Thursday, February 27, 2020

5 Quick Tips to Banish the Winter Blues

Photo: wokandapix from Pixabay

My moods change according to the weather. Sunny. Dreary. Or weepy like rain. My garden apartment gets very little natural light in the winter months, so I have to work at keeping emotional storms at bay.  

Here are some ways I keep my insides bright even on cloudy days. 

1. Meditate. Gray, gloomy days can make you feel blue and sometimes this spirals into negative thoughts and self-talk. You start feeling bad about yourself. Everything that you don’t like about your life, and memories that you’d rather forget, can arise during these moments. Meditation can help, but you need the right kind of meditation.

Loving-kindness meditation or metta (a Pali word with several meanings, including benevolence, affection, and kindness) is a self-healing meditation in which you express positive affirmations first towards yourself, and then to others. Studies have found that this type of meditation can help regulate functions of the limbic system in the brain, an area that among other things, processes emotions and empathy. Loving-kindness meditation can help cultivate feelings of happiness, satisfaction, gratitude, self-acceptance and contentment —and spark your inner joy. During the meditation you repeat statements such as may I be well, may I be happy, may I be healthy, first to yourself and then to others, to help you quiet that moody, inner critic. 

You can find samples of loving-kindness meditation scripts at Greater Good in Action and PositivePsychology.com. There are also guided loving-kindness meditations on YouTube or mindfulness apps like Liberate (with meditation created especially for people of color) and Insight Timer.

Photo: Irina L from Pixabay


2. Get moving. It's well-known that exercise helps boost overall moods by secreting feel good chemicals in the brain called endorphins. Try to exercise early in the morning within two hours of waking up (running, jogging or a brisk walk) to absorb natural sunlight. It’s harder to do in cold weather, I know, but nothing snaps you awake like cool temps. If you’re walking to your neighborhood Y or gym for an exercise class, even better.

3. Get your vitamin D.  Vitamin D helps regulate mood and boost the immune system. If you’re in a region with reduced sunlight or if you are a person of color with skin rich in melanin, you probably don’t get enough sunlight and therefore less vitamin D is produced by your body. You can take a supplement and increase your intake of foods with vitamin D. A favorite of mine is salmon. In addition to vitamin D, salmon has omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, also great for boosting mood and decreasing mild depression.

Photo: flyupmike from Pixabay


4. Stay hydrated. While I don’t like to admit it sometimes, a glass of water can perk you up better than that extra cup of coffee. Water intake (which you can also get from food, especially fruits and vegetables, and drinks like herbal tea) can help balance moods. Studies have shown that depression is linked to dehydration (since 85% of brain tissue is water). Dehydration can also cause tiredness and slow down brain function.



5. See the light. Invest in a LED light therapy lamp like the Verilux HappyLight Lumi ($49.95).  The lamp brings full spectrum, UV-free light into your home, office, dorm room or apartment to help lift your spirits and improve your body’s energy levels, so you’ll be more alert and productive. The HappyLight Lumi has three light brightness levels so you can gradually increase light intensity, and special technology to ensure that the light is comfortable for your eyes. It is wall-mountable and also has a detachable stand. The HappyLight Lumi’s compact size makes it easy to carry in your purse, backpack, or suitcase, to take to the office or on a trip. For information, visit verilux.com


Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) goes deeper than winter blues, so if you find that these tips don’t work or you feel depressed for several days and it’s having a negative impact on your life, making you unable to function, do seek professional help. 

Friday, February 14, 2020

Help for Dry, Winter Skin: Nubian Heritage Raw Shea Butter


Cold air, brisk winds, dry indoor heatwinter can sometimes sap you of energy and vitality. Imagine what it’s doing to your skin. 

Shea butter is one of my favorite skincare ingredients, since my skin can get super dry.  Shea (pronounced shee) is from the karite nut tree and has many skin benefits including reducing fine lines and wrinkles, and soothing irritating skin conditions such as eczema.

Nubian Heritage (also one of my favorites)’s Raw Shea Butter Collection is a must for my moisture-deprived skin, especially since I’ve been spending time at the indoor pool at the Y—all that chlorinated water is just adding to the problem. 

The products contain age-defying ingredients. Along with shea butter,soy milk and Frankincense and myrrh extracts nourish and protect the skin:



EXFOLIATE. To help keep skin hydrated you need to remove dead skin cells, clearing the way for ingredients to penetrate the skin to provide smoothing, soothing and healing. The Raw Shea Butter Hand & Body Scrub (SRP $12.99), is a moisturizing sugar scrub with frankincense and myrrh to gently remove dull, flaky cells to reveal healthier looking and smoother skin.



