The Power of Chocolate

I don’t know about you, but chocolate has a special power over me. A power that brings a nice, satisfactory smile to my face. For those of you who don’t like chocolate, I’m sorry (and I’m kind of envious), but for those of you who do love it, like me, then I think you may know where I’m coming from! If you need a nice, genuine smile, go get a piece of chocolate. I usually don’t crave sweets until the afternoon, but I was craving a piece this morning and after I took a bite, I found a huge smile on my face…that’s when I realized I had to write my post on it, today. What a simple and great stress relief! Thinking and writing about it, now, makes me smile and remember the women in my life that love chocolate so much – from my mom who hides it in every drawer in the house to eat a piece as she walks by, to my grandma who has tried every single dark chocolate made in this world, to my aunt who craves white chocolate on a daily basis and my sister, who you can always woo with a dark chocolate and mint bar.

And for all you chocolate lovers out there, I’m sure you’ve heard the good news that a piece of chocolate actually can be good for you! Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, has antioxidants in it (to learn more about antioxidants, visit this post).  Furthermore, dark chocolate is said to be a heart-healthy food.  A small piece of dark chocolate a day is keeps your heart beating and can lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels – who would have thought? As mysterious as this sounds, it’s true! And the best part about it is that it is also said to stimulate endorphins and act as an anti-depressant (now this, I have no doubt about!). 

I also love thatthe See’s Candy chocolate boxes say “A Happy Habit.”  So go enjoy a piece of chocolate so you can de-stress and keep smiling :).

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Celebrate Independence

This would have been better if posted yesterday, on Independence Day, but I had to share my “I’m back” message :).   Also, I was so excited about coming back, that I forgot to wish you all a Happy 4th, I hope you all enjoyed it! I was inspired by the 4th of July to think about independence and freedom, and how important they are to the self.  Turns out, they are extremely important, as I’m sure you already know.

I have always prided myself on being so independent and, while I think I am in some aspects (I’m happy to spend time alone, or show up anywhere solo, or even tell myself that I don’t care what people think), the truth is, I have found myself to be an extremely dependent person. I have realized that I want people to be on the same page as me, I want people to agree with me, and I don’t want to be alone in my beliefs and opinions.

Then, I had a conversation with my impressively wise and younger brother, and it occurred to me that my personal happiness has been so rooted in what people think of me and whether or not they can understand my feelings.  Even though I think I can physically handle being alone, I cannot stand being alone emotionally! As I listened to my brother passionately explain to me his philosophy and outlook on life, I realized that he must find himself in a minority among many of his peers.  Does he realize that? Yes. Does he care? No.  I was in awe listening to him and at the same time thinking, how can my younger brother be so much more evolved than I? He truly doesn’t care what people think, he only cares about what he thinks and how he feels. Now that’s freedom.

I wasn’t thinking about the emotional dependence that can exist because I was focusing on the physical and financial aspects of dependency. I wanted to write about how, while we will always be in need of friendship, love and people that we know we can depend on, we should know that we can also depend on ourselves, more than anyone else.  Now I see one more element to independence, and that is freedom from caring what people think and what they believe, and the dependency on yourself to be happy. I’m really thankful for that conversation, because it really opened my eyes.  As we celebrate the USA’s independence, let’s also celebrate and embrace our own!

I’m Baaaaack!!

I am finally back from quite a hiatus, taken without any warning! I would like to thank all of the dedicated readers who kept coming back to check up on my posts. I don’t know who are, but I did see that there were a good number of you, so it really means a lot to me! I apologize for disappearing. I went on vacation and really thought that my travels would inspire me to post pictures of the beautiful sights I was so blessed to see and enlighten me on the different ways people around the world cope with daily stress. While I was inspired and enlightened, I was also exhausted and ended up taking a full-fledged vacation – even from the blogging that I love to do! So, my plan is to take my experiences and pictures and use them in my future posts.

Today’s picture is one of peace and serenity, which sums up one week of my recent adventures. I have decided to use this picture as a new stress relief.  When I need a break, I will take a deep breath and use this picture to remember my “happy place.”  A place I can let my mind run to when I need a break to think about quietness and happiness. I hope your summer has been a peaceful one, and if not, you can borrow my “happy place,” until you are able to take your own break and release some stress.

This  picture was taken of the Kaptan Şevket in the Mediterranean Sea from Knidos off the coast of Turkey…such a beautiful part of the world!

Pump some Iron

When I work out, I like to have high-intensity exercises, I like to sweat, and I like to see the calories burn. So, naturally, I am a cardio person. I never used to work out with weights, because in my mind, I don’t sweat enough, so I must not be burning calories.  Plus, who wants to get bulky, anyway? So, I kept putting off the weights, and deeming them unnecessary.

I have read and heard that there are so many benefits of including strength training to your work out regimen, but the encouragement never really sealed the deal for me. Even though I heard that it increases lean muscle mass and that it keeps your body burning calories for longer, the verbal benefits didn’t really give me the desire to go lift weights.  I finally started going to some cardio and weight training classes right before my surgery, and then that had to stop, so I didn’t try long enough to see any results.  It wasn’t until after I spent an entire month hopping around on crutches, that I noticed my arms getting toned.  This is when my interest in weights began to peak, and I learned that persistence is key.

