I often have a hard time sleeping. And I am one of those people who becomes very grumpy when sleep deprived. In order to sleep well, I need complete silence, complete darkness, and a comfortable place to lie down. As such, I’ve made some investments in my apartment that have made my bedroom a haven for difficult sleepers. I have a down featherbed, padded mattress pad, super soft sheets, 100% down pillows, blackout curtains and a white noise machine. Sometimes it’s almost too comfortable to get up. But there are times when I can’t sleep in my specially designed sleeping cocoon – when I am on vacation, when I need to sleep in transit, or if I stay over at a friend’s home. Luckily, a year living on a noisy avenue, and in an apartment where hoards of pigeons congregated outside my window have forced me to develop some handy coping strategies so I am not biting all my friends heads off when I visit them, or ruining a trip by being irritable. Here are the tools you need for sleeping anywhere, even when the conditions are not ideal.
Figure out your sleep soundtrack
If you prefer silence or white noise, buy some travel ear plugs. I think the best ones for blocking sound, and the most comfortable for sleeping are the mushy foam kind that you can roll down to fit into your ears.
If you need music or television, download some soothing songs and make a sleeping playlist, then get some sound cancelling headphones for when you’re catching zzz’s on a plane.
Pick a side
Everyone has a side that they sleep more comfortably on- mine is the left. So, when I am booking a trip that I know I’ll want to sleep on the way, I make sure to snag a left hand window so I can lean against it and snooze (or a right hand seat if I know my travel companion will lend me their shoulder). If you’re a stomach sleeper, pulling out the tray table in front of you and putting a pillow down is a pretty good substitute.
Determine your ideal sleep conditions
Then get the things you need to closely mirror them when you’re not at home. I like to be laying down on soft things in darkness. So, when I travel, I bring an eye mask in case the room I am sleeping in is bright, and a mini cushion to wedge against any hard surfaces I might want to lean against to get as close to laying down as I can. Sometimes it’s a mini pillow, sometimes it’s just a big sweater I can take off and ball up into a pillow. If you can’t sleep when your toes are cold, pack a pair of warm socks for the train. People might look at you like you’re a diva, but do you really care if it means you’re well-rested at the end of your trip?
“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”
Aristotle said that over 2,000 years ago. And for most of us, it holds still true today. The ultimate goal in life is to be happy. And for good reason. Besides feeling great, happiness provides additional benefits including greater health, increased longevity, better relationships, more fulfilling marriages, increased productivity at work, improved creativity, and so on.
The good news is that happiness isn’t a mystery anymore. Research has uncovered many activities that have now been scientifically proven to make people happier. These activities are listed in the following infographic by NJlifehacks, which is titled ‘How to Be Happy: 26 Strategies Backed by Research’.
According to the infographic, happiness is as simple as exercising regularly, spending quality time with family and friends, experiencing flow on a regular basis, or doing random acts of kindness. To find out more, check out the infographic below:
It’s pretty well agreed upon that exercise boosts your mood. It releases dopamine, and helps you sleep better which all equals feeling better. And who can look at a cute animal without feeling happier, amirite? They even make you more productive at work.
Now a fitness app combines your need for movement with your love of adorable stuff in one happiness generating exercise package called Tep. When you download the app, you’re given a darling (digital) pet giraffe you need to feed and care for – think the Tamagotchi pets of the 90’s. But here’s the catch. In order to earn essentials like food and drink for your little guy, and less essential decorations like hats and footwear (!!!), you’ve got to get moving.
Walking, running, and biking all snag you points you can use to keep the little buddy alive. So next time you think about skipping your workout for some quality Netflix time with your couch, you don’t need to rely on will power alone. If you don’t, your happiness, and your tiny giraffe that’s depending on you will croak.
