shelter us, shade us, clean our air, enhance landscapes, provide
habitat for wildlife and invite us to gather. Areas with trees have less
violence and less pollution, while conserving energy and increasing
property values. Memories are created in the shade of trees: on lawns,
parks and other green spaces. Although sentimental about the trees of
our youth, it’s important to choose trees native
to our area. Florida’s native trees provide habitat for local wildlife,
have a better chance of survival and enhance our eco-system.
The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. (Chinese proverb)
In Florida, we love shade! The City of Orlando holds the title: “Longest Running Active Tree City USA” in Florida. Currently, our explosive growth and development threatens our landscapes and canopies. Some of us are bummed about the loss of the beautiful, mature trees which lined the I-4 corridor. While there are plans to replant, it will take years to re-establish the landscapes and canopies. As Arbor Day approaches (Friday, April 26th), consider working together to create more public and private green spaces in our lawns, parks and city scapes. Some cities/communities offer free tree planting programs (City of Orlando link). Search for your area: enter your specific location and “free trees.” You might be surprised by what’s available.
If we told you that adopting 9 simple lifestyle habits could dramatically extend your life; would you change your lifestyle? In 2004, a group of researchers teamed up with National Geographic to scout out pockets of longevity worldwide. Their 5 designated “Blue Zones” are virtually disease-free, as well as geographically and ethnically diverse. In each location, large numbers of residents live to 100 or older. Here are the identified common lifestyle characteristics.
9 Lifestyle Elements Centenarians Share Worldwide
Plant-based diets – some meat, vegetarians have a head start here
1 glass of wine a day w/ friends at meals (4 of the 5 groups)
Belong to strong social networks (often faith-based)
“Hara hachi bu” Japanese for eat until you are 80% full
Routines that reduce stress – we’re fond of massage for this one
“Ikigal/ plan de vida” – maintain a sense of purpose for your life
Put loved ones first
Hang with the Right Tribe (others with similar health behaviors)
Dive in, do some research. While some cities and communities are working to incorporate longevity lifestyles into their communities, you could take a do-it-yourself approach. The 9 key lifestyle habits are a great match for Florida year round outdoor living: walking, gardening, swimming, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, bird-watching, biking etc. Live long and prosper!
There are many natural ways to reduce your stress levels. Massage, as you may know, helps lower both your stress levels and your blood pressure. Exercise, being in nature, meditation, practicing yoga, hanging out with friends, laughing, talk therapy and support groups also help to decrease stress and anxiety. As stress and anxiety are cumulative, so are the benefits of self-awareness and self-care. Practice self-care and seek a health professional if your stress levels begin to affect your health.
“Beyond all ideas of right and wrong there is a field, I will meet you there” Rumi
Journaling is a wonderful way to start your year. It’s even good for your health. Clean pages beckon (instead of blink) ready to capture your musings, sort feelings and goals, and create something new. Like a composer who wakes to write down notes that came in sleep, your journal awaits. When you a have a place to write your intuitions, ideas for art, books, projects and dreams, more will come.
Helpers. Many tools can inspire: friends, books, blogs and articles. A nice niche, comfy chair or sunny spot to write helps with inspiration.
Materials. Journals can be lovely sheets of fine paper or simple notebooks. A pen that pleases you, flows well onto paper is an asset, not a necessity. Browse in a bookstore, many journals and notebooks are on sale this time of year.
Prompts. If the writing doesn’t flow, use “prompts” to get started. A favorite quote, an image, a random observation will work. Use a beautiful object, an act of kindness, music, a frustration, a question with no answer, an overheard conversation, a memory. I usually find a strong image or quote to start an article.
Give your creative self a place and time to share. Affirm,
resolve, doodle, press flowers, sketch, include photos and momentos. Record happy and sad moments, wins and
losses. See it’s really all yours. Handle with care, no preconceptions, no
judgment, no rights or wrongs.