CLEANSE.  During the winter you need to switch to ultra-moisturizing cleansers.  Nubian Heritages’s Raw Shea Butter Body Wash (SRP $10.99) and Body Bar (SRP $4.99) do the trick. The Body Wash contains shea butter, vitamin E, soy milk with coconut oil cleaners. The Body Bar has softening ingredients that are great for those of use who tend to wash their hands frequently during the winter months, to keep hands and body from getting stripped of natural oils.



MOISTURIZE. Raw Shea Butter Body Lotion (SRP $10.99) contains unrefined African Shea butter, vitamin E and nourishing soy milk to revitalize lifeless-looking skin.  



HANDS-ON HYDRATION.  My fingertips tend to get cracked, especially the thumbs, which can be painful. Raw Shea Butter Hand Cream (SRP $9.99) is nutrient rich to keep hands hydrated and free from cracked, peeling skin.


For information visit NubianHeritage.com

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Smart Birdy Gives You Wings


Cue the fireworks, my absolute favorite find from 2019 was…

#1



Carry-On Couture for the Runway.  Though my favorite things of 2019 list wasn’t in any particular order, I must admit I’ve been thrilled with my Smart Birdy Wings Jetsetter Case, so it is my number one favorite find of last year and I hope to take it to fabulous new destinations in 2020. 

I have it in gorgeous Rose Gold and I always get comments about how “precious” and “adorable” it is. In fact, a flight attendant stopped in the middle of her boarding announcement to compliment my luggage as I boarded the plane.

Abby (“AList”) Listo, founder and designer of Smart Birdy, used to travel with a favorite hatbox that she used in place of a suitcase. It worked well enough (in fact, receiving compliments) that she reconstructed the hatbox into an actual suitcase eventually using the design to create this chic and fashionable case.



Described as “carry-on couture,” this small hatbox-shaped suitcase can hold up to 50-plus outfits/items (depending on your packing expertise). The Smart Birdy comes with a phone battery charger and the removable power bank is TSA approved. It also has 360-degree Rose Gold wheels, bottom support handle, an exterior computer sleeve that can hold a 15-inch laptop, making it easy for removal at the security check, a clip-on shoulder strap, key cord pocket and USB cord. 

One thing I really love is that it is compact enough to fit into even those irritatingly small overhead bins on certain planes (and I certainly don’t want to check it!) In the event that you are forced to check it, there is a tote bag to keep your suitcase secure and hopefully clean and undamaged. Other accessories include an expandable shoe console, which keeps shoes separate from your clothing, a hot tool holder, an organizational jewelry case, wristlet clutch, Bluetooth speaker, laundry bag and silk pouch.




Smart Birdy is available in vegan leather or real leather trim and in a wide range of colors. The price depends on the style and features, starting from $699 (sale price) and up.

For more information visit smartbirdy.com

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

My Security Blanket: Huggaroo Weighted Blanket


Linus (from Peanuts) was on to something... 

#2



Heavy Makes You Happy. You’ve probably been hearing a lot about weighted blankets. It’s believed that weighted blankets help reduce anxiety and stress and can improve one’s sleep. Though there still needs to be more scientific studies, these blankets may also be useful for relieving chronic pain and depression, and help those with autism and ADHD. In fact, these therapeutic blankets have been used for several years to help patients with mental and physical trauma and have actually been used during certain surgeries, to lower stress in patients.

Weighted blankets are said to have calming and relaxing effects by providing pressure that activates the parasympathetic nervous system. Called “deep pressure stimulation” or "deep pressure touch," it is similar to the benefits of massage. Users have described their experiences with using weighted blankets as being nestled in a cocoon or being swaddled. Some even liken it to being hugged.


A weighted blanket should weigh between 7 - 12 percent of your body weight. It shouldn’t be so heavy that it restricts movement.



I tested the 15-pound Huggaroo Weighted Blanket ($129.99). It has a soft, removable, machine-washable duvet cover. The duvet is secured to the inner weighted quilt with fourteen double ties and loops to prevent shifting or settling of the food-grade polypropylene pellets inside that give the blanket its weight. 

The first time I used it, it felt a little heavy, like a luxurious X-ray apron, and I had to take it off. Subsequently I got used to it and fell asleep pretty easily. My issue is more with tossing and turning, and getting an overactive mind to shut off. I noticed that I am less likely to toss and turn, because of the weight. It's not always as great at helping me stay asleep, however. Sometimes when using the blanket, I'll get too warm, and it’s not easily tossed off. I have to make an effort to roll it off of me. Fortunately, at those times I was able to quickly get back to sleep (something that I often have trouble doing).

People with certain conditions should talk to a doctor before using a weighted blanket. It might not be good for those with sleep apnea, asthma or other breathing issues, since it might put too much pressure on the chest and could disrupt breathing, or for those who have claustrophobia (I suspect the snugness could actually feel too tight, giving them the feeling of being confined.)


I also avoid using the blanket when I have neck and shoulder pain because (in my case) it makes it worse.