Now that I have tried to maintain the toned arms, I’ve started to work on making my entire body toned through strength training.  And now that I have finally incorporated it into my workouts, I think differently and I feel differently, and believe me, it’s a change worth making.  I definitely feel the increased energy, and, although I cannot feel the calories burning throughout the day, I feel the changes in my body.  The best part is that sore feeling when you know you’ve challenged new muscles in your body. When we challenge our bodies in new ways, we force our muscles to work harder, and, in turn, it jumpstarts the fat-burning and weight-loss process.

So, now I can speak from experience when telling you why you everyone should pick up some dumbbells and turn up the resistance for a change. Incorporating weights into your work out routine will let you feel the burn, feel the strength, and, eventually, start seeing the changes. If an extra 10 minutes off the machine means 100 less calories to you, believe me, those 100 calories at that moment will probably add up to 150, later.  Try for yourself and try to find the results you’re looking for.  Then, you can gradually increase your iron-pumping sessions to 2-3 times a week.  Good luck and have a great weekend!

Making Decisions

Have you noticed that the more options we are given, the pickier we get? If you are hungry and go to a restaurant with a large menu, you spend too long being indecisive, but if the menu only had chicken or beef, you’d probably make your decision in a second. Or going to the store when you need a pair of jeans, but not being able to choose because, all of a sudden, you need a new boot cut and a new straight leg and a new skinny jean and a new boy cut. So many options make it hard for us to make a firm decision. But what’s even worse is the more we get the less appreciative we seem to be. Why is that people with less seem to be much more grateful than those with more?

I hadn’t put much thought into this until I was talking to a friend who is trying to make a difficult decision. She just came out and said “I wish I had nothing and I didn’t have a choice to make, then I would be forced to be happy with what I’m given.” I had never thought about it that way before, but it’s true. We usually find a way to be happy with what we are given, but when we get to choose what will make us happier, we can’t seem to choose which way to go. 

I had originally written this post as a stress-relief tip on being content with what we’ve been given by having the attitude of a “poor man.”  I was ready to post it, yesterday, but, ironically, I was put to the test, first. I ended up having to make my own choice, and believe me, it was a petty one. But, because I am me, this little decision turned into the biggest ordeal. I didn’t end up posting to my blog, yesterday, because I wanted to see what I would learn from my own experience. So what did I learn? Well, first I learned that things are much easier said than done! But I think we all know that one! But, I learned to go with the decision that made me happier.  The “right” option is not always going to make you happy, but if the one that makes you happy can be “right” then go for it. Where the line seems to get obscure for me is where it is right for me and where it is right for others.  One of my biggest lessons in my blogging journey is learning to worry for myself as I worry for others and take care of myself as I would take care of others.

I feel very fortunate and blessed to live the life I do and for what I have been given, but that doesn’t change the fact that the smallest choices seem to play such a significant role in my approach towards happiness. I do not think I’m the only one in this position, which is why I feel brave enough to post this to the public.  Hopefully, we can embrace an “attitude of gratitude,” when looking at what we’ve been given, and when it comes to making choices for ourselves, hopefully we can embrace an “attitude of self-gratitude” and think about our own happiness.

At the end of the day, remember that the choice you do make was made for a reason, and there will be good in that plan. “Be content with what God has given you, and you will be the richest of people.”

Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day. A day in which most people spend shopping, with family, at barbecues and celebrating the beginning of summer, but often forgetting that today is a holiday commemorating the lives of Americans who died at war.

Many people are out visiting graveyards and memorials to remember those who died for a cause, who fought for their country, and who died as heroes. As a proud American, I extend my condolences to those who have lost loved ones in war, and I am proud of my fellow Americans who died for something they believed in and fought with bravery at their own will.

Just as these brave Americans chose to fight for their country, many people around Africa and the Middle East are bravely standing in the streets to peacefully demand freedom, democracy, and justice in their homelands.  These brave civilians are also fighting for their country, so the next generations can experience a life of opportunity and a life worth living.

At the same time, we’ve seen the devastating natural forces all around the world – from the tornadoes ripping through the southern US states, the earthquakes in South America, the tsunamis and earthquakes in Asia, the flooding all around the world – killing thousands of people.  This year has been a pretty intense year in terms of natural catastrophes and political upheavals.

On this Memorial Day, while my heart, respect and gratitude are with my fellow Americans, I also extend my thoughts and prayers to those who have died either for a cause or by a natural cause. May their souls rest in peace and may their lives always be remembered.

Retail Therapy

Research shows that one’s mood affects the way he or she will spend their money.  More specifically, when you are feeling unhappy, you are likely to spend more money on things that satisfy your shopping urges, hence the term “retail therapy.”  Well, my personal “research” proves that it works! 🙂

Sometimes, we just deserve it, so why not?! If a nice little shopping spree is what you need to relieve some of your stress this weekend, then by all means, go for it.  Now, it’s not going to be okay to break the bank and end up feeing worse because of the money that was spent, but it’s okay to buy something that will make you feel good – a pair of shoes, a blouse, an outfit…whatever it may be! 