Feeling overwhelmed? Dread the flurries of shoppers, wrapping, shipping, and exchanging? Do we really need more stuff anyway? Consider reinventing your gift giving this year. Here’s some starter ideas…
Choose a theme. Nostalgia’s a good one: give gifts that educate or (gasp) require face-to-face interaction. Board games, puzzles, legos (not just for kids), cards. Focus on animals. Give zoo tickets, a cat tree, or stuffed animals (endangered species are good) a bird house (or kit) or adopt a wild animal like a manatee or dolphin.
Foodie Goodies. Choose food-related gifts, gourmet treats, heirloom seeds for spring gardens, organic veggies or flowers. Gift certificates for local gourmet specialty store like a chocolate shop or a wine store. Ship some juicy Florida fruit to your freezing peeps in the North.
Keep It Green. Consider sustainable, recyclable gifts that are ethical, earth-friendly, locally grown. Consider gardening books, tools or seeds. Buy gift certificates for classes like cooking, gardening, kayaking or paddle boarding. (Let Google do the searching).
Practice Gratitude. Some of us already have so much. No matter how you choose to celebrate the Holidays, take a moment to breathe and reflect on all we have been given. And then give to others from that place, the space of gratitude.
Lighten up before you sling that heavy bag/purse/backpack over your shoulder. Keep it simple, pare down that bulky wallet or heavy purse. Moms and dads, avoid toting your babes and toddlers for long stents on just one hip or side. These habits often lead to chronic back, neck and shoulder pain. Your kids can develop pain too. Lugging heavy backpacks (equal to or in excess of their body weight) banging (and toting) drums and tubas. Musicians experience mysterious sore, achy muscles and back, necks and shoulders from sleppin’ gear, setting up and breaking down, sitting in one position or marching. (View Fashion Hall Pain slideshow at end of this article).
Over-Burdened? Heavy Bags & Other Accessories
Schlepping heavy purses, backpacks, and computer bags can a the source of neck, back and shoulder pain. When carried on one shoulder, the extra weight causes you to lean to one side, and the other side to contract, stressing muscles (especially in shoulders), resulting in chronic pain. Accessories like bangles, bracelets and/or large rings can put excessive pressure on the hands, fingers and joints.
Shoes: Going too Low or too High?
Flimsy footwear, strappy sandals, cushy flip flops and shoes with no backs affect more than just your feet. High heels tilt the pelvis forward, destabilizing the ankle joint, over-arching the back, placing excessive pressure on the balls of your feet. For example, 3” heels increase the pressure on the balls of the feet by up to 76%. Flip-flops, though iconic offer neither support nor protection for feet, and can contribute the development of plantar fasciitis.
Up-Dos Got you Down?
Up-dos are great for special occasions, but for everyday wear, tight hairstyles pull the head forward and tighten the skin around the skull, causing tension headaches. Routinely clasping hair in tight bands or braids can not only headaches but also hair loss.
What Are You Carrying in YOUR Wallet?
Guys notoriously stuff wallets into their back pockets. Sitting on bulky wallets torques the pelvis, forces one side to angle too high. This misalignment causes everything else to shift, but not in a good way. When the hips rotate, one side is more contracted than other, which tilts one shoulder and leads to chronic pain. Yikes. Yes, we do accept cards and Apple-Pay.
Got the “Too-Too Tights”?
Tight clothes can compress organs and impede efficient digestion. Tight clothing can restricts movement and also cause muscle strain. If your rib cage is restricted, shallow breathing can result. And remember, spandex can be friend or foe, depending on your body type, the fit and the occasion. Some of us can wear yoga pants in public, some of us should only wear them only in yoga class.
Since massage can work well to soothe aches, relief pain and release muscle tension and stress.. Let your therapist know about any any pain and stiffness you are experiencing. Together, the two of you may be able to determine the source of some of your chronic pain and help to relieve it.
Each new school year, parents and kids shift into “go-go gear”. Anticipation, preparation and time-juggling increases stress for all. Classwork and homework, extracurriculars, relationships and social media generate even more stress. A recent study found that teens now report stress levels as high as those of adults.
In the classroom, stressed brains have trouble learning. To reduce stress and improve learning, some classrooms are sprouting yoga mats, meditation pillows and soothing music stations. Activities such as mindfulness, yoga, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation are helping to calm students and contribute to more positive experiences and outcomes.