drop back to sleep more easily.
If you find this helpful, please share!
Disclaimer: This information is being provided to you for educational and informational purposes only. It is being provided to you to educate you about healthy eating and lifestyles and as a self-help tool for your own use. It is not medical or psychological advice. This information is to be used at your own risk, based on your own judgment. For my full disclaimer, please go to donnakkelly.com/disclaimer.
By Donna K. Kelly
Sunday, March 8th, at 3:00 AM, we will spring forward and be on Daylight Savings Time (DST) in most of the United States, Europe and Canada. This abrupt change in time in relation to daylight may be the cause of a variety of negative health and safety effects. Many people struggle for a week to overcome the time change. People experience lost productivity, lower quality of life, increased illness and complain of just feeling tired.
Focusing on selfcare before the time change may help to alleviate some of the impact. You might:
Studies show the negative health consequences of DST.
Monday is routinely associated with more heart attacks than any other day of the week. It is known as the “Monday cardiac phenomenon.” After DST there is an additional 24% increase in heart attacks on Monday. Conversely, there is also a 21% drop in heart attacks on Tuesday following the end of DST.
There is an increase in traffic accidents and workplace injuries on Monday after DST.
There is lost productivity after DST. Cyberloafing, surfing the web for unrelated content to work, increases after the time change.
Judgement may be impaired. There are studies showing increase in spending on the Monday after the time change. A study of federal courts found 5% longer sentences handed down on “sleep Monday.” Managers may find themselves doling out harsher criticisms.
Students taking a test on the Monday after DST may find a decrease in test scores.
Our European neighbors have plans to phase out DST in 2021. The European Union has noticed these negative consequences to their population’s health and economy and are acting. Russia stopped their time changes in 2011. Asia and Africa do not change their times during the year.
Disclaimer: This information is being provided to you for educational and informational purposes only. It is being provided to you to educate you about healthy eating and lifestyles and as a self-help tool for your own use. It is not medical or psychological advice. This information is to be used at your own risk, based on your own judgment. For my full disclaimer, please go to donnakkelly.com\disclaimer
By Donna K. Kelly
Valentine’s Day is a day of giving gifts and expressing our affection for our loved ones. Social relationships and support are beginning to be understood to be key to our health. They are as important to our health as the food we eat.
Relationships impact our mental and emotional health, which affects overall health and well-being. With depression and anxiety rising worldwide, these mental health issues may increase the risk for physical disorders, especially heart disease. Our bodies experience distress when we are stressed due to hormone imbalances. These imbalances may make it more difficult to choose to eat healthier foods, refrain from drinking alcohol excessively, smoking, or even inappropriate drug use. Imbalances in our body may even make it difficult for us to obtain a restful night’s sleep.
Some people may deal with mental health issues by isolating themselves. People are becoming more Isolated because of the rise of social media like Facebook. Loneliness, how you define it, increases inflammation in the body, which leads to further health issues. In fact, the UK has instituted programs to help people feel more connected to help increase their wellness. This intervention saves the government money in health care costs.
There are ways to improve social connection for better emotional and physical health.
Face-to-face interactions with family, friends, and loved ones is important. Social media has its place, but it should not be a replacement for face-to-face conversations. Even small micro-conversations with strangers, like the barista at the coffee shop, or the cashier at the grocery store, can help make you feel more socially connected.
Surround yourself with people who live healthier lifestyles. The habits of your friends greatly influence your habits. Our health habits may account up to 40% of our health. People who engage in eating well, or moving often, offer you a supportive environment.
Practice gratitude and compassion. People who think positively about their relationships may experience a more positive health outcome. Research has shown that a four-step practice of sitting quietly each day to send compassion and loving-kindness to yourself, to a loved one, to a difficult person in your life, and to our earth and all its creatures, large and small, increases positive emotions.
This Valentine’s Day, give yourself and others the gift of connection.
Disclaimer: This information is being provided to you for educational and informational purposes only. It is being provided to you to educate you about healthy eating and lifestyles and as a self-help tool for your own use. It is not medical or psychological advice. This information is to be used at your own risk, based on your own judgment. For my full disclaimer, please go to donnakkelly.com.
Guest blog by Jessica Rousseau, vedajess.com
Jessica Rousseau is an Ayurvedic Health Counselor and yoga teacher with over 1,000 hours learning under master teachers and 10 years of practice. Her years on the mat, in the kitchen, and growing babies has led her to create a safe haven for mamas who want to feel good in their own skin. You can learn more about her health counseling services, postpartum meal delivery services, and public yoga classes at www.vedajess.com.