All that being said, I love the feel of the ultra-plush Minky duvet cover, which is machine washable. I love snuggling up in the blanket on the bed to watch television (yes, I know, bad habit), although with this blanket, the TV ends up watching me. On cool days during the spring and summer, I will probably use it without the weighted quilt. 


For information, visit huggaroo.com.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Eye SEE You: Sexy Specs from SEE Eyewear


Oh, say can you SEE…

#3

Photo: Gerrie Summers


A Must: SEE. My favorite thing to wear in 2019 (which started in 2017) was bold eyewear — following the lead of Oprah, Gayle King and Al Roker — matching fashionable eye glasses to clothing (only they can afford it!) It’s a funny thing actually, considering the fact that I hated them so much when I was in grade school. Of course eyewear has changed a lot since then. 

I decided to start wearing statement eye glasses as a treat for myself after losing my dreadlocks to chemotherapy. [You can read more about it in my personal essay, Changing the Frame, in the Sisters from AARP newsletter.]  

I needed a new look and a boost in mood and confidence. One day I spotted blue octagon-shaped sunglasses in the window of SEE Eyewear in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn and I was hooked.

Favorite eye glasses with my favorite activity (spa-ing)
Photo: Brandon Harrington/Courtesy of Wellness Month

Then SEE Eyewear opened a store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and I was treated to a brand new pair to review in my New York Lifestyles Magazine Style section. SEE stands for Selective Eyewear Elements and features eyewear selections that are the closest one can get to custom eyeglasses. The company produces a limited number of each frame, only two per color, per city or store, or limited edition frames. It’s addicting.

Photo: Gerrie Summers

SEE has over 45 stores nationwide. For more information, visit seeeyewear.com

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Smart Scents


I like this because I love aromatherapy … and I’m lazy…

#4



Alexa turn on aromatherapy, please. I have a couple of aromatherapy diffusers. They don’t get used that much. When I think about using them, I’m usually stressed out or tired and frankly too lazy to mix the oils and blend them with water. Then I was sent information on a diffuser with bluetooth capability. Does that mean I can turn it on and off and schedule fragrance to fill the room right when I need it, from my smartphone or even by voice control? Yes.

The Aera Smart Aromatherapy Diffuser can be operated via the Aerodome mobile app (available in the Apple Store and Google Play). You can set times and intensity levels and have the Aera “play” automatically at certain times throughout the day. The Smart Diffuser ($200) is controlled via WiFi using the app or through Amazon Alexa. You just plug it in and pop in a fragrance capsule. The fragrance capsules are $55 per blend, to which I thought “Ouch!” but the aromatherapy capsules don’t require mixing and there’s no residue from flame, smoke or oils. Plus you get 500 hours of diffusing. 

The Aera fragrances and essential oils are sustainably sourced and are hypoallergenic, making them safe for children and pets. Aera also has a partnership with Aromatherapy Associates London for a wellness line collection of essential oil blends. I’m currently using De-Stress Mind, a focusing and calming blend of frankincense, petitgrain and wild chamomile that is perfect for work or during yoga and meditation. 

So how does it work? Microdroplet technology converts liquid fragrance compounds into tiny droplets, which burst into billions of fragrance molecules to blend with ambient air. Fragrance ingredients are released so that the scent is experienced in its entirely—i.e. base, middle and top notes all at once. You experience a scent free of alcohol, propellants and other harmful VOCs. Fragrance strength is adjustable and you can also control the Smart Diffuser manually. If you don’t want to use WiFi at all, you can save money by buying the Touch Diffuser ($150). 



Aera For Home currently has a special collection available featuring Snowfall, Sugar & Spice and Hot Toddy scents for the holidays. 

For further information visit aeraforhome.com

Saturday, December 28, 2019

PediPocket: A Blanket with a Pocket for Your Feet


My ten favorite things of 2019 continues with a warm and cozy treat for the feet…

#5



So Neat for Feet. PediPocket is a plush, velvety soft fleece throw blanket with a foot pocket to keep feet warm. It’s perfect to use to keep warm while on the couch or a recliner, watching TV or movies. It’s great for cold winter nights and not too hot for cool summer evenings. I can picture using one while relaxing on a porch rocking chair, on a chilly fall or spring day or evening.

PediPocket is six feet long, with a 20-inch deep conically-shaped foot pocket, so you don't have to keep pulling the blanket over exposed feet. It’s machine-washable and dryer friendly. 

The PediPocket ($59.99) comes in several colors and prints like Luscious Leopard (my pick), Chevron Chic (pictured above) and Marvelous Midnight (pictured below). It’s also available in a smaller size for kids ($49.99) and there’s also a larger seven foot PediPocket XXL (so far only available in Gorgeous Gunmetal) for $89.99. 




For information visit pedipocketblanket.com