In our society (or at least NYC), many people pride themselves on how busy they are. It’s considered a badge of honor to have too.dang.much.to.do. And, I am 1000% guilty of overscheduling myself (even if it’s all with really fun things). The modern lady has work happy hours, ALL the wedding events, social time with friends, and – if that’s the life path she’s chosen, a spouse and kids to fit into the mix. All those responsibilities suck up the precious free time left after work, and can often lead to putting your own needs on the back burner while you run around catering to other people’s – even if you truly enjoy everything you’re doing.
We can all remember a time when we RSVP’d yes to an engagement when we were dead tired and broke just because we love our bestie. Or even when we had managed a few quiet moments to ourselves, FOMO struck and we got up and off the couch.
I came across this post on Mind Body Green explaining why putting yourself first is not only important – but crucial! – to happiness, and I think they’re onto something. Take back some time for yourself, and turn that FOMO into JOMO with these five steps.
- Pamper Yourself: Think about it, would you rather give someone you care about a worn-down, tired version of yourself, or the you who has blocked out time to take a nap and go to the gym?
- Don’t Volunteer: In other words, wait for someone to ask for your help before throwing yourself into action. Then actually think about it. Do you really have the time, energy and resources? If not, is there some other help you can recommend, and still feel like a good friend?
- Take a Time Out: Of course we can all push through a cold, or mild sickness if we’re not on our deathbeds, but should we? Taking a well-timed day off can make you feel better, and act happier, which will have a positive influence on everyone around you.
- Do What You Love: Don’t let your schedule be so driving it’s soul sucking. Don’t get stuck in a position you hate. Keep moving towards the things you like.
- Work as a Team: Instead of trying to do it all yourself, work with all those great people you’ve surrounded yourself with. Remember that it’s ok, and often beneficial for the project if you have more intelligent minds working on it.
What do you do to make time for yourself when you’re in over your head?
Image by Roman Pfeiffer.
I’ve seen a lot of anti-smoking ads, and learned a lot of reasons smoking is bad for you, but this video really drives the message home. It’s a vine that shows a healthy lung inflating, followed by a smoker’s lung inflating. While you may hear that tar can change the lung black, and make breathing like sucking through a straw. In this case, after reading this post on Flash by Self, seeing really is believing. Even if it’s not 100% medically accurate, at least it gets the message across that smoking sucks, right? Right.
A recent study in BioEssays, that I read about on Women’s Health, found that the microbes that live in your stomach prefer fat, and others prefer sugar. If you have more of one kind or the other, they could send signals to your immune, endocrine, and nervous systems. Those messages can influence you to pick a piece of chocolate cake over a bag of chips. The microbes manipulate you, and certain kinds can cause cancer, obesity, or diabetes. But luckily, the microbiome is influenced by what you eat, and can turn over within 24 hours of changing your diet or taking probiotics. At least now you know that it’s not totally your will power abandoning you, but tons of tiny things in your stomach undermining it.
When I think of cancer, and then I think of the sun, the first association that comes to mind is BAD! Sunscreen! Moles! I have very fair freckly skin, and as such, have to be extra careful with my sunscreen application to avoid the ever-dreaded skin cancer. It’s a constant battle for me because I love being active and being outdoors. If it’s summer, I am at the beach. If it’s winter, I’m trying to go skiing. In fall and spring there’s a good chance I am taking long walks in the park or going for a hike. But now, a new study published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism says that the sun might not be 100% bad when it comes to cancer. (Though you definitely shouldn’t go and abandon your sunscreen tube just yet).
They found that the vitamin D we get from the sun’s rays can impact cancer patients’ survival rates, and length of time spent in remission. Those with the highest levels of Vitamin D in their bodies had the best outcomes when compared to those who didn’t have enough Vitamin D coursing through their systems. The benefit was most marked for those living with breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and lymphoma. Just another reason to welcome the beautiful spring weather coming our way.