Oh, winter. These cold months tend to inspire us to look for that special thing that will make the negative stuff less bad and the positive stuff even better. It’s the time of the year when health and wellness professionals get more popular than ever. It would be so easy for me to tell you that I have the secret to your radiant bliss!
I don’t have that secret. But you do.
You inherently know what a balanced diet and routine is for your life. Your body is begging you for it. At this point, you may simply be unaware of your body’s particular messages. You may know that your body is sending you messages but you’re not quite sure how to translate them.
I can translate them. Or rather, my Ayurvedic training can help me translate them for you.
Ayurveda, the “sister science” of yoga, provides a unique yet comprehensive method for each of us to understand our own minds and bodies. The word “Ayurveda” literally translates to “the science of life” and uses a blend of ancient art, science, and observational techniques to guide practitioners away from states of imbalance (illness) and toward a state of balance (homeostasis). Because Ayurveda is the science of all life, there are endless applications to its practices and uses.
Here is a quick snapshot of how to view the world through an Ayurvedic lens.
All energies of life are categorized into 3 different doshas. The doshas are present in every person and everything on our planet. You have your own unique doshic makeup. So what are the doshas?
If there are only 3 doshas, how is it possible for such great variety and depth of understanding? After all, there doesn’t appear to be much variability in the number 3. Fortunately, living creatures are exquisitely complex, providing endless opportunities for combinations of doshic balance (and imbalance).
Consider the following scenarios:
The benefits of working with an Ayurvedic professional to learn Ayurveda for yourself are as vast and complex as your own life.These benefits will stay with you through your life. Once you understand your own tendencies that take you out of balance then you will begin to harness the power to move yourself back toward a state of balance. The practice of living an Ayurvedic lifestyle will be refined with every year, leading you to age with more wisdom and ease than you ever thought imaginable.
By Christi Clemons Hoffman, MA
The song says it’s “the most wonderful time of the year,” but for many, late December is a depressing time. Not only is there a lot of year-end stress involved with month-end and/or year-end business as well as holiday preparations, but Seasonal Affective Disorder affects millions of people around the world because of shortened hours of sunlight. Changes in schedules and overeating can lead to disrupted sleep and physical stress. Loneliness is also a factor at this time of year. Time off from work can make the absence of friends and loved ones more noticable. And the loss of loved ones is obvious during the holidays.
If the holidays bring stress, anxiety, or depression rather than joy, here are some tips that might help:
What if family togetherness at the holidays is a source of stress? Here are some ideas to tackle difficult relatives (taken in part from The Chicago Tribune):
Radiate Wellness is now on Goodreads! Discover all the books we recommend to our our clients and students plus titles from our podcast guests. You might need a bigger nightstand. :)
As you know, we officially entered Autumn yesterday, with the Autumnal Equinox. Our resident astrologer, Mary Jane Staudenmann, put some thoughts down about it so we can put this day into perspective:
The autumnal equinox marks the beginning of a new season, as we know, but it is especially important as the balance of dark and light, also growth and rest in nature, all happening in the sign of Libra, the energy field devoted to harmony and balance. The entrance of the Sun into this sign marks for us a time of making order, taking stock, and acting for the greater good in our relationships of all kinds. Communication, diplomacy and finding common ground are key words during this time of searching for harmonious satisfaction in all our human dealings: Venus and Saturn are the ruling planets of this sign and put the accent on adult, egalitarian exchanges with fair and equally positive results in view.
The horoscope of the fall equinox this year, though, indicates much stress in realizing this ideal harmony. Two other planetary movements are manifesting in early October: Mars enters the sign of Libra on Oc. 3, and Venus enters Scorpio on Oct. 8. They will prove important in the different negotiations going on both world-wide and personally to each of us: each one of this karmic pair is miscast--Venus as a passionate and intense seeker of absolute truth in action (the hawk) and Mars as peacemaker, placating and willing to compromise (the dove). They are engaged in an arm-wrestling duel on the negotiating table that is sure to complicate the graceful exchange we would otherwise hope for, and at best will lend each other the energy to stand up for one's rights at the same time as fair results are achieved.
There is a further complication in the sky at the time of this horoscope that dates from the last full solar eclipse of July 2 this year. At that time, the Sun-Moon conjunction occurred at 10° in Cancer and created a hard opposition to Saturn and nearby Pluto: on September 23, the Moon was exactly opposite Saturn and Pluto and created a conflict with planets in Libra. Goodbye, easy negotiations! Hello, people in the streets threatening Big Power!
These noisy encounters are sure to continue through October and November, and on a personal level, they will likely complicate our efforts to find satisfaction when face-to-face dealings turn into power struggles. Individuals should consult their natal chart to see just how and where these tensions are likely to fall.
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