All I know is that it’s summer time, and I’ve been itching for something new.  The best part is that it’s Memorial Day Weekend, which means – Sales! Enjoy!

You are what you Eat

We’ve all heard the saying “you are what you eat,” but we know it doesn’t mean we will become nuts if we eat nuts! It is simply a way to say “eat well” – if you eat healthy foods you feel healthier, if you eat unhealthy foods feel unhealthy.  So, making an effort to put healthy foods in our diets is essential to living a nutritious lifestyle and feeling well.

Eating foods that benefit your body will reward you in the near and far future. Not only does healthy food have long term benefits to our overall well-being, but it also provides natural “cures” for people suffering from specific ailments.  You can find a food that is rich in just about every vitamin and mineral you may be lacking. If your memory is failing you, eat some fish, if you feel sad, eat some dark chocolate, if you need a brain boost, eat some walnuts, if you are cramping, eat a banana! There is almost always a remedy in natural foods, so imagine how strong your body can be if you put these plentiful foods in your daily diet.

I understand that it’s easy to choose a meal based on what our eyes and taste buds may be shouting for, but have we ever thought about how our stomachs and bodies will react and respond to it? I think most people can agree that if they take fried foods out their diet, their stomach will reject them when reentered into the digestive system. The same idea goes for processed foods.  If you train your body to forget the unhealthy foods and digest and accept raw, natural, and wholesome meals, our stomachs will realize that processed foods and packaged snacks are foreign objects that do not benefit the body. And, I promise, eventually, your eyes and taste buds will be jumping for the beneficial foods.

Just a note, I do believe that a healthy diet is essential to a healthy lifestyle, and if you can completely take out all of the “bad for you” foods from your diet, then more power to you! But, I do not want to be a hypocrite, because I know more than anyone that I am a sucker to many processed snacks and junk food! But, I only let myself have them in small doses. I do not, by any means, make them a part of my daily diet.  Just make sure you’re “good” the majority of the time, and let yourself have a moment of weakness every now and then. 

“The wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings. Let food be your medicine.”  – Hippocrates

Take a Break!

I apologize for disappearing for an entire week of blogging, and I thank those of you dedicated readers who did come back looking for a stress relief tip for the day! I guess I just needed a break! Not that I actual need a break from writing or letting out all of my thoughts, but, sometimes, life just gets in the way!

So, it reminded me that it’s a good idea to just take a step back every now and then. We can’t do it all – no matter how hard we push ourselves. I think we would find a lot more energy to finish certain tasks (at home and at work) if we remind ourselves that it’s okay if we don’t finish everything on the to-do list and if we force some things to just wait.  Whether you are a mother who feels like a chauffeur, an involved community activist/philanthropist, working two jobs or working and studying, a dedicated friend, or employee or spouse, etc., I have no doubt you are stressed. While many have turned into superman/woman, they have also turned into stress-balls. 

Sometimes a break is just what we are looking for to give us time to think, time to relax and time to rejuvenate. In my opinion, it is probably one of the best ways to beat stress.  Our minds can recharge to be more creative and our bodies can recharge to be more energetic.  So to all of you out there, just take a break and allow yourself to relax, just once!

Boost your Immunity

It seems as though everyone around me is getting sick. Make sure you fight off anything you may see sneaking up on you, so you can enjoy your weekend! Today’s stress relief tip is to boost your immunity, so you don’t have to deal with the added stress of getting sick!  These are my favorite tips to stay healthy and well during “flu season,” “cold season,” “allergy season,” ok – all seasons!

Drink LOTS of tea – there are many different teas that help fight colds.  The trick is to add Lemon and Honey to them, because Lemon is high in Vitamin C (and my mom always tells me it’s good for stomach aches and cold and flu symptoms), and Honey is good for the immune system and for sore throats.  And, I have read that Ginger is considered a natural remedy for the cold/flu, among many other ailments. 

Also, I prefer to drink a lot of Echinacea Tea (I drink the Yogi Tea brand, but not with tea and honey).  Echinacea root is considered an herbal remedy for a weak immune system.  I feel that drinking lots of Echinacea tea helps prevent oncoming colds and strengthens the body and immune system when feeling weak.  If you don’t like the tea, many people opt for the Echinacea supplements. 

Vitamin C – I think we all know the benefits of vitamin C, and who doesn’t have a stash of Emergen-C or Airborne in their medicine cabinet? I think it’s important to boost your immune system with natural vitamin C, but you can always increase your intake by drinking lots of the supplement packets with water, or the actual vitamin C pills.

 Finally, get LOTS of sleep! I know we don’t always have time to sleep during the day, or we may not sleep enough during the night, but your body will not repair itself fully until you are at total rest.  Try to sleep as much as you can so your body can re-energize.

These are my immunity boosting “secrets,” so hopefully they will work for you, too!  Hopefully, you can fight it off before you have to take the actual medicines to make you feel better, or to sleep through the night.

Have a great weekend!

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