Living in NYC, I see a ton of cyclists biking to work every morning, and home again every night. Since the launch of citibike, I have noticed even more. I see bikers do lots of risky things, like go the wrong way down one way streets, text while biking, and swerve in and out of traffic, but the most dangerous thing? Most of them don’t have helmets on. I’m too scared to ride with traffic in a big city, so I only bike on the paths closed to car traffic, and I know that when I do that I always feel pretty nerdy putting on a helmet. It’s not the cutest look, and it really messes up your hair. But it seems pretty risky to go without one when there are so many hazards (I’m talking cab doors here) that can pop out of the crosswalk, into your bike lane, and toss you from your bicycle. If we’re being serious here, messed up hair is no good reason to skip it – my hair gets pretty tousled by the wind even when I walk to work sans helmet. That’s what purse sized fold-up brushes are for.
Now (in Europe at least), there is a solution for the vain cyclist that will protect the coif and the noggin in case of an accident. It’s called the Hövding device, and it’s an inflatable nylon collar that bikers can wear inconspicuously. It only pops open when it senses an accident, similar to the air bags in your car (the future is here, guys!). The device has been in development since 2005, and has tested simulations of all types of accidents from icy roads to being hit by a vehicle. When the accident occurs a tiny gas canister at the back of the collar pops the collar open into a full-coverage helmet in milliseconds. It even stays inflated for several seconds before deflating to cushion any additional impacts. It retails online for 399 euros (about $536), and is available in several colors and designs to make the collar even more fashionable. More expensive than your average helmet? Sure, but can you really put a price on staying safe, feeling cool, and having good hair? Currently it’s only available in Europe, so now you know what to buy on a souvenir on your next vacation!
I am not a big cereal person. Ever since my mom told me I couldn’t eat Fruity Pebbles or Corn Pops because they were too unhealthy for breakfast, I kind of gave up the cereal game. I did develop quite a fondness for granola, but abandoned that too, when I found that most of it was loaded with sugar and waaaaay too many raisins for my taste. And, it left me hungry after a couple hours. The closest I come to cereal for breakfast is plain oatmeal that I mix with peanut butter, shaved coconut, chopped nuts, maybe a little jelly, or really anything I have in my pantry that seems good in combination. I prefer this breakfast because I can choose what, and how much I add in. Now there’s a website that will let you do just that, with your cold cereal options.
It’s called MixMyOwn, and it lets you create your own cereal blend. You can choose from 8 different bases ranging from flakes to grains, or mueseli. There are low sugar and gluten free options – removing two of the most common obstacles to good, healthy cereal. Then after you select the base, you can add as many fruits, nuts and seeds as you like, choosing anything from macadamia nuts and chia seeds to dried mulberries and blackberries. You can even add quinoa or kamut puffs for an extra crunch. Then if that’s a little too healthy for you, you can choose to throw in some candies. Or if it’s not healthy enough, add some nutrition enhancing powders.
The boxes come in 12oz or 16oz sizes, and are delivered directly to your door. I love the concept because it’s like make your own trail mix. You can choose your own combinations, and avoid too much sugar or an overload of the things you don’t like. And if you’re not feeling creative, you can select their healthy mix of the month sent to you each month or view popular pre-mixes for ideas on what to include. Genius!
When I have a cold, I often reach for the honey in my cabinet. While I am often adding it to my tea with lemon to soothe an irritated throat, I also swallow a spoonful of the stuff before I go to bed as a cough suppressant. Studies have found that it’s just as effective as over-the-counter remedies containing dextromethorphan, and I am much more likely to have it in the cabinet. Now it seems that honey is good for more than just that. New research has found that honey, particularly a type made in New Zealand has the ability to weaken bacteria, particularly when it is applied directly to a wound as a topical treatment. When bacteria flourish, they communicate with a behavior called quorum sensing. Honey works to disable this ability with it’s antibacterial properties, allowing you to more effectively fight infection. While the effect isn’t believed to be as strong when you ingest it, it seems to be emerging as a natural Neosporin for topical treatment.